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very bread depends on his labor, shut him up in prison among criminals, to be contaminated by their vices, there to continue in idleness, without ability to satisfy his creditor, while his wife and children endure the gripings of penury, and perhaps are driven to crime by stern necessity? No other utility than to compel the payment of the debt with cruelty and suffering.


I shall venture to give but one extract showing what imprisonment for debt has heretofore been, in a particular instance. It is in reference to the Walnut street Prison, in Philadelphia, as it was in 1783. Alas! of how many prisons it is a fair sample. In this den of abomination were mingled, in one revolting mass of festering corruption, all the collected elements of contagion: all ages, colors, and sexes were forced into one horrid, loathsome community of depravity. Children, committed with their mothers, have first learned to lisp the strange accents of blasphemy and execration. Young, pure, and modest females, committed for debt, have learned from the hateful society of abandoned prostitutes, (whose resting-places on the floor they were compelled to share,) the insidious lessons of seduction. The young apprentice, in custody for some venial fault, the tyro in guilt, the unfortunate debtor, the untried and sometimes guiltless prisoners, the innocent witnesses, detained

for their evidence in court against those charged with crimes, were associated with the incorrigible felon, the loathsome victim of disease and vice, and the disgusting drunkard, (whose means, of intoxication were unblushingly furnished by the jailor!). Idleness, profligacy, and widely diffused contamination, were the inevitable results. The frantic yells of bacchanalian revelry-the horrid execrations and disgusting obscenities from the lips of profligacy—the frequent infliction of the lash-the clanking of fetters-the wild exclamation of the wretch, driven frantic by desperation-the ferocious cries of combatants-the groans of those wounded in the frequent frays, (a common pastime in the prison,) mingled with the unpitied moans of the sick, (lying unattended, and sometimes destitute of clothes and covering,) the faint but imploring accents for sustenance by the miserable debtor, cut off from all means of self-support, and abandoned to his own resources, or to lingering starvation— and the continual, though unheeded, complaints of the miserable and destitute, formed the discordant sounds in the only public abode of misery in Philadelphia, where the voice of hope, of mercy, of religion, never entered." And yet, in such a horrible den as this, many a person was thrust, for the crime of being poor, of being



*See North American Review, for July, 1838.

unable to pay his or her debts; there, not only to be deprived of the last hope of extrication, but to sink down into blasting vice and helpless want. Philanthropists, the prisoner's friends, have risen up and indignantly rebuked community for its cruelty on this subject; and the time has come, when an honest man, for a little pittance, which he would soon pay, if let alone, can not be consigned to a prison, to have age prematurely creep upon him, and many long years of confinement to file down and sharpen his bones for the grave. Thank God! the change has come, sweeping away the cruelty which hung over human legislation, and giving precious liberty to thousands, who otherwise would have become tenants of prisons, burthens to themselves and society, deprived of all pity, support, or consolation.*

*Yet it appears that I am wrong in saying that the evil of imprisonment for debt, has been removed. The Editor of the Knickerbocker, for January, 1841, while acknowledging the receipt of an article on "Imprisonment for Debt," among other remarks, says--" It is not long since a Revolutionary veteran was confined for a long period in Charlestown Jail, for the petty sum, if we remember rightly, of twenty dollars; and on the Fourth of July, was seen looking from the grated window of his prison at the celebration without! Nobly has our correspondent, Whittier, with satirical knout, scourged those rulers who permitted such a spectacle on hallowed ground.

"What has this grey-haired prisoner done?
Has murder stained his hands with gore?

Not so; his crime's a fouler one :

God made the old man poor


One great truth springs from every instance. of cruelty practiced by nations, viz., that recklessness of life, and callousness to suffering, ex

For this he shares a felon's cell-
The fittest earthly type of hell!
For this the boon for which he poured
His young blood on the invader's sword,
And counted light the fearful cast-
His blood-gained liberty is lost!

"And so, for such a place of rest,

Old prisoner, poured thy blood as rain
On Concord's field and Bunker's crest,

And Saratoga's plain?

Look forth, thou man of many scars,
Through thy din dungeon's iron bars;
It must be joy, in sooth, to see
Yon monument upreared to thee;
Piled granite and a prison cell-
The land repays thy service well!

"But when the patriot cannon jars
That prison's cold and gloomy wall,
And through its grates the stripes and stars
Rise on the wind and fall-
Think ye that prisoner's aged ear
Rejoices in the general cheer?
Think ye his dim and failing eye
Is kindled at your pageantry?
Sorrowing of soul and chained of limb,
What is your carnival to him?

"Down with the law that binds him thus!
Unworthy freemen, let it find
No refuge from the withering curse
Of God and human kind!
Open the prisoner's living tomb,
And usher from its brooding gloom
The victim of your savage code,
To the free sun and air of God!
Nor longer dare as crime to brand
The chastening of the Almighty's hand."

ist in proportion as the people of a nation are cruel, and that cruelty is sanctioned by the government of the nation. In the same ratio that a nation is conversant with carnage and scenes of destruction, in the same ratio will its members lose their sympathy for the distressed, and become hardened to the cries of afflicted humanity. In this respect, nations are like individuals; who, if in frequent communion with pain or sorrow in others, become gradually to be unaffected by it. It is so with soldiers. A remark made to me by a revolutionary veteran, is characteristic of nearly all other instances. "The first time I was in battle," said he, "I was afraid; I trembled; the sight of the dead, dying, and bleeding, shocked me-but after I had been in a few battles, the groans, blood, and agony of the wounded around me, moved me no more than the most ordinary business of life." As with this soldier, so with other soldiers; and as with soldiers, so with nations. Let a nation have sanguinary laws-in the execution of its laws, let its citizens be familiar with the destruction of life; let them often witness their fellow-beings in the struggles of dissolution; and they will become indurated with suffering; death will cease to excite them. The history of public executions fairly tests this position. The more crimes a nation causes to be

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