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which is characteristic of an age of ignorance and cruelty.
There is an important reason why criminals should be treated with kindness while suffering the penalty of our offended laws, which is not often considered. The great majority of criminals are very ignorant, and consequently have comparatively feeble moral conceptions. There are multitudes of persons who, from infancy, are placed in circumstances beyond their control, and who are in continual contact with crime, that commit sin under the influence of an infatuated ignorance, and are degraded because they never had means of emerging from the moral darkness in which fate had thrown them. As evidence of this position, let it be remembered, that though 1512 prisoners were confined in the New York State Prisons, at Auburn and Sing Sing, in the year 1834, yet of that number, only nineteen had received a superior education. And among the 20,984 committed or held to bail in England and Wales for the year 1836, only 192 had received a superior education. A large majority could neither read nor write, and nearly all the rest were very imperfectly educated. In the Report of the British and Foreign School Society, for 1831, we are informed that out of nearly 700 prisoners put on trial in four counties, upwards of two hundred and sixty
were as ignorant as the savages of the desert they could not read a single letter. Of the whole 700, only 150 could write, or even read with ease ; and nearly the whole number were totally ignorant with regard to the nature and obligations of true religion. In the reports of the society, for 1832–3, it is affirmed, “in September, 1831, out of fifty prisoners put on trial, at Bedford, only four could read. In January, 1833, there were in the same prison, þetween fifty and sixty awaiting their trials, of whom not more than ten could read, and even some of these could not make out the sense of a sentence, though they knew their letters. At Wis-. beach, in the Isle of Ely, out of nineteen prisoners put on trial, only six were able to read and write, and the capital offences were committed by persons in a state of the most debasing ignorance."* When a jailer was describing his prisoners to Leigh Hunt, he termed them, "poor ignorant creatures.” This phrase will describe almost every person convicted of crime--for it is undoubtedly true, that the vast majority of those who fall into crime, are chained by the most hopeless ignorance to their degraded lot in life. Now, if these persons had been kindly cherished in infancy, and had received a good education, perchance among their
*Dick's Mental Illumination, p. 338.
number might have been found the statesman, the philosopher, the patriot, the philanthropist, and the Christian, while all might have been useful members of community. But, by neglect in youth, by ignorance, by constant companionship with all the vices of low life, and oftentimes by the pressure of circumstances, multitudes become criminals. Such men are truly unfortunate, and they should be governed by kindness, and an exertion made to exalt their minds, until they can rise above sin, and disdain its chains. And it is my thorough conviction, sustained negatively by every instance of cruelty, and affirmatively by every instance of kindness, that the inmates of all prisons should be fully and constantly governed, in a most enlarged and pure spirit of the divine law, OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.''
KINDNESS AND IGNORANCE.
“God loves from whole to parts; but human soul
Pope's Essay ON MAN.
may take a step still lower in life, and with safety affirm, that the law of kindness will produce the most powerful and enduring obedience from the enslaved son of Africa, towards the master who governs him. Though the Africans have been degraded for ages, and bound down in ignorance, so much so, that many persons have imbibed the erroneous notion, that they are incapable of attaining much advance in
knowledge, even after a constant training of successive generations, yet surround them with kindness, and touch their feelings with love, and those feelings will as readily respond to its influence, as the string of the harp will respond to the touch of the finger. The affecting instance which occurred on board the ill-fated steamboat Pulaski, where a slave, regardless of himself, was observed making attempts to preserve the life of his young master-this, together with many others which might be adduced, prove that kindness and humanity will touch the heart of the slave, and bind him more firmly to his master, than all the terror with which he can be surrounded. Miss Martineau, in her work entitled “Society in America,” observes :
“Where servants are treated upon a principle of justice and kindness, they live on agreeable terms with their employers, often for many years. But even slaves may be made more useful as well as more agreeable companions, when treated in such a way as to call forth their better feelings. “A kind-hearted gentleman in the South, finding that the laws of the State precluded his teaching his legacy of slaves according to the usual methods of education, bethought himself at length of the moral training of taskwork. It succeeded admirably. His slaves