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interfering with honest labour, is unworthy of serious notice. The prisoner if at honest work, as he ought to be, would interfere in at least as great a degree; and the non-criminal classes of society lose far more from the depredations and maintenance in idleness of the criminal class, than they would do from any competition that can be created by the most selfsupporting prison system. We must not overlook an incidental, yet important benefit arising from this system, which may be called the self-adjustment of punishment. Unequal as are the degrees of guilt, and various as are the motives of those who commit similar offences, their sentences must be the same, or nearly so the judge can seldom make much allowance for various degrees of moral obliquity; but in prison the man of better character will himself be enabled to rectify this unavoidable injustice, by raising himself quickly to a more tolerable position in prison, and eventually shortening the time of his detention there.
We are not surprised to learn that employers are gradually becoming more reconciled to the employment of these men. This however is still the real difficulty, for unless the community lend a helping hand to the prisoner when discharged, all schemes for his improvement within the prison must be comparatively fruitless. Absolute want indeed, is as rarely the original cause of crime, as hunger is of poaching, and much sympathy has been wasted on this supposition; but on the discharge of a prisoner with a tainted character, the difficulty of obtaining employment has frequently driven him back from sheer distress to his old courses; and so urgent is this exigency, that in Sweden prisoners whose term has expired are employed for a time by the state, whilst lists of their names are read from the pulpits, and the congregations exhorted to afford the applicants a chance of reformation. In this country the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society has been recently established for a similar purpose, and the marked success which has crowned its efforts, is freely acknowledged in the reports of the various prison authorities to which we have so often referred.
To sum up our argument; it may be taken for granted that the causes of crime are strength of temptation, and weakness of a counteracting motive, whether principle, habit, or sense of self-interest.
In prison the temptation is removed, and attempts are made to strengthen the opposing tendencies or motives. Our knowledge of the world would lead us to anticipate what seems to be the invariable result of the experience of the chaplains, that the number actually converted—that is, the number of those who on their discharge, will abstain from crime from purely religious motives because it is in itself wrong-are very few, though perhaps, if the truth were known, not in a very unequal proportion to those who, in the world without, keep clear of indictable offences, and even maintain fair characters.
Among boys, the strongest opposing tendency will probably be habit, the original bias to evil not having been so powerful with them.
Amongst the men, it will be a sense of self-interest-a feeling that crime does not pay, and that honesty is the best policy. With them stronger perception of interest counteracts stronger bias to evil; a low motive if you will, but practical and powerful, and one with which the community, as such, and individuals too, if they examine their own hearts, may well be satisfied. The State has no right to insist upon conversion, if she can obtain simply reformation. This frame of mind is inculcated by good practical exhortation and advice from the authorities, and the still more practical system of marks or good-conduct badges, carrying with them substantial benefits, and eventually even achieving the remission of a portion of the sentence, a system not only attractive to the individual, but so contrived as to enlist in its favour the all powerful vox populi, the public opinion of the prison, and to make it creditable to earn these distinctions, instead of a fine thing to set at nought all selfcontrol and care for the future. This public opinion re-acts again on individuals, till at length the prison records abound with instances of industry, order, good conduct, and even of a high tone of feeling rarely met with beyond its walls.
Now however comes the difficulty of deciding, in the absence of opposing influences, whether the habit, or principle, or motive, whichever it may be, is strong enough to resist temptation, to wear well in the rough weather outside the calm precincts of the prison. The prisoner himself cannot tell; and if he could, the time is fortunately gone by when the religious ejaculations and moral sentiments of jail-birds were looked upon as signs of real change of heart.
The authorities have learned a lesson on this point from frequent disappointments. The necessary test is found in the admirable system of probation, by which the moral infant is gradually trained to walk alone; the new-born morality is weaned from the milk of the prison to the strong meat of the world; old scenes are gradually brought back to the renovated sight; and even old temptations are allowed to try the newlyformed resolutions. Passing unscathed through these trials, the probationer attains at length to complete but not unconditional liberty. The eye of no unfriendly suspicion watches anxiously; the strong arm of the law is ever ready to check in mercy, any one who may show, by his conduct, that the old propensities are slumbering but not destroyed-that he who yields easily to indiscretion and excess, will soon again slide down the facile road to crime. The discipline is recommenced, and, as far as prison records go, without causing much of the recklessness and despair we should have imagined incidental to such relapse.
In conclusion, we must repeat that the greatest difficulty which surrounds the re-entrance of the prisoner on an honest career, arises from the community itself. Quick to suspect, prompt to punish, and very slow in believing a desire to amend, society in general does absolutely nothing; nay she discourages by every means the process of amendment. She throws a slur on those who make the reformation of the criminal their aim, by suggesting that their exertions are robbed as it were from the honest poor. She absolutely refuses to grant a new trial to the repentant convict with a loud voice she upbraids him for falling into the gulf of crime, whilst at the same time she thrusts him
back from the shore which he strives to regain, so that the punishment, which is nominally an imprisonment of a longer or shorter duration, becomes a doom to pass the whole life in a succession of crimes and imprisonments. This refusal to take a tainted character so long as a sound one remains, is natural, and perhaps right. But the remedy which man refuses, a more merciful Providence has provided; and as it is said the lowering of the standard in the army causes an immediate diminution of crime, by substituting an honest for a criminal career of daring and adventure, so the want of hands in new settlements clears the labour market without very close inquiry into antecedents; and if, as appears likely, the same scarcity is beginning to be felt at home-if the constant stream of emigration, combined with the vast increase of capital and consequent employment in this country is already diminishing the supply of labour, then it may be that we shall have to mete to the outcast of our jail the same indulgence we show to our own erring and repentant children; and that it will be our own interest, as well as our duty, to forgive our brother's trespasses.
It seems however that after all that has been done, some few remain apparently incurable—the "unimpressible classes" of Captain Crofton-the axoάoro of Aristotle-who by repeated acts, have made criminality their is or instinctive habit, and have so eradicated the principle of good as to render a return to honest life impossible.
"The magnet of their course is gone, or only points in vain
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never stretch again." It is admitted that this "wretchlessness of unclean living," as the article calls it, has frequently resulted from our former prison system. If so, the fault has been in the operator as well as in the patient, and the number of unimpressible may be reasonably expected to decrease.
The well-known Robert Owen, in a paper read before the Social Science Association at Birmingham in 1857, pointed to the time when the punishment of man by man would be entirely unnecessary. Whether this anticipation is to be realized or not,
there can be little doubt that, under present circumstances, both for the sake of the unhappy creatures themselves, and of those who may be exposed to their influence, the sterner conclusion of the Recorder of Birmingham expresses the true policy.
"The vast majority," he says, "of all who enter your prisons as criminals, can be sent back into the world, after no unreasonable term of probation, honest men and useful citizens. Let the small minority remain, and, if death arrive before reformation, let them remain for life."*
ART. VIII.-MODERN LEGISLATION.
The Parliamentary Remembrancer. Vol. I.-Session 1857-8; Vol. II.-Session 1858-9. Conducted by TOULMIN SMITH, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-Law. London: Office of the “Parliamentary Remembrancer,” 10, Little Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, 1858.
E have occasionally taken the opportunity of referring to Mr. Toulmin Smith's "Remembrancer," both because we have found it an exceedingly useful publication, and because we believed, if it were better known, many would profit by it who now perhaps may not be aware of its character and merits. We by no means desire to be understood as suggesting that Mr. Toulmin Smith's undertaking has not succeeded in obtaining a hearing, or in exercising an influence in the political world; on the contrary, we think that we have detected in various quarters a free but unacknowledged use of the information collected in its pages. Still, there are large classes of people who would be all the wiser if they perused weekly the legible and carefully prepared account of what is attempted and what is done in the High Court of Parliament. Neither the daily nor weekly press
VOL. VIII. NO. XV.