The Chronicles of Newgate (Complete)

Library of Alexandria
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IN antiquity and varied interest Newgate prison yields to no place of durance in the world. A gaol has stood on this same site for almost a thousand years. The first prison was nearly as old as the Tower of London, and much older than the Bastille. Hundreds of thousands of Òfelons and trespassersÓ have from first to last been incarcerated within. To many it must have been an abode of sorrow, suffering, and unspeakable woe, a kind of terrestrial inferno, to enter which was to abandon every hope.Imprisonment was often lightly and capriciously inflicted in days before our liberties were fully won, and innumerable victims of tyranny and oppression have been lodged in Newgate. Political troubles also sent their quota. The gaol was the halfway-house to the scaffold or the gallows for turbulent or short-sighted persons who espoused the losing side; it was the starting-place for that painful pilgrimage to the pillory or whipping-post which was too frequently the punishment for rashly uttered libels and philippics against constituted power. Newgate, again, was on the high road to Smithfield; in times of intolerance and fierce religious dissensions numbers of devoted martyrs went thence to suffer for conscienceÕ sake at the stake. For centuries a large section of the permanent population of Newgate, as of all gaols, consisted of offenders against commercial laws. While fraudulent bankrupts were hanged, others more unfortunate than criminal were clapped into gaol to linger out their lives without the chance of earning the funds by which alone freedom could be recovered. Debtors of all degrees were condemned to languish for years in prison, often for the most paltry sums. The perfectly innocent were also detained. Gaol deliveries were rare, and the boon of arraignment and fair trial was strangely and unjustly withheld, while even those acquitted in open court were often haled back to prison because they were unable to discharge the gaolerÕs illegal fees. The condition of the prisoners in Newgate was long most deplorable. They were but scantily supplied with the commonest necessaries of life. Light scarcely penetrated their dark and loathsome dungeons; no breath of fresh air sweetened the fetid atmosphere they breathed; that they enjoyed the luxury of water was due to the munificence of a Lord Mayor. Their daily subsistence was most precarious. Food, clothing, fuel were doled out in limited quantities as charitable gifts; occasionally prosperous citizens bequeathed small legacies to be expended in the same articles of supply. These bare prison allowances were further eked out by the chance seizures in the markets; by bread forfeited as inferior or of light weight, and meat declared unfit to be publicly sold. All classes and categories of prisoners were herded indiscriminately together: men and women, tried and untried, upright but misguided zealots with hardened habitual offenders. The only principle of classification was a prisonerÕs ability or otherwise to pay certain fees; money could purchase the squalid comfort of the masterÕs side, but no immunity from the baleful companionship of felons equally well furnished with funds and no less anxious to escape the awful horror of the common side of the gaol. The weight of the chains, again, which, till quite recently, innocent and guilty alike wore, depended upon the price a prisoner could pay for Òeasement of irons,Ó and it was a common practice to overload a new-comer with enormous fetters and so terrify him into lavish disbursement. The gaol at all times was so hideously overcrowded that plague and pestilence perpetually ravaged it, and the deadly infection often spread into the neighbouring courts of law.
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Publisher
Library of Alexandria
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Published on
Sep 16, 2015
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Pages
750
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ISBN
9781465604163
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Language
English
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Interest in penal matters in Germany and in Austria-Hungary centres rather in the nature and number of persons who commit crimes than the methods pursued in bringing them to justice or the places in which penalties have been imposed. The character and extent of crimes committed from time to time, attracts us more generally than the prisons designed and established for their punishment. This is the more marked because such prisons have not achieved any remarkable prominence or notoriety. They have been for the most part the ordinary institutions used for detention, repression and correction, more noted for the offenders they have held than their own imposing appearance, architectural pretensions, or the changes they have introduced in the administration of justice. Only in more recent years, since so-called penitentiary science has come to the front and the comparative value of prison systems has been much discussed, have certain institutions risen into prominence in Germany and become known as model prisons. These have been erected in various capitals of the empire, to give effect to new principles in force in the administration of justice. Among such places we may specify a few, such as Bruchsal in Baden; the Moabit prison in Berlin; the prison at Zwickau in Saxony; the prisons of Munich and Nürnberg in Bavaria and of Heilbronn in Württemberg. To these may be added the prisons of Stein on the Danube, of Marburg on the Drave, and of Pankraz Nusle near Prague in Austria-Hungary. Many others might be mentioned which have played an important part in the development of penitentiary institutions.

The conflict of opinions as to prison treatment has raged continuously and as yet no uniform plan has been adopted for the whole German Empire. Each of the constituent states of the great aggregate body has maintained its independence in penal matters and the right to determine for itself the best method of punishing crime. At one time, after 1846, the theory of complete isolation was accepted in all German states, although the means to carry it into effect were not universally adopted. Reports from the United States had deeply impressed the authorities with the merits of solitary confinement, among others the well known Professor Mittermaier, one of the most notable judicial authorities of his time. But reaction came with another no less eminent expert, Von Holtzendorff, whose works on prison administration are still held in great esteem. After visiting Ireland, he was won over to the seeming advantages of the progressive system, the gradual change from complete isolation to comparative freedom, and he strongly favoured the policy of cellular imprisonment. His proposals laid hold of the practical German mind, and to-day the scheme of continuous isolation finds little support; it left its mark, however, in several prisons which will be referred to in the following pages. 

 The period in French prison practice treated in this volume is one of transition between the end of the Old Régime and the beginning of the New. It presents first a view of the prisons of the period immediately following the Revolution, and concludes with the consideration of a great model penitentiary, which may be said to be the “last word” in the purely physical aspects of the whole question, while its very perfection of structure and equipment gives rise to important moral questions, which must dominate the future of prison conduct.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century the combat with the great army of depredators was unceasingly waged by the champions of law and order in France, to whom in the long run victory chiefly inclined. As yet none of the new views held by prison reformers in other countries had made any progress in France. No ideas of combining coercion with persuasion, of going beyond deterrence by attempting reformation by exhortation; of curing the wrong-doer and weaning him from his evil practices, when once more sent out into the world, obtained in French penology. At that earlier date all the old methods, worked by the same machinery, still prevailed and were, as ever, ineffective in checking crime. An active, and for the most part intelligent police was indefatigable in the pursuit of offenders, who, when caught and sentenced travelled the old beaten track, passing from prison to prison, making long halts at the bagnes and concluding their persistent trespasses upon the guillotine, but that was all.

French prisons long lagged behind advanced practices abroad, not only in respect of their structural fitness and physical condition, but also in the measure in which the method of conducting them effected the morals of those who passed through them. When the question was at last presented, it was considered with the logical thoroughness and carried out with the administrative efficiency characteristic of the French government, when impressed with the necessity for action in any given line.

The question for the French prison authorities—as indeed it is the question of questions for the prison government of all nations—is now: “What can be and shall be done for the reform of the convict rather than for his mere repression and punishment?” The material aspects of the French prison system have attained almost to perfection. These, as well as the moral aspects of the subject, which that very physical perfection inevitably presents, it is the purpose of this volume to consider.

Interest in penal matters in Germany and in Austria-Hungary centres rather in the nature and number of persons who commit crimes than the methods pursued in bringing them to justice or the places in which penalties have been imposed. The character and extent of crimes committed from time to time, attracts us more generally than the prisons designed and established for their punishment. This is the more marked because such prisons have not achieved any remarkable prominence or notoriety. They have been for the most part the ordinary institutions used for detention, repression and correction, more noted for the offenders they have held than their own imposing appearance, architectural pretensions, or the changes they have introduced in the administration of justice. Only in more recent years, since so-called penitentiary science has come to the front and the comparative value of prison systems has been much discussed, have certain institutions risen into prominence in Germany and become known as model prisons. These have been erected in various capitals of the empire, to give effect to new principles in force in the administration of justice. Among such places we may specify a few, such as Bruchsal in Baden; the Moabit prison in Berlin; the prison at Zwickau in Saxony; the prisons of Munich and Nürnberg in Bavaria and of Heilbronn in Württemberg. To these may be added the prisons of Stein on the Danube, of Marburg on the Drave, and of Pankraz Nusle near Prague in Austria-Hungary. Many others might be mentioned which have played an important part in the development of penitentiary institutions.

The conflict of opinions as to prison treatment has raged continuously and as yet no uniform plan has been adopted for the whole German Empire. Each of the constituent states of the great aggregate body has maintained its independence in penal matters and the right to determine for itself the best method of punishing crime. At one time, after 1846, the theory of complete isolation was accepted in all German states, although the means to carry it into effect were not universally adopted. Reports from the United States had deeply impressed the authorities with the merits of solitary confinement, among others the well known Professor Mittermaier, one of the most notable judicial authorities of his time. But reaction came with another no less eminent expert, Von Holtzendorff, whose works on prison administration are still held in great esteem. After visiting Ireland, he was won over to the seeming advantages of the progressive system, the gradual change from complete isolation to comparative freedom, and he strongly favoured the policy of cellular imprisonment. His proposals laid hold of the practical German mind, and to-day the scheme of continuous isolation finds little support; it left its mark, however, in several prisons which will be referred to in the following pages. 

 The period in French prison practice treated in this volume is one of transition between the end of the Old Régime and the beginning of the New. It presents first a view of the prisons of the period immediately following the Revolution, and concludes with the consideration of a great model penitentiary, which may be said to be the “last word” in the purely physical aspects of the whole question, while its very perfection of structure and equipment gives rise to important moral questions, which must dominate the future of prison conduct.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century the combat with the great army of depredators was unceasingly waged by the champions of law and order in France, to whom in the long run victory chiefly inclined. As yet none of the new views held by prison reformers in other countries had made any progress in France. No ideas of combining coercion with persuasion, of going beyond deterrence by attempting reformation by exhortation; of curing the wrong-doer and weaning him from his evil practices, when once more sent out into the world, obtained in French penology. At that earlier date all the old methods, worked by the same machinery, still prevailed and were, as ever, ineffective in checking crime. An active, and for the most part intelligent police was indefatigable in the pursuit of offenders, who, when caught and sentenced travelled the old beaten track, passing from prison to prison, making long halts at the bagnes and concluding their persistent trespasses upon the guillotine, but that was all.

French prisons long lagged behind advanced practices abroad, not only in respect of their structural fitness and physical condition, but also in the measure in which the method of conducting them effected the morals of those who passed through them. When the question was at last presented, it was considered with the logical thoroughness and carried out with the administrative efficiency characteristic of the French government, when impressed with the necessity for action in any given line.

The question for the French prison authorities—as indeed it is the question of questions for the prison government of all nations—is now: “What can be and shall be done for the reform of the convict rather than for his mere repression and punishment?” The material aspects of the French prison system have attained almost to perfection. These, as well as the moral aspects of the subject, which that very physical perfection inevitably presents, it is the purpose of this volume to consider.

ÊIt will hardly be denied after an impartial consideration of all the facts I shall herein set forth, that the British prison system can challenge comparison with any in the world. It may be no more perfect than other human institutions, but its administrators have laboured long and steadfastly to approximate perfection. Many countries have already paid it the compliment of imitation. In most of the British colonies, the prison system so nearly resembles the system of the mother country, that I have not given their institutions any separate and distinct description.

No doubt different methods are employed in the great Empire of India; but they also are the outcome of experience, and follow lines most suited to the climate and character of the people for whom they are intended. Cellular imprisonment would be impossible in India. Association is inevitable in the Indian prison system. Again, it is the failure to find suitable European subordinate officers that has brought about the employment of the best-behaved prisoners in the discipline of their comrades: a system, as I have been at some pains to point out, quite abhorrent to modern ideas of prison management. As for the retention of transportation by the Indian government, when so clearly condemned at home, it is defensible on the grounds that the penalty of crossing the sea, the "Black Water," possesses peculiar terrors to the Oriental mind; and the Andaman Islands are, moreover, within such easy distance as to ensure their effective supervision and control.

Nearer home, we may see Austria adopting an English method,Ñthe "movable" or temporary prison, by the use of which such works as changing the courses of rivers have been rendered possible and the prison edifices of Lepoglava, Aszod and Kolosvar erected, in imitation of Chattenden, Borstal and Wormwood Scrubs. France has also constructed in the outskirts of Paris a new prison for the department of the Seine, and she may yet find that the British progressive system is more effective for controlling habitual crime than transportation to New Caledonia. In a country where every individual is ticketed and labelled from birth, where police methods are quite despotic, and the law claims the right, in the interests of the larger number, to override the liberty of the subject, the professional criminal might be held at a tremendous disadvantage. It is true that the same result might be expected from the Belgian plan of prolonged cellular confinement; but, as I shall point out, this system is more costly, and can only be enforced with greater or less, but always possible, risks to health and reason.

Millbank Prison stood for nearly a century upon the banks of the Thames between Westminster and Vauxhall, a well-known gloomy pile by the river side, with its dull exterior, black portals, and curious towers. This once famous prison no longer attracts the wide attention of former days but the very name contains in itself almost an epitome of British penal legislation. With it one intimately associates such men as John Howard and Jeremy Bentham; an architect of eminence superintended its erection; while statesmen and high dignitaries, dukes, bishops, and members of Parliament were to be found upon its committee of management, exercising a control that was far from nominal or perfunctory, not disdaining a close consideration of the minutest details, and coming into intimate personal communion with the criminal inmates, whom, by praise or admonition, they sought to reward or reprove. Its origin and the causes that brought it into being; its object, and the success or failure of those who ruled it; its annals, and the curious incidents with which they are filled,Ñthese are topics of much interest to the general reader.


At this distant time it is indeed interesting to observe how thoroughly John Howard understood the subject to which he had devoted his life. In his prepared plan for the erection of the prison he anticipates exactly the method we are pursuing to-day, after more than a century of experience. ÒThe Penitentiary Houses,Ó he says, ÒI would have built in a great measure by the convicts. I will suppose that a power is obtained from Parliament to employ such of them as are now at work on the Thames, or some of those who are in the county gaols, under sentence of transportation, as may be thought most expedient. In the first place, let the surrounding wall, intended for full security against escapes, be completed, and proper lodges for the gatekeepers. Let temporary buildings of the nature of barracks be erected in some part of this enclosure which will be wanted the least, till the whole is finished. Let one or two hundred men, with their proper keepers, and under the direction of the builder, be employed in levelling the ground, digging out the foundation, serving the masons, sawing the timber and stone; and as I have found several convicts who were carpenters, masons, and smiths, these may be employed in their own branches of trade, since such work is as necessary and proper as any other in which they can be engaged. Let the people thus employed chiefly consist of those whose term is nearly expired, or who are committed for a short term; and as the ground is suitably prepared for the builders, the garden made, the wells dug, and the building finished, let those who are to be dismissed go off gradually, as it would be very improper to send them back to the hulks or gaols again.Ó

ÊAnd then a minute or two later came the signal for the whole line to advance. The Highlanders, and those with them, swiftly mounted to the crest of the ridge, and met the charging cavalry with a withering volley. A second followed. The enemy had no stomach for more; reining in their horses, they wheeled round and fell back as they had come.

This, however, was only the beginning of the action. Heavy columns of the enemy now appeared in sight, cavalry and infantry, with numerous artillery crowning the eastern hills. A portion occupied the redoubts abandoned by the Turks, and the attitude of the Russians was so menacing that it seemed unlikely we could stay their onward progress.

For the moment no troops could be interposed but the British cavalryÑthe two brigades, Light and HeavyÑwhich had their encampment in the plain, and had been under arms, commanded by Lord Lucan, since daybreak.

"We must have up the First and Fourth Divisions," Lord Raglan had said, when he arrived on the battle-field soon after eight in the morning; at first he had treated the news of the Russian advance lightly. Many such moves had been reported on previous days, and all had ended in nothing. "Let the Duke of Cambridge and Sir George Cathcart have their orders at once. We must trust to the cavalry till the infantry come up. Tell Scarlett to support the Turks."

But the Turks had given way before General Scarlett could stiffen their courage, and as his brigade, that of heavy cavalry, trotted towards the redoubts, other and more stirring work offered itself. The head of a great column of Russian horse, three thousand sabres, came over the crest of the hill and invited attack.

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