Page images

The sentiment of patriotism is invoked, and we are gravely told that the reference to European authority and experience which has occurred in this debate is not consistent with a proper regard to our own country. It is natural, Sir, for us to love our country, and to take pride in its institutions. Whatever is done among us finds special favor, if it be associated in any way with our country. But this sentiment must not become a prejudice. It must not become a malign influence to interrupt the course of truth, or interfere with questions to which it is alien. The subject now before us belongs to science and philanthropy, and I have yet to learn that the prejudices of patriotism have any just foothold in these sacred demesnes. Let us welcome knowledge, wherever it may be found. Hail holy light from whatever sun or star it may pour upon the eyes, from whatever country or clime it may penetrate the understanding or the heart!

VOL. 1.

Again let me say that our Report and Resolutions stand on impregnable grounds. And now, Mr. President, as I conclude, let me render to you just thanks for the impartiality and amenity with which you have presided over these debates, and may these high qualities be reflected in the future course of our Society. Let us all unite in efforts for increased usefulness, in harmony with one another, and with kindred associations of our own country and of other lands. And if, from the collisions of this discussion there have been any sparks of unkindly feeling, may they all be quenched in the vote which is now to be taken.

[blocks in formation]


THE result of these debates called forth the following letter from M. de Tocqueville, of France, addressed to Mr. Sumner.


MY DEAR SIR, I have read in the Daily Advertiser of June 1st the account of a meeting of the Boston Prison Discipline Society, in which you proposed a resolution, the effect of which was to declare that this Society ought not to be considered "the pledged advocate" of the Auburn System, or of any other system, and that it should judge all systems without taking sides in advance, and without prejudice. I have since learned, by the same paper, that the Society refused to adopt the resolution. This vote has surprised and pained me. I take a very lively interest in the reform of prisons, and I have always cherished a respectful attachment for the Society, which has, of its own accord, done me the honor to make me one of its members, and which enjoys so just a reputation in the philanthropic world. It is under the influence of these two sentiments that I feel an impulse to write to you.

The vote of which I have spoken will cause, I do not fear to say, a painful surprise to almost all those in Europe who are devoted to the Prison question. They will interpret it as a solemn determination taken by the Society to make itself the champion of the Auburn System, and the systematic adversary of the Separate System. Instead of a judge, it will seem to become a party.

I need not inform you, that, at the present day, in Europe, discussion and experience have, on the contrary, led almost all persons of intelligence to adopt the Separate System, and to reject the Auburn System. Most of the governments of

the Old World have declared themselves more or less in this way, not hastily, but after serious inquiry and long debates. I will speak only of the two great free nations of Europe, those which I know the best, and which are the most worthy of being regarded as an authority, wherever questions are decided only after discussion before the country, and obedience is rendered to public opinion alone, France and England. Among these two nations, I can assure yon, the Auburn System is almost universally rejected. The greater part of those who had previously inclined towards this system have completely abandoned it, when they came to discuss it, or to see it in operation, and have adopted, wholly or in part, the system of Separate Imprisonment. The two governments have followed the same tendencies. You know that the French government brought forward, a few years since, a law, of which separate imprisonment formed the basis. This law after a discussion of five weeks, the longest and most thorough which has ever taken place in our parliament on any ques tion, was voted by an immense majority. If this same law has not yet been discussed in the Chamber of Peers, the reason is to be found in circumstances entirely foreign to the Penitentiary Question. The Chamber of Peers will take it into consideration at the opening of the approaching session; and among the most considerable men in this Chamber, the greater part have already pronounced openly in favor of its principle. As to the press, almost all the journals sus tain the system of Separate Imprisonment. The journal which had most skilfully and earnestly combated the system has recently declared itself convinced of its excellence. This change has been produced, in part, by the experience had for many years in a large number of our prisons. Indeed, it may be doubted, whether, when the law shall be reported to the Chamber of Peers, there will be found a single person to combat its principle.

In this state of facts and opinions, the vote which a so

ciety so enlightened and celebrated as that of Boston has just passed will not be comprehended among us; and I cannot, I confess to you, prevent myself from fearing that it will be injurious to the high consideration which the Society enjoys on this side of the ocean, or that, at least, it will weaken its authority. I should strongly regret this, not only from my interest in an association to which I have the honor to belong, but also from my interest in humanity, whose cause it can so powerfully serve.

Be pleased to receive, Sir, the assurance of my very distinguished consideration.

Member of the Institute and of the Chamber of Deputies

TOCQUEVILLE, August 6, 1847.



JULY 23, 1847.


HE sudden death of Mr. Stackpole has filled a large circle of friends with poignant grief. His hale and vigorous health, of which a fresh and manly countenance and a joyous nature were pleasing tokens, seemed to give assurance that he would long be spared to them, while the many accomplishments by which his life was adorned, and the kindly qualities which grappled him to their hearts, created attachments now too rudely severed. He had stood aloof from public affairs, and from those concerns of business by which men become prominent before the world. The time thus withdrawn from customary pursuits was given to family and friends, and to the cultivation of those elegant tastes which add so much to the grace of society.

He was a graduate of Harvard University in the class. of 1824, and afterwards studied law. His studies were careful and thorough. His attainments were increased by travel in Europe. As a member of the Examining Committee on Modern Languages at the University, he made his excellent knowledge, particularly of French, useful to the community. Had his professional studies been continued, there is reason to believe, that, in some departments, he would have contributed in no humble. measure to the true fame of his country. An article

« PreviousContinue »