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Liberia was published, and her independence pro claimed. She has thus been a free republic, exercising all the rights of free government, for nearly five years. Her claim, then, to be reckoned among the nations ought not, and cannot with justice, be denied. She holds friendly relations with the United States, and must, like other nations, have her chargéd'affaires at Washington. But all her people are dark. A white man cannot sit, or eat, or commune with such, on equal terms. What, then, must be done ? Must Liberia remain unrepresented before the state that has fostered her into what she isthe state that hopes to see her grow in greatness ? or must Liberia borrow a white man to stand her sponsor ? Or, will America, with a magnanimity so becoming a great and a free nation, swallow down her prejudice, receive a true Liberian envoy, and shew him all honour for the sake of liberty, and of his origin?
Our early knowledge of prisons is commonly derived from history, and consequently, they, with too much reason, are associated in the mind with deeds of injustice, oppression, and cruelty. Dungeons where brave warriors are sighing out their existence, deep, deep, below the sympathy and the hearing of man
-towers where infant princes pay the forfeit of life to the fell usurper-inquisitions where, for daring to think or inquire, the intelligent, liberal, and devout are tortured under the remorseless gripe of Papal tyranny ;—such are the images called up by the word “ Prison" in the mind of the inexperienced
After-years teach that prisoners are not necessarily oppressed, and prisons are not all scenes of injustice and cruelty. Yet it requires long habit before the steep, cold, stone steps of a common jail can be ascended without a trembling heart, and the hardened and careless inmates faced without strong repulsion mingled with pity. It requires a .consideration of the untaught, the impoverished, and the tempted case of many a poor criminal; and also a consideration of what is in our own hearts, before we can say, as did the well-taught man, when he saw a convict passing to Tyburn,“ But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford.”
As the homes of America are cleaner, brighter, and of purer air than ours, so are their prisons. My means of observation were limited. It is not easy for a female to penetrate such places alone, nor easy, amid the busy and obliging multitude, to meet with gentlemen who do less than marvel at your taste in sight-seeing, if you hint a wish to visit such scenes. Such observations as have come within reach, however, shew me that the mistakes and experiences of old Europe have not been lost on young America. There will never there, one is led to trust, be found such dens of darkness and woe as our Howard permeated-and, even from their foundation, they have profited by such works as our Buxton's on Prison Discipline, and such operations as those of our Mrs Fry in prison classification.
It is not for me to discuss the much debated points, between the systems of solitude in one prison, or silence in society in another. For the officials the former must be much the more easy. As to the latter, the enforcing of it—at least the enforcing of non-intercourse—seems impracticable. The temptation to break rules, and thus become an offender, is very strong, because converse with our fellows is natural. It is a pity to add to occasions of offence, where there are necessarily so many; besides, Solomon said long ago, that “ a naughty person winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers.” He has ways of insinuating his ideas though his tongue be silenced; and that it is 80, seems calculated to make his feelings the more bitter. It would seem easier, more cheerful, and therefore more healthful, to work alone all day, if your workshop be well aired and lighted, than to work continually under restraint in the midst of society, where the very ingenuity and cleverness exercised in outwitting the overseer must add constantly to the temptation to do so.
It depends much on constitutional temperament how solitude will affect the spirit. We have all read with dismay the account of that brave general who, under Austrian despotism, was imprisoned seventeen years — at first with a companion. The first year they discussed political affairs, and conjectured as to the cause of their arrest. The second they related adventures and stated opinions on abstract subjects. The third they became silent; and when at the end of the fifth year his companion was removed, he felt it rather a relief to see no more through the gloom that dim immovable countenance. Once during the remainder of the time the door was opened, and a voice, sounding to his unaccustomed ears like thunder, said “ he had it in command from his Imperial Majesty to inform him
that Madame, his wife, had died some time last year.” When liberated, he had ceased almost to think or to feel. Hope had nearly ceased to linger about his heart, and the relations of life had become as nothing to him. Who that has breathed the free air of Britain or of America does not recoil against such a deed of irresponsible power !
Neither the silent nor the solitary system in the free states can ever expose a fellow-man to such a crying injustice; yet the effect of this dreamy solitude, on a man of strong mind, is worth deep consideration. Mind, especially uninstructed mind, cannot thrive in solitude. If it be empty of everything but its past evil associations, what can it be exercised upon that may purify or elevate? Solitude, with employment and Christian teaching, may be rendered animated and healthful, and that is the object to be aimed at in solitary prisons. Anything is better than utter loneliness. Robert the Bruce's contemplations on the perseverance of his spider excites our interest, and we sympathise with him when it and its intricate web were swept away. And the poor Comte de Charney's very small flower, his Picciola in the court-yard of his prison, what a power of mental occupation, and of hearty sympathy was there, which, because it found no other outlet, lavished itself on that flower! Such examples of the resources of refined minds cut off from social intercourse, excite our interest; yet how unprofitable are they, and how empty do they leave the soul!