Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

admire the principle upon which the laws of these new Christians in this case proceeds. It throws the crime of poverty into the scale, which instantly settles the balance. Even when poverty constitutes the sole offence, nothing is more equitable than the punishments which proceed in regular gradation, and correspond in exact proportion to the degree in which the crime exists. For instance, within the massy walls of this prison, whose iron gates open to receive the reeking murderer, the midnight thief, and all those miserable outcasts of society who, lost to every principal of shame, every feeling of humanity, have sunk into all the brutality of vice; those guilty of the crime of poverty are likewise immured. But think not that they are all equally wretched. No; those who can afford to defraud their creditors, are suffered by these wise legislators to live in a degree of luxury. Those who can save enough from the wreck of former times to pay for their accommodation, may still enjoy some comparative degree of comfort. But it is those wretches who have lost their all, and are alike destitute of friends and fortune—it is they who are doomed to suffer the bitterness of confinement in all its horrours. It is true, that some who follow the old system of Christianity, as it was taught by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, by whom poverty is not considered as so unpardonable a crime, have exerted their endeavours for relieving the sufferings of their fellow-creatures, who for small sums are shut up in these dreary abodes of wretchedness. But notwithstanding their endeavours, notwithstanding the zealous efforts, the heart-touching remonstrances of one of these Christians of the old school, who devotes his life to the children of misfortune;” still in these prisons many thousands of the inhabitants of this land of freedom are left to pine out a misera

* We suppose the Rajah points at the benevolent exertions of Mr. Howard.

ble to existence, alike useless to themselves and to society. Many at whose birth the voice of congratulation has been raised, and over whose infant forms the tears of parental tenderness have been fondly shed, are here suffered to languish, unnoticed and unknown. As for those wretches who have committed such offences against society as all nations upon earth have deemed criminal, they are here held in such just abhorrence, that it is not thought sufficient to visit their sins with mere temporal punishment, but every possible pains is taken to preserve them in such a state of wickedness as may give them every possible chance of being, according to the faith of the lawgivers, miserable to all eternity. . This you may, perhaps, esteem rather an unjustifiable degree of severity.—But consider, O benevolent Maandaara, that by the old Christian Shaster, none are excluded from the hopes of mercy who seek it by sincere repentance. Now nothing is more probable, than that many of those miserable beings, who have been unwittingly swept into the torrent of vice, might, when they find themselves shipwrecked on its barren shores, gladly listen to the voice that would conduct them to the paths of peace and virtue. If kept in a state of separation from the bad, and favoured with means of instruction from the good, this would, no doubt, often be the case. But then consider what might be the consequence: perhaps some of these vile felons might come to have a higher seat in Heaven than some of the proud jealous guardians of the laws which had condemned them upon earth. The idea is not to be endured with patience 1 and to prevent any possibility of its being realized, the poor trembling wretch, new to vice, and whose mind is not yet hardened in iniquity, no sooner commits (or is said to have committed) the most trifling offence that stands within the cognisance of the law, than, hurled into the society of those veterans in sin, of whose repentance there is little reason to be

the unfortunate offender is gradually trained to an equal degree of depravity. Thus the door of mercy is for ever shut ; the returning path to virtue is barricaded and so filled up by the briers and the thorns which these new Christians have thrown in the way, that it becomes quite invisible; and lest reflection should point it out, intoxicating liquors are allowed in all prisons to be distributed in sufficient quantities to prevent the most distant apprehensions of such an event. Thus do these enlightened people exert their endeavours to fill the regions of Nareyka As for the philosopher, who, I need not tell you, is a Christian according to the old Gospel, he deprecates the whole system, and was so much shocked at the sight of the young victims who are here devoted to vice in order that they may be afterwards immolated on the altars of justice, that no cordial less powerful than the sight of the happimess he had himself created would have had Voga. t i. 13

« EdellinenJatka »