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punishment if he deviated in the slightest degree from the rules laid down for the guidance of his conduct.
In theory, the silent system certainly appeared to me very far superior to any of those I have before alluded to. It combined, in a great measure, the advantages of several other systems. The convict had little more enjoyment of the society of his fellow prisoners than he would have had if placed in solitary confinement. His labours were of the most useful description ; such, indeed, as the warmest advocates of the industrial system must approve; and the work exacted called for as much exertion and fatigue of body as could well be obtained by means of shot-piling, or tread-mill, without, like those modes of punishment, having any baneful effects upon the mind.
I was assured that in practice the silent system fully sustained the excellence of its theory, and judging from the signs of diligence and order displayed, the amount and excellence of the work performed, and the very few officials conducting the establishment, I am led to believe that no undue credit was claimed for it.
The women confined in the penitentiary were kept apart from the men, and with them the rule of silence was less strictly enforced. This might have been from the extreme difficulty there would have been found in carrying it out in its fullest extent. But as one great object in maintaining silence and non-interchange of ideas amongst the men was to prevent the possibility of combination for escape, or rebellion against the few persons set to guard them, it might be thought that with females there was not the same necessity for bridling their tongues, and forbidding all communication between them.
I have said that my visit was a hurried one, and made some years since. I do not remember whether at the time I made any inquiries as to whether diligence and good conduct, as reported by the overseers from their secret observations, would be noted for reward or favourable consideration; but doubtless some such arrangement must have subsisted to render the system consistent and efficacious.
Allowing rewards and punishments to be fairly meted to the convicts according to their merits, as ascertained by the mode of espionage described, we here see a system of government assimilated to that of the Creator's rule over His people, so far as human infirmity may attempt to copy from the Eternal Wisdom, but how different in its results !
In the one case we see a body of men, for the most part hardened in depravity, rendering strict and ready obedience to the stern regulations of a gaol, and this more from the knowledge that their outward actions may be at any time overlooked by those who have the authority to punish what they may do amiss, than from the experience of punishment itself.
Every man is fully aware that the most vigilant watcher cannot possibly observe him at all times. He knows that if called on to account for any breach of prison discipline he will have to stand before fallible judges, men like himself, and liable to be imposed upon by any specious defence he may set up. He knows, also, the extent of their jurisdiction, and power to punish him; that stripes, many or few, solitary confinement on bread and water, for a longer or shorter period, or a task of extra work, of greater or lesser severity, are all they can award him. They have not even power to “ kill the body." Yet the dread of these limited, temporal punishments, following on an act of disobedience, and the conviction that any such act, however trifling, may be noticed, and made a ground of accusation against him by the unseen watchman placed over him, is generally found sufficient to deter the boldest and most reckless from infringing the laws laid down for his observance.
Surely we have great cause to say with the Apostles to their Lord and ours, “ Increase our faith;” for what can it be but our miserable short-coming in this respect that makes the great majority of us continue in folly and sin as we do?
It is true, indeed, that every one who professes to believe anything of a Supreme Ruler of the universe, and a future state of existence, “must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ; " and, moreover, that He is “a jealous God, and visits the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him." Every man who reflects for a moment must say, “He that planted the ear shall he not hear; or he that made the eye shall he not see? yet with by far the greater number of us these truths are assented to by the reason, rather than felt in the depths of the heart.” We lack that lively faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." We should each cry, “Lord I believe ; help thou mine unbelief.”
If the great and appalling facts of God's omnipresence and omniscience were ever present to our souls ; —if we could say with David, “thou knowest my down sitting, and mine uprising ; thou understandest my thoughts long before; thou art about my path, and about my bed, and spiest out all my ways;”-surely we should “stand in awe, and sin not;" we should lift our hearts from earth to heaven, and say, “God is our hope and strength; a very present help in trouble.” And whilst we should be careful to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," we should entertain no slavish dread of our fellow man, however high exalted above us, “and fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”