Salary of Preacher. --Country People --Albany. --Autographs --Marriage Ceremony. --Shakers. --Saratoga. --Utica. --Sale of Negro by himself. --Auburn. --Convict labor unpopular. --Canandaigua. --Avon. --Geneseo.
ON the 13th I left Hartford at 10 A.M., and did not get to Sandisfield, though but forty miles distant, till half-past seven in the evening, as the road was very hilly. After passing through several towns or villages, the stage stopped at a small place called Colebrook, --a pretty picturesque village, --where an old lady got in. All the other passengers, a very noisy and a very numerous set, had taken their departure. Finding she lived in the neighborhood, I asked to what denomination a handsome church by the side of the road belonged, and what stipend the minister had. From her answer I learned that the congregation belonged to the Independents, who had lately settled 700 dollars a-year on their pastor. The usual mode of proceeding on such occasions, is to try, or as she termed it, to hire a preacher; and, if he suits the people, to give him a call; when, if he accepts the proposal, he states what salary he expects. There was some demur, on the part of the more elderly, as to the propriety of allowing so large a sum; but the younger portion of the community took up the matter very warmly, and the stipend was fixed at that amount. When the low price of provisions is considered, (board and lodging of the best description being, in the neighboring town, less than two dollars a-week,) it will be seen how much better paid the incumbent is, than many of our clergy. The Americans are said by many to have no religion, because the State is not its nursing father: perhaps they pay so much for religion because they want it; while others want it because they pay so much for it.
On arriving at the little tavern where I was to sleep, I begged to have some tea and some meat, or some eggs and bacon. The following is a bill of the fare placed before me: --Four or five large slices of toast, swimming in a pool of melted butter -a large dish of fried bacon --half-a-dozen boiled eggs --an apple pie --some preserved quinces --cucumbers in vinegar --currant jam --potatoes with butter --sweet cake --cheese-bread and butter-and tea with its usual accompaniments.
As soon as I had finished my repast,
the driver, with whom I had been chatting during the latter part of the
journey, came in and sat down to table. I told him I would have waited
for him, had I been aware of his coming. He made some excuse for his absence;
but I could see plainly that he had felt unwilling to intrude upon me.
It was a wild and poor country; and the manners of the people were simple
and primitive. The front door of the inn was left open the whole night.
They seemed to have a very summary and conclusive mode of collecting taxes;
I copied the following notice which I found on the wall of the bar-room.
"All persons who have neglected to pay their taxes on bills committed to
Josiah H. Sage, collector, are hereby notified that, in consequence of
the sickness of the said collector, the bills are at my house, where those
who are willing, can have opportunity to pay their taxes, if they improve
it soon; and those, who neglect, may expect to pay a constable with fees
Sandisfield, Aug. 2, 1833."
The next morning I started early in a light carriage for Albany. The lad who drove, was very loquacious. He talked a great deal about England, which he said he longed very much to see --a feeling more common in this class of the people than any I met with. I made it a point, whichever way I travelled, and whatever person I conversed with, to give some hint that I was from the old country. I uniformly found that the inhabitants of cities, with few exceptions --chiefly of men of cultivated minds, --very seldom made any remarks upon the state of England; whereas the country-people, more particularly the stagecoachmen, if inclined to talk, generally evinced a desire to know what is passing in the old world. The state of our roads, the system of farming, and other matters connected with their occupations, were objects of curiosity and interest to them; while the former observed that dignified silence which becomes the consciousness of an undoubted superiority.
We were talking about the Irish laborers, who bear but an indifferent character everywhere. "They are an ugly set of people," said the boy: --"but, there are no people I hate so much as the niggers --I always drive over 'em, when they get in my way." "But why do you hate them? --I suppose they are much the same as other people." "So they are, to be sure: --I don't know why I hate 'em: but I do hate 'em." There was no answering this. It had good classical authority. Martial himself could not have given a better reason.
At Stockbridge, a very pretty town, where we stopped some time, I stepped into a saddler's shop, where I found an Englishman, working as a journeyman. His wages were five dollars a-week, besides, board, lodging, washing, and mending. He spoke highly of the people, who were always ready to shew him civility, and inclined to befriend the industrious and prudent.
The day after my arrival at Albany, I called upon a clerical gentleman to whom I had a letter of introduction, and was invited to drink tea with his family. He had a singular taste, which he had acquired in England, for collecting autograph signatures of persons remarkable, in their generation for something or other. He shewed me a considerable number --many of them of very equivocal celebrity. There were some of an early date; and others more "modern instances." He had the signs manual of Lord Teignmouth --Lord Bexley --and Sir Francis Burdett: all obtained directly from these distinguished personages in reply to letters he had written to request the honor of having specimens of their hand-writing. He had sent four: the fourth received no answer. He asked me to guess who it was, after telling the names. I was right: it was Lord Brougham. He had made applications of a similar kind to upwards of fifty public characters in his own country, and had, with one or two exceptions, attributable to accident, met with obliging and courteous replies.
About nine o'clock, a young man entered, and whispered something in a mysterious manner into my host's ear; when he got up from his seat, and went out into the passage, whence he returned with a young couple, who had come, in appropriate dresses, and accompanied by the bride's-maid and another swain, to be joined together in holy matrimony. As I thought I might be rather in the way on this solemn occasion, I was about to leave the room, when I was requested to remain; and the rest of the family made their appearance. An extempore prayer was then offered up by the minister, who placed the hand of the damsel in that of her betrothed; and the questions, adapted to such cases, having been put to the parties principally concerned, the ceremony concluded, and the new-married couple made their "exeunt;" one of the young men having put something into the clergyman's hand. It proved to be one dollar only; more is generally given for the job, --from five to fifty. The names of the husband and wife were subsequently inserted in a register with those of the witnesses and the dates. The whole was over in five minutes.
Marriage is considered a civil contract, and, when properly attested and registered, is equally valid, whether solemnized by ministers of religion, justices of the peace, or the proper municipal authorities. The Quakers, as with us, have their own forms. Consent of parents or guardians is not necessary, in the State of New York, to legalize marriage, providing the parties have arrived at the age of legal consent, which is fourteen for males and twelve for females.
After this business was dispatched and our autographic decipherings were renewed, an English dissenting minister made his appearance with letters of recommendation from his own country, which he had recently quitted. His object was to obtain the charge of a congregation, or to find employment as a teacher. He had emigrated to the New World in the hope of finding bread for himself and his five children. When he had left the house with a promise that his case should be attended to, I was told that many applications from persons of a similar description and from the same country had lately been made --some of them of such a distressing nature as to imply a great mass of misery in the class to which they belonged. One case among many was that of a respectable man with a family of ten children in a state of complete destitution.
At the hotel where I lodged, I met accidentally with one of my fellow passengers from Liverpool, who was on his way to the Shaker-establishment at Watervliet, about eight miles from Albany. As it would have been an unpardonable omission to leave this part of the country, without seeing these singular people, I gladly availed myself of the opportunity, and we went over together the next morning. On our arrival, we found a party assembled for the same purpose, and joined them in the round they were about to make under the guidance of one of the sisters. After inspecting the kitchen and the dairy, which were throughout distinguished for the cleanliness and ingenious contrivance observable among these people, we fell in with an elderly man, to whom I addressed a few questions, relative to the establishment. His replies were very brief and abrupt; and his manner indicated something like displeasure, as if he thought our object in coming was to ridicule the fraternity. When I told him that we were from the old country, and that we wished to judge for ourselves of a system about which so many conflicting reports had been given, his countenance brightened up, and he offered us his services; inquiring at the same time whether we belonged to the party with whom he had found us. "Well! then," said he, finding that we did not, "come along with me; and I will shew you what is most worth seeing." He then took us with him into the bed-rooms of one of the buildings, of which there are three or four; and remarked to us that we might see the falsehoods that had been propagated about them with respect to the total separation of the two sexes. On the pegs in the passage, into which the doors of the rooms opened, were hanging, on one side hats, on the other bonnets and cloaks; their respective owners being occupants of the adjoining chambers, as we could perceive by the furniture and clothing in them. As a protection to the wall, a large sheet of brown paper was affixed to it; so that the hat or bonnet, while suspended from the peg, left no mark or stain when removed. Every part of the place was remarkable for the utmost order and neatness. Our next visit was to the working-rooms, where there were several women, dressed in the Quaker style, and busily occupied in weaving cotton stuffs, and in other employments suited to their sex. One or two of them were young and good-looking. They seemed to be very cheerful, and replied to our observations in a shrewd and laughing manner. They were disposed to be merry and enjoy a joke as much as any of their unregenerate sisters in the world. There was nothing like restraint or embarrassment in the women we met in our round. They were moving about in all directions, and exchanged sallies of wit with our guide as they passed each other.
Having satisfied our curiosity, the old man led us into a little room, where he said he passed his leisure hours in making whips; and, begging us to be seated, he exclaimed-- "Now let us have a little chat about the affairs of Europe; and first let me ask you, do you know who O.P.Q. is?" I had been the chief interrogator, as my companion was a mere lad, and was now questioned in my turn. "I believe," said I, "I can tell you who he is, or at least who he is supposed to be." The name and the history of the Morning Chronicle's reputed correspondent were communicated to him; and I wrote down the former at his request, adding the titles by which it was once followed. Having obtained all the information I could give him upon this point, he proceeded to discuss the political events and prospects of the old world; and exhibited a good deal of knowledge and sound sense both in the questions he put and in the remarks he made on the answers they elicited. Among other persons, he spoke of Sir Francis Burdett and Cobbett; and strongly reprobated the treatment, Queen Caroline had received from George the Fourth, and his servile ministry, who succeeded, against their better judgment, in awakening a spirit, that has since given them no little trouble, and is now struggling for the mastery. Though I am but little acquainted with the scandalous chronicle of kings, I could easily have put him in possession of a few facts that are too well known in Europe to excite surprise or indignation. He was not disposed to make allowance for vices and failings, from which it would be unjust to expect exemption in these "chartered libertines." The venerable recluse launched out on the subject of these "delicate investigations" into a strain of morbid curiosity that required no further encouragements, to illustrate the powerful effects of human nature upon feelings long suppressed or diverted from their ordinary channels.
It was getting late; and we had seen enough to judge of the reaction which forced celibacy and religious seclusion have a tendency to produce upon the mind. I suggested, therefore, that it was time to take our leave; when our guide proposed a visit to the school; where, as he told us, we might judge for ourselves how far it is true that the Shakers are purposely kept in a state of ignorance. To the school then we adjourned, and met the children coming out. They all willingly and cheerfully acceded to our request that they would return to their lessons; and we had an opportunity of witnessing the care bestowed upon their education. Two letters, written by the pupils, --one a girl of thirteen, the other rather older, --I have now in my possession. They are well written and well expressed, and fully disprove the imputation of neglecting instruction. That sort of knowledge is alone imparted, which may be useful to them in the occupations to which they are destined; and the elementary books used in the public schools of the country are employed for the purpose.
I may here observe, that the facility with which the Shakers receive children into their establishment, has a tendency to produce many of the abuses arising from Foundling Hospitals. One case I am myself acquainted with where an illegitimate child was left with them by its parents, who pretended to be man and wife, and unable to provide for it; --leaving at the same time a fictitious name, under pretence of reclaiming it on the first opportunity.
We saw several copies of the Bible and Testament in the common versions. These are accessible to the scholars at any time --so unfounded is the report that the Scriptures are studiously kept out of the hands of these religionists.
There are several farms belonging to them. The establishment consists of about 300 men and women, who possess 2000 acres, part of which is garden ground. They derive a considerable revenue from the sale of seeds and cheeses, in addition to the other produce of their industry, whether agricultural or manufacturing.
Their mode of life is extremely simple and highly conducive to health and longevity, the average duration of life for the last thirty years having been, at this station and at New Lebanon in the same State, nearly sixty years. The whole number of those who belong to this sect, the chief peculiarity of which is, as is well known, complete abjuration of marriage, is between four and five thousand, dispersed, in separate communities, over various parts of the Union. They believe, as far as they have any creed, that God is not three in one; but two in one. They infer from the text: --"So God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them," --that "there exists in the Deity the likeness of male and female, forming the unity of that creative and good principle from which proceeds the work of father and mother, manifested in the power to create and wisdom to bring forth into proper order all the works of God. If it were not so, then man, who was created male and female, could not with any propriety be said to shew forth the image of God." But the manifestation of this, they affirm, "does not imply two persons, but two incomprehensibles," shewing, according to their notions, "something essentially different from three persons in one God, all in the masculine gender, as established by a council of Catholic bishops in the fourth century, and which has been the prevailing creed among their blind and bigoted followers to this day." In accordance with these singular tenets, they hold that there have been two distinct advents or revelations, corresponding to the two natures, male and female; Ann Lee having been ordained to the second, "The Father is the first in order of the new creation; and the Mother is the second, --the glory, wisdom and perfection of the Father. And in and by the son and daughter, or Christ in his first and second appearing, the Father and Mother are both revealed, and made known, through the mutual influence of the eternal world proceeding from both; who are one in essence, nature and union; but two in their office and manner of operation." No one can deny that this is incomprehensible enough to answer all the purposes of mysticism. By permitting marriage, however, --the only way in which man and woman can be made one, --Mother Lee might have, completed the analogy, and applied the doctrine of dualism as well to the object, as to the author, of Divine Goodness. Her domestic trials might perhaps have confirmed, if they did, not produce, her attachment to celibacy; for her husband, not long after her arrival from England left her to live with another woman, and dissolved the connection for one less spiritual.
The Shakers allow no distinction whatever between man and man, but what is founded on moral worth, and admit persons of all colors to the same privileges. Hence, probably, arose those bitter and cruel persecutions to which they were at first exposed, rather than from the charge of alienating children from their parents and disturbing the natural order of society. About thirty years ago, an establishment they had formed in Union Village, in the State of Ohio, was attacked by a lawless mob of 500 armed men; led on, by officers, and followed by nearly 2000 people, who had assembled to witness brutal outrage on a peaceable community of religionists. The pretence of all this violence was, as is usual on similar occasions, to protect religion from dangerous fanatics. Such, however, was the patient mildness with which the Shakers conducted themselves towards these turbulent intruders, (the real fanatics,) that their malice was disarmed, and they retired with far different feelings from, those with which they had arrived.
I had no opportunity of seeing the society either at their meals or at their devotional exercises; the latter of which are said to be inexpressibly ludicrous --though the sight of rational beings cutting capers to the glory of God must be rather humiliating than amusing. These peculiarities are becoming less preposterous; and, as the distortions of the body are exchanged for movements more natural and graceful, the attention of the inquisitive to these ceremonies will probably be lessened; and visitors will content themselves with the picture of a happy and harmless community, usefully employed and exempt from most of the cares and follies of civilized society.
We returned to Albany in time for dinner; and at three o'clock I started by the rail-road for Saratoga. The first sixteen miles we performed in forty minutes, when we dismissed the locomotive power, and having descended, for a short distance, down an inclined plane, went on, by means of a single horse, to the Springs, which we reached at eight; the whole distance being thirty-six miles and a half. We were detained some time at Schenectady, twenty-two miles from Saratoga. The place was crowded; and I was glad to return the next day to the western road, from which I had deviated for the purpose of taking a peep at the American Cheltenham and its "fashionables." I staid there so short a time, that I am not a fair judge of either. There must, however, be some great attraction in the one, when the other can congregate in such numbers, in spite of a hot sun, a sandy soil, and noisy hotels.
The next day the rail-road conveyed me back to Schenectady in an hour and eighteen minutes, the cars having stopped ten minutes at Balston Spa to take up some passengers. From the former place I went by the stage to Palatine (thirty-nine miles). The road runs by the side of the Mohawk river nearly all the way to Utica, and presents some fine views.
One of the drivers made a singular remark to me. He was saying that many of the Dutch or German settlers have colored servants*,
who generally prove honest and industrious in return for the kindness shewn to them. "You Europeans," said he, "must be astonished at the superstition you see here. It is disgraceful to our national character, and contrary to common sense and justice to despise a whole race, who are just as good as we are. It is cowardly to insult people who cannot defend themselves, and ungrateful to oppress those who are working for us." These were nearly the very words he used. The customs here are certainly capricious and somewhat puzzling. If a black man be free, he is not allowed to get into the stage --if he be a slave, he is. An American will tell you that the exclusion is owing to the olfactories; --what is the admittance owing to? The day before, I observed a black woman, with some ladies and other persons, in one of the cars. She was the slave of one of them. In England, a man would be considered ill-bred, if he were to put his livery-servant into a stage-coach with gentle-women. Yet even "a natural antipathy" is sacrificed in America to the vanity of one section of the Union and the servility of the other. If the Northern States had a proper spirit of independence or becoming pride, they would adopt some retaliatory measure, and prohibit the introduction of slaves from every State that prohibits the introduction of their colored citizens. But this they dare not do. Well may the planters laugh at the "pedlars." They outvote them in Congress; and they thrust their "niggers" into their stagecoaches under their very noses.
The "Dutch " farmers are accused, most absurdly, of employing these men, because they can get them at lower wages than whites --as if there could be two rates of remuneration in the same place for the same kind of work. I once heard a black and a white laborer comparing the amount of what they could earn as farming men. I was sitting by them on the top of a stage, and listened to their conversation.
The next day I went on to Utica (thirty-seven miles). In the evening, as I was strolling about, I entered into conversation with one of my swarthy friends, and obtained from him a singular piece of information. He had been sold not long before by his own consent. Upon inquiring into the particulars of what I had hitherto thought a very uncommon occurrence, he assured me that such kinds of bargain were by no means so rare as one would imagine. The manner in which he disposed of himself was this. He agreed with the captain of a vessel from Albany, to go out with him to Martinique, where he was purchased by a planter for 500 dollars, and received half of the sum as his share of the bargain. On the departure of the vendor, who had made a previous arrangement with the commander of another vessel to take him off the island, he made his way, with the assistance of the port-officer, whom he bribed, to the latter; and, before the ship that had taken him out returned, got back to New York, with his freedom safe, and what he had received for a few hours' slavery in his pocket. He told me he had had several offers since to engage in a similar speculation; but had declined, as he could not trust the proposers.
A few miles before we reached Utica, a passenger in the stage related an anecdote, which, though a choice specimen of what are called Yankee tricks, must yield. the palm to the former. The circumstance occurred at the very spot we were passing over, when the limits of the settlement had not reached what is now the populous city of Utica. About that time, an unlettered man, known by the name of Judge Sterling, had been raised to the bench, or rather appointed, on account of his superior shrewdness, to administer justice to the district, and arbitrate between the settlers and the squatters from the East. He was very pious and fond of money; and contrived to gratify both dispositions, by placing a chain across the road, in front of his house on a Sunday, and exacting a toll from every passenger. A Yankee, who was on his way to the wilderness beyond, was stopped, and the customary demand made. "Give me a receipt," said he, "that I may not have another toll to pay as I go through your district." The judge produced a blank piece of paper, and desiring him to write one, affixed his signature to it. The rogue had written over it: "Please to pay to the bearer the sum of 100 dollars." This draft he got cashed in the village at a store, having added the owner's name to it, and it was not till some time after, that the fraud was discovered by the dupe.
The next day, I proceeded to Auburn (seventy-five miles). The road was uninteresting, and none of the best. While we were going slowly up a hill within a few miles of the city, two very pretty children, neatly dressed, and apparently daughters of substantial farmers, held out a basket of plums to us, when one of the passengers, after he had taken out the contents, inquired of the little girl, who had taken it back from him, what she asked for them. "Nothing," was her answer. "Oh! but you must take something." "No; you are very welcome to them." He still pressed her; but she declined the money. He was a Southerner: --a New-Englander would not probably have accepted the proffered kindness so ungraciously. As the stage was proceeding --"I should not have expected," said he, "to find so much disinterested civility in this part of the country." This was as chilling and as illiberal as Moliere's "la vertu-ou va-t-elle se nicher?" It was not very complimentary to the people of the northern section. One or two of them were present; but said nothing at the time. The remark, however, was not lost upon them, any more than upon myself, as the comment made upon it afterwards convinced me; while it confirmed the inference I naturally drew from this trifling incident, as to the difference of rank, and its accompanying respect, that prevails in the Slave-States and Free-States.
The next morning I visited the prison; the external appearance of which bears a much stronger resemblance to places of the same kind in Europe, than any I had before seen in America. It was here, I believe, that the Penitentiary system was first tried. As the agent was out, the chaplain took me round the different parts of the establishment. There are altogether 770 cells; 220 of which are in a building lately erected on a better plan of construction than the old one; though, in both, the means of properly ventilating the cells are defective; as there is no aperture in any of them, like those at Singsing, for keeping up a current of air by an open communication from the back part of the room with the air at the roof. The space, however, between the dormitories and the wall, which forms the opposite side of the passage, is much larger than that in the old portion of the building.
There is a difference in the manner of securing the convicts in their cells between this prison and that at Singsing; each lock being separate, and the door too far withdrawn from the range in which the rooms are placed, to admit of any communication between them. The dinner, too, which at the latter is taken separately and in the cells, is here eaten in common, at tables provided for the purpose. One advantage, said to arise from this arrangement, is the facility with which the quantity of food can be regulated according to the exigencies of the prisoners; among whom the hard-workers require more than those whose employment is less laborious. This accommodation, however, might be obtained, if required, by a liberal apportionment of diet, as easily in the other system, by sending the keepers with a supply along the line, and requiring the convicts to make the same signs through the bars of the cells, when they want more meat, that are here made at the public table with the same object. At Singsing the convicts have the same rations; but that is not a necessary consequence of eating separately.
There is a greater variety of manufactures carried on at this prison than at Singsing or Weathersfield; and the avenues, or covered ways, through which the keepers, by means of small slits in the woodwork, are enabled to see the men at work, are more complete; as, in most cases, they are carried all round the workshops. These contrivances not only afford the best security for the due observance of silence, and of obedience to other regulations, by impressing on the minds of all at work, that they are under the immediate eye of vigilance and authority, but enable visitors to see all that is going on, without occasioning any trouble or interruption to the business of the place. Out of 696 that were under confinement at the time of my visit, there but eight in the infirmary --a greater number than the average. Here, as in other establishments a similar kind, it is found that the sudden transition from immoderate indulgence to total abstinence, in the case of habitual drunkards, has a good effect upon the general state of health; shewing that reform, to be salutary, need not always be gradual; and that at a remedy may be radical with the physician, and yet conservative to the patient.
The system pursued here is milder. than that at the penitentiary on the North river. From the latter there have been transferred to the Auburn Prison, at two successive periods, 120 convicts; and all of them have expressed a decided preference to the treatment that has followed the change. This testimony may be thought to favor the system it is employed to discredit; and, if capital punishments were the best, because a man would rather be flogged than hanged, severity of discipline would find its best advocate in the terror it excites. Other feelings, however, are to be enlisted in aid of reformation and preventive checks to crime are not to be estimated by the tortures applied to the body or mind of the criminal. Any one can perceive in the countenances of the convicts at Auburn, much less of that ferocious and resentful feeling, which the "cat" at the Singsing penitentiary has left impressed on the features of its inmates.
A violent and ignorant outcry, which has forced its way from the workshops of the mechanics to the doors of the legislature, has been raised, particularly in the State of New York, against convict labor, from its supposed tendency to ruin trade by lowering its prices. A slight consideration, however, will shew that no such injury can possibly arise from an open contract; the nature of which is to keep down the profits of the new competitor to the level of the general market. I was assured by a very well informed man, whom I met at a time when public attention had been directed to these disputes, that he could purchase shoes at Albany, of a commissioner from Lynn, --a town in Massachusetts, famous for its cordwainers," --fifteen per cent. below what they would cost at Singsing, to which place he had gone under an impression that he could get them cheaper there. He added, that it was not an uncommon thing at Auburn, to procure household furniture from New York, rather than from the prison in the neighborhood. Such are the fallacies and falsehoods relative to the work done in the penitentiaries; the inmates of which are accused of inflicting a fatal blow to the interests of honest industry. That this opinion is very general, is evident from the high prices at these places, occasioned by the influx of those who, while they entertain it, afford the best refutation of an error that will cure itself.
Unfortunately, this question, like every other of a public nature, has assumed a political form; and the ignorance of the working-classes is used as a tool for party purposes. The Whig (or anti-Jackson) convention, recently held at Utica, have resolved, in their wisdom, as follows: "Inasmuch as the mechanic arts are among the great sources of a nation's wealth and happiness, it becomes the duty of the government to extend its protection to the most intelligent and important class of our citizens; and that the employment of State convicts in the fabrication of articles which come into ruinous competition with the labor of honest industry, is a burthen upon mechanics so onerous as to demand the prompt and efficient attention of the legislature."
The Buffalo Whig contained a circular (dated August, 1834) from the agent and keeper of the Auburn prison. To the queries therein inserted, the editor gives certain answers, as they were made by a mechanic, the last person whose evidence on a subject involving so intimately his prejudices and interests, would be taken as conclusive by the agent, or any one who wishes to get at the truth. "The several mechanical branches," says this judge in his own cause, "with which the prison wares have come into competition, are seriously injured; and it is said, some establishments have been broken up in consequence, and that others must follow. It is believed, that the low prices at which the prison wares are sold, is the principal cause of complaint; it being, on some articles, but little above the price of the raw material."
The Editor of the Whig observes upon the above: We were recently acquainted with a very worthy mechanic in this city, now deceased, who, previously to his residence here, was employed in superintending the blacksmiths in the Auburn prison. That trade he followed here; and, from his knowledge of the discipline of the prison, and the signs by which the prisoners (not being allowed to speak) call for what they need, he often detected those be employed as graduates of the Auburn Institution. He informed us, that he detected in this way, from fifteen to twenty of these, in the course of two years. Several of them proved most arrant knaves and no one so demeaned himself as to retain his place longer than a few days. Some of them pilfered his small tools; and one broke open his shop at night, and robbed it. A chair-maker, also at work here, plundered his employer and decamped, who was from the same school. In short, reformation, we believe, can seldom be found to have resulted from our prison system." The last paragraph is quite unnecessary. The whole style of argument clearly shews, that public opinion has already passed a verdict of "guilty." What chance of reformation is there in a discharged convict, when he knows that he is recognised, suspected, and despised? He is precisely in the same situation with men of the same class, who, in France, are placed under the surveillance of the police, and subjected to a system of discouragement, that has long been complained of as reproducing crime in a multiplied and aggravated form.
After this, we need not be surprised at what follows: Mr. Humphreys, who is said in the Mechanics' Magazine (an American publication) to be "better able to judge of the effects produced by at attempting to reform criminals by state-prison-labor than any one else in the community," says, in his report to the legislature of New York, in 1834, "To the first question: 'What portion of offenders sentenced to the penitentiary, or to the State-prison, as far as your experience enables you to say, reform?' --I answer; I regret to say, very few. My opinion is, as far as my experience enables me to give an opinion, that there are not more than two out of 100 well-attested instances of durable reform." Again --At every court of the general and special sessions, held in the city, with few exceptions, several old offenders, who have been before sent to our penitentiary or State-prison, or to the State-prison of some other State, are again tried and convicted."
The next day I left Auburn with the same party, and reached Canandaigua --one of the prettiest villages in the State, where I remained till the 22d, having been invited to dine with a Scotchman, who has been living there some time, and has just finished a splendid house, to the great delight of his neighbors, who have thus the prospect of retaining among them a man of sterling worth and good sense. I was indebted for his acquaintance to a person whom I had met at New York, while in attendance upon the governor, and who recognised me in the Courthouse, while I was listening to a tedious and uninteresting trial for petty larceny, and was happy to accept his polite offer of an introduction to his friends. With Mr. Greig, who had asked one or two persons to meet me, I passed a very agreeable evening.
The towns, springing up like magic, and the beautiful lakes I passed between Albany and Avon, which I reached the following day, have so often been depicted, that I should rather claim praise for omitting, than risk blame for enlarging upon, a subject, which, in one of its features, almost eludes description by constant addition and extension, and, in the other, demands a more skilful hand for delineation.
I had written a few days before to Mr. Wadsworth, who had invited me, when I met him in the summer in New York, to take his house on my way to the Falls of Niagara; and soon after I got to Avon, his eldest son arrived at the hotel, and drove me with him in his gig to Geneseo, about ten miles out of the Buffalo road. Avon is twenty-five miles from Canandaigua; and the latter thirty-nine from Auburn.
Genesee, the county town of Livingston county, is beautifully situated on an eminence, that overlooks part of the fertile and delightful valley through which the Genesee flows on its way to the lake Ontario.