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Henry Franklin to his Brother.
A VESSEL being ready to sail for England, I gladly embrace the opportunity of making a few remarks on some subjects that have excited my attention.
Cremerce is the universal occupation of the inhabitants of this city, though many of the mo. nied men employ their capitals in buying and sell4 ing land, which is here as much an article of traffic as any other commodity. Philadelphia is the grand emporium of the whole province and adjoining states, collecting from them the following articles for exportation : charcoal, pot-ash, beer, eyder, salt meat and fish, butter, cheese, corn, flour, tallow candles, linseed, soap, timber staves, hides, deer and beaver skins, bark, and pigs of iron. The accommodations for commerce are excellent, the quay being large, and so.conveniently constructed, that merchantmen of considerable size can unload their cargoes without difficulty. There are also several wet and dry docks for building and repairing ships, besides numerous magazines and stores; (the American
name for warehouses ;) to which may be added, the advantage, both to utility and beauty, by the introduction of canals, and the situation of the city between two rivers, the Delaware and the Schuylkill, which nearly enclose it. founded by the celebrated William Penn, in 1682. He received a grant of lands, on the western side of the Delaware, from the crown, since erected into a province, called Pennsylvania. The wisdom, moderation, justice, and humanity of this great man's character, were eminently displayed in the plan of his city, the code of laws for the government of his province, and his upright and gener. ous treatment of the Indians from whom he made the purchase. Their veneration for his memory is so deeply rooted, and their confidence in his vefacity so unshaken, that, to this day, they are never perfectly satisfied with any treaty, unless some Quakers are present at the conference; for, say they, the descendants of William Penn will never suffer us to be deceived. A more noble testi. mony to his integrity, than the sculptured bust, or marble monument.'
There are but few poor, as may be expected in a country, where every man who enjoys health.and strength, may earn a comfortable subsistence : but great attention is paid to those few who want it. The hospital is built in the form of a Roman H, and is under excellent regulations; supplying the sick and infirm with every necessary comfort, besides affording an asylum for lunatics, lying-in women, and children who are deserted by their parents.
The Bettering House is a kind of workhouse, where employment and support are provided for the aged, the destitute, and the friendless.
Philadelphia has the honour of giving to man. kind, an example of the advantages to be derived from the wise, humane treatment of criminals. By the new penal laws adopted in this city, soli. tary confinement (on some few occasions, for twenty-one years, but generally for a much shorter period, proportioned to the nature of the crime, and the behaviour of the offender) is the severest punishment inflicted on any delinquent except a malicious murderer, who atones for his crime by his death. Nothing can be better contrived for the design than the gaol, which is a spacious building, of common stone. It is fitted up with solitary cells, each apartment being arched, to prevent the communication of fire. Behind the building are extensive yards, which are secured by lofty walls.
The awful silence of the place (for not a word is suffered to be spoken; not a laugh, or the voice of mirth is to be heard ; but a melancholy solemnity pervades the whole) affected the sensible mind of Arthur deeply; he squeezed my hand in his, which I felt was in a cold damp, as we passed through the long ranges of cells, and shuddered at the sound of our foot
steps, which echoed through the passages. What must these poor wretches feel, said he, shut up from all converse, some even deprived of light, with no other object to occupy their thoughts or attention, than the reproaches of their own con. science. The punishment, I replied, is terrible to endure, but the good of society requires that offenders should be made an example, to deter others from injuring their fellow-citizens; and if their sufferings tend to their reformation, it has not been inflicted in vain. Upon this the conductor assured us of the good effects of the regulations observed in this gaol; and told us, that as soon as a prisoner is admitted, he is washed, and furnished with clean cloaths : he is then red to one of the solitary cells, where he remains se. cluded from the sight of every living creature but the gaoler, who is forbidden to speak to him without absolute occasion. If he is refractory, of committed for an atrocious crime, he is confined in a dark cell.
The first improvement in the condition of a prisoner, is the permission to do some kind of work; an indulgence, prized even by the idle, af. ter they have endured the wearisomeness of soli. tude and privation of employment. On further amendment, they are allowed to labour in company, but still without partaking of the pleasures of conversation. Our countenances assumed a more cheerful appearance, when we saw the variety of arts carried on by those who have attained the the liberty of working with others. One room is set apart for taylors, another for shoemakers, a third for carpenters, &c. and in the yards are stone-cutters, smiths, nailers, and other trades that require room. This part of the gaol is more like a manufactory than a prison, and from the decent behaviour of the prisoners, as well as the many instances related of their return to virtue and comfort, I am led to believe, that this mode of punishment is superior in efficacy, to any other ever yet adopted. The honour of the establishment, protection, and success of this wise and bumane system, is due to the Quakers. A mem. ber of their body, named Caleb Lownes, proposed the experiment; and such was his perseverance, that he was neither to be deterred by scoffs or opposition, till he had effected it. At length his ar. guments prevailed with William Bradford, one of the judges, to assist him in this great undertaking; and by their joint endeavours, and the Divine blessing, it has attained its present state of perfection, What trophies are too great to perpetu. ate the memory of such citizens !