HC Deb 23 May 1843 vol 69 cc817-41
Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that in rising to call the attention of the House to the motion of which he had given notice, he might be allowed to explain how one so totally unconnected with the county of Chester, came to be mixed up in a question apparently of a local character. When, on the 22d of February, he rose to call the attention of the House to the conduct of the Lord Chief Baron (Lord Abinger), at the special commission, held last October, while he (Mr. T. Duncombe) found fault with some of the sentences passed by that noble and learned Lord, he said that the severity, of these sentences was much aggravated by the severity, with which the prisoners were treated in the gaol at Knutsford. On the following day the hon. Member for Cheshire asked why he had not given him notice of his intention to allude to the discipline enforced at Knutsford, and at the same time the hon. Member said that he had been altogether misinformed on the subject. He immediately wrote to his informant to say that his statements were likely to be disputed. The statements which he had made relative to the treatment of the prisoners at Knutsford, amounted to this; that the Chartist prisoners complained that on their arrival at the prison, they had been addressed in very violent and insolent language by the gaoler; secondly, that some of those prisoners were put upon the treadmill out of their turn for the amusement of some ladies and gentlemen who visited the prison; thirdly, that the overseer of those prisoners was himself a felon, and that these prisoners were thus compelled to associate with a felon; and fourthly, that their food was insufficient both in quantity and quality. On the following Monday, the hon. Member for Cheshire gave a most unqualified contradiction to the statement which he had made on the authority of his informant, a gentleman resident at Stockport, and the testimony of one of the prisoners was produced in support of the contradiction. He immediately observed that such contradictions coming from prisoners, under the control of the magistrates, ought to be received with extreme caution, and therefore he begged leave to adhere to the statement he had originally made. After that contradiction, he might fairly complain that an attempt had been made to mislead the House. If he had himself given way on that occasion, perhaps not one of the iniquities connected with this prison would ever have come to light. In consequence, however, of his perseverance in adhering to his statement, the right hon. Baronet opposite announced his intention to send down an inspector to investigate the circumstances connected with the case. Captain Williams accordingly proceeded to institute an investigation into the case, and among other witnesses, examined the chaplain of the prison; and if hon. Gentlemen would take the trouble to read the report of Captain Williams, they would find that every statement made by him was fully proved and substantiated by that report. With respect to the charge against the governor of having used to the prisoners violent and insulting language, the inspector said that, upon the concurrent testimony of the prisoners themselves, corroborated in a considerable degree by the evidence of Mr. Tracy, an officer of the county gaol, it appeared that the words addressed to prisoners by the governor, on their arrival, were to the following effect:— Now, you special commission men, you were sent here to be punished, and you shall be punished. The discipline of this prison is so rigorously enforced, and the laws so strict, that if I have to punish any of you, it will have such an effect upon your constitutions, that even under the most favourable circumstances, the strongest man among you won't have a constitution that I would give twopence for when your sentence shall expire.

Mr. Tracy

described this as " harsh language," but he believed the House would agree with him that it was a most brutal speech. The report afterwards proceeded: The chaplain also deposes, that on the 5th of December the governor met him in the prison yard, and apparently under considerable irritation, addressed him in these words; ' Fairhurst, and some of these Chartists, have been complaining about their beef;' and further said, ' Damn these Chartists, I'll give them their belly-full before I have done with them.' It appeared, when this speech was made, no third person was present. [Mr. Egerton " hear"]. From that cheer it was evident that the hon. Member intended to give credence to the testimony of the governor in preference to a man of respectability like the Rev. Chaplain of the gaol. If the governor denied the accuracy of the charge, why had he not cross-examined the chaplain on that point? In consequence of what had taken place, he had other testimony respecting the language which Mr. Burgess, the governor, was in the habit of using with respect to his prisoners. It was a letter from a tradesman of Knutsford, who was quite ready to come before a committee of the House, if a committee should be granted. The letter ran thus;— "Knutsford, March, 17,1843. Sir—After perusing your remarks lately made in the House of Commons relative to the House of Correction at Knutsford, I beg leave to state that Burgess, who is the head gaoler, has in the most unfeeling manner publicly boasted in the midst of a promiscuous company, in the bar of the George Inn, where he occasionally goes to pass his evenings,' of the short time in which by his prison discipline he can break down (as he expressed himself) the constitutions of prisoners,' who unfortunately by their misdeeds placed themselves under his tender mercies; such is this man's boast, his favourite theme; no person of any respectability will in the most distant manner associate with him. He had orders from the hostess of the George Inn to take a room whenever he came there, as people who frequent the inn retire with horror from his presence on account of the merciless remarks he habitually indulges in, relative to the treatment of his prisoners. For his part he believed Mr. Brown, and he did not believe Mr. Burgess; and he thought there would be great difficulty in finding any one out of that House to believe that Mr. Burgess did not use the words attributed to him by Mr. Brown. The report went on to say— It is alleged that certain of the prisoners were, on Thursday, the 20th of October, in the sessions week, placed upon the tread-wheel, out of their regular turn, for the purpose of showing it working to strangers visiting the house of correction. It appears to be customary for the grand jury at every sessions and adjourned sessions, to go through the house of correction previous to their discharge, and that they are occasionally accompanied by females; that at such times if the tread-wheel is not at work, prisoners are called out from their wards and placed upon it for a short time, to show the manner of its working. The complaint made by the prisoners of having on one occasion been placed on the wheel for such purpose in the sessions week, is I consider, just, and that the practice is at all times objectionable. Here again the inspector fully bore him out in the charge he had made. At the General Quarter Sessions, held on the 17th of last month, the magistrates there assembled agreed to a report to the Secretary of State, in reply to the report of the inspector. In speaking of the practice of placing prisoners on the tread-wheel, for the purpose of showing its working to visitors, the report of the magistrates said— It appears to the court that the practice has prevailed upon the occasions of the visits of the grand jury, and, as Captain Williams alleges, on some other occasions; but, as the latter instances appear to have occurred always in the presence of a magistrate, this court considers the governor to be exonerated. He was ready to prove that the statement that this was never done except in presence of a magistrate was false. He could prove that last summer a party went to see the prison, between four and five in the afternoon, and that some prisoners were called out for the amusement of the visitors to show the working of the wheel, and that neither a governor nor a magistrate was present. The employment of a felon as overseer was admitted. The magistrate said— It appears to the court that a prisoner convicted of felony has been appointed by the governor to instruct misdemeanants in the weaving, but he had no authority over them, and was never with them, unless he was called for by them to fetch materials or to instruct them. This court have given directions that such practice shall not occur for the future. The insufficiency of food was also admitted, and thus was each of his charges fully borne out by the report of the inspector. It appeared that the magistrates called the chaplain before them on the 17th of March, and subjected him to an examination, requesting him to state what had pasted between him and the inspector. The magistrates knew very well what bad occurred, for many of them had been present at the examination of the chaplain by Captain Williams. It would have been better, certainly, under these circumstances, if the chaplain had answered at once, and had said, " Yes, I did say so and so; I did give this information; I was on my oath, and bound to speak the truth." He was asked why he had not informed the magistrates at the time the words were used by the governor? He said he bad received orders, several years ago, to confine himself to his spiritual duties. He had, however, repeatedly entered on the journal cases of irregularity on the part of the governor, such as non-attendance at prayers, or divine service, which, according to the rules, he was bound to attend. The result of all this had been the dismissal of Mr. Brown, the chaplain. One charge brought against Mr. Brown was, that he was in the habit of corresponding with him (Mr. Duncombe). He had not been aware that there was any very serious wrong in a man's corresponding with him, but if there was, it was an offence Mr. Brown was wholly innocent of; for until he heard of his dismissal, he bad never known of Mr. Brown's existence. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the General Quarter Sessions for the county of Chester had pronounced his opinion on the conduct of the Governor, in these words— I have the honour to transmit to you a copy of the report of the inspector of prisons for the northern district, on an inquiry into the treatment of prisoners in the Knutsford House of Correction. It is unnecessary for me to enclose a copy of the report which I received from the visiting justices soon after the termination of the inquiry, as they will doubtless already have transmitted to you a copy for the information of the magistrates; but I enclose a copy of the inspector's remarks en the latter part of that report, relating to certain particulars which were not con nected with the inquiry, but which the inspector deemed necessary to bring before the attention of the visiting justices. I have to request that you will submit these several statements to the magistrates of the county, at their first general meeting in quarter sessions, and request their attention most especially to those which relate to the conduct of the governor, that they may determine whether, after what has occurred, they can, with confidence and with safety, continue him in an office of such responsibility. I forbear pointing out the various particulars which show indiscretion in the governor and inattention to his duties: but I cannot omit to mention one instance in which he appears to me to have been guilty of very great misconduct. I refer to a certain case in which, after the express directions of the surgeon, that corporal punishment should cease, he insisted that it should be continued, and it was continued accordingly. The magistrates are fully aware that if on that occasion, life had been endangered, and death had ensued, the governor must have been tried on a charge no less than of homicide. And I am persuaded the magistrates will be sensible of the great responsibility which must be incurred by them from subjecting prisoners any longer to the custody of one who could so misconduct himself. The magistrates, however, had addressed the Secretary in these terms:— This court remarks, that it would be very convenient and conducive to the discipline of the prison, if the inspector would report to the visiting magistrates any misconduct in the officers, or any other matter requiring their notice, as soon as it came to his knowledge, to which the magistrates will pay immediate attention. This court concludes by saying, that after a careful investigation of the charges referred to its consideration, it is of opinion, that with the exception of the case of the boy Trainer (which has already been adjudicated upon), such charges are in themselves not of much importance, and their recurrence provided against, and are not such as to deprive the governor of the confidence which the magistrates have hitherto reposed in him, and which his general good conduct, and the discipline which he has maintained in the prison have appeared to deserve. He would maintain again, that all his charges had been fully borne out by the inspector's report, and if the correctness of that report was doubted, that was an additional reason why this committee, for which he was about to move, ought to be granted. Among other charges against the governor was, that be had neglected to affix the rules in a proper part of the prison. This was treated as a matter of little importance, but he thought there was no part of the prison regulations of more importance to the unfortunate prisoners, to whom it was of the highest importance to know the rules by which they were governed, and the nature of the rights of which they were not deprived. It was found, that the gaoler had employed the prisoners, contrary to law, in mending his gig; the iron was said to be only worth 6d.,but he (Mr. T. Duncombe) believed it to be really worth 3s. 6d. But suppose it to be only worth 6d., they saw men committed every day for stealing a few halfpence worth of apples or turnip-tops. Then as to the circumstances connected with the whipping of the boy, Edward Trainer, the case was said to have been adjudicated upon; but the fact was, that he had been merely reprimanded by the magistrates. There was another case in which a boy named Beacroft, had been flogged previously to his removal to Park-hurst prison; and he was flogged so carelessly, that his eye was severely injured by the thong. He understood that when a person was to be flogged in this gaol, the town crier of Knutsford was called in to inflict the punishment at the rate of 2s. for each person. It was often the case, that no surgeon, or assistant-surgeon, attended to witness the flogging administered, but merely an apprentice. The report of the surgeon, Mr. Deane, on the state of the gaol, prison diet, &c, stated, that since his appointment to the office, he had noticed the falling away of the men employed in labour; that his conviction was, that after an experience of fifteen years, it was impossible to keep men undergoing a long sentence of imprisonment, in ordinary health, on a reduced allowance of food, and he, therefore, recommended that the allowance should be increased. Instead, however, of the gaoler giving the prisoners an increase of food, as recommended by the surgeon, the punishment continually resorted to was a stoppage of their food. During the three months, ending the 10th of March, 1843, the stoppages of diet had been, on the average, 392 daily. [An hon. Member:" No; that was the number of prisoners."] Stoppage of diet was the only description of punishment resorted to, and it fell frequently on the same individual. The magistrates, however, seemed to think, that all these matters were of no consequence; they retained the gaoler, but dismissed the chaplain. If they thought the chaplain an improper person, why had they given him all favourable testimonials when applying for the chaplaincy of the Pentonville prison. In July, 1842, the magistrates spoke of the assiduous manner in which he had performed his duties as chaplain—of his upright and moral character as a clergyman and a Christian, although in their report to the Secretary of State, they said he was not entitled to their confidence, and had not been so for the last three years. The gaoler, the surgeon, the schoolmaster, the taskmaster, and the matron, all added their testimony to the exemplary conduct of the chaplain. [The hon. Member read a variety of testimonials in favour of Mr. Brown, including one signed by ten magistrates.] Mr. Brown might, indeed, be well proud of forfeiting the confidence of such magistrates. They, however, had made up their minds six weeks before to dismiss the chaplain, and they did not condescend to argue the matter with those who defended his interests, Mr. G. Wilbraham, Mr. E. Stanley, and Mr. Davenport. One of the magistrates asked, " Is this gaol to be governed by the Secretary of State or the magistrates of the county?" The Secretary of State wrote to the visiting justices, stating his regret that the governor of the gaol should have been considered fit to be continued in his place, and expressing an opinion that the conduct he had followed, should have led to his immediate dismissal. That letter, he thought, reflected great credit on the right hon. Baronet. It was a bold and true statement of the case—a bold and true censure on those for whom he might be supposed to have had some political predilection. The right hon. Baronet had proved that he was above political feeling on this important occasion, and had passed a censure on the magistrates, to which he was satisfied the whole public would respond. But now that the Secretary of State had done his duty, he maintained that it was for Parliament to do theirs. It was impossible that the question could stop where it was. The responsibility, said the right hon. Baronet, lay on the magistrates, but he maintained, that it lay on Parliament. He did not think the right hon. Baronet could carry the matter further than he had done. He might certainly have cancelled the commission, and remodelled it; but that would lay a responsibility on the right hon. Baronet, which no man had a right to impose. It was now for Parliament to interfere. He did not think they had yet probed to the bottom the iniquities and corruptions of this gaol; he believed, that still greater existed than appeared on the face of the report, and for this reason, he asked for a committee. He was prepared to prove, that I within these few days, Burgess, the gaoler, had collected some of the prison officers, and told them that the magistrates were determined to stand no more of this nonsense, and that if any of the officers were found divulging any-thing that passed in the prison, they would be immediately dismissed. This was a speech lately made by this man, who possessed the confidance of the majority of the Cheshire magistrates. It ought not to be forgotten, that from 2,000 to 3,000 individuals passed annually through this gaol, and, therefore, the administration of it was of some importance. If nothing further were to be divulged respecting it, the inspectors of prisons would never be able to arrive at the truth. If the magistrates doubted the accuracy of the inspector's report in this instance, and thought he had misled the Secretary of State that was an additional reason for granting the committee. But at all events, he thought that Parliament would see the necessity of strengthening the hands of the Secretary of State, and granting further powers for the regulation of a system so devoid of justice and humanity, as had prevailed with reference to this prison. The hon. Member concluded by moving the following resolution:— That it appearing to this House that the Secretary of State for the Home Department, after inquiry made under his authority into certain circumstances connected with the discipline and management of the Knutsford House of Correction, in the county of Chester, has thought it right to advise that the governor of the said House of Correction should be removed; and it also appearing, that the magistrates, in sessions assembled, have, after an alleged careful examination, deemed the charges referred to them by the Secretary of State, with one exception, not of much importance, nor such as to deprive the governor of the confidence reposed in him, and which, as they allege, his general good conduct, and the discipline he had maintained, appeared to deserve; and, therefore, that such governor, contrary to the recommendation of the Secretary of State, has been continued in his office; and it being alledged by the rev, William Browne, in his petition presented to this House, that he has been dismissed by the magistrates, after giving evidence against the governor, before the inspector of prisons, upon the examination instituted by such inspector, under the authority of the Secretary of State; and this House considering that the due and proper management of the said gaol must be of importance to the public, and that the same must most materially depend upon the character and conduct of the governor thereof, and upon the protection being afforded to persons who may from time to time be called upon to give evidence before the inspector of prisons in respect thereof: it is resolved, that a select committee be appointed, to inquire into the conduct and management of the said House of Correction, in respect to the matters referred to in the report of the magistrates, and also into the circumstances connected with the dismissal of the rev. William Browne, the late chaplain of the said House of Correction; the said committee to report the evidence taken, and their opinion thereon, to the House.

Mr. Tatton Egerton

said, there was the greatest anxiety on the part of the magistrates of the county to meet fairly and openly the charges of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman had attempted to carry the House from the consideration of the real question, which was, the conduct of the chaplain of the gaol. The hon. Gentleman had said scarcely one word upon that subject, and all his arguments went to the conduct of the magistrates and the governor of the gaol. He did not appear there as the apologist of the governor. The hon. Gentleman said the governor possessed the confidence of the magistrates. He did not entirely agree with that, for the governor did not enjoy his confidence. But the magistrates did not shrink from the consideration of this subject. They might have erred in judgment as to the conduct of the governor; but the hon. Gentleman had alleged against them no one single corrupt or unworthy motive. He regretted their decision; but in justice to a very large body, consisting of thirty-four gentleman actuated by no political motives residing on the spot and accurately acquainted with the whole circumstances of the case, having minutely investigated it two or three times, he must say, with all deference, that they were better judges than that House might be what was the real state of the question. They might have been led away by a feeling of attachment to the governor from his long service, and he gave them credit for the best mo- tives when, in the face of two letters from the Secretary of State they retained the gaolor in his office. But when the House was told so much of the errors of magistrates, he might ask was the inspector free from error? The right hon. Baronet in his letter said, the gaoler as soon as such misconduct was known should have been dismissed; but for himself, he could say, that he knew nothing of the circumstances until within the last few days. The case of the boy, mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, took place in November 1840. In January 1841 the inspector knew the circumstances connected with it I but did he consider it his duty to report it to the Secretary of State. No; and when his report came out, there was not one word said, with respect to it. But in the teeth of these very things of which he was cognizant, he reported most highly of the governor, and stated him to be worthy of the greatest confidence, and even advised the Secretary of State for the Home Department to send down persons from the Pentonville prison to be instructed under that gaoler in the best manner of performing their duty. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the circumstances in which had originated the whole of this inquiry, but he had not quite fairly stated the matter. He (Mr. Egerton) had never denied, that strong language had been used; the only thing he denied was, the statement that the conduct of the gaoler was calculated to cause breaches of prison discipline. The hon. Gentleman would have seen that, if he had read other parts of the inspector's report. The hon. Gentleman observed, that the surgeon had complained of the rules of diet. All those rules were established by the magistrates and alluded to by the inspectors in their reports, and they must have been well known to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. F. Maule) when he was Under-Secretary of State. In every one of those rules stoppage of bread as a punishment was laid down, therefore it was not in the power of the governor to alter it. The surgeon had stated that he had to increase the diet of those persons who were confined for political offences; there were 300 prisoners there, and the surgeon said he could not recommend the magistrates to increase the whole diet—a diet approved of by successive Secretaries of State; but in every one of the cases of political offenders the diet was increased in regard to milk, cheese, and so on; but the main subject for the consideration of the House was that from which the hon. Gentleman had attempted to distract its attention—the conduct and dismissal of the chaplain, of whom the hon. Gentleman had spoken in such high terms. He was sorry to differ from the hon. Gentleman upon that head, because it was a most painful thing for for him to say anything against a person bearing a clerical character; but a greater tissue of misrepresentation and falsehood he had never seen. What was the charge which the chaplain made against a highly respectable body of magistrates? The rev. gentleman stated openly, and the hon. Gentleman had insinuated, that they were influenced by political motives, and that for political reasons alone they had dismissed him from his situation. It was not the first time he had heard the assertion that judges learned in the law or magistrates must necessarily be actuated by political feeling in the discharge of their duties when certain political offenders were concerned. The petitioner stated, that he, Was warned by one of the magistrates (an entire stranger to him) that if his politics were as reported, different from those of the chairman of quarter sessions and a great majority of the magistrates, he must keep them to himself if he wished to retain his situation, for from what transpired at his appointment, no doubt the first opportunity would be taken to get rid of him. Now, whoever that magistrate was, he had libelled the magistrates of the county of Chester. Who appointed that chaplain? Why, his hon. Friend and Colleague was one of those who appointed him. Those magistrates had increased his salary from 150l. to 200l. a year. Who moved his dismissal? The chairman of the visiting justices, a Liberal, a man strongly opposed to him (Mr. Egerton) in political principles. The visiting magistrates of the gaol unanimously came to the conclusion, that if that rev. gentleman continued, discipline and good order could not be maintained in the gaol; and one half of them were Liberal magistrates. He only wished that the hon. Gentleman had seen a letter which had been addressed to his hon. Colleague, and then he would have a different opinion of the feeling and principles of those parties. Who dismissed the chaplain? A majority of thirty-four magistrates to five, one-third of whom were persons whose politics were liberal. When the House considered all those things, he thought the statements of the prisoner would not go for much The next point in the petition was:— That your petitioner, according to his duty, reported the keeper's continued absence from divine service, for which he was reprimanded by the chairman of the quarter sessions, who told him that prayers were not divine service, and he must not report them as such in future. That he was desired by the chairman on this occasion (April, l840) to confine himself solely to his spiritual duties, and not interfere; that he (the chairman) would not have an imperium in imperio)." That statement was perfectly false from beginning to end. The following was an extract from the minute-book, November 28, 1840:ߞ The attention of the gaoler is called to the prison rule requiring his attendance at the chapel at the performance of divine service. He states to the committee that he attends service only on the Sunday, and says he makes a distinction between prayers only and divine service, and that he complies with the prison rule by attending chapel when full service, and not prayers only, is performed. The committee are of opinion that the gaoler's construction of the rule is not correct, but that he is bound in pursuance of it to attend the chapel whenever a public and general service is performed, whether that service consist of prayers only or of the full service of the Church, unless he has good cause for his absence, to be entered on the journal, and he is therefore enjoined to observe the prison rule according to the committee's construction of it. Now that minute, it must be acknowledged, was wholly opposed to the whole letter and tenor of the rev. gentleman's statement. Again, with respect to the chairman's conduct, he would quote a minute, dated October, 1840:— In consequence of the chaplain having interfered in a case of the conviction of a female at the sessions, and also in the case of the sentence of a court-martial, under which a soldier was confined in the house of correction, an inquiry was directed by the quarter sessions, and the chairman was desired to reprimand the chaplain; in the course of which he told him that he ought to have reported any circumstances which might have come to his knowledge to the visiting magistrates, whose province it was to consider them and act thereon; his province was to attend to his spiritual duties. In the course of this examination it was proved that the chaplain was constantly interfering in the interior management of the gaol; so much so, that when the governor offered to punish a prisoner, he was constantly told that they would apply to the chaplain. Now that was rather different from the statement of the rev. Gentleman. But he had omitted to state another circumstance which he stated before the inspector, and that was, that he did not consider it his duty to report because he had been desired not to report. Now, the minute of the gaol committee dated February 27th, 1841, was:— In consequence of the chaplain having made incorrect entries in his journal respecting the surgeon, and altering and erasing original entries in the journal submitted to and signed by the quarter sessions, he apologised to the visiting justices, and the minute on the report was read to him, and he was directed in future to report each meeting of the gaol committee on the state of the gaol, and any observations he had to make on the discipline of the gaol. Now, how the rev. Gentleman could have the face to tell the inspector that he considered himself bound not to report, he could not understand. But to go on with the assertions of the petitioner, which he should be able to prove were perfect fallacies. The next was: — That your petitioner afterwards reported the keeper for employing prisoners to his own profit and to their detriment, emptying the sewers of the gaol, and in withdrawing thirteen prisoners, on one occasion (December 13th, 1842) from prayers, to fill carts with the ordure from behind the solitary cells, where it had been deposited and mixed; that this entry on his journal remained unnoticed by the visiting justices. Quite the contrary was the case. What was the entry upon the rev. gentleman's journal of that very date? Two services at chapel at nine o'clock a. m.; present, taskmasters, warders, thirteen felons detained to fill the carts with dung from the heap behind the solitary cells. Service at half-past twelve; present, female warders and one male; thirteen felons detained from morning service present. The magistrates did not entertain complaints of irregularities without giving an opportunity to the parties to explain themselves. Captain Williams bore them out in this, for he said:— I am inclined to this recommendation by observing certain entries, calculated to produce unfavourable impressions of the officers, of whom, if complaints were necessary, they should have been made at the time personally to the justices. It should be recollected, that ex parte statements before inquiry or adjudica- tion may on the one hand defeat the ends of justice, and, on the other, form hereafter a very incorrect record reflecting on character. But the petitioner further slated:— That the governor employed prisoners to empty the main sewer, and that its contents were deposited behind the solitary cells, and mixed up by prisoners into a large heap during the hot weather, in the month of August last. The smell was very offensive, these cells being used both for punishment and sleeping cells. That on December the 13th, 1842, thirteen felons were detained from chapel to fill dung-carts from the heap behind the solitary cells; that your petitioner had made an entry of this transaction on his journal, and no notice had been taken of this entry; that prisoners were constantly employed in cleaning at the governor's house, and that the petitioner had seen one of the governor's female servants one morning tap at the window to a felon on the opposite side of the yard, when the prisoners were going to chapel, and that he went into the governor's house, and that your petitioner sent for him to come to chapel; also that prisoners were often employed in cleaning at the houses of the subordinate officers, all contrary to the statute and gaol regulations. The first time that one single word of that statement came before the magistrates was, that when the report was communicated in certain minutes left by Captain Williams. [An hon. Member: That does not make his statements false.] He left the House to judge, after what he had staled, what reliance could be placed upon the allegations of the rev. gentleman. The magistrates were anxious for the fullest investigation into the circumstances which had led to the dismissal of the chaplain. The inspector had been sent down, the chaplain was examined, and the inspector received certain memoranda, not only from the chaplain, but from some of the magistrates, so far were they from wishing to shut up inquiry. A liberal magistrate thus reported respecting the conduct of the chaplain after having examined several witnesses:— The chaplain visits the hospital daily; he never remains there above seven or eight minutes. He has never spoken to one of the sick on any religious subject, nor inquired of what religion they are. To a prisoner who died of a lingering disease, during the whole time he was ill the chaplain never offered any spiritual consolation till requested to do so. On Friday he reads prayers on the landing-place of the stairs, that he may be heard in all the three rooms; these prayers, with an exhortation upon a text, never last above ten minutes altogether. His visits have been more frequent to the prisoners since this inquiry has been going on. He would ask the House now, whether they could wonder at the dismissal of the chaplain? That hon. Gentleman had stated things that were not correct. The hon. Gentleman took a very easy course of proceeding for his purpose. But why did he not produce confirmation of the statements in the petition? In pressing his motion upon the House the hon. Gentleman had turned attention to the conduct of the Government, but the real question was the conduct of the chaplain. He thought he had sufficiently proved how unfounded were the statements of the petitioner. He should oppose the motion of the hon. Gentleman.

Sir G. Strickland

said the hon. Gentleman seemed to desire a full investigation; so did he, and the public too would expect it. The public were under great obligation to the hon. Member for Finsbury for having brought this question forward in so fearless a manner. During the ten or twelve years he had been a Member of that House, he had never lost an opportunity of defending the " great unpaid" magistrates, and sometimes when it was not at all a popular course to take. The case of Knutsford gaol was this,—that there had been gross mismanagement by the gaoler; that there had been corruption; that he had misapplied the public property, having used iron and manure that was not his own; that he had deprived the prisoners in an injudicious, if not in an illegal manner, of their quantities of food. But, after all, there was that case of punishment of the boy who was flogged in such a manner that the surgeon said it ought to be stopped, but it was not stopped. What was the statement of the surgeon? That if the boy had died, the gaoler must have been tried for murder. But though the boy survived, ought the gaoler to escape punishment? Ought he not to be tried for a most gross act of injustice and cruelty? Was he to escape altogether, because the extreme consequence of his act had not followed? It was quite obvious, that the magistrates dismissed the chaplain because he thought proper to speak of that subject. An attempt had been made to inculpate the chaplain; but ten of those very magistrates had given the chaplain a good character. The matter could not, rest where it was. If the committee were not appointed, perhaps some other means might be devised to obtain a full investigation into the circumstances of his suspension. He agreed with the sentiment expressed in the letter of the right hon. Baronet, who said:— The responsibility of these proceedings at the general quarter sessions is upon those magistrates who recommended and adopted that decision. That was all he said; and he thought that if all the allegations could be proved, although the mal-practices had been connived at by persons of high name and character, their position should not free them from the consequences of their conduct. If the inquiry was resisted, it would give the greatest blow ever yet given to the unpaid magistracy. He trusted that the committee, if granted, would whitewash the magistracy from the charges brought against them.

Mr. Curteis

had listened to the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury with some degree of prejudice, thinking that it might have been made the vehicle of some wit and pleasantry, and a little of party spirit, but after having heard the speech of the hon. Member, and having also heard the reply made by the hon. Member for North Cheshire, he had come to the conclusion that the House ought to grant the committee asked for. He bore willing testimony to the excellence of the letters written by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and if full effect were given to them, they would, in his opinion, prove of great benefit to the community. The real secret of the matter appeared to him to be this—the magistrates did not like to be interfered with by the Secretary of State. But in his opinion, the Secretary of State was a very proper person to interfere and arbitrate between the chaplain and the gaoler. If the House shrunk from an investigation into this case, he was firmly of opinion it would do great damage to the character and reputation of the magistracy of the country. This was no party question, and he therefore called upon hon. Members on both sides of the House to assist in giving effect to the admirable principles laid down in the letters of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Sir J. Graham

was happy to say that it would not be necessary for him to detain the House at any very great length. In the first place, he was bound to acknowledge that the hon. Member for Finsbury, after what had occurred on this particular subject, was fully justified in bringing this matter to the consideration of the House. More than that, he must be permitted to say that the hon. Member had brought it forward in a most dispassionate, clear, and able manner. He would very shortly address himself to what he conceived to be the real point for consideration in the motion of the hon. Member for a committee to investigate still further into this matter. He quite agreed with the hon. Baronet, the Member for Preston (Sir G. Strickland), that this was a subject in which complete investigation was indispensable. And if he saw any advantage that could result from any further inquiry—if he thought, by pursuing the matter further, any new or concealed facts would be brought to light, he would not oppose the motion. But the facts of the case, he believed, were all clearly before them, and further inquiry could therefore be productive of no benefit. It had been alleged, and truly, that the prison inspectors had no power to interfere with or to alter the gaol regulations. It was true that the powers granted to the prison inspectors by law, under the direction of the Secretary of State, was to inquire and report as to the state of the several gaols; but they had no power to control, to make or to alter the regulations which it was the duty of the visiting magistrates to make. In one respect, he must be allowed to differ from his hon. Friend the Member for Cheshire. He thought the case of the chaplain was settled, and that it was not advisable to revive it. With regard to the conduct of that gentleman, he was not prepared to offer any opinion. He had no knowledge of the leading facts on which his hon. Friend had relied. The prison inspector had not preferred any charge against him, but that gentleman differed from the chaplain in one particular. The prison inspector had reported to him, that no communication made to him on the part of the chaplain was confidential; on the contrary, the inspector distinctly told the chaplain that any communication made to him would be considered official, and not confidential. The hon. Member for Finsbury complained that all the reports of the prison inspectors had not been laid on the Table. But the great object of the control which was vested in the Secretary of State, over the management of prisons, would be in a great measure defeated, if not altogether frustrated, unless the reports of the prison inspectors made under his direction were considered of a confidential nature, and if they were to be laid indiscriminately before the House, that confidential nature would be at once destroyed. So also in regard to the communications between the Secretary of State and the bench of magistrates in reference to prison regulations—he did not agree that on all occasions it would be advisable that those communications should be laid before Parliament; at the same time, in reference to the present case, looking at the particular circumstances, he did not think it would have been right to refuse to lay on the Table the communications which had passed between himself and the magistrates, and the opinions which upon full consideration he had formed in reference to it. With regard to the conduct of the magistrates in retaining the governor of the gaol, contrary to the opinion of the Home-office, he must say, the charges against that officer were either admitted or denied. He was bound to state that the control and management of the gaols in this country formed a most difficult and onerous part of the duties of the Secretary of State; but in the performance of that duty he had received from the magistrates generally the most effective assistance and co-operation. He must further state his deliberate opinion that any change in the law which should take the control and superintendence of gaols out of the hands of the visiting magistrates and vest it in the Secretary of State would not conduce to the public good. No Secretary of State, with the aid of any number of prison inspectors, however diligent, would by his own individual authority, be able to exercise that effective control and superintendence of the gaols which was now exercised by the visiting magistrates. And, further, if the visiting magistrates were to exercise that effective control which he held to be indispensable, the power of appointing the officers of the gaol must be vested in them. He did not think the control could be effectual unless they also had the power of removing as well as of appointing these officers. He would not dispute the proper exercise of that authority on the part of the magistrates of Cheshire in the dismissal of the chaplain of Knutsford Gaol, but in respect to the exercise of the power of the magistrates in maintaining the governor of the gaol in his office, upon that point his opinion was upon record. He was bound to say that, in his opinion, the magistrates of that county had in this respect acted without due consideration. He did not impugn their motives, but he regretted their decision. He agreed with his hon. Friend who represented the county, and whose statement was to be relied on, that the majority in favour of maintaining the gaoler in his office was overwhelming. [Mr. T. Egerton—" It was unanimous"]. He had thought that the decision was that of a large majority, but his hon. Friend reminded him that it was unanimous. He had, however, understood that an overwhelming majority, composed of men of opposite opinions, had decided upon retaining the gaoler in his office, contrary to his recommendation. He was quite satisfied that there was nothing corrupt in the motives which had influenced that decision, he was rather disposed to adopt the opinion of the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Curteis) that there was some slight feeling of jealousy on the part of the magistrates arising from the interference which he in the discharge of his duty had thought it necessary to offer. That being his opinion he was not willing to speak harshly of the decision of the magistrates, though as he already said, he could not regard it as a judicious exercise of the power which they undoubtedly possessed. He repeated that he saw no advantage that could result from any further inquiry — all the facts of the case had already been ascertained. He was of opinion that the power of appointing and dismissing the officers of gaols should remain in the hands of the magistrates; but without pledging himself to any ulterior step—and he hoped the House would acquit him of any disposition to extend the powers of the office he held—without pledging himself to any ulterior step, he could conceive that it might be necessary to give to the Secretary of State a concurrent power of dismissal with the magistrates. The exercise of that power should be the exception and not the rule—for its due exercise the Secretary of State would be always responsible, and if he exercised it lightly or capriciously, the representatives of the local magistracy in that House would have an opportunity of calling him to an ac- count. The exercise of such a power should be rare; but judging from his experience—and again he trusted the House would acquit him of desiring to extend the powers of his office, judging from his experience, he was disposed to think it would be beneficial to the country that the Secretary of State should have, not the power to appoint, but a concurrent. power with the magistrates in the dismissal of the prison officers. With regard to the motion he must agree that no ground for the proposed inquiry had been shown. He thought with the hon, Gentleman opposite, that after what had occurred the question could not stand on its present footing; and he had stated to the House, without pledging himself to legislative interference, what he thought was a better course than the proposed inquiry. He advocated with the hon. Member for Preston the propriety of retaining the power in the local authorities rather than in the executive, but at the same time he thought some control in respect to the dismissal of officers was necessary. He would strongly urge upon the hon. Member for Finsbury the propriety of not forcing the question to a division on that occasion; if he should insist upon doing so he should feel it his duty to resist the motion. Whether the hon. Member adopted his suggestion or not, he would say this, that the matter would be carefully considered by the Government, and, without giving any pledge on the subject, he was disposed, as at present advised, to suggest some legislative remedy during the present Session.

Sir T. Wilde,

who was suffering under a severe cold, was understood to say, that, however much had been made known to the House of the conduct and management of the gaol at Chester, yet there was much more that the House did not know. He was quite content with the remedy which had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—that of giving a concurrent power of dismissal to the Secretary of State, because that power would be exercised under a sense of responsibility, and he was sure it would not be administered with any feeling of fear of offending the magistrates. The facts brought before the House formed the most overwhelming case he had ever read or heard of in his life, and unless the House had full confidence that it was a matter which would receive ample atten- tion from the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, he was of opinion that the proper course to be taken was the appointment of a committee of inquiry. There was a case upon record which might serve as a precedent, if any were wanted; it was that of the warden of the Fleet, who held a patent office: on one occasion, he grossly misconducted himself, and the House granted a committee of inquiry notwithstanding he was irremoveable. He recommended, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury should leave the matter in the hands of the Secretary of State, who had promised to take all the necessary steps for accomplishing the objects of the petition.

Mr. W. O. Stanley

regretted the imputations which had been thrown out, and the language which had been used by the hon. Member for North Cheshire, in reference to one of the parties principally implicated. If the hon. Member had only remembered that the evidence of that individual had been given on oath, he was sure that the hon. Member would not have thought of using such expressions. The speech of that hon. Member had certainly done much to confirm his impression that inquiry into this case was highly necessary, and he thought it was only on receiving the assurance of the Home Secretary that he Would not let this matter rest where it was; but would vindicate the authority of the Home-office, that they ought to consent to forego a division on the present motion. He should not go into the facts of this case, but he could not help observing, that he thought there was no sufficient cause for the dismissal of the chaplain. With respect to one fact connected with that officer, he wished to correct what he believed to be an erroneous impression. He believed that the chaplain had never been shown the minute of the magistrates; and that he had never been called upon by them to send in any monthly report. He rejoiced that the question had been calmly considered; and he hoped the magistrates would derive a lesson from what had been said, and that the whole discussion would tend to a beneficial alteration of the present system. He hoped, too, that if would not be without its good effect upon the Government, by teaching them the advisability of instituting a better system of gaol discipline.

Mr. Legh

wished, before this discussion closed, to read a single extract from the surgeon's report. It was as follows:— Ever since my appointment as surgeon to the gaol, I have noticed with regret the gradual falling away of the men sentenced to long terms of imprisonment and I have endeavoured by various means to obviate this. 1 have exempted them from the ordinary gaol labour, employed them in irregular labour in the yards, increased and varied their food, but without any very satisfactory results. My conviction after fifteen years' experience is, that it is impossible to keep men under long sentences of imprisonment in robust health; it is not that they fall actually sick, but that they become pallid, care-worn, and enfeebled, and loose all their energy and exertion. This is not the effect of the diet or the labour, the locality or discipline of the gaol, but arises I believe solely from their being in confinement, and the depressing circumstances attending that confinement. With respect to the statement of the hon. Member for Anglesea, to the effect that the magistrates minute had not been communicated to the chaplain, he could not from his own knowledge positively assert the contrary, but he was instructed to say, that the minute was communicated to that officer, and that that view was corroborated by the minute made at the justices special meeting:— Mr. Dean stated, that having seen the entry in the journal, he wrote to Mr. Browne complaining of it, but Mr. Browne had not replied to that note, but had shown it in the town, and the subject had been freely canvassed. The chaplain's journal was produced, and, an erasure appearing in the entry of the 16th of June last, he was asked whether that erasure was made previous to the journal being submitted to the court of quarter sessions on the 29th of June last, to which he answered that he believed it was. The chaplain stated, that in making the entry, he had done on the 16th of June last, he had no intention to make any charge against Mr. Dean, or to reflect on his conduct as surgeon. The chaplain apologized to the visiting justices and to the surgeon for the entry made in his journal on the 10th of June last. The committee are of opinion, that the chaplain should in future report to each meeting of the gaol committee on the state of the gaol, and any observation he has to make on the discipline. At the proceedings connected with this matter, he was not himself present, and therefore he should not then trouble the House at any greater length than to say, that the hon. Member for Finsbury had referred to the present state of the gaol, under the influence of a total misapprehension. He had stated, that the average number of punishments was 392. That, however, was the daily number of prisoners, while the daily average of punishments was only twelve. As to the conduct of the chaplain, he did not take on himself to pronounce any opinion upon that.

Mr. Henley

wished to say a few words lest his silence should be construed into an acquiescence in principles and proceedings to which he altogether objected. In the first place, he wished to express his full conviction that the subject of prison discipline must undergo a complete revision, and be subjected to an entire change. He was fully persuaded, that no patch work system ever would do. Again, he could not help noticing the operation of the various new rules and new practices which had been introduced into prisons. The chaplain was independent of the gaoler, and the gaoler of the chaplain. The duties of those parties might clash, and then the inspectors might come down and interfere with either, being independent of both. The governors might have their view of improvement, and the inspectors might have theirs — one man might have one crotchet, and one might have another, and each might labour in opposite directions for the accomplishment of the objects which they had severally in view. This was surely a state of things which could not be allowed to continue. He had recently seen the report respecting the prison at Northleach. The statements made with respect to that place of confinement, showed very clearly that it was by no means the best conducted of all the prisons. There was no one who read the report, and who took a view more or less accurate of the statements which it contained, but must be struck with the fact that there existed no competent local authority—nothing to make the parties concerned to act in unison. The justices possessed no authority—every official person connected with the system was independent of every other, and no means existed to make them work harmoniously together.

Mr. T. Duncombe

in reply, observed, that from the beginning he stated that he went far beyond the dismissal of Mr. Browne. There were several points in the case—that was one of them; but it did not constitute the whole of the case. Mr. Browne did not dispute the power of the magistrates to dismiss him; all that he did was, to pray the House to institute an inquiry. After what fell from the right hon. Baronet, he felt that he could not press his motion any further. He hoped that no such occurrences as those which had been made the subject of complaint, would ever take place again; and feeling satisfied that the right hon. Baronet would redeem the pledge he had given, he should consent to withdraw his motion.

Motion withdrawn.