Imagens das páginas

this punishment depended on the state of the atmosphere. If temperate, the inconvenience was moderate. In the case of Seneca Plimly the weather was intensely cold ; he was in a state of nudity, and icicles formed on his hair, and his person was incrusted with ice. He must have endured much misery.

“No. 6. The Tranquillising Chair.- Constructed of planks : the prisoner was placed in this chair, his arms above his elbows were fastened by straps to the back of the chair. A strap was passed round his body through holes in the chair, and fastened there; his hands were linked together by handcuffs ; straps were passed round the ancles and firmly fastened to the lower part of the chair; he had no resting place for his feet, there being no foot-board. It was impossible for an individual thus manacled to move any part of his body or limbs ; the pain must have been intense, and yet persons have been beaten while in this painful and helpless posture: when released the arms and legs are swelled to a frightful extent.

“No. 7. Strait Jacket.--It consists of a piece of suck-bagging cloth of three thicknesses, with pocket-holes for the admission of the hands in the front part of the inside ; in the back part rows of eyelet-holes were worked similar to those in a lady's corset, though of greater dimensions; the jacket was forced over the head of the prisoner, and his hands inserted in the pockets; it was then laced tightly behind with a cord, half an inch in diameter, the collar fitted about the neck, but the head was left free ; it was kept on the culprit from four to eight or nine hours. They have been so tightly laced, that their necks and faces were black with congealed blood, their hands became numbed, and in one instance the convict lost the use of his hand; when undergoing this punishment, men of the stoutest nerve will shriek as if on the rack. i: "No. 8. The Iron Gag-Resembles the stiff bit of a blind bridle, having an iron palet in the centre about an inch square, and chains at each end to pass round the neck and fasten behind. This was placed in the prisoner's mouth, the iron palet over his tongue, the bit forced in as far as possible, the chains brought round the jaws to the back of the neck; the end of one chain is passed through the ring in the end of the other chain, drawn tight to the fourth link and fastened with a lock; his hands were then forced into leather gloves in which were iron staples, and crossed behind his back ; leather straps were passed through the staples, and from thence round the chains of the gag between his neck and the chains ; the straps were drawn tight, the hands forced up towards the head, and pressure consequently acting on the chains which press on the jaws and jugular vein, producing excruciating pain, and a hazardous suffusion of blood to the head. By the application of this infernal contrivance Maccumsey was deprived of life, and many others

tortured beyond human endurance. The Spanish inquisition cannot exhibit a more fearful mode of torture.”

The preceding details of the "discipline and economy" of the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania are taken from the statement, &c., which I have alluded to in a former part of this letter. This work was edited by Mr. Mc Elwee, who was then, and now is, a member of the Legislative Assembly, and was one of the committee appointed by that assembly to examine into the complaints that were made against the conduct of the warden of the said Penitentiary. It is he that has given us the description of the above mode of torturing, which the society for alleviating the miseries of public prisons, and for the promoting the happiness of their fellow-beings, highly approve of; and this very warden, of whom you will hear more by-and-by, is a very distinguished member of that society, as well as being one of the commissioners, whose name is engraved on the metal plate which is deposited in the corner-stone.

This warden, before his honours came so thick upon him, failed in business, and his unfortunate creditors suffered a loss of 70,000 dollars. He could not manage his own concerns, yet he was deemed a fit and proper person to manage those of the public ; and the way in which he has done this will be seen from the following abridged evidence: my space will not admit of the whole, but you can depend upon the correctness of it as far as it goes.

The charges against him and his agents were

Licentious, immoral, and indecent conversation, gross personal familiarities, and others that are too obscene to be named in this letter.

2. Embezzlement, &c. 3. Cruel and unusual punishment inflicted by order of the warden.

4. Carousing and dancing late at night within the walls, intoxication, habitual intercourse with lewd and depraved persons.

5. A frequent and illegal practice in the treatment of convicts by the warden.

The following is the testimony taken before the Committee of the

Legislature, at Philadelphia, James Torry, sworn." Mr. Wood appointed me gatekeeper. I have seen Mrs. Blundin, and her maid Ann Connelly, take out molasses, potatoes, and soft soap; I told Mr. Wood, and he stopped it.

“ It might be a week after that, Mr. Wood wished me to cease to be gatekeeper, and to go up to centre house, and be a watchman: I think he spoke about raising my wages if I would go up.

“I spoke to Mr. Wood twice about Mrs. Blundin and the carriagedriver, and their shutting themselves up in his bed-room. I saw them

come out of the room dusk at night, two hours at least after they went in.--I told Mr. Wood; I said to him, I know no way of stopping such carryings on, but to discharge them. He said he had a way of doing business himself, and he would stop it himself.

“There were some dinners or entertainments given by Wood, while I was there, inside the walls.--I have seen some of the convicts cooking in Wood's private kitchen"; they were females."

Leonard Phleger, sworn.-"I have been employed in the Penitentiary; I remained there until April last. I knew a prisoner by the name of Matthias Maccumsey; I recollect the time when he died; I saw the iron gag put upon him; it was put upon him by Mr. Wood's orders. Mr. Wood called to me; he told me to go and assist putting on the gag; I went to the man's cell with William Baen and Richard Blundin; Richard drew up a stool, and told the man to sit down; told him to open his mouth; he opened his mouth as wide as he could, but did not open it as wide as pleased Blundin, and he took his fist and struck him under the chin; I told him not to strike the man; he had cut his tongue with his teeth, and his mouth began to bleed; he repeated the blow, and I again told him not to do it, that he would hurt him; he did so the third time. While I was telling him the last time, Mr. Wood came to the wicket-door; he said, 'Give it to him, the rascal, give it to him pretty well.' Before this, Richard went and got a stick about as thick as a quill, and put it through the chain, and said, “I'll give him the fourth link this time.' Then there was a large broad leather strap put upon the hands, the hands put behind the back, the strap put through the staples of the wrist, then fastened to the chain behind the neck, and his hands and head drawn together backwards. I left him in that situation, locked up the cell, and went away. In about twenty minutes' time, Silas S. Steel was then in Maccumsey's cell, and called to me to come and see this man; I went to the cell; the man got on his knees; begged to me for God's sake to take it off; he spoke so as I could understand him, though I had hard work to do so; I told him it was out of my power, I dare not do it; I went to Baen, and told him that that man could never stand that thing in the world; he said, “I'll go and tell Richard—I can't take it off;' I went about my work, fixing the grate-doors, and plugging them with lead. In about fifteen minutes after, I saw them running to the cellSteel and Griffith. I ran there too. When I came there, they had the man ou the floor, and were slapping his hands, and on the cheek, to bring him to. The man was dead; he never came to afterwards. He was struck in both legs and both arms with the lancet, and only drops came out. When I got there last the gag was off; I did not see it

Where the gag had been found the neck it was purple. Mr.

Wood was there, I think, or came there immediately. They all retired except myself and Steel, and we remained working at the man for an hour, to revive him. Steel nearly fainted, rubbing him. Before Mr. Wood left the cell, he told all the men to keep their own secrets, till he would see what course to pursue.

This man was, I guess, about fifty; he said he had a family of eight children; he was a tolerably stout man; he had not been sick, but always appeared like as if he was deranged in his mind. This gag had been used upon him before; I saw it on him once before; it was then on him something like nine hours. He spoke to another prisoner through the grate, and for that offence the gag was applied. He never resisted with any violence at any time the officers of the institution; he was never, to anybody, that I heard, abusive in his language.

“ He was buried from the prison; they came for him just at dark, after all the men had left, with a coffin in a close hack. There had been no coroner's inquest held over him.

“ I know Mrs. Blundin; she said she was engaged as matron; I have seen her in company with Wood; I saw them together at about nine o'clock at night; they were alone; they were standing talking together ; they remained there for twenty minutes or half an hour; no lamps were near where they were; I left them there when I went to a prisoner's knock; I have seen them sitting at a distance from each other, beckoning and making signs to each other; there was nobody by.

“I saw some prisoners, other ones, that I thought were treated very ill; Nos. 61, 132, 148.

“ No. 61 had thrown back a hand-brush which was thrown into his yard. I went along with Blundin and Mayall, who took the jacket to put it on him ; I put it on him, and I laced it up, as I thought, sufficiently to punish him—to make him uneasy. Blundin said, 'Let me have at him ;' he took hold of the cords, ran his face and head against a rough stone wall, put his knee in the small of his back, and jammed and hauled with all his strength, until the prisoner said, 'Oh! don't break my back. He took him to a dungeon, and kept that jacket on him during the forenoon, to the best of my knowledge; he kept him there for a considerable time on half a pound of bread by the twenty-four hours.

“ This prisoner offered no violence to any one in my presence. “ No. 132 was kept forty-two days upon half a pound of bread a-day.

“ No. 148 was a hearty, robust negro; he was put into a dungeon or dark cell, and kept for a great length of time; he looked like a ghost when he came out, and never was hearty afterwards ; his allowance was eight ounces of bread for twenty-four hours. My conscience permits me to say that he was in this dungeon not less than twenty days. He had been punished frequently before, and had had thi gag on him.


“The allowance was the same with all put in dungeons."

Silas S. Steel, upon being called, was objected to by the committee, on the ground of his not believing in the Bible. On his examination as to his belief, he said, “ I believe in the immortality of the soul. I believe in the accountability of the soul for crimes and sins done in this life to the Deity. Of the crimes and sins of this life, I think they must inevitably be punished in another world. I believe I certainly shall be punished for crimes and sins, either in this life or the life to come."

Witness was then sworn on the New Testament.--" I was employed in the Eastern Penitentiary. My functions were, to distribute medicine as prescribed by the physician. I was employed by Mr. Wood. I was recommended by Dr. Franklin Bache; he was the physician attached to the institution. I am with him as an assistant in his chemical laboratory. I left the Penitentiary in December, 1833. I recollect Maccumsey; he died, I think, in the latter part of June, 1833. The first I recollect of it was, that the keeper, Baen, called me to look at him ; he opened the wicket of the cell. I saw him down upon

his knees, before the wicket, with a gag on, and his hands behind him. I thought the man was in a wretched condition; the bloodvessels of his neck appeared very much distended, or filled with blood; all the flesh I could see bore the appearance of coagulated or congested blood. I believe tears of water were falling from his eyes. He tried to speak, but I could not understand anything distinctly, from the

pressure Mr. Baen asked me what I thought of it. I told him I thought the man was in great agony. I went away to my own passage. About five or six minutes after, I observed a running to where the prisoner was, of some of the under-officers. Mr. Wood came running to me, and asked me for a bottle of ammonia. I got it, and followed him to the cell. The prisoner was lying on his back on the floor; the gag was taken off. I observed several of the officers rubbing him. Mr. Wood applied the mouth of the bottle of ammonia to his nostrils. A vein of one of the arms had been opened. Mr. Wood poured some ammonia on his chest, and rubbed him for a considerable time. I put my hand to his heart; I could perceive no motion. I told Mr. Wood to do the same.

He did so. I then put my ear to his heart. I got up, and observed, that the man was gone ; that the spirit had fled. Mr. Wood left us at this time, in a hurried manner, telling us, "Keep your own secrets,' or something similar, and save him if you can.' After Mr. Wood left, we worked at him a while, and finally gave up, as he was dead." Philip Halm, sworn." I was employed in the Eastern Penitentiary

I went in 1829. I was invited to come there by Mr.
I recollect an idiot prisoner by the name of Seneca Plim-

of the gag.

as overseer.



« AnteriorContinuar »