The Marquis of Lansdowne, in pursuance of the notice he had given, rose to call the attention of their Lordships to the state of prisons in the United Kingdom; a subject important at all times, and requiring the constant supervision and active interference of the legislature, but peculiarly so at present, from circumstances to which, however painful, it was necessary to advert. From the information contained in papers now upon their Lordships’ table, it would appear that the number of crimes had increased to an extent unprecedented in this or perhaps any other country. Previous to the time of which accurate accounts could be obtained, they were progressively increasing, and in the course of the last ten years only they had considerably more than doubled: in the years 1805, 1806, and 1807, the number of persons committed amounted to 13,397; in the years 1815, 1816, and 1817, to 30,841. If we looked to the number and proportion of convictions, we should come to the same conclusion. In the years 1805, 1806, and 1807, the amount of convictions was 9865; in the years 18 15, 1816, and 1817, the number was 19,736; and those who had attended the assizes and sessions of the present year, must be aware, that if it could be included in the statement, the result would be still more appalling. It was to be observed also, that the crimes committed by juvenile offenders had increased in a greater ratio. These were facts to which their Lordships could not shut their ryes; no 258body that deserved the name of a legislature could contemplate an evil of this magnitude, recorded in this authentic form, affecting the morals, the safety, and the happiness of the whole community, without endeavouring to trace it to its source; and, if a remedy were impossible, to apply a palliative to a disorder which in its progress threatens the existence of society. In other countries, and under other governments, it might be attempted to conceal such facts, but it was happily the policy of this to lay open every deficiency and every disorder which might arise, by which its prosperity or its happiness could be affected, and in that very publicity to seek the means of supplying or correcting them. Thus the collective experience and skill of the whole country were brought into action, and the principle of mischief attacked before it became too deeply rooted and confirmed. It was not, however, to any speculative inquiry into the primary cause of the increase of crime, for which they were not at present in possession of sufficient information, that he meant to direct the attention of their Lordships. Some might attribute it to the length of the late war, and to the peculiar circumstances by which its progress had been attended; by which the channels of wealth, of trade, add manufactures, had been repeatedly changed, and a greater variation than usual had taken place in the fortunes and enjoyments of the middling and lower classes, by which they had rapidly passed from luxury to poverty, from advantages suddenly acquired to the extremities of privation and Buffering: some might attribute it to the increase of population pressing on the means of subsistence; others might look for its cause in the many and varied temptations afforded by the prevalence of a system of paper currency, corrupting 259and undermining the principles of those who might have held in abhorrence crimes of a grosser nature; or, what was most probable, all these causes might harte concurred in greater or less degrees to the same melancholy end; but from whatever source these waters of bitterness had flowed, it must chiefly depend on the state of the receptacles into which they entered, whether their progress was or was not accelerated. If under the operation of that multiplication of penal laws which the state of our society might render necessary, a number, or we should rather call it a population exceeding 13,000, was to be annually consigned to our prisons, it must materially depend upon the system of management and discipline in those prisons, whether those members were annually returned into the bosom of society, after their acquittals or the termination of their sentences, in a reformed and improved condition, or let loose to prey upon it, more accomplished in the art and more deeply advanced in the principles of crime. Almost all that could be said on this subject was comprised in the memorable inscription on the gates of a continental prison—

“Parum est coercere improbos pœns, nisi probos efficias disciplina.”