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instrument of a private man, who is at once judge and party. Every idea of judicial order is subverted by this procedure. If the insolvency be no crime, why is it punished with arbitrary imprisonment ? If it be a crime, why is it delivered into private hands to pardon without discretion, or to punish without mercy and without measure ?
The opinion and sentiments of Burke on this subject coinciae with that of his sage friend, Johnson, who, in bis Idler, No. 22, maintains the injustice and impolicy of imprisonment for debt at the pleasure of the creditor. • The end,' says he, of all civil regulations is to secure private happiness from private malignity; to keep individuals from the power of one another : but this end is apparently neglected, when a man, irritated with loss, is allowed to be the judge of his own cause, and to assign the punishment of his own pain ; when the distinction between guilt and happiness, between casualty and design, is entrusted to eyes blind with interest, to understandings depraved by resentment:— There can be no reason why any debtor should be imprisoned, but that he may be compelled to payment; and a term should therefore bz fixed, in which the creditor should exhibit his accusation of concealed property. If such property can be discovered, let it be given to the creditor; if the charge is not offered, or cannot be proved, let the prisoner be dismissed.' These are the opinions of two very great men on this subject. Perhaps it may be thought that they consider the debtor too much, and the creditor too little. Were a mitigation of confinement compatible with the security of property, were it practicable to compel, in every case, the debtor to give up his his effects to the creditor, as from effects, not person, his reimbursement must proceed, confinement might appear no longer to answer any just purpose to the creditor. The creditor would then lose nothing, and the labour of the debtor be restored to society. If a diminution of misery be consistent with the recovery of
right, if the debtor may be relieved and the creditor not incur loss, we may expect it from the humanity, knowledge, and discrimination of that learned, able, and benevolent nobleman who has undertaken the cause of the unfortunate. In speaking of prisons, Burke takes occasion to bestow a very just and very eloquent encomium on the philanthropic Howard. "I cannat name Mr. Howard without remarking, that his labours and writings have done much to open the eyes and hearts of mankind. He has visited all Europe, not to survey the
the sumptuousness of palaces, or the stateliness of temples ; not to make accurate measurements of the remains of ancient grandeur, nor to form a scale of the curiosity of modern art; not to collect medals, or collate manuscripts; but to dive into the depth of dungeons, to plunge into the infection of hospitals, to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain, to take the gauge and dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, and to compare and col
late the distresses of all men in all countries. His plan is original, and it is full of genius as it is of humanity. It was a voyage of discovery; a circumnavigation of charity. Already the benefit of his labour is felt more or less in every country; I hope he will anticipate his final reward, by seeing all its effects fully realized in his
He will receive not by retail, but in gross, the reward of those who visit the prisoner ; and he has so forestalled and monopolized this branch of charity, that there will be, I trust, little room to merit by such acts of benevolence hereafter.'
It was in the same speech that he gave a view of the Popish penal laws; with the characters of Sir George Saville and Mr. Dunning. · The condition,' he observed, • of our nature is such, that we buy our blessings at a price. The Reformation, one of the greatest periods of human improvement, was a time of trouble and confusion. The vast structure of superstition and tyranny, which had been for ages in rearing,
and which was combined with the interest of the great and of the many; which was moulded into the laws, the manners, and civil institutions of nations, and blended with the frame and policy of states; could not be brought to the ground without a fearful struggle, nor could it fall without a violent concussion. It was long before the spirit of true piety and wisdom, involved in the principles of the Reformation, could be departed from the dregs and feculence of the contention with which it was carried through.' Mr. Burke then entered into a detail of the various penal statutes, and particularly of that which had been lately repealed, and mentioned several facts manifesting its badness. • Gentlemen,' said he, • bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. In such a country as this, they are of all bad things the worst ; worse by far than any where else ; and they derive a particular malignity even from the wisdom and soundness of the rest of our institutions. For very obvious reasons, you cannot trust the Crown with a dispensing power over any