EVIDENCE BEFORE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Public attention was so far aroused on the subject of prison discipline, and the condition of criminals, that a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to examine into evidence respecting the prisons of the metropolis. On the 27th of February, 1818, Mrs. Fry was examined by this Committee, relative to her personal experiences of this work, and her own labors in connection with it. The clear, calm statements made by her before this Committee cast considerable light upon her doings, and the principles upon which she acted. There is no exaggeration, no braggadocio, no flourish of philanthropy,—simply a straightforward story of quiet but persistent endeavors to lessen the human misery within the walls of the prison at Newgate; for, hitherto, her efforts had been confined to that jail.
“Query. You applied to the Committee of the Court of Aldermen?”
“Ans. Not at first; I thought it better to try the experiment for a month, and then to ask them whether they would second us, and adopt our measures as their own; we, therefore, assembled our women, read over our rules, brought them work, knitting, and other things, and our institution commenced; it has now been about ten months. Our rules have certainly been occasionally broken, but very seldom; order has generally been observed. I think I may say we have full power among them, for one of them said it was more terrible to be brought up before me than before the judge, though we use nothing but kindness. I have never punished a woman during the whole time, or even proposed a punishment to them; and yet I think it is impossible in a well-ordered house to have rules more strictly attended to than they are, as far as I order them, or our friends in general. With regard to our work, they have made nearly twenty thousand articles of wearing apparel, the generality of which is supplied by the slop-shops, which pay very little. Excepting three out of this number that were missing, which we really do not think owing to the women, we have never lost a single article. They knit from about sixty to a hundred