“And how much longer have you to stop in this condition?”
“Well, they say ‘at court sets in October; it’s somethin’ like two months off; the grand jury’ll visit the jail then, and maybe they’ll find a bill’ against me, and I’ll be tried. I dont’t care if they only don’t flog me in that fish-market.”
“Then you have not been tried yet? Well, may God give that man peace to enjoy his bounty, who would consign a poor object like thee to such cruelty!” said we.
“I was raised in Charleston-can neither read nor write-I have no father, and my mother is crazy in the poor-house, and I work about the city for a living, when I’m out!” said he. There was food for reflection in this poor fellow’s simple story, which we found to be correct, as corroborated by the jailer.
“Do you get enough to eat?” we asked.
“Oh no, indeed! I could eat twice as much-that’s the worst on’t: ’t wouldn’t be bad only for that. I git me loaf’ in the mornin’, and me soup at twelve, but I don’t git nothin’ to eat at night, and a feller’s mighty hungry afore it’s time to lay down,” said he.
We looked around the room, and not seeing any thing to sleep upon, curiosity led us to ask him where he slept.
“The jail allows us a blanket-that’s mine in the corner: I spread it at night when I wants to go to bed,” he answered, quite contentedly. We left the poor wretch, for our feelings could withstand it no longer. The state of society that would thus reduce a human being, needed more pity than the calloused bones reduced to such a bed. His name was Bergen.
The other was a young Irishman, who had been dragged to jail in his shirt, pantaloons, and hat, on suspicion of having stolen seven dollars from a comrade. He had been in jail very near four months, and in regard to filth and vermin was a counterpart of the other. A death-like smell, so offensive that we stopped upon the threshold, escaped from the room as soon as the door opened, enough to destroy a common constitution, which his emaciated limbs bore the strongest evidence of.
The prisoners upon the second story were allowed the privilege of the yard during certain hours in the day, and the debtors at all hours in the day; yet, all were subjected to the same fare. In the yard were a number of very close cells, which, as we have said before, were kept for negroes, refractory criminals, and those condemned to capital punishment. These cells seemed to be held as a terror over the criminals, and well they might, for we never witnessed any thing more dismal for the tenement of man.
How it is.
It is our object to show the reader how many gross abuses of power exist in Charleston, and to point him to the source. In doing this, the task becomes a delicate one, for there are so many things we could wish were not so, because we know there are many good men in the community whose feelings are enlisted in the right, but their power is not coequal; and if it were, it is checked by an opposite influence.