James Madison Papers

James Madison to Thomas J. Wharton, 5 May 1828

Montpellier May 5. 1828

Dear Sir

I recd. in due time your favor of accompanied by the Report on the Penal Code &c

I am sorry that I have not been permitted by other engagements to give to the whole, the careful perusal, which I infer from a very deficient one that it well merits. My attention was most attracted to what relates to the penitentiary discipline, as a substitute for the cruel inflictions so disgraceful to penal codes; and I cannot withold the praise due to the ability with which the subject is examined & presented. The lights collected, and added by the Report, give it a great Legislative value every where. On the questions incident to solitary confinement, the facts and reflections are peculiarly interesting. They amount to a very strong proof, that it is inadmissible, in the constancy & inoccupancy which have been supposed to constitute its aptitude for its contemplated purpose. The plan preferred in the Report, of combining a discriminating proportion of the solitary arrangements with joint and silent labor, under the eye of a superintendent, if this can be enforced with the success anticipated, seems to involve all the desiderata, better than any yet suggested.

No apology, certainly, could have been necessary for a freedom of remarks, on late proceedings of the Virginia Legislature; some of which, will not, I am persuaded, be reviewed with complacency, by the more enlightened members, when the political fervor which produced them, shall have cooled down to the ordinary temperature. Be pleased to accept Sir, the renewed expression of my esteem & cordial respects

James Madison

RC (owned by Warren A. Reeder, Jr., Hammond, Ind., ); FC (DLC).

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