The Marquis of Lansdown
wished to take notice of a report which had reached him, connected with the subject of prison discipline in general, but more particularly with the enforcement of hard labour previous to conviction. Nothing of this kind was understood to be contemplated by the act which came 153 from the other house of parliament, and he was certain that none of their lordships who sat on the committee to which the bill was referred ever supposed that such an interpretation was to be given to the law. It was clearly understood, that the punishment of the tread-mill was never to be enforced except on conviction. On this subject, there had been no difference of opinion in the committee, and had it ever been supposed that any doubt could arise in the breast of the magistrates as to the sense of the clause authorising the employment of the tread-mill, he was fully convinced that it would not have hesitated to add a clause, making it penal for any magistrate to sanction such a principle as that of punishment before conviction. He would refer to the words of the clause, which had been adopted in the presence of twenty peers, among whom no doubt, whatever, prevailed as to its meaning. The clause made provision for the enforcement of hard labour as a punishment for convicts in prisons, and for the fair employment of others. The word "employment," being contradistinguished from hard labour, was a sufficient explanation of the meaning of the clause. He knew not whether any correspondence had taken place between the magistrates who entertained doubts on this question, and the home secretary, but certainly there could be in the legislature only one opinion on the meaning of the act. He hoped this misunderstanding would be corrected, and that a species of punishment, liable to no objection in itself, should not be perverted by an undistinguishing application. It was of the utmost importance, that the ignominious stamp of the punishment should be held up as a disgrace to be attached exclusively to guilt; and all persons in authority ought to be restrained by an express law, from otherwise applying it.
The Earl of Liverpool
completely concurred with the noble marquis in all that he had stated on this subject. He perfectly agreed with him, that if the punishment of the tread-mill was applied previous to sentence, such application was a violation of the letter of the law. The distinction between employment before, and punishment after conviction, was most material; and he would freely say, that if any doubts really existed among the magistrates, they ought to be removed altogether by an act of parliament, if necessary.