Institutional Scholarship

"Authority Freed From Violence": Roberts Vaux's Anti-Slavery and the Creation of the Separate System at Eastern State Penitentiary

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dc.contributor.advisor Saler, Bethel
dc.contributor.advisor Hayton, Darin Giansante, Daniel 2012-08-20T14:53:53Z 2012-08-20T14:53:53Z 2012
dc.description.abstract Between 1786 and 1835, Philadelphia played host to a revolutionary transformation in the methods and intentions of criminal punishment. Beginning with a shift away from sanguinary and public corporal punishments, and culminating in the opening of Eastern State Penitentiary, this transformation was spearheaded by the members of the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. These wealthy and influential Philadelphians joined together in 1787 to advocate for penitential punishment; to incorporate the goal of reforming offenders into the state's penal code. In the antebellum period, the Society's advocacy coalesced under the leadership of Roberts Vaux, a Quaker philanthropist and archetype of the era's gentlemen reformers. In the 1820s, Vaux articulated the Separate System of prison discipline, in which inmates would remain in constant solitary confinement while laboring in their cells. Crucially, and in opposition to the contemporary Silent System originating in New York, Vaux insisted upon a complete lack of corporal punishment in the Separate System. This thesis analyzes Vaux's development of the Separate System in conjunction with his contemporary anti-slavery theory to shed greater light on the reasoning behind his aversion to corporal punishment. Although he certainly did find corporal punishment barbaric and inhumane, his opposition to its use in the Separate System stemmed more from its position in the economy of power inherent to Southern slavery. In his observations of slavery, Vaux saw how bodily coercion, especially when used to extract labor from unwilling subjects, failed to access man's most productive motivations and engendered feelings of anger and resentment. By examining the effect of Vaux's anti-slavery on the creation of the Separate System, we can better understand both how he hoped it would function and the kind of reformation he hoped it would achieve. en
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Dept. of History
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.subject.lcsh Prison reform -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
dc.subject.lcsh Vaux, Roberts, 1786-1836
dc.subject.lcsh Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons
dc.subject.lcsh Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania
dc.subject.lcsh Prisoners Abuse of -- United States -- History
dc.subject.lcsh Imprisonment -- United States -- History
dc.subject.lcsh Slavery -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century
dc.subject.lcsh Prison reformers
dc.title "Authority Freed From Violence": Roberts Vaux's Anti-Slavery and the Creation of the Separate System at Eastern State Penitentiary en
dc.type Thesis (B.A.) en
dc.rights.access Open Access

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