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

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

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Title: "Authority Freed From Violence": Roberts Vaux's Anti-Slavery and the Creation of the Separate System at Eastern State Penitentiary
Author: Giansante, Daniel
Advisor: Saler, Bethel; Hayton, Darin
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
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.
Subject: Prison reform -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
Subject: Vaux, Roberts, 1786-1836
Subject: Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons
Subject: Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania
Subject: Prisoners Abuse of -- United States -- History
Subject: Imprisonment -- United States -- History
Subject: Slavery -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century
Subject: Prison reformers
Terms of Use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10066/9038

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Citation

Giansante, Daniel. ""Authority Freed From Violence": Roberts Vaux's Anti-Slavery and the Creation of the Separate System at Eastern State Penitentiary". 2012. Available electronically from http://hdl.handle.net/10066/9038.

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