Mr. Stevens to Mr. Evarts.
Stockholm, August 31, 1878. (Received September 27.)
Sir: The International Prison Congress, recently in session in this city, concluded its deliberations and adjourned August 26. As the United States Government, to a certain extent, has given its sanction to the meeting of this assemblage, it is presumed that the Secretary of State may expect me to give some account of its proceedings. While the undersigned carefully refrained from taking any part in the discussions and doings of this body, he has sought to obtain a clear appreciation [Page 825] of the weight and character of its members, and the tone and general scope of its views and action. It is safe to premise that it has been an assemblage of high intelligence and of earnest -purposes and resolutions. This is the second prison congress of an international character that has been held, the first having taken place in London in 1872.
Both of these congresses were largely the outgrowth of the efforts of an American gentleman, who has devoted many years with signal energy to questions of prison management, and especially to bringing about international action and exchange of views on the subject—Rev. Dr. E. C. Wines.
There were special reasons for the meeting of the congress in Stockholm. It was invited here at the express wish of the King, in whose family a special interest in prison discipline and the prevention of crime has long been manifested. The work of Oscar I on “Crime and Punishment” has attracted wide attention and exerted a marked influence in Europe in respect to the questions of which it treats, and the present King has manifested a lively interest in the views and efforts of his father. The congress held its sittings in the “House of Nobles,” a building erected some centuries since, and associated with memorable events in Swedish history. In it, 350 years since, Gustavus Vasa received popular homage as the country’s liberator from Danish domination, and here 250 years ago Gustavus Adolphus delivered his farewell address to his countrymen, and committed to their keeping his young and gifted daughter before leaving ‘Sweden forever as the great Protestant commander in the opening years of that terrible historic drama, the “Thirty years war.” The walls of this venerable room are covered with the portraits and shields of the most eminent men in Swedish history, running back many centuries, nearly 600 years in all.
Elaborate preparations had been made to receive the congress both by the Swedish Government and the municipality of Stockholm. When the day for the opening of the congress arrived, it was found that an unexpectedly large number of delegates were ready to take part in the deliberations—more than 200 in all. More than 60 were official delegates appointed by the principal European and American governments. The remainder were invited representatives, persons whose convictions and experience had qualified or inclined them to take part in the discussion of the questions to come before the congress.
France sent several men of distinction, among whom were A. Choppin, the general director of the French prisons.; E. Mechaux, the director of the prison department of the colonies; Alf. Michou, chief of the bureau of the department of interior; E. Yvernes, chief of the bureau of the department of justice; M. Vanier, judge of the tribunal of the Seine.
Russia had seven delegates in the Congress, at the head of whom was the president of the prison commission of the Russian Empire, C. Grot, a member of the council of the empire.
From Germany came M. Illing, general director of Prussian prisons; Professor Dochow, of the University of Halle; Statke, counselor and reporter to the department of justice, Krone, director of the penitentiary at Rendsburg; E. Meft, director of the penitentiary at Munich, and others.
Austria-Hungary was represented by Csmeji, secretary of state; Edelmann, counselor of the department of justice; E. Touffer, director of the Central prison at Leopo-glova.
Italy was ably represented by Beltrani-Scalia, inspector-general of prisons; Brusa, professor of penal law; Cavonico, counselor of the [Page 826] court of cassation; Persina, professor of criminal law at the University of Naples.
Belgium sent Berden, administrator-general of prisons; Deschamps, professor of the University of Louvain; and Thonissen, member of the Belgian parliament.
Denmark had in the congress sixteen members, headed by the general director of prisons.
Sweden had a large representation, among whom were O. M. Björnstjerna, minister of foreign affairs; G. F. Almquist, general director of prisons and member of the Swedish senate; B. Alsarscon, professor of criminal law at the University of Lund; K. Olivecrona, judge of the supreme court; T. W. von Otter, minister of marine; G. Ugglos, governor of Stockholm; J. Hagströmer, professor of criminal law at the Upsala University.
Netherlands was represented by B. J. Ploos von Amstel, president of the commission of prisons, and by M. S. Pols, advocate-fiscal of the army.
Switzerland had an able representative in Dr. Guillaume, director-general of Swiss prisons, assisted by Chaplain A. Wysard.
Portugal, Norway, Greece, Brazil, and the Argentine Republic sent delegates. England sent no delegate designated by the government, but several English gentlemen were here as representatives of private organizations, including Sir Douglass Forsyth, Sir George Arney, recently chief justice of New Zealand; Dr. F. J. Monat, of the poor law board; W. Forsyth, member of parliament; Sir John Small, chief justice of Hong-Kong; Barwick Baker, director of the reform school at Hardwicke; John S. Wright, president of the council of prisons at Birmingham, and others.
Besides Dr. E. C. Wines, the United States Government delegate, Pennsylvania furnishes Rev. Dr. J. B. Bittinger, Rev. J. S. Milligan, chaplain of the State prison at Pittsburg; Ohio, Dr. W. Bushnell; Illinois, Rev. Fred. H. Wines, secretary of the State board of charities; Connecticut, Hon. Benjamin Stork, and Henry R. Towne.
All the foreign ministers and secretaries of legations residing in Stockholm were invited to take part in the discussions of the congress.
Prior to the hour of meeting nearly all the delegates had arrived, and the standing committee deriving its powers from the London Congress of 1872 had been in session three days under the presidency of Dr. Wines. The chief business transacted by this preliminary committee had been the arrangement of the work of the congress, the verification of the delegations, and the adoption of the resolution that the members of the future standing committee of the congress shall be appointed by the governments of the respective countries, provided that said governments will make such appointments. Thus it is proposed to make the congress in future much more of a legal and official character than heretofore. August 20 the congress was organized promptly, as follows:
President, O. M. Björnstjerna, present minister of foreign affairs of Sweden and Norway; vice-president, C. Grot, Russia; M. Thonissen, of Belgium; G. F. Almquist, Sweden; honorary president, Dr. E. C. Wines, of the United States; secretary, M. Guillaume, Switzerland, with four assistants.
The first business after the completion of the organization was to listen to an elaborate and able report from Rev. Dr. E. C. Wines, which presented a review of the progress of prison and criminal reform throughout the world during the six years which have elapsed since the Congress of London, much of which can be traced to the influence of that assemblage. This document was well received and has been published in the English [Page 827] and French languages for distribution. On the conclusion of the reading of this address the congress by previous understanding divided itself into three sections for the discussion, respectively, of assigned questions: Section 1, penal legislation; section 2, prisons and penitentiaries; section 3, reformatory and preventive institutions. This arrangement enabled the congress during its five days of session to give a careful consideration of all questions before it, and allowed each country represented an opportunity for the presentation of its views and experience.
Each day the sections united in a general session of the congress for the approval or rejection of such resolutions as might be laid before it. Thus the whole working days of the congress were profitably spent, very marked interest prevailing throughout. The discussions, reports from the different committees, and the valuable papers contributed are to be published, and will make two full octavo volumes, which will be accessible to legislators and friends of enlightened prison discipline and criminal reform in all civilized lands; copies of which, it is presumed, will reach the Department of State as soon as issued from the press.
To make the congress a success and agreeable to the members from other countries, the Swedes did all, and more than all, that could have been expected. The local committee of Stockholm, large and influential, was especially active in this regard.
The King in various ways manifested his earnest interest in the congress and his desire to have the delegates cordially treated. Every evening they were entertained either by the Stockholm committee or the representatives of the Swedish government. August 22 a banquet on a very elaborate scale was given at a large dining-hall in the great park—the Djurgarden, at which nearly 500 persons, delegates and invited guests, were seated. The hall was trimmed elaborately and beautifully, the flags of all the nations represented being brought into use in a style unsurpassed. At the close of the banquet fire-works in the surrounding grounds made a brilliant attestation of Swedish welcome to the Congress.
The King came from his summer residence in Norway specially to show his approval of and welcome to the congress. He visited the body while in session, and was received with emphatic acclamation. In a brief speech he informed the congress that, immediately on his return to Stockholm, he hastened to manifest to the members his pleasure at welcoming them to his capital, and the good wishes entertained by him in regard to the objects of the assembly. He then took a seat by the side of the vice-president for the day, and listened to an animated discussion on the subject of the conditional liberation of prisoners under tickets of leave and police supervision.
In the evening of the same day, August 24, a banquet was given by the King to all the delegates of the Congress and invited guests at Drottningholm Palace, his favorite summer residence, beautifully situated some six English miles up Lake Maelas. Two steamers were placed at the disposition of the invited guests. The weather was very fine, and the charming scenery of the lake shores and the numerous islands tended to make the passage enjoyable.
The reception at the Drottningholm palace was frank and cordial. After light refreshments had been passed, the King made his presence known among his numerous visitors, and remained for two hours in conversation with them individually or in groups. In course of the evening, while talking with American and English delegates, one of the latter remarked that the views of the late King Oscar I on prisons and the [Page 828] abolition of the death-penalty had evoked much interest in England. The King responded: “I am of my father’s opinion as to the desirability of abolishing capital punishment; but I must govern by law and public opinion, and can only exercise my prerogative of mercy in harmony with these.” It is well understood in Sweden that these are the real sentiments of the present King. In this frank manner, passing from group to group, he conversed with his guests, and in various languages. At the close of these hours of conversation all were summoned to supper in a series of rooms in another part of the palace, and were hospitably entertained by the distinguished host. At eleven o’clock the steamers conveyed the guests to Stockholm, part of the lake in the transit being illuminated by lamps and electric light.
The sittings of the congress the last day were occupied by the questions of prison inspection, international police, the laws of extradition, and the most effective mode of preventing relapses into crime of those whose term of imprisonment has expired. The last evening, after final adjournment of the congress, the Swedish delegates gave a closing banquet at the “Grand Hotel,” at which the international exchange of sentiments and speeches was interesting and suggestive.
The next International Prison Congress will be held probably in Rome in 1884, in accordance with a special request of the Italian Government, which is taking a lively interest in questions of criminal law, prison discipline, and cognate subjects.
I have, & c.,