An Old Mohawk Perspective on Prisons and Penalty

In the government you call civilized, the happiness of the people is constantly sacrificed to the splendour of the empire. Hence your code of criminal and civil laws have their origin; hence your dungeons and prisons.

I will not enlarge on an idea so singular in civilized life, and perhaps disagreeable to you, and you will observe that among us we have no prisons; we have no pompous parade of courts; we have no written laws, and yet judges are as highly revered among us as they are among you, and their decisions are as much regarded.

Property, to say the least, is as well guarded, and crimes are impartially punished. We have among us no splendid villains above the control of our own laws.

Daring wickedness is here never suffered to triumph over helpless innocence. The estates of widows and orphans are never devoured by enterprising sharpers. In a word, we have no robbery under the colour of the law.

No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worthy action, but the consciousness of having served his nation.

Our wise men are called fathers; they truly sustain that character. They are always accessible, I will not say to the meanest of our people, for we have no mean but such as render themselves so by vices.

The palaces and prisons among you form a most dreadful contrast.

Joseph Brant

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