In part two of this two-part series,
Bermudian writer James A. Ziral gets
between the words and behind
the lines of Dickens’
When Scrooge asked, “Are there no prisons?” the men replied, “Plenty of prisons.” ;ere
were plenty, with more on the drawing board.
Between 1842 and 1877, two to three prisons
a year were either built or enlarged through a
dedicated construction initiative.
But in the courts, due process was multilayered, o;en unevenly, in how it dealt with
the accused. Judith Flanders in ;e Invention
of Murder makes the case that the wealthy
upper and middle classes generally received
preferential treatment from the courts when
compared to the poor who were all too o;en
more harshly treated.
General Victorian attitudes about wealth
and poverty are indicated in the third verse
of the Anglican hymn All ;ings Bright and
Beautiful, written in 1848 by Cecil Frances
Alexander, the wife of the Archbishop of
Armagh, to wit:
;e rich man in his castle,
;e poor man at his gate,
God made them high, or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
;is verse, which tacitly supported social
strati;cation, was frequently criticised. However, it must be acknowledged that social and
political hierarchies have always, to a lesser
or greater degree, been inextricably entwined
within all cultures and ages of mankind.
And in regard to the “high or lowly” being
“ordered” by God, Mrs. Alexander may have
taken her cue from St. Ignatius who avowed:
“Even in the angels there is subordination of
one hierarchy to another, and all the bodies
that are moved, the lowest by the highest, and
the highest in their turn, unto the supreme
mover of all.”
Until this verse was replaced, omitted or
banned (the Inner London Education Author-
ity banned it in 1982) from hymnals, it was
fervently sung in Sunday schools and churches
for many generations.
But all that aside, punitive measures
dispensed to felons included transportation
to several of Britain’s colonies or con;nement
on hulks, ;oating prisons which presented
an entirely di;erent form of incarceration.
Between 1782 and 1875 at least 66 hulks
were used to house convicts both beyond and
within England’s waters, which included the
River ;ames and the ports of Portsmouth
Over a span of decades, at least eight were
anchored in Bermuda where their prisoners
engaged in quarrying and construction until