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This 7-web page excerpts presentation is intended to convey some sense of Auburn's key role shaping development of penitentiaries in America as reported by two keen observers who spent nearly a year in the U.S. studying the prison system's emergence.

References in Beaumont and Tocqueville's report to other prisons visited have been either abridged or not included in this presentation.

Readers of this presentation interested in accessing the complete text source for the included excerpts can click on links provided elsewhere on this title page.

Above is a sketch of the aristocratic Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville whose book Democracy in America is virtually required reading in political science classes across the country but whose purpose for visiting the U.S. in 1831-2 rarely draws more than a passing mention, if even that.

He and Gustave de Beaumont came here for the French government to study and report back on American prisons. Their report On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France is a rich source of information on the operations of the penitentiary system just then emerging in America.

Auburn penitentiary was among the several prisons they visited during their 10-month tour. They visited it between July 9 and 12, 1831. Auburn prison played a central role in their report because they found it had served as a model for so many of the others.

NYCHS presents here those report excerpts that refer to Auburn prison and to the methodology Auburn prison came to symbolize. The actual institution and the institutional model are not always marked off clearly in the book. Every reference to Auburn is not specific to the facility in the city bearing that name. Some references denote several institutions viewed as patterned upon it.

Even that blurring of the distinction between the prison and its pattern testifies to the enormous impact Auburn has had on the development of American penology.

New York Correction
History Society
Auburn Excerpts From

de Beaumont
de Tocqueville

[From texts on
College of Law's
web site.]

[*NYCHS Webmaster Note
On Sources and Resources:

Many university web sites provide lists of resources to be used with particular courses. A few even provide sample excerpts from the some of the listed resources, often including quotes from Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

But the University of Denver College of Law appears unique in that it also provides extensive on-line text from Tocqueville and Beaumont's On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France for its American Legal History courses taught by Professors Thomas D. Russell and Joyce Sterling.

Dr. Russell's resources list provides a link to a web page (HTML) version of the Penitentiary System report text. Dr. Sterling's resources list provides a link to an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version. To view it, one needs the free Adobe Acrobat Reader that can be obtained from the Adobe web site.

Although C-Span's web site on the travels through America by Beaumont and Tocqueville -- -- does not focus on their Penitentiary System report, it does provide several readable pages about their journey, observations and lives.

On the web site of The Connection radio show, from Boston University's WBUR and NPR, you'll find a discussion about Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

The University of Virginia American Studies' site Tocqueville's America includes his and Beaumont's itinerary, letters, journals, and other artifacts and images from the period, as well as links to other materials. ]

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