Thinkers

Newgate Penitentiary was founded on explicitly Quaker principles by Thomas Eddy. In the second half of the lifetime of the prison, it had one chaplain, Particular Baptist John Stanford. Both men were philanthropists in New York City society circles. By examining the beliefs and practices of these two men, we can understand more about the roots of Newgate and how the institution changed over time.

The Roots and Legacy of Thomas Eddy

Newgate penitentiary opened in Greenwich Village in 1796 and was profoundly influenced by the values of Quaker philanthropists. One philanthropist in particular, Thomas Eddy, incorporated the ideas of convicement, pacifism, and the universality of direct revelation into the framework of Newgate to build a penal system whose purpose was reformation, not punishment. Eddy’s vision of reform extended beyond the walls of Newgate and infused all his plans to improve society, including by the “civilization” of the Six Nation tribes of New York. However, the promise of both the penal and Six Nation reform movements conflicted with their actual implementation. Eventually, these discrepancies between theory and reality lead to the closing of Newgate in 1828 and a problematic legacy with the Six Nation tribes.

The ideas implemented by Sing Sing’s first prison warden, Elam Lynds, will also be explored, along with the thoughts of some influential scholars who visited Sing Sing.