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DISCHARGE AND RELIEF
PERSONS THROUGHOUT ENGLAND AND WALES
IMPRISONED FOR SMALL DEBTS,
THE present charity derives its origin from the beneficial consequences of a sermon preached at Charlotte-Street Chapel, Pimlico, and afterwards at Bedford-Chapel, Bloomsbury, in the month of February, 1772.
The collection made at these chapels (exclụsive of what has since been collected at other places of divine worship which are so generally marked for the exercise of universal philanthropy) amounted to the sum of eighty-one pounds one shilling.
To procure relief for the miseries of those unfortunate persons who were secluded from society by imprisonment for inconsiderable debts, was the design of the preacher ; and it most certainly operated upon his humanity, as a powerful incentive to his
exertions. His friends very highly applauded his endeavours; and a hundred pounds having soon after been sent by a then unknown hand *, in aid of the intended charity, gave spirit to the undertaking, and engaged the services and abilities of a set of gentlemen, who readily formed themselves into a committee, to search out for the objects it afterwards relieved, and to form plans for its future permanent and beneficial establishment. They visited the prisons; and diligently, and impartially, enquired into the distresses of those miserable objects of misfortune, who had been separated from their families, rendered useless to society by a deprivation of their liberty, and had no friends to undertake their cause. In this visitation the distress and extreme wretchedness to which they were unavoidably eye-witnesșes strongly affected their minds; and they determined therefore to give the publick an account of their proceedings, and of their examination into the state of the prisons of the metropolis, in hopes that it might operate upon the generous part of the community, as an incitement to their endeavours to forward the humane undertaking, and enable them to accomplish their design on a more extensive plan than in the commencement seemed to be suggested.
Accordingly, in April, 2772, they advertised their report, specifying the manner in which they had expended the small sums they had thus collected ; and,“ that with these, namely, the fourscore pounds, they had happily released thirty-four prisoners ; most * The late Earl of Godolphin.
of whom had large families, and appeared to be worthy and useful members of society; some of whom were confined for their fees only. But the committee expressed a great regret at the thought of leaving behind them various other imprisoned suppliants ; nineteen of whom appeared to be very great objects of compassion, and might all be discharged for less than one hundred pounds. Of the rest, many were evidently such, as well deserved to share the attention and benevolence of the Publick. The committee therefore solicited the aid of the liberal and well-disposed, and had soon the satisfaction of finding themselves enabled to extend the charitable hand to a very large number of miserable sufferers in confinement; for early in May 1773 (within fifteen months from the commencement of the undertaking) the following statement was published as their GENERAL ACCOUNT, May 12, 1773.
£. s. d. Benefactions to this day
2922 11 10 Disbursements to discharge nine hundred and eighty-six prisoners
2892 19 4
Leaving in their hands a balance of
6 In the early infancy of their plan, the committee were hardly sanguine enough to expect so liberal an encouragement, and therefore did not at first take an accurate account of the wives and children of the prisoners released. However, from an inspection of