George O. Paul

George O. Paul, 1746-1820

George Onesiphorus Paul, son of a wealthy Gloucestershire woolens manufacturer, graduated in 1766 from St. John’s College at Oxford and spent two years touring Europe, returning to a life of leisure. On his father’s death in 1774 Paul inherited the baronetcy and several properties and also became active in county politics and government. He was appointed High Sheriff for Gloucestershire in the fall of 1780 and charged, like John Howard before him, with oversight of the county gaol. With a strong sense of public duty—and greatly inspired by John Howard’s writing—Paul set about improving the county’s facilities, including the construction of a new prison and proposing detailed rules for governing prisoners. Speaking before a grand jury in 1784 Paul explained that he was,

"not of the Number of those, who, from a mis-placed Tenderness of Heart, would unbind the just Terrors of the Law:--I am far from thinking that prisons should be places of Comfort. They should be Places of Real Terror, to those whom the Laws would terrify; of Punishment to those whom they would punish; but of mere, though secure Confinement to those, who, on just Grounds of Suspicion, the Police thinks fit to confine for further Examination."

Later that year Howard praised Paul’s “spirited exertions” towards reform, which continued into the nineteenth century.