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a handle for some positive, though (most likely) temporary, wrong.
We cannot go over the broad ground of these elaborate and interesting Reports, to examine, still less to criticize, the many, various, and important institutions with which they deal. But circumstances have given, just now, a special prominence to one of them, and justify us in speaking of it somewhat freely and fully. We do it with a more serious purpose, and with a stronger desire to draw public attention to it, because it shows signs of a spirit, and gives indications of a policy, which threaten us with the alternative, either to abandon this whole enterprise of State charities, - a result to which, as we have before said, some very sincere philanthropists have come already,- or else to see it made a tool of religious bigotry, and a pivot of sectarian machinery.
The Westborough Reform School, as is well known, owes its foundation to the generous philanthropy of the late Hon. Theodore Lyman, to whom it is directly indebted for more than seventy thousand dollars in money,* as well as for the impulse and motive at starting. It is also known, that, after more than ten years of experiment, the result had been a gloomy and painful disappointment to many of the most hopeful friends of the noble experiment, — the first, it is understood, in which a charity of this kind, so nobly successful elsewhere in private hands, had been attempted by State authority, — until, in 1859, “ the question of abandoning the experiment was seriously raised.” We are not casting censure upon any of those many friends and directors of the institution, who served it with a sincerity and fidelity worthy of all praise, when we speak of three disastrous errors in its management, the policy of overcrowding it with boys of too various ages, and too mixed degrees of crime; the method of treatment, which was, in great part, the vulgar and harsh method of convict discipline, enforced by the carrying of bludgeons and loaded weapons among some of the officers; and the well
* In several instalments, beginning with the year 1847.
eft the instious difficulties apes, or atten
meant, though compulsory and unjust, enforcement of a system of religious instruction, exciting jealousy and alarm, especially among the Roman-Catholic families of the boys, which more than neutralized, in many cases, whatever moral influence the school could bring to bear. Friends of the school, who visited it at that period, speak of the cowed and “hang-dog” look prevalent among the inmates. Escapes, or attempts to escape, were constant. Serious difficulties occurred among the boys who had left the institution to be quartered in farmers' families or apprenticed to various trades. In frequent cases, the boys committed serious and unprovoked offences, for the sake of undergoing the milder penalties of the State Prison or the county jails. The building was repeatedly set on fire, till, in the “ fortunate” conflagration of 1859, at least two-thirds of the entire structure was destroyed. Wise, merciful, and faithful men, serving on the Board of Trustees, such as the Hon. Simon Brown, of Concord, — were either inured to the evils of a system they could not remedy, or else had come to regard them as hopeless evils, to be borne and made the best of. At length, this vicious circle” – into which the school had settled, in a sort of despair — was violently broken up, by the discovery of a case of discipline among the boy-convicts, for some time hidden from the inspectors, so abominably cruel beyond all limits permitted in any State penitentiary for grown men, that a crisis was inevitable. Governor Banks took the responsibility of discharging all seven of the trustees, — excepting one, the son of the founder, — and appointing a fresh Board. A“school-ship” was established for the discipline of the older and more vicious boys, to train them in seamanship. The number and age of those to be sent to Westborough were limited by judicious rules; and preparations were made for the introduction of the “family system,” which has proved so remarkable a success as an appendage to the central or “congregate" department of the school. And these changes were presently followed by another, to which the completely altered character, prospects, moral life, and public estimate of the school, during the last six years, have been almost wholly due, - the appointment of the Superintendent, who has lately
(April 26) felt himself compelled, by the hostility of the Board · of Trustees, to resign his post.*
The charge has been publicly made, and as yet has met with no denial, that, when Mr. Allen's name was before the trustees, as candidate for the position, accompanied by the amplest testimonials of his rare fitness for its duties, it was, more than once, rejected, by a vote of six to one; and that only when the majority were challenged to show any objection except his Unitarian opinions, and definitely warned that they must go before the public on that open issue, was the unanimous vote given by which his nomination was confirmed. We tell no secrets in saying, that Mr. George C. Davis, the present Treasurer of the Board, a man of great intelligence, uprightness, and business energy, was the one who compelled the opposition to show its hand. The hostility thus shown at the outset was kept in check, during Governor Andrew's five years' administration, by his successive nominations to fill the vacancies as they occurred in the Board, scrupulously consulting the best welfare of the school. Among those nominations, in addition to the names of Dr. Howe, Judge Ames, J. H.
* To THE TRUSTEES OF THE STATE REFORM SCHOOL:
GENTLEMEN, - When I took charge of this institution, in January, 1861, a little more than a year after the great fire, the buildings were in a dilapidated condition, and surrounded by ruins. The discipline of the school was necessarily low, after such a catastrophe; and the country was just entering upon the late war, which so much disorganized all kinds of business.
It has been my aim to conduct its affairs with economy, to train the boys to habits of industry, to give them a good common-school education, and to instil into their minds and hearts the principles of the Christian religion, carefully avoiding all sectarian or doctrinal teaching.
That the institution has gained the support and confidence of the public is shown by the commendations it has received from the many committees, both public and private, that have visited it, and by the uniform approval of the parents of the boys under my charge.
In carrying out my plans, especially in the matter of religious teaching, I have been obliged to meet the earnest and untiring opposition of your present Chairman for nearly five years; and, as your Board is now constituted, I cannot expect its sympathy and co-operation. Under these circumstances, I resign my position as superintendent.
Yours respectfully, Jos. A. Allen. WESTBOROUGH, April 26, 1837.
Stephenson, and J. S. Davis, was that of a gentleman — knowingly and purposely dropped from the Board in the administration which has succeeded — who has spared, from a very engrossing business, time to visit, as a friend, every family, in Boston and its vicinity, of the boys at the Westborough school ; and who, for four years, took not a day's vacation from the cares of business, excepting what he spent as a visitor in the school,- an example of fidelity, in unpaid official duty, to which it would be hard to find a parallel.* The Governor was censured for throwing the balance of power into liberal or unsectarian hands. “I had thought of that,” he replied promptly; " and the next time I propose to appoint a Roman Catholic," — whereat the remonstrance ceased. The process of two years since his administration closed, with the accident of a further vacancy occurring in the Board, has enabled his successor to give a balance of power to those determined to turn it to sectarian account; and the Superintendent finds himself unable any longer to hold his place.
We know that any sectarian motive, in the hostility he has experienced, will be, as it has been, either flatly denied or studiously covered up. In particular, that hostility will be justified by charges of lack of economy in administration; and appeal will be made to Mr. Sanborn's first Report, in which he dwells, at great length, on the costliness of this institution as compared with others, particularly that in Connecticut. The question is fairly raised; for a State charity is a public trust. Economy in finance is one of the necessary conditions of any sort of success, in the long-run. We cannot afford — not the wealthiest community can afford, or ought to permit
- an inordinate or fanciful scale of expense, even in the name of public charity. Nay, though philanthropy may show that rescue from crime at almost any money cost is a money gain to the State; though Christian piety may urge, that the sal
* We may be violating strict propriety; but gratitude, affection, and personal Esteem induce us to give here the name of John Ayres, a man to whose charge can be laid the only fault, that his whole religious creed is taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
vation of a single soul from sin is a good not to be balanced against any pecuniary outlay, - yet it is right to bear in mind, that a State institution is founded to do a definite and specified thing. Its agents and trustees are spending resources not their own. It is for the State, not for them, to define what results shall be sought, and what sums of money shall be spent. The question of economy, which Mr. Sanborn has argued at such length, is not only a legitimate, but a very essential one. Nevertheless, there are two distinct ways in which the consideration it raises may be met.
In the first place, what do we mean by economy in our system of public education? The city of Cambridge expends annually, in round numbers, about ten thousand dollars for the instruction of two hundred and fifty pupils in its High School ; for whose use it devotes an amount of city property, in buildings, apparatus, &c., which we suppose we do not overestimate in stating at eighty thousand dollars. This, be it remembered, is for the merely secular education of children, all belonging to the comparatively prosperous and favored classes; all having been taught beforehand the elements of a good common education, and something more; all receiving moral and religious instruction from other, perhaps even costlier, sources; and many of them sure of a higher education, perhaps equally good and costly, even if the city school should be closed to-day. Take this as a type of what the State aims and professes to do, according to its ability; for it is by State authority, not city ordinance, that these schools are created. What measure of culture, then, does the State owe, in equity, to its own orphans and wards, cast on its bounty for want of any other, — poor many of them, ignorant, outlawed, with great arrears of mind and morals to be made good, in danger of growing up a mere pest, cost, and burden to the State ? We do not undertake to answer this question, which carries ‘us down rather deep among the foundations and motives of a right economy. But we say, that it affects very materially the answer we shall give to that other question which the Secretary has raised, - at least, as long as our present schoolsystem is sustained by general consent. And we say, that it