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is a question which has pressed very closely on the heart and conscience of the late Superintendent at Westborough, and has no doubt, consciously or not, powerfully affected the methods and motives of his economy.
But, secondly, as to matter of fact, what have been the methods and motives of his economy? for the Secretary, with unconscious injustice, permits the public to infer that Mr. Allen has scarcely aimed at economy of expenditure at all, unless where compelled by the animadversions of his official visitors. Without spending any fine phrases about the value of this or that thing he has sought to do with his charge, we will answer by one blunt, plain, practical fact. He has carried on his shoulders the burden of three salaried offices besides his own, thus saving the State an annual outlay in money of about fourteen hundred dollars; and this by simply securing unity of administration in departments he has felt qualified to carry on better than any subordinate. Unity of moral administration — first and most important — he has secured by discharging the daily duties for which a chaplain had been appointed; while that officer's place on Sundays has been better filled (he is convinced) by the presence and addresses of a succession of men, mostly clergymen of various faiths, fresh from the world outside, and with freshly wakened interest in this spiritual charge.* A shrewd and experienced manager, he has found no occasion for the services of a steward or provider; a practical farmer from a boy, he has been best able to oversee and direct the farm. True, the number of teachers has been increased, - especially of female teachers, to whom he ascribes most of the moral improvement found among the boys, - and there are few schools in the Commonwealth better
* The dismissal of the former chaplain, by (we believe) the unanimous action of the Board of Trustees, was made the ground of serious charges, insinuated rather than urged, against the religious influences at work in the institution. The Board, however, had confidence enough in their Superintendent to believe that he would work best in his own way, and left the office vacant, instead of merely discharging the man. VOL. LXXXIII. - NEW SERIES, VOL. IV. NO. I.
equipped or more thoroughly taught than in this institution ;* but this is in accordance with the policy, previously initiated by
the State, of dividing the mass of boys into classes of more • manageable proportions, and distributing them in several
households, instead of herding them in one. And this larger, more generous, economy, already begun by the State authorities, he has justified by sparing the public money, in every direction where it could be done, by carrying a heavier load himself.
A statement is given in the Report, very striking at first view, of the cost and results of the school at Westborough, as compared with that at Meriden, Conn., under the charge of Dr. Hatch. But how does the comparison fairly stand ? Dr. Hatch is a man, as we learn, of admirable executive and personal qualities, and has, as he deserves, the hearty confidence and co-operation of his State authorities. His buildings are cheaply furnished, cheaply warmed, and cheaply kept. The State appropriates two dollars a week a head for the board of pupils, - making good actual and proved deficiencies; while the instruction, as compared with that at Westborough, we are justified in saying, is of a very elementary and meagre kind. In fact, teachers cannot be had by Massachusetts at the rates allowed in the sister State. The school is properly and arowedly an industrial school, — a feature we neither blame nor complain of in it, but one which defines its real character. Its situation well adapts it to this plan, — if not on tide-water, at least having easy and direct water communication with New York, the great industrial centre of the country, where contract-work can always be had on advantageous terms, with a cheapness of provisions and coal impossible to be had further north. In short, the inmates would be best described as the State's apprentices, rather than as its pupils and wards. With the plan and aim of it we have no fault to find : it is at least a fair, open question, whether it may not be more practicable,
* In particular, a class of about twenty-five of the stupidest and most neglected boys has been kept under the charge of a teacher of special excellence, - reversing, to good purpose, the rule that is too generally followed.
and even, on the whole, more useful, than that attempted in Massachusetts. It is enough to say, that Massachusetts has attempted a plan which differs from it in almost every important particular. The estate at Westborough, consisting of near four hundred acres, has the nobility of location and beauty of surrounding, which befit the country-seat of a gentleman of fortune. The buildings, large and costly in themselves, stand on an eminence rising seventy-five feet above Chauncy Pond, in front, distant nearly a quarter of a mile, from which water must be forced by expensive machinery for all the uses of the establishment. The same engine which does this heavy task also warms the main building, some two hundred feet distant, thoroughly and expensively, by means of steam. There is no water communication with any centre of business, or railroad nearer than three-quarters of a mile ; and the only contract-work that can be had in any quantity,seating chairs with cane, — must be brought and delivered by some thirty miles' conveyance, leaving a very scanty margin, indeed, of profit. These circumstances all tell strongly on the financial results of the school, and are, in some degree, allowed for in the Report we have referred to.
Other circumstances, equally beyond the Superintendent's control, have added to the costs, and diminished the earnings, of the school. We have spoken of the moral condition of it previous to his appointment in January, 1861. That was at the very eve of our four-years' civil war; and those who remember the alarm and utter stagnation then, in most departments of business, will not find it hard to account for the Secretary's statement of the scanty earnings of the school. During that first year, indeed, it was almost literally impossible to find any occupation for the boys that would give any return in money; and, the year following, their labor was worth, in the market, only about six cents and a half a day. But did they go idle all that time, or were they only housed and taught in their ample and convenient halls ? On the contrary, they were kept at work in those solid tasks of a NewEngland farm, — to be justified only by a long-headed economy and an over-supply of labor, - of laying wall, and “burying
stone,” so as to rescue, for tillage, some ten acres of unprofitable and rocky soil. As soon as more remunerative work could be had, it was given to the boys. But, meanwhile, a very great increase of value has been given to the farm and orchard : three acres of grapes are coming already into profitable bearing; strawberries alone, last summer, brought, by the labor of a single household, a clear income of fourteen hundred dollars, and are likely, this season, to bring two thousand ; and several varieties of the smaller fruits, cultivated on a large scale, are making, perhaps, the most profitable occupation on which this large force of raw and unskilled labor can be employed. “In work that requires fingers,” says Mr. Allen, “this school can compete with the world.” If the next five years show the financial results we hope, no small share of the credit will be justly due to the stewardship and husbandry of the late Superintendent.
Entering on his office with the scarcely disguised hostility of the Board of Trustees, and with an opposition among his own subordinates which more than once sought, in unmanly ways, to take advantage of that hostility, - all resting on the ground of sectarian jealousy, open or unavowed, — he has been able to carry out his plans, in the moral government of the institution, only by dint of resolute conviction, unflinching steadiness of purpose, and an unbending will. Such qualities, in such a position, are more necessary than conciliatory; in their manifestation they may now and then seem overbearing and harsh; and they may have had some share in confirming the hostility which made his resignation necessary. But they are combined, in him, with a very serious and conscientious devotion to official duty; with a devout and sincere, though unsectarian, piety; with an absolute respect for the conscientious opinions of other minds ;* with a rare sagacity and tact in dealing with his charge; with experience as a teacher and director of public schools, of remarkable success, extending over something like twenty-five years; with a profound and genuine feeling of the moral wants and claims of the pupils given to his care; and with that singular moral ascendancy, and personal control, which minds of a different order cannot comprehend, and vaguely call by such names as magnetic, mysterious, and the like. He himself regards this rare power as partly physical and partly moral. “I always thought I magnetized that boy," he said once, in speaking of a very critical case, in which he had elicited some information by personal confession, – for certain mesmeric experiments of former years had shown that he possessed that curious gift. But chiefly be regards it as moral, and as resting on the principle he has always followed, of holding his personal relations with the boys to be confidential and sacred. No secrets of that confessional have ever been betrayed. Hence the absolute, the unlimited confidence, the boys have reposed in him. Their confessions have included the acknowledgment of theft, lying, truancy, — almost all the faults of which boys in that class and keeping can be guilty, — frankly owned, promptly and voluntarily atoned, under the compulsion of that confidence. When Mr. Allen took possession, three sets of keys were missing, with which some of the inmates had made their escape, and were known or suspected to be in circulation among the boys : with a sagacity that reminds one of a diviner's rod, he detected where they were, and, by voluntary act of the boys themselves, secured possession of them all. A sum of money had been stolen from one of the subordinate officers : suspicion of a particular boy was almost certainty ; but nothing whatever could be done, till the Superintendent's own eye, and his direct question, in private, brought a full confession, and got back the stolen property. A case of falsehood or pilfering or petty vice would be followed up, watchfully and warily, perhaps for weeks, like a hospital case under some intelligent physician, till the right moment came, and the plain, direct question would bring the frank reply. This, among more than three hundred boys, – some coming, and some going, every week, — many of them habitual liars and trained thieves, vagrant, profane, lawless ; boys of various and evil parentage, outlawed, homeless, “such as you shun, instinctively, when you meet them in the street.”
* For Catholic as well as Protestant: and here, we suspect, is the most serious grievance.