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as they now sometimes must, in this court, amidst the assemblage which is there gathered, as the accusers on oath of their children? I have seldom witnessed a keener anguish of soul, than I have seen in a mother while laboring to bring herself to the resolution required for this duty; and even when she had brought herself to the energy demanded for the discharge of it. And not only will the feelings of parents and friends be respected and saved from the most painful laceration, by this change in the mode of committing children to the School; and not only, when this change shall be understood, will even parents be comparatively happy and grateful, that they may appear before one or more members of this Board to state their grievances respecting their obdurate and ungovernable children; but the children themselves will be made to feel, that, while they are sent to this School by a Board, which has all the authority which law can give to it, they are yet by the very manner of their commitment treated as offending children, — and not as if they belonged to the class, and were sharers of the guilt, of veteran and confirmed transgressors. It is worthy of consideration too, that by this provision the characters and moral necessities of the children received into the School will at once be known, as they now cannot be, to the Superintendent and Directors of it; a very important circumstance in view of the disposition to be made of them, in placing them out as apprentices. I earnestly ask for a serious consideration of this subject. It will, I think, at once approve itself to the minds of many. And I can hardly believe that any one, who may at first view it with some scepticism, will after a little sober thought respecting it withhold from it his hearty approbation.
VOL. IV. NO. X.
To conceive adequately and justly of the subject of which I have spoken, it must be understood, that, however various are the circumstances under which individuals are brought to pauperism and crime, and however numerous the examples which may be adduced of those, who under the best means of general education and the best religious and moral influences have sunk into want, debasement and wretchedness; it is still true, that all these are exceptions, which confirm rather than disprove the principle, that the great security of the well-being of each one, and of the virtue, order and happiness of society, is in the widest possible extension of an early culture of the intellectual and moral nature. It lies in provisions for that elementary education, which will qualify each one intelligently to discharge the duties of the station in which he is to be placed; and, in the maintenance of that early watchfulness, encouragement and discipline of the young, on the part both of parents and friends, by which an early regard to God and to Jesus Christ, and an early sense of truth and duty and accountableness, are to be awakened, and kept in exercise, in the soul. Let us then most sedulously watch over the interests of our common and our Sunday schools; and do what we may to maintain and to extend a wise, a kindly and a christian discipline in our own, and in the families of those to whom we may extend the offices of christian friendship.
No fair mind will dispute the principle, that, however knowledge may be perverted and religious and moral influences resisted and the privileges and opportunities of virtuous advancement abused, these are yet the only means on which we may rely for the stability of the institutions, on which rest public prosperity and all
which makes social life a blessing. No man ever felt this principle more strongly than the fathers of New England; nor is there anything in the inheritance we have received from them, which is more to be prized, than the sentiment which prevails in this section of our country, respecting the duty of providing for the faithful instruction of the young. The noblest, the most deeply founded, and that which will be the most enduring monument of their wisdom, their foresight and their claims to perpetual veneration and gratitude, is the institution of the free schools, by which the means of an education adequate to the ordinary exigencies of life are extended to every family, however poor, in the city and the commonwealth. They were men, and had their weaknesses and errors. But whatever were their errors, in this, at least, all will acknowledge that they were right. And, whatever were their weaknesses, here they, displayed a greatness of moral strength above almost all of their age. Who that knows his obligations to them, has not blessed God in a remembrance of these excellent men, when passing through our villages and towns he has seen everywhere, at short distances between, the school-houses, where the children of the affluent, of the middling classes, and of the poorest are either sitting together at their tasks on the same forms and under the same instructers; or, without distinction of outward condition, are mingling together their affections and interests in the same sports and gambols, around the place to which they go to be taught; and which will only be remembered by them to the last hour of life with a feebler feeling of delight, than the very home of their childhood?
Would that the inestimable worth of these nurseries of
knowledge and virtue were felt, as it should be, by every parent in our state!* When looking at the institutions in our city, on which does the mind rest its strongest confidence, that the blessings by which we are distinguished will be transmitted to our descendants? Where is our strongest bulwark against ignorance, infidelity, recklessness and crime? Where does the parent, solicitous for his young children, look beyond home and beyond his church for the influences, by which they are to be
*The tenants of Alms-houses and of Prisons are not of those only who have been reared in the city. There are uneducated and undisciplined children in our country towns, whose condition calls loudly for the sympathy of those, whose proper business and duty it is to have a moral care for them. In a recent ride, in which I passed through some of the most flourishing villages of our commonwealth, I witnessed the painful spectacle of ten or a dozen children, from ten to fourteen years of age, gathered in groups on the green before a tavern, for the same petty gambling which is seen among children of the same class in the by-places of the capital. And who can doubt whether these children are rearing for poverty and crime? I know not, indeed, which is most painful, the spectacle of children so employed; or, of the parents, and of the religious and civil guides in whose very neighborhood these children live, either passing them daily without even a consciousness of their employment and their danger, or looking upon them without one feeling of obligation to attempt their moral recovery. Even a single individual in either of these villages, at a comparatively very small expense of time and labor, might secure a competent education for almost every child in the village in which he lives; and without any force or unkindness, break up and prevent all associations for vicious purposes among the young. All, indeed, are not qualified for this, or for any office. But there are those in every village, who by assuming this agency may make themselves its best benefactors; and scarcely less the benefactors of their country. Few of my Reports, I believe, find their way into the country. But I shall have done no little good, if I can call the attention even of one true philanthropist there to this interesting subject.
trained for usefulness, respectability, and happiness? There is one answer to all these inquiries. Our eighty free schools, supported by a tax most willingly paid of $65,000, with their doors open alike to the poorest as to the richest, are, even more than our hundred and fifty private schools, the treasure and delight of every Christian patriot among us, whether he have or have not children to send to them.* It should be known, however, and pondered, that there are many children, even in our city, who should be in these schools but who are not in them. These, as well as the older children to whom I have referred, are at an age, at which they may be reclaimed and saved. Where, then, rests responsibility concerning them? Let me speak plainly on this subject. It rests, in part upon the city government; and, in part upon all of us in the more prospered conditions of society, who could, if we would, do much for the salvation of these children. And is not their salvation a far higher, as well as a less costly object, than are most of the interests which engage public attention? Is not their advancing moral ruin one of the greatest of the calamities to be apprehended by us? If these children are finally to be the victims of their vices, the tenants of our prisons, or are in any way to drag out a degraded and miserable existence, awful, as it seems to me, is the account which must be rendered of this evil, by those who are in full possession of the means by which it might be prevented.
* In the report made in 1829, in compliance with an act of the Legislature requiring a triennial return of the several schools in the commonwealth, we are told that our 80 free schools then contained 7,430 pupils; and our 155 private schools, 4,018. In these 235 schools, there were therefore 11,488 pupils.