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Within the last two or three years, in several of our large cities, as New York, Cincinnati, Providence, and Philadelphia, evening schools have been opened on a large scale, for the instruction, in part, of those beyond the proper age to attend the day schools. The special cause, which has led to this new impulse, has been the alarming increase, of late, of riotous and disorderly night assemblages in the streets of our cities. In nearly every city, there exist, at present, large gangs of disorderly young men, more or less organized, who nightly disturb the public peace. These young men, it has been found,
very many instances, were entirely unacquainted with the first rudiments of learning, unable to read and write, and thus shut out from the ordinary sources of improvement and of innocent recreation. It is believed that many of these persons are, in the first instance, driven into street-prowling and other disorderly practices, by a mere physical impulse—the love of action—and by force of the social principle. The case has been stated with great clearness by the Hon. Judge Kelly, of Philadelphia, in an address delivered before the House of Refuge, in December, 1849.
"From whom, and what, is Philadelphia now suffering most ?Not from the increasing frequency of the perpetration of crimes of the higher grades--these increase not in the ratio of the growth of our population ;—nor from organized gangs of skilled and hardened felons, for, inefficient as our multiplex police departments are, our borders are now, as they have ever been, comparatively free from these pests of cities. Riot and tumult are the evils under which we groan. The wayward and restless youths who congregate at the street corners, hang about hose and engine houses, and throng the places of cheap and vulgar amusement in which the city abounds, are our terror at home and disgrace abroad. For these, if unchecked we are all ready to predict a career of crime and punishment. The project of establishing an armed police to hold them in subjection, finds favor with many, and may yet be necessary. In Europe, such lads would constitute the strength of the government. Full of health and animal spirits, and pursuing novelty and adventure with the ardor of youth, they would be fascinated by the roving life of the soldier, and follow the recruiting sergeant. The standing armies of England, and the States of Europe, absorb enough of this class to overawe the remainder. Availing themselves of the impulses of youth, despotic governments discipline those who, with us, would be the dangerous class,” and rely upon them for the support of law and order ; and, if we fail to promote the peaceable and profitable action of these impulses, an armed police, the nucleus of a standing army, will be the consequence of our neglect. Pardon me for draw
ing an illustration from your own homes. Nothing essential to comfort is wanting there. Your extensive libraries add to the charms of family intercourse. The chiselled marble and glowing canvass grace your walls. And, at your bidding, music sends over your social group her enlivening and purifying influence. Yet, despite these abundant means of domestic enjoyment, your growing children weary of home. You gladly gather their young friends around them in the evening party ; you welcome gratefully the card which invites them to an evening of merriment under the roof of a judicious friend : and you open to them the concert and the lecture room, and every other means of virtuous enjoyment offered by society. The love of novelty is natural to your children. By providing amusements, which are harmless, if not profitable for them, you hope to retain their confidence and love, and save them from the allurements of folly and vice. Your conduct is prompted by your parentai instincts, and sanctioned by your experience. And it would be well for society to follow your example. The children of the poor and ig. norant differ not essentially from yours. Their appetite for pleasure is as keen, they are not more sedate, nor has nature given them greater power of enduring trial or resisting temptation.
Crime is not the inevitable consequence of ignorance, but they have close and important relations. And I believe the day is not far distant, when the commonwealth will be constrained, not only to offer a generous elementary education to all her children, but to treat the failure of a parant to secure its advantages to a child as a forfeiture of parental rights. I had occasion recently to request some information on this subject from the heads of our penal establishments, the Clerk of the Quarter Sessions of the County, and the gentlemen who have held the office of Prosecuting Attorney for Philadelphia during the last five years. The replies were all concurrent ; and the information they furnished cannot fail to interest in this connection, though it was obtained for another and different purpose. The statistics of the Penitentiary, and the convict department of the County Prison, show that less than two per cent. of the whole number of convicts are thoroughly educated. Of one hundred and fortynine prisoners received into the Eastern Penitentiary from this city and county, between January 1st, 1846, and December 17, 1849, twenty-eight had received a tolerable elementary education; twentythree could neither read nor write ; twenty-five could "read a little ;"> and seventy-three could read and write imperfectly.* During the years 1847 and 1848, three hundred and thirty-five prisoners were received into the conviet department of the County Prison, of whom one hundred and twenty-six could neither read nor write; ninety could "read a little ; one hundred and sixteen could read and write
*Those marked in the above list as able to read and write are so registered upon their answers to questions at the time of their reception. It seldom amounts to more than being able to read indifferently, and write very poorly; not one in twenty being able to write a fair and connected letter.-Note from Thomas Scattergood Warden.. E. P.
imperfectly :* and three were well educated. Of twenty-one persons under the conviction of riot in the County Prison, on the 19th of Derember, 1849, eight could not read; three could read, but not write; seven could read and write, but knew nothing of arithmetic ; and three could read, write and cipher. No one of them had a good elementary education. Of two hundred and thirty-seven boys over thirteen years of age, received into the White Department of Refuge, between January 1st, 1847 and December 17th, 1849, forty-two could read well : one hundred and fifty three could "read a little ;" and forty-two could not read at all. The Clerk of the Sessions says that a large majority of the persons held to bail in the court for riot, and other offences involving a breach of the peace, are "destitute of education, being unable to write their names to the bail-bond.” Messrs. Wharton, Webster, and Reed, who have in turn prosecuted the pleas of the commonwealth in this county for five years, agreee that, with few exceptions, this class of offenders are almost utterly uneducated.”. Nor do these facts stand alone. No graduate of the Philadelphia High School is known to have been charged with the commission of a crime; and, though I have made efforts to discover the fact, if it was so, I have not learned that a single person who has completed the excellent course of instruction given in our Grammar Schools, has ever been tried or arraigned in a criminal court.f
Let me not be misunderstood. I am not maintaining that man is wholly the creature of circumstances; or that instruction in reading wr ting, and arithmetic, in grammar, geography, and mathematics, will purify his nature or defend him against all the assaults of folly and sin. What I mean to say is, that comprehension of and facility in, these branches of learning, elementary as they are, open to him vast fields of profit, pleasure, and advancement, from which his ignorant brethren are excluded ; and that the fact that a boy has passed years
in the Grammar School, proves that his childhood was not homeless; that he had friends to watch over him, to encourage and counsel him, to guard him from vicious associations, to stimulate his emulation, and gratify his appetite for refined and profitable pleasures. Did our parental and fraternal sympathies extend beyond our homes, we would oftener pity than condemn the turbulent youth of our suburbs. Go with me to one of their homes; not to that of the boy who never knew his parents, and has grown from infancy on the rough charities of the poor ; nor the son of the destitute widow, who, toiling wearily for food, clothes, and rent, reluctantly leaves her boy throughout the day to his own guidance, and the companionship afforded by the alley in which they live ; nor the son of the inebriate, who labors by day only to purchase madness for the night. Such, though far from being exaggerated cases, do not illustrate the point under consideration so well as the apprentices of our well-conditioned mechanics. Many of these are worthy farmers' sons. The father's well-tilled farm will support the family ; but is too small to be again divided. The son must, therefore, carve out his own fortune. He is now a well-grown boy, and, having enjoyed the example of his father's temperance and industry, the care and counsel of his fond mother, and such slender means of education as the wayside school affords, he turns his steps towards the city, as the field of widest and most varied enterprise. His object is the acquisition of a trade, by which he may gain an honest and independent livelihood. When his heart swells with recollections of home, he turns to the future and thinks of the happy time to come, when as a successful master-workman, his roof shall shelter, and his means maintain bis aged parents. Finding employment, he enters on his apprenticeship. In his master he also finds a friend. Their contract, however, is a mere bargain, from which both parties expect advantage. The boy binds himself to give years of willing and obedient labor as the consideration for food, clothing, and instruction in the art and mystery of the calling of his choice. The master—a kind-hearted man, and good mechanic-is cheered in the hope of making something more than a bare living for the little family with which God has blessed him. His home is in a respectable neighborhood. Embellished by few luxuries, it is well supplied with the means of substantial comfort. The snug parlor, darkened at other times, is opened to the family on Sunday, or when a few friends visit the master's thristy helpmate. In the rear of the parlor is the little dining-room, warmed by the kitchen stove, around which the family gathers in the evening for the gossip of the day and neighborhood. In the attic is the boy's clean and well-made bed. The little room, though well finished, is without grate or fireplace. To warm it through the long evenings of the winter, when books or intercourse with young companions might engage him, would involve the master in the purchase of a stove, fuel, and lights; a serious item of expenditure, which the custom of the trade would not sanction, and the exigencies of the case do not require ; indeed, the boy does not expect it. He knows that he enjoys more comforts than most of his class, and is grateful for them. He cannot, however, let his love of quiet and study be as keen as it may, confine himself in his cold chamber through the long winter evenings. True he is not denied—nay, he is sometimes welcomed-to a place in the “sitting room." He need not, however, attempt to read there ; nor can he join as equal participant in the conversations. Feeling restraint from the presence of the heads of the family, he soon discovers that he too is a restraint on them. His acquaintances in the city are few, and remembering the oft repeated admonitions of his mother against evil company, he is indisposed to increase their number ; but he goes forth to escape the irksomeness of home. And where does he go? To visit friends in the bosom of a virtuous and intelligent family? Alas, he is a stranger! He goes, however, where society in his wisdom and goodness invites him—to the street corner, the hose or engine house, the beer shop or the bar-room--and if he go not speedily thence, to worse places—But I need not follow him. Were he a son of yours, your fears would indicate the thousand dangers that surround him.”
*Of these not more than one-fourth can be said to do more than write their names. -First Annual Report of the Board of Inspectors.
For nearly two years I was prosecuting attorney in this county, and from the period when I went into office down to the present moment, comprising an interval of five years, I have paid much attention to the working of the criminal system. From being, during the whole of this period, a Director of the Public Schools, my consideration has naturally been employed on the question how far public crime is affected by public education: and at one time I compiled a tabular statement of my observations on this particular point. I need now only give you the result, which is that, whether in prison waiting trial, or in prison after trial, charged with riot or turbulence, I have never known a single pupil of the High School. I can go fur.. ther, and say that, in all the cases in which recognizances of hail were taken, and in which the defendant was produced for the purpose of writing his name, and in all cases which by any test the educational position of the defendant could be evolved, I never knew, with but one exception, of a pupil of the public schools, of a higher grade than the third division, concerned.-Note from Francis Wharton, Esq.
The same point is presented with equal clearness and force in a pamphlet, understood to be from the pen of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Potter, entitled “ An Appeal to Philadelphians.”
“Sdleness is ever an abounding source of evil and misconduct.What, then, may not be anticipated from the idleness of boys and young men congregated in large numbers in the streets-full of reck: less courage and lust of adventure-subject to manifold occasions of excitement-banded together, perhaps, by vows of fellowship and mutual support-unawed by a united and efficient police-often sheltered by darkness—and fired, it may be, by the remembrance of wrong3
still unavenged. Yet it is to the street alone that many of these young men and boys can be expected to resort. After the eveping meal is finished, and until the hour for sleep arrives, the homes of many of them offer neither attraction nor restraint. If they have money, the cheap theatre, the bowling alley, the gaming house, the well warmed and well lighted tippling shop holds out its lure, and through that lure, multitudes of unsuspecting youths are yearly drawn down to the gates of the Destroyer. Money, however, is that which most of them want. Hence, in many instances, petty
thefts to enable them to encompass the means of indulgence-hence, more frequently, street gatherings for the younger, and meetings in the hose house or engine house, for the elder. Hence, the bands that we often pass at the corners of streets, and the throngs that gather round the avenues to each place of vulgar amusement. Hence, firearms are raised, and too often fires are even kindled, that hostile companies may be brought into conflict, and the opportunity for tumultuous excitement enjoyed. T'he aggregate result is seen in a spirit of wide-spread misrule among the young, which, by its outbreaks has often brought disgrace on the community, sacrificed many valuable lives, destroyed a vast amount of property, turned capital and enterprise from the city to locations less exposed to outrages and tumults, subjected multitudes to extreme terror, and often to danger, and which, at this moment, may well fill the heart of every reflecting citizen with anxious foreboding."
According to the reasonings and suggestions of these admirable