Imagens das páginas

It is a matter of congratulation, that in concert with the movement of Ragged Schools, Refuges, and Dormitories, and other remedial measures to which we adverted in our last number, (not forgetting the prospective results of “Ragged Churches,” now fairly brought before the public mind,) that Committees of Inquiry of both Houses of Parliament have been making lengthened and minute examinations of competent witnesses, with a view to legislative and benevolent enactments on behalf of both “ Criminal and Destitute Juveniles.” Last year the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee for this purpose; its labours, which were interrupted by the dissolution of Parliament, have been again resumed during the present session. The evidence given before the Committee in 1852, now lies before us in a “ Blue Book,” published by order of the House. We are anxious to call the attention of our friends to some of the important statistics of crime and its causes as here set forth, together with some of those preventive and remedial measures suggested by persons of great ability, intelligence, and experience. The witnesses examined amounted to 22 in number, and the evidence, including an appendix, occupies 551 pages. A vast amount of valuable information is here submitted.

appears that, with the exception of those localities where remedial and moral efforts have been put forth, juvenile crime is fast increasing. But as Captain Williams, Inspector of Prisons for the Home Districts, said, the "scourge which principally affects large populations does not affect agricultural districts in the same degree. "If there were no closely packed populations, gentlemen would scarcely be sitting there to suggest any means of remedying juvenile delinquency.” Among the causes of crime enumerated, are orphanage and destitution, the drunkenness and brutality of parents, the augmenting magnitude of towns, and the greater separation of classes than in former times—when the rich, instead of residing in the suburban districts, lived amongst the poor, and thus exercised an important moral influence over them. Besides these, are the influences of “the gaff,” or penny theatre, the effects of vicious literature, the love of mischief among boys, the temptations furnished by the exposure of goods at shop doors for sale, and the facilities for disposing of these goods when stolen. Mr. John Macgregor, in his evidence, considers “ the chief cause of all to be the want of sanitary accommodation, which turns out all the youth of our large cities continually into the streets, and prevents them from having any home; compels them to resort on wet days to the beer-house, and on ordinary days to places where they meet in large numbers, and either gamble or do other things injurious to themselves.”. A great amount of juvenile delinquency also is traced to the crowded state of the lodginghouses. Lord Shaftesbury found that 14,000 persons slept in 470 rooms. The evils arising from the indiscriminate crowding in these lodging-houses, and in the dwellings of the poor generally, are described as fearful.

It is worthy of special notice, as illustrating the value of the Ragged School system, that, as is stated' by Miss Mary Carpenter, (author of a well-known work on

“Reformatory Schools for the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes, and for Juvenile Offenders,"") as the result of an experience of seventeen years in the city of Bristol, that juvenile crime arises from the lowest class, and that the ordinary

National or British Schools seldom or ever operate beneficially on this class. It is encouraging also to find it the opinion of the same witness, illustrated and supported by facts adduced, that it is “neglect and not poverty which is principally to be provided against," and that by proper means the lowest children may be brought under the influence of schools;

and that were these children freed from those unchecked and urgent. temptations which surround them, and moral and religious instruction brought to bear upon them, they would soon become a blessing instead of a curse to society. In truth, this conviction is forced upon the reader, whether he peruses that part of the evidence in which the hardening influence of the present system of prison discipline, as generally adopted, is contrasted with the reformatory results of Parkhurst and other prisons, and the Agricultural Reformatory Schools at Red Hill, as well as of those on a similar plan on the Continent or in the United States. With all this is to be coupled the unanimous recommendation of the witnesses for the universal establishment of “Penal Reformatory Schools" over the United Kingdom. We have also here presented to us the actual results of Ragged Schools in connection with industrial training and the religious instruction given in them, as well as the placing of youths, by means of Emigration and otherwise, in the way of obtaining an honest livelihood. On this last point the evidence of Mr. William Locke, the Honorary Secretary to the Ragged School Union, is as authentic and satisfactory, as it is impressive and reliable. He states, that since the establishment of the Ragged School Union, the schools have increased from 16 to 110, the voluntary teachers from 200 to 1600, exclusive of 200 paid teachers, who were not employed at first ; and the number of children has advanced from 2,000 to 13,000.

The extensive spread of these schools through the country, many of them assisted by the Ragged School Union, he also points out, and furnishes an account of his visits to the schools at Manchester and Aberdeen. As to results, the following is a part of Mr. Locke's evidence :

“We have, in many instances, done a great deal of good; the results are very gratifying ; but we attribute most of it to the moral and religious instruction, and industrial training.

“We have had many children, who were formerly very bad characters, reformed: we have many placed out in situations, and doing well, who were formerly quite a pest to the community.

“The schools in London are all managed by local committees, who take a great interest in the children, and who are very anxious indeed to place the children out in situations whenever they can manage to do so; besides, we have emigrated in all about 360, and by the letters which have been received from them from abroad they are all doing well; those children, whilst they were here were earning nothing ; many were vagrants or pickpockets, doing a deal of mischief, and cost the community a great deal of money by robbing tradesmen and so on; they are now earning an honest livelihood in the colonies, and, on an average, they receive from 10s. to 20s. a week, as well as their food.

“How long do you keep them in these schools before they emigrate ?- At least twelve months in an ordinary school, or six months in the Refuge; they must likewise be well-behaved, and be able to read and write, and work at some trade. * * *

“Parents in many cases appreciate properly the services rendered to their children, especially those who have emigrated ; and some of these boys are writing for their parents to come out to them, and in some cases they have sent home money to assist their parents to go out and join them. In one case a lad has sent 101., and several have sent money to repay their outfit.

" Another result has been, placing out the children in situations where they can get a living, sometimes apprenticing them; and we have tried a few other efforts, such as Shoe-black efforts, that is, employing a certain number in cleaning shoes in the streets.

"I have been told frequently by the police, who ought to know well, that the neighbourhoods are much improved by the Ragged Schools, and the City Missionary, as well as the Scripture Reader, has often got admission to families in courts and dwellings where otherwise he would not have been admitted, by means of the children; Captain Hay, the Commissioner of Police, has told me so frequently, and so has Sir Richard Mayne."

Mr. Locke considers that while voluntary contributions should be an essential part of the means of support, that they ought to be “assisted from some fund, either parish or public; it would go far to stimulate the efforts of those engaged in the work, and aid them to a far greater extent in carrying it out.” He also strongly urges the putting down of street begging by some such power as that exercised in Aberdeen, by which “children going about the streets, pretending to sell things, and yet begging or thieving,” should be apprehended, and either the parents (who often send them out to beg, while earning sufficient to maintain them, but who spend their money in drink,) be compelled to support and send them to school; or else, if the parent could not be made to do so, keep possession of the child and send him to school. As to the

power of Christian truth and love, the witness has such confidence in them that he has no objection to the reception of a boy into the schools who has been convicted four or five times. “We have rather studied from the first to take in the worst. Nothing can withstand the influence of affection and kindness, even in that very debased class.” The "great principle kept in view” has been “kindness, Christian instruction, and teaching them their duty to their neighbours and their God, and making the Bible the theme of all our instruction. No other system, where moral training and Bible instruction are not given, will do any good." Mr. Locke thinks Ragged Schools far more efficient than those established under the Poor Law system, but considers that the latter might be so re-modelled as to receive a large class of those children who attend the Ragged Schools. The great deficiency in pauper schools he chiefly attributes to the want of voluntary teachers. He also indicates the remarkable diminution of juvenile crime in Edinburgh in the four years ending December, 1851, in consequence of the establishment of Ragged Schools. We must refer to the “Blue Book” for other points dwelt on, and for suggestions offered by the Honorary Secretary of our Union ; as also to his Letter to the Chairman of the Committee, as to the causes of juvenile crime, and its remedies. Among the remedies proposed he would “compel all schools receiving aid from Government, and all parish schools or workhouse schools, to spend a balf or a third of the teaching time on industrial training or household work.He would also limit the number of licenses to public-houses, shut them up all the Sabbath-day, and increase the cost of licenses and duty on spirits, etc. He would “abolish fairs of every kind, as great social evils; also penny theatres, music and dancing saloons, etc.” He would have Government or parishes “ assist Ragged Schools in giving food and lodging to the most needy, and sending them abroad?" He would "extend education and moral training of the neglected poor by means

of free schools, workshops, lectures, reading-rooms, good books," and would fine "all publishers of immoral, debasing trash ;” and last, not least, he would have the Government to “establish preventive and reformatory schools (such as Mettray and Red Hill) for young prisoners discharged from prison, and for young offenders convicted the first or second time.” He would also “separate all inmates of union workhouses, in casual wards, so as to prevent contamination and evil communication.” With these views most, if not all, our readers will entirely accord.

We have previously alluded to Mr. Macgregor as one of the witnesses examined before the Committee. The information given by him as to the operations of the “Shoe-black Society," is very interesting. So successful has it been that it is now entirely self-supporting. As to the extension of it, he says:

We could extend it indefinitely almost, but we cannot find individuals like ourselves who would undertake the management. It requires the personal superintendence of gentlemen, and that is given cheerfully every day; but we could not extend or increase our attention." He adds, as to the moral results of the Society, coupled with its money value,

“To show the value of the different stations. That at the Duke's statue, near the Exchange, pays us about 21. 58. a week; and I wish to give the Committee the following short deduction from our experience: that the actual nature of the occupation is comparatively unimportant, if industry is immediately rewarded, and not merely enforced ; if permanent employment is held out in prospect; if good and bad conduct is made directly apparent to the other lads and to the managers ; emulation promoted by classification ; honesty, by constant money transactions, where trust is involved ; economy, by daily saving; attention to respectability of appearance, by enforcing proper clothing; punctuality, by fixed hours ; steadiness, by requiring prolonged attention to duties at a certain post; learning, by promoting to stations requiring it; love of home, by providing for those who would be otherwise without a shelter.” These results are all the more gratifying when we trace the effort to the Ragged School as its foster mother; “ attendance at the Ragged School being the only qualification;" and the masters being directed " to select boys between twelve and sixteen years of age, who had been known as boys of good character, known to be destitute, anxious to reform, active, healthy, attentive to their Sunday Schools, and without reference to their former career." Here is the true spirit of Him who never refused the worst who came to Him penitently and trustfully, and who, with the pardon of the sin, won the heart of the criminal by words of love, and bade him “ go and sin no more.” The importance of the voluntary agency, as contrasted with “the agency of officials,is strongly urged, and its results are thus set forth :

“We have Industrial Classes, and 1,500 children are employed in Ragged Schools in London in these classes. We have Adult Classes for the children when they become older; we have Mothers' Classes, where mothers attend with their children in their arms; we have Libraries for the young and for adults ; we have Lectures at stated intervals ; Sick Funds for those who are ill; Clothing Funds, Savings' Banks, Prayermeetings, (I attended one lately in Field Lane, where 80 criminal and destitute people were present ;) Social Meetings, by which good people are interested in the welfare of the destitute, and become trustees for their benefit ; Night Refuges, Emigration Committees, Public Meetings, by which people are largely interested in the criminal and destitute; Baths, Lodging Houses, and a Public Nursery in one case,

where little girls take care of the children of the poor, at the same time receiving instruction themselves ; a systematic visitation of the parents of the children attending these schools at their own home. All these managed willingly by a committee of voluntary teachers.”

With this voluntary agency,” however, the witness would connect a system of reformation supported by the State imposing local rates, and detaining juveniles ; and further, he would establish "preventive schools," supported by private funds, to which “juveniles should be sent by magistrates and courts of law, and a certain allowance be paid by the parish, district, union, or county, leaving a quota to be defrayed by private benevolence.” Separate (not solitary) confinement is also urged; and the witness thinks that the discipline of prisons should be partly penal and partly reformatory."

We are quite unable, from want of space, to dwell further on Mr. Macgregor's evidence, or to present extracts from the testimony of other eminent witnesses, of which that of the Chaplains of Parkhurst prison and Preston jail, the Recorder of Birmingham, Serjeant Adams, Miss Carpenter, and Alexander Thompson, Esq., are worthy of special attention. We must, however, not forget the evidence of Mr. John Ellis, a London shoemaker-a man worthy of all honour, who has devoted himself with zeal and success to the reformation of juveniles. Mr. Ellis was for a time the conductor of the Industrial Classes of the Brook Street Ragged schools. He testifies that the want of employment is a great cause of crime in boys; that the communication of religious knowledge is essential; that the teacher must associate himself with the boy in every way; and that, under the Divine blessing, no child, however wicked, need be despaired of who has a heart to feel and a mind to be convinced.Sir Peter Laurie, Mr. Ellis shows by the results of his class, was wrong for once, when he said, sceptically and scoffingly, that "he would walk twenty miles to see a reformed thief !” We need go no further for proof than to the case of “M--M--" who was examined before the Committee, himself “reformed thief,” and “ apprentice to Mr. Ellis," possessing the entire confidence of his master.

And now what is “ the conclusion of the whole matter?” Why, that, bad as matters are, but for Ragged Schools, and their auxiliary influences, they would be far worse; that instead of despairing or fainting, voluntary teachers should press onward in the self-sacrificing work, and that many more should enrol themselves in this noble regiment of “The Great Unpaid;” that those who cannot teach, but who God has blessed with means, should contribute to our cause with more cheerful and enlarged liberality than ever; that “the might of gentleness is irresistible; " that brute force and compulsion are useless, nay, are hardening in their results; and that it is Christianity alone, in its direct and indirect action, can save the masses of our juvenile population from ruin. With all this we unite the expression of our conviction that “correction, and not destruction,”-a penal reformation, and not "penal ruin,”-prevention rather than cure will henceforth largely influence the Government and the Legislature in dealing with criminals under sentence, both at home and abroad.



« AnteriorContinuar »