Having left England in company with two of his countrymen, one of whom (Mr. William Crawford) had been sent out by our Government to inspect the prisons of the United States, the Author was induced to remain after their return; and, finding the journal he had kept, contained what he thought might essentially serve the cause of humanity, he determined to sacrifice his reluctance to appear in print, and give a full and faithful picture of the cruelties he had witnessed.
If too much space should appear to be taken up by the same subject, it should be remembered that slavery, as it exists in America, comes home to our "business" as well as to our "bosoms"; and appeals no less to English pockets than to English sympathies; for the slave trade, which has cost us so much blood and treasure, springs naturally from the compulsory system of the new world, and must follow its fate. We have paid upwards of ten millions sterling between the years 1825 and 1834 (inclusive) for the suppression of that traffic, and have aggravated its horrors in proportion to our activity and expenditure. Our ships of war have forced an open commerce into the hands of the smuggler; and our bounties for captured negroes have called into action the worst passions, and the most cruel devices. Let the moral influence of England be substituted in America for her cannon on the Atlantic; and the black man will gain by our philanthropy what he now loses by our money. Commerce and civilization will spread their healing wings over Africa; and Christianity will follow in their train. It may be added, that we have a closer and a deeper interest in the question of American slavery; for, if the Southern portion of the Union should endeavor to prevent its discussion, and resist or separate from the other, a civil or a servile war would ensue, and the interruption of its staple cultivation would cut off from our cotton factories the chief sources of their prosperity, before a supply could be obtained from our Eastern settlements, or from other quarters of the globe.
The Author would observe that, in deviating from the usual mode of spelling some words, he had no desire to set up a new standard, where it would more become him to conform to what exists. He has quoted frequently from American writers, and he has adopted their orthography, because he wished to preserve uniformity.
The title " Journal" has been retained, though not strictly in accordance with the order of dates.
I LEFT Liverpool, March 3, 1833, in the Canada, Captain Wilson, and arrived at New York on the 11th of April. My friends proceeded, in the course of a few days, on their journey; and I remained to recruit my strength, having been confined by sickness to my berth during the greater part of the voyage.
After a month's nursing, being still too ill to join my fellowtravellers, I delivered some of the letters of introduction, with which I had been furnished in England, and met with that friendly and hospitable reception which every "stranger in America" experiences on such occasions.
If first impressions have any influence upon our opinions, I could not but think favorably of the society among which I found myself: I was invited to dine at a house in Laight Street. It was a family party, consisting of twelve or thirteen: the latter number is not connected with any superstitious feeling in that part of the world. A hearty welcome, and an unaffected manner, that put every one at once at his ease, greeted my entrance; and the absence of display and reserve rendered the conversation that passed during the evening, exceedingly agreeable. The delicate attentions I received, made me forget that I was a foreigner and an invalid. I could perceive but little difference in what I saw and in what I had been accustomed to: the greater or less degree of formality seemed to be the chief national distinction. Upon further acquaintance, I found that the different members of the family were as much distinguished for amiable dispositions as for natural good breeding. Here, as in other houses I visited, were signs of domestic attachment, not very common in the old country. Under the same roof were living the parents, their mother, and sisters, and the grownup children. Whether so striking a difference between two nations, descended from the same stock, is to be referred to the difference in the law of descents that prevails in each, is not unworthy of consideration.
Of the beauties of the Broadway, and the Battery, of the City Hall,and the Exchange, and of other public buildings, it would be needless to speak where so much has been written by abler hands.
May 21, I went to the City Hall for the purpose of being introduced to the governor of the State by a gentleman, for the honor of whose acquaintance I was indebted to Mr. Stuart, the traveller. On our way to the "Audience Chamber" we took a peep at the Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court --the latter a welllighted and wellfurnished room. There were three judges presiding; and the general appearance of the court, with the counsel pleading and the audience listening, was much the same as with us. The absence of wigs and gowns was matter rather of remark than of regret. It is hardly fair to put English associations into the bosom of an American, and then blame him for the incongruity which his opinions and actions exhibit with these supposititious tastes and feelings.
Several other persons were introduced at the same time with myself to the governor. The ceremony was of true republican simplicity. The announcement of the name was answered by a friendly shake of the hand. After the conversation that ensued had ceased, the guests dispersed themselves to chat with their friends, or admire the fine view from the windows, and the historical portraits with which the room was decorated. The governor, who was a man of plain manners and a sensible countenance, afforded a striking example of the encouragement which the institutions of the country hold out to talent and industry. He had risen, by his own exertions, from one of the humblest to the highest rank in the State. He had come, when a youth, as he afterwards told me, into the State of New York with but eight dollars in his pocket; and of these the greater part was of no value. As one of his objects in visiting the city was to inspect the public schools, he was kind enough to propose that I should accompany him; and I gladly agreed to avail myself of his politeness, when the day, of which he promised to give me notice, should arrive.
The next day Dr. Hosack --so well known to English travellers for his hospitality --took me with him in his carriage to the House of Refuge --an institution for the reception of juvenile offenders. Here we met Governor Marcy, who had come with a committee on an official visit to the establishment --one of the best, perhaps, of its kind, to be seen in any country. Comfort, cleanliness, and convenient arrangement were observable throughout. I had, on a subsequent occasion, a better opportunity of viewing the institution. Having gone through the different portions of the building, we retired to the superintendant's room; where, as specimens of the literary proficiency made by the inmates, two papers, the one written by a boy, the other by a girl, were read to the company. They contained a sort of analysis of a lecture on anatomy, that had been delivered a short time before by a professional man to the children. Though neither of the writers was above fifteen years of age, both compositions exhibited a degree of correctness and reflection that would have done honor to persons of riper years and a happier lot. I could see, upon inspection, that the writing had not been corrected. It was painful to observe the studied manner in which the white and colored children were separated and distinguished from each other, as if moral improvement could be promoted in either by encouraging pride and inflicting humiliation. I should have made no remark on the subject, had not my attention been directed to it by one of the party: I observed that I could not see why the children of one common parent should meet with such different treatment. A contemptuous smile and a very silly assertion that Nature, by degrading the one race, had placed an insuperable barrier to a closer approximation with the other, were the only reply. I contented myself with remarking, that there was no color in the soul, and turned the conversation to some other topic. An Englishman may wish in vain that this feature in the national character were less frequently and less obtrusively thrust forward. The next day was that on which the governor, was to inspect the schools, accompanied by some of the corporation. I took my seat in one of the carriages provided for the occasion, and the visitors proceeded to make their rounds. The buildings, appropriated to the purposes of instruction, were large and airy; and all built upon the same plan; the ground floor being set apart for the infants, and the stories above for the boys and girls respectively. The system of teaching, if the tree is to be judged of by its fruits, appeared to be excellent. The rooms were all remarkably clean and well arranged. The children were attentive, intelligent, and orderly. They read clearly and distinctly, with good pronunciation and appropriate emphasis. In one establishment there were about eight hundred children, including the three separate divisions. That of the infants --the most interesting --contained above three hundred. It was extremely affecting to watch a group of little creatures, under two years of age, sitting lovingly together, and listening with the eager curiosity of infancy, to the wonders that their teacher was unfolding to them --all goodhumor, and innocence, and harmony. I was pleased to hear from the mistress, to whom I put a few hurried questions, that the first thing taught an infant is to repeat its name and place of abode --thus securing its return home, should it by any accident be lost, --a very simple mode of precaution that ought to be put in practice by every parent: Eight or ten schools were visited during the course of the day; and at each of them, when the examination was over, an address was made to the children by the governor, one of the aldermen, or some other person. Satisfaction was expressed with the progress made and exhortation given for the future. The necessity of application to study and of strict obedience to their parents and teachers, preparatory to the due discharge of those social and political duties they would one day be called upon to perform, was particularly inculcated. They were told of the munificent provision made by the State for their education, and of the great interest felt for their welfare by its chief magistrate, in whom, and in many around them, they might see a diving example of the successful career, by which patient and persevering industry might rise from obscurity to an honorable distinction. Attachment to the political system of their country was thus, at an early period of life, identified with the promotion of their own happiness, and national honor built upon personal improvement. This ceremony was omitted at the African schools, as they are called. In one of these I was struck, on our entrance, by the appearance of two boys, who had no signs of the Pariah caste about them. They were both of fair complexion with light, silky hair. I immediately pointed them out to one of the visitors, who was standing by me, and he looked as if he was shocked at the sacrilegious inter-mixture. Questions were eagerly put, and whispers passed mysteriously from one to another; when, at last, it was agreed that further inquiries should be made into the matter, and the incipient contamination be arrested, by removing the objects of their solicitude from the black sheep among whom they had been so improperly placed. The first AfricoAmerican free school was established at New York in 1787, by the Manumission Society of the State. In 1790 the girls were taught needlework by a female engaged for that purpose. In 1808 the school was incorporated, and the next year the Lancasterian system was introduced into it. There was not an instance, according to C. C. Andrews, who has published an account of the schools for colored children, of any pupil, instructed in this institution, having been, down to the year 1830, "convicted of crime in any of the courts of justice."
The Trustees of the Manumission Society, under whose care the "African" schools are placed by the commissioners of the schoolfund --(some of them are Quakers), --have made a distinction between the white and black teachers, that is consistent neither with justice nor good policy. They give higher salaries to the former than to the latter, without reference to the qualifications of the master or the number of the scholars. A man of color, of the name of Hughes, receives but 500 dollars a year: while a white man, whose name it would be invidious to mention, as he is acknowledged to be inferior to the other in every respect, has 600, for performing the same duties in a school of the same class.
The city of New York paid, in the year 1832, the sum of 90,748 dollars, eightysix cents, for the use of the public schools. As great remissness on the part of parents to have their children educated was experienced, an agent was appointed by the school society, with a salary of 800 dollars per annum, to visit the poor, for the purpose of removing whatever objections or obstacles might exist to the performance of this great parental duty: at the same time an ordinance of the corporation of the city excluded "from the participation of public charity, when it may be required, all outdoor poor, whether emigrants or not, who, having children between the ages of five and twelve, neglect or refuse to send them to some one of the public schools."
In spite of what has been done in this and other States for popular education, a very large portion of the population is still deprived of its benefits. A writer in Niles's Register states, that there are nearly a million and a half of children in the United States destitute of the school instruction they require. Add to this amount the slaves and a great many of the free blacks, and the waste of human intellect is frightful indeed!
Having visited the schools, we proceeded to the City Orphan Asylum, a wellconducted establishment, containing about 140 objects of charity; boys and girls. The guardian had been, for twenty years, at the head of an "African" school. He assured me that he could not discover any difference of intellect in blacks and whites: --he thought that, with similar advantages, the former would be fully equal to the latter. This testimony is not to be hastily rejected, derived, as it is, from a man highly respected, of much experience in the tuition of both races, competent to form a sound opinion, and coming to a conclusion directly opposed to all that he had been taught and all he still hears.
The business of the day concluded with a plain but plentiful dinner at the Alms House --a spacious and handsome building in what are now the outskirts of the city, and commanding a noble view, in front, of the East river with its numerous beauties. A proposition was made, after the good things on the table had been disposed of, that the school fund should be transferred from the trustees to the corporation, or, at least, some more effectual control exercised over them, on the principle that no man is exempt from temptation to abuse a public trust. The measure, however, was opposed with the same good humor as had been shewn in recommending it; no danger of the kind to be provided against was admitted to exist: and the general feeling was in favor of the existing arrangement. That no man is to be trusted is said to be a political maxim in the United States. My first attendance at a public meeting afforded a striking exception to the rule.
There are of course many things in New York and in London that strike an Englishman and an American on their first arrival as singular, if not absurd. A better illustration of the embarrassment alluded to cannot be given, than a passage that occurs in a little work published some thirty years ago by a Yankee on his return from a trip to England. "The first funeral, he says, I saw, was such a novelty, that I followed it a short distance, not knowing what it was; and, as my manner is to question every one, who, I think, can give me any information, [a Yankee custom,] I asked an honest fellow, 'what the show was?' --he seemed a little offended, but directly replied --'you may know one day, if you do not come to the gallows!' This man, like Chatham, was 'original and unacommodating.''' Austin's Letters, &c. Now, it is evident that the man imagined Austin was bantering him, or he would not have used an expression, the humor of which --and it really is not without point --would have been thrown away, as the answerer must have known, upon any one unacquainted with the nature of the procession. The writer adds --"observing I was surprised at his answer, and feeling perhaps a little mortified, he asked me, 'if I lived in London?' I told him 'I had just come.' 'Well! but people die sometimes in your town?' By this time I discovered the performance was a funeral. The plumes being white, a sign of a virgin, instead of black, which are more usually displayed, account for my ignorance. Had I been in Pekin, I should have expected a white funeral, but was not prepared to see one in London." Thus it is that nature is punished for the blunders of a traveller's imagination; and nations are angry with each other because their respective customs do not correspond with their own preconceptions. What is allowable at Pekin is ridiculous in London or Boston. Veniam petimusque damusque: --I shall have frequent occasion to claim the benefit of the act.
That two nations, separated by the broad expanse of the Atlantic, should differ in many points from each other, is to be expected; but why should their agreement in a matter common to both excite surprise? Yet several persons with whom I conversed, complimented me on the correctness of my language, and seemed to be astonished that an Englishman should speak his mothertongue with propriety: --that he should leave the letter h in its right place, and suffer v and w to speak for themselves. One man observed to me, that the grammatical accuracy with which Charles Kemble spoke struck the people on his first arrival in New York as something unusual in one from "the old countrie."
We may "guess" from this what sort of gentry are used to honor the United States with their presence. Many who go thither upon business and are distinguished at home for nothing but vulgarity and ignorance, set up for gentlemen --(though they have no pretension, or rather are all pretension) --and complain that outward appearance is not treated with sufficient respect, as if insolence would be taken for full payment of personal merit any where.
As John Bull, when he travels, generally assumes the rank which is most wanting to him at home, and puts forth his claims in an inverse ratio to his qualifications, it is not surprising that he should impose upon "the natives" in a double sense, and sink his country while he is raising himself.
It is probable that the average of literary accomplishments is higher among our brethren in the new world, while the extremes at either end are less distant from the middle point of the scale.
It may be observed that the English and the AngloAmericans are placed in circumstances less favorable to a fair appreciation of each other's peculiarities than any other two nations, with the exception of those which bear the same relation to each other. Their common language is the chief impediment in the way of a mutual understanding. That which seems to bind them together, serves too often to dissever them; and the pleasurable feeling which attends their approximation is frequently merged in the sensation of an unaccommodating dissimilarity. When a word has two meanings, one that we have been long accustomed to, and the other, not only new but opposed to the former, it need not be asked to which we would give the preference. But when the new associate attempts to displace the old, and by connecting itself with the expression, to take sole possession of the mind, it is extremely difficult, under the shock of conflicting feelings, to do justice both to past and present impressions --to retain our former attachments, and to enter, by sympathy, into those that are equally cherished by others. No such prepossessions are interwoven with a foreign language; and our partialities take a different direction when we are among those who speak it.
About this time I received a visit from a man who had already made some noise in the country, and is destined, if he live, to fill a niche in its history. The person of whom I speak, is William Lloyd Garrison --the Apostle and Martyr of Emancipation. I had expressed a wish to see him, to the steward of the vessel which took me out; and the latter, communicated what I said to him, as he was taking his passage by the same ship for Liverpool. He was going on a mission from the New England Anti-slavery Society, with the view of undeceiving the British abolitionists, whom Elliott Cresson, an advocate of the American Colonization Society, had misled with regard to the objects and motives of the latter institution. As I was fully aware of the deception that had been practiced both by the principal and the agent, I was anxious to learn how the impression it had made was to be removed, and was highly gratified that a measure had been adopted, the ultimate effects of which would involve the destinies of millions not only in America, but in Africa; and, I may add, of the whole globe, --for freedom is the parent of civilization, and civilization of commerce. Upon the solution of this important question depends the continuance or the dissolution of the union; and every one who visits the States that compose it, must feel interested in all that bears upon it, whether the aspect in which he views it, be moral or political. Efforts had been made to detain Garrison by a legal process, through the medium, fictitious or real, of an action for libel. Like all pioneers in the cause of reform, he had employed weapons of a rough kind, more suited to the nature of the work and the paucity of coadjutors than agreeable to the taste of his opponents and the delicacy of his friends. His private character, however, was unimpeachable; and those who differed most widely from him in opinion, could not have found in his manners that severity which those, who most agreed with him, lamented in his writings.
As soon as he had sailed, a cross fire of abuse was opened by the morning and evening papers upon him and all connected with him, --"the fanatic" Garrison, and his "crazy" coadjutors reechoed through the columns of the journals, which were thus, by exciting discussion, giving activity to the cause they were trying to smother. The merits of the question might be inferred from the manner in which it was urged; and the result might safely be predicted from the demeanor of the disputants. Those who would have us think a feeble advocate must have a bad cause, should take care lest we think a violent advocate cannot have a good one. Fanaticism*
May 27. I accompanied the Governor on a visit, which, he had informed me, by a very polite note the day before, he was going to make, to the prison at Singsing, about thirty miles up the river. We left the city at 7 A.M. by a steam boat, and arrived at 11 o'clock. The morning was fine and clear, and the scenery, on both banks, delightful. Some militia men, who were on board with a band, amused themselves with dancing reels; while the gaiety and cheerfulness that prevailed, reminded me of some scene on the Rhine. The latter is, however, narrower than the Hudson, and differs from it as much in the style as in the variety of its beauties. The military left us at Yonker's Hotel, which lay on our right, and gave the Governor a salute as they landed. Five or six miles further, and on the same side, we passed Tarrytown, the spot where Andre was taken. Much has been said and sung about his unhappy fate: but is it not a false principle which makes it a duty to sacrifice private honor to national glory, and encourages in an enemy the infidelity it would condemn in a friend? He was a spy and an accessory to treason.
Great attention was shewn to the Governor by the passengers; and "his Excellency," in return, was not wanting in courtesy to those who sought an introduction to him. An elderly man, who had observed me conversing with him, requested me to perform that ceremony for him. I told him I was a stranger, --more fit to receive the honor than to confer it. He saw that I did not like to put myself forward, and very good humoredly applied to another quarter. Soon after this we landed at our place of destination, and the boat went on to Albany.
The system, on which Singsing prison is conducted, is calculated to make a strong impression on the mind. I could take, however, but a cursory view of an institution which, though an imitation of the Maison de Force at Ghent, as the Philadelphia system is of that at Glasgow, has excited so much attention in Europe. The unremitted industry of the convicts, the skilful manner in which they work, the unbroken silence that prevails throughout, the organized discipline, the complete arrangement among such a variety of objects, the passive obedience of men habituated to insubordination and irregularity, and the universal expression of thorough subjection and helplessness, --produce sensations and feelings that cannot be explained by any thing that the spectator has witnessed in places usually appropriated to the reception of prisoners. The whole presents a combination of physical exertions, unaccompanied by the signs and sounds of rational creatures, that resembles rather a colony of beavers or a community of ants, than a collection of human beings. The power of language is seen here in its absence. It is the want of it which has subjected the many to the few; and made them the unresisting instruments of an influence from which its possession would have rescued them. Such is the external aspect of the place and its inhabitants. We naturally ask, do the ultimate results correspond with this calm and order, and will he, who is perfect as a physical machine here, be better as a moral agent when he gets out? Subsequent enquiry and reflection afforded some reasons for doubting whether the answer would be quite satisfactory.
The body of the building, which is situated near the bank of the river, and is oblong, consists of five stories, separated from the walls by an empty space, the ground floor and the galleries above admitting of a passage round the successive divisions, in each of which are 100 cells; and, as each side corresponds with the other, there are thus 1,000; with grated doors looking to windows placed on the other side of the passage, in the opposite wall. Each cell contains a blanket and a board to lie on, and a bible. It is here that the three daily meals are taken one hour and a quarter after breakfast and dinner being allowed to their solitary tenants, who are debarred from all communication with their neighbours, and are confined by means of an apparatus, by which every lock along the line is fastened and opened simultaneously. Every convict, as he passes at the prescribed hour, takes up his meal in a wooden bowl, through an opening connected with the kitchen, and replaces it in the same spot on his return from his cell. Their dinner was composed of bread made of rye and Indian corn, potatoes, and a small slice of pork. Every ration was the same in quantity. This, with water, (varying occasionally the meat,) is all that is allowed them. Owing to the exercise they take, the good air they breathe during the day, their simple diet, and the absence of every thing calculated to produce any strong excitement in mind or body, it is found that the proportion of deaths is less than among men of the same class in ordinary life. I was told that habitual drunkards, so far from being injured by sudden and total abstinence from spirituous liquors, experienced from it a marked improvement in their health.
The wings of the building run down to the river, and contain the offices and workshops. The intermediate ground is occupied by the stonecutters. The quarry from which the latter obtain their materials, is at the back of the prison, the whole of which is commanded by the hill where the stone is found. Here are posted eleven guards with fire arms to prevent escapes. In the course of five years two prisoners have been shot, while attempting to get off. At the time of our visit, there were 850 convicts. The establishment consists of an agent, with a salary of 1750 dollars per annum --a clerk, with 800; --physician and surgeon with, each, a salary not exceeding 500, the amount to be fixed by the inspectors, of whom there are three, appointed by the Governor of the State and the Senate; --a chaplain, not above 300, subject to the same regulation;-a deputy keeper, whose salary is not to exceed 1000; --and assistant keepers, with salaries not above 550 each.
The whole number of persons employed in the prison during the year which ended with September, 1832, was, one agent, one clerk, one deputy keeper, twentythree assistant keepers, and twentynine guards. The latter receive eighteen dollars per month each, and the sergeant, who commands them, twentyfive. The inspectors, whose duty it is to visit the prison at least once every two months, and report annually to the Legislature, hold office two years, and are reeligible. They receive the same pay, both for their services and for their travelling expenses as the Members of the Legislature, --three dollars (if I mistake not) aday, and three for every twenty miles; --not payable, however, unless they are actually and necessarily engaged in their official employment.
A prison, without walls, and open to any one who chooses to enter it, would imply or require a popular government, as disaffection would here find ready-made instruments to work with. In Europe, high walls are built round similar establishments to prevent intrusion as well as evasion, and revolt without is more dreaded than revolt within the enclosure.
No instance has occurred at Singsing of assistance being given to the prisoners in their attempts to escape.
The profits derived from the convict labor already exceed the expenditure, and will probably leave a considerable surplus, if the system be not interrupted by the jealousy it has excited among the mechanics, whose interests are erroneously supposed to be injured by its continuance. With the increase of the city of New York will be an augmenting demand for its labor, and a commensurate addition to the value of its proceeds. In return, it is too certain, that that great emporium of commerce will supply it with inmates: --crime and luxury will thus feed each other, and the marble that now lies peaceably under Mount Pleasant, will be torn from its bosom by the outcasts of that city it is destined to enrich and embellish.
Having inspected the Penitentiary, the Governor took me with him to a gentleman's house in the village, where we found a small party assembled, and passed the remainder of the afternoon. Beds had been provided for us at the clerk's, about a mile from the prison, the pathway to which commands a noble view of the river. The next morning we breakfasted with the Agent.
Before our departure one of the convicts was discharged --his term of years (four) having expired. As he was from the same country as myself, I spoke in a friendly manner to him, and exhorted him to act honestly on his return to society. He appeared to be stupid and unfit for any thing useful or rational, --one of those exotics that are the worse for transplantation, uniting the bad qualities peculiar to each soil, and losing, or wanting, the virtues of both.
We returned by 6 P.M. to New York, and I took my leave of the chief magistrate, to accompany him on a visit he was to make to the City Penitentiary the following Monday.
As the executive of the State, the Governor has the power of pardoning and remitting punishment. This is called here, as elsewhere, the prerogative of mercy, though it is rather that of justice, since its exercise ought to be regulated not by feeling, but by principle, and is salutary in those cases only which imply extenuation of guilt or defect of conclusive evidence. Where there is no crime, compensation would be more appropriate than pardon. It is hardly, however, to be expected, that this distinction should be acknowledged by those who are most interested in not understanding it; or that the relatives of one who has brought ruin or shame upon them, should see clearly that pity to the individual is too often cruelty to society. Where an audience is so easily obtained, the chief magistrate is frequently exposed to solicitations which nothing but a strong sense of duty could enable him to resist. Those touching appeals to the passions, which the Roman orators of antiquity were used to practice, are sometimes made on these occasions; and it must be owned, that a wife in tears and a group of children on their knees are less out of place before the executive, than before the judge. These exhibitions are often amusingly characteristic of simplicity, both in the people and in their institutions. One anecdote of the kind created a laugh at the breakfast table. A poor woman, who had come a long distance with a petition duly attested in favor of her husband, presented herself before "his Excellency," and throwing the memorial on the table, exclaimed, when asked what she wanted, "that paper will tell you." The prisoner was a worthless fellow:-her request was firmly yet mildly refused. "Well then," said the applicant, "I suppose I must go home again; --but how am I to get back? --I have not a cent in my pocket." --Pecuniary relief was given her, and she expressed her gratitude most warmly. --"If I thought my husband was not reformed," she said, "I would rather he should remain where he is." --She then left the room, repeating her thanks for the kindness she had received, when, suddenly returning, she put her head in at the door, and called out "I say, Governor, when I want him to be discharged, I'll let you know."
This prerogative was formerly exercised in a very improper manner. --Chief Justice Spencer, one of the delegates to the New York State Convention, in 1821, said in debate, --"In the increase of population crimes had naturally increased, until our State prisons had become thronged. Something, therefore, must be done, and the judges had found it necessary to recommend to the governor, from time to time, that the least criminal should be pardoned." Mr. P. R. Livingston observed very justly, in reply, --"If the governor had possessed no power to pardon, your prisons would never have been filled." And even so late as 1832, the governor of Ohio (M'Arthur) said, in his message to the legislature, "Many of the convicts have been pardoned more frequently for the purpose of making room for the reception of others, and to save expense to the State, than for any just claim they may have had on executive clemency." This is carrying economy to an excess that must necessarily end in augmenting the expenditure of the State, if direct encouragement to crime have any tendency that way. It is hardly worth while to apply to the chief magistrate for a friend's pardon, when you can serve him as well by putting your hand into your neighbour's pocket. By borrowing the governor's best horse, an associate may draw down his clemency upon a convict, while drawing down his vengeance upon himself. The kindness will be repaid in due time.
The schoolcommissioners not having completed their halfyearly visit, I again accompanied them to the schools and renewed my former gratification. The beauty of the penmanship in the specimens exhibited; the justness of the pronunciation and spelling; and the order observable throughout the different establishments we saw, again struck my attention. At one of the "African" schools was an Albiness. She had the features and crisped hair peculiar to the negro race; but her skin and eyes were of a light color; and her hair had the appearance of wool both in whiteness and consistency. Her sight was very weak, and I was told her intellect was defective.
During our rounds, I was introduced to a very gentlemanly man, whose son I had met on my excursion to Singsing. We conversed together a good deal about the schools, the interests of which he had exerted himself to promote both by his purse and his influence. His politeness led him a few days afterwards to call upon me; and I was indebted to him for an agreeable acquaintance with some of his friends and for some very pleasant days which I afterwards passed at his country residence.
The last place we visited on this occasion was the Catholic Orphan Asylum, which contains about 100 children, and is under the superintendence of the Soeurs de la Charite, who are sent hither from their establishment at Emmetsburg in Maryland. Though sectarian, this seminary receives part of the schoolfund, a deviation from the general principles of the constitution that is said not to be universally approved of. The Friends support their own schools.
There were thirteen public schools (there are probably more now) in New York; and in addition, is one belonging to the Mechanics' Association, which receives an allowance for twenty scholars from the public fund; two orphan asylums; and about six "African" schools.
The superintendent of the common schools reported in January, 1833,
that there were, by the last estimate, 508,878 children in the State between
the ages of five and sixteen; and that of these 494,959 were receiving
instruction in the district schools. The annual revenue derived from the
school fund was 93,755 dollars, the capital, which was progressively increasing,
amounting, at the date of the report, to 1,735,175 dollars. With the addition
of a state tax and local funds, the whole sum available for the purposes
of education, was 305,582 dollars. This, added to 358,320-raised voluntarily
by the inhabitants of 761 towns or townships,-swells the aggregate to 663,902;
the whole having been applied exclusively to the payment of the teachers,
deducting about 60,000 for the city of New York. Thus, it appears, the
State pays somewhat less than onesixth of this part of the expenditure-comprehending
not more than onehalf of the annual cost of public instruction, which
including schoolhouses, books, fuel, &c., was estimated at about
1,126,482 dollars; less shall oneeleventh of which was paid by the
public treasury, its share having become less than it had ever previously
been. These beneficial results, contrasted with what had been experienced
in Connecticut, where the voluntary principle has been rendered inoperative
by a large permanent school fund, afford matter for serious reflection
on this important subject, and lead to a conclusion, the correctness of
which is supported by a striking fact mentioned in the Report. In seven
counties of the State, where the local funds amounted to about 12,795 dollars,
the average contribution of each inhabitant was thirtyfour cents sixtenths;
while in seven counties, where there were no funds at all, the same average
was thirtyseven cents onetenth. The superintendent recommended
that the teachers should receive better instruction and higher salaries.
The former suggestion has since received the attention it deserves; it
is to be hoped that the latter will not be neglected, and that the services
of those who are as usefully and as honorably employed as any in public
or private life, may be adequately remunerated. By the superintendent's
report in 1834, there were 512,475 children, between the ages of five and
sixteen, receiving instruction in the public schools, while the whole number
of that age in the State amounted to 522,618. The teachers had received
for the last year 677,429 dollars, in addition to 100,000 from the public
fund. The annual expenditure for education, private as well as public,
was supposed to be about one million of dollars. The principle alluded
to in the former report, is still further confirmed as the system is developed
in its details. "Experience in other States has proved," says the superintendent,
"what has been abundantly confirmed by our own: --that too large a sum
of public money, distributed among the common schools, has no salutary
effect. Beyond a certain point, the voluntary contributions of the inhabitants
decline in amount, with almost uniform regularity, as the contributions
from a public fund increase. In almost every case in which a town possesses
a local fund, the amount paid for teachers' wages, above the public money,
is about as much less, compared with (that of) other towns having no local
fund, as the amount received from that source. "The State advances nineteen
cents three fourths for each pupil per annum, while the remaining part
of the cost (more than a dollar) is paid by the parents or friends. In
Connecticut, a dollar has been drawn for the same purposes, from the school
fund, for each scholar; --and the result has been great remissness on the
part of the teachers and superintendents, and the refusal from many districts
to support, by the attendance of their children, a system so defective.