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men are thus at once brought together into masses, and yet separated from each other, the moral evils resulting will be great, and inevitable.
Again ; as the grand field for the exercise of the arts, for the speculations of commerce, for the enterprise of the merchant, for the talents of those of every description who live by the resources of their minds, and for the laborer who has no resource but physical strength for his daily bread, cities are centres of attraction to men of every variety of principles, tastes, dispositions and habits. Here men are drawn both to accumulate, and to expend fortunes; to attract notice, and to live in luxury upon the credit they can obtain; and, to enjoy the excitement of competition, and rivalry, both in business, and in fashion. Here come large numbers, hoping to find that demand for their service, which they could not find in a smaller sphere of action; and here, of course,
from the fluctuations of business, there is a constant tendency to a supply beyond the demand, in all the departments of skill, and of labor; a constant tendency to an accession of numbers, a considerable part of whom, even if they were all disposed to be honest, can look to nothing better than a condition of honest poverty, because their service is not wanted; and who, if they are without principle, will fall into dishonesty and crime. Here, also, from the same cause, will come the idle, the intemperate, and the profligate; some, from a desire to find associates; some, that they may live more easily by beggary than they can live at home; some, for the better opportunities that are here to be found, of depredating upon the property of others; and some, that they may escape notice in the crowd, and secure a better hiding place than a country neighborhood can give them. These are evils to which there is a constant tendency to growth in cities, in proportion to their growth in numbers, and business, and wealth.
Another cause of this tendency is, the facilities which cities, in proportion to the number of their inhabitants, furnish to the indulgence of the grossest appetites, propensities, and passions. Amidst the tens, and hundreds of thousands brought together here, comprehending every diversity of character, there will be found those who will be ready to cater to every base inclination, while there are any to indulge such inclinations, and to support those who will pander to them. The smallest village may indeed have its tavern, and its dram-shop. But the screened soda shop, the gambling house, the theatre as it has been, and the brothel, can be profitable establishments, and can be maintained, only where there is a very considerable extent of profligacy, and of moral corruption. Nor can these establishments exist in a city, and be patronized by the rich, without extending their deadly influence to the poor ; or be supported by those who are advanced in life, and who in any measure give the tone to public manners, without drawing into their vortex the light and frivolous among the young, and seducing them to dishonesty to obtain the means of these guilty gratifications. And while establishments of this kind are the marks and evidences of a low state of moral sentiment, of vice leading to poverty in its worst form, they are also the instruments and means of indefinitely increasing the very evils in which they originate.
Again ; a large amount is annually added to the poverty and crime of our country, and especially of our cities, by the large masses of foreign poor, which are
continually thrown upon us. Poverty and vice have thus been increased in Boston, far less than in some of our cities. But any one who has thought but little of the subject, and will look into it, will, I think, soon be convinced, that it deserves more of his attention than he has given to it.
I will state but one other cause of this tendency to the growth of poverty and vice in cities; and that is, the very defective, and often the utterly neglected education, of the children of the poor. This is a subject in which I feel the strongest interest, and to which I would earnestly call serious consideration.
From an official report in behalf of the School Committee, we learn that, in November, 1829, the whole number of Schools in the city was two hundred and thirtyfive. Eighty of these were public schools, and the number of pupils in them was seven thousand four hundred and thirty. The expense for the free schools was, $65,500 ; and that for tuition in the private schools $107,702 ; making $173,202. This is indeed a very considerable expenditure for education, in a city containing about 62,000 inhabitants. This, also, it is to be considered, is independent of a large expense, which is annually incurred for the education of many children of the city in some college, or in some academy in the country. But in the same report we are also told, that, while the numbers attending the primary schools have increased, within the three preceding years, from 2,805, to 3,513, and the numbers in the private schools, within the same term, from 3,392, to 4,018; that is, while in these schools there has been an increase of 1,334 pupils since 1826, when the last return was made; the number of pupils now returned as members of our
free, or public schools, over 7 years of age, within three years, has diminished not far from 500; and there have been daily absences, at some of these schools, of an average from 30 to 40; and at others from 50 to 75; while, at the private schools, the average number of daily absences has been very trifling. Whence comes this falling off of the children in our free schools, and how are we to account for these absences?
One cause of the evil is, that, as a resource for support, poor parents, to a greater extent than in former years, have taken their children from school, to place them in shops and offices as errand boys. A dollar a week is thus earned; and the mothers of these children look to this dollar, for the payment of their weekly rent. I doubt not, however, that many children are thus prepared for a vagrant and vicious life. A considerable number of young females, also, who would otherwise have been in our Free Schools, within the past two or three years have found employment in printing offices. Again. Many children are taken from school by their parents, that they may gather fuel; and by other means, as they can, assist in providing for the family. Others are stricken from their lists by the teachers, in consequence of their frequent absences; which may have been attributable to the boys themselves, they having been convicted of having been notorious truants; or, to their parents, who have so frequently kept them from school, that the teachers refuse any longer to receive them. It is also a fact, that a large number of children are sent from school, because they are not provided with the books required there; and when parents cannot at once obtain these books, their children are too often left to the exposures of our streets till they be
come vagrants; and are either disqualified, or obstinately indisposed, to return to school. I have kept a large number in school, who would not otherwise have been there, by supplying them with books ; and I know that there are children in these schools, whose parents cannot obtain the books required for them, but from charity. These causes of occasional absence, and of entire separation from our free schools, may not reach all the cases referred to. But they will account for the evil to a considerable extent. And it is an evil which calls loudly for a remedy. Looking alone to the truants from these schools, and to those who are dismissed from them because their parents cannot provide them with school books, it is a great public interest which is concerned in the question, what is duty respecting them ? Let it be that there are but one or two hundred children in the city, who, if uncared for but by their immediate friends, will be lost. I ask, is this a number, or is it a spring of poverty and crime, to be lightly regarded by us? And where, should they fall into crime, lies the heaviest responsibility for their guilt ?
How, then, are these tendencies to be obviated ? Or, how are these evils to be prevented, or remedied ?
I answer, that the instruments and means for these purposes are various, and I would not undervalue one of them. Our ministers and our churches, our daily and our Sunday schools, are important agents in this work. Our winter evening scientific lectures are also, I believe, exerting a greatly salutary influence ; and may, and probably will, conduce to increasing moral good. Our Athenæum, likewise, in proportion as a high order of taste, and of moral feeling, shall be excited