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OF SOME OF THE
IN THE GREAT METROPOLIS (NEW YORK), FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE
MISERABLE AND DEGRADED CLASSES.
TO DOUBT that moral evil exists otherwise than for an:eventual good, is to question either the power or benevolence of the Creator. The world, checkered as it is with happiness and misery, is precisely as foreknown, and no disappointment with its condition can exist in the Divine Mind.
Some of the uses of evil are clear to us. If, with our present mental constitutions, life was an eternal sunshine, with no ills to combat, with no suffering to relieve, a monotony of ease would ensue, involving the loss of a great source of happiness and a discipline which strengthens and ennobles character. The greatest glory is in the combat for the welfare of others. "It is more blessed to give than to receive,” like every axiom of the Great Teacher, is a vital truth tested by experience. And where this is united to self-sacrifice, then the measure of the blessing is as the measạre of the denial. That man who dwells encased in self, is more to be pitied than if he had been born lame and blind, for he never can enjoy that most exquisite of all sensations--the pleasure of doing good.
In our large cities where men most do congregate, the greatest amount of evil, moral and physical, awaits the exertions of the benevolent. Our own New York is a vast theater for the exercise of man's humanity; and when we behold the amount of woe existing in that great metropolis, we stand appalled in view of the gigantic task of its relief.
During the last twenty years a tide of population has been setting in toward these shores to which there is no movement parallel in history. Within the past year over three hundred thousand foreigners have landed in New York, or about one thousand per day for every week day. Of these a portion have been good, sober, hard-working people, who have spread over the country and mingled with our population. Another part has been the off-scouring of the poorest districts and most degraded cities of the Old World, which, in the main, has settled and stagnated in our metropolis.
The poor and idle of a street grew worse by having poor and idle neighbors. The respectable and industrious moved out of cortain quarters, and such places as the Five Points began to be known. Streets once inhabited by the best of people (Lower Pearl, Cherry and Dover streets), being abandoned, have since been held mostly by lodging houses of the poorest immigrants. The children of this class have naturally grown up under tho concentrated influences of the poverty and vice around them. By the report of Matsell, Chief of Police, some ten years since, it appears that there were even then ten thousand vagrant children in the city, and in eleven wards nearly three thousand children were engaged in thieving, of whom two thirds were girls between the ages of eight and sixteen. In one ward, there were twelve thousand children; of these, nine thousand were destitute of public religious influence.
Institutions have been established within a few years in the city, which, although young, have attracted great attention from the blessings they have produced. As American enterprises of a noble character, we are pleased to present this account of them, as given us by a lady friend. They are the Children's Aid Society, the Industrial and Mission Schools, etc., etc. These are directed mainly to the reformation of the juvenile portion of the degraded classes ; thus attacking vice and crime before the iron habits of mature life should render hopeless all attempts at reform.
The CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY was founded a few years since by the Rev. Charles L. Brace, a gentleman of education, and noted as a traveler. While in Europe during the period of the Hungarian War, he devoted his best thoughts and energies to the condition of the poor and the degraded of the Old World. As he traveled from point to point, he inquired into the results of the various experiments making for their moral and spiritual wel. fare. He soon became convinced of the truth of the remark of Talleyrand, that “the vilest of people are not formidable to him who approaches them in a spirit of kindness." On his return to New York, he began his benevolent efforts to arouse the public mind to the great work of elevating and reforming the lowest poor. "The persons here to be aided and Christianized," said he, "are not pagans and heathen, in lands where the very difficulties make the work heroic, and where the associations of thousands of years of history throw a romantic and factious interest about our labors.” The result of his statements, followed by eloquent appeals, was the establishment of this society, of which he is the secretary. Their office is at No. 11 Clinton Hall, Astor Place. Their business is transacted by Mr. Brace and his assistants, in reference to the different objects of benevolence under his supervision. At all hours of the day, groups of men, women, and children are in attendance, waiting to tell the sad story of their sorrows--to be provided with employment, or to meet individuals who are about to take them to new homes in the country. Packages of old and new clothing are also received at the office and distributed by the visitors connected with the institution.
There are no lodging-rooms in the building, but vagrant boys are placed temporarily at the News Boys' Lodging-House. A building given by Mr. Grinnell in the Fourth Ward, for an Industrial School, has been used as a temporary home for girls. The list subjoined will show where the visitors found these young girls and rescued them just at the fearful turning point between purity and vice : Girls taken from the Tombs Prison, ten; found without a home, twenty-three; beaten and turned out, two; found in the streets (some nearly starved), seven ; came in sick, etc., eight; vagrants, from the office of the Society, twenty-eight. Total lodgers in one year, eighty-two.
The News Boys' LODGING-HOUSE is in the fifth story of the Sun office, Nassau street. It is an important branch of the Children's Aid Society, and is under the superintendence of Rev. C. C. Tracy. It has been successful in elevating a class who were once called by the police the banditti of the city. A cut prefacing this article is a representation of that class of "heathen" in an unconverted state. One of their rooms is furnished with neat little beds, for which the boys pay sixpence a lodging, including a bath in an adjoining room.
The amount aside from this charge of sixpence necessary to support the establishment, is given by the society. If the visitor can drop in of an evening, he may find the boys assembled at their desks, engaged in reading or study, or quietly listening to some familiar lecture from one of their many friends. And a new book presented to their little library, will give the visitor a warm place in the affection of these sharp little traders. It is wonderful to witness the tact, ingenuity, and assiduous care which is constantly exercised toward them by their kind superintendent. In addition to his other cares, Mr. Tracy has of late assumed the charge of conducting these boys to new homes provided for them in different parts of the country. His letters are so replete with interest that some extracts from them will be given in this article ; may they be the means of eliciting aid for the many wretched and friendless children, who are de- ; pendent upon this society for their hopes of happiness both here and hereafter.
The Boys' Meetings is another department of the same society. These, says Mr Brace, will be important links in a chain of influences connecting the multitude of benevolent, who wish to help, with the multitude of vagrant children, who perish for the lack of aid.
The visitor of the Children's Aid Society, in searching the docks, and lumber yards, and low lodging-houses, finds ample materials for his Sun. day gatherings. He is careful not to excite their prejudice by speaking of poor and ragged boys; but scatters numerous cards of invitation to a “Boys' Meeting." These are held in a loft in a warehouse, or some other room that can be procured, at a trifling expense. Then the most interesting speakers that can be procured are enlisted in the work. “These,” says Mr. Brace, “must be men of sense ; the vagrant boy sees through any humbug; they must regard these helpless, forsaken ones as their brethren, and not forget that in working for the least of these, they are working for Christ. The leader must have several with him to gather in the boys, and assist in singing and speaking. But they should all be men of force; and, above all, with a patient, good nature.” The following incident will show the importance of this qualification, in addressing an audience who have never entered a church, and who have not the slightest idea of veneration. A friend of the writer has acquired great tact in securing the sympathy and interest of these bright little urchins. He does not attempt to present abstract truths or mere exhortations ; but he never fails to fix the attention of the boys, while presenting the truths of Christianity in a narrative form, avoiding merely religious phrases, but enforcing duty by vivid illustrations. On one occasion, he called upon a friend to assist him. The speaker, a tall, dignified man, with auburn hair, and pleasing expression of countenance, arose and commenced :
“My young friends, I shall occupy but a few moments in addressing you." The boys listened attentively for a time; but at length he became prosy. They shuffled and whispered, and one near the door, to the delight of his companions, addressed the speaker in the following laconic manner : “Time's up, Sandy!"
Some of our most distinguished public speakers have never acquired the art of addressing children. A certain doctor of divinity once assembled his Sabbath School, and commenced the following exordium :
“My dear little children, I am now about to give you a syllabus of the doctrines contained in the Assembly's Catechism. But it may be, that you do not apprehend syllabus. Syllabus, my young friends, is equivalent to synopsis."
Such speakers would find themselves out of place among the little heathen composing the audiences convened in these Boys' Meetings.
INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS have been established in various parts of the city, and conducted with great success. These encourage industry, as the garments made are given to the children by the way of reward. In all these schools, the ragged are provided with clothing in a manner which is calculated to cherish a feeling of independence, and remove the disposition for begging, which is so prevalent among the poor. Each article of clothing is valued at a certain number of marks, and the children are permitted to earn their own garments by marks for good behavior and scholarship; and the most industrious can take home somo articles of clothing for a needy brother or sister. In giving to this society, the stranger may rest assured that all of his money will be used directly for the object designated-none will be spent on buildings and fixtures. The way in which the designs of the benevolent are often misapplied, is illustrated by the well known anecdote of the sailor, who, on being called on in a church to give to some charity, dropped one dollar in the box, then added two more to "pay expenses."
Another department of the efforts of Mr. Brace, is the providing of homes in the West for the poor seamstresses of the city, who are suffering for tho want of employment. No sight is more affecting than that of virtuous, friendless females, in the midst of the selfishness of a large city, struggling to eke out a bare subsistence, by that most miserable, life-destroying and illy-paid of all avocations—the needle.
MISSION SCHOOLS are Sabbath Schools, established in neighborhoods destitute of gospel privileges. They form a nucleus, in their working, for the formation of new churches.
The locality called “ The Five Points,” so named from the fact that five streets there corner, has been the most famous seat of degradation and woe on this continent. Situated in the very heart of the metropolis, it was the great plague-spot of moral pollution and death; a nauseous sink of filthy poverty and beastly crime. Two noble institutions now stand upon the spot,
“The Ladies' Mission” and “ The Five Points' House of Industry.” That eminent laborer for the suffering poor, Mr. Lewis M. Pease, removed to the Five Points, with his wife, in the spring of 1850, and established there one Christian Home, with the hope of leavening this mass of crime and woe with the leaven of the gospel. There he labored with untiring zeal, visiting damp and polluted cellars, dark garrets, and dilapidated