Thoughts on Criminalities Relation to Crime & Childhood Literacy – Bill Arp, 5/21/1887

Thoughts on Criminalities Relation to Crime & Childhood Literacy – Bill Arp, 4/21/1887

It seems very strange that young men who come from good stock and have been brought up with proper ideas of the
proprieties of life should seek to fight a duel. I wonder where they get such a foolish idea of honor. It used to prevail,
I know, but we thought that modern civilization had about wiped out that stain-that stigma upon our humanity-that
Sancho Panzo sentiment that would fight a windmill because it turned. The question that concerns society is, how do
young men acquire such notions? Of course they do not acquire them at home, for I do not suppose there is a respectable
parent in the State who would teach his son that it was right under any circumstances to send or accept a challenge.
Duelling has had its day and is now under the ban. Ben Hill gave its hideous corpse the last kick in his memorable reply
to Alex. Stephens, and he deserved a monument for that if for nothing else. But when college boys run off to fight a duel,
it is a damaging reflection on that institution and upon our system of education. There is already a suspicion pervading
the public mind, that a college course is a risk, a peril, a hazard and I have heard many a reflective father say : “I am afraid
to send my boy to college!” So many of the graduates return home with bad habits or bad principles or exalted self esteem
or a chronic indolence that parents are discouraged and disappointed. If the boys come home as the family ornaments,
they soon become the family expense. Their indolence is established and they are drones in the hive. They read all the
modern novels and can talk critically and learnedly, but they are of no account. They are capable but there is nothing for
them to do that corresponds with their mental culture and physical reluctance to work. Tbey will not go back to the farm
or the workshop and the professions are already overcrowded. Of course there are many bright and honorable exceptions,
but our people are taking notice that, as a general rule, the successful men of the day are not college graduates and
those who are the sons of poor parents. A boy who never did any work at home is in a bad fix to go to college. Work
is the thing-a habit of work-chop the wood, make the fires, feed the stock, plant the garden and cultivate it; help all
around and about the house and black his own shoes; use the hammer and the saw, mend the broken chairs and bring
water, do something that will save expense and that will help-help is the word.

Every child should be taught to help, that it is a duty to help. When the boy has been raised this way and is ready for
college send him for one year, and if he is getting too uppity and biggoty then let him stay at home a year and work
some more and then send him back again. He can just drop back to the next class and lose nothing. But if you send
a boy to college who never worked at home, and let him stay three or four years, in nine cases out of ten he will be no
account. He is a finished gentleman. The perils of education are alarming. I mean education without moral and industrial
training. Teachers and professors have but little to do with this. Their sole business is to teach from the books. If the
pupil stands well in mathematics, in Greek and Latin and logic and rhetoric and philosophy, he is doing splendid. That
is the big thing. In fact, it is everything so far as the teacher is concerned; and almost everything with the parents. The
result is that thousands of boys are being educated as experts in indolence, in avoiding work, and in many cases they
resort to forgery and embezzlement and obtaining money under false pretences. It is now an open secret at the North
that education increases crime, not just a little but immensely. As illiteracy decreases crime increases in a geometrical
ratio. They are almost met with the startling question which is the best, comparative ignorance with honesty or high culture
with dishonesty? Let us look at the figures as furnished by Mr. George R. Stetson, of Boston, a philosopher, a thinker,
a patriot. In 1850 there were, in round numbers, one million of people in Massachusetts and 1,236 prisoners-1 prisoner
to 804 of the population. As education progressed crime progressed. Education walked and crime ran-until in 1884 there
were (65,000) sixty-five thousand arrests, or one arrest for every 29 of the population; and assuming that five persons
constitute a family, we have the alarming result of one arrest to every six families in the State. The criminals in the house
of correction of Hampden County increased from 363 to 1,131 in less than twenty years. The population increased only
100 percent while crime increased 312. In the last five years it increased 96 percent, and the sheriff in his report says
this condition will probably continue. Continue how long, I wonder. Will it be until, like Sodom and Gomorrah; there be
not ten righteous men left? In 1883, there were 1,100 commitments more than 1882. Mr. Stetson shows that in this rapid
increase of crime the native population is just as bad as the foreign.

Then, again, look at the divorces-a class of statistics from which the foreign element is eliminated. In 1363 there was
but one divorce to 3,134 persons. In 1880 there was one to 1,537. In 1880 there was one to 1,537. In the last ten years
divorces have increased more than twice as rapidly as marriages, and more than three times as rapidly as population.
Dr. Dorchester says: “The most liberal view of the question can but awaken concern for the permanence of social order
and the stability of public virtue. ‘In Massachusetts there was in 1882 one divorce to every thirty-four marriages, and the
ratio increasing every year. In Rhode Island, one to fourteen and in Connecticut one to eleven. But the number of divorces
does not represent half the number of unhappy marriages or broken marriage vows, cases that do not get into the courts,
and hence it can be safely estimated that no more than eight families in ten have preserved the purity and honor of the
family relation. Upon the purity depends not only the welfare of society, but the perpetuity of the nation. Mr. Stetson says:
“Public morals are now so low that vast conspiracies are entered into to defraud whole communities-corporations organized
to defraud the innocent and unwary-public office prostituted to personal gain and the capital of banks gambled with by
persons high in social position. ‘We find the public press pandering to a low vulgar curiosity in disgusting details of crimes
against public order and decency, to satisfy a morbid public craving. “We find that the books of the least value have the
greatest circulation. `We find that the largest number of the regular attendants go to church in search of amusement. and intellectual gratification, rather than for worship or instruction.” These admissions are alarming to every lover of his country
-to every parent who feels parental solicitude for the welfare of his children. We congratulate our people-our people of
Georgia and the South-that we are still far removed from this lamentable condition. Our county of Bartow is an average
county, perhaps no better, no worse, than the general population of the South; and here we have a population of 25,000,
two thirds white, and only ninety-eight arrests for crime in the past year. Seventy-two of these were negroes, but we will
draw no race distinctions, and it is one in 250, while in Massachusetts it is one in twenty-nine. If we estimate the whites
alone it is one in 650. Then compare the divorces. There were only three suits for divorce the last year, that is one divorce
to.more than 7,000 people and only three divorces to every 190 marriages. No wonder that Carter Harrison declines to run
again for mayor of Chicago. He says he needs rest and he fears that if he should again accept the office he would have no
rest for he would not dare to leave Chicago for a week for fear of a communist uprising and a river of blood in the streets.

There is one other very damaging assertion and it is as true at the South as at the North, and it is this: As high mental culture increases our sensibility and self-esteem it also increases our ability to accumulate wealth by questionable means and to
escape the consequences of criminal acts. Only a small portion of the iniquity to high places finds punishment. It is mainly
the poor and the friendless who fill the prisons. “The conclusion of the matter,” says Mr. Stetson, “is that intellectual culture
without moral education rather increases the ability to escape the consequences of criminal acts, but does not prevent their commitment. Professor Sewall says ‘the effect of increased intelligence without accompanying moral principles is either to
invent new forms of vice or to cover up those crimes which the ignorant cannot so cunningly conceal.” In all our public schools good morals are to some extent enjoined, but this is voluntary and not required. Obedience to parents is not taught, nor is
the observance of the ten commandments. The duties that appertain to citizenship-honesty in trade, truth, industry; respect
for the Sabbath and for the church-are not included in any school curriculum, and yet these things are the very foundation
of society and good government, and of far more importance than trigonometry or greek or rhetoric. If the children were taught
all these at home there would be less necessity for teaching them at school, but they are not. How many parents teach them?
The heathen Chinese tenches his children obedience and honest dealing, and their laws enforce these virtues rigorously; but
ours do not. On the contrary, there are, perhaps, as many parents afraid of their children as children afraid of their parents.
How many fathers are there who, instead of teaching their boys honesty and truth, set them an example of overreaching and dissembling in trade? Where are the preachers who preach these virtues vigorously and systematically? But, even if they
did, how many of the children are there to hear? In all the public shools of Germany and Prussia religion and morals stand
first in the curriculum, and in the latter country no teacher is qualified until he has been instructed in religion and morals for
three years in a seminary eitablished for that purpose. But instruction in good morals and religion is not all. They are required
to do work-manual work of some kind.

The mind and the body are trained together. In treating of this, Mr. Stetson says that the State commissioners affirm that the
great advantage of prison life to youthful convicts is the acquirement of the habit of industrious labor. What a commentary is
this upon an educational system that a boy has to be sent to prison to learn a trade. Now I do not know that our system differs materially from theirs, but let us take warning in time and fortify. Their ratio of illiteracy is 3 to 100, ours is 24 to 100. It was that
in 1880. I do not think it is more than 20 now. We wish to lessen it until there is not a rational child in the State over ten years
that cannot read. This is our duty, but let us be careful that crime does not increase with culture. It is not now. Colonel Towers,
our efficient and well informed commissioner of prisons, tells me that crime is actually diminishing if the number of convicts
now being sent up from our courts signify anything. For the past six months the number of colored convicts has fallen off very
seriously. This is especially gratifying, for it did seem a few years ago as if the whole race were bound for the chaingang. Our children are exposed to dangerous influences all the time and need all the help they can get. The girls are absorbed with the exactions of fashion and social life and find but little time to devote to duty. The boys are dazzled with glimpses of fortunes
made in a day by speculation. A few days ago a young man was tried in Augusta and convicted for selling lottery tickets, and
he was fined and imprisoned. His lawyer made a pathetic appeal for mercy and held up the daily newspaper that had in one
column an account of the trial and in the other the displayed advertisement of the Louisiana lottery with two distinguished confederate generals as its godfathers. But enough of this. I have not written it for invidious comparison, but as food for
thought. There are many thinkers in the land both North and South. We are living for our children and our children’s children,
and it becomes us all to guard well the bulwarks of our social system.

Last Updated on March 14, 2021 by Bill Arp

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