Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them, 1872

Brace depicted “the fortunes of a street waif” in four stages, from homeless child to young thief, drunkard, and imprisoned criminal.

Source: Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them (New York: Wynkoop & Halenbeck, 1872).

first stage

Source: Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them (New York: Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872).

second stage

Source: Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them (New York:  Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872).

third stage

Source: Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them (New York:  Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872).

fourth stage

My great object in the present work is to prove to society. . .that the cheapest and most efficacious way of dealing with the “Dangerous Classes” of large cities, is not to punish them, but to prevent their growth; to throw the influences of education and discipline and religion about the abandoned and destitute youth of our large towns; to so change their material circumstances, and draw them under the influence of the moral and fortunate classes, that they shall grow up as useful producers and members of society, able and inclined to aid it in its progress.

In the view of this book, the class of a large city most dangerous to its property, its morals and its political life, are the ignorant, destitute, untrained, and abandoned youth: the outcast street-children grown up to be voters, to be the implements of demagogues, the “feeders” of the criminals, and the sources of domestic outbreaks and violations of law. . . .

The founders of the Children’s Aid Society early saw that the best of all Asylums for the outcast child, is the farmer’s home.

The United States have the enormous advantage over all other countries, in the treatment of difficult questions of pauperism and reform, that they possess a practically unlimited area of arable land. The demand for labor on this land is beyond any present supply. Moreover, the cultivators of the soil are in America our most solid and intelligent class. From the nature of their circumstances, their laborers, or “help,” must be members of their families, and share in their social tone. It is, accordingly, of the utmost importance to them to train up children who shall aid in their work, and be associates of their own children. A servant who is nothing but a servant, would be, with them, disagreeable and inconvenient. They like to educate their own “help.” With their overflowing supply of food also, each new mouth in the household brings no drain on their means. Children are a blessing, and the mere feeding of a young boy or girl is not considered at all.

With this fortunate state of things, it was but a natural inference that the important movement now inaugurating for the benefit of the unfortunate children of New York should at once strike upon a plan of

EMIGRATION

Simple and most effective as this ingenious scheme now seems— which has accomplished more in relieving New York of youthful crime and misery than all other charities together—at the outset it seemed as difficult and perplexing as does the similar cure proposed now in Great Britain for a more terrible condition of the children of the poor.

Among other objections, it was feared that the farmers would not ant the children for help; that, if they took them, the latter would be liable to ill-treatment, or, if well treated, would corrupt the virtuous children around them, and thus New York would be scattering seeds of vice and corruption all over the land. Accidents might occur to the unhappy little ones thus sent, bringing odium on the benevolent persons who were dispatching them to the country. How were places to be found? How were the demand and supply for children’s labor to be connected? How were the right employers to be selected? And, when the children were placed, how were their interests to be watched over, and acts of oppression or hard dealing prevented or punished? Were they to be indentured, or not? If this was the right scheme, why had it not been tried long ago in our cities or in England?

These and innumerable similar difficulties and objections were offered to this projected plan of relieving the city of its youthful pauperism and suffering. They all fell to the found before the confident efforts to carry out a well-laid scheme; and practical experience has justified none of them. . . .

PROVIDING COUNTRY HOMES.
THE OPPOSITION TO THIS REMEDY—ITS EFFECTS

This most sound and practical of charities always met with an intense opposition here from a certain class, for bigoted reasons. The poor were early taught, even from the altar, that the whole scheme of emigration was one of “proselytizing,” and that every child thus taken forth was made a “Protestant.” Stories were spread, too, that these unfortunate children were re-named in the West, and that thus even brothers and sisters might meet and perhaps marry! Others scattered the pleasant information that the little ones “were sold as slaves,” and that the agents enriched themselves from the transaction.

These were the obstacles and objections among the poor themselves. So powerful were these, that it would often happen that a poor woman, seeing her child becoming ruined on the streets, and soon plainly to come forth as a criminal, would prefer this to a good home in the West; and we would have the discouragement of beholding the lad a thief behind prison-bars, when a journey to the country would have saved him. Most distressing of all was, when a drunken mother or father followed a half-starved boy, already scarred and sore with their brutality, and snatched him from one of our parties of little emigrants, all joyful with their new prospects, only to beat him and leave him on the streets. . . .

 

Source: Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them (New York: Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872), i-ii, 225-227, 234-235.

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