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National Conference of Charities and Corrections: Part II: Progress 1874-1893

The Relation Of The National Conference Of Charities And Correction To The Progress Of The Past Twenty Years — Part II

By Hastings H. Hart, President

Ed. Note: This entry was condensed and divided into two parts from the original text of the President’s Address at the National Conference of Charities and Correction Twentieth Annual Session Held In Chicago, Illinois, June 8-11, 1893.  Part I includes the major sections of President Hart’s presentation omitting references to numerous titles of papers, names, dates and statistics. Part II contains the conclusion of his presentation describing the Characteristics of the Conference Membership. A complete version is available in the Proceedings of the 1893 Conference, pp. 1-33.

Ed. Note (2): Hastings H. Hart, was Secretary of the State Board of Corrections and Charities of Minnesota.

Characteristics Of The Conference

The success of the National Conference of Charities and Correction may be traced, in large part, to some of its distinctive characteristics.

First, its catholicity. The Conference has embraced men and women of all creeds and those of the most diverse views; the people who favor institutions and those who oppose institutions; those whoHastings H. Hart, President of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1893 [View Image]
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Hastings H. Hart, President of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1893

believe in outdoor relief and those who would dispense with outdoor relief; those who advocate retributive punishments and those who believe that retribution has no proper place in correctional institutions. Yet there has been a remarkable absence of acrimony and heat in the deliberations of this body. All have shown a disposition to hear and to learn from those who held views other than their own. When the Conference met in St. Paul, a good Orthodox deacon from Ohio was among the delegates. When he saw Dr. Dana of the Congregational Church, Archbishop Ireland of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Whipple of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and Rabbi Sonneschein of the Jewish Church sitting on the same platform and united in the one inquiry, ” How to elevate the Miserable and save the Erring,” he could not understand it. When Bishop Whipple took occasion to speak appreciatively of Archbishop Ireland’s work for temperance, and when Rabbi Sonneschein delivered a most fitting and appreciative eulogy upon Bishop Robertson of Missouri, who had lately died, the deacon felt that the millennium must be near at hand.

Second, its optimism. Many of the people who compose this Conference are engaged in what might be considered the most discouraging work in the world,-the reformation of criminals, the redemption of confirmed paupers, the rehabilitation of degraded tramps, the care of the hopelessly insane, the effort to kindle the faint spark of intelligence in the mind of the imbecile. Yet the nineteen volumes which compose the records of this Conference are almost entirely free from any trace of pessimism.

Third, its practicality. There have been frequent expressions of surprise by citizens where the Conference has met that it was so eminently practical. For some reason there is a popular impression that people who devote themselves to charitable work are visionary or “cranky”; but these who compose this Conference are practical people, accustomed to accomplish practical ends by practical work.

Fourth, its personnel. The success and usefulness of the Conference have been very largely due to its personnel. President Hayes said at the St. Paul Conference in 1886: ” Name the famous prisons, asylums, reformatories, and other similar institutions, and the eminent specialists at their head, and you will find you have named the prominent members of this society. In like manner the students and writers on this subject, and those who have travelled and observed what has been done abroad, are members of this association.”

Mention has already been made of some of the active members of the Conference. To mention all whose membership has been an honor to the Conference would be to call the roll of many hundreds. In addition to those already mentioned, I will only name a few out of the many who are worthy of special mention.

Among the most useful and the most interested members of the Conference have been the governors and ex-governors of States. Every governor, by virtue of his office, becomes more or less familiar with the charities and corrections of his State, and discovers the advantages arising from such a Conference. As a result, the governors of the several States have been very ready to send official delegates; and at least twenty-five governors and ex-governors have been members of the Conference, including Governor Long, of Massachusetts; Governor Tilden, of New York; Governor Hoyt, of Pennsylvania; Governor Jackson, of Maryland; Governor Vance, of North Carolina; Governor Hayes, Governor Hoadly, Governor Bishop, and Governor Foster, of Ohio; Governor Bagley and Governor Jerome, of Michigan; Governor Hovey, of Indiana; Governor Collom, of Illinois; Governor Anderson, Governor Blackburn, and Governor Knott, of Kentucky; Governor Fairchild, Governor Smith, and Governor Rusk, of Wisconsin; Governor Ramsey, Governor Pillsbury, and Governor Hubbard, of Minnesota; Governor Crittenden, of Missouri; Governor Routt, of Colorado; and Governor Waterman, of California.

The relation of these governors to the Conference has not been simply a perfunctory matter of official courtesy. They have furnished some of the most important contributions to the Conference. Governor Tilden’s address at Saratoga in 1876 touched some of the root principles of true charity. Governor Bagley’s address at Detroit in 1875 announced the principles and methods of care for dependent children which have been steadily coming to the front ever since. No one who heard it has forgotten the fiery courage with which Governor Anderson assailed the lease system at Louisville in 1885. Governor Hoadly’s great paper on the “Pardoning Power,” read at the St. Paul Conference, was a masterly presentation of the subject.

The Conference has had the co-operation of many of the leading students of sociology,– such men as Carroll D. Wright, of Massachusetts; Professor Graham Taylor, of Connecticut; R. L. Dugdale and Dorman B. Eaton, of New York; General F. A. Walker and Professor W. T. Harris, of Washington; C. T. Reeve, of Indiana; and President John H. Finley, of Illinois; also of such men of letters as Colonel T. W. Higginson, George W. Cable, Charles Dudley Warner, and Julian Hawthorne.

Many of the leading clergymen of the country have been members of the Conference, including such men as Dr. M. McG. Dana, of Massachusetts; Dr. John Hall, of New York; Dr. Washington Gladden, of Ohio; Father Bessonies, of Indiana; Bishop Gillespie, of Michigan; Archbishop Ireland and Bishop Whipple, of Minnesota; President Gates, of Iowa; Bishop Clarkson, of Nebraska; Bishop Robertson and Rabbi Sonneschein, of Missouri; Rabbi Leucht, of Louisiana; and Rev. Horatio Stebbins, D.D., of California.

Many notable women have been enrolled among us: for example, Mrs. L. M. N. Stevens, of Maine; Mrs. Julia C. R. Dorr, of Vermont; Mrs. Clara T. Leonard and Mrs. Isabel C. Barrows, of Massachusetts; Mrs. J. K. Barney, of Rhode Island; Mrs. C. R. Lowell and Mrs. Louise C. Houghton, of New York; Clara Barton, of Washington; Mrs. President Hayes, of Ohio; Mrs. Thomas A. Hendricks, of Indiana; Mrs. Agnes D’Arcambal, of Michigan; Mrs. J. M. Flower, of Illinois; Mrs. T. B. Walker, of Minnesota; Dr. Jennie McCowen, of Iowa; Mrs. A. Jacobs, of Colorado; and Mrs. Sarah B. Cooper and Mrs. S. B. Spear, of California. While these people have contributed to the success of the Conference on the one hand, on the other hand their continued interest has borne standing testimony to its value. Such men and women do not spend their time and their money in travelling to the ends of the country to attend a useless meeting. With such people united in a great purpose, great results were to be expected.

Fifth, the simplicity of its organization. The time of the Conference has not been consumed in parliamentary wrangles or in struggles to amend the constitution, for there was no constitution to amend. There have been no bitter contests over the adoption of platforms. It has been the unwritten law of the Conference that all resolutions should be referred to the Business Committee without debate. Mr. Elmore has been the standing chairman of the Business Committee; and he has kept the most harmless-looking resolutions under water, as the police keep infernal machines. As a result, there have been no factional wars. On one occasion a zealous brother introduced a resolution in favor of the establishment of boards to prevent the adulteration of liquors. The resolution was referred to Mr. Elmore’s committee, but the committee neglected to report. The zealous member besieged the chairman of the committee with applications for a report, but was put off from time to time. Finally, he insisted on a report, and the chairman of the committee reported as follows:

If there is one thing that this committee desires more than another, it is pure liquor; but, in accordance with the uniform practice of this Conference, not to pass resolutions even for the most desirable purposes, the committee respectfully recommends that the resolution be laid upon the table.

The author of the resolution was satisfied, and the report of the committee was appreciated by the Conference in view of Mr. Elmore’s well-known abstemious principles.

When differences of opinion have arisen, each side has had equal opportunity to express and print its views; and the effect has probably been quite as great as if a series of resolutions had been passed by a bare majority.

Such has been the work of the National Conference of Charities and Correction for the past twenty years. Let us hope that the work of the coming twenty years may be as earnest, as honest, as harmonious, and as fruitful as that of the past.

It would be a narrow view of the work of this Conference to suppose that it is restricted to the reformation of abuses, and the improvement of methods and systems. It is the work of the Conference to share in the founding of the institutions of a mighty nation; to determine, to some extent at least, what shall be the policy of this nation for a thousand years to come. It is not simply to correct abuses in a few institutions, but to establish such principles and methods as shall prevent their repetition for generations. It is not simply to reform a few criminals, but, if possible, to stop the springs of crime. I know of no more worthy ambition for any lover of humanity than to have some share, however humble, in organizing forces that shall operate for the blessing of the human race for ages to come.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Hart, H.A. (1893). President’s Address.  Proceedings from National Conference of Charities and Correction Twentieth Annual Session. Chicago, IL: National Conference of Charities and Correction.  Retrieved [date accessed] from  .  Held In Chicago, Illinois, June 8-11, 1893. Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1893. pp. 1-33.

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