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The mirror. (Stillwater, Minn.) 1894-1925, September 06, 1894, Image 1

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90060762/1894-09-06/ed-1/seq-1/

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——‘i. '
Vol. VIII.— No. 5
It conies to me often in silence,
When the firelight sputters low—
When the black, uncertain shadows
Seem wraiths of the long ago;
Always with a throb of heart-ache,
That thrills each pulsive vein,
Comes the old, unquiet longing
For the peace of home again.
I’m sick of the roar of cities.
And of the faces old and strange;
I know where there's warmth of welcome,
And my yearning fancies range
Back to the dear old homestead,
With an aching sense of pain;
But there’ll be joy in the coming,
When I go home again.
When Igo again again! There’s music
That niay never die away,
And it seems the hand of angels,
On a mystic harp at play,
Have touched with a yearning sadness
On a beautiful, broken strain.
To which is my fond heart wording—
When I go home again.
Outside of my darkening window
Is the great world’s crash and din,
And slowly the autumn shadows
Come drifting, drifting in.
Sobbing, the night wind murmurs
To the plash of the autumn rain;
But I dream of the glorious greeting
When I go home again.
Eugene Field.
The Ex-Convict’s Hard Experience When
The prison door swings open. A
young man steps forth, to freedom and
to what ? The prison is behind him,
the fair unwritten future all before
him. Two roads stretch out before
him from which to choose. “Wide is
the gate and broad is the way that
leadeth to destruction, and many there
be which go in thereat.”. How accu
rate the description! “because strait
is the gate and narrow is the way
which leadeth unto life, and few there
be that find it.” It is the old issue,
but in this case how immediate the
necessity, how tremendous the conse
quences of his choice.
The prison door swings open. It had
closed on him some months or years
before, closing a chapter of his life,
whose sin-stained pages it might not
be wise to turn back and read. Soci
ety had repudiated him and had
turned him over to the state. The
state, clothed with power and authority
to do with him as it would, has en
deavored to reform him. lie repre
sents a class whose reformation must
be accomplished for the safety and
well-being of society. How best to do
this has engaged the attention of the
best and most brilliant intellects of the
age. Prison congresses, composed of
dignitaries high in authority in legal,
social and religious circles, of wardens,
superintendents, and officers of penal
institutions throughout the country,
meet year after year to exchange
thought, to compare experience, to
discuss new ideas. Hundreds of thou
sands of dollars are annually expended
for the accomplishment of the desired
end, in the practical application of the
principles of prison reform in the pris
ons and reformatories scattered through
out the length and breadth of the land.
* * * * Prison reform is reaching
out towards the sermon on the mount,
and although it cannot yet be said to
“resist not evil,” still its motives are
constantly in the direction of drawing
out the good, to the practical exclusion
of evil. * * * * *
At the prison door prison reform
breaks down. The young man faces a
new condition of things. From being
an object of solicitude and care, his
personal wants attended to, his higher
nature encouraged and ministered to,
shielded from the aversion and taunts
of his fellow men, held aloof from temp
tation and protected from his own
weakness he is turned into a world
where all is reversed, and often is
thrown back into the very conditions
that made him what he was. The bar
riers against evil, like the bars of iron
and steal of the prison itself, fall away
to allow the freedom of choice. The
state, it is true, may hold a parole over
his head, designed to be a restriction
and a safeguard and an invisable
menance to any idea or slipping back
into the old life. It is a “string” tied
to him, as it were, so that if he fails to
perform his part well in the outside
world during a given propationary
term, he may ignominiously be hauled
back again without process of law.
But otherwise, the props are with-
drawn, the safeguards are removed,
and he is left alone to fight the battle
in an uneven conflict where all the
forces of the world, the flesh and the
devil, are arrayed against his own weak
desire to do what is right. For it is
conceded by those in the position to
know that comparatively few prison
ers leave the prison with the definite
idea of returning to a life of crime.
Their punishment, their training, has
had an awakening effect, and they
have reasoned themselves into the con
viction that there is “nothing in it” so
far as a criminal life is concerned. The
will to live otherwise may not be very
strong, but the real wish to give a bet-
ter life a trial at least is there. The
chance has come. He stands at the
threshold of his opportunity. Would
you follow him a little way into the
world? Take an illustration, an act
ual one:
A young man was released from the
prison at Stillwater. He came to St.
Paul. No father, no mother, no home
had he. He had resolved to do what
was right, and in the solitude and lone-
liness of his cell had vowed to lead a
pure and righteous life when freedom
came. There was no one to meet him
at the depot, and the familiar streets
were tilled with unfamiliar faces. He
walked the streets until 5 o’clock in
the afternoon without meeting a soul
he knew, and then, alas! it was a
wrong friend he met, a friend who ad
ded to his first words of greeting,
“come and take a drink.” Could he
turn away from the first friendly face
he met and go his solitary way? He
had firmly resolved not to drink—liq
uor had been largely the cause of his
downfall. He hesitated—and was lost.
Unaccustomed freedom, good time
money jingling in his pockets, had
friends to urge him on, the fourth
morning he awoke, a heavy ache in
his head, a heavier in his heart, to find
his money almost gone, and something
that was not his own, something that
he must have stolen, in his room.
With trembling nerves and a feeling
of despair at the utter failure of all his
good intentions, he tied from the room
to drown remorse in another drink.
He ran across an old friend, an ex
convict, it is true, but one who was
nobly striving to redeem himself, and
who is the good Samaritan of this tale.
The good Samaritan hailed him, gave
him a hearty greeting, noticed his con
dition and gave him a talk straight
from the shoulder; braced him up,
persuaded hipi to try again, rallied
other good friends to the rescue. The
poor fellow walked until he was weary
and footsore in search of honorable
work. The prison taint was upon him.
He was timid in his manner, afraid to
answer questions for fear they would
lead to a discovery of where he had
come from. His eyes fell before the
searching gaze of inquiry. But he
persevered. The encouragement and
sympathy of true-hearted friends held
him to a straight course. He found
work at last. That was two years ago.
Since that time he has never taken a
drink of liquor nor committed a crime,
and today walks the streets of St. Paul,
an industrious, happy-hearted young
fellow whom you might watch from
one week's end to another without a
suspicion that he had ever occupied a
convict's cell. Friends smile upon him,
fortune is kind to him; but if a good
Samaritan had not happened his way,
where would he be now ? Good Sam
aritans are accidental travelers.
Now consider the situation of one
just released from prison (and by pris
on is meant both the state prison at
Stillwater and the state reformatory at
St. Cloud). He is an “ex-convict” —
dread name, from which society shrinks
back appalled, and which no amount of
expiation can cause her to forgive or
forget. An “ex-convict” is as one
marked with the brand of Cain, when
known to be such. Suspicion directed
towards him becomes certainty. Lib-
erty must be purchased at the price of
silence which places him, even to him
self, in the position of having to pre
sent a false front to the world. To be
true to his new resolutions, he must
shun old associates and turn his back
upon everything that would lead him
into the old familiar paths. The hu
man heart craves sympathy. The state,
being an organization, and working
through an institution, has envolved
a system, the best yet reached, but the
individual wants more. Where can
the “ex-convict” get it ? He is out of
step with the world, he is out of har
mony with himself. Can he seek good
society? Good society turns its back
upon him. He must prove himself
worthy of confidence before anyone
will repose confidence in him. The
state withdraws. Society withdraws.
The church —where is it ? Does it come
forward with outstretched hand ready
to help and save him? Is he, in a
Christian land, to be left to perish,
when within him is the desire of repen
tance, and of bringing forth fruits ripe
for repentance ? Where are the Chris-
tians, the professed followers of that
great apostle of humanity who an
nounced that his mission on earth was
to save sinners, when with faltering
feet and wavering heart the convict
leaves the place which has been a
shelter to him as well as a prison?
Surely if ever there was a work to ap
peal to Christian hearts it should be
here, and the church should take up
the work where the state lays it down.
It is an immortal soul in need, in dan
ger of death, that looks out of that con
vict’s eyes. The value of a thing is
guaged by the price paid down for it.
Do Christians need to be reminded of the
value of a soul? The opportunity to
aid is here, knocking at the door. Will
the churches take it up, or will they
still pass by on the other side, like the
priest and levite of old?
The state employs an agent for the
aid of discharged prisoners, whose duty
it is to provide employment for the
prisoners before they are discharged, to
keep a friendly supervision over them,
and to protect them and see that they
get what is justly their due. This agent
acts as such for both the state prison
and the state reformatory. These dis
charged prisoners distribute themselves
over the state at large. In times like
the present, or even in times of com
mercial prosperity when work is com
paratively easy to procure, his task is a
difficult one. He does an important
work. How greatly could it be increased
and blessed by the help of a prisoner’s
aid society whose branches would ex
tend to every town of any size through-
out the state. A mass meeting called,
speakers to present the object of the
meeting to the people, enthusiasm in a
noble cause (heroic in the difficulties to
be overcome, Christ-like in its object,)
aroused, an organization formed backed
by all the resources of the church —and
the work would be started. The church
and society would then be enlisted in
the furtherance of the effort the state,
at so much effort and expense has
The Prisoners’ Aid Society should
make it their business to aid the state
agent in finding suitable employment
for the about-to-be-discharged prisoner, i
enlisting the employer’s interest in the
welfare and advancement of the em
ployee. And having work ready for
him at the outset. Should he have no
home, a quiet boarding place should be
found for him, where the associations
would be good. He should be made to
feel that he is a man and a brother, and
so long as he conducts himself right
will be treated as such, instead of as a
suspicious outcast. The man who has
no faith in you, who views your every
move with suspicion and imputes an
evil motive to every act you peform,
can never help you to do right. How
much more, then does the weak voice in
the exercise of righteous endeavor need
the strengthening knowledge of some
one's belief in the good that is in him.
It is no ordinary conflict he is engaged
in. There are deadly foes within as
well as enemies without. It is a curious
fact that if the faculties of the mind
are suddenly arrested by a shock or
accident and their functions suspended,
they usually resume their use (when
obstructions are removed) at exactly
the point where they -left oft', even to
the finishing of a half-spoken sentence.
The same thing is true of the instincts
of the erstwhile criminal. His first
almost irresistible impulse, when bars
and obstructions are removed, and he
is left free to act, is to return to the
criminal life. He has to fight the desire
to do so with all the strength of his
manhood until he has by careful con
trol gained the mastery over old habits
of thought and established himself in a
better mode of life. He may fail at
the outset, and need helping up more
than once. The first act of Jean A"al
jean, the convict hero of Hugo’s im
mortal ‘‘Les Miserables,” after the for
givness and blessing bestowed upon
him by the good bishop, was to commit
another crime. The bishop might have
thought his loving kindness ill-bestowed
but who that reads of the far reaching
influence of that Christlike act of his
in the noble after life of the redeemed
convict would think that kindness ill
bestowed! Nay.
“Jurtge none lost; but wait and see,
With hopeful pity, not disdain;
The depth of the abyss may be
The measure of the height of pain
And love and glory that may raise
This soul to God in after days.”
The “ex-convict” is entitled to the
privacy of his life, if that life be di
rected into a right course. lie is not
to be made much of because he has
been bad, but only to be helped where
he is helpless himself. Man being a
gregarious animal, must have society
of some sort. “It is not good for man
to be alone,” the Good Book says. Here
again the churches are strong to sup
ply an aching need. There are societies
of every k,ind, social, practical and re
ligious, connected with church organ
izations. Get him into one of these as
a helper. Throw out a life line; in
terest him in something in which he
can see for himself that he is of use
and of some good in the world; encour
age him to continue in reading good
books; surround him with good in
fluences calculated to build him up; in
short, help him as you can, in every
way you can —consistent with the es
tablishment of his own self-respect
and self-helpfulness—to be w r hat God
intended him to be, an image of his
Maker. You have then not only saved
him, but many more w T ho may be in
fluenced by his example and success.
The paroled or discharged prisoner
should be made to report to the branch
society to which he is nearest, this so
ciety to keep a supervision over him
until he is strong enough to stand alone
in the strength of restored manhood.
The state agent and those who have
tried to find employment for ex-convicts
report a generous feeling on the part
of business men to give the discharged
prisoner a chance to show what they
can do. It only needs the co-operation
of the churches and society to render
effective the work of permanently re-
TcmuaJ SI.OO per year, in advance.
I cnmo. ( Six Months 50 cents.
deeming these poor outcasts, too often
thrown back into the abyss from which
they would fain escape. Supt. Myers,
of the St. Cloud reformatory, Warden
Wolfer, of the state prison, both ear
nestly endorse and desire the establish
ment of these valuable adjuncts to
prison reform. In such a way only can
their efforts be made lasting and effect
ive. Shall every effort be made to
reach a given point, and at the crucial
moment the prisoner be left alone to
fall for want of aid? The churches
have ever been the centers of good and
charitable works. Will they refuse an
appeal that comes from the terrible
need of struggling souls, lost but for
their help We wait with anxious
heart to see.—G. in St. Paul Sun
day Pioneer Press.
One of the most essential elements
of success, is steadiness of purpose. In
the building of character, if honesty is
the foundation, steadiness of purpose
is the corner stone. A long pull in one
direction most generally succeeds,
nothing is more certain of failure than
a vascillating unsteady and changeable
mind. A rolling stone gathers no
moss. Xo trade, business, or profes- #
sion can be thoroughly mastered in
less than ten years. If it is then given
up all this time is lost. Life is short,
and to most lives a decade of years is
a large fraction of the whole. There
fore, the only wise and sensible thing
to do is to learn some business or pro
fession, and stick to it through life.
Don’t be tempted to engage in a bus
iness you do not thoroughly under
stand, by so doing you can neither do
justice to yourself nor your customers.
Where there is such demand for skilled
artesans and mechanics, a man de
serves very little credit who will go
through life as a common laborer, al
ways has been and always will be poor
ly paid, while skilled mechanics can
usually command good wages. Un
fortunately there is no royal road to
wealth, but steadiness of purpose is a
well macadamized highway, of which
Coxey might be proud and it leads
straight to the tower of success. A
very important question arises—how
is a young man to know just what bus
iness or profession he is best suited
for? His.future success depends very
largely upon his making a wise choice
in this direction. There is no question
but that certain persons are gifted
with powers or inclinations which
manifest themselves in youth, thus in
dicating as a sign- board the business
he should follow. The science of phre
nology may often be employed to ad
vantage in indicating the peculiar call
ing for which one is best adapted. But
while getting a “map of the head” is
of the utmost importance and not to
be despised, yet the phrenological in
dications should be made subsidiary to
the tastes and inclinations of the in
dividual. If the very best that is in
one could be known and devoloped,
the race would be as near perfection as
it is possible to bring. It is probable
in the near future that phrenological
science may be brought to bear on the
laws regulating marriage, so that per
sons liable to generate criminals or
imbeciles, will not be allowed to mate,
and that only those will be licensed to
marry whose intellectual bumps indi
cate that their union would produce a
higher standard of humanity physical
ly and intellectually. It is also pos
sible that the time is not far distant
when the state will take charge of
this important branch of psycology and
enforce each of its citizens to follow
the particular busines or calling for
which he is best adapted by nature,
just as in some countries like Ger
many, education and military training
are made compulsory. We may then
look for greater proficiency and skill
in all trades and professions.

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