Page images

this exercise of executive clemency may call into action. There will remain, notwithstanding this pardon, a stigma upon the prisoner's name, and civil disabilities consequent upon his conviction. If he shall prove himself not unworthy of the discriminating favor now extended to him, these may be removed on some future occasion on a petition, by more complete pardon. The governor requests you to communicate these views to the mother of the prisoner.


New York.


Albany, July 16, 1839.

DEAR SIR: Your communication of the 10th instant has been duly received. I regret that you did not deem it important to answer my inquiries, in relation to the situation and health of Frederic Becker. Unreasonable fears are often excited on the part of parents, and I am often able to relieve their solicitude, and reconcile them to the privation of their children, by obtaining such information from the prisons.

Mrs. Becker is a poor and afflicted but excellent woman, and might in my judgment be safely trusted with a knowledge of the condition of her child. It requires a heart of stone to deny such a woman's petition, for the pardon of a child 13 years old; and at the same time to refuse to inquire whether the child is well and cheerful.

I thank you for your information concerning Theodore Anthony, nor do I object that it is not more explicit, yet I am sure that his mother might be trusted with a knowledge of the condition of her son. I make my acknowledgments also for the views you have given me, concerning the legality of imprisoning persons in the house of refuge, convicted of offences of a grade less than felony, and also for the opinion of Mr. Jordan, which is entitled to very great respect. The act of 1826 was before me, and was duly considered, in deciding upon the application for the pardon of Caswell. The difficulty in the matter is, that the revised statutes

exclude petit-larceny from the class of felonies, and while they provide that felons shall be confined in the house of refuge, they repeal the law of 1826, because it is repugnant to those provisions. It was with great reluctance that I came to the conclusion, that petit-larceny was not an offence for which a convict could be sent to your institution, nor did I adopt it until I had consulted one of the revisers of the laws, now the secretary of state. Having come to this conclusion, it seemed important that it should be understood by your board, to the end that, if expedient, the law of 1826 may be restored. And the information for which I addressed you concerning the number of prisoners in the institution, convicted of petit-larceny, is important to enable me to decide how I shall act on applications for pardon resting upon that ground.

I shall have very great pleasure in conversing with any committee of your board of managers on the subject. I am impressed with a most favorable opinion of the institution, and am desirous to contribute to its usefulness.

With sincere respect and esteem, I remain your obedient ser



Superintendent of the House of Refuge, New York.


Albany, November 16, 1841.

SIR: Your letter of the 10th concerning Elizabeth Jane King, a child in the house of refuge, was duly received. From a personal acquaintance with some of the gentlemen who testified in the paper before sent to you, I was induced to think favorably of the mother of the child. The communication which you transmitted to me seemed to render further inquiry proper. I have accordingly made such inquiries, and have learned that both the mother and her husband have, since the child was sent to the house of refuge, become communicants of a church in the city; that the deportment of the latter is not known to be in any way irregular or immoral, and that the former, as I am informed by

the pastor, exhibits evidences of sincerity and devotedness in the profession she has made. Considering these circumstances, and the tender age of the child, I am of opinion that it will be prudent and right to restore her to parental care.

I give her this letter, therefore, requesting that the board of managers will give her her child.

I remain, with sincere respect, your obedient servant.


Albany, November 27, 1841.

SIR: A letter, dated at the house of refuge on the 23d instant, has been received. The omission of your signature is presumed to have resulted from inadvertence. The present condition of the subject to which it relates, renders it necessary to recite what has occurred.

On the 3d instant, I addressed you a letter enclosing a favorable certificate concerning the character of Mrs. Charles, the mother of Elizabeth Jane King, a child ten years old, in the house of refuge. I stated that, considering the character of the woman, her deportment and associations, and those of her husband, and also the tender age of the child, I was of opinion that it would be expedient to restore the little prisoner to her mother, and I respectfully requested to be informed whether there would be any objection on the part of the managers. A reply was received bearing date on the 10th instant, in which by direction of the managers you gave me an extract from the account the child gave of herself and her parents when she entered the house of refuge, on the 3d of June, 1840, being then only nine years old. This account stated that her stepfather worked in a fur factory, aud when business was dull, labored as a boatman; that the parents never attended any place of public worship on the sabbath, but that the child used to go to sabbath-school-that young as she was she had been taken up four times for staying out at night-had lodged in the watch-house once, once in the dwelling-house of the watchman, was once sent directly home,

and the fifth time was taken up for stealing money in a store, which was the crime for which she was sent to the house of ref uge. You further stated that on a re-examination the child said. her mother used to take her to a house where there were dancing and other irregularities. You closed your communication with informing me that the managers with the knowledge they had of the case could not think they would be doing justice to the child to restore her to parents who appeared to have come so far short of their duty.

On the 16th instant, I acknowledged that communication and informed you that from a personal acquaintance with some of the gentlemen who testified to the papers I had before sent to you, I had been led to think favorably of the mother; but that your letter had been regarded as making occasion for further inquiries concerning her-that such inquiries had been made, and had resulted in information that both the mother and her husband had, since the child was sent to the house of refuge, become communicants of a church in Albany—that the deportment and conduct of the husband was not known to be in any way irregular or immoral, while the mother, as her pastor informed me, exhibited gratifying evidences of sincerity and devotedness in the profession she had made—that considering the circumstances and the tender age of the child, I was of opinion that it would be prudent and right to restore her to parental care, and I therefore requested the board of managers to give the child to her mother, she being made the bearer of my communication.

Your letter of the 23d, by direction of the managers, informed me that previously to the receipt of my first letter, preliminary negotiations had been had for indenting the child to a person in the country — that after your reply to that communication, and under the belief that the reply would be satisfactory, the managers completed the negotiation by indenting the child-but that if I still remained of the opinion that it would be best for the child to restore her to her parents, the managers would use their best endeavor to cancel the indentures.

While I regard with entire confidence the discipline and management of the house of refuge, and venerate the motives of the managers of that institution, and do not doubt that the disposition they have made of the child was regarded as both wise and benevolent, I remain, nevertheless, of opinion, in the first place,

that the child's account of her parents was not altogether reliable, and in the second place, that the parents by their reformation and their engagement and perseverance, now some months, in a religious course of life have removed the only grounds upon which the laws could justify a denial of their parental care of a female child of such tender years. The mother is manifestly very candid; she explained to me that she was heretofore dependent on day labor out of her own house, and that the child fell into bad habits and associations, in consequence of the mother being unable to watch over her. The family are now in comfortable circumstances, and the parents are conscientious, affectionate, and well instructed in their parental duties. To doubt whether it is better to restore their child, under such circumstances, than to leave her in the care of any stranger, would be to distrust nature. The suggestion of the managers is therefore accepted, and in order to avoid all difficulty concerning the indenture, I herewith transmit a pardon of the little apprentice. Should the master refuse to surrender her, you will have the goodness to return the pardon to me, with information of his name and residence, that I may direct a writ of habeas corpus to be sued out for her release.

The misapprehensions which have arisen on this subject very naturally resulted from the difference of position and information possessed by the managers and myself-but they do not at all diminish the high respect for them and yourself, with which I remain, your obedient servant.


House of Refuge, New York.

« PreviousContinue »