The aim of the society, as the president, Hon. George S. Hale, H. U. '44, said, is to provide a means for rescuing from moral ruin exposed children, and those of tender age under criminal prosecution. The need of such work is one of the greatest needs of society. The old saying that the child is father of the man was never felt to be so true as by those engaged in work among society today. To take a child when young from the midst of a life of vice and degredation, and transplant him to some purer atmosphere where he will grow up under a moral influence is one of the greatest benefits that one can bestow upon society. It may be expensive, but in the end it is economical, for these very children if not turned in the right direction will grow up to swell the costly criminal class that hangs on society.
The way in which the work is carried on was clearly put forth by Mr. C. W. Birtwell, H. U. '83, and Hon. Robert Treat Paine, H. U. '55. The society has three Homes, at West Newton, Foxboro', and Weston. Here about seventy boys are sent who have either been arrested or under danger of arrest, and in these rural training schools the boys stay until they are sent to private homes in the country. Except for the short time that the boys are at the Homes, they have nothing to do with anything like an "Institution;" they go right into the midst of a country family where they derive all those innumerable blessings which come from home life. Not all go through the training schools; many are placed at once in country homes. The society has an officer which attends the court rooms daily, and by giving bail rescues "juvenile offenders" from a probation at Deer Island. A bureau of information is also established which sees that there are country homes ready, and takes charge of any cases that are reported. Sometimes families in the country adopt the children free of charge; but sometimes charges are made which the society has in a great measure to pay. $20,000 had to be paid out last year, and for this reason the society appeals for funds to all who feel at heart this responsibility of caring for the destitute children.
Besides money, personal work is needed and it is here that the chance for Harvard men comes in. Professor Peabody spoke of the excellent work that was being done by Harvard men among the children by giving them an interest in their reading, and by influencing them in a general way for the better. In this way the parents, too, are led to take an interest in their children's work, and the good influence is spread through the whole home. Mr. Paine and Mr. Birtwell both spoke with gratitude of the help from Harvard, and hoped that it would continue increasing.
Others who spoke were the Rev. Drs. Phillips Brooks, H. U. '55, and Renen Thomas, and the Rev. C. G. Ames. They emphasized among other things the superiority of the home system over that of institutions, and the need of rescuing the children before they had gone too far and received the corruption and stigma of the prison. They appealed for help not merely on the ground of philanthropy, but also of the economic duty of society and every citizen who had the blessing of a home influence to provide this home influence for those who would otherwise lose its priceless advantage.