Mr. Thomas M. Osborne, president of the George Junior Republic Association, spoke last Saturday evening in the vestry of the First Parish Church, on the work of the Republic. The Republic, he said, is not a scheme of the imagination, but a practical institution, whose success has already been demonstrated. Mr. Osborne went on to describe in detail the workings of this unique settlement in Freeville, N. Y. Here about one hundred boys and girls, drawn from all classes of society, have been constituted into a juvenile republic, making their own laws, having their own courts, carrying on their own industries--in fact, performing almost all the functions of a complete society. The child finds himself, not in a reform school, but in a community where he, as a citizen, is responsible for his own well-being.
Both boys and girls are brought at once to see that actually to obtain food and lodging in the Republic they must work, and as they cannot leave the Republic until after a certain length of time, they are literally obliged to work or starve. Thrown upon their own resources, they learn practically what it means to work for a living, how to earn money and how to use it. Through farming, through miscellaneous day laboring such as the digging of ditches, the making of roads, the building of fences and so on, through work in the hotels and restaurants of the Republic, and through the salaried positions in its government, the citizens may earn money; and for the more ambitious, proprietorships of the hotels and stores offer chances for very profitable investments on capital saved. Breach of contract in business or other disputes may be brought in suit and tried in the courts of the Republic, under judges elected from and by the citizens. Boys who perhaps have never associated idea of "law" with anything but the thought of a policeman who was to be hated and avoided, find themselves among the makers of law, with a personal interest in its proper enforcement and an understanding of what it is for.
A striking example of the effect of throwing these children, according to the principle of the Republic, on their own resources was given in the case of a little boy who came in to Mr. George's office one night, crying, and asking for help because he had no place to sleep, nothing to eat and no money. Mr. George found he had wasted the money he had had, and told him therefore he must work out his own problem. Three things were open to him: to sleep under the barn, to give himself up at the police court as a vagrant, or to obtain credit at one of the lodging houses. This last alternative he chose, the next morning he went to work breaking rocks for a roadway; he supported himself through the week and by the end of it paid off the debt of his first day's board and food. His lesson was a stern one, but it was worth while. He learned what it meant to fight out his own fight alone and to pay for his own mistakes. This, with a real comprehension of what citizenship means, is what the Republic is meant to teach all its citizens and does teach with extraordinary success.
After Mr. Osborne had spoken, Joseph O'Connor, recently elected vice-president of the Republic, answered a number of questions in regard to it.