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The Means of Improvement.
who are familiar with his memoirs will remember the fact that with a resolution and a perseverance that knew no bounds but impossibilities, he led his people on, at once, to the erection and completion of a road, a mile and a half of which was formed almost entirely of rocks which were blasted and transported a considerable distance to the spot where they were needed ; and that even this was scarcely a beginning of his labors among them in this department. And yet there is not a village or town in New England with which we are at present acquainted, which requires an amount of labor and expense, to render it well furnished with the best roads of every kind necessary, equal to that-when the circumstances are duly considered—which attended this one single effort of the venerable pastor of Waldbach.
But it is not enough that we build good and convenient roads and walks every where, they must be kept clean and in good repair. We are aware that New England is by no means, in this respect, behind other portions of the United States. And yet we are also aware that much remains to be done, even among us. We are far from keeping our roads, in the best circumstances, sufficiently clean, even for the purposes of health. But beyond this, are there not substances, organic and inorganic, lodged from time to time, and for quite too long a time, on our most cleanly streets, which if they do not interfere with the pub. lic health, ought at least to be offensive to good taste? And, notwithstanding the excellent arrangements which are sometimes made among us, to the end in question, may we not do something in this respect, which shall conduce to a still larger improvement?
Is it asked what can be done which has not been done? We answer, by asking another question, namely; What is there which ought to be done, which it is not in our power to do? True, we cannot at present-nor do we believe it will be expected of us --enter deeply into this part of our subject. We cannot dwell—though we might do it--on the duties of a city po. lịce. But if there were no town, or village, or city organization among us, which would undertake the work, are there no pub. lic spirited individuals to lead on to it? Have we no Oberlins among us? Has the example of the good minister of Bradford,* of whom mention has been made in our discussions, been prePublic Squares and Gardens.
* We refer to the Rev. Mr Perry, a minister of Bradford, in Massachusetts, now nearly se ty years of age, whose interest in Lyceums and in the youth in general of his parish, has so much endeared him to them, that they follow him in all ihe plans he proposes for improvement; and sometimes accept of invitations to join him in labors on the roads or side walks for half a day in a week.
sented to us and to the world in vain? Have we no youth among us who might as well be excited to laudable deeds, and thus inspired with a feeling which is utterly opposed to the present prevailing selfishness, as be left to vent their activity in injuring fences, trees, windows, buildings, &c.; or, worse still, in becoming the tools of outlaws, or the materials for riots and mobs, or ultimately resorting to tippling houses, gaming houses, and houses of ill fame?
Who that has seen with what readiness boys learn to imitate the employments of grown men, and form military companies, fire companies, &c., will undertake to say that there is any insurmountable difficulty in turning a portion of that voluntary power which should and must be expended, into this channel? Why may not the boys of every town and village, have their road companies, and each company its officers and its section of road, with a sufficient number of hoes and spades and barrows, or hand carts of suitable size? And what difficulty would there be in exciting among them a spirit of emulation, in this matter, if indeed emulation were ever lawful on any occasion?
Be this as it may, however, be it left to men or boys, we are sure the work ought to be done by somebody, as one of the preliminary steps in adorning and improving our towns and villages. We are ashamed to know that there is one town at least, not more than twenty miles from both of the capitals of this very State, in which there is not, and there never yet was, a single turnpike road. It is true, an attempt was once made to erect one, and it was even fairly laid out. But as it was to be a public road, and could not therefore pass every man's door in precisely the direction to suit his convenience—as it was not to be, in one word, his road, but the public's—the stock was never taken up, and it fell through. Need we say that the character, and especially the morals of that portion of our State, to which we refer, have always been exactly what every one with the facts before him would be apt to suppose? Need we say that selfishness reigns there sole monarch? We hope, however, the instance is a solitary one.
While we regard proper roads and walks in all parts of our townships, and especially in the denser central parts, as essential to the progress and elevation of the public intelligence and morals, we are still more anxious, if possible, to see farther improvements. We wish to see not only spacious squares or commons interspersed with shade, if not with fruit trees, in every village and town and city, but we wish to see public gardens on an extensive scale. We wish to see these not only for health's sake, and for the sake of their moral tone and tendency,
Improvement of the City Air.
but as a means of rational amusement—as a means of promoting the public cheerfulness, the public taste, and of consequence, the public happiness. We do not believe we ought forever to set at nought the example of the old world in this particular. If, as some suppose, we are so ready and apt to imitate foreign customs and manners and habits, and sometimes vices, shall we not show ourselves at least, equally ready to imitate foreign excellencies? If we drink in unavoidably the poison, shall we neglect, till we perish, that which experience, among them, has abundantly shown to be the true antidote?
We fear that, on this point, we shall speak with less effect, from this city or its sister capital, than from some other points in New England. The numerous openings, squares and private gardens with which some portions at least of Hartford and New Haven abound, may lead us to forget the thousand large towns or villages where these do not exist. But private gardens, though they were as spacious and as princely as that which we had the pleasure and the honor of visiting yesterday,* are not sufficient. They adorn indeed, and elevate and improve; and their proprietors are, in a greater or less degree, public benefactors. But let us not rest satisfied with them. Let us have public gardens in addition. Let us remember the excellent hints of Dr Dick, on this subject, in his work on the Mental Ilumination and Moral Improvement of mankind; and let us remember them to profit by them.
To sum up what we have said on the subject of roads, walks, trees and gardens ; let such arrangements be made, in every city, town or village, as will at all hazards secure the health and the happiness of their inhabitants, not indeed so much for the sake of mere health and physical comfort, as for the sake of that intellectual and moral improvement from which they are inseparable. It is in vain ever to expect the tone of mind or heart to be, as a general fact, so elevated under the deteriorating and withering influences of the half spoiled air, where there are nothing but huge walls of brick and stone, thickly lining narrow streets, with no gardens and shade trees, as under the influence of pure air, and in the midst of gardens, and commons, and fields, and fountains, and shade trees, and shrubbery. Be it remembered, says Dr Thackrah of Leeds-and his is no mean authority—that man subsists more upon air than upon meat and drink. But if air-pure and free like that of our New England hills-is so indispensable to our physical eristence, be it remembered, we add, that the purity and fragrance of the atmo-phere 1.mprovement of Public Buildings.
* That of the Mayor, Hon. Henry Hudson.
343 which would be promoted by the improvements we meditate, is at least equally indispensable to intellectual progress and moral perfection and purity. A celebrated French writer has prepared a volume to show the intellectual and moral benefits of cheerfulness. It would be well for us all to read it; and were it sufficiently read and reflected upon, we doubt whether it would long be necessary to present to our spirited and enterprising citizens, reports on the advantages of embellishing and improving our towns and villages. We do not mean to say that we are the gravest people in the world ; but if the French nation need to be incited on this sulject, surely our wants are not less imperious.
We believe it to be a most happy circumstance that some of our streets in our cities, towns and villages, can be readily washed. We wish it were always so. It seems to us indispensable to the well being of body and mind, that public and private attention should be directed more than it usually has been in this country to cleanliness. Of one thing we may be assured, that if we would entirely prevent and preclude the ravages of pestilential or fatal epidemic diseases, we must attend, more than hitherto we have done, both publicly and privately, to this subject. In all our larger cities and towns there should be public baths, and custom should require their daily use by those who have not the means of private ones. And if we do not recommend public bathing houses to every town and village of New England, of every size, it is because we do humbly hope our citizens will provide themselves with conveniences of the kind at their own expense, when they can be made to feel their importance. Let this be shown by the example of our larger towns and cities, in making public provision for those whose poverty or whose ignorance, or whose poverty and ignorance combined, have hitherto prevented them from making provision for themselves.
But we must not, we cannot dwell. We will only refer to the embellishing and adorning of our towns and villages by their buildings.
In regard to private dwellings, though much might be said of improvement, we must, for reasons already often alluded to, be silent. Of churches and other public buildings in general, it is sufficient perhaps, to say, that if there be a single department of the great subject which our question involves, which receives a full measure of the attention it deserves, it is this. there is great room for improvement in our churches, as regards their architecture, their arrangements-external and internaltheir situation, and their contiguities. Good taste would hardly
And yet 344
Churches and Church Yards.
permit their erection in confined, half-smothered places, or in close contact with markets, stalls, shops, &c. How much better and happier will be the infuence, in every respect, when they shall be a little more retired, and surrounded by trees, or in the midst of yards or commons !
Nor do we regard it as much more in accordance with good sense and good taste, to say nothing of good economy and good morals—to have the basement stories of our churches occupied as shops, stores, &c. For ourselves, we are disgusted with such associations ;—such a blending together of things so incongruous in their nature. We would have our houses of God and our houses for merchandizing, as far removed from each other as possible.
Too many of our churches-in country if not in city-are as gloomy and comfortless as our barns. We do not speak merely of their want of comfortable seats, good stoves or fire-places, and other coinforts. But we allude also to their wide extended, naked walls, and their whole internal appearance. There is something in this which is so unsocial, as to render them not only uninviting, but in many cases absolutely forbidding. Why should pains be taken to render the houses in which we worship ourselves and our children, more cheerful and confortable, while those in which we worship God look so cold and cheerless and unsocial, as almost to frighten away bats, owls and swallows !
There is another improvement which may and should be made, in connection with churches. We allude to the erection of suitable sheds for horses. Here humanity, no less than good taste and good sense, interposes. Too long and too frequently have horses, after conveying their masters to church, been compensated by being permitted to stand during the whole of church time, in the open air, perhaps in a cold, bleak place, or exposed to the peltings of the storm; denied even, in too many instances, the miserable comfort of a single blanket. We are aware that sheds have been, in a few instances, attached to churches; and that when thus erected, they have not always been monopolized by a few. But it is still rare to find them in our towns and denser villages, either for the few or the many.
We have a word to say of church yards. The public sentiment, on this subject, however, is so rapidly changing, that even a few worils may not be necessary. But we do think that those who have the control of these matters, cannot too speedily remove all burying grounds from the central part of our villages and towns, and fix them in some distant, sequestered spot, inore appropriate, if not more healthful.