Ratcliffe Hicks.

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ing to the best information, his salary is $3,000
per year, with board and house furnished by the
State ; also servants, horses, and carriages, — which


altogether make his salary as good as ^6,000 a year.
If economy was to be practised at the State Reform
School, here was the place to commence, instead
of bragging of the fact that the superintendent
economized by cutting down to $500 a year the
salary of the poor watchman, who watched three
hundred and sixty-five nights of the year around the
institution. Why, said Mr. Hicks, the judges of
the Supreme Court of the State, who require many
years of practice to fill honorably their places, get
only ^4,000 a year, and pay their own board, fur-
nish their own houses, and pay their travelling

The next point reached was the internal man-
agement of the institution, and Mr. Hicks said he
was prepared to prove that the boys had been
oftentimes most severely and cruelly punished.
In some instances the blood was drawn from their
heads, and others had scars which they would take
to the grave. This system of punishment was
behind the age ; much more could be accom-
plished by kind treatment, and by stimulating the
boys with offers of extra play, rewards, and other
inducements, than by such harsh discipline. It
was a matter of record that Dr. Hatch, who never
feared the most stubborn boy, succeeded better by
his genial and pleasant ways than if he resorted
to the system of cruelties, which were wholly un-
known until his successor was appointed. During
the doctor's administration the rawhide and the


hickory stick were seldom called into use, and the
revolver and handcuffs never.

Mr. Hicks concluded by urging the committee
to see that no ofificer who might be called on to
testify, should suffer because he was a willing or
unwilling witness in this investigation. If an offi-
cer came before this committee to testify, and he
was a faithful man, anxious only to tell the truth
and do justice to the State, it would be an outrage
if his superior officer could injure him in his posi-
tion. He (Mr. Hicks) believed the committee
would protect the witnesses in this respect, in
order that the whole truth might be known, and
that the people of the State might know posi-
tively how the affairs of the Reform School are



Gentlemen of the Committee:

In 1854, in the administration of Hon. Thomas
H. Seymour, the Legislature of this State founded
an institution where our wayward boys might be
cared for. For twenty years it went along, the
pride and admiration of all, under the successful
working of men like Little, Chamberlain, and
others, whom my friend Piatt has seen fit to tra-
duce ; and here I say, it ill becomes Piatt to say
anything against my friend, the editor of the
*' Meriden Republican," a man the influence of
whose paper has always been cheerfully given to
every good cause, as Piatt very well knows.

But Graham is nothing, Little is nothing, Piatt
is nothing, neither am I anything, compared with
the welfare of the boys in this institution. I have
said, gentlemen, for twenty years, that the Reform
School was a model ; yet in two short years its
usefulness was destroyed. Piatt says it was caused
by the disaffection of Little and Chamberlain, and
that the Legislature last year settled the matter by
appointing additional trustees. Let us see.


The investigating committee reported that had
the trustees of that year attended to their business,
a better state of things would have existed. They
said Ingham was totally unfit for the place, was no
disciplinarian, and had a bad temper. Then my
friend Mr. Cocks, who had been around during
the whole investigation, besought the committee
not to disgrace the trustees. Senator Briggs, the
chairman of the committee, rose in his place in
the Senate, and said that every one of the trustees
and Ingham should be turned out of ofifice.

This is how it ended, if my friend Piatt wants to
know. Ingham pleaded hard with them to give
him a chance. He got it. Old officers who had
grown gray in the service were turned out, and
Ingham was left to select his own officers. Then
he was to have peace and harmony. But these
officers are swearing against him, and he is de-
nouncing them as conspirators. This is the order
he brought out of chaos. Gentlemen, it is said
that we are here persecuting Mr. Ingham, which is
false. We are here believing we owe something to
the State, that it may not continue to be disgraced
by such atrocities as have been recounted in your

I think, gentlemen, that I voice the sentiment
of the people of this State, when I say that Edward
Ingham has no mortgage on the State. The State
owes him nothing. Ingham is disqualified by his
physical nature from superintending this institu-


tion; he stands before you a monument to dys-
pepsia, — fretty and crabbed. He is not to blame.
He is as God made him. Yet none of you, gen-
tlemen, would give him charge of your factory;
you would not put him over your own boys ; and
surely you will not keep him in charge of these
three hundred friendless boys. A bigger lie, a
falser claim, a more monstrous proposition than
that a conspiracy existed, was never fabricated to
trump up the defence. He has discharged forty-
two officers, and he would have us believe that all
these people are wrong, conspiring against him,
while he is all affable and pleasant. Look, gentle-
men, at the treatment of these boys. Who wants
his son, who wants his dog even, treated as has
been testified to here ? You give your cattle some
bedding and a warm place to sleep. Now, gen-
tlemen, it is better that these boys should be
allowed to wander over and under the hills, than
subjected to the inhuman barbarities sworn to here.
And yet Mr. Piatt finds the convenient way of
charging all the trouble at the school to my friend
Graham and the old officers of the school.

I would like to say more if I had the time ; but
being limited, I will now close.



Delivered in Judge IVa/do's Afewory.

The entire bar of Hartford County met Monday,
and suitable resolutions on the death of Judge Waldo
were offered by Hon. Henry C. Robinson. Some un-
equalled tributes to his memory were offered by Gov-
ernor Hubbard, Senator Eaton, Ratcliffe Hicks, Judge
Calhoun, Messrs. Mahlon, R. West, William R,
Cone and Charles Perkins, Mr. Hicks's remarks,
which were terse, fitting, and eloquent, were as
follows : —

We meet to commemorate the death of a good
man. I do not believe in unreasonable and indis-
criminate eulogy ; I will not bestow unmerited
praise upon the dead to please the living.

I have known Judge Waldo ever since I knew
anybody. He was my preceptor ; and I treasure,
as one of the legacies of my earthly pilgrimage,
the acquaintance and friendship of that good man.
Greater lawyers have practised at the bar, and
more learned judges have adorned the bench of
this State; but in some things Loren P. Waldo
was the peer of any man that I ever knew. He
was an honorable lawyer and an honest judge.
In one branch of the law he had, perhaps, no


superior in the State in the construction of our
statutes. He was a born gentleman. He was a
man of kind and gentle sympathies. He ever had
a pleasant and courteous bearing toward all men,
and especially in his intercourse with the younger
members of the bar. He dies at the close of a
long, eventful, and honorable life, with his honors
thick upon him. He leaves, as a heritage to his
family, kindred, and friends, that best of all worldly
things, reaching from earth to heaven, — an unsul-
hed reputation and an untarnished name. We
shall all miss his wise counsel, we shall long mourn
his death, and we shall always respect his memory.
Peace be to his ashes !




An editorial in the ^' Me ride n Recorder,''
July 3, 1867.

MERIDEN is a city ! Thanks be to the united
and harmonious action of her citizens.
To-day this community occupies a prouder posi-
tion than was ever vouchsafed to it before. To-
day Meriden takes her place among the sister
cities of this ancient Commonwealth, and enters
into a noble rivalry with them in all that adorns
and makes precious the advancing civilization of
the age.

What has been done, however, is but the creep-
ing of the mewling infant. There are manly and
vigorous steps yet to be taken, which will demand
the best energies and the noblest impulses of her
sons and daughters. There is work to be done ;
there are sacrifices to be made ; there is tiresome
and perplexing planning to be performed, — all
these for the common weal and the common good
of us all. As we do these things so will be meted
unto us prosperity and renown, the sure rewards of
high-born principles, an exalted conduct, and a
never-tiring activity.

Something needs to be done to make clean the
streets; to remove all nauseous and unhealthy


substances ; to lay sidewalks ; to erect street
lamps ; to introduce water ; to establish a fire
department; to preserve order; to maintain a
proper observance of the Sabbath ; to build neat
and commodious public buildings ; to clear out the
manufacturing from the only public building
the town can boast, as the Saviour drove out
the money-changers from the temple ; and to do
many other things without which this village must
forever wallow like a duck in its own mire. These
things cannot be done in a moment ; it will take
years to accomplish them all. Yet now is the time
to lay, deep and broad, the foundations of this
rising community ; and the work upon the super-
structure will never cease, until in the fulness of
time, in the ages ahead, this city of Meriden shall
have reached her crowning height, and like the
cities of the plain begun to moulder back into

Meriden has placed herself in the lists, and
should now gather all her strength, her natural
resources, and her mechanical power for the great
contest that lies before her. Every citizen should
feel it his duty to do all that lies in his power to
increase the prosperity, to add to the beauty and
attractions, and to foster an enlightened culture
among the people of the city of Meriden.

" Honor and shame from no condition rise ;
Act well your part, — there all the honor lies."

R. H.



Letter explaining the True Cause of his Removal
from that Office. Published in the " Meriden
Republican,^^ Nov. ii, 1870.

To MY Fellow-Citizens :

I DISLIKE newspaper controversy, but I feel that
1 should perhaps be doing injustice to my many
kind friends in this city if I did not put within
their reach a full answer to all the foolish slanders
which are being circulated against my good name
and character. To my mere removal from office I
should make no objection through the columns of
a public newspaper; but when my character is
assailed through the public print, I feel bound to
vindicate it. I leave the members of the Common
Council to reply, if they see fit, to the insults
which have been cast upon them.

As to the charge of malfeasance in bringing
several complaints against one James Turner and
wife, keepers of a house of ill-fame on Colony
Street, and against the persons found in this house
when the officers made their descent upon it, 1
have this much to say. This low, vile den of
iniquity, situated right in the heart of the city,
17 257


in one of the principal streets, and within a stone's
throw of many of the finest residences in the
city, had been loudly complained of both to me
and to the police officers for many months. The
policemen had spent many nights in watching the
house in the vain hope of establishing a success-
ful prosecution against the inmates ; and when,
finally, through the instrumentality of one of the
inmates, who turned state's evidence (not because
there was one complaint against him, but because
there were three in all, which would send him to
jail for many months), I was able to commence a
successful prosecution against the inmates, I deter-
mined to bring complaints for the several different
crimes which the statute has defined, and of which
I believed these parties were guilty, and for which
they were both to be punished, so that if I failed
to get a conviction on some of the complaints for
want of sufficient evidence or other cause, I might
succeed on others, — and so I hoped to rid this
community of this long-standing pest. I do not
think any reasonable man or woman ought to
blame me for my conduct in this affair.

The city received 1^41.54, and paid out ^34,
including my fees and all expenses in the cases
brought in connection with this house of ill-fame ;
so that the city really made ^7.46, besides ridding
itself of a disgraceful nuisance. If I had brought
only one or two complaints and failed to get a
conviction on them, the city would have been


obliged to pay the bills, and would have received
nothing for it. The prisoner paid Mr. Charles H.
Shaw $50 for defending him, and he paid Mr.
O. H. Piatt in addition, — how much, I do not
know. I tried the case alone, and got ^32.96 for
my services ; and if any man thinks the city paid
too much for its counsel, and begrudges me my
money, I say to him that hereafter he is welcome to
all such disgusting prosecutions. For my part, I
would rather be doing something else ; it would be
more in accordance with a man's better feelings.

On page 21, section 45, of the city charter you
find these words : " Said police court may reduce
or disallow fees taxable by said court in cases
where the negligence of any ministerial officer, or
the discharge of the accused for want of evidence,
or the insufficiency of the service rendered, or
other circumstances, shall render such restriction or
disallowance expedient in the view of said court,
in the exercise of its sound discretion." From
this, every person will see that it was within the
power of the judge to have reduced or disallowed
my fees in these cases ; and, further, that it was his
duty, as a sworn officer of the city, to have stopped
the judgment to me of any unreasonable fees.
Therefore, if, as it is alleged, I received unreason-
able fees, the judge was guilty in allowing me to do
so. I spoke to the judge at the time of the trial
about having several complaints against the pris-
oners, and said that if he had any suggestions to


make, I should like to have him make them. He
said he thought I was warranted in bringing the
complaints from the information I had received,
although he did not think the evidence was strong
enough to warrant the court in finding the parties
guilty on all of the complaints.

On the day of my removal I asked the judge, at
the request of some of my friends, for the reasons
for my removal. He told me that he had no fault
to find with me, that it was nothing I was to blame
for ; but he said that there were certain assurances
held out to him when he continued Mr. Levi E.
Coe (for whose removal I have never heard any
reason given than perhaps this) and myself in
office which had not been fulfilled, and he did not
feel disposed to continue us any longer in office.
I asked him what those assurances were, and he
would not tell me. Last July a person came into
my office and said that he was authorized to say
that I would be appointed city attorney if I would
use my influence to secure his appointment to
another office under the city government. I turned
a cold shoulder on that person ; and ever since
then he has vilified me in bar-rooms, saloons, and
wherever he could get a listener, and has repeatedly
threatened that I should be removed from my
office. And more than two weeks before I was
removed, and more than two weeks before these
cases were brought against Turner and his wife, it


was announced by this man in a certain saloon in
this city that I was soon to be removed.

It is four years this week since I came to
Meriden, and there was only one kind hand
stretched out to welcome me then, — Hon. O. H.
Piatt's. During these four years I have been as-
tonished at the many kind offices and favors which
the members of the city government and so many
of the respectable citizens of this place have shown
to me. I take this, the first fitting opportunity which
I have ever had, to thank them ; and while it
would not be appropriate for me to mention in the
columns of a newspaper the long list of names
of men in this place who, without distinction of
party, at one time or another, have gone out of
their way and left their own business and cares to
do me some kind office, I have treasured up their
names ; and whether I spend my days in this place
or elsewhere, I shall ever hold in grateful remem-
brance the citizens of Meriden. I am conscious,
in office or out of office, of having done as any
man would have his son or brother do.

Ratcliffe Hicks.



To THE Editor of the "Courant":

The appalling disaster at Stafford invokes the
charitable benefactions of the people of this State.
A vast amount of property has been annihilated,
the important industries of the town have been
crippled, and a thousand operatives who depend
upon their daily labor for their daily bread have
been thrown out of employment for the coming
six months at least.

There is no insurance and no salvage to relieve
the bitterness and suffering entailed by this great
calamity, unless it wells up in the benevolent hearts
of the people of Connecticut. Such calamities,
either by flood or by fire, are liable to visit any
community in this Commonwealth, and I for one
believe that such calamities call for the active and
practical assistance of the State government. In-
dividual charities are limited and very often ill
directed. The State, in administering its charities,
can devise means much better calculated to accom-
plish the desired results, and it so scatters the
burden that no one feels his portion. An appro-
priation of fifty thousand dollars would not pay for
one-sixth of all the property lost, but would help


the town to repair its roads and bridges, and sup-
port its unemployed operatives until they can find
work, besides carrying encouragement to the man-
ufacturers to rebuild their works and set their idle
spindles whirling. This appropriation would be
less than ten cents for every individual in this
State ; and who would begrudge that amount of
money for so good a cause?

Again, there are eight dams to be rebuilt, and
the people who own property or live below them
have a right to know that they are this time to be
properly constructed. Now is the time, if ever,
for the State to intercede for their protection, for
it will be too late after they are rebuilt. The
inhabitants of the towns of Stafford, Tolland, Wil-
lington, Mansfield, Coventry, and Windham, the
stockholders of the New London Northern Rail-
road, and the depositors in the Tolland and other
savings-banks that hold mortgages on property in
the wake of these dams have a deep interest in
their proper construction. Millions of property
and thousands of lives all over this State are
depending on the stability of similar structures.
This awful warning should not go by unheeded.
There is no time to be lost. The Legislature
should be at once convened. It costs nothing, as
they are paid by the year ; and in one day they
could finish this whole matter, and every man of
them would say, " I was never engaged in any
better business."



The sublimest wisdom of the ages and the key-
note of the Christian doctrine, as it comes rever-
berating through nineteen centuries, is embraced
in these few words : " Do unto others as you
would that they should do to you."

Ratcliffe Hicks.



Editor of the Meriden "Republican":

Dear Sir, — As the shortest way to answer many
questions asked me daily, I send you the following

On a day in the opening of the year 1872, a
poor and friendless Swede, John Robert Johnson,
came to the enterprising city of Meriden in search
of employment. He found it as a mason. By
one of those accidental events by which a man's
future is made or unmade in this world, he ob-
tained lodging in the house of a woman of brutal
tastes and of a still more brutal heart. While at
work, an unfortunate accident befell him. His
right hand was nearly severed by a brass drain,
and he was for many days unable to work. This
woman, ready to coin her soul into money, refused
him any longer food and lodging; and retaining
his best clothes, and leaving him only his over-
alls and working clothes, she drove him, sick,
penniless, and friendless, from her door, adding
imprecation and abuse to her cruel treatment.
Half famished, and with a wandering mind due to
disease and trouble, he returned for the purpose
of getting his clothing. He was set upon by this
fiendish woman the very moment he opened


the door, and under a wild impulse he struck her a
blow which resulted in her death. It was a thing he
had never designed to do, and a thing that never
would have happened if this anomaly of her sex
had not provoked and treated him as she did.

A celebrated French writer, Auguste Laugel, in
his recent work, says that there is in every human
breast something of the wild animal, — a some-
thing in every human creature which when driven
to the verge of endurance, when crushed to the
earth by cruel treatment, impels him to strike his
persecutor. John R. Johnson is a human being,
with human feelings and passions ; and in an
unguarded moment he committed an act which it
would be unjust to punish him for by imprisonment
during the remainder of his natural life.

On his first trial Johnson was charged with
murder in the first degree, and convicted of that
crime and sentenced to be hung. It appeared in
evidence on the trial that on the day in question,
being weak from sickness and hunger, he drank
something which ordinarily would not have affected
him, but which in his then condition made him
crazy. It was claimed, in his behalf, that, as by the
law murder in the first degree requires deliberation
and premeditation, the jury had a right to take into
consideration the fact of his intoxication in arriving
at a conclusion whether the act was committed
with deliberation and premeditation. The court
said that drunkenness was no excuse for crime,


and that it was not to be considered by the jury.
The Supreme Court, however, subsequently decided
that the fact of intoxication should go to the jury,
and that it was for them to say whether the man
was so intoxicated that he could not have premed-
itated and deliberated concerning the act, but did
it unconsciously. This was the first time that this
eminently wise and just doctrine was ever pro-
claimed by the Supreme Court of this State, or of
any New England State. The want of this doc-
trine has in Connecticut sent more than one unfor-
tunate victim to an untimely and unmerited grave ;
and the enunciation of this intelligent Christian
doctrine would have saved Gaffney, who suffered
within two years on the gallows, in the city of
Buffalo, for a crime he never knowingly committed.
On the second trial, John Robert Johnson was
charged with murder in the second degree, was
convicted, and sent to state-prison. On this trial
it was claimed in his behalf, that, as malice is by
law necessary to constitute the crime of murder in
the second degree, and that without malice it was
manslaughter, the jury should therefore have the
right to consider the fact of drunkenness in deter-
mining whether the act was done with malice.
Malice requires the use of the reasoning faculties,
and the idiot and the insane — whether the insan-
ity be caused by disease, opium, or rum — cannot
be guilty of maHce. In other States they have got
round this by saying that the killing implies malice ;


but the doctrine was scouted out of court in the
recent case of Stokes, and the enunciation of this
erroneous doctrine in the court below saved Stokes's
life. The Supreme Court has refused Johnson a
new trial, but on what grounds it is not yet known.
The claim made in Johnson's case must, however,

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Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 14 of 18)