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-indulgence, the imposition of unprincipled characters, and secure the rightful interests of those having claims upon him for support.
There is little danger of the discretion being abused, and the benefits to accrue from such a wholesome check will outweigh the fair objections to its adoption.
CONFERENCE METHODS OF STUDY.
Emphasis has been given in reports of former Conferences to the value and need of conferences for the study and comparison of methods advised or practised in the management of the several homes established under State or national authority.
The time is growing short in which improvements to better the conditions of comfort, efficiency, and economy in the administration of these sacred trusts, may be made. Officials are deterred from giving public expression to convictions matured from experience, in deference to a hostile sentiment entertained by those less competent to judge of the matters dealt with. Duty will not be served until the truth is made prominent in counsel by plain, unhesitating speech.
Acquiescence in conditions which are not productive of good results cannot fail to excite unfavorable comment on the policy which consents to cover error with the cloak of silence.
It is encouraging to know that the public conscience is being aroused by the discussions promoted by this Conference, and that officials who occupy responsible places in State and nation in the management of the interests of the volunteer soldier are working in harmonious effort to perfect the organization of their field of work.
So soon as a fair consensus of opinion is formulated, by those in control of managements, for the advice of national and State legislatures, we may have a response in wise grants of authority for the amendments and improvements desired.
God grant that the emblems of peace may be engraved upon the banners of our continent, that the expenditures for offensive and defensive warfare may be minimized by the strategy of peace, and that the volunteer soldier, with his undimmed record of patriotism and heroic courage, may be ever present in the grateful memories of the past and forever absent from the historic page of the future!
May the gracious Queen and Empress whose reign has reached its zenith in a jubilee of glory, the honored President of the Re
public of Mexico, faithful to the interests of a humane and advancing civilization, and the beloved citizen, soldier, statesman, and President of the United States of America, each give welcome and blessing to the dawn of a permanent peace.
COMMANDANT OF THE OHIO SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' HOME.
A soldiers' home is not a charity, for it is tendered as a return for service rendered. It is not a house of correction, for it is offered as an actual and substantial home. Yet it partakes to some extent of the character of both; for it is a beneficent provision for men who have not means of support or physical ability to earn a maintenance, and it receives as inmates men who require the exercise of discipline.
The number of inmates in these institutions averaged during the year ending June 30, 1896, in the national homes 21,687, and in the State homes 10,305, aggregating 31,992. They differ, as a class, from the inmates of the other institutions considered by this Conference; for these must have served the government of the United States in war, and have received an honorable discharge. As the administration of the State homes is for the most part substantially the same, I will use the Ohio home mainly for illustration.
The State homes are not large institutions. The largest has little over 1,600, and some have less than 50 inmates. The superintendent, 'who is called "governor" in the national homes, is styled “commandant” in most of the State homes. in most of the State homes. The financial officer is "quartermaster "; the secretary is "adjutant"; and the physician is "surgeon." surgeon." This recurrence to military titles is carried out by calling the signal for rising in the morning "reveille,” and for putting out the lights at night "taps." The man who has charge of a cottage is "sergeant."
The sergeant makes to the adjutant a daily morning report, giving the status of his command and all changes since his last previous report. He makes out and approves applications for furlough; superintends the sending of wash to the laundry and getting it back; makes requisition on the quartermaster for clothing for the men and for articles needed for his cottage. He prefers charges against his men who violate rules, and calls the police to arrest those who, by intoxication, belligerency, or insubordination, disturb the peace of the cottage. He appoints, in regular order from his roster, men to fill the details called for by the adjutant.
The use of these phrases and practices is not mere fancy. They belong to a period in the life of every inmate when instant, unquestioning obedience was the law of his being, and by force of association make obedience to rules more easy and natural.
The rules and regulations are so simple and reasonable that they would, for the most part, be spontaneously observed by right-minded men, if they were not prescribed by authority.
The organic act of the Ohio home expressly declares that it shall be a home, and its disciplinary regulations are evolved from that phrase. Being the inmate's home, it is his residence for all purposes. If he has a family, he and they have separate homes, separate residences. He votes at the home, no matter where his family may live; and, accordingly, the statute has made the home a separate voting precinct. If he becomes insane or imbecile or epileptic, the probate court of the county in which the home is situated assigns him to an asylum or appoints a guardian.
Being a home, it is an obligation upon the inmates to treat it as their home. The inmates must help themselves and each other. Every man must make his own bed; the occupants of a room must take care of it; the men of a cottage must take care of the hallways and stairs, the washrooms and closets, and the surrounding lawns. Each takes his turn in serving his comrades at table, in taking clothes to wash, or in 'filling requisitions made by the quartermaster for work upon the grounds or in moving stores.
A home is a place for repose and decent enjoyment of life. Conduct which disturbs or prevents such use is hostility to the home; and the man who persists in such hostility is an enemy, and must cease to be a member. The rules are printed and placed in every cottage, so that every man knows what is required of him.
The inmate knows that he is not subject to the caprice or will of a man, but that he is only subject to the law which is supreme over all.
A purpose which is always held in view is to aid in maintaining and developing the self-respect of the men, to create a public opinion in the home that shall consider disorderly conduct not respectable.
There being no fence or enclosure about the Ohio home, the men are free to come and go between reveille and taps; but absence without leave from roll-call, or during the night, or for a day or more, is an offence. Neglect of duty, intoxication, simply or combined with disorderly conduct, or under special circumstances, bringing liquor into camp, disorderly or insubordinate conduct, failure to perform assigned duty, are the more common offences. Playing cards on Sunday and all gambling are prohibited.
The simplest form of punishment is to require the offender to remain within the bounds of the home two or more weeks. To this may be added an extra tour or several extra tours of duty without pay. If one sentenced to remain within bounds should go outside of the home grounds, he is required to remain for a specified period within his cottage except to go to meals or to duty. If he should break these limits, he is understood to have renounced his obligations to the home, and is discharged. In some cases a single act is followed by immediate discharge, as being disorderly, profane, or obscene on the street cars running from the city to the home, refusing to perform work without pay when regularly detailed, going on prohibited premises where liquor is sold, conviction of drunkenness, meaning thereby total intoxication.
There is a sergeant with four assistants, called guard or police, who patrol the grounds, and control a little guard-house that has six beds. They arrest men who are disturbing the peace or who come into camp too intoxicated to go to their cottages. No one is sent to the guard-house for punishment, but only for detention while he is not in fit condition to be in his cottage or while some serious charge is under consideration.
Intoxication is at the bottom of nearly all the trouble in the homes. The burning question is, What shall we do with the drunkards? It is asked, What will become of them if they are sent away? It is well to ask also, What will become of the decent men
if the drunkards are not sent away? In the early days, when the home was filled with rough characters, and a sober man was held to be a milksop, a desperate fellow said to a man who did not drink, "I want you to understand that the State of Ohio built this home for drunkards; and, if you sober men don't like it, you can leave.”
But the law settles the question for Ohio. The law says the institution shall be a home. It invites men whom it proposes to honor to come and abide in a home. And putting a man to live in the same house, sleep in the same room, and eat at the same table with men who reel into the house, filthy, making the air foul with their breath, and noisy with profane ribaldry, is not giving a man a home. An institution on so small a scale as the State homes is not capable of providing for both classes; and the alternative-in Ohio, at all events is to send incorrigible drunkards away.
The result approves the plan. Men of all professions and employments, who have lived respectably, but are stranded in old age, having lost means and vigor, are glad to find such a refuge. Every visitor is surprised at the excellent appearance of the men in the Ohio home.
The best way of dealing with pensions is a problem. The national homes draw and hold the pension money of the inmates, but hold it in trust for them; and, when they leave the home, they receive the unexpended residue. In Pennsylvania the pensioner is required to turn in, absolutely, all his pension, except a specified small amount. In the other State homes, except Ohio and a few others, the treatment is partly like each of those named.
In Ohio no man is admitted who has a pension of $20 or more per month. Every pensioner having a dependent wife or family must fairly share his pension with them, or be discharged, unless he has just cause for the refusal. Beyond this there is no interference.
While men are required to do without pay the ordinary work about the home, which takes little time, men who perform work which requires skill, or who work continuously, are paid. So men serve for pay in the hospital, as clerks, nurses, house-cleaners, druggists, helpers in the kitchen, and firemen; and in the general camp as clerks, orderly, superintendent of dining-room, police, helpers in kitchen, firemen, laundry-men, bath-house keeper, carpenters, tailors, cobblers, hostlers, etc. The pay, of course, is small compared with the pay of able-bodied men outside the home.