I have already described how all serious cases of doing wrong or neglect of duty are managed in the school. I manage them myself, by coming as directly and as openly as I can to the heart and conscience of the offender. There are, however, a number of little transgressions, too small to be individually worthy of serious attention, but which are yet troublesome to the community when frequently repeated. These relate chiefly to order in the school-rooms. These misdemeanors are tried, half in jest and half in earnest, by a sort of court, whose forms of process might make a legal gentleman smile. They, however, fully answer our purpose. I can best give you an idea of the court by describing an actual trial. I ought, however, first to say that any young lady who chooses to be free from the jurisdiction of the court can signify that wish to me, and she is safe from it. This, however, is never done. They all see the useful influence of it, and wish to sustain it.
Near the close of school, I find, perhaps, on my desk a paper, of which the following may be considered a copy. It is called the indictment.
We accuse Miss A.B. of having waste papers in the
aisle opposite her desk,
at 11 o’clock, on Friday, Oct. 12.
I give notice after school that a case is to be tried. Those interested, twenty or thirty perhaps, gather around my desk, while the sheriff goes to summon the accused and the witnesses. A certain space is marked off as the precincts of the court, within which no one must enter in the slightest degree, on pain of imprisonment, that is, confinement to her seat until court adjourns.
“Miss A.B., you are accused of having an untidy floor about your desk. Have you any objection to the indictment?”
While she is looking over the indictment to discover a misspelled word, or an error in the date, or some other latent flaw, I appoint any two of the by-standers jury. The jury come forward to listen to the cause.
The accused returns the indictment, saying she has no objection, and the witnesses are called upon to present their testimony.
Perhaps the prisoner alleges in defense that the papers were out in the aisle, not under her desk, or that she did not put them there, or that they were too few or too small to deserve attention.
My charge to the jury would be somewhat as follows:
“You are to consider and decide whether she was guilty of disorder, taking into view the testimony of the witnesses and also her defense. It is considered here that each young lady is responsible not only for the appearance of the carpet under her desk, but also for the aisle opposite to it, so that her first ground of defense must be abandoned. So, also, with the second, that she did not put them there. She ought not to have them there. Each scholar must keep her own place