Mr. Smith to Mr. Blaine.

No. 12.]

Sir: The Fourth International Penitentiary Congress was formally opened in this city on Sunday, the 15th instant, with imposing ceremonial and with every evidence of public and official interest. Some introductory and preliminary proceedings had marked the preceding days. On Friday, the 13th instant, such of the delegates as had already arrived together with the members of the International Penitentiary Commission, assembled in the chamber of the municipal council at the city hall, when a cordial welcome to the city was extended to them by Mr. Likhatcheff, the mayor of St. Petersburg, and where other brief addresses of felicitation followed. On Saturday, the 14th, at the palace of the Prince of Oldenburg, the honorary president of the congress, the delegates were presented to His Highness and to the Princess Eugenie. Subsequently they left cards for Mr. de Griers, the imperial minister of foreign affairs, who was absent in Finland, and then proceeded to the ministry of the interior, where they were presented to the minister, who addressed them in words of welcome and encouragement.

The ceremonious inauguration of the congress on Sunday in the stately hall of the assembly of the nobility was distinguished by the most signal marks that could impart dignity and importance to the occasion. The Emperor and Empress gave it the honor and sanction of their personal presence, accompanied by the Queen of the Hellenes and all the members of the imperial family. The ministers of the Empire and the members of the diplomatic corps, together with other high dignitaries and invited persons, were also in attendance. The countenance of this brilliant and imposing assemblage lent more than ordinary éclat to the auspicious opening of the sessions. While the surroundings were of this notable character, the proceedings themselves were marked by the utmost simplicity. They began with the inaugural address of the Prince of Oldenburg, as honorary president, which repeated the welcome of Russia to the delegates and referred briefly and in general terms to the objects and work of the congress. This address was followed by a spirited response in the name of the delegates from Mr. Herbette, the head of the French delegation. Mr. Herbette closed with a graceful expression of acknowledgments to the Emperor, whereupon the whole assembly rose and greeted His Majesty with acclamations.

This terminated the formal proceedings. Immediately afterwards the delegates were individually presented to the Emperor and Empress, who briefly conversed with each. Upon the conclusion of this ceremony, the whole company proceeded to the Manège Michel, at some distance, where the International Penitentiary Exposition organized in connection with the congress was opened. The Emperor and Empress led the [Page 698] way through the several corridors and spent more than an hour in examining the various displays. The exposition embraces exhibits from countries as remote as Japan on the one hand and the Argentine Republic on the other. The only leading nations not represented in it are the United States and Great Britain; and the delegates, of the United States were made aware of expressions of regret from various sources that our country had no share in the creditable display.

Some of the exhibits are of a most interesting and instructive character. They include models of prisons, illustrations of methods of administration, and specimens of the handiwork of prisoners. Naturally the exhibit of Russia is the most extensive, and its most striking feature is a representation of the prisons in Siberia to which the exiles are deported and of the mines wherein they work. The exposition as a whole makes the impression of being fairly complete and successful.

The inspection of the exposition ended when the Emperor and Empress withdrew, and the proceedings of the day closed with a public address in the evening on John Howard by Mr. Spassowitch, a Russian professor of law, followed by a general reception given by the mayor of St. Petersburg at the city hall.

The regular work of the congress began on Monday, when it was organized by the choice of Mr. Galkine-Wraskoy, director of the prison system of Russia, as president, and when it divided itself into three sections, the first, on penal legislation; the second, on penitentiary institutions; the third, on preventive or correctional institutions, which proceeded at once to consider and discuss the papers and questions submitted to them respectively.

It may be remarked that the presence of the Emperor at the opening of the congress and his extended examination of the exposition created a most favorable impression. It was interpreted as evincing his interest in the subject of prison administration and in the work of the congress. Nothing was wanting to emphasize this suggestion. It is rare that any public occasion brings together so large a representation of the imperial family as was present at this ceremonial, and if it was intended to signify the sympathy of the Imperial Government with the declared aims of the congress, the design was successful.

The minister and the secretary of this legation attended the opening of the congress on the 15th as the representatives of the United States. The Hon. C. D. Randall, whose appointment as associate delegate was announced in your instruction No. 15, reported on the morning of the 16th, and all of the delegates of the United States were present at the organization of the congress.

I have, etc.,

Chas. Emory Smith.