Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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VAUX, Roberts, jurist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 25 January, 1786; died there, 7 January, 1836. He received his education at private schools of Philadelphia, was admitted to the bar in 1808, and rose rapidly to prominence in his profession. In 1835 he became judge of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia. He was one of the originators of the public-school system of Pennsylvania, and for fourteen years held the first presidency of the board of public schools of Philadelphia. He was also one of the founders of the Deaf and dumb asylum, the Blind school and asylum, the Philadelphia savings fund, the Historical society, and other benevolent societies of Pennsylvania. Early in life he became interested in prison matters, and as a penologist he acquired his greatest distinction. He was one of the commissioners to adapt the law of Pennsylvania to the separate system of imprisonment, and also to build the eastern state penitentiary, and labored zealously in the cause of prison-reform. He was a member of scientific societies in Europe, and of the Philosophical society of Pennsylvania. He refused several public posts that were offered him by President Jackson, among which was the mission to St. Petersburg. He published "Eulogium on Benjamin Ridgway Smith" (Philadelphia, 1809); "Memoirs of the Lives of Benjamin Lay and Ralph Sandiford" (1815); "Memoirs of the Life of Anthony Benezet" (1817; with alterations, York, 1817; French translation, Paris, 1821); and "Notices of the Original and Successive Efforts to improve the Discipline of the Prison at Philadelphia" (1826).--His son, Richard, lawyer, born in Philadelphia, 19 December, 1816, was educated by private tutors, studied law with William M. Meredith, and was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1836. Shortly thereafter he became the bearer of despatches to the United States minister to the court of St. James, by whom he was appointed secretary of legation on his arrival. He held this post for one year until he was relieved by Benjamin Rush. Declining a similar post at St. Petersburg, he went to Brussels to aid in reorganizing the American embassy there, made a tour of the continent, returned to London, and accepted the post of private secretary to the United States minister, Andrew Stevenson. Returning to Philadelphia in 1839, he was nominated as candidate for the lower house of the Pennsylvania legislature. In March, 1840, he was a delegate to the convention that nominated Martin Van Buren for president of the United States. In 1842 he was appointed recorder of deeds of Philadelphia, holding this post, though it, was bare of emolument, for seven years. His "Recorder's Decisions" (Philadelphia, 1845) made him known, and is now an authority. It is noteworthy that no decision by him during this incumbency was ever reversed by a higher court. In 1842 he was the Democratic candidate for mayor. and, though failing of election, greatly reduced the Whig majority. In 1843 the supreme court appointed him inspector of the state prison, and shortly thereafter he was elected comptroller of public schools, to succeed his father, and thus filled three important posts at the same time. He resumed the practice of law after resigning the office of recorder. In 1854 he was again defeated in the mayoralty contest, but was successful at the next election, and as mayor effected a complete reorganization of the city government. He is one of the chief penologists in the United States, and, like his father, has achieved his highest, renown in this branch. He has been a most voluminous writer on the subject. Besides about fifteen publications on general penal matters, he has written forty-five volumes of "Reports of the Penitentiary" (1842 et seq.). He was largely instrumental in the framing and passage of the act of 1885, which is now the charter of the city of Philadelphia, having laid the first plan for this reform charter in 1857, in his message to the city councils.
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