HotFreeBooks.com
Democracy and Social Ethics
by Jane Addams
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Such glimpses remind us of that tragedy enacted centuries ago in Assisi, when the eager young noble cast his very clothing at his father's feet, dramatically renouncing his filial allegiance, and formally subjecting the narrow family claim to the wider and more universal duty. All the conflict of tragedy ensued which might have been averted, had the father recognized the higher claim, and had he been willing to subordinate and adjust his own claim to it. The father considered his son disrespectful and hard-hearted, yet we know St. Francis to have been the most tender and loving of men, responsive to all possible ties, even to those of inanimate nature. We know that by his affections he freed the frozen life of his time. The elements of tragedy lay in the narrowness of the father's mind; in his lack of comprehension and his lack of sympathy with the power which was moving his son, and which was but part of the religious revival which swept Europe from end to end in the early part of the thirteenth century; the same power which built the cathedrals of the North, and produced the saints and sages of the South. But the father's situation was nevertheless genuine; he felt his heart sore and angry, and his dignity covered with disrespect. He could not, indeed, have felt otherwise, unless he had been touched by the fire of the same revival, and lifted out of and away from the contemplation of himself and his narrower claim. It is another proof that the notion of a larger obligation can only come through the response to an enlarged interest in life and in the social movements around us.

The grown-up son has so long been considered a citizen with well-defined duties and a need of "making his way in the world," that the family claim is urged much less strenuously in his case, and as a matter of authority, it ceases gradually to be made at all. In the case of the grown-up daughter, however, who is under no necessity of earning a living, and who has no strong artistic bent, taking her to Paris to study painting or to Germany to study music, the years immediately following her graduation from college are too often filled with a restlessness and unhappiness which might be avoided by a little clear thinking, and by an adaptation of our code of family ethics to modern conditions.

It is always difficult for the family to regard the daughter otherwise than as a family possession. From her babyhood she has been the charm and grace of the household, and it is hard to think of her as an integral part of the social order, hard to believe that she has duties outside of the family, to the state and to society in the larger sense. This assumption that the daughter is solely an inspiration and refinement to the family itself and its own immediate circle, that her delicacy and polish are but outward symbols of her father's protection and prosperity, worked very smoothly for the most part so long as her education was in line with it. When there was absolutely no recognition of the entity of woman's life beyond the family, when the outside claims upon her were still wholly unrecognized, the situation was simple, and the finishing school harmoniously and elegantly answered all requirements. She was fitted to grace the fireside and to add lustre to that social circle which her parents selected for her. But this family assumption has been notably broken into, and educational ideas no longer fit it. Modern education recognizes woman quite apart from family or society claims, and gives her the training which for many years has been deemed successful for highly developing a man's individuality and freeing his powers for independent action. Perplexities often occur when the daughter returns from college and finds that this recognition has been but partially accomplished. When she attempts to act upon the assumption of its accomplishment, she finds herself jarring upon ideals which are so entwined with filial piety, so rooted in the tenderest affections of which the human heart is capable, that both daughter and parents are shocked and startled when they discover what is happening, and they scarcely venture to analyze the situation. The ideal for the education of woman has changed under the pressure of a new claim. The family has responded to the extent of granting the education, but they are jealous of the new claim and assert the family claim as over against it.

The modern woman finds herself educated to recognize a stress of social obligation which her family did not in the least anticipate when they sent her to college. She finds herself, in addition, under an impulse to act her part as a citizen of the world. She accepts her family inheritance with loyalty and affection, but she has entered into a wider inheritance as well, which, for lack of a better phrase, we call the social claim. This claim has been recognized for four years in her training, but after her return from college the family claim is again exclusively and strenuously asserted. The situation has all the discomfort of transition and compromise. The daughter finds a constant and totally unnecessary conflict between the social and the family claims. In most cases the former is repressed and gives way to the family claim, because the latter is concrete and definitely asserted, while the social demand is vague and unformulated. In such instances the girl quietly submits, but she feels wronged whenever she allows her mind to dwell upon the situation. She either hides her hurt, and splendid reserves of enthusiasm and capacity go to waste, or her zeal and emotions are turned inward, and the result is an unhappy woman, whose heart is consumed by vain regrets and desires.

If the college woman is not thus quietly reabsorbed, she is even reproached for her discontent. She is told to be devoted to her family, inspiring and responsive to her social circle, and to give the rest of her time to further self-improvement and enjoyment. She expects to do this, and responds to these claims to the best of her ability, even heroically sometimes. But where is the larger life of which she has dreamed so long? That life which surrounds and completes the individual and family life? She has been taught that it is her duty to share this life, and her highest privilege to extend it. This divergence between her self-centred existence and her best convictions becomes constantly more apparent. But the situation is not even so simple as a conflict between her affections and her intellectual convictions, although even that is tumultuous enough, also the emotional nature is divided against itself. The social claim is a demand upon the emotions as well as upon the intellect, and in ignoring it she represses not only her convictions but lowers her springs of vitality. Her life is full of contradictions. She looks out into the world, longing that some demand be made upon her powers, for they are too untrained to furnish an initiative. When her health gives way under this strain, as it often does, her physician invariably advises a rest. But to be put to bed and fed on milk is not what she requires. What she needs is simple, health-giving activity, which, involving the use of all her faculties, shall be a response to all the claims which she so keenly feels.

It is quite true that the family often resents her first attempts to be part of a life quite outside their own, because the college woman frequently makes these first attempts most awkwardly; her faculties have not been trained in the line of action. She lacks the ability to apply her knowledge and theories to life itself and to its complicated situations. This is largely the fault of her training and of the one-sidedness of educational methods. The colleges have long been full of the best ethical teaching, insisting that the good of the whole must ultimately be the measure of effort, and that the individual can only secure his own rights as he labors to secure those of others. But while the teaching has included an ever-broadening range of obligation and has insisted upon the recognition of the claims of human brotherhood, the training has been singularly individualistic; it has fostered ambitions for personal distinction, and has trained the faculties almost exclusively in the direction of intellectual accumulation. Doubtless, woman's education is at fault, in that it has failed to recognize certain needs, and has failed to cultivate and guide the larger desires of which all generous young hearts are full.

During the most formative years of life, it gives the young girl no contact with the feebleness of childhood, the pathos of suffering, or the needs of old age. It gathers together crude youth in contact only with each other and with mature men and women who are there for the purpose of their mental direction. The tenderest promptings are bidden to bide their time. This could only be justifiable if a definite outlet were provided when they leave college. Doubtless the need does not differ widely in men and women, but women not absorbed in professional or business life, in the years immediately following college, are baldly brought face to face with the deficiencies of their training. Apparently every obstacle is removed, and the college woman is at last free to begin the active life, for which, during so many years, she has been preparing. But during this so-called preparation, her faculties have been trained solely for accumulation, and she has learned to utterly distrust the finer impulses of her nature, which would naturally have connected her with human interests outside of her family and her own immediate social circle. All through school and college the young soul dreamed of self-sacrifice, of succor to the helpless and of tenderness to the unfortunate. We persistently distrust these desires, and, unless they follow well-defined lines, we repress them with every device of convention and caution.

One summer the writer went from a two weeks' residence in East London, where she had become sick and bewildered by the sights and sounds encountered there, directly to Switzerland. She found the beaten routes of travel filled with young English men and women who could walk many miles a day, and who could climb peaks so inaccessible that the feats received honorable mention in Alpine journals,—a result which filled their families with joy and pride. These young people knew to a nicety the proper diet and clothing which would best contribute toward endurance. Everything was very fine about them save their motive power. The writer does not refer to the hard-worked men and women who were taking a vacation, but to the leisured young people, to whom this period was the most serious of the year, and filled with the most strenuous exertion. They did not, of course, thoroughly enjoy it, for we are too complicated to be content with mere exercise. Civilization has bound us too closely with our brethren for any one of us to be long happy in the cultivation of mere individual force or in the accumulation of mere muscular energy.

With Whitechapel constantly in mind, it was difficult not to advise these young people to use some of this muscular energy of which they were so proud, in cleaning neglected alleys and paving soggy streets. Their stores of enthusiasm might stir to energy the listless men and women of East London and utilize latent social forces. The exercise would be quite as good, the need of endurance as great, the care for proper dress and food as important; but the motives for action would be turned from selfish ones into social ones. Such an appeal would doubtless be met with a certain response from the young people, but would never be countenanced by their families for an instant.

Fortunately a beginning has been made in another direction, and a few parents have already begun to consider even their little children in relation to society as well as to the family. The young mothers who attend "Child Study" classes have a larger notion of parenthood and expect given characteristics from their children, at certain ages and under certain conditions. They quite calmly watch the various attempts of a child to assert his individuality, which so often takes the form of opposition to the wishes of the family and to the rule of the household. They recognize as acting under the same law of development the little child of three who persistently runs away and pretends not to hear his mother's voice, the boy of ten who violently, although temporarily, resents control of any sort, and the grown-up son who, by an individualized and trained personality, is drawn into pursuits and interests quite alien to those of his family.

This attempt to take the parental relation somewhat away from mere personal experience, as well as the increasing tendency of parents to share their children's pursuits and interests, will doubtless finally result in a better understanding of the social obligation. The understanding, which results from identity of interests, would seem to confirm the conviction that in the complicated life of to-day there is no education so admirable as that education which comes from participation in the constant trend of events. There is no doubt that most of the misunderstandings of life are due to partial intelligence, because our experiences have been so unlike that we cannot comprehend each other. The old difficulties incident to the clash of two codes of morals must drop away, as the experiences of various members of the family become larger and more identical.

At the present moment, however, many of those difficulties still exist and may be seen all about us. In order to illustrate the situation baldly, and at the same time to put it dramatically, it may be well to take an instance concerning which we have no personal feeling. The tragedy of King Lear has been selected, although we have been accustomed so long to give him our sympathy as the victim of the ingratitude of his two older daughters, and of the apparent coldness of Cordelia, that we have not sufficiently considered the weakness of his fatherhood, revealed by the fact that he should get himself into so entangled and unhappy a relation to all of his children. In our pity for Lear, we fail to analyze his character. The King on his throne exhibits utter lack of self-control. The King in the storm gives way to the same emotion, in repining over the wickedness of his children, which he formerly exhibited in his indulgent treatment of them.

It might be illuminating to discover wherein he had failed, and why his old age found him roofless in spite of the fact that he strenuously urged the family claim with his whole conscience. At the opening of the drama he sat upon his throne, ready for the enjoyment which an indulgent parent expects when he has given gifts to his children. From the two elder, the responses for the division of his lands were graceful and fitting, but he longed to hear what Cordelia, his youngest and best beloved child, would say. He looked toward her expectantly, but instead of delight and gratitude there was the first dawn of character. Cordelia made the awkward attempt of an untrained soul to be honest and scrupulously to express her inmost feeling. The king was baffled and distressed by this attempt at self-expression. It was new to him that his daughter should be moved by a principle obtained outside himself, which even his imagination could not follow; that she had caught the notion of an existence in which her relation as a daughter played but a part. She was transformed by a dignity which recast her speech and made it self-contained. She found herself in the sweep of a feeling so large that the immediate loss of a kingdom seemed of little consequence to her. Even an act which might be construed as disrespect to her father was justified in her eyes, because she was vainly striving to fill out this larger conception of duty. The test which comes sooner or later to many parents had come to Lear, to maintain the tenderness of the relation between father and child, after that relation had become one between adults, to be content with the responses made by the adult child to the family claim, while at the same time she responded to the claims of the rest of life. The mind of Lear was not big enough for this test; he failed to see anything but the personal slight involved, and the ingratitude alone reached him. It was impossible for him to calmly watch his child developing beyond the stretch of his own mind and sympathy.

That a man should be so absorbed in his own indignation as to fail to apprehend his child's thought, that he should lose his affection in his anger, simply reveals the fact that his own emotions are dearer to him than his sense of paternal obligation. Lear apparently also ignored the common ancestry of Cordelia and himself, and forgot her royal inheritance of magnanimity. He had thought of himself so long as a noble and indulgent father that he had lost the faculty by which he might perceive himself in the wrong. Even in the midst of the storm he declared himself more sinned against than sinning. He could believe any amount of kindness and goodness of himself, but could imagine no fidelity on the part of Cordelia unless she gave him the sign he demanded.

At length he suffered many hardships; his spirit was buffeted and broken; he lost his reason as well as his kingdom; but for the first time his experience was identical with the experience of the men around him, and he came to a larger conception of life. He put himself in the place of "the poor naked wretches," and unexpectedly found healing and comfort. He took poor Tim in his arms from a sheer desire for human contact and animal warmth, a primitive and genuine need, through which he suddenly had a view of the world which he had never had from his throne, and from this moment his heart began to turn toward Cordelia.

In reading the tragedy of King Lear, Cordelia receives a full share of our censure. Her first words are cold, and we are shocked by her lack of tenderness. Why should she ignore her father's need for indulgence, and be unwilling to give him what he so obviously craved? We see in the old king "the over-mastering desire of being beloved, selfish, and yet characteristic of the selfishness of a loving and kindly nature alone." His eagerness produces in us a strange pity for him, and we are impatient that his youngest and best-beloved child cannot feel this, even in the midst of her search for truth and her newly acquired sense of a higher duty. It seems to us a narrow conception that would break thus abruptly with the past and would assume that her father had no part in the new life. We want to remind her "that pity, memory, and faithfulness are natural ties," and surely as much to be prized as is the development of her own soul. We do not admire the Cordelia who through her self-absorption deserts her father, as we later admire the same woman who comes back from France that she may include her father in her happiness and freer life. The first had selfishly taken her salvation for herself alone, and it was not until her conscience had developed in her new life that she was driven back to her father, where she perished, drawn into the cruelty and wrath which had now become objective and tragic.

Historically considered, the relation of Lear to his children was archaic and barbaric, indicating merely the beginning of a family life since developed. His paternal expression was one of domination and indulgence, without the perception of the needs of his children, without any anticipation of their entrance into a wider life, or any belief that they could have a worthy life apart from him. If that rudimentary conception of family life ended in such violent disaster, the fact that we have learned to be more decorous in our conduct does not demonstrate that by following the same line of theory we may not reach a like misery.

Wounded affection there is sure to be, but this could be reduced to a modicum if we could preserve a sense of the relation of the individual to the family, and of the latter to society, and if we had been given a code of ethics dealing with these larger relationships, instead of a code designed to apply so exclusively to relationships obtaining only between individuals.

Doubtless the clashes and jars which we all feel most keenly are those which occur when two standards of morals, both honestly held and believed in, are brought sharply together. The awkwardness and constraint we experience when two standards of conventions and manners clash but feebly prefigure this deeper difference.



CHAPTER IV

HOUSEHOLD ADJUSTMENT

If we could only be judged or judge other people by purity of motive, life would be much simplified, but that would be to abandon the contention made in the first chapter, that the processes of life are as important as its aims. We can all recall acquaintances of whose integrity of purpose we can have no doubt, but who cause much confusion as they proceed to the accomplishment of that purpose, who indeed are often insensible to their own mistakes and harsh in their judgments of other people because they are so confident of their own inner integrity.

This tendency to be so sure of integrity of purpose as to be unsympathetic and hardened to the means by which it is accomplished, is perhaps nowhere so obvious as in the household itself. It nowhere operates as so constant a force as in the minds of the women who in all the perplexity of industrial transition are striving to administer domestic affairs. The ethics held by them are for the most part the individual and family codes, untouched by the larger social conceptions.

These women, rightly confident of their household and family integrity and holding to their own code of morals, fail to see the household in its social aspect. Possibly no relation has been so slow to respond to the social ethics which we are now considering, as that between the household employer and the household employee, or, as it is still sometimes called, that between mistress and servant.

This persistence of the individual code in relation to the household may be partly accounted for by the fact that orderly life and, in a sense, civilization itself, grew from the concentration of interest in one place, and that moral feeling first became centred in a limited number of persons. From the familiar proposition that the home began because the mother was obliged to stay in one spot in order to cherish the child, we can see a foundation for the belief that if women are much away from home, the home itself will be destroyed and all ethical progress endangered.

We have further been told that the earliest dances and social gatherings were most questionable in their purposes, and that it was, therefore, the good and virtuous women who first stayed at home, until gradually the two—the woman who stayed at home and the woman who guarded her virtue—became synonymous. A code of ethics was thus developed in regard to woman's conduct, and her duties were logically and carefully limited to her own family circle. When it became impossible to adequately minister to the needs of this circle without the help of many people who did not strictly belong to the family, although they were part of the household, they were added as aids merely for supplying these needs. When women were the brewers and bakers, the fullers, dyers, spinners, and weavers, the soap and candle makers, they administered large industries, but solely from the family point of view. Only a few hundred years ago, woman had complete control of the manufacturing of many commodities which now figure so largely in commerce, and it is evident that she let the manufacturing of these commodities go into the hands of men, as soon as organization and a larger conception of their production were required. She felt no responsibility for their management when they were taken from the home to the factory, for deeper than her instinct to manufacture food and clothing for her family was her instinct to stay with them, and by isolation and care to guard them from evil.

She had become convinced that a woman's duty extended only to her own family, and that the world outside had no claim upon her. The British matron ordered her maidens aright, when they were spinning under her own roof, but she felt no compunction of conscience when the morals and health of young girls were endangered in the overcrowded and insanitary factories. The code of family ethics was established in her mind so firmly that it excluded any notion of social effort.

It is quite possible to accept this explanation of the origin of morals, and to believe that the preservation of the home is at the foundation of all that is best in civilization, without at the same time insisting that the separate preparation and serving of food is an inherent part of the structure and sanctity of the home, or that those who minister to one household shall minister to that exclusively. But to make this distinction seems difficult, and almost invariably the sense of obligation to the family becomes confused with a certain sort of domestic management. The moral issue involved in one has become inextricably combined with the industrial difficulty involved in the other, and it is at this point that so many perplexed housekeepers, through the confusion of the two problems, take a difficult and untenable position.

There are economic as well as ethical reasons for this survival of a simpler code. The wife of a workingman still has a distinct economic value to her husband. She cooks, cleans, washes, and mends—services for which, before his marriage, he paid ready money. The wife of the successful business or professional man does not do this. He continues to pay for his cooking, house service, and washing. The mending, however, is still largely performed by his wife; indeed, the stockings are pathetically retained and their darning given an exaggerated importance, as if women instinctively felt that these mended stockings were the last remnant of the entire household industry, of which they were formerly mistresses. But one industry, the cooking and serving of foods to her own family, woman has never relinquished. It has, therefore, never been organized, either by men or women, and is in an undeveloped state. Each employer of household labor views it solely from the family standpoint. The ethics prevailing in regard to it are distinctly personal and unsocial, and result in the unique isolation of the household employee.

As industrial conditions have changed, the household has simplified, from the mediaeval affair of journeymen, apprentices, and maidens who spun and brewed to the family proper; to those who love each other and live together in ties of affection and consanguinity. Were this process complete, we should have no problem of household employment. But, even in households comparatively humble, there is still one alien, one who is neither loved nor loving.

The modern family has dropped the man who made its shoes, the woman who spun its clothes, and, to a large extent, the woman who washes them, but it stoutly refuses to drop the woman who cooks its food and ministers directly to its individual comfort; it strangely insists that to do that would be to destroy the family life itself. The cook is uncomfortable, the family is uncomfortable; but it will not drop her as all her fellow-workers have been dropped, although the cook herself insists upon it. So far has this insistence gone that every possible concession is made to retain her. The writer knows an employer in one of the suburbs who built a bay at the back of her house so that her cook might have a pleasant room in which to sleep, and another in which to receive her friends. This employer naturally felt aggrieved when the cook refused to stay in her bay. Viewed in an historic light, this employer might quite as well have added a bay to her house for her shoemaker, and then deemed him ungrateful because he declined to live in it.

A listener, attentive to a conversation between two employers of household labor,—and we certainly all have opportunity to hear such conversations,—would often discover a tone implying that the employer was abused and put upon; that she was struggling with the problem solely because she was thus serving her family and performing her social duties; that otherwise it would be a great relief to her to abandon the entire situation, and "never have a servant in her house again." Did she follow this impulse, she would simply yield to the trend of her times and accept the present system of production. She would be in line with the industrial organization of her age. Were she in line ethically, she would have to believe that the sacredness and beauty of family life do not consist in the processes of the separate preparation of food, but in sharing the corporate life of the community, and in making the family the unit of that life.

The selfishness of a modern mistress, who, in her narrow social ethics, insists that those who minister to the comforts of her family shall minister to it alone, that they shall not only be celibate, but shall be cut off, more or less, from their natural social ties, excludes the best working-people from her service.

A man of dignity and ability is quite willing to come into a house to tune a piano. Another man of mechanical skill will come to put up window shades. Another of less skill, but of perfect independence, will come to clean and relay a carpet. These men would all resent the situation and consider it quite impossible if it implied the giving up of their family and social ties, and living under the roof of the household requiring their services.

The isolation of the household employee is perhaps inevitable so long as the employer holds her belated ethics; but the situation is made even more difficult by the character and capacity of the girls who enter this industry. In any great industrial change the workmen who are permanently displaced are those who are too dull to seize upon changed conditions. The workmen who have knowledge and insight, who are in touch with their time, quickly reorganize.

The general statement may be made that the enterprising girls of the community go into factories, and the less enterprising go into households, although there are many exceptions. It is not a question of skill, of energy, of conscientious work, which will make a girl rise industrially while she is in the household; she is not in the rising movement. She is belated in a class composed of the unprogressive elements of the community, which is recruited constantly by those from the ranks of the incompetent, by girls who are learning the language, girls who are timid and slow, or girls who look at life solely from the savings-bank point of view. The distracted housekeeper struggles with these unprogressive girls, holding to them not even the well-defined and independent relation of employer and employed, but the hazy and constantly changing one of mistress to servant.

The latter relation is changing under pressure from various directions. In our increasing democracy the notion of personal service is constantly becoming more distasteful, conflicting, as it does, with the more modern notion of personal dignity. Personal ministration to the needs of childhood, illness, and old age seem to us reasonable, and the democratic adjustment in regard to them is being made. The first two are constantly raised nearer to the level of a profession, and there is little doubt that the third will soon follow. But personal ministrations to a normal, healthy adult, consuming the time and energy of another adult, we find more difficult to reconcile to our theories of democracy.

A factory employer parts with his men at the factory gates at the end of a day's work; they go to their homes as he goes to his, in the assumption that they both do what they want and spend their money as they please; but this solace of equality outside of working hours is denied the bewildered employer of household labor.

She is obliged to live constantly in the same house with her employee, and because of certain equalities in food and shelter she is brought more sharply face to face with the mental and social inequalities.

The difficulty becomes more apparent as the character of the work performed by the so-called servant is less absolutely useful and may be merely time consuming. A kind-hearted woman who will complacently take an afternoon drive, leaving her cook to prepare the five courses of a "little dinner for only ten guests," will not be nearly so comfortable the next evening when she speeds her daughter to a dance, conscious that her waitress must spend the evening in dull solitude on the chance that a caller or two may ring the door-bell.

A conscientious employer once remarked to the writer: "In England it must be much easier; the maid does not look and dress so like your daughter, and you can at least pretend that she doesn't like the same things. But really, my new waitress is quite as pretty and stylish as my daughter is, and her wistful look sometimes when Mary goes off to a frolic quite breaks my heart."

Too many employers of domestic service have always been exempt from manual labor, and therefore constantly impose exacting duties upon employees, the nature of which they do not understand by experience; there is thus no curb of rationality imposed upon the employer's requirements and demands. She is totally unlike the foreman in a shop, who has only risen to his position by way of having actually performed with his own hands all the work of the men he directs. There is also another class of employers of domestic labor, who grow capricious and over-exacting through sheer lack of larger interests to occupy their minds; it is equally bad for them and the employee that the duties of the latter are not clearly defined. Tolstoy contends that an exaggerated notion of cleanliness has developed among such employers, which could never have been evolved among usefully employed people. He points to the fact that a serving man, in order that his hands may be immaculately clean, is kept from performing the heavier work of the household, and then is supplied with a tray, upon which to place a card, in order that even his clean hands may not touch it; later, even his clean hands are covered with a pair of clean white gloves, which hold the tray upon which the card is placed.

If it were not for the undemocratic ethics used by the employers of domestics, much work now performed in the household would be done outside, as is true of many products formerly manufactured in the feudal household. The worker in all other trades has complete control of his own time after the performance of definitely limited services, his wages are paid altogether in money which he may spend in the maintenance of a separate home life, and he has full opportunity to organize with the other workers in his trade.

The domestic employee is retained in the household largely because her "mistress" fatuously believes that she is thus maintaining the sanctity of family life.

The household employee has no regular opportunity for meeting other workers of her trade, and of attaining with them the dignity of a corporate body. The industrial isolation of the household employee results, as isolation in a trade must always result, in a lack of progress in the methods and products of that trade, and a lack of aspiration and education in the workman. Whether we recognize this isolation as a cause or not, we are all ready to acknowledge that household labor has been in some way belated; that the improvements there have not kept up with the improvement in other occupations. It is said that the last revolution in the processes of cooking was brought about by Count Rumford, who died a hundred years ago. This is largely due to the lack of esprit de corps among the employees, which keeps them collectively from fresh achievements, as the absence of education in the individual keeps her from improving her implements.

Under this isolation, not only must one set of utensils serve divers purposes, and, as a consequence, tend to a lessened volume and lower quality of work, but, inasmuch as the appliances are not made to perform the fullest work, there is an amount of capital invested disproportionate to the product when measured by the achievement in other branches of industry. More important than this is the result of the isolation upon the worker herself. There is nothing more devastating to the inventive faculty, nor fatal to a flow of mind and spirit, than the constant feeling of loneliness and the absence of that fellowship which makes our public opinion. If an angry foreman reprimands a girl for breaking a machine, twenty other girls hear him, and the culprit knows perfectly well their opinion as to the justice or injustice of her situation. In either case she bears it better for knowing that, and not thinking it over in solitude. If a household employee breaks a utensil or a piece of porcelain and is reprimanded by her employer, too often the invisible jury is the family of the latter, who naturally uphold her censorious position and intensify the feeling of loneliness in the employee.

The household employee, in addition to her industrial isolation, is also isolated socially. It is well to remember that the household employees for the better quarters of the city and suburbs are largely drawn from the poorer quarters, which are nothing if not gregarious. The girl is born and reared in a tenement house full of children. She goes to school with them, and there she learns to march, to read, and write in companionship with forty others. When she is old enough to go to parties, those she attends are usually held in a public hall and are crowded with dancers. If she works in a factory, she walks home with many other girls, in much the same spirit as she formerly walked to school with them. She mingles with the young men she knows, in frank, economic, and social equality. Until she marries she remains at home with no special break or change in her family and social life. If she is employed in a household, this is not true. Suddenly all the conditions of her life are altered. This change may be wholesome for her, but it is not easy, and thought of the savings-bank does not cheer one much, when one is twenty. She is isolated from the people with whom she has been reared, with whom she has gone to school, and among whom she expects to live when she marries. She is naturally lonely and constrained away from them, and the "new maid" often seems "queer" to her employer's family. She does not care to mingle socially with the people in whose house she is employed, as the girl from the country often does, but she surfers horribly from loneliness.

This wholesome, instinctive dread of social isolation is so strong that, as every city intelligence-office can testify, the filling of situations is easier, or more difficult, in proportion as the place offers more or less companionship. Thus, the easy situation to fill is always the city house, with five or six employees, shading off into the more difficult suburban home, with two, and the utterly impossible lonely country house.

There are suburban employers of household labor who make heroic efforts to supply domestic and social life to their employees; who take the domestic employee to drive, arrange to have her invited out occasionally; who supply her with books and papers and companionship. Nothing could be more praiseworthy in motive, but it is seldom successful in actual operation, resulting as it does in a simulacrum of companionship. The employee may have a genuine friendship for her employer, and a pleasure in her companionship, or she may not have, and the unnaturalness of the situation comes from the insistence that she has, merely because of the propinquity.

The unnaturalness of the situation is intensified by the fact that the employee is practically debarred by distance and lack of leisure from her natural associates, and that her employer sympathetically insists upon filling the vacancy in interests and affections by her own tastes and friendship. She may or may not succeed, but the employee should not be thus dependent upon the good will of her employer. That in itself is undemocratic.

The difficulty is increasing by a sense of social discrimination which the household employee keenly feels is against her and in favor of the factory girls, in the minds of the young men of her acquaintance. Women seeking employment, understand perfectly well this feeling among mechanics, doubtless quite unjustifiable, but it acts as a strong inducement toward factory labor. The writer has long ceased to apologize for the views and opinions of working people, being quite sure that on the whole they are quite as wise and quite as foolish as the views and opinions of other people, but that this particularly foolish opinion of young mechanics is widely shared by the employing class can be easily demonstrated. The contrast is further accentuated by the better social position of the factory girl, and the advantages provided for her in the way of lunch clubs, social clubs, and vacation homes, from which girls performing household labor are practically excluded by their hours of work, their geographical situation, and a curious feeling that they are not as interesting as factory girls.

This separation from her natural social ties affects, of course, her opportunity for family life. It is well to remember that women, as a rule, are devoted to their families; that they want to live with their parents, their brothers and sisters, and kinsfolk, and will sacrifice much to accomplish this. This devotion is so universal that it is impossible to ignore it when we consider women as employees. Young unmarried women are not detached from family claims and requirements as young men are, and are more ready and steady in their response to the needs of aged parents and the helpless members of the family. But women performing labor in households have peculiar difficulties in responding to their family claims, and are practically dependent upon their employers for opportunities of even seeing their relatives and friends.

Curiously enough the same devotion to family life and quick response to its claims, on the part of the employer, operates against the girl employed in household labor, and still further contributes to her isolation.

The employer of household labor, in her zeal to preserve her own family life intact and free from intrusion, acts inconsistently and grants to her cook, for instance, but once or twice a week, such opportunity for untrammelled association with her relatives as the employer's family claims constantly. This in itself is undemocratic, in that it makes a distinction between the value of family life for one set of people as over against another; or, rather, claims that one set of people are of so much less importance than another, that a valuable side of life pertaining to them should be sacrificed for the other.

This cannot be defended theoretically, and no doubt much of the talk among the employers of household labor, that their employees are carefully shielded and cared for, and that it is so much better for a girl's health and morals to work in a household than to work in a factory, comes from a certain uneasiness of conscience, and from a desire to make up by individual scruple what would be done much more freely and naturally by public opinion if it had an untrammelled chance to assert itself. One person, or a number of isolated persons, however conscientious, cannot perform this office of public opinion. Certain hospitals in London have contributed statistics showing that seventy-eight per cent of illegitimate children born there are the children of girls working in households. These girls are certainly not less virtuous than factory girls, for they come from the same families and have had the same training, but the girls who remain at home and work in factories meet their lovers naturally and easily, their fathers and brothers know the men, and unconsciously exercise a certain supervision and a certain direction in their choice of companionship. The household employees living in another part of the city, away from their natural family and social ties, depend upon chance for the lovers whom they meet. The lover may be the young man who delivers for the butcher or grocer, or the solitary friend, who follows the girl from her own part of town and pursues unfairly the advantage which her social loneliness and isolation afford him. There is no available public opinion nor any standard of convention which the girl can apply to her own situation.

It would be easy to point out many inconveniences arising from the fact that the old economic forms are retained when moral conditions which befitted them have entirely disappeared, but until employers of domestic labor become conscious of their narrow code of ethics, and make a distinct effort to break through the status of mistress and servant, because it shocks their moral sense, there is no chance of even beginning a reform.

A fuller social and domestic life among household employees would be steps toward securing their entrance into the larger industrial organizations by which the needs of a community are most successfully administered. Many a girl who complains of loneliness, and who relinquishes her situation with that as her sole excuse, feebly tries to formulate her sense of restraint and social mal-adjustment. She sometimes says that she "feels so unnatural all the time." The writer has known the voice of a girl to change so much during three weeks of "service" that she could not recognize it when the girl returned to her home. It alternated between the high falsetto in which a shy child "speaks a piece" and the husky gulp with which the globus hystericus is swallowed. The alertness and bonhomie of the voice of the tenement-house child had totally disappeared. When such a girl leaves her employer, her reasons are often incoherent and totally incomprehensible to that good lady, who naturally concludes that she wishes to get away from the work and back to her dances and giddy life, content, if she has these, to stand many hours in an insanitary factory. The charge of the employer is only half a truth. These dances may be the only organized form of social life which the disheartened employee is able to mention, but the girl herself, in her discontent and her moving from place to place, is blindly striving to respond to a larger social life. Her employer thinks that she should be able to consider only the interests and conveniences of her employer's family, because the employer herself is holding to a family outlook, and refuses to allow her mind to take in the larger aspects of the situation.

Although this household industry survives in the midst of the factory system, it must, of course, constantly compete with it. Women with little children, or those with invalids depending upon them, cannot enter either occupation, and they are practically confined to the sewing trades; but to all other untrained women seeking employment a choice is open between these two forms of labor.

There are few women so dull that they cannot paste labels on a box, or do some form of factory work; few so dull that some perplexed housekeeper will not receive them, at least for a trial, in her household. Household labor, then, has to compete with factory labor, and women seeking employment, more or less consciously compare these two forms of labor in point of hours, in point of permanency of employment, in point of wages, and in point of the advantage they afford for family and social life. Three points are easily disposed of. First, in regard to hours, there is no doubt that the factory has the advantage. The average factory hours are from seven in the morning to six in the evening, with the chance of working overtime in busy seasons. This leaves most of the evenings and Sundays entirely free. The average hours of household labor are from six in the morning until eight at night, with little difference in seasons. There is one afternoon a week, with an occasional evening, but Sunday is seldom wholly free. Even these evenings and afternoons take the form of a concession from the employer. They are called "evenings out," as if the time really belonged to her, but that she was graciously permitting her employee to use it. This attitude, of course, is in marked contrast to that maintained by the factory operative, who, when she works evenings is paid for "over-time."

Second, in regard to permanency of position, the advantage is found clearly on the side of the household employee, if she proves in any measure satisfactory to her employer, for she encounters much less competition.

Third, in point of wages, the household is again fairly ahead, if we consider not the money received, but the opportunity offered for saving money. This is greater among household employees, because they do not pay board, the clothing required is simpler, and the temptation to spend money in recreation is less frequent. The minimum wages paid an adult in household labor may be fairly put at two dollars and a half a week; the maximum at six dollars, this excluding the comparatively rare opportunities for women to cook at forty dollars a month, and the housekeeper's position at fifty dollars a month.

The factory wages, viewed from the savings-bank point of view, may be smaller in the average, but this is doubtless counterbalanced in the minds of the employees by the greater chance which the factory offers for increased wages. A girl over sixteen seldom works in a factory for less than four dollars a week, and always cherishes the hope of at last being a forewoman with a permanent salary of from fifteen to twenty-five dollars a week. Whether she attains this or not, she runs a fair chance of earning ten dollars a week as a skilled worker. A girl finds it easier to be content with three dollars a week, when she pays for board, in a scale of wages rising toward ten dollars, than to be content with four dollars a week and pay no board, in a scale of wages rising toward six dollars; and the girl well knows that there are scores of forewomen at sixty dollars a month for one forty-dollar cook or fifty-dollar housekeeper. In many cases this position is well taken economically, for, although the opportunity for saving may be better for the employees in the household than in the factory, her family saves more when she works in a factory and lives with them. The rent is no more when she is at home. The two dollars and a half a week which she pays into the family fund more than covers the cost of her actual food, and at night she can often contribute toward the family labor by helping her mother wash and sew.

The fourth point has already been considered, and if the premise in regard to the isolation of the household employee is well taken, and if the position can be sustained that this isolation proves the determining factor in the situation, then certainly an effort should be made to remedy this, at least in its domestic and social aspects. To allow household employees to live with their own families and among their own friends, as factory employees now do, would be to relegate more production to industrial centres administered on the factory system, and to secure shorter hours for that which remains to be done in the household.

In those cases in which the household employees have no family ties, doubtless a remedy against social isolation would be the formation of residence clubs, at least in the suburbs, where the isolation is most keenly felt. Indeed, the beginnings of these clubs are already seen in the servants' quarters at the summer hotels. In these residence clubs, the household employee could have the independent life which only one's own abiding place can afford. This, of course, presupposes a higher grade of ability than household employees at present possess; on the other hand, it is only by offering such possibilities that the higher grades of intelligence can be secured for household employment. As the plan of separate clubs for household employees will probably come first in the suburbs, where the difficulty of securing and holding "servants" under the present system is most keenly felt, so the plan of buying cooked food from an outside kitchen, and of having more and more of the household product relegated to the factory, will probably come from the comparatively poor people in the city, who feel most keenly the pressure of the present system. They already consume a much larger proportion of canned goods and bakers' wares and "prepared meats" than the more prosperous people do, because they cannot command the skill nor the time for the more tedious preparation of the raw material. The writer has seen a tenement-house mother pass by a basket of green peas at the door of a local grocery store, to purchase a tin of canned peas, because they could be easily prepared for supper and "the children liked the tinny taste."

It is comparatively easy for an employer to manage her household industry with a cook, a laundress, a waitress. The difficulties really begin when the family income is so small that but one person can be employed in the household for all these varied functions, and the difficulties increase and grow almost insurmountable as they fall altogether upon the mother of the family, who is living in a flat, or, worse still, in a tenement house, where one stove and one set of utensils must be put to all sorts of uses, fit or unfit, making the living room of the family a horror in summer, and perfectly insupportable on rainy washing-days in winter. Such a woman, rather than the prosperous housekeeper, uses factory products, and thus no high standard of quality is established.

The problem of domestic service, which has long been discussed in the United States and England, is now coming to prominence in France. As a well-known economist has recently pointed out, the large defection in the ranks of domestics is there regarded as a sign of revolt against an "unconscious slavery," while English and American writers appeal to the statistics which point to the absorption of an enormous number of the class from which servants were formerly recruited into factory employments, and urge, as the natural solution, that more of the products used in households be manufactured in factories, and that personal service, at least for healthy adults, be eliminated altogether. Both of these lines of discussion certainly indicate that domestic service is yielding to the influence of a democratic movement, and is emerging from the narrower code of family ethics into the larger code governing social relations. It still remains to express the ethical advance through changed economic conditions by which the actual needs of the family may be supplied not only more effectively but more in line with associated effort. To fail to apprehend the tendency of one's age, and to fail to adapt the conditions of an industry to it, is to leave that industry ill-adjusted and belated on the economic side, and out of line ethically.



CHAPTER V

INDUSTRIAL AMELIORATION

There is no doubt that the great difficulty we experience in reducing to action our imperfect code of social ethics arises from the fact that we have not yet learned to act together, and find it far from easy even to fuse our principles and aims into a satisfactory statement. We have all been at times entertained by the futile efforts of half a dozen highly individualized people gathered together as a committee. Their aimless attempts to find a common method of action have recalled the wavering motion of a baby's arm before he has learned to cooerdinate his muscles.

If, as is many times stated, we are passing from an age of individualism to one of association, there is no doubt that for decisive and effective action the individual still has the best of it. He will secure efficient results while committees are still deliberating upon the best method of making a beginning. And yet, if the need of the times demand associated effort, it may easily be true that the action which appears ineffective, and yet is carried out upon the more highly developed line of associated effort, may represent a finer social quality and have a greater social value than the more effective individual action. It is possible that an individual may be successful, largely because he conserves all his powers for individual achievement and does not put any of his energy into the training which will give him the ability to act with others. The individual acts promptly, and we are dazzled by his success while only dimly conscious of the inadequacy of his code. Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in industrial relations, as existing between the owner of a large factory and his employees.

A growing conflict may be detected between the democratic ideal, which urges the workmen to demand representation in the administration of industry, and the accepted position, that the man who owns the capital and takes the risks has the exclusive right of management. It is in reality a clash between individual or aristocratic management, and corporate or democratic management. A large and highly developed factory presents a sharp contrast between its socialized form and individualistic ends.

It is possible to illustrate this difference by a series of events which occurred in Chicago during the summer of 1894. These events epitomized and exaggerated, but at the same time challenged, the code of ethics which regulates much of our daily conduct, and clearly showed that so-called social relations are often resting upon the will of an individual, and are in reality regulated by a code of individual ethics.

As this situation illustrates a point of great difficulty to which we have arrived in our development of social ethics, it may be justifiable to discuss it at some length. Let us recall the facts, not as they have been investigated and printed, but as they remain in our memories.

A large manufacturing company had provided commodious workshops, and, at the instigation of its president, had built a model town for the use of its employees. After a series of years it was deemed necessary, during a financial depression, to reduce the wages of these employees by giving each workman less than full-time work "in order to keep the shops open." This reduction was not accepted by the men, who had become discontented with the factory management and the town regulations, and a strike ensued, followed by a complete shut-down of the works. Although these shops were non-union shops, the strikers were hastily organized and appealed for help to the American Railway Union, which at that moment was holding its biennial meeting in Chicago. After some days' discussion and some futile attempts at arbitration, a sympathetic strike was declared, which gradually involved railway men in all parts of the country, and orderly transportation was brought to a complete standstill. In the excitement which followed, cars were burned and tracks torn up. The police of Chicago did not cope with the disorder, and the railway companies, apparently distrusting the Governor of the State, and in order to protect the United States mails, called upon the President of the United States for the federal troops, the federal courts further enjoined all persons against any form of interference with the property or operation of the railroads, and the situation gradually assumed the proportions of internecine warfare. During all of these events the president of the manufacturing company first involved, steadfastly refused to have the situation submitted to arbitration, and this attitude naturally provoked much discussion. The discussion was broadly divided between those who held that the long kindness of the president of the company had been most ungratefully received, and those who maintained that the situation was the inevitable outcome of the social consciousness developing among working people. The first defended the president of the company in his persistent refusal to arbitrate, maintaining that arbitration was impossible after the matter had been taken up by other than his own employees, and they declared that a man must be allowed to run his own business. They considered the firm stand of the president a service to the manufacturing interests of the entire country. The others claimed that a large manufacturing concern has ceased to be a private matter; that not only a number of workmen and stockholders are concerned in its management, but that the interests of the public are so involved that the officers of the company are in a real sense administering a public trust.

This prolonged strike clearly puts in a concrete form the ethics of an individual, in this case a benevolent employer, and the ethics of a mass of men, his employees, claiming what they believed to be their moral rights.

These events illustrate the difficulty of managing an industry which has become organized into a vast social operation, not with the cooeperation of the workman thus socialized, but solely by the dictation of the individual owning the capital. There is a sharp divergence between the social form and the individual aim, which becomes greater as the employees are more highly socialized and dependent. The president of the company under discussion went further than the usual employer does. He socialized not only the factory, but the form in which his workmen were living. He built, and in a great measure regulated, an entire town, without calling upon the workmen either for self-expression or self-government. He honestly believed that he knew better than they what was for their good, as he certainly knew better than they how to conduct his business. As his factory developed and increased, making money each year under his direction, he naturally expected the town to prosper in the same way.

He did not realize that the men submitted to the undemocratic conditions of the factory organization because the economic pressure in our industrial affairs is so great that they could not do otherwise. Under this pressure they could be successfully discouraged from organization, and systematically treated on the individual basis.

Social life, however, in spite of class distinctions, is much freer than industrial life, and the men resented the extension of industrial control to domestic and social arrangements. They felt the lack of democracy in the assumption that they should be taken care of in these matters, in which even the humblest workman has won his independence. The basic difficulty lay in the fact that an individual was directing the social affairs of many men without any consistent effort to find out their desires, and without any organization through which to give them social expression. The president of the company was, moreover, so confident of the righteousness of his aim that he had come to test the righteousness of the process by his own feelings and not by those of the men. He doubtless built the town from a sincere desire to give his employees the best surroundings. As it developed, he gradually took toward it the artist attitude toward his own creation, which has no thought for the creation itself but is absorbed in the idea it stands for, and he ceased to measure the usefulness of the town by the standard of the men's needs. This process slowly darkened his glints of memory, which might have connected his experience with that of his men. It is possible to cultivate the impulses of the benefactor until the power of attaining a simple human relationship with the beneficiaries, that of frank equality with them, is gone, and there is left no mutual interest in a common cause. To perform too many good deeds may be to lose the power of recognizing good in others; to be too absorbed in carrying out a personal plan of improvement may be to fail to catch the great moral lesson which our times offer.

The president of this company fostered his employees for many years; he gave them sanitary houses and beautiful parks; but in their extreme need, when they were struggling with the most difficult situation which the times could present to them, he lost his touch and had nothing wherewith to help them. The employer's conception of goodness for his men had been cleanliness, decency of living, and, above all, thrift and temperance. Means had been provided for all this, and opportunities had also been given for recreation and improvement. But this employer suddenly found his town in the sweep of a world-wide moral impulse. A movement had been going on about him and among his working men, of which he had been unconscious, or concerning which he had heard only by rumor.

Outside the ken of philanthropists the proletariat had learned to say in many languages, that "the injury of one is the concern of all." Their watchwords were brotherhood, sacrifice, the subordination of individual and trade interests, to the good of the working classes, and they were moved by a determination to free that class from the untoward conditions under which they were laboring.

Compared to these watchwords, the old ones which this philanthropic employer had given his town were negative and inadequate. He had believed strongly in temperance and steadiness of individual effort, but had failed to apprehend the greater movement of combined abstinence and concerted action. With all his fostering, the president had not attained to a conception of social morality for his men and had imagined that virtue for them largely meant absence of vice.

When the labor movement finally stirred his town, or, to speak more fairly, when, in their distress and perplexity, his own employees appealed to an organized manifestation of this movement, they were quite sure that simply because they were workmen in distress they would not be deserted by it. This loyalty on the part of a widely ramified and well-organized union toward the workmen in a "non-union shop," who had contributed nothing to its cause, was certainly a manifestation of moral power.

In none of his utterances or correspondence did the president for an instant recognize this touch of nobility, although one would imagine that he would gladly point out this bit of virtue, in what he must have considered the moral ruin about him. He stood throughout for the individual virtues, those which had distinguished the model workmen of his youth; those which had enabled him and so many of his contemporaries to rise in life, when "rising in life" was urged upon every promising boy as the goal of his efforts.

Of the code of social ethics he had caught absolutely nothing. The morals he had advocated in selecting and training his men did not fail them in the hour of confusion. They were self-controlled, and they themselves destroyed no property. They were sober and exhibited no drunkenness, even although obliged to hold their meetings in the saloon hall of a neighboring town. They repaid their employer in kind, but he had given them no rule for the life of association into which they were plunged.

The president of the company desired that his employees should possess the individual and family virtues, but did nothing to cherish in them the social virtues which express themselves in associated effort.

Day after day, during that horrible time of suspense, when the wires constantly reported the same message, "the President of the Company holds that there is nothing to arbitrate," one was forced to feel that the ideal of one-man rule was being sustained in its baldest form. A demand from many parts of the country and from many people was being made for social adjustment, against which the commercial training and the individualistic point of view held its own successfully.

The majority of the stockholders, not only of this company but of similar companies, and many other citizens, who had had the same commercial experience, shared and sustained this position. It was quite impossible for them to catch the other point of view. They not only felt themselves right from the commercial standpoint, but had gradually accustomed themselves also to the philanthropic standpoint, until they had come to consider their motives beyond reproach. Habit held them persistent in this view of the case through all changing conditions.

A wise man has said that "the consent of men and your own conscience are two wings given you whereby you may rise to God." It is so easy for the good and powerful to think that they can rise by following the dictates of conscience, by pursuing their own ideals, that they are prone to leave those ideals unconnected with the consent of their fellow-men. The president of the company thought out within his own mind a beautiful town. He had power with which to build this town, but he did not appeal to nor obtain the consent of the men who were living in it. The most unambitious reform, recognizing the necessity for this consent, makes for slow but sane and strenuous progress, while the most ambitious of social plans and experiments, ignoring this, is prone to failure.

The man who insists upon consent, who moves with the people, is bound to consult the "feasible right" as well as the absolute right. He is often obliged to attain only Mr. Lincoln's "best possible," and then has the sickening sense of compromise with his best convictions. He has to move along with those whom he leads toward a goal that neither he nor they see very clearly till they come to it. He has to discover what people really want, and then "provide the channels in which the growing moral force of their lives shall flow." What he does attain, however, is not the result of his individual striving, as a solitary mountain-climber beyond that of the valley multitude but it is sustained and upheld by the sentiments and aspirations of many others. Progress has been slower perpendicularly, but incomparably greater because lateral. He has not taught his contemporaries to climb mountains, but he has persuaded the villagers to move up a few feet higher; added to this, he has made secure his progress. A few months after the death of the promoter of this model town, a court decision made it obligatory upon the company to divest itself of the management of the town as involving a function beyond its corporate powers. The parks, flowers, and fountains of this far-famed industrial centre were dismantled, with scarcely a protest from the inhabitants themselves.

The man who disassociates his ambition, however disinterested, from the cooeperation of his fellows, always takes this risk of ultimate failure. He does not take advantage of the great conserver and guarantee of his own permanent success which associated efforts afford. Genuine experiments toward higher social conditions must have a more democratic faith and practice than those which underlie private venture. Public parks and improvements, intended for the common use, are after all only safe in the hands of the public itself; and associated effort toward social progress, although much more awkward and stumbling than that same effort managed by a capable individual, does yet enlist deeper forces and evoke higher social capacities.

The successful business man who is also the philanthropist is in more than the usual danger of getting widely separated from his employees. The men already have the American veneration for wealth and successful business capacity, and, added to this, they are dazzled by his good works. The workmen have the same kindly impulses as he, but while they organize their charity into mutual benefit associations and distribute their money in small amounts in relief for the widows and insurance for the injured, the employer may build model towns, erect college buildings, which are tangible and enduring, and thereby display his goodness in concentrated form.

By the very exigencies of business demands, the employer is too often cut off from the social ethics developing in regard to our larger social relationships, and from the great moral life springing from our common experiences. This is sure to happen when he is good "to" people rather than "with" them, when he allows himself to decide what is best for them instead of consulting them. He thus misses the rectifying influence of that fellowship which is so big that it leaves no room for sensitiveness or gratitude. Without this fellowship we may never know how great the divergence between ourselves and others may become, nor how cruel the misunderstandings.

During a recent strike of the employees of a large factory in Ohio, the president of the company expressed himself as bitterly disappointed by the results of his many kindnesses, and evidently considered the employees utterly unappreciative. His state of mind was the result of the fallacy of ministering to social needs from an individual impulse and expecting a socialized return of gratitude and loyalty. If the lunch-room was necessary, it was a necessity in order that the employees might have better food, and, when they had received the better food, the legitimate aim of the lunch-room was met. If baths were desirable, and the fifteen minutes of calisthenic exercise given the women in the middle of each half day brought a needed rest and change to their muscles, then the increased cleanliness and the increased bodily comfort of so many people should of themselves have justified the experiment.

To demand, as a further result, that there should be no strikes in the factory, no revolt against the will of the employer because the employees were filled with loyalty as the result of the kindness, was of course to take the experiment from an individual basis to a social one.

Large mining companies and manufacturing concerns are constantly appealing to their stockholders for funds, or for permission to take a percentage of the profits, in order that the money may be used for educational and social schemes designed for the benefit of the employees. The promoters of these schemes use as an argument and as an appeal, that better relations will be thus established, that strikes will be prevented, and that in the end the money returned to the stockholders will be increased. However praiseworthy this appeal may be in motive, it involves a distinct confusion of issues, and in theory deserves the failure it so often meets with in practice. In the clash which follows a strike, the employees are accused of an ingratitude, when there was no legitimate reason to expect gratitude; and useless bitterness, which has really a factitious basis, may be developed on both sides.

Indeed, unless the relation becomes a democratic one, the chances of misunderstanding are increased, when to the relation of employer and employees is added the relation of benefactor to beneficiaries, in so far as there is still another opportunity for acting upon the individual code of ethics.

There is no doubt that these efforts are to be commended, not only from the standpoint of their social value but because they have a marked industrial significance. Failing, as they do, however, to touch the question of wages and hours, which are almost invariably the points of trades-union effort, the employers confuse the mind of the public when they urge the amelioration of conditions and the kindly relation existing between them and their men as a reason for the discontinuance of strikes and other trades-union tactics. The men have individually accepted the kindness of the employers as it was individually offered, but quite as the latter urges his inability to increase wages unless he has the cooeperation of his competitors, so the men state that they are bound to the trades-union struggle for an increase in wages because it can only be undertaken by combinations of labor.

Even the much more democratic effort to divide a proportion of the profits at the end of the year among the employees, upon the basis of their wages and efficiency, is also exposed to a weakness, from the fact that the employing side has the power of determining to whom the benefit shall accrue.

Both individual acts of self-defence on the part of the wage earner and individual acts of benevolence on the part of the employer are most useful as they establish standards to which the average worker and employer may in time be legally compelled to conform. Progress must always come through the individual who varies from the type and has sufficient energy to express this variation. He first holds a higher conception than that held by the mass of his fellows of what is righteous under given conditions, and expresses this conviction in conduct, in many instances formulating a certain scruple which the others share, but have not yet defined even to themselves. Progress, however, is not secure until the mass has conformed to this new righteousness. This is equally true in regard to any advance made in the standard of living on the part of the trades-unionists or in the improved conditions of industry on the part of reforming employers. The mistake lies, not in overpraising the advance thus inaugurated by individual initiative, but in regarding the achievement as complete in a social sense when it is still in the realm of individual action. No sane manufacturer regards his factory as the centre of the industrial system. He knows very well that the cost of material, wages, and selling prices are determined by industrial conditions completely beyond his control. Yet the same man may quite calmly regard himself and his own private principles as merely self-regarding, and expect results from casual philanthropy which can only be accomplished through those common rules of life and labor established by the community for the common good.

Outside of and surrounding these smaller and most significant efforts are the larger and irresistible movements operating toward combination. This movement must tend to decide upon social matters from the social standpoint. Until then it is difficult to keep our minds free from a confusion of issues. Such a confusion occurs when the gift of a large sum to the community for a public and philanthropic purpose, throws a certain glamour over all the earlier acts of a man, and makes it difficult for the community to see possible wrongs committed against it, in the accumulation of wealth so beneficently used. It is possible also that the resolve to be thus generous unconsciously influences the man himself in his methods of accumulation. He keeps to a certain individual rectitude, meaning to make an individual restitution by the old paths of generosity and kindness, whereas if he had in view social restitution on the newer lines of justice and opportunity, he would throughout his course doubtless be watchful of his industrial relationships and his social virtues.

The danger of professionally attaining to the power of the righteous man, of yielding to the ambition "for doing good" on a large scale, compared to which the ambition for politics, learning, or wealth, are vulgar and commonplace, ramifies through our modern life; and those most easily beset by this temptation are precisely the men best situated to experiment on the larger social lines, because they so easily dramatize their acts and lead public opinion. Very often, too, they have in their hands the preservation and advancement of large vested interests, and often see clearly and truly that they are better able to administer the affairs of the community than the community itself: sometimes they see that if they do not administer them sharply and quickly, as only an individual can, certain interests of theirs dependent upon the community will go to ruin.

The model employer first considered, provided a large sum in his will with which to build and equip a polytechnic school, which will doubtless be of great public value. This again shows the advantage of individual management, in the spending as well as in the accumulating of wealth, but this school will attain its highest good, in so far as it incites the ambition to provide other schools from public funds. The town of Zurich possesses a magnificent polytechnic institute, secured by the vote of the entire people and supported from public taxes. Every man who voted for it is interested that his child should enjoy its benefits, and, of course, the voluntary attendance must be larger than in a school accepted as a gift to the community.

In the educational efforts of model employers, as in other attempts toward social amelioration, one man with the best of intentions is trying to do what the entire body of employees should have undertaken to do for themselves. The result of his efforts will only attain its highest value as it serves as an incentive to procure other results by the community as well as for the community.

There are doubtless many things which the public would never demand unless they were first supplied by individual initiative, both because the public lacks the imagination, and also the power of formulating their wants. Thus philanthropic effort supplies kindergartens, until they become so established in the popular affections that they are incorporated in the public school system. Churches and missions establish reading rooms, until at last the public library system dots the city with branch reading rooms and libraries. For this willingness to take risks for the sake of an ideal, for those experiments which must be undertaken with vigor and boldness in order to secure didactic value in failure as well as in success, society must depend upon the individual possessed with money, and also distinguished by earnest and unselfish purpose. Such experiments enable the nation to use the Referendum method in its public affairs. Each social experiment is thus tested by a few people, given wide publicity, that it may be observed and discussed by the bulk of the citizens before the public prudently makes up its mind whether or not it is wise to incorporate it into the functions of government. If the decision is in its favor and it is so incorporated, it can then be carried on with confidence and enthusiasm.

But experience has shown that we can only depend upon successful men for a certain type of experiment in the line of industrial amelioration and social advancement. The list of those who found churches, educational institutions, libraries, and art galleries, is very long, as is again the list of those contributing to model dwellings, recreation halls, and athletic fields. At the present moment factory employers are doing much to promote "industrial betterment" in the way of sanitary surroundings, opportunities for bathing, lunch rooms provided with cheap and wholesome food, club rooms, and guild halls. But there is a line of social experiment involving social righteousness in its most advanced form, in which the number of employers and the "favored class" are so few that it is plain society cannot count upon them for continuous and valuable help. This lack is in the line of factory legislation and that sort of social advance implied in shorter hours and the regulation of wages; in short, all that organization and activity that is involved in such a maintenance and increase of wages as would prevent the lowering of the standard of life.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse