A large body of people feel keenly that the present industrial system is in a state of profound disorder, and that there is no guarantee that the pursuit of individual ethics will ever right it. They claim that relief can only come through deliberate corporate effort inspired by social ideas and guided by the study of economic laws, and that the present industrial system thwarts our ethical demands, not only for social righteousness but for social order. Because they believe that each advance in ethics must be made fast by a corresponding advance in politics and legal enactment, they insist upon the right of state regulation and control. While many people representing all classes in a community would assent to this as to a general proposition, and would even admit it as a certain moral obligation, legislative enactments designed to control industrial conditions have largely been secured through the efforts of a few citizens, mostly those who constantly see the harsh conditions of labor and who are incited to activity by their sympathies as well as their convictions.
This may be illustrated by the series of legal enactments regulating the occupations in which children may be allowed to work, also the laws in regard to the hours of labor permitted in those occupations, and the minimum age below which children may not be employed. The first child labor laws were enacted in England through the efforts of those members of parliament whose hearts were wrung by the condition of the little parish apprentices bound out to the early textile manufacturers of the north; and through the long years required to build up the code of child labor legislation which England now possesses, knowledge of the conditions has always preceded effective legislation. The efforts of that small number in every community who believe in legislative control have always been reenforced by the efforts of trades-unionists rather than by the efforts of employers. Partly because the employment of workingmen in the factories brings them in contact with the children who tend to lower wages and demoralize their trades, and partly because workingmen have no money nor time to spend in alleviating philanthropy, and must perforce seize upon agitation and legal enactment as the only channel of redress which is open to them.
We may illustrate by imagining a row of people seated in a moving street-car, into which darts a boy of eight, calling out the details of the last murder, in the hope of selling an evening newspaper. A comfortable looking man buys a paper from him with no sense of moral shock; he may even be a trifle complacent that he has helped along the little fellow, who is making his way in the world. The philanthropic lady sitting next to him may perhaps reflect that it is a pity that such a bright boy is not in school. She may make up her mind in a moment of compunction to redouble her efforts for various newsboys' schools and homes, that this poor child may have better teaching, and perhaps a chance at manual training. She probably is convinced that he alone, by his unaided efforts, is supporting a widowed mother, and her heart is moved to do all she can for him. Next to her sits a workingman trained in trades-union methods. He knows that the boy's natural development is arrested, and that the abnormal activity of his body and mind uses up the force which should go into growth; moreover, that this premature use of his powers has but a momentary and specious value. He is forced to these conclusions because he has seen many a man, entering the factory at eighteen and twenty, so worn out by premature work that he was "laid on the shelf" within ten or fifteen years. He knows very well that he can do nothing in the way of ameliorating the lot of this particular boy; that his only possible chance is to agitate for proper child-labor laws; to regulate, and if possible prohibit, street-vending by children, in order that the child of the poorest may have his school time secured to him, and may have at least his short chance for growth.
These three people, sitting in the street car, are all honest and upright, and recognize a certain duty toward the forlorn children of the community. The self-made man is encouraging one boy's own efforts; the philanthropic lady is helping on a few boys; the workingman alone is obliged to include all the boys of his class. Workingmen, because of their feebleness in all but numbers, have been forced to appeal to the state, in order to secure protection for themselves and for their children. They cannot all rise out of their class, as the occasionally successful man has done; some of them must be left to do the work in the factories and mines, and they have no money to spend in philanthropy.
Both public agitation and a social appeal to the conscience of the community is necessary in order to secure help from the state, and, curiously enough, child-labor laws once enacted and enforced are a matter of great pride, and even come to be regarded as a register of the community's humanity and enlightenment. If the method of public agitation could find quiet and orderly expression in legislative enactment, and if labor measures could be submitted to the examination and judgment of the whole without a sense of division or of warfare, we should have the ideal development of the democratic state.
But we judge labor organizations as we do other living institutions, not by their declaration of principles, which we seldom read, but by their blundering efforts to apply their principles to actual conditions, and by the oft-time failure of their representatives, when the individual finds himself too weak to become the organ of corporate action.
The very blunders and lack of organization too often characterizing a union, in marked contrast to the orderly management of a factory, often confuse us as to the real issues involved, and we find it hard to trust uncouth and unruly manifestations of social effort. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that those who are formulating a code of associated action so often break through the established code of law and order. As society has a right to demand of the reforming individual that he be sternly held to his personal and domestic claims, so it has a right to insist that labor organizations shall keep to the hardly won standards of public law and order; and the community performs but its plain duty when it registers its protest every time law and order are subverted, even in the interest of the so-called social effort. Yet in moments of industrial stress and strain the community is confronted by a moral perplexity which may arise from the mere fact that the good of yesterday is opposed to the good of today, and that which may appear as a choice between virtue and vice is really but a choice between virtue and virtue. In the disorder and confusion sometimes incident to growth and progress, the community may be unable to see anything but the unlovely struggle itself.
The writer recalls a conversation between two workingmen who were leaving a lecture on "Organic Evolution." The first was much puzzled, and anxiously inquired of the second "if evolution could mean that one animal turned into another." The challenged workman stopped in the rear of the hall, put his foot upon a chair, and expounded what he thought evolution did mean; and this, so nearly as the conversation can be recalled, is what he said: "You see a lot of fishes are living in a stream, which overflows in the spring and strands some of them upon the bank. The weak ones die up there, but others make a big effort to get back into the water. They dig their fins into the sand, breathe as much air as they can with their gills, and have a terrible time. But after a while their fins turn into legs and their gills into lungs, and they have become frogs. Of course they are further along than the sleek, comfortable fishes who sail up and down the stream waving their tails and despising the poor damaged things thrashing around on the bank. He—the lecturer—did not say anything about men, but it is easy enough to think of us poor devils on the dry bank, struggling without enough to live on, while the comfortable fellows sail along in the water with all they want and despise us because we thrash about." His listener did not reply, and was evidently dissatisfied both with the explanation and the application. Doubtless the illustration was bungling in more than its setting forth, but the story is suggestive.
At times of social disturbance the law-abiding citizen is naturally so anxious for peace and order, his sympathies are so justly and inevitably on the side making for the restoration of law, that it is difficult for him to see the situation fairly. He becomes insensible to the unselfish impulse which may prompt a sympathetic strike in behalf of the workers in a non-union shop, because he allows his mind to dwell exclusively on the disorder which has become associated with the strike. He is completely side-tracked by the ugly phases of a great moral movement. It is always a temptation to assume that the side which has respectability, authority, and superior intelligence, has therefore righteousness as well, especially when the same side presents concrete results of individual effort as over against the less tangible results of associated effort.
It is as yet most difficult for us to free ourselves from the individualistic point of view sufficiently to group events in their social relations and to judge fairly those who are endeavoring to produce a social result through all the difficulties of associated action. The philanthropist still finds his path much easier than do those who are attempting a social morality. In the first place, the public, anxious to praise what it recognizes as an undoubted moral effort often attended with real personal sacrifice, joyfully seizes upon this manifestation and overpraises it, recognizing the philanthropist as an old friend in the paths of righteousness, whereas the others are strangers and possibly to be distrusted as aliens. It is easy to confuse the response to an abnormal number of individual claims with the response to the social claim. An exaggerated personal morality is often mistaken for a social morality, and until it attempts to minister to a social situation its total inadequacy is not discovered. To attempt to attain a social morality without a basis of democratic experience results in the loss of the only possible corrective and guide, and ends in an exaggerated individual morality but not in social morality at all. We see this from time to time in the care-worn and overworked philanthropist, who has taxed his individual will beyond the normal limits and has lost his clew to the situation among a bewildering number of cases. A man who takes the betterment of humanity for his aim and end must also take the daily experiences of humanity for the constant correction of his process. He must not only test and guide his achievement by human experience, but he must succeed or fail in proportion as he has incorporated that experience with his own. Otherwise his own achievements become his stumbling-block, and he comes to believe in his own goodness as something outside of himself. He makes an exception of himself, and thinks that he is different from the rank and file of his fellows. He forgets that it is necessary to know of the lives of our contemporaries, not only in order to believe in their integrity, which is after all but the first beginnings of social morality, but in order to attain to any mental or moral integrity for ourselves or any such hope for society.
As democracy modifies our conception of life, it constantly raises the value and function of each member of the community, however humble he may be. We have come to believe that the most "brutish man" has a value in our common life, a function to perform which can be fulfilled by no one else. We are gradually requiring of the educator that he shall free the powers of each man and connect him with the rest of life. We ask this not merely because it is the man's right to be thus connected, but because we have become convinced that the social order cannot afford to get along without his special contribution. Just as we have come to resent all hindrances which keep us from untrammelled comradeship with our fellows, and as we throw down unnatural divisions, not in the spirit of the eighteenth-century reformers, but in the spirit of those to whom social equality has become a necessity for further social development, so we are impatient to use the dynamic power residing in the mass of men, and demand that the educator free that power. We believe that man's moral idealism is the constructive force of progress, as it has always been; but because every human being is a creative agent and a possible generator of fine enthusiasm, we are sceptical of the moral idealism of the few and demand the education of the many, that there may be greater freedom, strength, and subtilty of intercourse and hence an increase of dynamic power. We are not content to include all men in our hopes, but have become conscious that all men are hoping and are part of the same movement of which we are a part.
Many people impelled by these ideas have become impatient with the slow recognition on the part of the educators of their manifest obligation to prepare and nourish the child and the citizen for social relations. The educators should certainly conserve the learning and training necessary for the successful individual and family life, but should add to that a preparation for the enlarged social efforts which our increasing democracy requires. The democratic ideal demands of the school that it shall give the child's own experience a social value; that it shall teach him to direct his own activities and adjust them to those of other people. We are not willing that thousands of industrial workers shall put all of their activity and toil into services from which the community as a whole reaps the benefit, while their mental conceptions and code of morals are narrow and untouched by any uplift which the consciousness of social value might give them.
We are impatient with the schools which lay all stress on reading and writing, suspecting them to rest upon the assumption that the ordinary experience of life is worth little, and that all knowledge and interest must be brought to the children through the medium of books. Such an assumption fails to give the child any clew to the life about him, or any power to usefully or intelligently connect himself with it. This may be illustrated by observations made in a large Italian colony situated in Chicago, the children from which are, for the most part, sent to the public schools.
The members of the Italian colony are largely from South Italy,—Calabrian and Sicilian peasants, or Neapolitans from the workingmen's quarters of that city. They have come to America with the distinct aim of earning money, and finding more room for the energies of themselves and their children. In almost all cases they mean to go back again, simply because their imaginations cannot picture a continuous life away from the old surroundings. Their experiences in Italy have been those of simple outdoor activity, and their ideas have come directly to them from their struggle with Nature,—such a hand-to-hand struggle as takes place when each man gets his living largely through his own cultivation of the soil, or with tools simply fashioned by his own hands. The women, as in all primitive life, have had more diversified activities than the men. They have cooked, spun, and knitted, in addition to their almost equal work in the fields. Very few of the peasant men or women can either read or write. They are devoted to their children, strong in their family feeling, even to remote relationships, and clannish in their community life.
The entire family has been upheaved, and is striving to adjust itself to its new surroundings. The men, for the most part, work on railroad extensions through the summer, under the direction of a padrone, who finds the work for them, regulates the amount of their wages, and supplies them with food. The first effect of immigration upon the women is that of idleness. They no longer work in the fields, nor milk the goats, nor pick up faggots. The mother of the family buys all the clothing, not only already spun and woven but made up into garments, of a cut and fashion beyond her powers. It is, indeed, the most economical thing for her to do. Her house-cleaning and cooking are of the simplest; the bread is usually baked outside of the house, and the macaroni bought prepared for boiling. All of those outdoor and domestic activities, which she would naturally have handed on to her daughters, have slipped away from her. The domestic arts are gone, with their absorbing interests for the children, their educational value, and incentive to activity. A household in a tenement receives almost no raw material. For the hundreds of children who have never seen wheat grow, there are dozens who have never seen bread baked. The occasional washings and scrubbings are associated only with discomfort. The child of such a family receives constant stimulus of most exciting sort from his city street life, but he has little or no opportunity to use his energies in domestic manufacture, or, indeed, constructively in any direction. No activity is supplied to take the place of that which, in Italy, he would naturally have found in his own surroundings, and no new union with wholesome life is made for him.
Italian parents count upon the fact that their children learn the English language and American customs before they do themselves, and the children act not only as interpreters of the language, but as buffers between them and Chicago, resulting in a certain almost pathetic dependence of the family upon the child. When a child of the family, therefore, first goes to school, the event is fraught with much significance to all the others. The family has no social life in any structural form and can supply none to the child. He ought to get it in the school and give it to his family, the school thus becoming the connector with the organized society about them. It is the children aged six, eight, and ten, who go to school, entering, of course, the primary grades. If a boy is twelve or thirteen on his arrival in America, his parents see in him a wage-earning factor, and the girl of the same age is already looking toward her marriage.
Let us take one of these boys, who has learned in his six or eight years to speak his native language, and to feel himself strongly identified with the fortunes of his family. Whatever interest has come to the minds of his ancestors has come through the use of their hands in the open air; and open air and activity of body have been the inevitable accompaniments of all their experiences. Yet the first thing that the boy must do when he reaches school is to sit still, at least part of the time, and he must learn to listen to what is said to him, with all the perplexity of listening to a foreign tongue. He does not find this very stimulating, and is slow to respond to the more subtle incentives of the schoolroom. The peasant child is perfectly indifferent to showing off and making a good recitation. He leaves all that to his schoolfellows, who are more sophisticated and equipped with better English. His parents are not deeply interested in keeping him in school, and will not hold him there against his inclination. Their experience does not point to the good American tradition that it is the educated man who finally succeeds. The richest man in the Italian colony can neither read nor write—even Italian. His cunning and acquisitiveness, combined with the credulity and ignorance of his countrymen, have slowly brought about his large fortune. The child himself may feel the stirring of a vague ambition to go on until he is as the other children are; but he is not popular with his schoolfellows, and he sadly feels the lack of dramatic interest. Even the pictures and objects presented to him, as well as the language, are strange.
If we admit that in education it is necessary to begin with the experiences which the child already has and to use his spontaneous and social activity, then the city streets begin this education for him in a more natural way than does the school. The South Italian peasant comes from a life of picking olives and oranges, and he easily sends his children out to pick up coal from railroad tracks, or wood from buildings which have been burned down. Unfortunately, this process leads by easy transition to petty thieving. It is easy to go from the coal on the railroad track to the coal and wood which stand before a dealer's shop; from the potatoes which have rolled from a rumbling wagon to the vegetables displayed by the grocer. This is apt to be the record of the boy who responds constantly to the stimulus and temptations of the street, although in the beginning his search for bits of food and fuel was prompted by the best of motives.
The school has to compete with a great deal from the outside in addition to the distractions of the neighborhood. Nothing is more fascinating than that mysterious "down town," whither the boy longs to go to sell papers and black boots, to attend theatres, and, if possible, to stay all night on the pretence of waiting for the early edition of the great dailies. If a boy is once thoroughly caught in these excitements, nothing can save him from over-stimulation and consequent debility and worthlessness; he arrives at maturity with no habits of regular work and with a distaste for its dulness.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of boys of various nationalities who conscientiously remain in school and fulfil all the requirements of the early grades, and at the age of fourteen are found in factories, painstakingly performing their work year after year. These later are the men who form the mass of the population in every industrial neighborhood of every large city; but they carry on the industrial processes year after year without in the least knowing what it is all about. The one fixed habit which the boy carries away with him from the school to the factory is the feeling that his work is merely provisional. In school the next grade was continually held before him as an object of attainment, and it resulted in the conviction that the sole object of present effort is to get ready for something else. This tentative attitude takes the last bit of social stimulus out of his factory work; he pursues it merely as a necessity, and his very mental attitude destroys his chance for a realization of its social value. As the boy in school contracted the habit of doing his work in certain hours and taking his pleasure in certain other hours, so in the factory he earns his money by ten hours of dull work and spends it in three hours of lurid and unprofitable pleasure in the evening. Both in the school and in the factory, in proportion as his work grows dull and monotonous, his recreation must become more exciting and stimulating. The hopelessness of adding evening classes and social entertainments as a mere frill to a day filled with monotonous and deadening drudgery constantly becomes more apparent to those who are endeavoring to bring a fuller life to the industrial members of the community, and who are looking forward to a time when work shall cease to be senseless drudgery with no self-expression on the part of the worker. It sometimes seems that the public schools should contribute much more than they do to the consummation of this time. If the army of school children who enter the factories every year possessed thoroughly vitalized faculties, they might do much to lighten this incubus of dull factory work which presses so heavily upon so large a number of our fellow-citizens. Has our commercialism been so strong that our schools have become insensibly commercialized, whereas we supposed that our industrial life was receiving the broadening and illuminating effects of the schools? The training of these children, so far as it has been vocational at all, has been in the direction of clerical work. It is possible that the business men, whom we in America so tremendously admire, have really been dictating the curriculum of our public schools, in spite of the conventions of educators and the suggestions of university professors. The business man, of course, has not said, "I will have the public schools train office boys and clerks so that I may have them easily and cheaply," but he has sometimes said, "Teach the children to write legibly and to figure accurately and quickly; to acquire habits of punctuality and order; to be prompt to obey; and you will fit them to make their way in the world as I have made mine." Has the workingman been silent as to what he desires for his children, and allowed the business man to decide for him there, as he has allowed the politician to manage his municipal affairs, or has the workingman so far shared our universal optimism that he has really believed that his children would never need to go into industrial life at all, but that all of his sons would become bankers and merchants?
Certain it is that no sufficient study has been made of the child who enters into industrial life early and stays there permanently, to give him some offset to its monotony and dulness, some historic significance of the part he is taking in the life of the community.
It is at last on behalf of the average workingmen that our increasing democracy impels us to make a new demand upon the educator. As the political expression of democracy has claimed for the workingman the free right of citizenship, so a code of social ethics is now insisting that he shall be a conscious member of society, having some notion of his social and industrial value.
The early ideal of a city that it was a market-place in which to exchange produce, and a mere trading-post for merchants, apparently still survives in our minds and is constantly reflected in our schools. We have either failed to realize that cities have become great centres of production and manufacture in which a huge population is engaged, or we have lacked sufficient presence of mind to adjust ourselves to the change. We admire much more the men who accumulate riches, and who gather to themselves the results of industry, than the men who actually carry forward industrial processes; and, as has been pointed out, our schools still prepare children almost exclusively for commercial and professional life.
Quite as the country boy dreams of leaving the farm for life in town and begins early to imitate the travelling salesman in dress and manner, so the school boy within the town hopes to be an office boy, and later a clerk or salesman, and looks upon work in the factory as the occupation of ignorant and unsuccessful men. The schools do so little really to interest the child in the life of production, or to excite his ambition in the line of industrial occupation, that the ideal of life, almost from the very beginning, becomes not an absorbing interest in one's work and a consciousness of its value and social relation, but a desire for money with which unmeaning purchases may be made and an unmeaning social standing obtained.
The son of a workingman who is successful in commercial life, impresses his family and neighbors quite as does the prominent city man when he comes back to dazzle his native town. The children of the working people learn many useful things in the public schools, but the commercial arithmetic, and many other studies, are founded on the tacit assumption that a boy rises in life by getting away from manual labor,—that every promising boy goes into business or a profession. The children destined for factory life are furnished with what would be most useful under other conditions, quite as the prosperous farmer's wife buys a folding-bed for her huge four-cornered "spare room," because her sister, who has married a city man, is obliged to have a folding-bed in the cramped limits of her flat Partly because so little is done for him educationally, and partly because he must live narrowly and dress meanly, the life of the average laborer tends to become flat and monotonous, with nothing in his work to feed his mind or hold his interest. Theoretically, we would all admit that the man at the bottom, who performs the meanest and humblest work, so long as the work is necessary, performs a useful function; but we do not live up to our theories, and in addition to his hard and uninteresting work he is covered with a sort of contempt, and unless he falls into illness or trouble, he receives little sympathy or attention. Certainly no serious effort is made to give him a participation in the social and industrial life with which he comes in contact, nor any insight and inspiration regarding it.
Apparently we have not yet recovered manual labor from the deep distrust which centuries of slavery and the feudal system have cast upon it. To get away from menial work, to do obviously little with one's hands, is still the desirable status. This may readily be seen all along the line. A workingman's family will make every effort and sacrifice that the brightest daughter be sent to the high school and through the normal school, quite as much because a teacher in the family raises the general social standing and sense of family consequence, as that the returns are superior to factory or even office work. "Teacher" in the vocabulary of many children is a synonym for women-folk gentry, and the name is indiscriminately applied to women of certain dress and manner. The same desire for social advancement is expressed by the purchasing of a piano, or the fact that the son is an office boy, and not a factory hand. The overcrowding of the professions by poorly equipped men arises from much the same source, and from the conviction that "an education" is wasted if a boy goes into a factory or shop.
A Chicago manufacturer tells a story of twin boys, whom he befriended and meant to give a start in life. He sent them both to the Athenaeum for several winters as a preparatory business training, and then took them into his office, where they speedily became known as the bright one and the stupid one. The stupid one was finally dismissed after repeated trials, when to the surprise of the entire establishment, he quickly betook himself into the shops, where he became a wide-awake and valuable workman. His chagrined benefactor, in telling the story, admits that he himself had fallen a victim to his own business training and his early notion of rising in life. In reality he had merely followed the lead of most benevolent people who help poor boys. They test the success of their efforts by the number whom they have taken out of factory work into some other and "higher occupation."
Quite in line with this commercial ideal are the night schools and institutions of learning most accessible to working people. First among them is the business college which teaches largely the mechanism of type-writing and book-keeping, and lays all stress upon commerce and methods of distribution. Commodities are treated as exports and imports, or solely in regard to their commercial value, and not, of course, in relation to their historic development or the manufacturing processes to which they have been subjected. These schools do not in the least minister to the needs of the actual factory employee, who is in the shop and not in the office. We assume that all men are searching for "puddings and power," to use Carlyle's phrase, and furnish only the schools which help them to those ends.
The business college man, or even the man who goes through an academic course in order to prepare for a profession, comes to look on learning too much as an investment from which he will later reap the benefits in earning money. He does not connect learning with industrial pursuits, nor does he in the least lighten or illuminate those pursuits for those of his friends who have not risen in life. "It is as though nets were laid at the entrance to education, in which those who by some means or other escape from the masses bowed down by labor, are inevitably caught and held from substantial service to their fellows." The academic teaching which is accessible to workingmen through University Extension lectures and classes at settlements, is usually bookish and remote, and concerning subjects completely divorced from their actual experiences. The men come to think of learning as something to be added to the end of a hard day's work, and to be gained at the cost of toilsome mental exertion. There are, of course, exceptions, but many men who persist in attending classes and lectures year after year find themselves possessed of a mass of inert knowledge which nothing in their experience fuses into availability or realization.
Among the many disappointments which the settlement experiment has brought to its promoters, perhaps none is keener than the fact that they have as yet failed to work out methods of education, specialized and adapted to the needs of adult working people in contra-distinction to those employed in schools and colleges, or those used in teaching children. There are many excellent reasons and explanations for this failure. In the first place, the residents themselves are for the most part imbued with academic methods and ideals, which it is most difficult to modify. To quote from a late settlement report, "The most vaunted educational work in settlements amounts often to the stimulation mentally of a select few who are, in a sense, of the academic type of mind, and who easily and quickly respond to the academic methods employed." These classes may be valuable, but they leave quite untouched the great mass of the factory population, the ordinary workingman of the ordinary workingman's street, whose attitude is best described as that of "acquiescence," who lives through the aimless passage of the years without incentive "to imagine, to design, or to aspire." These men are totally untouched by all the educational and philanthropic machinery which is designed for the young and the helpless who live on the same streets with them. They do not often drink to excess, they regularly give all their wages to their wives, they have a vague pride in their superior children; but they grow prematurely old and stiff in all their muscles, and become more and more taciturn, their entire energies consumed in "holding a job."
Various attempts have been made to break through the inadequate educational facilities supplied by commercialism and scholarship, both of which have followed their own ideals and have failed to look at the situation as it actually presents itself. The most noteworthy attempt has been the movement toward industrial education, the agitation for which has been ably seconded by manufacturers of a practical type, who have from time to time founded and endowed technical schools, designed for workingmen's sons. The early schools of this type inevitably reflected the ideal of the self-made man. They succeeded in transferring a few skilled workers into the upper class of trained engineers, and a few less skilled workers into the class of trained mechanics, but did not aim to educate the many who are doomed to the unskilled work which the permanent specialization of the division of labor demands.
The Peter Coopers and other good men honestly believed that if intelligence could be added to industry, each workingman who faithfully attended these schools could walk into increased skill and wages, and in time even become an employer himself. Such schools are useful beyond doubt; but so far as educating workingmen is concerned or in any measure satisfying the democratic ideal, they plainly beg the question.
Almost every large city has two or three polytechnic institutions founded by rich men, anxious to help "poor boys." These have been captured by conventional educators for the purpose of fitting young men for the colleges and universities. They have compromised by merely adding to the usual academic course manual work, applied mathematics, mechanical drawing and engineering. Two schools in Chicago, plainly founded for the sons of workingmen, afford an illustration of this tendency and result. On the other hand, so far as schools of this type have been captured by commercialism, they turn out trained engineers, professional chemists, and electricians. They are polytechnics of a high order, but do not even pretend to admit the workingman with his meagre intellectual equipment. They graduate machine builders, but not educated machine tenders. Even the textile schools are largely seized by young men who expect to be superintendents of factories, designers, or manufacturers themselves, and the textile worker who actually "holds the thread" is seldom seen in them; indeed, in one of the largest schools women are not allowed, in spite of the fact that spinning and weaving have traditionally been woman's work, and that thousands of women are at present employed in the textile mills.
It is much easier to go over the old paths of education with "manual training" thrown in, as it were; it is much simpler to appeal to the old ambitions of "getting on in life," or of "preparing for a profession," or "for a commercial career," than to work out new methods on democratic lines. These schools gradually drop back into the conventional courses, modified in some slight degree, while the adaptation to workingmen's needs is never made, nor, indeed, vigorously attempted. In the meantime, the manufacturers continually protest that engineers, especially trained for devising machines, are not satisfactory. Three generations of workers have invented, but we are told that invention no longer goes on in the workshop, even when it is artificially stimulated by the offer of prizes, and that the inventions of the last quarter of the nineteenth century have by no means fulfilled the promise of the earlier three-quarters.
Every foreman in a large factory has had experience with two classes of men: first with those who become rigid and tolerate no change in their work, partly because they make more money "working by the piece," when they stick to that work which they have learned to do rapidly, and partly because the entire muscular and nervous system has become by daily use adapted to particular motions and resents change. Secondly, there are the men who float in and out of the factory, in a constantly changing stream. They "quit work" for the slightest reason or none at all, and never become skilled at anything. Some of them are men of low intelligence, but many of them are merely too nervous and restless, too impatient, too easily "driven to drink," to be of any use in a modern factory. They are the men for whom the demanded adaptation is impossible.
The individual from whom the industrial order demands ever larger drafts of time and energy, should be nourished and enriched from social sources, in proportion as he is drained. He, more than other men, needs the conception of historic continuity in order to reveal to him the purpose and utility of his work, and he can only be stimulated and dignified as he obtains a conception of his proper relation to society. Scholarship is evidently unable to do this for him; for, unfortunately, the same tendency to division of labor has also produced over-specialization in scholarship, with the sad result that when the scholar attempts to minister to a worker, he gives him the result of more specialization rather than an offset from it. He cannot bring healing and solace because he himself is suffering from the same disease. There is indeed a deplorable lack of perception and adaptation on the part of educators all along the line.
It will certainly be embarrassing to have our age written down triumphant in the matter of inventions, in that our factories were filled with intricate machines, the result of advancing mathematical and mechanical knowledge in relation to manufacturing processes, but defeated in that it lost its head over the achievement and forgot the men. The accusation would stand, that the age failed to perform a like service in the extension of history and art to the factory employees who ran the machines; that the machine tenders, heavy and almost dehumanized by monotonous toil, walked about in the same streets with us, and sat in the same cars; but that we were absolutely indifferent and made no genuine effort to supply to them the artist's perception or student's insight, which alone could fuse them into social consciousness. It would further stand that the scholars among us continued with yet more research, that the educators were concerned only with the young and the promising, and the philanthropists with the criminals and helpless.
There is a pitiful failure to recognize the situation in which the majority of working people are placed, a tendency to ignore their real experiences and needs, and, most stupid of all, we leave quite untouched affections and memories which would afford a tremendous dynamic if they were utilized.
We constantly hear it said in educational circles, that a child learns only by "doing," and that education must proceed "through the eyes and hands to the brain"; and yet for the vast number of people all around us who do not need to have activities artificially provided, and who use their hands and eyes all the time, we do not seem able to reverse the process. We quote the dictum, "What is learned in the schoolroom must be applied in the workshop," and yet the skill and handicraft constantly used in the workshop have no relevance or meaning given to them by the school; and when we do try to help the workingman in an educational way, we completely ignore his everyday occupation. Yet the task is merely one of adaptation. It is to take actual conditions and to make them the basis for a large and generous method of education, to perform a difficult idealization doubtless, but not an impossible one.
We apparently believe that the workingman has no chance to realize life through his vocation. We easily recognize the historic association in regard to ancient buildings. We say that "generation after generation have stamped their mark upon them, have recorded their thoughts in them, until they have become the property of all." And yet this is even more true of the instruments of labor, which have constantly been held in human hands. A machine really represents the "seasoned life of man" preserved and treasured up within itself, quite as much as an ancient building does. At present, workmen are brought in contact with the machinery with which they work as abruptly as if the present set of industrial implements had been newly created. They handle the machinery day by day, without any notion of its gradual evolution and growth. Few of the men who perform the mechanical work in the great factories have any comprehension of the fact that the inventions upon which the factory depends, the instruments which they use, have been slowly worked out, each generation using the gifts of the last and transmitting the inheritance until it has become a social possession. This can only be understood by a man who has obtained some idea of social progress. We are still childishly pleased when we see the further subdivision of labor going on, because the quantity of the output is increased thereby, and we apparently are unable to take our attention away from the product long enough to really focus it upon the producer. Theoretically, "the division of labor" makes men more interdependent and human by drawing them together into a unity of purpose. "If a number of people decide to build a road, and one digs, and one brings stones, and another breaks them, they are quite inevitably united by their interest in the road. But this naturally presupposes that they know where the road is going to, that they have some curiosity and interest about it, and perhaps a chance to travel upon it." If the division of labor robs them of interest in any part of it, the mere mechanical fact of interdependence amounts to nothing.
The man in the factory, as well as the man with the hoe, has a grievance beyond being overworked and disinherited, in that he does not know what it is all about. We may well regret the passing of the time when the variety of work performed in the unspecialized workshop naturally stimulated the intelligence of the workingmen and brought them into contact both with the raw material and the finished product. But the problem of education, as any advanced educator will tell us, is to supply the essentials of experience by a short cut, as it were. If the shop constantly tends to make the workman a specialist, then the problem of the educator in regard to him is quite clear: it is to give him what may be an offset from the over-specialization of his daily work, to supply him with general information and to insist that he shall be a cultivated member of society with a consciousness of his industrial and social value.
As sad a sight as an old hand-loom worker in a factory attempting to make his clumsy machine compete with the flying shuttles about him, is a workingman equipped with knowledge so meagre that he can get no meaning into his life nor sequence between his acts and the far-off results.
Manufacturers, as a whole, however, when they attempt educational institutions in connection with their factories, are prone to follow conventional lines, and to exhibit the weakness of imitation. We find, indeed, that the middle-class educator constantly makes the mistakes of the middle-class moralist when he attempts to aid working people. The latter has constantly and traditionally urged upon the workingman the specialized virtues of thrift, industry, and sobriety—all virtues pertaining to the individual. When each man had his own shop, it was perhaps wise to lay almost exclusive stress upon the industrial virtues of diligence and thrift; but as industry has become more highly organized, life becomes incredibly complex and interdependent. If a workingman is to have a conception of his value at all, he must see industry in its unity and entirety; he must have a conception that will include not only himself and his immediate family and community, but the industrial organization as a whole. It is doubtless true that dexterity of hand becomes less and less imperative as the invention of machinery and subdivision of labor proceeds; but it becomes all the more necessary, if the workman is to save his life at all, that he should get a sense of his individual relation to the system. Feeding a machine with a material of which he has no knowledge, producing a product, totally unrelated to the rest of his life, without in the least knowing what becomes of it, or its connection with the community, is, of course, unquestionably deadening to his intellectual and moral life. To make the moral connection it would be necessary to give him a social consciousness of the value of his work, and at least a sense of participation and a certain joy in its ultimate use; to make the intellectual connection it would be essential to create in him some historic conception of the development of industry and the relation of his individual work to it.
Workingmen themselves have made attempts in both directions, which it would be well for moralists and educators to study. It is a striking fact that when workingmen formulate their own moral code, and try to inspire and encourage each other, it is always a large and general doctrine which they preach. They were the first class of men to organize an international association, and the constant talk at a modern labor meeting is of solidarity and of the identity of the interests of workingmen the world over. It is difficult to secure a successful organization of men into the simplest trades organization without an appeal to the most abstract principles of justice and brotherhood. As they have formulated their own morals by laying the greatest stress upon the largest morality, so if they could found their own schools, it is doubtful whether they would be of the mechanic institute type. Courses of study arranged by a group of workingmen are most naive in their breadth and generality. They will select the history of the world in preference to that of any period or nation. The "wonders of science" or "the story of evolution" will attract workingmen to a lecture when zooelogy or chemistry will drive them away. The "outlines of literature" or "the best in literature" will draw an audience when a lecturer in English poetry will be solitary. This results partly from a wholesome desire to have general knowledge before special knowledge, and is partly a rebound from the specialization of labor to which the workingman is subjected. When he is free from work and can direct his own mind, he tends to roam, to dwell upon large themes. Much the same tendency is found in programmes of study arranged by Woman's Clubs in country places. The untrained mind, wearied with meaningless detail, when it gets an opportunity to make its demand heard, asks for general philosophy and background.
In a certain sense commercialism itself, at least in its larger aspect, tends to educate the workingman better than organized education does. Its interests are certainly world-wide and democratic, while it is absolutely undiscriminating as to country and creed, coming into contact with all climes and races. If this aspect of commercialism were utilized, it would in a measure counterbalance the tendency which results from the subdivision of labor.
The most noteworthy attempt to utilize this democracy of commerce in relation to manufacturing is found at Dayton, Ohio, in the yearly gatherings held in a large factory there. Once a year the entire force is gathered together to hear the returns of the business, not so much in respect to the profits, as in regard to its extension. At these meetings, the travelling salesmen from various parts of the world—from Constantinople, from Berlin, from Rome, from Hong Kong—report upon the sales they have made, and the methods of advertisement and promotion adapted to the various countries.
Stereopticon lectures are given upon each new country as soon as it has been successfully invaded by the product of the factory. The foremen in the various departments of the factory give accounts of the increased efficiency and the larger output over former years. Any man who has made an invention in connection with the machinery of the factory, at this time publicly receives a prize, and suggestions are approved that tend to increase the comfort and social facilities of the employees. At least for the moment there is a complete esprit de corps, and the youngest and least skilled employee sees himself in connection with the interests of the firm, and the spread of an invention. It is a crude example of what might be done in the way of giving a large framework of meaning to factory labor, and of putting it into a sentient background, at least on the commercial side.
It is easy to indict the educator, to say that he has gotten entangled in his own material, and has fallen a victim to his own methods; but granting this, what has the artist done about it—he who is supposed to have a more intimate insight into the needs of his contemporaries, and to minister to them as none other can?
It is quite true that a few writers are insisting that the growing desire for labor, on the part of many people of leisure, has its counterpart in the increasing desire for general knowledge on the part of many laborers. They point to the fact that the same duality of conscience which seems to stifle the noblest effort in the individual because his intellectual conception and his achievement are so difficult to bring together, is found on a large scale in society itself, when we have the separation of the people who think from those who work. And yet, since Ruskin ceased, no one has really formulated this in a convincing form. And even Ruskin's famous dictum, that labor without art brutalizes, has always been interpreted as if art could only be a sense of beauty or joy in one's own work, and not a sense of companionship with all other workers. The situation demands the consciousness of participation and well-being which comes to the individual when he is able to see himself "in connection and cooperation with the whole"; it needs the solace of collective art inherent in collective labor.
As the poet bathes the outer world for us in the hues of human feeling, so the workman needs some one to bathe his surroundings with a human significance—some one who shall teach him to find that which will give a potency to his life. His education, however simple, should tend to make him widely at home in the world, and to give him a sense of simplicity and peace in the midst of the triviality and noise to which he is constantly subjected. He, like other men, can learn to be content to see but a part, although it must be a part of something.
It is because of a lack of democracy that we do not really incorporate him in the hopes and advantages of society, and give him the place which is his by simple right. We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person or any one class; but we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all men and all classes contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having. In spite of many attempts we do not really act upon either statement.
Throughout this volume we have assumed that much of our ethical maladjustment in social affairs arises from the fact that we are acting upon a code of ethics adapted to individual relationships, but not to the larger social relationships to which it is bunglingly applied. In addition, however, to the consequent strain and difficulty, there is often an honest lack of perception as to what the situation demands.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in our political life as it manifests itself in certain quarters of every great city. It is most difficult to hold to our political democracy and to make it in any sense a social expression and not a mere governmental contrivance, unless we take pains to keep on common ground in our human experiences. Otherwise there is in various parts of the community an inevitable difference of ethical standards which becomes responsible for much misunderstanding.
It is difficult both to interpret sympathetically the motives and ideals of those who have acquired rules of conduct in experience widely different from our own, and also to take enough care in guarding the gains already made, and in valuing highly enough the imperfect good so painfully acquired and, at the best, so mixed with evil. This wide difference in daily experience exhibits itself in two distinct attitudes toward politics. The well-to-do men of the community think of politics as something off by itself; they may conscientiously recognize political duty as part of good citizenship, but political effort is not the expression of their moral or social life. As a result of this detachment, "reform movements," started by business men and the better element, are almost wholly occupied in the correction of political machinery and with a concern for the better method of administration, rather than with the ultimate purpose of securing the welfare of the people. They fix their attention so exclusively on methods that they fail to consider the final aims of city government. This accounts for the growing tendency to put more and more responsibility upon executive officers and appointed commissions at the expense of curtailing the power of the direct representatives of the voters. Reform movements tend to become negative and to lose their educational value for the mass of the people. The reformers take the role of the opposition. They give themselves largely to criticisms of the present state of affairs, to writing and talking of what the future must be and of certain results which should be obtained. In trying to better matters, however, they have in mind only political achievements which they detach in a curious way from the rest of life, and they speak and write of the purification of politics as of a thing set apart from daily life.
On the other hand, the real leaders of the people are part of the entire life of the community which they control, and so far as they are representative at all, are giving a social expression to democracy. They are often politically corrupt, but in spite of this they are proceeding upon a sounder theory. Although they would be totally unable to give it abstract expression, they are really acting upon a formulation made by a shrewd English observer; namely, that, "after the enfranchisement of the masses, social ideals enter into political programmes, and they enter not as something which at best can be indirectly promoted by government, but as something which it is the chief business of government to advance directly."
Men living near to the masses of voters, and knowing them intimately, recognize this and act upon it; they minister directly to life and to social needs. They realize that the people as a whole are clamoring for social results, and they hold their power because they respond to that demand. They are corrupt and often do their work badly; but they at least avoid the mistake of a certain type of business men who are frightened by democracy, and have lost their faith in the people. The two standards are similar to those seen at a popular exhibition of pictures where the cultivated people care most for the technique of a given painting, the moving mass for a subject that shall be domestic and human.
This difference may be illustrated by the writer's experience in a certain ward of Chicago, during three campaigns, when efforts were made to dislodge an alderman who had represented the ward for many years. In this ward there are gathered together fifty thousand people, representing a score of nationalities; the newly emigrated Latin, Teuton, Celt, Greek, and Slav who live there have little in common save the basic experiences which come to men in all countries and under all conditions. In order to make fifty thousand people, so heterogeneous in nationality, religion, and customs, agree upon any demand, it must be founded upon universal experiences which are perforce individual and not social.
An instinctive recognition of this on the part of the alderman makes it possible to understand the individualistic basis of his political success, but it remains extremely difficult to ascertain the reasons for the extreme leniency of judgment concerning the political corruption of which he is constantly guilty.
This leniency is only to be explained on the ground that his constituents greatly admire individual virtues, and that they are at the same time unable to perceive social outrages which the alderman may be committing. They thus free the alderman from blame because his corruption is social, and they honestly admire him as a great man and hero, because his individual acts are on the whole kindly and generous.
In certain stages of moral evolution, a man is incapable of action unless the results will benefit himself or some one of his acquaintances, and it is a long step in moral progress to set the good of the many before the interest of the few, and to be concerned for the welfare of a community without hope of an individual return. How far the selfish politician befools his constituents into believing that their interests are identical with his own; how far he presumes upon their inability to distinguish between the individual and social virtues, an inability which he himself shares with them; and how far he dazzles them by the sense of his greatness, and a conviction that they participate therein, it is difficult to determine.
Morality certainly develops far earlier in the form of moral fact than in the form of moral ideas, and it is obvious that ideas only operate upon the popular mind through will and character, and must be dramatized before they reach the mass of men, even as the biography of the saints have been after all "the main guide to the stumbling feet of thousands of Christians to whom the Credo has been but mysterious words."
Ethics as well as political opinions may be discussed and disseminated among the sophisticated by lectures and printed pages, but to the common people they can only come through example—through a personality which seizes the popular imagination. The advantage of an unsophisticated neighborhood is, that the inhabitants do not keep their ideas as treasures—they are untouched by the notion of accumulating them, as they might knowledge or money, and they frankly act upon those they have. The personal example promptly rouses to emulation. In a neighborhood where political standards are plastic and undeveloped, and where there has been little previous experience in self-government, the office-holder himself sets the standard, and the ideas that cluster around him exercise a specific and permanent influence upon the political morality of his constituents.
Nothing is more certain than that the quality which a heterogeneous population, living in one of the less sophisticated wards, most admires is the quality of simple goodness; that the man who attracts them is the one whom they believe to be a good man. We all know that children long "to be good" with an intensity which they give to no other ambition. We can all remember that the earliest strivings of our childhood were in this direction, and that we venerated grown people because they had attained perfection.
Primitive people, such as the South Italian peasants, are still in this stage. They want to be good, and deep down in their hearts they admire nothing so much as the good man. Abstract virtues are too difficult for their untrained minds to apprehend, and many of them are still simple enough to believe that power and wealth come only to good people.
The successful candidate, then, must be a good man according to the morality of his constituents. He must not attempt to hold up too high a standard, nor must he attempt to reform or change their standards. His safety lies in doing on a large scale the good deeds which his constituents are able to do only on a small scale. If he believes what they believe and does what they are all cherishing a secret ambition to do, he will dazzle them by his success and win their confidence. There is a certain wisdom in this course. There is a common sense in the mass of men which cannot be neglected with impunity, just as there is sure to be an eccentricity in the differing and reforming individual which it is perhaps well to challenge.
The constant kindness of the poor to each other was pointed out in a previous chapter, and that they unfailingly respond to the need and distresses of their poorer neighbors even when in danger of bankruptcy themselves. The kindness which a poor man shows his distressed neighbor is doubtless heightened by the consciousness that he himself may be in distress next week; he therefore stands by his friend when he gets too drunk to take care of himself, when he loses his wife or child, when he is evicted for non-payment of rent, when he is arrested for a petty crime. It seems to such a man entirely fitting that his alderman should do the same thing on a larger scale—that he should help a constituent out of trouble, merely because he is in trouble, irrespective of the justice involved.
The alderman therefore bails out his constituents when they are arrested, or says a good word to the police justice when they appear before him for trial, uses his pull with the magistrate when they are likely to be fined for a civil misdemeanor, or sees what he can do to "fix up matters" with the state's attorney when the charge is really a serious one, and in doing this he follows the ethics held and practised by his constituents. All this conveys the impression to the simple-minded that law is not enforced, if the lawbreaker have a powerful friend. One may instance the alderman's action in standing by an Italian padrone of the ward when he was indicted for violating the civil service regulations. The commissioners had sent out notices to certain Italian day-laborers who were upon the eligible list that they were to report for work at a given day and hour. One of the padrones intercepted these notifications and sold them to the men for five dollars apiece, making also the usual bargain for a share of their wages. The padrone's entire arrangement followed the custom which had prevailed for years before the establishment of civil service laws. Ten of the laborers swore out warrants against the padrone, who was convicted and fined seventy-five dollars. This sum was promptly paid by the alderman, and the padrone, assured that he would be protected from any further trouble, returned uninjured to the colony. The simple Italians were much bewildered by this show of a power stronger than that of the civil service, which they had trusted as they did the one in Italy. The first violation of its authority was made, and various sinister acts have followed, until no Italian who is digging a sewer or sweeping a street for the city feels quite secure in holding his job unless he is backed by the friendship of the alderman. According to the civil service law, a laborer has no right to a trial; many are discharged by the foreman, and find that they can be reinstated only upon the aldermanic recommendation. He thus practically holds his old power over the laborers working for the city. The popular mind is convinced that an honest administration of civil service is impossible, and that it is but one more instrument in the hands of the powerful.
It will be difficult to establish genuine civil service among these men, who learn only by experience, since their experiences have been of such a nature that their unanimous vote would certainly be that "civil service" is "no good."
As many of his constituents in this case are impressed with the fact that the aldermanic power is superior to that of government, so instances of actual lawbreaking might easily be cited. A young man may enter a saloon long after midnight, the legal closing hour, and seat himself at a gambling table, perfectly secure from interruption or arrest, because the place belongs to an alderman; but in order to secure this immunity the policeman on the beat must pretend not to see into the windows each time that he passes, and he knows, and the young man knows that he knows, that nothing would embarrass "Headquarters" more than to have an arrest made on those premises. A certain contempt for the whole machinery of law and order is thus easily fostered.
Because of simple friendliness the alderman is expected to pay rent for the hard-pressed tenant when no rent is forthcoming, to find "jobs" when work is hard to get, to procure and divide among his constituents all the places which he can seize from the city hall. The alderman of the ward we are considering at one time could make the proud boast that he had twenty-six hundred people in his ward upon the public pay-roll. This, of course, included day laborers, but each one felt under distinct obligations to him for getting a position. When we reflect that this is one-third of the entire vote of the ward, we realize that it is very important to vote for the right man, since there is, at the least, one chance out of three for securing work.
If we recollect further that the franchise-seeking companies pay respectful heed to the applicants backed by the alderman, the question of voting for the successful man becomes as much an industrial one as a political one. An Italian laborer wants a "job" more than anything else, and quite simply votes for the man who promises him one. It is not so different from his relation to the padrone, and, indeed, the two strengthen each other.
The alderman may himself be quite sincere in his acts of kindness, for an office seeker may begin with the simple desire to alleviate suffering, and this may gradually change into the desire to put his constituents under obligations to him; but the action of such an individual becomes a demoralizing element in the community when kindly impulse is made a cloak for the satisfaction of personal ambition, and when the plastic morals of his constituents gradually conform to his own undeveloped standards.
The alderman gives presents at weddings and christenings. He seizes these days of family festivities for making friends. It is easiest to reach them in the holiday mood of expansive good-will, but on their side it seems natural and kindly that he should do it. The alderman procures passes from the railroads when his constituents wish to visit friends or attend the funerals of distant relatives; he buys tickets galore for benefit entertainments given for a widow or a consumptive in peculiar distress; he contributes to prizes which are awarded to the handsomest lady or the most popular man. At a church bazaar, for instance, the alderman finds the stage all set for his dramatic performance. When others are spending pennies, he is spending dollars. When anxious relatives are canvassing to secure votes for the two most beautiful children who are being voted upon, he recklessly buys votes from both sides, and laughingly declines to say which one he likes best, buying off the young lady who is persistently determined to find out, with five dollars for the flower bazaar, the posies, of course, to be sent to the sick of the parish. The moral atmosphere of a bazaar suits him exactly. He murmurs many times, "Never mind, the money all goes to the poor; it is all straight enough if the church gets it, the poor won't ask too many questions." The oftener he can put such sentiments into the minds of his constituents, the better he is pleased. Nothing so rapidly prepares them to take his view of money getting and money spending. We see again the process disregarded, because the end itself is considered so praiseworthy.
There is something archaic in a community of simple people in their attitude toward death and burial. There is nothing so easy to collect money for as a funeral, and one involuntarily remembers that the early religious tithes were paid to ward off death and ghosts. At times one encounters almost the Greek feeling in regard to burial. If the alderman seizes upon times of festivities for expressions of his good-will, much more does he seize upon periods of sorrow. At a funeral he has the double advantage of ministering to a genuine craving for comfort and solace, and at the same time of assisting a bereaved constituent to express that curious feeling of remorse, which is ever an accompaniment of quick sorrow, that desire to "make up" for past delinquencies, to show the world how much he loved the person who has just died, which is as natural as it is universal.
In addition to this, there is, among the poor, who have few social occasions, a great desire for a well-arranged funeral, the grade of which almost determines their social standing in the neighborhood. The alderman saves the very poorest of his constituents from that awful horror of burial by the county; he provides carriages for the poor, who otherwise could not have them. It may be too much to say that all the relatives and friends who ride in the carriages provided by the alderman's bounty vote for him, but they are certainly influenced by his kindness, and talk of his virtues during the long hours of the ride back and forth from the suburban cemetery. A man who would ask at such a time where all the money thus spent comes from would be considered sinister. The tendency to speak lightly of the faults of the dead and to judge them gently is transferred to the living, and many a man at such a time has formulated a lenient judgment of political corruption, and has heard kindly speeches which he has remembered on election day. "Ah, well, he has a big Irish heart. He is good to the widow and the fatherless." "He knows the poor better than the big guns who are always talking about civil service and reform."
Indeed, what headway can the notion of civic purity, of honesty of administration make against this big manifestation of human friendliness, this stalking survival of village kindness? The notions of the civic reformer are negative and impotent before it. Such an alderman will keep a standing account with an undertaker, and telephone every week, and sometimes more than once, the kind of funeral he wishes provided for a bereaved constituent, until the sum may roll up into "hundreds a year." He understands what the people want, and ministers just as truly to a great human need as the musician or the artist. An attempt to substitute what we might call a later standard was made at one time when a delicate little child was deserted in the Hull-House nursery. An investigation showed that it had been born ten days previously in the Cook County hospital, but no trace could be found of the unfortunate mother. The little child lived for several weeks, and then, in spite of every care, died. It was decided to have it buried by the county authorities, and the wagon was to arrive at eleven o'clock; about nine o'clock in the morning the rumor of this awful deed reached the neighbors. A half dozen of them came, in a very excited state of mind, to protest. They took up a collection out of their poverty with which to defray a funeral. The residents of Hull-House were then comparatively new in the neighborhood and did not realize that they were really shocking a genuine moral sentiment of the community. In their crudeness they instanced the care and tenderness which had been expended upon the little creature while it was alive; that it had had every attention from a skilled physician and a trained nurse, and even intimated that the excited members of the group had not taken part in this, and that it now lay with the nursery to decide that it should be buried as it had been born, at the county's expense. It is doubtful if Hull-House has ever done anything which injured it so deeply in the minds of some of its neighbors. It was only forgiven by the most indulgent on the ground that the residents were spinsters, and could not know a mother's heart. No one born and reared in the community could possibly have made a mistake like that. No one who had studied the ethical standards with any care could have bungled so completely.
We are constantly underestimating the amount of sentiment among simple people. The songs which are most popular among them are those of a reminiscent old age, in which the ripened soul calmly recounts and regrets the sins of his youth, songs in which the wayward daughter is forgiven by her loving parents, in which the lovers are magnanimous and faithful through all vicissitudes. The tendency is to condone and forgive, and not hold too rigidly to a standard. In the theatres it is the magnanimous man, the kindly reckless villain who is always applauded. So shrewd an observer as Samuel Johnson once remarked that it was surprising to find how much more kindness than justice society contained.
On the same basis the alderman manages several saloons, one down town within easy access of the city hall, where he can catch the more important of his friends. Here again he has seized upon an old tradition and primitive custom, the good fellowship which has long been best expressed when men drink together. The saloons offer a common meeting ground, with stimulus enough to free the wits and tongues of the men who meet there.
He distributes each Christmas many tons of turkeys not only to voters, but to families who are represented by no vote. By a judicious management some families get three or four turkeys apiece; but what of that, the alderman has none of the nagging rules of the charitable societies, nor does he declare that because a man wants two turkeys for Christmas, he is a scoundrel who shall never be allowed to eat turkey again. As he does not distribute his Christmas favors from any hardly acquired philanthropic motive, there is no disposition to apply the carefully evolved rules of the charitable societies to his beneficiaries. Of course, there are those who suspect that the benevolence rests upon self-seeking motives, and feel themselves quite freed from any sense of gratitude; others go further and glory in the fact that they can thus "soak the alderman." An example of this is the young man who fills his pockets with a handful of cigars, giving a sly wink at the others. But this freedom from any sense of obligation is often the first step downward to the position where he is willing to sell his vote to both parties, and then scratch his ticket as he pleases. The writer recalls a conversation with a man in which he complained quite openly, and with no sense of shame, that his vote had "sold for only two dollars this year," and that he was "awfully disappointed." The writer happened to know that his income during the nine months previous had been but twenty-eight dollars, and that he was in debt thirty-two dollars, and she could well imagine the eagerness with which he had counted upon this source of revenue. After some years the selling of votes becomes a commonplace, and but little attempt is made upon the part of the buyer or seller to conceal the fact, if the transaction runs smoothly.
A certain lodging-house keeper at one time sold the votes of his entire house to a political party and was "well paid for it too"; but being of a grasping turn, he also sold the house for the same election to the rival party. Such an outrage could not be borne. The man was treated to a modern version of tar and feathers, and as a result of being held under a street hydrant in November, contracted pneumonia which resulted in his death. No official investigation took place, since the doctor's certificate of pneumonia was sufficient for legal burial, and public sentiment sustained the action. In various conversations which the writer had concerning the entire transaction, she discovered great indignation concerning his duplicity and treachery, but none whatever for his original offence of selling out the votes of his house.
A club will be started for the express purpose of gaining a reputation for political power which may later be sold out. The president and executive committee of such a club, who will naturally receive the funds, promise to divide with "the boys" who swell the size of the membership. A reform movement is at first filled with recruits who are active and loud in their assertions of the number of votes they can "deliver." The reformers are delighted with this display of zeal, and only gradually find out that many of the recruits are there for the express purpose of being bought by the other side; that they are most active in order to seem valuable, and thus raise the price of their allegiance when they are ready to sell. Reformers seeing them drop away one by one, talk of desertion from the ranks of reform, and of the power of money over well-meaning men, who are too weak to withstand temptation; but in reality the men are not deserters because they have never actually been enrolled in the ranks. The money they take is neither a bribe nor the price of their loyalty, it is simply the consummation of a long-cherished plan and a well-earned reward. They came into the new movement for the purpose of being bought out of it, and have successfully accomplished that purpose.
Hull-House assisted in carrying on two unsuccessful campaigns against the same alderman. In the two years following the end of the first one, nearly every man who had been prominent in it had received an office from the reelected alderman. A printer had been appointed to a clerkship in the city hall; a driver received a large salary for services in the police barns; the candidate himself, a bricklayer, held a position in the city construction department. At the beginning of the next campaign, the greatest difficulty was experienced in finding a candidate, and each one proposed, demanded time to consider the proposition. During this period he invariably became the recipient of the alderman's bounty. The first one, who was foreman of a large factory, was reported to have been bought off by the promise that the city institutions would use the product of his firm. The second one, a keeper of a grocery and family saloon, with large popularity, was promised the aldermanic nomination on the regular ticket at the expiration of the term of office held by the alderman's colleague, and it may be well to state in passing that he was thus nominated and successfully elected. The third proposed candidate received a place for his son in the office of the city attorney.
Not only are offices in his gift, but all smaller favors as well. Any requests to the council, or special licenses, must be presented by the alderman of the ward in which the person desiring the favor resides. There is thus constant opportunity for the alderman to put his constituents under obligations to him, to make it difficult for a constituent to withstand him, or for one with large interests to enter into political action at all. From the Italian pedler who wants a license to peddle fruit in the street, to the large manufacturing company who desires to tunnel an alley for the sake of conveying pipes from one building to another, everybody is under obligations to his alderman, and is constantly made to feel it. In short, these very regulations for presenting requests to the council have been made, by the aldermen themselves, for the express purpose of increasing the dependence of their constituents, and thereby augmenting aldermanic power and prestige.
The alderman has also a very singular hold upon the property owners of his ward. The paving, both of the streets and sidewalks throughout his district, is disgraceful; and in the election speeches the reform side holds him responsible for this condition, and promises better paving under another regime. But the paving could not be made better without a special assessment upon the property owners of the vicinity, and paying more taxes is exactly what his constituents do not want to do. In reality, "getting them off," or at the worst postponing the time of the improvement, is one of the genuine favors which he performs. A movement to have the paving done from a general fund would doubtless be opposed by the property owners in other parts of the city who have already paid for the asphalt bordering their own possessions, but they have no conception of the struggle and possible bankruptcy which repaving may mean to the small property owner, nor how his chief concern may be to elect an alderman who cares more for the feelings and pocket-books of his constituents than he does for the repute and cleanliness of his city.
The alderman exhibited great wisdom in procuring from certain of his down-town friends the sum of three thousand dollars with which to uniform and equip a boys' temperance brigade which had been formed in one of the ward churches a few months before his campaign. Is it strange that the good leader, whose heart was filled with innocent pride as he looked upon these promising young scions of virtue, should decline to enter into a reform campaign? Of what use to suggest that uniforms and bayonets for the purpose of promoting temperance, bought with money contributed by a man who was proprietor of a saloon and a gambling house, might perhaps confuse the ethics of the young soldiers? Why take the pains to urge that it was vain to lecture and march abstract virtues into them, so long as the "champion boodler" of the town was the man whom the boys recognized as a loyal and kindhearted friend, the public-spirited citizen, whom their fathers enthusiastically voted for, and their mothers called "the friend of the poor." As long as the actual and tangible success is thus embodied, marching whether in kindergartens or brigades, talking whether in clubs or classes, does little to change the code of ethics.
The question of where does the money come from which is spent so successfully, does of course occur to many minds. The more primitive people accept the truthful statement of its sources without any shock to their moral sense. To their simple minds he gets it "from the rich" and, so long as he again gives it out to the poor as a true Robin Hood, with open hand, they have no objections to offer. Their ethics are quite honestly those of the merry-making foresters. The next less primitive people of the vicinage are quite willing to admit that he leads the "gang" in the city council, and sells out the city franchises; that he makes deals with the franchise-seeking companies; that he guarantees to steer dubious measures through the council, for which he demands liberal pay; that he is, in short, a successful "boodler." When, however, there is intellect enough to get this point of view, there is also enough to make the contention that this is universally done, that all the aldermen do it more or less successfully, but that the alderman of this particular ward is unique in being so generous; that such a state of affairs is to be deplored, of course; but that that is the way business is run, and we are fortunate when a kind-hearted man who is close to the people gets a large share of the spoils; that he serves franchised companies who employ men in the building and construction of their enterprises, and that they are bound in return to give work to his constituents. It is again the justification of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Even when they are intelligent enough to complete the circle, and to see that the money comes, not from the pockets of the companies' agents, but from the street-car fares of people like themselves, it almost seems as if they would rather pay two cents more each time they ride than to give up the consciousness that they have a big, warm-hearted friend at court who will stand by them in an emergency. The sense of just dealing comes apparently much later than the desire for protection and indulgence. On the whole, the gifts and favors are taken quite simply as an evidence of genuine loving-kindness. The alderman is really elected because he is a good friend and neighbor. He is corrupt, of course, but he is not elected because he is corrupt, but rather in spite of it. His standard suits his constituents. He exemplifies and exaggerates the popular type of a good man. He has attained what his constituents secretly long for.
At one end of the ward there is a street of good houses, familiarly called "Con Row." The term is perhaps quite unjustly used, but it is nevertheless universally applied, because many of these houses are occupied by professional office holders. This row is supposed to form a happy hunting-ground of the successful politician, where he can live in prosperity, and still maintain his vote and influence in the ward. It would be difficult to justly estimate the influence which this group of successful, prominent men, including the alderman who lives there, have had upon the ideals of the youth in the vicinity. The path which leads to riches and success, to civic prominence and honor, is the path of political corruption. We might compare this to the path laid out by Benjamin Franklin, who also secured all of these things, but told young men that they could be obtained only by strenuous effort and frugal living, by the cultivation of the mind, and the holding fast to righteousness; or, again, we might compare it to the ideals which were held up to the American youth fifty years ago, lower, to be sure, than the revolutionary ideal, but still fine and aspiring toward honorable dealing and careful living. They were told that the career of the self-made man was open to every American boy, if he worked hard and saved his money, improved his mind, and followed a steady ambition. The writer remembers that when she was ten years old, the village schoolmaster told his little flock, without any mitigating clauses, that Jay Gould had laid the foundation of his colossal fortune by always saving bits of string, and that, as a result, every child in the village assiduously collected party-colored balls of twine. A bright Chicago boy might well draw the inference that the path of the corrupt politician not only leads to civic honors, but to the glories of benevolence and philanthropy. This lowering of standards, this setting of an ideal, is perhaps the worst of the situation, for, as we said in the first chapter, we determine ideals by our daily actions and decisions not only for ourselves, but largely for each other.
We are all involved in this political corruption, and as members of the community stand indicted. This is the penalty of a democracy,—that we are bound to move forward or retrograde together. None of us can stand aside; our feet are mired in the same soil, and our lungs breathe the same air.
That the alderman has much to do with setting the standard of life and desirable prosperity may be illustrated by the following incident: During one of the campaigns a clever cartoonist drew a poster representing the successful alderman in portraiture drinking champagne at a table loaded with pretentious dishes and surrounded by other revellers. In contradistinction was his opponent, a bricklayer, who sat upon a half-finished wall, eating a meagre dinner from a workingman's dinner-pail, and the passer-by was asked which type of representative he preferred, the presumption being that at least in a workingman's district the bricklayer would come out ahead. To the chagrin of the reformers, however, it was gradually discovered that, in the popular mind, a man who laid bricks and wore overalls was not nearly so desirable for an alderman as the man who drank champagne and wore a diamond in his shirt front. The district wished its representative "to stand up with the best of them," and certainly some of the constituents would have been ashamed to have been represented by a bricklayer. It is part of that general desire to appear well, the optimistic and thoroughly American belief, that even if a man is working with his hands to-day, he and his children will quite likely be in a better position in the swift coming to-morrow, and there is no need of being too closely associated with common working people. There is an honest absence of class consciousness, and a naive belief that the kind of occupation quite largely determines social position. This is doubtless exaggerated in a neighborhood of foreign people by the fact that as each nationality becomes more adapted to American conditions, the scale of its occupation rises. Fifty years ago in America "a Dutchman" was used as a term of reproach, meaning a man whose language was not understood, and who performed menial tasks, digging sewers and building railroad embankments. Later the Irish did the same work in the community, but as quickly as possible handed it on to the Italians, to whom the name "dago" is said to cling as a result of the digging which the Irishman resigned to him. The Italian himself is at last waking up to this fact. In a political speech recently made by an Italian padrone, he bitterly reproached the alderman for giving the-four-dollars-a-day "jobs" of sitting in an office to Irishmen and the-dollar-and-a-half-a-day "jobs" of sweeping the streets to the Italians. This general struggle to rise in life, to be at least politically represented by one of the best, as to occupation and social status, has also its negative side. We must remember that the imitative impulse plays an important part in life, and that the loss of social estimation, keenly felt by all of us, is perhaps most dreaded by the humblest, among whom freedom of individual conduct, the power to give only just weight to the opinion of neighbors, is but feebly developed. A form of constraint, gentle, but powerful, is afforded by the simple desire to do what others do, in order to share with them the approval of the community. Of course, the larger the number of people among whom an habitual mode of conduct obtains, the greater the constraint it puts upon the individual will. Thus it is that the political corruption of the city presses most heavily where it can be least resisted, and is most likely to be imitated.