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committees is headless because the political axe has swung.
Men who have spent years of effort and industry in becoming capable public servants, men of conspicuous honesty and ability, have been dismissed as unceremoniously as one puts away an old coat, because their positions were required for others, certainly no more capable and having the business all to learn, but who claimed the places as rewards for party service. It is to be deplored that such methods prevail anywhere; and we rejoice that, at least in State affairs, the system of official pay for party service does not hamper the public benevolent work of most of the Eastern as much as it does of some of the Western States. At the same time we congratulate States where merit is more and more recognized as the only condition for appointment and retention in the public service., Even in this last year of upheaval the merit system has in some States made distinct and splendid gains, although in others the savage brute-force doctrine that to the victor belong the spoils is still so strongly intrenched that even would-be respectable men have the hardihood to defend it in public. This will be a main theme of discussion in one of the section meetings of the Committee on Prison Reform.
The Humane societies in various States make the rescue and care of dependent and ill-treated children one of their main duties. This fact is sometimes ignored, and people think of these societies as though their sole work were the protection of the lower animals from cruelty. The president of one of the largest and strongest of these societies will address us on the work they do in child-saving.
As the thoughts of men become higher and more spiritual, and the truth that man does not live by bread alone is better recognized, benevolence takes on nobler manifestations. For several years past the Conference has had reports from committees on Social Settlements, which are among the latest, highest, and most hopeful of the many efforts now attempted to make human brotherhood actual. They illustrate the fact that it is the highest culture which most keenly feels its obligation to those who lack culture, that it is the best and brightest lives which most feel the need of sharing their brightness and blessing with lives that are grimed with toil and dulled with privation. This year we are to have addresses from representatives of several of the leading settlements of America and England. How welcome these messengers of the Settlement are to
this Conference, perhaps they themselves are not entirely aware. But those of us who would fain rescue the beautiful ideal of charity from the base and sordid uses to which gross materialism has condemned it rejoice to see these high and gracious developments, and trust that the connection between the settlements and the Conference may become a permanent and mutually helpful one.
The problems of poverty have been complicated in these later days, and especially during the past four years, as perhaps never before with those of unemployed labor. It is a time of readjustment in business and social life, and such a time must necessarily bear heavily on the laboring classes. A leader among the workingmen declares that in one city there are eight thousand homeless families and forty thousand workmen on the verge of starvation. He proposes to organize an industrial army, which shall colonize a Far Western State, and there establish a social democracy. At such a time as the present, surely, it will be well to listen to gentlemen who believe they have discovered the chief causes of poverty and the way
to abate them. It is an axiom with us that the end of all active charity should be to make itself needless. If we have no cure to offer, if our deliberations are to end with the best method of helping those who are impoverished, the best organization of palliative treatment, surely, we may give an earnest and thoughtful hearing to those who believe there is a permanent cure within our reach. Among many addresses and papers occupying numerous meetings. the Committee on Organization of Charity will present two papers, designed to point out the cause and the cure, not merely of pauperism, but of the far more deep-seated and more difficult evil of poverty.
Let me say a word as to the sectional meetings, if only to emphasize what is said in the program. These meetings are designed for a special, practical purpose for earnest, practical people. They may be made very useful. But let us not forget that this Conference in all its sections is one; that every one here is, or ought to be, interested in its every department; that, if we would escape the danger of narrowness, we must think and feel with our brothers and sisters. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee.”
A soured and bitter writer has said, "The century began with three million Americans who loved liberty: it is about to end with seventy-five million who love money." Let no such word be true.
Is it true that the forces of organized greed seem paramount? that in national affairs we are between upper and nether millstones of economic fallacy, each great fallacy accepted by the party which flaunts it as a banner, because of its supposed power to confer wealth in some other than nature's way, until principles seem almost extinct in national affairs, and cunning financial policy the great, if not the sole consideration? Is it true that in some States money is supreme? that legislatures are shamefully purchased by the agents of great corporations, and city governments follow fast in their footsteps? Is it true that the sacred duty of caring for the helpless and distressed is sometimes handed over, as a reward for political services, to men in whose care we would not willingly trust a lame horse or a sick dog? It is also true that never before has there been so much self-denying effort and earnest devotion to the cause of the distressed; that people are taking thought for better government, and the very shamelessness of the bribe-givers is bringing about its own retribution. Although the governments of some States are still floundering in the mire of vile politics, and dragging their so-called benevolent institutions down to a level we had hoped was left behind forever, yet this is not true of most nor of many, but is a relic of a semi-civilization from which most of us are emancipated. On the other hand, many of our States are reaching up to high levels of government, the public conscience is being more and more awakened, and improvements so great as to be scarcely credible have been realized even in these late years of depression and unrest.
But, even if we are living in a State where all these bad things are true, what is the course for us to take? Shall we fold our hands in idle despair? I hold a cheerful optimism, which makes me believe that the best we see to-day among the best people anywhere is a prophecy of what shall be universal some day. If we see good and hopeful possibilities, let the very difficulty of their attainment be our greatest incentive to effort. Does the present appear a grinding, hard, unlovely time? So did the great heroic days of old to the little men among those who lived in them. The golden age has never been the present time, but always in the dim past or the misty future.
Let us take this age of ours, with its hard problems, its sad duties, its littleness of public men, its dearth of great leaders, its lack of faith in the things that are unseen and eternal, its overweening con
fidence in the sensual and material, its subjection to the powers of wealth and greed, and make of its enormous difficulties the opportunity of heroism. Let us live our lives so well, and make so deep an impress on the lives of others, that even this end of the nineteenth century shall be for us the heroic age.
"He speaks not well who doth his time deplore,
Ignoble, and unfit for lofty deeds.
All times were modern in the time of them,
When error through the land raged like a pest,
Soldiers' and Sailors' homes.
THE NATION AND THE VETERAN.
BY HENRY A. CASTLE, ST. PAUL, MINN.,
PRESIDENT BOARD OF TRUSTEES MINNESOTA SOLDIERS' HOME.
The generosity of the United States government to the disabled survivors of her armies engaged in the suppression of the rebellion is something phenomenal in the history of nations. No good citizen objects to this munificence, but all good citizens are interested in demanding that it shall be so administered as to cause the minimum of evil effects to the recipients of national bounty. The most freehanded patriot shrinks with instinctive dread from the possibility that dependence and pauperism should be encouraged by this wellintentioned provision for soothing the Union veteran's declining years.
About $140,000,000 is annually paid out by the government to the survivors of various wars in which the nation has been engaged or to their widows and orphans. About thirty-five thousand exsoldiers and sailors are provided for in the several national and State homes. All this vast expenditure is based upon the theory of national gratitude as applied to the fulfilment of a patriotic promise.
It is all very well for middle-aged philosophers who know nothing of the war except what they have read in half-written histories — to say that the soldiers entered into a "contract" with the government, whereby they agreed to render a certain amount of service for a certain allowance of pay and food and clothes. Their knowledge is as shallow as their reasoning, and both would have excited the derision of the school-boys of 1861-65. If Uncle Sam had talked in that cold-blooded way in war times, how many recruits would he have secured? How many, even of these, would he have had after the first battle?