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EXTRACT FROM PAPER BY REV. JOSEPH HENRY CROOKER, D.D., TROY, N.Y.
The principles of scientific charity are now as clearly understood and as well established in the minds of specialists as the laws of mechanics. They have been slowly, but surely, disclosed by over a century of observation and experiment, since the days of that remarkable Hamburg institution, organized by Baron Casper Von Voght,— a name too little known, but one that really deserves immortal fame. The truths then discovered have been repeatedly demonstrated.
I. The incalculable danger and damage of unwise charity, laying waste the vitality of the people more than a famine, raising up insidious enemies of the public welfare more than an invading army, and corrupting life at the very sources by inducing idleness, the nest in which all the vices hatch.
II. The essential and fundamental principle upon which all methods of benevolence must be based is that which aims at self-help. To make the dependent independent; to help without rendering helpless; to use charity to unfold character; to lead out of misery into mastery; to relieve distress without destroying self-respect, law as the astronomer does that of gravitation.
we assume this
III. Our chief concern, however, must be the prevention of misfortune and suffering and wrong-doing. To dry up the sources of misery and vice rather than simply to comfort the miserable and punish the vicious; to wall up the Gethsemanes rather than merely to relieve their victims; to fill the world with pure strong men and women rather than build institutions for the feeble and criminal; to be at the cradle with wisdom rather than at the grave with alms; to see that justice is done the day before a strike rather than open a free soup-house the day after, all this means that the educational ideal and method must more and more dominate our philanthropic work. It means, also, that our reformatory efforts will be successful in proportion to the youthfulness of those to whom we apply our educational service.
IV. However tender our ministries to the poor,—and we must always
be the apostles of a supreme sympathy,―however wise our forethought in preserving the respect and preventing adversity, we ought ever to heed the imperative rule laid down with so much emphasis by Von Voght: We must never make the condition of the able-bodied poor quite so comfortable as that of the industrious and the economical.
V. There must be careful but tender and tactful investigation of every case of distress, and also general and hearty co-operation among all individuals and institutions engaged in charity, that impostors be discouraged and that hidden distress be relieved, that no lonely unfortunate go unserved, and that no benevolent heart be tricked into unwise almsgiving.
These general statements present the outlines of scientific charity. They are accepted wherever successful work is done. The condition precedent to the more successful management of both public and private charities is that these truths be wrought everywhere into the sentiments and habits of the commonwealth. It is not enough that students of sociology and superintendents of institutions be acquainted with these facts. They must be made vital in the public and private life of the community. They must become organized as convictions and motives, so that a person will instinctively avoid carelessly giving alms as he would avoid associating with a person afflicted with the small-pox. They must be made a part of the social consciousness, so that a village will no more tolerate tramps than horse thieves.
These principles, which constitute scientific charity, must pass, by the educational process of agitation and debate, into social structure, that they may be present in the habits and customs of our individual and corporate life. This done, and then the organization of private charities will come about spontaneously. But the importance of these truths must be felt as a commanding necessity before the masses will act in obedience to them. This done, the waste of charity will be stopped. This done, we can begin to solve these great problems.
HOW CAN WE FURTHER THE ORGANIZATION
BY MISS FRANCES R. MORSE, ASSOCIATED CHARITIES, BOSTON.
We may unhesitatingly work for the further extension of the organization of charities so long as we do not simply mean the extension of certain methods of work, but rather the extension of certain working principles.
It is the charity organization way of looking at things that we wish to carry further, the charity organization idea; and then the methods may be safely left to shape themselves, differing somewhat under differing conditions, and expanding and growing with succeeding generations. If our principles are living and organic, we shall see development and growth in our methods; and the ways of working in 1927 may differ in many particulars from the ways of 1897, while the ways of thinking may be the same.
Charity organization extension means simply the extension to philanthropic work of all kinds of those principles by which we try to guide ourselves in our daily relations with the people about us. There would be, perhaps, no reason for claiming them for charity organization, were it not too often assumed that, when we act on committees of this or that charitable society, we are to drop these everyday principles, and behave as if we were dealing with people moved by other motives than those which we feel ourselves. When we do this, we cease to be human beings in simple and natural relation with other human beings, and become a class dealing with another class.
Just as civil service reform means only the application to the public service of the principles of ordinary, upright business life, so charity organization means only the application to charitable work of the principles which govern the healthiest and most helpful social relations which we know, our relations with the friends and acquaintances among whom we have grown up.
In the organization of charities, then, we mean to apply to the question in hand (whether it be the succor of one person or some new plan for bringing into steady working co-operation all the help
ful agencies of a town) all the sympathy, all the effort, to see clearly and to act wisely, all the reasonableness and perseverance at our command.
Philanthropic work is not usually defined as "interference in other people's affairs"; but that is a fair definition, and, moreover, the interference is frequently unasked. It is often justifiable and beneficent, but interference it is in the intricate and delicate adjustment of the machinery of social life.
Undoubtedly, there is already interference that the community as a whole has decided to be desirable. We have been shown over and over again how circumscribed individual freedom now is. Systems of taxation, systems of town and State expenditures, boards of health, compulsory education, neglect laws, public outdoor and indoor relief, what are all these but forms of interference with the liberty of the individual? But the philanthropic interference of private societies and persons has no assent of the public behind it, expressed in laws and statutes. We may as well frankly accept it as interference which we believe may be for the public good.
How have our best friends helped us? First, by caring for us; next, they have tried to see clearly how we are tending, what we are making of our lives; and, then, because they have given careful and honest thought to our affairs, when they speak words they mean us to hear, we listen.
This is interference which helps. The nearer we get to it in the organization of charity, the better for our relations with other societies and with the people we are trying to help.
The charity organization habit of mind should help us to keep on the lookout for all wide means of social improvement. It should lead us to do all that we can to facilitate the work of boards of health; to co-operate heartily in the work of the public schools; to try wherever we can to help forward the admirable and often unobserved work of other paid agents of the public, such as the subordinate officers of overseers of the poor and of public institutions, truant officers, and others, and to secure open spaces and pleasant playgrounds in cities.
If our definition of the charity organization idea is the true one, we surely want it to go far and wide, and to affect people who would turn away from the name, but who would heartily accept the point of view if unnamed. How can we help it to go further?
First. We may ask each large charity organization society to equip itself very fully to be a centre of information to any person or group of persons who wish to start charity organization in another community. Already the general secretaries of many of our large societies ably fill this central position, but I believe that helpful aid can be given by members of the boards of directors.
One of the standing committees of each board of directors might bear constantly in mind the possible extension of charity organization, and avail fully of each opportunity as it occurs. Such a committee should see to it that all questions from correspondents are fully considered and adequately answered, so that we are giving from our experience and beliefs of to-day, and not merely falling back on recorded experience. The people who ask our advice should be able to feel that their interests are ours, and that we shall give as earnest thought to their perplexities as to our own.
This committee should also be ready on occasion to do direct propagandist work. If, for instance, they see that in their State. one of the larger towns has no organization of charity, that year by year bequests are left for the good of the public, that many philanthropic enterprises are afoot there, as in other places, but that through the absence of organization they are overlapping each other, there would then be a fair chance of helping every one of these enterprises by getting them to accept the charity organization point of view. Besides sending to new correspondents the various pamphlets, reports and leaflets which we find most useful, we might do more than at present by exchange of any valuable and interesting papers between existing charity organization societies.
Second. Our co-operation with other societies should be more thorough-going, hopeful, and trusting than it is. Co-operation now too often means only a coincidence of plan about a single family,— an agreement not to interfere with each other in a given case. It should mean more. We should learn what is the best work that each society can do, and turn to it confidently for that, not try to cover the same ground ourselves; and we should wish other societies to do the same for us.
Where we are to work with another society in helping a family, the mutual understanding should be as thorough as possible; and the effort should be to learn as much as we can from people who are working toward the same end by different means.