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DEVELOPING THE SOCIAL UP-DRAUGHT.
BY FRANCIS G. PEABODY, CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
In Mr. Charles Booth's epoch-making book about London there are two remarkable chapters by Mr. Llewellyn Smith, on the Influx. of Population to the City. There is, says this very competent inquirer, a sort of in-draught which draws the country dweller to the town. A current seems to set from the rural districts, with their low wages and low cost of living, to the city, with its high wages and high cost of living, so that, deducting all foreigners in London, and counting the English-born population of the metropolis, it is discovered that the enormous proportion of 35 per cent. of the city dwellers were born in the country and have migrated to London. Even this is not the whole story of that migration. In addition to the in-draught to the city, there is, Mr. Smith proceeds to show, a down-draught within the city. City life, that is to say, is deteriorating in its industrial effect. The city-born population is, on the whole, not able to compete with the fresh influx that flows in from the country. When the occupations and homes of the population are compared, it turns out that the country-born tend toward the occupations which demand the hardest work and which, therefore, offer the highest prizes, while the city-born tend to sink toward the less stable trades and to occupy the least prosperous parts of the city. The in-draught is thus succeeded by a down-draught. London life first invites, and then degrades. The Londoner tires out and dies out sooner than the country-born. In those parts of London where the poverty is greatest, the proportion of city-born is greatest also; and in the districts of greatest prosperity there are also the greatest number of the country-born. Thus, while the proportion of country-born for the whole metropolis is 35 per cent., the centres of the greatest poverty, like Bethnal Green and Whitechapel, contain less than 20 per cent.; while the West End, the centre of luxury, contains not less than 50 per cent. of migrants from the country.
All this makes a very striking picture of the great modern movement to the cities. But may not the same figure be given a much wider application? Is not the whole story of social amelioration
and degeneration something like the kindling of the fire upon a hearth? The problem of the fire lies in the development of the up-draught. Choke the up-current, and the in-draught fills the room with smoke. Let a contrary wind blow in on the half-kindled flame, and the down-draught puts it out. Sometimes it is the excess of ashes and clinkers deposited below which hinders the up-draught. Sometimes it is the very excess of fuel that kills the fire, as when a careless housemaid piles in so much coal that the fire is put out. Sometimes there is too much advice and too diligent a poking of the flame. Most persons are inclined to believe that the knack of kindling a fire is one which they possess in a peculiar degree, and which the rest of their household fail to understand. You remember how the fire-bells rung one night, and the husband started for the conflagration; while the wife, out of a long domestic experience, said, "Take the poker with you, my dear, and you will be sure to put any fire out." Now there is something like all this in the story of social service. What is the problem of judicious charity? It is not the devising of ways to push people up, in opposition to any law of economics or of ethics, as if one should throw bits of coal up the chimney, only to have them smite him as they fall. It is the establishing of conditions which in themselves tend to develop an updraught, and which make the way to rise easy for those who want to rise. And what are the hindrances that block the social up-draught? They are first, the obstructive mass of burnt-out material, the social residuum, the clinkers of society; second, the mistakes of the social stokers, the excessive poking and the clogging of the draught with superfluous kindling. In short, the problem of social welfare calls for two distinct things: first, the removal of the non-contributory material; and, second, the adjustment of the effective elements, so as to give a chance for the up-draught; and into these two distinct enterprises the work of charity divides.
This twofold character of relief inyolves, however, certain special principles which are sometimes obscured or unobserved, and for the sake of restating which I have used this figure of the updraught. The first of such principles is obviously that of discrimination. It is, of course, not true that people can be precisely sorted into these two classes of dead clinkers and live coals, so that, while some are absolutely irredeemable, others can be made to burn. There is often discovered an unanticipated capacity for restoration
in some apparently burnt-out life, and there is often discovered a discouraging lack of inflammability in lives that ought to rise. Yet, looking at people in masses, it must be confessed that modern charity is dealing with two distinct problems which are often much confused. On the one hand there are the people who want to rise and who are prevented by hostile conditions; and then there are, on the other hand, the group of people who have not the least idea of working if they can help it,— the mendicant, the tramp, the professionally and laboriously idle. Now the first step in scientific relief is to discriminate between these types. Treat them alike, and you wrong the worthy in order to favor the shameless. Leave your grate stuffed with clinkers, and how can good coal feel the updraught? The social problem is often enormously increased because the whole body of poverty in a community is massed indiscriminately in institutional life, and the restoration of the self-respecting or young is practically prohibited by their contact with degradation and vice. What is to be done with the non-effective, non-contributory type,- the dead weight of pauperized, inapplicable, burnt-out humanity? Why, first of all, such non-effectives should be taken away from conditions where they can live without work, and last and least of all should life be made easier for them, by refuges and missions and institutional protection under these same conditions. Wherever in Europe population has become congested and scientific method is accepted in relief,— in Belgium or Holland, especially,— there the doctrine prevails that the restoration of the non-effectives demands their removal from city life, and the colonization of them under conditions of country life and work. The labor colonies of these countries are as restorative a scheme as can
be devised for the submerged poor. You know that the same wood ashes which tend to block your grate, and which seem to be dead material, become highly fertilizing when they are spread out over the land. It is the same with some lives which seem to be sheer, burnt-out matter, and would continue to be so if left in the conditions of city life, but which, when transferred to the strenuous demands of country labor, become at least partially redeemed.
The first step in developing the social up-draught is in removing the deposit at the bottom, deporting it to conditions where it may possibly be of use, and at least permitting the up-current to kindle the fire of effective service.
This brings us to a second principle which issues with the same directness from the twofold nature of relief. It is the principle of subordination. The treatment of the non-effectives must be made subordinate and contributory to the encouragement of the worthy. The central problem of social service is not, as is often supposed, the rescue and protection of the most degraded: it is the encouragement and development of those who have in them the desire for selfhelp. The surest way of social redemption is not to go to the bottom and thrust the unwilling up; but it is to give to those who want to rise a chance to rise, so that by their rising they may create, as it were, a vacuum into which others in their turn shall be drawn. This is quite contrary to a great deal of charity work. The human heart seems to go out most easily to the worthless and the debased, and to find less picturesqueness and emotional glow in helping those who want to help themselves. Yet it is not only less hopeless to help the self-helping, but it is also the best way to help the less deserving. Each person, each home, for whom the way is opened out of the ranks of casual or ill-paid labor, each accession of skill or intelligence or specialized knowledge given to those who wish it, not only offers to that single life a new certainty of self-support, but it leaves one more place open lower down into which the less skilled may rise. There is always an over-demand for workers at the top and always an over-supply of them at the bottom; and the most legitimate and most rewarding form of charity is simply that which develops a strong up-draught. The movement of social progress is like the movement of an army in the field. There is the onward march of the effective troops; and then there is also the merciful attendance of the Red Cross service, caring for the wounded, tending the sick, mitigating the hardships of battle. One cannot say that this attendant service is less noble or essential than the march of the troops, but one must say that it ought not to impede or embarrass the fighting capacity of the army. After all, the campaign must be fought through, not nursed through; and the central problem is that of effectiveness in those who can be made effective.
As one thus considers these ways of clearing the up-flue and giving to those who want to rise the chance to rise, a third principle seems to present itself. It is the principle of variation. We are delivered from over-confidence in any single method or scheme as in itself sufficient for the whole work of social regeneration. This is a
time of social panaceas. We are tempted on every hand by schemes and programmes which are to redeem society all at once. It is said that Mr. Huxley once arrived somewhat tardily at Dublin, to attend a meeting of the British Association, and, jumping into a jauntingcar, called out to the coachman, "Drive fast!" Away went the car, rattling over the pavement, until Mr. Huxley breathlessly asked, "Where are you going?" "Sure, I don't know where we're going," answered Pat; "but, anyway, I'm driving fast." Is not that a picture of much of the modern agitation,— very fast driving, with no welldetermined end; progress, but progress into the dark? And what does this sanguine, half-interpreted, rattling movement of social agitation so much need to learn as the exceeding complexity and diversity of problems which it is tempted to solve by some short cut of reform? The more soberly one considers the correlation and interdependence as well as the magnitude of our present social issues, the less he comes to believe that the social uplift is to be accomplished by any single programme or comprehensive scheme, and the more he gives himself, with patience and hope, to enterprises which are confessedly contributory, partial, and tentative, as one who lays his sticks, now this way and now otherwise, if by any means he may kindle the up-draught. In this large and varied movement each generous and humanizing plan has its part. There is room for many a programme and dream, if it does not claim the whole field. Whatever in its own way develops the up-current contributes directly to the better future. Each tiny flame lighted anywhere helps the whole. There is a contagion as of a kindling fire. To believe that the scheme or dream or programme in which one's own service is peculiarly absorbed is the single and sufficient panacea for social ills is simply to court disappointment, disillusion, and despair; but to nurse one's own little work into a living flame, and then to see other methods and other causes take fire from it, until at last in one's own corner of the world there is a general updraught of social life,— that is what gives a just and reasonable ground for humble and self-effacing joy.
Thus the problem of charity falls into these distinct undertakings, - the removal of the residuum which will not burn, and the kindling of the material which wants to burn, the negative and the positive developing of the up-draught. But, finally, it is to be remembered that this whole twofold process rests in the mind of