Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

brothers and sisters, whose capacities are less and whose opportunities more restricted than ours. They have fallen behind in the race, and now lift up lame hands and blind eyes to us for succor and help. The science that guides our work of charity and correction is asthenontology, the science of human weakness. Not an army of foes, but a great multitude of weak ones, who are given into our care, that we may succor and bless. "We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” Upon such principles should be founded that sentiment toward the dependent which, as I take it, this great Conference chiefly exists to acquire and to diffuse.

And now, if this is indeed the true sentiment which we should cherish toward the great dependent classes, what action, what course of conduct, should such sentiments induce? Should not the attitude of the State - - that is to say, of ourselves in our collective capacity — toward them be that of a father toward his weak and erring children?

I think no one distrusts and shrinks from the idea of a paternal government more than I. No one more earnestly believes that the principle which has made Canada so prosperous and so good an abiding-place for free men, which has made the American Republic the grand thing it is among the nations of the world, is the principle of individual freedom,- that each of us shall have the power as he has the right to make the best he can of his faculties and opportunities. Not the most just and benevolent paternalism, with no matter how careful and wise regulation of each person's life, with labor for all, and reward for every one in proportion to his labor; not the social or communistic State, with equal pay to every man, no matter what the nature of his work, if only he does a fair share according to his capacity, none of these things, but equal and exact justice, with freedom of opportunity to all, is the need of our day. Then all will go well, or, at least, all will go as well as it can go under any circumstances in a world whose intent is not so much happiness for all as it is discipline, the making of man.

Yet, believing this most firmly, I also believe that toward this vast dependent multitude, a fatherly or motherly care is the just attitude of the State. Their lives should be guarded and governed, their work and play, their food and clothes, their business and their leisure, should all be chosen for them. They should be directed, guided, controlled. The State should say to each of them: "My

child, your life has been one succession of failures. You cannot feed and clothe yourself honestly. You cannot control your appetites and passions. Left to yourself, you are not only useless, but mischievous. I have tried punishing, curing, reforming you, as the case may be; and I have failed. You are incurable, a degenerate, a being unfit for free social life. Henceforth I shall care for you.

I will feed and clothe you, and give you a reasonably comfortable life. In return you will do the work I set for you and you will abstain from interfering with your neighbor to his detriment. One other thing you will abstain from: you will no longer procreate your kind. You must be the last member of your feeble and degenerate family. If you are an incorrigible thief, here is a factory you shall work in. If you are an idiot or an imbecile, here is a village of the simple, a happy and useful place for you. If you are an epileptic, a chronic insane person, an inebriate, a semi-weakminded mother of numerous illegitimate children, an habitual pauper, whatever your special form of dependency, if it be final, incurable, permanent, here is a place, a home, a labor house, an asylum for you. Here you shall live; and, if you are physically strong and have some intelligence, you shall earn your own living, and perhaps something toward the maintenance of your weaker brothers and

sisters. But you shall go out no more until such time as your heavenly Father takes you to a still more permanent home, for which also I will try as well as I may to prepare you.”

Does all this sound far away, a dream of the future? Many of my audience know that it is what ought to be. Some of us believe that it will be, or at least be well begun, in our own time. Every year grand steps are taken toward its accomplishment, as they must be if the Republic is to endure another century. For nothing but such permanent maternal care of the degenerate will check the continued increase of vice and crime, and lighten the burden of the honest laboring tax-payer.

Do not say such a method of caring for the degenerate would cost too much to be possible. The fact is that we are already wasting far more, in some departments, on our present foolish methods than wise and complete care would cost. It costs more to apprehend, try, and commit a chronic misdemeanant than it would to keep him in the workhouse during his usual brief period between imprisonments; while his labor, nearly useless on the present desultory plan, on the

Our poor

permanent plan could readily be made to support him. asylums are the usual, or occasional, homes of the semi-weak-minded mothers of the larger part of our next generation of paupers and imbeciles. It would cost little, if any, more to make them permanent homes and stop the propagation. That defective persons can be made happy and useful, many of them entirely self-supporting and all the happier for being so, there are numerous instances now in evidence, besides the striking examples of the county insane asylums of Wisconsin and the farm colonies for chronic insane of Michigan. The way is clear and well within the ability of our taxpayers to furnish the means. The most important thing needed is a public opinion which shall recognize what degeneracy means, and shall insist that its increase be stopped. Not that any effort should be relaxed to educate, to repress and cure, to bring the dependent child to honorable citizenship, the curable insane to health of mind and body, the corrigible prisoner to honest manhood; but that the sad fact of incurability, of incorrigibility, of unreformability, shall be recognized, when it exists, and shall be treated, not with anger and hatred and stern punishment, but with humanity, with kindness and with sanctified common sense.

Is it not also possible that, with this great host of dependants and degenerates eliminated from the arena of competition, with laws made equal and justice meted out in every department, with natural opportunities opened freely to every one according to his ability, the socialistic State, to which some of us look forward as the coming slavery, might not come, after all? If the State's parental care were duly exercised over all those who need it, might not the strong, robust, and enterprising remainder be able to be their own Providence?

In many departments of life the intellect governs with but small assistance from the feelings. In the exact sciences the emotions have little scope. But in the work of charities and correction, as we have now learned to view it, the master workman must be equipped with a trained heart as well as a disciplined head. That he can safely be given the work of aiding and caring for, or even inspecting the care of, the defectives and degenerates, he must be a lover of his kind. The first essential for successful work in any of the lines that converge in our National Conference is that the worker shall be a philanthropist. Many things also he must be, the successful

superintendent of an institution or secretary of a State Board of Charities or agent of an association for help. He must have executive ability of a high order; he must have special instruction; he must have a calm and judicial habit of mind; he must have energy, persistence, grace, grit and gumption. But before all these and more important than any, he must have the sympathetic insight which only comes with a warm and tender heart. Nothing else can enable him to understand the people with whom' he must deal, to comprehend and supply their various wants, to recognize and develop what is good, to see and suppress the evil, to lead them into making the best that can be made of themselves.

If the quality of sympathetic insight is needed in the active agent, he who comes directly in contact with the weaker ones, it is almost as necessary in those who direct and control his work, the trustees, directors, managers, who preside over the destiny of so many unfortunates. If they shall do this great work for the State and her dependants as faithful, earnest public servants, enlightened and quickened by love for humanity and pity for the weak, not for the petty gain of a small salary, but for the exceeding great reward of an approving conscience, recognizing the high privilege of belonging to that aristocracy of usefulness which is to replace the obsolete aristocracy of birth and the present but obsolescent aristocracy of wealth,— then, indeed, will they well serve their day and generation.

To develop and popularize such sentiments as these toward the dependent and toward the mother State, in the hearts of those whose business it has been made to help and sucçor the weak, is, I believe, the highest and noblest work of the National Conference. In no other way can we do so much to lift the benevolent and reformatory work of the State above the rush and scramble of party politics, into a purer and more serene atmosphere. These seem to me objects worthy of a more earnest and devoted gathering of people than the National Conference itself, if such there were.

t

The program of our work for the week is in your hands. Let me call your attention briefly to some points of special interest in it. Agreeing with my assumption that the permanent maternal care of the degenerates by the State is beginning to receive the attention it deserves, you will have presented to you by the Committee on the Care of the Insane and Epileptic, reports from two large colonies,

[ocr errors]

equipped on the most improved methods and managed in the most practical way,— colonies which have already gone far toward demonstrating the wisdom of the statesmen who designed and created them. The same committee will present for the first time to this Conference the subject of "After Care of Convalescent or Recovered Insane Patients," a timely and indeed urgent subject for consideration.

The Committee on Prison Reform offers some valuable papers by well-known penologists. It will report gratifying progress in many States, but will urge the need of more radical reforms than are often contemplated everywhere. The common jail as it exists in so many places, the sum of official and public villanies, the moral cesspool, the school of vice, the meeting-place and recruiting station of professional criminals, will be again described, as it was twenty years ago, when the Conference met for the first time as an independent body in Chicago, and adopted two resolutions, one of which was that the common jails of the United States were a disgrace to civilization.

Among the newer methods of the application of scientific observation to every-day life, none is more interesting than child study; and in the defective children of our public institutions there is remarkable opportunity for such study, since we often learn to understand the normal through observations of the abnormal. The Committee on the Care of the Feeble-minded promises us a paper by one of thẹ leaders in this department of educational research, on "Child Study as it applies to the Defectives."

Until last year the Conference had not paid due attention to municipal and county affairs, being more occupied with those of the State and of private societies. Last year, however, and again at this Conference, a committee reports on these subjects, and offers a program that has an attractive promise.

The merit system in public institutions, which received deserved attention last year, does not appear upon our program now. This must not be construed to mean that the Conference is indifferent to this great reform, or that we can afford to cease urging it upon every possible occasion. Since our meeting last year, one of the quadrennial earthquakes, which are becoming usual in American politics, has taken place, with consequences which have been felt among our membership. At least one, and perhaps two, of our

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »