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The Complete Essays of C. D. Warner by Charles Dudley Warner

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accumulation of vast fortunes, acquired often in brutal disregard of
humanity, marks the contrast of conditions perhaps more emphatically than
it ever appeared before. That this inequality should continue in an era
of universal education, universal suffrage, universal locomotion,
universal emancipation from nearly all tradition, is a surprise, and a
perfectly comprehensible cause of discontent. It is axiomatic that all
men are created equal. But, somehow, the problem does not work out in
the desired actual equality of conditions. Perhaps it can be forced to
the right conclusion by violence.

It ought to be said, as to the United States, that a very considerable
part of the discontent is imported, it is not native, nor based on any
actual state of things existing here. Agitation has become a business.
A great many men and some women, to whom work of any sort is distasteful,
live by it. Some of them are refugees from military or political
despotism, some are refugees from justice, some from the lowest
conditions of industrial slavery. When they come here, they assume that
the hardships they have come away to escape exist here, and they begin
agitating against them. Their business is to so mix the real wrongs of
our social life with imaginary hardships, and to heighten the whole with
illusory and often debasing theories, that discontent will be engendered.
For it is by means of that only that they live. It requires usually a
great deal of labor, of organization, of oratory to work up this
discontent so that it is profitable. The solid workingmen of America who
know the value of industry and thrift, and have confidence in the relief
to be obtained from all relievable wrongs by legitimate political or
other sedate action, have no time to give to the leadership of agitations
which require them to quit work, and destroy industries, and attack the
social order upon which they depend. The whole case, you may remember,
was embodied thousands of years ago in a parable, which Jotham, standing
on the top of Mount Gerizim, spoke to the men of Shechem:

"The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said
unto the olive-tree, 'Reign thou over us.'

"But the olive-tree said unto them, 'Should I leave my fatness wherewith
by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

"And the trees said to the fig-tree, 'Come thou and reign over us.'

"But the fig-tree said unto them, 'Should I forsake my sweetness and my
good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

"Then said the trees unto the vine, 'Come thou and reign over us.'

"And the vine said unto them, 'Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God
and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

"Then said the trees unto the bramble, 'Come thou and reign over us.'

"And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth ye anoint me king over
you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come
out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'"

In our day a conflagration of the cedars of Lebanon has been the only
result of the kingship of the bramble.

In the opinion of many, our universal education is one of the chief
causes of the discontent. This might be true and not be an argument
against education, for a certain amount of discontent is essential to
self-development and if, as we believe, the development of the best
powers of every human being is a good in itself, education ought not to
be held responsible for the evils attending a transitional period. Yet
we cannot ignore the danger, in the present stage, of an education that
is necessarily superficial, that engenders conceit of knowledge and
power, rather than real knowledge and power, and that breeds in two-
thirds of those who have it a distaste for useful labor. We believe in
education; but there must be something wrong in an education that sets so
many people at odds with the facts of life, and, above all, does not
furnish them with any protection against the wildest illusions. There is
something wanting in the education that only half educates people.

Whether there is the relation of cause and effect between the two I do
not pretend to say, but universal and superficial education in this
country has been accompanied with the most extraordinary delusions and
the evolution of the wildest theories. It is only necessary to refer, by
way of illustration, to the greenback illusion, and to the whole group of
spiritualistic disturbances and psychological epidemics. It sometimes
seems as if half the American people were losing the power to apply
logical processes to the ordinary affairs of life.

In studying the discontent in this country which takes the form of a
labor movement, one is at first struck by its illogical aspects. So far
as it is an organized attempt to better the condition of men by
association of interests it is consistent. But it seems strange that the
doctrine of individualism should so speedily have an outcome in a
personal slavery, only better in the sense that it is voluntary, than
that which it protested against. The revolt from authority, the
assertion of the right of private judgment, has been pushed forward into
a socialism which destroys individual liberty of action, or to a state of
anarchy in which the weak would have no protection. I do not imagine
that the leaders who preach socialism, who live by agitation and not by
labor, really desire to overturn the social order and bring chaos. If
social chaos came, their occupation would be gone, for if all men were
reduced to a level, they would be compelled to scratch about with the
rest for a living. They live by agitation, and they are confident that
government will be strong enough to hold things together, so that they
can continue agitation.

The strange thing is that their followers who live by labor and expect to
live by it, and believe in the doctrine of individualism, and love
liberty of action, should be willing to surrender their discretion to an
arbitrary committee, and should expect that liberty of action would be
preserved if all property were handed over to the State, which should
undertake to regulate every man's time, occupation, wages, and so on.
The central committee or authority, or whatever it might be called, would
be an extraordinary despotism, tempered only by the idea that it could be
overturned every twenty-four hours. But what security would there be for
any calculations in life in a state of things in expectation of a
revolution any moment? Compared with the freedom of action in such a
government as ours, any form of communism is an iniquitous and meddlesome
despotism. In a less degree an association to which a man surrenders the
right to say when, where, and for how much he shall work, is a despotism,
and when it goes further and attempts to put a pressure on all men
outside of the association, so that they are free neither to work nor to
hire the workmen they choose, it is an extraordinary tyranny. It almost
puts in the shade Mexican or Russian personal government. A demand is
made upon a railway company that it shall discharge a certain workman
because and only because he is not a member of the union. The company
refuses. Then a distant committee orders a strike on that road, which
throws business far and wide into confusion, and is the cause of heavy
loss to tens of thousands who have no interest in any association of
capital or labor, many of whom are ruined by this violence. Some of the
results of this surrender of personal liberty are as illegal as

The boycott is a conspiracy to injure another person, and as such
indictable at common law. A strike, if a conspiracy only to raise wages
or to reduce hours of labor, may not be indictable, if its object cannot
be shown to be the injury of another, though that may be incidentally its
effect. But in its incidents, such as violence, intimidation, and in
some cases injury to the public welfare, it often becomes an indictable
offense. The law of conspiracy is the most ill-defined branch of
jurisprudence, but it is safe to say of the boycott and the strike that
they both introduce an insupportable element of tyranny, of dictation, of
interference, into private life. If they could be maintained, society
would be at the mercy of an, irresponsible and even secret tribunal.

The strike is illogical. Take the recent experience in this country.
We have had a long season of depression, in which many earned very little
and labor sought employment in vain. In the latter part of winter the
prospect brightened, business revived, orders for goods poured in to all
the factories in the country, and everybody believed that we were on the
eve of a very prosperous season. This was the time taken to order
strikes, and they were enforced in perhaps a majority of cases against
the wishes of those who obeyed the order, and who complained of no
immediate grievance. What men chiefly wanted was the opportunity to
work. The result has been to throw us all back into the condition of
stagnation and depression. Many people are ruined, an immense amount
of capital which ventured into enterprises is lost, but of course the
greatest sufferers are the workingmen themselves.

The methods of violence suggested by the communists and anarchists are
not remedial. Real difficulties exist, but these do not reach them.
The fact is that people in any relations incur mutual obligations, and
the world cannot go on without a recognition of duties as well as rights.
We all agree that every man has a right to work for whom he pleases, and
to quit the work if it does not or the wages do not suit him. On the
other hand, a man has a right to hire whom he pleases, pay such wages as
he thinks he can afford, and discharge men who do not suit him. But when
men come together in the relation of employer and employed, other
considerations arise. A man has capital which, instead of loaning at
interest or locking up in real estate or bonds, he puts into a factory.
In other words, he unlocks it for the benefit partly of men who want
wages. He has the expectation of making money, of making more than he
could by lending his money. Perhaps he will be disappointed, for a
common experience is the loss of capital thus invested. He hires workmen
at certain wages. On the strength of this arrangement, he accepts orders
and makes contracts for the delivery of goods. He may make money one
year and lose the next. It is better for the workman that he should
prosper, for the fund of capital accumulated is that upon which they
depend to give them wages in a dull time. But some day when he is in
a corner with orders, and his rivals are competing for the market,
and labor is scarce, his men strike on him.

Conversely, take the workman settled down to work in the mill, at the
best wages attainable at the time. He has a house and family. He has
given pledges to society. His employer has incurred certain duties in
regard to him by the very nature of their relations. Suppose the workman
and his family cannot live in any comfort on the wages he receives.
The employer is morally bound to increase the wages if he can. But if,
instead of sympathizing with the situation of his workman, he forms a
combination with all the mills of his sort, and reduces wages merely to
increase his gains, he is guilty of an act as worthy of indictment as the
strike. I do not see why a conspiracy against labor is not as illegal as
a conspiracy against capital. The truth is, the possession of power by
men or associations makes them selfish and generally cruel. Few
employers consider anything but the arithmetic of supply and demand in
fixing wages, and workingmen who have the power, tend to act as selfishly
as the male printers used to act in striking in an establishment which
dared to give employment to women typesetters. It is of course
sentimental to say it, but I do not expect we shall ever get on with less
friction than we have now, until men recognize their duties as well as
their rights in their relations with each other.

In running over some of the reasons for the present discontent, and the
often illogical expression of it, I am far from saying anything against
legitimate associations for securing justice and fair play.
Disassociated labor has generally been powerless against accumulated
capital. Of course, organized labor, getting power will use its power
(as power is always used) unjustly and tyrannically. It will make
mistakes, it will often injure itself while inflicting general damage.
But with all its injustice, with all its surrender of personal liberty,
it seeks to call the attention of the world to certain hideous wrongs, to
which the world is likely to continue selfishly indifferent unless rudely
shaken out of its sense of security. Some of the objects proposed by
these associations are chimerical, but the agitation will doubtless go on
until another element is introduced into work and wages than mere supply
and demand. I believe that some time it will be impossible that a woman
shall be forced to make shirts at six cents apiece, with the gaunt
figures of starvation or a life of shame waiting at the door. I talked
recently with the driver of a street-car in a large city. He received a
dollar and sixty cents a day. He went on to his platform at eight in the
morning, and left it at twelve at night, sixteen hours of continuous
labor every day in the week. He had no rest for meals, only snatched
what he could eat as he drove along, or at intervals of five or eight
minutes at the end of routes. He had no Sunday, no holiday in the year.

Between twelve o'clock at night and eight the next morning he must wash
and clean his car. Thus his hours of sleep were abridged. He was
obliged to keep an eye on the passengers to see that they put their fares
in the box, to be always, responsible for them, that they got on and off
without accident, to watch that the rules were enforced, and that
collisions and common street dangers were avoided. This mental and
physical strain for sixteen consecutive hours, with scant sleep, so
demoralized him that he was obliged once in two or three months to hire a
substitute and go away to sleep. This is treating a human being with
less consideration than the horses receive. He is powerless against the
great corporation; if he complains, his place is instantly filled; the
public does not care.

Now what I want to say about this case, and that of the woman who makes a
shirt for six cents (and these are only types of disregard of human souls
and bodies that we are all familiar with), is that if society remains
indifferent it must expect that organizations will attempt to right them,
and the like wrongs, by ways violent and destructive of the innocent and
guilty alike. It is human nature, it is the lesson of history, that real
wrongs, unredressed, grow into preposterous demands. Men are much like
nature in action; a little disturbance of atmospheric equilibrium becomes
a cyclone, a slight break in the levee 'a crevasse with immense
destructive power.

In considering the growth of discontent, and of a natural disregard of
duties between employers and employed, it is to be noted that while wages
in nearly all trades are high, the service rendered deteriorates, less
conscience is put into the work, less care to give a fair day's work for
a fair day's wages, and that pride in good work is vanishing. This may
be in the nature of retaliation for the indifference to humanity taught
by a certain school of political economists, but it is, nevertheless, one
of the most alarming features of these times. How to cultivate the
sympathy of the employers with the employed as men, and how to interest
the employed in their work beyond the mere wages they receive, is the
double problem.

As the intention of this paper was not to suggest remedies, but only to
review some of the causes of discontent, I will only say, as to this
double problem, that I see no remedy so long as the popular notion
prevails that the greatest good of life is to make money rapidly, and
while it is denied that all men who contribute to prosperity ought to
share equitably in it. The employed must recognize the necessity of an
accumulated fund of capital, and on the other hand the employer must be
as anxious to have about him a contented, prosperous community, as to
heap up money beyond any reasonable use for it. The demand seems to be
reasonable that the employer in a prosperous year ought to share with the
workmen the profits beyond a limit that capital, risk, enterprise, and
superior skill can legitimately claim; and that on the other hand the
workmen should stand by the employer in hard times.

Discontent, then, arises from absurd notions of equality, from natural
conditions of inequality, from false notions of education, and from the
very patent fact, in this age, that men have been educated into wants
much more rapidly than social conditions have been adjusted, or perhaps
ever can be adjusted, to satisfy those wants. Beyond all the actual
hardship and suffering, there is an immense mental discontent which has
to be reckoned with.

This leads me to what I chiefly wanted to say in this paper, to the cause
of discontent which seems to me altogether the most serious, altogether
the most difficult to deal with. We may arrive at some conception of it,
if we consider what it is that the well-to-do, the prosperous, the rich,
the educated and cultivated portions of society, most value just now.

If, to take an illustration which is sufficiently remote to give us the
necessary perspective, if the political economists, the manufacturers,
the traders and aristocracy of England had had chiefly in mind the
development of the laboring people of England into a fine type of men and
women, full of health and physical vigor, with minds capable of expansion
and enjoyment, the creation of decent, happy, and contented homes, would
they have reared the industrial fabric we now see there? If they had not
put the accumulation of wealth above the good of individual humanity,
would they have turned England into a grimy and smoky workshop,
commanding the markets of the world by cheap labor, condemning the mass
of the people to unrelieved toil and the most squalid and degraded
conditions of life in towns, while the land is more and more set apart
for the parks and pleasure grounds of the rich? The policy pursued has
made England the richest of countries, a land of the highest refinement
and luxury for the upper classes, and of the most misery for the great
mass of common people. On this point we have but to read the testimony
of English writers themselves. It is not necessary to suppose that the
political economists were inhuman. They no doubt believed that if
England attained this commanding position, the accumulated wealth would
raise all classes into better conditions. Their mistake is that of all
peoples who have made money their first object. Looked at merely on the
material side, you would think that what a philanthropic statesman would
desire, who wished a vigorous, prosperous nation, would be a strong and
virile population, thrifty and industrious, and not mere slaves of mines
and mills, degenerating in their children, year by year, physically and
morally. But apparently they have gone upon the theory that it is money,
not man, that makes a state.

In the United States, under totally different conditions, and under an
economic theory that, whatever its defects on paper, has nevertheless
insisted more upon the worth of the individual man, we have had, all the
same, a distinctly material development. When foreign critics have
commented upon this, upon our superficiality, our commonplaceness, what
they are pleased to call the weary level of our mediocrity, upon the
raging unrest and race for fortune, and upon the tremendous pace of
American life, we have said that this is incident to a new country and
the necessity of controlling physical conditions, and of fitting our
heterogeneous population to their environment. It is hardly to be
expected, we have said, until, we have the leisure that comes from easy
circumstances and accumulated wealth, that we should show the graces of
the highest civilization, in intellectual pursuits. Much of this
criticism is ignorant, and to say the best of it, ungracious, considering
what we have done in the way of substantial appliances for education, in
the field of science, in vast charities, and missionary enterprises, and
what we have to show in the diffused refinements of life.

We are already wealthy; we have greater resources and higher credit than
any other nation; we have more wealth than any save one; we have vast
accumulations of fortune, in private hands and in enormous corporations.
There exists already, what could not be said to exist a quarter of a
century ago, a class who have leisure. Now what is the object in life of
this great, growing class that has money and leisure, what does it
chiefly care for? In your experience of society, what is it that it
pursues and desires? Is it things of the mind or things of the senses?
What is it that interests women, men of fortune, club-men, merchants, and
professional men whose incomes give them leisure to follow their
inclinations, the young men who have inherited money? Is it political
duties, the affairs of state, economic problems, some adjustment of our
relations that shall lighten and relieve the wrongs and misery everywhere
apparent; is the interest in intellectual pursuits and art (except in a
dilettante way dictated for a season by fashion) in books, in the wide
range of mental pleasures which make men superior to the accidents of
fortune? Or is the interest of this class, for the most part, with some
noble exceptions, rather in things grossly material, in what is called
pleasure? To come to somewhat vulgar details, is not the growing desire
for equipages, for epicurean entertainments, for display, either refined
or ostentatious, rivalry in profusion and expense, new methods for
killing time, for every imaginable luxury, which is enjoyed partly
because it pleases the senses, and partly because it satisfies an ignoble
craving for class distinction?

I am not referring to these things as a moralist at all, but simply in
their relation to popular discontent. The astonishing growth of luxury
and the habit of sensual indulgence are seen everywhere in this country,
but are most striking in the city of New York, since the fashion and
wealth of the whole country meet there for display and indulgence,--New
York, which rivals London and outdoes Paris in sumptuousness. There
congregate more than elsewhere idlers, men and women of leisure who have
nothing to do except to observe or to act in the spectacle of Vanity
Fair. Aside from the display of luxury in the shops, in the streets, in
private houses, one is impressed by the number of idle young men and
women of fashion.

It is impossible that a workingman who stands upon a metropolitan street
corner and observes this Bacchanalian revel and prodigality of expense,
should not be embittered by a sense of the inequality of the conditions
of life. But this is not the most mischievous effect of the spectacle.
It is the example of what these people care for. With all their wealth
and opportunities, it seems to him that these select people have no
higher object than the pleasures of the senses, and he is taught daily by
reiterated example that this is the end and aim of life. When he sees
the value the intelligent and the well-to-do set upon material things,
and their small regard for intellectual things and the pleasures of the
mind, why should he not most passionately desire those things which his
more fortunate neighbors put foremost? It is not the sight of a Peter
Cooper and his wealth that discontents him, nor the intellectual pursuits
of the scholar who uses the leisure his fortune gives him for the higher
pleasures of the mind. But when society daily dins upon his senses the
lesson that not manhood and high thinking and a contented spirit are the
most desirable things, whether one is rich or poor, is he to be blamed
for having a wrong notion of what will or should satisfy him? What the
well-to-do, the prosperous, are seen to value most in life will be the
things most desired by the less fortunate in accumulation. It is not so
much the accumulation of money that is mischievous in this country, for
the most stupid can see that fortunes are constantly shifting hands, but
it is the use that is made of the leisure and opportunity that money

Another observation, which makes men discontented with very slow
accumulation, is that apparently, in the public estimation it does not
make much difference whether a man acquires wealth justly or unjustly.
If he only secures enough, he is a power, he has social position, he
grasps the high honors and places in the state. The fact is that the
toleration of men who secure wealth by well known dishonest and sharp
practices is a chief cause of the demoralization of the public

However the lines social and political may be drawn, we have to keep in
mind that nothing in one class can be foreign to any other, and that
practically one philosophy underlies all the movements of an age. If our
philosophy is material, resulting in selfish ethics, all our energies
will have a materialistic tendency. It is not to be wondered at,
therefore, that, in a time when making money is the chief object, if it
is not reckoned the chief good, our education should all tend to what is
called practical, that is, to that which can be immediately serviceable
in some profitable occupation of life, to the neglect of those studies
which are only of use in training the intellect and cultivating and
broadening the higher intelligence. To this purely material and
utilitarian idea of life, the higher colleges and universities everywhere
are urged to conform themselves. Thus is the utilitarian spirit eating
away the foundations of a higher intellectual life, applying to
everything a material measure. In proportion as scholars yield to it,
they are lowering the standard of what is most to be desired in human
life, acting in perfect concert with that spirit which exalts money
making as the chief good, which makes science itself the slave of the
avaricious and greedy, and fills all the world with discontented and
ignoble longing. We do not need to be told that if we neglect pure
science for the pursuit of applied science only, applied science will
speedily be degraded and unfruitful; and it is just as true that if we
pursue knowledge only for the sake of gain, and not for its own sake,
knowledge will lose the power it has of satisfying the higher needs of
the human soul. If we are seen to put only a money value on the higher
education, why should not the workingman, who regards it only as a
distinction of class or privilege, estimate it by what he can see of its
practical results in making men richer, or bringing him more pleasure of
the senses?

The world is ruled by ideas, by abstract thought. Society, literature,
art, politics, in any given age are what the prevailing system of
philosophy makes them. We recognize this clearly in studying any past
period. We see, for instance, how all the currents of human life changed
upon the adoption of the inductive method; no science, no literature, no
art, practical or fine, no person, inquiring scholar, day laborer,
trader, sailor, fine lady or humblest housekeeper, escaped the influence.
Even though the prevailing ethics may teach that every man's highest duty
is to himself, we cannot escape community of sympathy and destiny in this
cold-blooded philosophy.

No social or political movement stands by itself. If we inquire, we
shall find one preponderating cause underlying every movement of the age.
If the utilitarian spirit is abroad, it accounts for the devotion to the
production of wealth, and to the consequent separation of classes and the
discontent, and it accounts also for the demand that all education shall
be immediately useful. I was talking the other day with a lady who was
doubting what sort of an education to give her daughter, a young girl of
exceedingly fine mental capacity. If she pursued a classical course, she
would, at the age of twenty-one, know very little of the sciences. And I
said, why not make her an intellectual woman? At twenty-one, with a
trained mind, all knowledges are at one's feet.

If anything can correct the evils of devotion to money, it seems to me
that it is the production of intellectual men and women, who will find
other satisfactions in life than those of the senses. And when labor
sees what it is that is really most to be valued, its discontent will be
of a nobler kind.


By Charles Dudley Warner

At the close of the war for the Union about five millions of negroes were
added to the citizenship of the United States. By the census of 1890
this number had become over seven and a half millions. I use the word
negro because the descriptive term black or colored is not determinative.
There are many varieties of negroes among the African tribes, but all of
them agree in certain physiological if not psychological characteristics,
which separate them from all other races of mankind; whereas there are
many races, black or colored, like the Abyssinian, which have no other
negro traits.

It is also a matter of observation that the negro traits persist in
recognizable manifestations, to the extent of occasional reversions,
whatever may be the mixture of a white race. In a certain degree this
persistence is true of all races not come from an historic common stock.

In the political reconstruction the negro was given the ballot without
any requirements of education or property. This was partly a measure of
party balance of power; and partly from a concern that the negro would
not be secure in his rights as a citizen without it, and also upon the
theory that the ballot is an educating influence.

This sudden transition and shifting of power was resented at the South,
resisted at first, and finally it has generally been evaded. This was
due to a variety of reasons or prejudices, not all of them creditable to
a generous desire for the universal elevation of mankind, but one of them
the historian will judge adequate to produce the result. Indeed, it
might have been foreseen from the beginning. This reconstruction measure
was an attempt to put the superior part of the community under the
control of the inferior, these parts separated by all the prejudices of
race, and by traditions of mastership on the one side and of servitude on
the other. I venture to say that it was an experiment that would have
failed in any community in the United States, whether it was presented as
a piece of philanthropy or of punishment.

A necessary sequence to the enfranchisement of the negro was his
education. However limited our idea of a proper common education may be,
it is a fundamental requisite in our form of government that every voter
should be able to read and write. A recognition of this truth led to the
establishment in the South of public schools for the whites and blacks,
in short, of a public school system. We are not to question the
sincerity and generousness of this movement, however it may have halted
and lost enthusiasm in many localities.

This opportunity of education (found also in private schools) was hailed
by the negroes, certainly, with enthusiasm. It cannot be doubted that at
the close of the war there was a general desire among the freedmen to be
instructed in the rudiments of knowledge at least. Many parents,
especially women, made great sacrifices to obtain for their children this
advantage which had been denied to themselves. Many youths, both boys
and girls, entered into it with a genuine thirst for knowledge which it
was pathetic to see.

But it may be questioned, from developments that speedily followed,
whether the mass of negroes did not really desire this advantage as a
sign of freedom, rather than from a wish for knowledge, and covet it
because it had formerly been the privilege of their masters, and marked a
broad distinction between the races. It was natural that this should be
so, when they had been excluded from this privilege by pains and
penalties, when in some States it was one of the gravest offenses to
teach a negro to read and write. This prohibition was accounted for by
the peculiar sort of property that slavery created, which would become
insecure if intelligent, for the alphabet is a terrible disturber of all
false relations in society.

But the effort at education went further than the common school and the
primary essential instruction. It introduced the higher education.
Colleges usually called universities--for negroes were established in
many Southern States, created and stimulated by the generosity of
Northern men and societies, and often aided by the liberality of the
States where they existed. The curriculum in these was that in colleges
generally,--the classics, the higher mathematics, science, philosophy,
the modern languages, and in some instances a certain technical
instruction, which was being tried in some Northern colleges. The
emphasis, however, was laid on liberal culture. This higher education
was offered to the mass that still lacked the rudiments of intellectual
training, in the belief that education--the education of the moment, the
education of superimposed information, can realize the theory of
universal equality.

This experiment has now been in operation long enough to enable us to
judge something of its results and its promises for the future. These
results are of a nature to lead us seriously to inquire whether our
effort was founded upon an adequate knowledge of the negro, of his
present development, of the requirements for his personal welfare and
evolution in the scale of civilization, and for his training in useful
and honorable citizenship. I am speaking of the majority, the mass to be
considered in any general scheme, and not of the exceptional individuals
--exceptions that will rapidly increase as the mass is lifted--who are
capable of taking advantage to the utmost of all means of cultivation,
and who must always be provided with all the opportunities needed.

Millions of dollars have been invested in the higher education of the
negro, while this primary education has been, taking the whole mass,
wholly inadequate to his needs. This has been upon the supposition that
the higher would compel the rise of the lower with the undeveloped negro
race as it does with the more highly developed white race. An
examination of the soundness of this expectation will not lead us far
astray from our subject.

The evolution of a race, distinguishing it from the formation of a
nation, is a slow process. We recognize a race by certain peculiar
traits, and by characteristics which slowly change. They are acquired
little by little in an evolution which, historically, it is often
difficult to trace. They are due to the environment, to the discipline
of life, and to what is technically called education. These work
together to make what is called character, race character, and it is this
which is transmitted from generation to generation. Acquirements are not
hereditary, like habits and peculiarities, physical or mental. A man
does not transmit to his descendants his learning, though he may transmit
the aptitude for it. This is illustrated in factories where skilled
labor is handed down and fixed in the same families, that is, where the
same kind of labor is continued from one generation to another. The
child, put to work, has not the knowledge of the parent, but a special
aptitude in his skill and dexterity. Both body and mind have acquired
certain transmissible traits. The same thing is seen on a larger scale
in a whole nation, like the Japanese, who have been trained into what
seems an art instinct.

It is this character, quality, habit, the result of a slow educational
process, which distinguishes one race from another. It is this that the
race transmits, and not the more or less accidental education of a decade
or an era. The Brahmins carry this idea into the next life, and say that
the departing spirit carries with him nothing except this individual
character, no acquirements or information or extraneous culture. It was
perhaps in the same spirit that the sad preacher in Ecclesiastes said
there is no "knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest."

It is by this character that we classify civilized and even semi-
civilized races; by this slowly developed fibre, this slow accumulation
of inherent quality in the evolution of the human being from lower to
higher, that continues to exist notwithstanding the powerful influence of
governments and religions. We are understood when we speak of the
French, the Italian, the Pole, the Spanish, the English, the German, the
Arab race, the Japanese, and so on. It is what a foreign writer calls,
not inaptly, a collective race soul. As it is slow in evolution, it is
persistent in enduring.

Further, we recognize it as a stage of progress, historically necessary
in the development of man into a civilized adaptation to his situation in
this world. It is a process that cannot be much hurried, and a result
that cannot be leaped to out of barbarism by any superimposition of
knowledge or even quickly by any change of environment. We may be right
in our modern notion that education has a magical virtue that can work
any kind of transformation; but we are certainly not right in supposing
that it can do this instantly, or that it can work this effect upon a
barbarous race in the same period of time that it can upon one more
developed, one that has acquired at least a race consciousness.

Before going further, and in order to avoid misunderstanding, it is
proper to say that I have the firmest belief in the ultimate development
of all mankind into a higher plane than it occupies now. I should
otherwise be in despair. This faith will never desist in the effort to
bring about the end desired.

But, if we work with Providence, we must work in the reasonable ways of
Providence, and add to our faith patience.

It seems to be the rule in all history that the elevation of a lower race
is effected only by contact with one higher in civilization. Both reform
and progress come from exterior influences. This is axiomatic, and
applies to the fields of government, religion, ethics, art, and letters.

We have been taught to regard Africa as a dark, stolid continent,
unawakened, unvisited by the agencies and influences that have
transformed the world from age to age. Yet it was in northern and
northeastern Africa that within historic periods three of the most
powerful and brilliant civilizations were developed,--the Egyptian, the
Carthaginian, the Saracenic. That these civilizations had more than a
surface contact with the interior, we know. To take the most ancient of
them, and that which longest endured, the Egyptian, the Pharaohs carried
their conquests and their power deep into Africa. In the story of their
invasions and occupancy of the interior, told in pictures on temple
walls, we find the negro figuring as captive and slave. This contact may
not have been a fruitful one for the elevation of the negro, but it
proves that for ages he was in one way or another in contact with a
superior civilization. In later days we find little trace of it in the
home of the negro, but in Egypt the negro has left his impress in the
mixed blood of the Nile valley.

The most striking example of the contact of the negro with a higher
civilization is in the powerful medieval empire of Songhay, established
in the heart of the negro country. The vast strip of Africa lying north
of the equator and south of the twentieth parallel and west of the upper
Nile was then, as it is now, the territory of tribes distinctly described
as Negro. The river Niger, running northward from below Jenne to near
Timbuctoo, and then turning west and south to the Gulf of Guinea, flows
through one of the richest valleys in the world. In richness it is
comparable to that of the Nile and, like that of the Nile, its fertility
depends upon the water of the central stream. Here arose in early times
the powerful empire of Songhay, which disintegrated and fell into tribal
confusion about the middle of the seventeenth century. For a long time
the seat of its power was the city of Jenne; in later days it was

This is not the place to enlarge upon this extraordinary piece of
history. The best account of the empire of Songhay is to be found in the
pages of Barth, the German traveler, who had access to what seemed to him
a credible Arab history. Considerable light is thrown upon it by a
recent volume on Timbuctoo by M. Dubois, a French traveler. M. Dubois
finds reason to believe that the founders of the Songhese empire came
from Yemen, and sought refuge from Moslem fanaticism in Central Africa
some hundred and fifty years after the Hejira. The origin of the empire
is obscure, but the development was not indigenous. It seems probable
that the settlers, following traders, penetrated to the Niger valley from
the valley of the Nile as early as the third or fourth century of our
era. An evidence of this early influence, which strengthened from
century to century, Dubois finds in the architecture of Jenne and
Timbuctoo. It is not Roman or Saracenic or Gothic, it is distinctly
Pharaonic. But whatever the origin of the Songhay empire, it became in
time Mohammedan, and so continued to the end. Mohammedanism seems,
however, to have been imposed. Powerful as the empire was, it was never
free from tribal insurrection and internal troubles. The highest mark of
negro capacity developed in this history is, according to the record
examined by Barth, that one of the emperors was a negro.

From all that can be gathered in the records, the mass of the negroes,
which constituted the body of this empire, remained pagan, did not
become, except in outward conformity, Mohammedan and did not take the
Moslem civilization as it was developed elsewhere, and that the
disintegration of the empire left the negro races practically where they
were before in point of development. This fact, if it is not overturned
by further search, is open to the explanation that the Moslem
civilization is not fitted to the development of the African negro.

Contact, such as it has been, with higher civilizations, has not in all
these ages which have witnessed the wonderful rise and development of
other races, much affected or changed the negro. He is much as he would
be if he had been left to himself. And left to himself, even in such a
favorable environment as America, he is slow to change. In Africa there
has been no progress in organization, government, art.

No negro tribe has ever invented a written language. In his exhaustive
work on the History of Mankind, Professor Frederick Ratzel, having
studied thoroughly the negro belt of Africa, says "of writing properly so
called, neither do the modern negroes show any trace, nor have traces of
older writing been found in negro countries."

From this outline review we come back to the situation in the United
States, where a great mass of negroes--possibly over nine millions of
many shades of colors--is for the first time brought into contact with
Christian civilization. This mass is here to make or mar our national
life, and the problem of its destiny has to be met with our own. What
can we do, what ought we to do, for his own good and for our peace and
national welfare?

In the first place, it is impossible to escape the profound impression
that we have made a mistake in our estimate of his evolution as a race,
in attempting to apply to him the same treatment for the development of
character that we would apply to a race more highly organized. Has he
developed the race consciousness, the race soul, as I said before, a
collective soul, which so strongly marks other races more or less
civilized according to our standards? Do we find in him, as a mass
(individuals always excepted), that slow deposit of training and
education called "character," any firm basis of order, initiative of
action, the capacity of going alone, any sure foundation of morality?
It has been said that a race may attain a good degree of standing in the
world without the refinement of culture, but never without virtue, either
in the Roman or the modern meaning of that word.

The African, now the American negro, has come in the United States into
a more favorable position for development than he has ever before had
offered. He has come to it through hardship, and his severe
apprenticeship is not ended. It is possible that the historians
centuries hence, looking back over the rough road that all races have
traveled in their evolution, may reckon slavery and the forced
transportation to the new world a necessary step in the training of the
negro. We do not know. The ways of Providence are not measurable by our
foot rules. We see that slavery was unjust, uneconomic, and the worst
training for citizenship in such a government as ours. It stifled a
number of germs that might have produced a better development, such as
individuality, responsibility, and thrift,--germs absolutely necessary to
the well-being of a race. It laid no foundation of morality, but in
place of morality saw cultivated a superstitious, emotional, hysterical
religion. It is true that it taught a savage race subordination and
obedience. Nor did it stifle certain inherent temperamental virtues,
faithfulness, often highly developed, and frequently cheerfulness and
philosophic contentment in a situation that would have broken the spirit
of a more sensitive race. In short, under all the disadvantages of
slavery the race showed certain fine traits, qualities of humor and good
humor, and capacity for devotion, which were abundantly testified to by
southerners during the progress of the Civil War. It has, as a race,
traits wholly distinct from those of the whites, which are not only
interesting, but might be a valuable contribution to a cosmopolitan
civilization; gifts also, such as the love of music, and temperamental
gayety, mixed with a note of sadness, as in the Hungarians.

But slavery brought about one result, and that the most difficult in the
development of a race from savagery, and especially a tropical race, a
race that has always been idle in the luxuriance of a nature that
supplied its physical needs with little labor. It taught the negro to
work, it transformed him, by compulsion it is true, into an industrial
being, and held him in the habit of industry for several generations.
Perhaps only force could do this, for it was a radical transformation.
I am glad to see that this result of slavery is recognized by Mr. Booker
Washington, the ablest and most clear-sighted leader the negro race has
ever had.

But something more was done under this pressure, something more than
creation of a habit of physical exertion to productive ends. Skill was
developed. Skilled labor, which needs brains, was carried to a high
degree of performance. On almost all the Southern plantations, and in
the cities also, negro mechanics were bred, excellent blacksmiths, good
carpenters, and house-builders capable of executing plans of high
architectural merit. Everywhere were negroes skilled in trades, and
competent in various mechanical industries.

The opportunity and the disposition to labor make the basis of all our
civilization. The negro was taught to work, to be an agriculturist, a
mechanic, a material producer of something useful. He was taught this
fundamental thing. Our higher education, applied to him in his present
development, operates in exactly the opposite direction.

This is a serious assertion. Its truth or falsehood cannot be
established by statistics, but it is an opinion gradually formed by
experience, and the observation of men competent to judge, who have
studied the problem close at hand. Among the witnesses to the failure of
the result expected from the establishment of colleges and universities
for the negro are heard, from time to time, and more frequently as time
goes on, practical men from the North, railway men, manufacturers, who
have initiated business enterprises at the South. Their testimony
coincides with that of careful students of the economic and social

There was reason to assume, from our theory and experience of the higher
education in its effect upon white races, that the result would be
different from what it is. When the negro colleges first opened, there
was a glow of enthusiasm, an eagerness of study, a facility of
acquirement, and a good order that promised everything for the future.
It seemed as if the light then kindled would not only continue to burn,
but would penetrate all the dark and stolid communities. It was my
fortune to see many of these institutions in their early days, and to
believe that they were full of the greatest promise for the race.
I have no intention of criticising the generosity and the noble self-
sacrifice that produced them, nor the aspirations of their inmates.
There is no doubt that they furnish shining examples of emancipation from
ignorance, and of useful lives. But a few years have thrown much light
upon the careers and characters of a great proportion of the graduates,
and their effect upon the communities of which they form a part, I mean,
of course, with regard to the industrial and moral condition of those
communities. Have these colleges, as a whole,--[This sentence should
have been further qualified by acknowledging the excellent work done by
the colleges at Atlanta and Nashville, which, under exceptionally good
management, have sent out much-needed teachers. I believe that their
success, however, is largely owing to their practical features.--
C.D.W.]--stimulated industry, thrift, the inclination to settle down to
the necessary hard work of the world, or have they bred idleness,
indisposition to work, a vaporous ambition in politics, and that sort of
conceit of gentility of which the world has already enough? If any one
is in doubt about this he can satisfy himself by a sojourn in different
localities in the South. The condition of New Orleans and its negro
universities is often cited. It is a favorable example, because the
ambition of the negro has been aided there by influence outside of the
schools. The federal government has imposed upon the intelligent and
sensitive population negro officials in high positions, because they were
negroes and not because they were specially fitted for those positions by
character or ability. It is my belief that the condition of the race in
New Orleans is lower than it was several years ago, and that the
influence of the higher education has been in the wrong direction.

This is not saying that the higher education is responsible for the
present condition of the negro.

Other influences have retarded his elevation and the development of
proper character, and most important means have been neglected. I only
say that we have been disappointed in our extravagant expectations of
what this education could do for a race undeveloped, and so wanting in
certain elements of character, and that the millions of money devoted to
it might have been much better applied.

We face a grave national situation. It cannot be successfully dealt with
sentimentally. It should be faced with knowledge and candor. We must
admit our mistakes, both social and political, and set about the solution
of our problem with intelligent resolution and a large charity. It is
not simply a Southern question. It is a Northern question as well. For
the truth of this I have only to appeal to the consciousness of all
Northern communities in which there are negroes in any considerable
numbers. Have the negroes improved, as a rule (always remembering the
exceptions), in thrift, truthfulness, morality, in the elements of
industrious citizenship, even in States and towns where there has been
the least prejudice against their education? In a paper read at the last
session of this Association, Professor W. F. Willcox of Cornell
University showed by statistics that in proportion to population there
were more negro criminals in the North than in the South. "The negro
prisoners in the Southern States to ten thousand negroes increased
between 1880 and 1890 twenty-nine per cent., while the white prisoners to
ten thousand whites increased only eight per cent." "In the States where
slavery was never established, the white prisoners increased seven per
cent. faster than the white population, while the negro prisoners no less
than thirty-nine per cent. faster than the negro population. Thus the
increase of negro criminality, so far as it is reflected in the number of
prisoners, exceeded the increase of white criminality more in the North
than it did in the South."

This statement was surprising. It cannot be accounted for by color
prejudice at the North; it is related to the known shiftlessness and
irresponsibility of a great portion of the negro population. If it could
be believed that this shiftlessness is due to the late state of slavery,
the explanation would not do away with the existing conditions. Schools
at the North have for a long time been open to the negro; though color
prejudice exists, he has not been on the whole in an unfriendly
atmosphere, and willing hands have been stretched out to help him in his
ambition to rise. It is no doubt true, as has been often said lately,
that the negro at the North has been crowded out of many occupations by
more vigorous races, newly come to this country, crowded out not only of
factory industries and agricultural, but of the positions of servants,
waiters, barbers, and other minor ways of earning a living. The general
verdict is that this loss of position is due to lack of stamina and
trustworthiness. Wherever a negro has shown himself able, honest,
attentive to the moral and economic duties of a citizen, either
successful in accumulating property or filling honorably his station in
life, he has gained respect and consideration in the community in which
he is known; and this is as true at the South as at the North,
notwithstanding the race antagonism is more accentuated by reason of the
preponderance of negro population there and the more recent presence of
slavery. Upon this ugly race antagonism it is not necessary to enlarge
here in discussing the problem of education, and I will leave it with the
single observation that I have heard intelligent negroes, who were
honestly at work, accumulating property and disposed to postpone active
politics to a more convenient season, say that they had nothing to fear
from the intelligent white population, but only from the envy of the

The whole situation is much aggravated by the fact that there is a
considerable infusion of white blood in the negro race in the United
States, leading to complications and social aspirations that are
infinitely pathetic. Time only and no present contrivance of ours can
ameliorate this condition.

I have made this outline of our negro problem in no spirit of pessimism
or of prejudice, but in the belief that the only way to remedy an evil or
a difficulty is candidly and fundamentally to understand it. Two things
are evident: First, the negro population is certain to increase in the
United States, in a ratio at least equal to that of the whites. Second,
the South needs its labor. Its deportation is an idle dream. The only
visible solution is for the negro to become an integral and an
intelligent part of the industrial community. The way may be long, but
he must work his way up. Sympathetic aid may do much, but the salvation
of the negro is in his own hands, in the development of individual
character and a race soul. This is fully understood by his wisest
leaders. His worst enemy is the demagogue who flatters him with the
delusion that all he needs for his elevation is freedom and certain
privileges that were denied him in slavery.

In all the Northern cities heroic efforts are made to assimilate the
foreign population by education and instruction in Americanism. In the
South, in the city and on plantation, the same effort is necessary for
the negro, but it must be more radical and fundamental. The common
school must be as fully sustained and as far reaching as it is in the
North, reaching the lowest in the city slums and the most ignorant in the
agricultural districts, but to its strictly elemental teaching must be
added moral instructions, and training in industries and in habits of
industry. Only by such rudimentary and industrial training can the mass
of the negro race in the United States be expected to improve in
character and position. A top-dressing of culture on a field with no
depth of soil may for a moment stimulate the promise of vegetation, but
no fruit will be produced. It is a gigantic task, and generations may
elapse before it can in any degree be relaxed.

Why attempt it? Why not let things drift as they are? Why attempt to
civilize the race within our doors, while there are so many distant and
alien races to whom we ought to turn our civilizing attention? The
answer is simple and does not need elaboration. A growing ignorant mass
in our body politic, inevitably cherishing bitterness of feeling, is an
increasing peril to the public.

In order to remove this peril, by transforming the negro into an
industrial, law-abiding citizen, identified with the prosperity of his
country, the cordial assistance of the Southern white population is
absolutely essential. It can only be accomplished by regarding him as a
man, with the natural right to the development of his capacity and to
contentment in a secure social state. The effort for his elevation must
be fundamental. The opportunity of the common school must be universal,
and attendance in it compulsory. Beyond this, training in the decencies
of life, in conduct, and in all the industries, must be offered in such
industrial institutions as that of Tuskegee. For the exceptional cases a
higher education can be easily provided for those who show themselves
worthy of it, but not offered as an indiscriminate panacea.

The question at once arises as to the kind of teachers for these schools
of various grades. It is one of the most difficult in the whole problem.
As a rule, there is little gain, either in instruction or in elevation of
character, if the teacher is not the superior of the taught. The
learners must respect the attainments and the authority of the teacher.
It is a too frequent fault of our common-school system that, owing to
inadequate pay and ignorant selections, the teachers are not competent to
their responsible task. The highest skill and attainment are needed to
evoke the powers of the common mind, even in a community called
enlightened. Much more are they needed when the community is only
slightly developed mentally and morally. The process of educating
teachers of this race, fit to promote its elevation, must be a slow one.
Teachers of various industries, such as agriculture and the mechanic
arts, will be more readily trained than teachers of the rudiments of
learning in the common schools. It is a very grave question whether,
with some exceptions, the school and moral training of the race should
not be for a considerable time to come in the control of the white race.
But it must be kept in mind that instructors cheap in character,
attainments, and breeding will do more harm than good. If we give
ourselves to this work, we must give of our best.

Without the cordial concurrence in this effort of all parties, black and
white, local and national, it will not be fruitful in fundamental and
permanent good. Each race must accept the present situation and build on
it. To this end it is indispensable that one great evil, which was
inherent in the reconstruction measures and is still persisted in, shall
be eliminated. The party allegiance of the negro was bid for by the
temptation of office and position for which he was in no sense fit. No
permanent, righteous adjustment of relations can come till this policy is
wholly abandoned. Politicians must cease to make the negro a pawn in the
game of politics.

Let us admit that we have made a mistake. We seem to have expected that
we could accomplish suddenly and by artificial Contrivances a development
which historically has always taken a long time. Without abatement of
effort or loss of patience, let us put ourselves in the common-sense, the
scientific, the historic line. It is a gigantic task, only to be
accomplished by long labor in accord with the Divine purpose.

"Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him; thou art just.

"Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood.

"That nothing walks with aimless feet,
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete."


By Charles Dudley Warner

The problem of dealing with the criminal class seems insolvable, and it
undoubtedly is with present methods. It has never been attempted on a
fully scientific basis, with due regard to the protection of society and
to the interests of the criminal.

It is purely an economic and educational problem, and must rest upon the
same principles that govern in any successful industry, or in education,
and that we recognize in the conduct of life. That little progress has
been made is due to public indifference to a vital question and to the
action of sentimentalists, who, in their philanthropic zeal; fancy that a
radical reform can come without radical discipline. We are largely
wasting our energies in petty contrivances instead of striking at the
root of the evil.

What do we mean by the criminal class? It is necessary to define this
with some precision, in order to discuss intelligently the means of
destroying this class. A criminal is one who violates a statute law, or,
as we say, commits a crime. The human law takes cognizance of crime and
not of sin. But all men who commit crime are not necessarily in the
criminal class. Speaking technically, we put in that class those whose
sole occupation is crime, who live by it as a profession, and who have no
other permanent industry. They prey upon society. They are by their
acts at war upon it, and are outlaws.

The State is to a certain extent responsible for this class, for it has
trained most of them, from youth up, through successive detentions in
lock-ups, city prisons, county jails, and in State prisons, and
penitentiaries on relatively short sentences, under influences which tend
to educate them as criminals and confirm them in a bad life. That is to
say, if a man once violates the law and is caught, he is put into a
machine from which it is very difficult for him to escape without further
deterioration. It is not simply that the State puts a brand on him in
the eyes of the community, but it takes away his self-respect without
giving him an opportunity to recover it. Once recognized as in the
criminal class, he has no further concern about the State than that of
evading its penalties so far as is consistent with pursuing his
occupation of crime.

To avoid misunderstanding as to the subject of this paper, it is
necessary to say that it is not dealing with the question of prison
reform in its whole extent. It attempts to consider only a pretty well
defined class. But in doing this it does not say that other aspects of
our public peril from crime are not as important as this. We cannot
relax our efforts in regard to the relations of poverty, drink, and
unsanitary conditions, as leading to crime. We have still to take care
of the exposed children, of those with parentage and surroundings
inclining to crime, of the degenerate and the unfortunate. We have to
keep up the warfare all along the line against the demoralization of
society. But we have hereto deal with a specific manifestation; we have
to capture a stronghold, the possession of which will put us in much
better position to treat in detail the general evil.

Why should we tolerate any longer a professional criminal class? It is
not large. It is contemptibly small compared with our seventy millions
of people. If I am not mistaken, a late estimate gave us less than fifty
thousand persons in our State prisons and penitentiaries. If we add to
them those at large who have served one or two terms, and are generally
known to the police, we shall not have probably more than eighty thousand
of the criminal class. But call it a hundred thousand. It is a body
that seventy millions of people ought to take care of with little
difficulty. And we certainly ought to stop its increase. But we do not.
The class grows every day. Those who watch the criminal reports are
alarmed by the fact that an increasing number of those arrested for
felonies are discharged convicts. This is an unmistakable evidence of
the growth of the outlaw classes.

But this is not all. Our taxes are greatly increased on account of this
class. We require more police to watch those who are at large and
preying on society. We expend more yearly for apprehending and trying
those caught, for the machinery of criminal justice, and for the
recurring farce of imprisoning on short sentences and discharging those
felons to go on with their work of swindling and robbing. It would be
good economy for the public, considered as a taxpayer, to pay for the
perpetual keep of these felons in secure confinement.

And still this is not the worst. We are all living in abject terror of
these licensed robbers. We fear robbery night and day; we live behind
bolts and bars (which should be reserved for the criminal) and we are in
hourly peril of life and property in our homes and on the highways. But
the evil does not stop here. By our conduct we are encouraging the
growth of the criminal class, and we are inviting disregard of law, and
diffusing a spirit of demoralization throughout the country.

I have spoken of the criminal class as very limited; that is, the class
that lives by the industry of crime alone. But it is not isolated, and
it has widespread relations. There is a large portion of our population
not technically criminals, which is interested in maintaining this
criminal class. Every felon is a part of a vast network of criminality.
He has his dependents, his allies, his society of vice, all the various
machinery of temptation and indulgence.

It happens, therefore, that there is great sympathy with the career of
the lawbreakers, many people are hanging on them for support, and among
them the so-called criminal lawyers. Any legislation likely to interfere
seriously with the occupation of the criminal class or with its increase
is certain to meet with the opposition of a large body of voters. With
this active opposition of those interested, and the astonishing
indifference of the general public, it is easy to see why so little is
done to relieve us of this intolerable burden. The fact is, we go on
increasing our expenses for police, for criminal procedure, for jails and
prisons, and we go on increasing the criminal class and those affiliated
with it.

And what do we gain by our present method? We do not gain the protection
of society, and we do not gain the reformation of the criminal. These
two statements do not admit of contradiction. Even those who cling to
the antiquated notion that the business of society is to punish the
offender must confess that in this game society is getting the worst of
it. Society suffers all the time, and the professional criminal goes on
with his occupation, interrupted only by periods of seclusion, during
which he is comfortably housed and fed. The punishment he most fears is
being compelled to relinquish his criminal career. The object of
punishment for violation of statute law is not vengeance, it is not to
inflict injury for injury. Only a few persons now hold to that. They
say now that if it does little good to the offender, it is deterrent as
to others. Now, is our present system deterrent? The statute law, no
doubt, prevents many persons from committing crime, but our method of
administering it certainly does not lessen the criminal class, and it
does not adequately protect society. Is it not time we tried, radically,
a scientific, a disciplinary, a really humanitarian method?

The proposed method is the indeterminate sentence. This strikes directly
at the criminal class. It puts that class beyond the power of continuing
its depredations upon society. It is truly deterrent, because it is a
notification to any one intending to enter upon that method of living
that his career ends with his first felony. As to the general effects of
the indeterminate sentence, I will repeat here what I recently wrote for
the Yale Law Journal:

It is unnecessary to say in a law journal that the indeterminate
sentence is a measure as yet untried. The phrase has passed into
current speech, and a considerable portion of the public is under
the impression that an experiment of the indeterminate sentence is
actually being made. It is, however, still a theory, not adopted in
any legislation or in practice anywhere in the world.

The misconception in regard to this has arisen from the fact that
under certain regulations paroles are granted before the expiration
of the statutory sentence.

An indeterminate sentence is a commitment to prison without any
limit. It is exactly such a commitment as the court makes to an
asylum of a man who is proved to be insane, and it is paralleled by
the practice of sending a sick man to the hospital until he is

The introduction of the indeterminate sentence into our criminal
procedure would be a radical change in our criminal legislation and
practice. The original conception was that the offender against the
law should be punished, and that the punishment should be made to
fit the crime, an 'opera bouffe' conception which has been abandoned
in reasoning though not in practice. Under this conception the
criminal code was arbitrarily constructed, so much punishment being
set down opposite each criminal offense, without the least regard to
the actual guilt of the man as an individual sinner.

Within the present century considerable advance has been made in
regard to prison reform, especially with reference to the sanitary
condition of places of confinement. And besides this, efforts of
various kinds have been made with regard to the treatment of
convicts, which show that the idea was gaining ground that criminals
should be treated as individuals. The application of the English
ticket-of-leave system was one of these efforts; it was based upon
the notion that, if any criminal showed sufficient evidence of a
wish to lead a different life, he should be conditionally released
before the expiration of his sentence. The parole system in the
United States was an attempt to carry out the same experiment, and
with it went along the practice which enabled the prisoner to
shorten the time of his confinement by good behavior. In some of
the States reformatories have been established to which convicts
have been sent under a sort of sliding sentence; that is, with the
privilege given to the authorities of the reformatory to retain the
offender to the full statutory term for which he might have been
sentenced to State prison, unless he had evidently reformed before
the expiration of that period. That is to say, if a penal offense
entitled the judge to sentence the prisoner for any period from two
to fifteen years, he could be kept in the reformatory at the
discretion of the authorities for the full statutory term. It is
from this law that the public notion of an indeterminate sentence is
derived. It is, in fact, determinate, because the statute
prescribes its limit.

The introduction of the ticket-of-leave and the parole systems, and
the earning of time by good behavior were philanthropic suggestions
and promising experiments which have not been justified by the
results. It is not necessary at this time to argue that no human
discretion is adequate to mete out just punishment for crimes; and
it has come to be admitted generally, by men enlightened on this
subject, that the real basis for dealing with the criminal rests,
firstly, upon the right of society to secure itself against the
attacks of the vicious, and secondly, upon the duty imposed upon
society, to reform the criminal if that is possible. It is patent
to the most superficial observation that our present method does not
protect society, and does not lessen the number of the criminal
class, either by deterrent methods or by reformatory processes,
except in a very limited way.

Our present method is neither economic nor scientific nor
philanthropic. If we consider the well-defined criminal class
alone, it can be said that our taxes and expenses for police and the
whole criminal court machinery, for dealing with those who are
apprehended, and watching those who are preying upon society, yearly
increase, while all private citizens in their own houses or in the
streets live inconstant terror of the depredations of this class.
Considered from the scientific point of view, our method is
absolutely crude, and but little advance upon mediaeval conditions;
and while it has its sentimental aspects, it is not real
philanthropy, because comparatively few of the criminal class are
permanently rescued.

The indeterminate sentence has two distinct objects: one is the
absolute protection of society from the outlaws whose only business
in life is to prey upon society; and the second is the placing of
these offenders in a position where they can be kept long enough for
scientific treatment as decadent human beings, in the belief that
their lives can be changed in their purpose. No specific time can
be predicted in which a man by discipline can be expected to lay
aside his bad habits and put on good habits, because no two human
beings are alike, and it is therefore necessary that an indefinite
time in each case should be allowed for the experiment of

We have now gone far enough to see that the ticket-of-leave system,
the parole system as we administer it in the State prisons (I except
now some of the reformatories), and the good conduct method are
substantially failures, and must continue to be so until they rest
upon the absolute indeterminate sentence. They are worse than
failures now, because the public mind is lulled into a false
security by them, and efforts at genuine prison reform are defeated.

It is very significant that the criminal class adapted itself
readily to the parole system with its sliding scale. It was natural
that this should be so, for it fits in perfectly well with their
scheme of life. This is to them a sort of business career,
interrupted now and then only by occasional limited periods of
seclusion. Any device that shall shorten those periods is welcome
to them. As a matter of fact, we see in the State prisons that the
men most likely to shorten their time by good behavior, and to get
released on parole before the expiration of their sentence, are the
men who make crime their career. They accept this discipline as a
part of their lot in life, and it does not interfere with their
business any more than the occasional bankruptcy of a merchant
interferes with his pursuits.

It follows, therefore, that society is not likely to get security
for itself, and the criminal class is not likely to be reduced
essentially or reformed, without such a radical measure as the
indeterminate sentence, which, accompanied, of course, by scientific
treatment, would compel the convict to change his course of life, or
to stay perpetually in confinement.

Of course, the indeterminate sentence would radically change our
criminal jurisprudence and our statutory provisions in regard to
criminals. It goes without saying that it is opposed by the entire
criminal class, and by that very considerable portion of the
population which is dependent on or affiliated with the criminal
class, which seeks to evade the law and escape its penalties. It is
also opposed by a small portion of the legal profession which gets
its living out of the criminal class, and it is sure to meet the
objection of the sentimentalists who have peculiar notions about
depriving a man of his liberty, and it also has to overcome the
objections of many who are guided by precedents, and who think the
indeterminate sentence would be an infringement of the judicial

It is well to consider this latter a little further. Our criminal
code, artificial and indiscriminating as it is, is the growth of
ages and is the result of the notion that society ought to take
vengeance upon the criminal, at least that it ought to punish him,
and that the judge, the interpreter of the criminal law, was not
only the proper person to determine the guilt of the accused, by the
aid of the jury, but was the sole person to judge of the amount of
punishment he should receive for his crime. Now two functions are
involved here: one is the determination that the accused has broken
the law, the other is gauging within the rules of the code the
punishment that, each individual should receive. It is a
theological notion that the divine punishment for sin is somehow
delegated to man for the punishment of crime, but it does not need
any argument to show that no tribunal is able with justice to mete
out punishment in any individual case, for probably the same degree
of guilt does not attach to two men in the violation of the same
statute, and while, in the rough view of the criminal law, even, one
ought to have a severe penalty, the other should be treated with
more leniency. All that the judge can do under the indiscriminating
provisions of the statute is to make a fair guess at what the man
should suffer.

Under the present enlightened opinion which sees that not punishment
but the protection of society and the good of the criminal are the
things to be aimed at, the judge's office would naturally be reduced
to the task of determining the guilt of the man on trial, and then
the care of him would be turned over to expert treatment, exactly as
in a case when the judge determines the fact of a man's insanity.

If objection is made to the indeterminate sentence on the ground
that it is an unusual or cruel punishment, it may be admitted that
it is unusual, but that commitment to detention cannot be called
cruel when the convict is given the key to the house in which he is
confined. It is for him to choose whether he will become a decent
man and go back into society, or whether he will remain a bad man
and stay in confinement. For the criminal who is, as we might say,
an accidental criminal, or for the criminal who is susceptible to
good influences, the term of imprisonment under the indeterminate
sentence would be shorter than it would be safe to make it for
criminals under the statute. The incorrigible offender, however,
would be cut off at once and forever from his occupation, which is,
as we said, varied by periodic residence in the comfortable houses
belonging to the State.

A necessary corollary of the indeterminate sentence is that every
State prison and penitentiary should be a reformatory, in the modern
meaning of that term. It would be against the interest of society,
all its instincts of justice, and the height of cruelty to an
individual criminal to put him in prison without limit unless all
the opportunities were afforded him for changing his habits
radically. It may be said in passing that the indeterminate
sentence would be in itself to any man a great stimulus to reform,
because his reformation would be the only means of his terminating
that sentence. At the same time a man left to himself, even in the
best ordered of our State prisons which is not a reformatory, would
be scarcely likely to make much improvement.

I have not space in this article to consider the character of the
reformatory; that subject is fortunately engaging the attention of
scientific people as one of the most interesting of our modern
problems. To take a decadent human being, a wreck physically and
morally, and try to make a man of him, that is an attempt worthy of
a people who claim to be civilized. An illustration of what can be
done in this direction is furnished by the Elmira Reformatory, where
the experiment is being made with most encouraging results, which,
of course, would be still better if the indeterminate sentence were
brought to its aid.

When the indeterminate sentence has been spoken of with a view to
legislation, the question has been raised whether it should be
applied to prisoners on the first, second, or third conviction of a
penal offense. Legislation in regard to the parole system has also
considered whether a man should be considered in the criminal class
on his first conviction for a penal offense. Without entering upon
this question at length, I will suggest that the convict should, for
his own sake, have the indeterminate sentence applied to him upon
conviction of his first penal offense. He is much more likely to
reform then than he would be after he had had a term in the State
prison and was again convicted, and the chance of his reformation
would be lessened by each subsequent experience of this kind. The
great object of the indeterminate sentence, so far as the security
of society is concerned, is to diminish the number of the criminal
class, and this will be done when it is seen that the first felony a
man commits is likely to be his last, and that for a young criminal
contemplating this career there is in this direction
"no thoroughfare."

By his very first violation of the statute he walks into
confinement, to stay there until he has given up the purpose of such
a career.

In the limits of this paper I have been obliged to confine myself to
remarks upon the indeterminate sentence itself, without going into
the question of the proper organization of reformatory agencies to
be applied to the convict, and without consideration of the means of
testing the reformation of a man in any given case. I will only add
that the methods at Elmira have passed far beyond the experimental
stage in this matter.

The necessary effect of the adoption of the indeterminate sentence for
felonies is that every State prison and penitentiary must be a
reformatory. The convict goes into it for the term of a year at least
(since the criminal law, according to ancient precedent, might require
that, and because the discipline of the reformatory would require it as a
practical rule), and he stays there until, in the judgment of competent
authority, he is fit to be trusted at large.

If he is incapable of reform, he must stay there for his natural life.
He is a free agent. He can decide to lead an honest life and have his
liberty, or he can elect to work for the State all his life in criminal

When I say that every State prison is to be a reformatory, I except, of
course, from its operation, those sentenced for life for murder, or other
capital offenses, and those who have proved themselves incorrigible by
repeated violations of their parole.

It is necessary now to consider the treatment in the reformatory. Only a
brief outline of it can be given here, with a general statement of the
underlying principles. The practical application of these principles can
be studied in the Elmira Reformatory of New York, the only prison for
felons where the proposed system is carried out with the needed
disciplinary severity. In studying Elmira, however, it must be borne in
mind that the best effects cannot be obtained there, owing to the lack of
the indeterminate sentence. In this institution the convict can only be
detained for the maximum term provided in the statute for his offense.
When that is reached, the prisoner is released, whether he is reformed or

The system of reform under the indeterminate sentence, which for
convenience may be called the Elmira system, is scientific, and it must
be administered entirely by trained men and by specialists; the same sort
of training for the educational and industrial work as is required in a
college or an industrial school, and the special fitness required for an
alienist in an insane asylum. The discipline of the establishment must
be equal to that of a military school.

We have so far advanced in civilization that we no longer think of
turning the insane, the sick, the feebleminded, over to the care of men
without training chosen by the chance of politics. They are put under
specialists for treatment. It is as necessary that convicts should be
under the care of specialists, for they are the most difficult and
interesting subjects for scientific treatment. If not criminals by
heredity, they are largely made so by environment; they are either
physical degenerates or they are brutalized by vice. They have lost the
power of distinguishing right from wrong; they commonly lack will-power,
and so are incapable of changing their habits without external influence.
In short, the ordinary criminal is unsound and diseased in mind and body.

To deal with this sort of human decadent is, therefore, the most
interesting problem that can be offered to the psychologist, to the
physiologist, to the educator, to the believer in the immortality of the
soul. He is still a man, not altogether a mere animal, and there is
always a possibility that he may be made a decent man, and a law-abiding,
productive member of society.

Here, indeed, is a problem worthy of the application of all our knowledge
of mind and of matter, of our highest scientific attainments. But it is
the same problem that we have in all our education, be it the training of
the mind, the development of the body, or the use of both to good ends.
And it goes without saying that its successful solution, in a reformatory
for criminals, depends upon the character of the man who administers the
institution. There must be at the head of it a man of character, of
intellectual force, of administrative ability, and all his subordinate
officers must be fitted for their special task, exactly as they should be
for a hospital, or a military establishment, for a college, or for a
school of practical industries. And when such men are demanded, they
will be forthcoming, just as they are in any department in life, when a
business is to be developed, a great engineering project to be
undertaken, or an army to be organized and disciplined.

The development of our railroad system produced a race of great railroad
men. The protection of society by the removal and reform of the criminal
class, when the public determines upon it, will call into the service a
class of men fitted for the great work. We know this is so because
already, since the discussion of this question has been current, and has
passed into actual experiment, a race of workers and prison
superintendents all over the country have come to the front who are
entirely capable of administering the reform system under the
indeterminate sentence. It is in this respect, and not in the erection
of model prisons, that the great advance in penology has been made in the
last twenty years. Men of scientific attainment are more and more giving
their attention to this problem as the most important in our
civilization. And science is ready to take up this problem when the
public is tired and ashamed of being any longer harried and bullied and
terrorized over by the criminal class.

The note of this reform is discipline, and its success rests upon the law
of habit. We are all creatures of habit, physical and mental. Habit is
formed by repetition of any action. Many of our physical habits have
become automatic. Without entering into a physiological argument, we
know that repetition produces habit, and that, if this is long continued,
the habit becomes inveterate. We know also that there is a habit,
physical and moral, of doing right as well as doing wrong. The criminal
has the habit of doing wrong. We propose to submit him to influences
that will change that habit. We also know that this is not accomplished
by suppressing that habit, but by putting a good one in its place.

It is true in this case that nature does not like a vacuum. The thoughts
of men are not changed by leaving them to themselves, they are changed by
substituting other thoughts.

The whole theory of the Elmira system is to keep men long enough under a
strict discipline to change their habits. This discipline is
administered in three ways. They are put to school; they are put at
work; they are prescribed minute and severe rules of conduct, and in the
latter training is included military drill.

The school and the workshop are both primarily for discipline and the
formation of new habits. Only incidentally are the school and the
workshop intended to fit a man for an occupation outside of the prison.
The whole discipline is to put a man in possession of his faculties, to
give him self-respect, to get him in the way of leading a normal and
natural life. But it is true that what he acquires by the discipline of
study and the discipline of work will be available in his earning an
honest living. Keep a man long enough in this three-ply discipline, and
he will form permanent habits of well-doing. If he cannot and will not
form such habits, his place is in confinement, where he cannot prey upon

There is not space here to give the details of the practices at Elmira.
They are easily attainable. But I will notice one or two objections that
have been made. One is that in the congregate system men necessarily
learn evil from each other. This is, of course, an evil. It is here,
however, partially overcome by the fact that the inmates are kept so busy
in the variety of discipline applied to them that they have little or no
time for anything else. They study hard, and are under constant
supervision as to conduct. And then their prospect of parole depends
entirely upon the daily record they make, and upon their radical change
of intention. At night they are separated in their cells. During the
day they are associated in class, in the workshop, and in drill, and this
association is absolutely necessary to their training. In separation
from their fellows, they could not be trained. Fear is expressed that
men will deceive their keepers and the board which is to pass upon them,
and obtain parole when they do not deserve it. As a matter of fact, men
under this discipline cannot successfully play the hypocrite to the
experts who watch them. It is only in the ordinary prison where the
parole is in use with no adequate discipline, and without the indefinite
sentence, that deception can be practiced. But suppose a man does play
the hypocrite so as to deceive the officers, who know him as well as any
employer knows his workmen or any teacher knows his scholars, and
deceives the independent board so as to get a parole. If he violates
that parole, he can be remanded to the reformatory, and it will be
exceedingly difficult for him to get another parole. And, if he should
again violate his parole, he would be considered incorrigible and be
placed in a life prison.

We have tried all other means of protecting society, of lessening the
criminal class, of reforming the criminal. The proposed indeterminate
sentence, with reformatory discipline, is the only one that promises to
relieve society of the insolent domination and the terrorism of the
criminal class; is the only one that can deter men from making a career
of crime; is the only one that offers a fair prospect for the reformation
of the criminal offender.

Why not try it? Why not put the whole system of criminal jurisprudence
and procedure for the suppression of crime upon a sensible and scientific


By Charles Dudley Warner

This is the first public meeting of the National Institute of Arts and
Letters. The original members were selected by an invitation from the
American Social Science Association, which acted under the power of its
charter from the Congress of the United States. The members thus
selected, who joined the Social Science Association, were given the
alternative of organizing as an independent institute or as a branch of
the Social Science Association.

At the annual meeting of the Social Science Association on September 4,
1899, at Saratoga Springs, the members of the Institute voted to organize
independently. They formally adopted the revised constitution, which had
been agreed upon at the first meeting, in New York in the preceding
January, and elected officers as prescribed by the constitution.

The object is declared to be the advancement of art and literature, and
the qualification shall be notable achievements in art or letters. The
number of active members will probably be ultimately fixed at one
hundred. The society may elect honorary and associate members without
limit. By the terms of agreement between the American Social Science
Association and the National Institute, the members of each are 'ipso
facto' associate members of the other.

It is believed that the advancement of art and literature in this country
will be promoted by the organization of the producers of literature and
art. This is in strict analogy with the action of other professions and
of almost all the industries. No one doubts that literature and art are
or should be leading interests in our civilization, and their dignity
will be enhanced in the public estimation by a visible organization of
their representatives, who are seriously determined upon raising the
standards by which the work of writers and artists is judged. The
association of persons having this common aim cannot but stimulate
effort, soften unworthy rivalry into generous competition, and promote
enthusiasm and good fellowship in their work. The mere coming together
to compare views and discuss interests and tendencies and problems which
concern both the workers and the great public, cannot fail to be of
benefit to both.

In no other way so well as by association of this sort can be created the
feeling of solidarity in our literature, and the recognition of its
power. It is not expected to raise any standard of perfection, or in any
way to hamper individual development, but a body of concentrated opinion
may raise the standard by promoting healthful and helpful criticism, by
discouraging mediocrity and meretricious smartness, by keeping alive the
traditions of good literature, while it is hospitable to all discoverers
of new worlds. A safe motto for any such society would be Tradition and
Freedom--'Traditio et Libertas'.

It is generally conceded that what literature in America needs at this
moment is honest, competent, sound criticism. This is not likely to be
attained by sporadic efforts, especially in a democracy of letters where
the critics are not always superior to the criticised, where the man in
front of the book is not always a better marksman than the man behind the
book. It may not be attained even by an organization of men united upon
certain standards of excellence. I do not like to use the word
authority, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the public will be
influenced by a body devoted to the advancement of art and literature,
whose sincerity and discernment it has learned to respect, and admission
into whose ranks will, I hope, be considered a distinction to be sought
for by good work. The fashion of the day is rarely the judgment of
posterity. You will recall what Byron wrote to Coleridge: "I trust you
do not permit yourself to be depressed by the temporary partiality of
what is called 'the public' for the favorites of the moment; all
experience is against the permanency of such impressions. You must have
lived to see many of these pass away, and will survive many more."

The chief concern of the National Institute is with the production of
works of art and of literature, and with their distribution. In the
remarks following I shall confine myself to the production and
distribution of literature. In the limits of this brief address I can
only in outline speak of certain tendencies and practices which are
affecting this production and this distribution. The interests involved
are, first, those of the author; second, those of the publisher; third,
those of the public. As to all good literature, the interests of these
three are identical if the relations of the three are on the proper
basis. For the author, a good book is of more pecuniary value than a
poor one, setting aside the question of fame; to the publisher, the right
of publishing a good book is solid capital,--an established house, in the
long run, makes more money on "Standards" than on "Catchpennies"; and to
the public the possession of the best literature is the breath of life,
as that of the bad and mediocre is moral and intellectual decadence.
But in practice the interests of the three do not harmonize. The author,
even supposing his efforts are stimulated by the highest aspirations for
excellence and not by any commercial instinct, is compelled by his
circumstances to get the best price for his production; the publisher
wishes to get the utmost return for his capital and his energy; and the
public wants the best going for the least money.

Consider first the author, and I mean the author, and not the mere
craftsman who manufactures books for a recognized market. His sole
capital is his talent. His brain may be likened to a mine, gold, silver,
copper, iron, or tin, which looks like silver when new. Whatever it is,
the vein of valuable ore is limited, in most cases it is slight. When it
is worked out, the man is at the end of his resources. Has he expended
or produced capital? I say he has produced it, and contributed to the
wealth of the world, and that he is as truly entitled to the usufruct of
it as the miner who takes gold or silver out of the earth. For how long?
I will speak of that later on. The copyright of a book is not analogous
to the patent right of an invention, which may become of universal
necessity to the world. Nor should the greater share of this usufruct be
absorbed by the manufacturer and publisher of the book. The publisher
has a clear right to guard himself against risks, as he has the right of
refusal to assume them. But there is an injustice somewhere, when for
many a book, valued and even profitable to somebody, the author does not
receive the price of a laborer's day wages for the time spent on it--to
say nothing of the long years of its gestation.

The relation between author and publisher ought to be neither complicated
nor peculiar. The author may sell his product outright, or he may sell
himself by an agreement similar to that which an employee in a
manufacturing establishment makes with his master to give to the
establishment all his inventions. Either of these methods is fair and
businesslike, though it may not be wise. A method that prevailed in the
early years of this century was both fair and wise. The author agreed
that the publisher should have the exclusive right to publish his book
for a certain term, or to make and sell a certain number of copies. When
those conditions were fulfilled, the control of the property reverted to
the author. The continuance of these relations between the two depended,
as it should depend, upon mutual advantage and mutual good-will.
By the present common method the author makes over the use of his
property to the will of the publisher. It is true that he parts with the
use only of the property and not with the property itself, and the
publisher in law acquires no other title, nor does he acquire any sort of
interest in the future products of the author's brain. But the author
loses all control of his property, and its profit to him may depend upon
his continuing to make over his books to the same publisher. In this
continuance he is liable to the temptation to work for a market, instead
of following the free impulses of his own genius. As to any special
book, the publisher is the sole judge whether to push it or to let it
sink into the stagnation of unadvertised goods.

The situation is full of complications. Theoretically it is the interest
of both parties to sell as many books as possible. But the author has an
interest in one book, the publisher in a hundred. And it is natural and
reasonable that the man who risks his money should be the judge of the
policy best for his whole establishment. I cannot but think that this
situation would be on a juster footing all round if the author returned
to the old practice of limiting the use of his property by the publisher.
I say this in full recognition of the fact that the publishers might be
unwilling to make temporary investments, or to take risks. What then?
Fewer books might be published. Less vanity might be gratified. Less
money might be risked in experiments upon the public, and more might be
made by distributing good literature. Would the public be injured? It
is an idea already discredited that the world owes a living to everybody
who thinks he can write, and it is a superstition already fading that
capital which exploits literature as a trade acquires any special

The present international copyright, which primarily concerns itself with
the manufacture of books, rests upon an unintelligible protective tariff
basis. It should rest primarily upon an acknowledgment of the author's
right of property in his own work, the same universal right that he has
in any other personal property. The author's international copyright
should be no more hampered by restrictions and encumbrances than his
national copyright. Whatever regulations the government may make for the
protection of manufactures, or trade industries, or for purposes of
revenue on importations, they should not be confounded with the author's
right of property. They have no business in an international copyright
act, agreement, or treaty. The United States copyright for native
authors contains no manufacturing restrictions. All we ask is that
foreign authors shall enjoy the same privileges we have under our law,
and that foreign nations shall give our authors the privileges of their
local copyright laws. I do not know any American author of any standing
who has ever asked or desired protection against foreign authors.

This subject is so important that I may be permitted to enlarge upon it,
in order to make clear suggestions already made, and to array again
arguments more or less familiar. I do this in the view of bringing
before the institute work worthy of its best efforts, which if successful
will entitle this body to the gratitude and respect of the country.
I refer to the speedy revision of our confused and wholly inadequate
American copyright laws, and later on to a readjustment of our
international relations.

In the first place let me bring to your attention what is, to the vast
body of authors, a subject of vital interest, which it is not too much to
say has never received that treatment from authors themselves which its
importance demands. I refer to the property of authors in their
productions. In this brief space and time I cannot enter fully upon this
great subject, but must be content to offer certain suggestions for your

The property of an author in the product of his mental labor ought to be
as absolute and unlimited as his property in the product of his physical
labor. It seems to me idle to say that the two kinds of labor products
are so dissimilar that the ownership cannot be protected by like laws.
In this age of enlightenment such a proposition is absurd. The history
of copyright law seems to show that the treatment of property in brain
product has been based on this erroneous idea. To steal the paper on
which an author has put his brain work into visible, tangible form is in
all lands a crime, larceny, but to steal the brain work is not a crime.
The utmost extent to which our enlightened American legislators, at
almost the end of the nineteenth century, have gone in protecting
products of the brain has been to give the author power to sue in civil
courts, at large expense, the offender who has taken and sold his

And what gross absurdity is the copyright law which limits even this poor
defense of author's property to a brief term of years, after the
expiration of which he or his children and heirs have no defense, no
recognized property whatever in his products.

And for some inexplicable reason this term of years in which he may be
said to own his property is divided into two terms, so that at the end of
the first he is compelled to re-assert his ownership by renewing his
copyright, or he must lose all ownership at the end of the short term.

It is manifest to all honest minds that if an author is entitled to own
his work for a term of years, it is equally the duty of his government to
make that ownership perpetual. He can own and protect and leave to his
children and his children's children by will the manuscript paper on
which he has written, and he should have equal right to leave to them
that mental product which constitutes the true money value of his labor.
It is unnecessary to say that the mental product is always as easy to be
identified as the physical product. Its identification is absolutely
certain to the intelligence of judges and juries. And it is apparent
that the interests of assignees, who are commonly publishers, are equal
with those of authors, in making absolute and perpetual this property in
which both are dealers.

Another consideration follows here. Why should the ownership of a bushel
of wheat, a piece of silk goods, a watch, or a handkerchief in the
possession of an American carried or sent to England, or brought thence
to this country, be absolute and unlimited, while the ownership of his
own products as an author or as a purchaser from an author is made
dependent on his nationality? Why should the property of the
manufacturer of cloths, carpets, satins, and any and every description of
goods, be able to send his products all over the world, subject only to
the tariff laws of the various countries, while the author (alone of all
known producers) is forbidden to do so? The existing law of our country
says to the foreign author, "You can have property in your book only if
you manufacture it into salable form in this country." What would be
said of the wisdom or wild folly of a law which sought to protect other
American industries by forbidding the importation of all foreign

No question of tariff protection is here involved. What duty shall be
imposed upon foreign products or foreign manufactures is a question of
political economy. The wrong against which authors should protest is in
annexing to their terms of ownership of their property a protective
tariff revision. For, be it observed, this is a subject of abstract
justice, moral right, and it matters nothing whether the author be
American, English, German, French, Hindoo, or Chinese,--and it is very
certain that when America shall enact a simple, just, copyright law,
giving to every human being the same protection of law to his property in
his mental products as in the work of his hands, every civilized nation
on earth will follow the noble example.

As it now stands, authors who annually produce the raw material for
manufacturing purposes to an amount in value of millions, supporting vast
populations of people, authors whose mental produce rivals and exceeds in
commercial value many of the great staple products of our fields, are the
only producers who have no distinct property in their products, who
are not protected in holding on to the feeble tenure the law gives them,
and whose quasi-property in their works, flimsy as it is, is limited to a
few years, and cannot with certainty be handed down to their children.
It will be said, it is said, that it is impossible for the author to
obtain an acknowledgment of absolute right of property in his brain work.
In our civilization we have not yet arrived at this state of justice.
It may be so. Indeed some authors have declared that this justice would
be against public policy. I trust they are sustained by the lofty
thought that in this view they are rising above the petty realm of
literature into the broad field of statesmanship.

But I think there will be a general agreement that in the needed revisal
of our local copyright law we can attain some measure of justice. Some
of the most obvious hardships can be removed. There is no reason why an
author should pay for the privilege of a long life by the loss of his
copyrights, and that his old age should be embittered by poverty because
he cannot have the results of the labor of his vigorous years. There is
no reason why if he dies young he should leave those dependent on him
without support, for the public has really no more right to appropriate
his book than it would have to take his house from his widow and
children. His income at best is small after he has divided with the

No, there can certainly be no valid argument against extending the
copyright of the author to his own lifetime, with the addition of forty
or fifty years for the benefit of his heirs. I will not leave this
portion of the topic without saying that a perfectly harmonious relation
between authors and publishers is most earnestly to be desired, nor
without the frank acknowledgment that, in literary tradition and in the
present experience, many of the most noble friendships and the most
generous and helpful relations have subsisted, as they ought always to
subsist, between the producers and the distributors of literature,
especially when the publisher has a love for literature, and the author
is a reasonable being and takes pains to inform himself about the
publishing business.

One aspect of the publishing business which has become increasingly
prominent during the last fifteen years cannot be overlooked, for it is
certain to affect seriously the production of literature as to quality,
and its distribution. Capital has discovered that literature is a
product out of which money can be made, in the same way that it can be
made in cotton, wheat, or iron. Never before in history has so much
money been invested in publishing, with the single purpose of creating
and supplying the market with manufactured goods. Never before has there
been such an appeal to the reading public, or such a study of its tastes,
or supposed tastes, wants, likes and dislikes, coupled also with the same
shrewd anxiety to ascertain a future demand that governs the purveyors of
spring and fall styles in millinery and dressmaking. Not only the
contents of the books and periodicals, but the covers, must be made to
catch the fleeting fancy. Will the public next season wear its hose
dotted or striped?

Another branch of this activity is the so-called syndicating of the
author's products in the control of one salesman, in which good work and
inferior work are coupled together at a common selling price and in
common notoriety. This insures a wider distribution, but what is its
effect upon the quality of literature? Is it your observation that the
writer for a syndicate, on solicitation for a price or an order for a
certain kind of work, produces as good quality as when he works
independently, uninfluenced by the spirit of commercialism? The question
is a serious one for the future of literature.

The consolidation of capital in great publishing establishments has its
advantages and its disadvantages. It increases vastly the yearly output
of books. The presses must be kept running, printers, papermakers, and
machinists are interested in this. The maw of the press must be fed.
The capital must earn its money. One advantage of this is that when new
and usable material is not forthcoming, the "standards" and the best
literature must be reproduced in countless editions, and the best
literature is broadcast over the world at prices to suit all purses, even
the leanest. The disadvantage is that products, in the eagerness of
competition for a market, are accepted which are of a character to harm
and not help the development of the contemporary mind in moral and
intellectual strength. The public expresses its fear of this in the
phrase it has invented--"the spawn of the press." The author who writes
simply to supply this press, and in constant view of a market, is certain
to deteriorate in his quality, nay more, as a beginner he is satisfied if
he can produce something that will sell without regard to its quality.
Is it extravagant to speak of a tendency to make the author merely an
adjunct of the publishing house? Take as an illustration the
publications in books and magazines relating to the late Spanish-American
war. How many of them were ordered to meet a supposed market, and how
many of them were the spontaneous and natural productions of writers who
had something to say? I am not quarreling, you see, with the newspapers
who do this sort of thing; I am speaking of the tendency of what we have
been accustomed to call literature to take on the transient and hasty
character of the newspaper.

In another respect, in method if not in quality, this literature
approaches the newspaper. It is the habit of some publishing houses, not
of all, let me distinctly say, to seek always notoriety, not to nurse and
keep before the public mind the best that has been evolved from time to
time, but to offer always something new. The year's flooring is threshed
off and the floor swept to make room for a fresh batch. Effort
eventually ceases for the old and approved, and is concentrated on
experiments. This is like the conduct of a newspaper. It is assumed
that the public must be startled all the time.

I speak of this freely because I think it as bad policy for the publisher
as it is harmful to the public of readers. The same effort used to
introduce a novelty will be much better remunerated by pushing the sale
of an acknowledged good piece of literature.

Literature depends, like every other product bought by the people, upon
advertising, and it needs much effort usually to arrest the attention of
our hurrying public upon what it would most enjoy if it were brought to
its knowledge.

It would not be easy to fix the limit in this vast country to the
circulation of a good book if it were properly kept before the public.
Day by day, year by year, new readers are coming forward with curiosity
and intellectual wants. The generation that now is should not be
deprived of the best in the last generation. Nay more, one publication,
in any form, reaches only a comparatively small portion of the public
that would be interested in it. A novel, for instance, may have a large
circulation in a magazine; it may then appear in a book; it may reach
other readers serially again in the columns of a newspaper; it may be
offered again in all the by-ways by subscription, and yet not nearly
exhaust its legitimate running power. This is not a supposition but a
fact proved by trial. Nor is it to be wondered at, when we consider that
we have an unequaled homogeneous population with a similar common-school
education. In looking over publishers' lists I am constantly coming
across good books out of print, which are practically unknown to this
generation, and yet are more profitable, truer to life and character,
more entertaining and amusing, than most of those fresh from the press
month by month.

Of the effect upon the literary product of writing to order, in obedience
to a merely commercial instinct, I need not enlarge to a company of
authors, any more than to a company of artists I need to enlarge upon the
effect of a like commercial instinct upon art.

I am aware that the evolution of literature or art in any period, in
relation to the literature and art of the world, cannot be accurately
judged by contemporaries and participants, nor can it be predicted. But
I have great expectations of the product of both in this country, and I
am sure that both will be affected by the conduct of persons now living.
It is for this reason that I have spoken.


By Charles Dudley Warner




The county of Franklin in Northwestern Massachusetts, if not rivaling in
certain ways the adjoining Berkshire, has still a romantic beauty of its
own. In the former half of the nineteenth century its population was
largely given up to the pursuit of agriculture, though not under
altogether favorable conditions. Manufactures had not yet invaded the
region either to add to its wealth or to defile its streams. The
villages were small, the roads pretty generally wretched save in summer,
and from many of the fields the most abundant crop that could be gathered
was that of stones.

The character of the people conformed in many ways to that of the soil.
The houses which lined the opposite sides of the single street, of which
the petty places largely consisted, as well as the dwellings which dotted
the country, were the homes of men who possessed in fullness many of the
features, good and bad, that characterized the Puritan stock to which
they belonged. There was a good deal of religion in these rural
communities and occasionally some culture. Still, as a rule, it must be
confessed, there would be found in them much more of plain living than of
high thinking. Broad thinking could hardly be said to exist at all.
By the dwellers in that region Easter had scarcely even been heard of;
Christmas was tolerated after a fashion, but was nevertheless looked upon

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