Robert Herrick to Jane Addams, May 19, 1902

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Marion, Mass.
19 May 1902.

Dear Miss Addams:

My first impulse in reaching New York was to write you a long letter about Democracy and Social Ethics, wh. I devoured on the train. Had I yielded, I am afraid you would have received a very ill-digested commentary, half question and half admiration, for the book interested me more keenly than anything I have read in a long time.

Even at this distance <from reading the book> what I have [page 2] to say, must be unintelligent—praise—especially for the thorough reasonableness and breadth of tone. That is imperfect to me—the eye that sees both horns of the dilemna and its spirit thus can pardon both! Your discussion or rather reference to the democracy, wh. isn't democracy, that we have—the glorification of the bourgeois virtues—is to my thinking the great political truth of our days. Personally I feel half-hearted about the alternative wh. you seem to anticipate with such large faith—the real democracy of sympathy and ideals. That has never been, to my [page 3] knowledge, and I wonder if as long as man is made of the clay he is <whether> it can ever come in any real sense. The fringe of society will be moved by the ideals of that perfect democracy, but the mass it would seem will always be stirred by the old laws of self-interest, envy, desire for power, bourgeois enjoyment [etc.]. That is, given a pure democracy, the people would make of it another bourgeoisie.

However, all that is not the question with your book, although I suppose you would agree that your hopes and beliefs depended pretty largely on that one point—the possibilities in men to be other than they are and to submit themselves to [page 4] a more reasonable scheme of things.

I was very curious about your chapter on Filial Relations. It is a delicate and thoroughly modern matter you touch there. I was disappointed that you evidently did not like to speak out, to say all that you mean. The crude fact is that certain domestic duties result from our system of family life and thus the more irksome of these duties are left to the unmarried women because of their (supposedly) complete uselessness for anything else and also because of their greater capacity for sympathy, tenderness, etc. Of course we can't dispense with the family life, and here some <we> can't have hospitals for the aged and incompetent members. Their care must devolve on [page 5] some one,—the only question is whom? If we could rid ourselves of the illogicality of considering unmarried women, as slaves of the family, and merely require them to take their turn together with their married sisters and sisters-in-law, something would be accomplished. On the other hand a young unmarried woman twenty-four or older ought to be considered as a sane and self-sufficient person as well as her married sister. But the real trouble is that in our more luxurious and grasping age, no one wants to be disturbed by the demands of the old and the incompetent.

You will say that the only spot where [page 6] I am fit to discuss your book is in the <chapter on> education—but there I feel myself most puzzled. Of course what you say about the inadequacy of our educational methods does not touch the true university for it does not exist to teach methods, or to provide a kind of education, but merely to preserve and enlarge learning. That may or may not be an end of first-rate importance, but in spite of Harper and his false gods, that is, after all the business of the university. It is interested not in what is useful to the body social or politic, but what is in itself something to know—from [page 7] Chinese to astronomy.  So let us pass the university. What you say about the false application of bequests intended for industrial education struck me as very strong. Harper has certainly wickedly defeated the real ends of certain gifts in that way. But how will you arrange your teaching for the real industrial education? I see the problem—you have stated it most lucidly—to give the workman who will always be a workman something that will be to his advantage as mental food, not as a means to self-advancement. The history of his industry, generalizations about science, about the growth and development of industrial and social life will not do that. I turned [page 8] each page in the hope of finding some definite programme and I failed to see just what you would do. I would teach him an art, or interest him in a language rather than give him general information about anything. What you propose, is a distraction, a solace, an avocation to make his mind still live in spite of the torpor of his duties!

But I write too much. The book has appealed to me very strongly, and I wish to thank you for it. I trust that your accident will not prove grave. We were extremely sorry to hear of it. And I hope I Weber's trip has helped him and rested him.

With sincere regards, I am, ever yours

Robert Herrick

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