Charles C. Cooper to Jane Addams, August 30, 1922




August 30, 1922.


Miss Jane Addams,
Hull House,
Chicago, Illinois.

My dear Miss Addams:

Since I visited Chicago and had the pleasure of spending a night at Hull House I have been thinking of our conversation about the settlement movement. I would not have the boldness to send such a letter to you were it not that I have been fortunate enough this year to attend three settlement institutes in Cleveland, Minneapolis, and New York, and to have made the study of Association House in Chicago. In these four cities as well as in Pittsburgh I have come into contact with settlement staff ↑and Board.↓ It is on this account that I am writing to you.

Then too, in a measure, I have been a follower of the head resident of Hull House, although a weak and "afar off" one.

Coming in contact with settlement folk in these cities has given me a little insight into the status of the movement. I have met with all the objections to the settlement house and to certain of its leaders; nevertheless underneath it all I was surprised to find an earnest willingness to go on with settlement work, and a faith in its philosophy.

There is no doubt that the very fundamentals of settlement philosophy have been scrutinized and questioned recently. Again and again this was evident to me. At first I felt pessimistic; but, by and large, this investigation will aid the settlement movement.

I believe as you do that in the great War, and in the troubled years that followed, the settlement had its measure of failure. I likewise feel, that government failed, that culture failed, that education failed, that religion, itself, failed.

Somehow people believed that civilization was founded on too secure a rock of righteousness for such a devastating war and such [page 2] a breaking down of what was worth while in life. I can agree with all this. I cannot believe, however, that the measure of the settlement failure was any greater than that of government, or of church, or of culture. The members of each intellectual or academic group naturally, from intimate personal knowledge, felt the inadequacy and failure of their own group more than that of other groups. I find this particularly true of certain thoughtful and sincere clergymen and professors. This failure should and must bind all right thinking folk together to prevent another war and to assuage the anger and hatred that have now come to us. As I have talked with widely separated settlement folk I have not found an unwillingness to meet the issues of life today nor an unwillingness to make sacrifice for the sake of what is right. What I have found were an uncertain vision and a bewildered attempt at comprehending the awful problems of the War and its aftermath.

The settlement house is needed to perform its function today. We do not need new machinery but a clearing of vision, a deepening of conviction, and a new consecration of life. The old machinery, the old method, the old philosophy, the old spiritual impulse are still sound; we need a call to a new service along the old lines.

At the conference of settlement folk at East Aurora the sounding of such a call will bring far reaching results. I should not dare to make this statement on my own conjecture; ↑but↓ only as the result of my observation of settlement folk on staff and board in different cities.

The thing that I fear the most is that our sense of personal inadequacy to meet the stupendous problems of today will give the older settlement residents a feeling of "sustained pessimism," as the psychologists call it. Our movement cannot go on and cannot do its part in the reconstruction of the world unless we can free ourselves from this feeling, produced either from the great problems ahead of us or from contemplation of the awful catastrophe behind us. In my own little field of labor the thing that I have had to fight the hardest has been this same feeling of inadequacy and pessimism. Therefore, I have often had to whistle to keep my courage up.

Our whole settlement movement is waiting now on the words of its old leaders. Pessimism will wreck it and optimism founded on a realization of the stern necessity of meeting great problems and an abiding faith to attempt them will make our movement anew. I have apologized for writing you this long letter and bothering you with the thoughts of a mediocre fellow. I cannot apologize to you when I say that this note of a new consecration to service [page 3] will sound the clearest and be carried the farthest if struck by you.

Consciously or unconsciously the settlement group is coming to East Aurora with a yearning for light and for a call to service. They will respond quickly and whole heartedly, I believe, if you make this call to service, not only for the old love they have for you but because they know that you have seen the awful side of the War and have comprehended its tragedy.

I have deep faith that if you give them the vision they will return consecration.

Very sincerely,

Charles C. Cooper [signed]

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