PROBLEMS OF MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATION*
*An address delivered at the International Congress of Arts and Science, Department of Politics, September, 1904.
We are accustomed to say that the machinery of government incorporated in the charters of the early Amercian cities, as in the federal and state constitutions, was worked out by men who were strongly under the influence of the historians and doctrinaires of the eighteenth century. The most significant representative of these men is Thomas Jefferson, whose foresight and genius we are here to commemorate, and their most telling phrase is the familiar opening that "all men are created free and equal."
We are only now, however, beginning to suspect that the present admitted failure in municipal administration, the so-called "shame of American cities," may be largely due to the inadequacy of those eighteenth-century ideals, with the breakdown of the machinery which they provided, and further, to the weakness inherent in the historic and doctrinaire method when it attempts to deal with growing and human institutions.
These men were the legitimate successors of the seventeenth-century Puritans in their devotion to pure principle, but they had read poets and philosophers unknown to the Pilgrim fathers, and represented that first type of humanitarian who loves the people without really knowing them, which is by no means an impossible achievement. "The love of those whom a man does not know is quite as elemental a sentiment as the love of those whom a man does know," but with this difference that he expects the people [page 2] whom he does not know to forswear altogether the right of going their own way, and to be convinced of the beauty and value of his way.
Because their idealism was of the type that is afraid of experience, these founders of our American cities refused to look at the difficulties and blunders which a self-governing people was sure to encounter, and insisted that the people would walk only in the paths of justice and righteousness. It was inevitable, therefore, that they should have remained quite untouched by that wordly wisdom which counsels us to know life as it is, and by that very modern belief that, if the world is ever right at all, it must go right in its own way.
A man of this generation easily discerns the crudeness of that eighteenth-century conception of essentially unprogressive human nature, in all the empty dignity of its "inborn rights of man," because he has grown familiar with a more passionate human creed, with the modern evolutionary conception of the slowly advancing race whose rights are not "inalienable," but are hard-won in the tragic processes of civilization. Were self-government to be inaugurated by the advanced men of the present moment, as the founders were doubtless the advanced men of their time, they would make the most careful research into those early organizations of village communities, [folkmoots], and mirs, those primary cells of both social and political organization where the people knew no difference between the two, but quite simply met to consider in common discussion all that concerned their common life. They would investigate the craft guilds and artels, which combined government with daily occupation, as did the self-governing university and free town. They would seek for the connection between the liberty-loving [medieval] city and its free creative architecture, that most social of all the arts.
But our eighteenth-century idealists, unconscious of the compulsions of origins and of the fact that self-government had an origin of its own, timidly took the English law as their prototype, "whose very root is in the relation between sovereign and subject, between lawmaker and those whom the law restrains," and which has traditionally concerned itself more with the guarding [page 3] of prerogative and with the rights of property than with the spontaneous life of the people. They serenely incorporated laws and survivals which registered the successful struggle of the barons against the aggression of the sovereign, although the new country lacked both nobles and kings. Misled by the name of government, they founded their new cities by an involuntary reference to a lower social state than that which they actually saw about them. They depended upon penalties, coercion, compulsion, and remnants of military codes to hold the community together; and it may be possible to trace much of the maladministration of our cities to these survivals, to the fact that our early democracy was a moral romanticism, rather than a well-grounded belief in social capacity and in the efficiency of the popular will.
It has further happened that, as the machinery, groaning under the pressure of the new social demand put upon it, has broken down from time to time, we have mended it by giving more power to administrative officers, distrusting still further the will of the people. We are willing to cut off the dislocated part, or tighten the gearing, but we are afraid to substitute a machine of newer invention and greater capacity.
A little examination will easily show that, in spite of the fine phrases of the founders, the government became an entity by itself away from the daily life of the people; not meant to be set off against them with power to oppress, as in the case of the traditional European governments, but simply because its machinery was so largely copied from the historic governments, which did distrust the people, that it failed to provide the vehicle for a vital and geniunely organized expression of the popular will. The founders carefully defined what was germane to government and that which was quite outside its realm; whereas the very crux of local self-government, as has been well said, is involved in the "right locally to determine the scope of the local government," in response to the local needs as they arise.
They were anxious to keep the strings in the hands of the good and professedly public-spirited, because, having staked so much upon the people, whom they really knew so little, they became eager that they should appear well, and should not be [page 4] given enough power to enable them to betray their weaknesses; as a kind lady may permit herself to give a tramp five cents, believing that, although he may spend it for drink, he cannot get very drunk upon so small a sum.
All might have gone well upon this doctrinaire plan, as it still does in many country places, if there had not been a phenomenally rapid growth in cities upon an entirely changed basis. Multitudes of men were suddenly brought together in response to the nineteenth-century concentration of industry and commerce--a purely impersonal tie; whereas the eighteenth-century city attracted the country people in response to the more normal and slowly formed ties of domestic service, family affection, and apprenticeship. Added to this unprecedented growth from industrial causes, we have in American cities multitudes of immigrants, coming in successive migrations, often breaking social ties which are as old as the human family, and renouncing customs which may be traced to the habits of primitive man. Both the country-bred and immigrant city-dwellers would be ready to adapt themselves to a new and vigorous civic life founded upon a synthesis of their social needs, but framers of our carefully prepared city charters did not provide for this expanding demand at the points of congestion. They did not foresee that after the universal franchise has once been granted, social needs and ideals are bound to enter in as legitimate objects of political action; while, on the other hand, the only people in a democracy who can legitimately become the objects of repressive government are those who are too underdeveloped to use the franchise, or those who have forfeited their right to full citizenship. We have, therefore, a municipal administration in America which is largely reduced to the administration of restrictive measures. The people who come most directly in contact with its executive officials, who are the legitimate objects of its control, are the vicious, who need to be repressed; the poor and semidependent, who appeal to it in their dire need; or, from quite the reverse reason, those who are trying to avoid an undue taxation, resenting the fact that they should be made to support that which, from the nature of the case, is too barren to excite their real enthusiasm. [page 5]
The instinctive protest against this mechanical method of civic control, with the lack of adjustment between the natural democratic impulse and the fixed external condition, inevitably produces the indifferent citizen and the so-called "professional politician;" the first who, because he is not vicious, feels that the real processes of government do not concern him, and wishes only to be let alone; and the other who easily adapts himself to an illegal avoidance of the external fixed conditions by assuming that those conditions have been settled by doctrinaires who did not in the least understand the people, while he, the politician, makes his appeal beyond those to the real desires of the people themselves. He is thus not only the "people's friend," but their interpreter. It is interesting to note how often simple people refer to "them," meaning the good and great who govern, but do not understand, and to "him," meaning the alderman who represents them in these incomprehensible halls of state, as an ambassador to a foreign country to whose borders they could not possibly penetrate and whose language they do not speak.
In addition to this difficulty, inherent in the difference between the traditional and actual situation, is another, which constantly arises on the purely administrative side. The traditional governments which the founders had copied, in proceeding to define the vicious by fixed standards from the good, and then to legislate against them, had enforced these restrictive measures by trained officials, usually with a military background. In a democracy, however, the officers [entrusted] with the enforcement of this restrictive legislation, if not actually elected by the people themselves, are still the appointees of those thus elected, and are therefore good-natured men who have made friends by their kindness and social qualities.
The carrying out of repressive legislation, the remnant of a military state of society, is, in a democracy, at last put into the hands of men who have attained office because of political "pull," and the repressive measures must be enforced by those sympathizing with and belonging to the people against whom the measures operate. This anomalous situation produces almost inevitably one result: that the police authorities themselves are [page 6] turned into allies of vice and crime, as may be illustrated from almost any of the large American cities in the relation existing between the police force and the gambling and other illicit life. The officers are often flatly told that the enforcement of an ordinance which the better element of the city has insisted upon passing is impossible; that they are expected only to control the robbery and crime that so often associate themselves with vice. As Mr. Wilcox has pointed out in The American City, public sentiment itself assumes a certain hypocrisy, and in the end we have "the abnormal conditions which are created when vice is protected by the authorities;" in the very worst cases there develops a sort of municipal blackmail in which the administration itself profits by the violation of law. The officer is thoroughly confused by the human element in the situation, and his very kindness and human understanding are that which leads to his downfall.
There is no doubt that the reasonableness of keeping the saloons in lower New York open on Sunday was apparent to the policemen on the East Side force long before it dawned upon the reform administration, and yet that the policemen were allowed to connive at law-breaking was the cause of their corruption and downfall.
In order to meet this situation, there is almost inevitably developed a politician of the corrupt type so familiar in American cities, who has become successful because he has made friends with the vicious. The semi-criminal, who are constantly brought in contact with administrative government, are naturally much interested in its operations, and, having much at stake, as a matter of course attend the primaries and all the other election processes which so quickly bore the good citizen whose interest in them is a self-imposed duty. To illustrate: It is a matter of much moment to a gambler whether there is to be a "wide-open town" or not; it means the success or failure of his business; it involves not only the pleasure, but the livelihood of all his friends. He naturally attends to the election of the alderman, and to the appointment and retention of the policeman; he is found at the caucus "every time," and would be much amused if he were praised for the [page 7] performance of his civic duty. But because he and the others who are concerned in semi-illicit business do attend the primaries, the corrupt politician is nominated over and over again.
As this type of politician is successful from his alliance with crime, there also inevitably arises from time to time a so-called reformer, who is shocked to discover this state of affairs, this easy partnership between vice and administrative government. He dramatically uncovers the situation, and arouses great indignation against it on the part of the good citizen. If this indignation is enough, he creates a political fervor which constitutes a claim upon public gratitude. In portraying the evil he is fighting, he does not recognize, or at least does not make clear, all the human kindness upon which it has grown. In his speeches he inevitably offends a popular audience, who know that the political evil exists in all degrees and forms of human weakness, but who also know that these evils are by no means always hideous. They resent his overdrawn pictures of vice and of the life of the vicious; their sense of fair play, and their deep-rooted desire for charity and justice, are outraged.
If I may illustrate from a personal experience: Some years ago a famous New York reformer came to Chicago to tell us of his phenomenal success and his trenchant methods of dealing with the city "gambling hells," as he chose to call them. He proceeded to describe the criminals of lower New York in terms and phrases which struck at least one of his auditors as sheer blasphemy against our common human nature. I thought of the criminals whom I knew, of the gambler for whom each Saturday I regularly collected his weekly wage of $24, keeping $18 for his wife and children, and giving him $6 on Monday morning. His despairing statement, "The thing is growing on me, and I can never give it up," was the cry of a man who, through much tribulation, had at least kept the loyal intention. I recalled three girls who had come to me with a paltry sum of money collected from the pawn and sale of their tawdry finery, that one of their number might be spared a death in the almshouse and have that wretched comfort during the closing weeks of her outcast life. I recalled the first murderer whom I had ever known -- a young man who was [page 8] singing his baby to sleep, and stopped to lay it in its cradle before he rushed [downstairs] into his father's saloon, to scatter the gang of boys who were teasing the old man by giving him orders in English which he could not understand, and refusing to pay for the drinks which they had consumed, but technically had not ordered.
For one short moment I saw the stuation from the point of view of humbler people, who sin often through weakness and passion, but seldom through hardness of heart; and I felt that such sweeping condemnations and conclusions as the speaker was pouring forth could never be accounted for righteousness in a democratic community.
The policeman who makes terms with vice, and almost inevitably slides into making gain from vice, merely represents the type of politician who is living off the weakness of his fellows, as the overzealous reformer, who exaggerates vice until the public is scared and awestruck, represents the type of politician who is living off the timidity of his fellows. With the lack of civic machinery for simple democratic expression, for a direct dealing with human nature as it is, we seem doomed to one type or the other -- corruptionists or anti-crime committees. And one of the other we shall continue to have so long as we distrust the energy of existence, the craving for enjoyment, the pushing of vital forces, the very right of every citizen to be what he is, without pretense or assumption of virtues which he does not really admire himself, but which he imagines to have been set up as a standard somewhere else by the virtuous whom he does not know. That old Frankenstein, that ideal man of the eighteenth century, is still haunting us, although he never existed save in the brain of the doctrinaire.
This dramatic and feverish triumph of the self-seeker, see-sawing with that of the interested reformer, does more than anything else, perhaps, to keep the American citizen away from the ideals of geniune evolutionary democracy. Whereas repressive government, from the nature of the case, has to do with the wicked, who are happily always in a minority in the community, a normal government would have to do with the great majority of the population in their normal relations to each other. [page 9]
After all, the daring of the so-called "slum politician," when he ventures his success upon an appeal to human sentiment and generosity, has something fine about it. It often results in an alliance of the popular politician with the least desirable type of trades-unionist, as the reformer who stands for an honest business administration becomes allied with the type of business man whose chief concern it is to guard his treasure and to prevent a rise in taxation.
May I use, in illustration of the last two statements, the great strike in Chicago Stock Yards which occurred a few weeks ago? The immediate object of the strike was the protection of the wages of the unskilled men from a cut of one cent per hour, although of course the unions of skilled men felt that this first invasion of the wages, increased through the efforts of the unions, would be but the entering wedge of an attempt to cut wages in all the trades represented in the Stock Yards. Owing to the refusal on the part of the unions to accept the arbitration very tardily offered by the packers, and to their failure to carry out the terms of the cotnract which they made ten days later, the strike in its early stages completely lost the sympathy of that large part of the public dominated by ideals of business honor and fair dealing, and of that growing body of organized labor which is steadily advancing in a regard for the validity of the contract and cherishing the hope that in time the trades unions may universally attain an accredited business standing.
The leaders, after the first ten days, were therefore forced to make the most of the purely human appeal which lay in the situation itself, that thirty thousand men, including the allied trades, were losing weeks of wages and savings, with a possible chance of the destruction of their unions, on behalf of the unskilled, the newly arrived Poles and Lithuaniuans who had not yet learned to look out for themselves. Owing to the irregular and limited hours of work -- a condition quite like that prevailing on the London Docks before the great strike of the dockers -- the weekly wage of these unskilled men was exceptionally low, and the plea was based almost wholly upon the duty of the strong to the weak. A chivalric call was issued that the standard of life [page 10] might be raised to that designated as American, and that this mass of unskilled men might secure an education for their children. Of course, no other appeal could have been so strong as this purely human one, which united for weeks thousands of men of a score of nationalities into that solidarity which comes only through a self-sacrificing devotion to an absorbing cause.
The strike involved much suffering and many unforseen complications. At the end of eight weeks the union leaders made the best terms possible, which, though the skilled workers were guaranteed against reduction in wages, made no provision for the unskilled, in whose behalf the strike had been at first undertaken. Although the hard-pressed union leaders were willing to make this concession, the local politicians in the meanwhile had seen the great value of the human sentiment, which bases its appeal on the need of the "under dog," and which had successfully united this mass of skilled men into a new comradeship with those whom they had lately learned to call compatriots. It was infinitely more valuable than any merely political cry, and the fact that the final terms of settlement were submitted to a referendum vote at once gave the local politicians a chance to avail themselves of this big, loosely defined sympathy. They did this in so dramatic a manner that they almost succeeded, solely upon that appeal, in taking the strike out of the hands of the legitimate officers and using it to further their own political ends.
The situation would have been a typical one, exemplifying the real aim of popular government, with its concern for primitive needs, forced to seek expression outside of the organized channels of government, if the militia could have been called in to support the situation, and thus have placed government even more dramatically on the side of the opposition. The comparative lack of violence on the part of the striking workmen gave no chance for the bringing in of the militia, much to the disappointment of the politicians, who, of course, would have been glad to have put the odium of this traditional opposition of government to the wishes of the people, which has always been dramatically embodied in the soldier, upon the political part dominating the state, but not the city. It would have given the city politician an excellent [page 11] opportunity to show the concern of himself and his party for the real people, as over against the attitude of the party dominating the state. But because the militia was not called his scheme fell through, and the legitimate strike leaders, although they passed through much tribulation because of the political interference, did not eventually lose control.
The situation in the Chicago Stock Yards is an excellent epitome of the fact that government so often finds itself, not only in opposition to the expressed will of the people making the demand at the moment, but apparently against the best instincts of the mass of the citizens as a whole.
For years the city administrations, one after another, have protected the money interests invested in the Stock Yards, so that none of the sanitary ordinances have ever been properly enforced, until the sickening stench and the scum on the branch of the river known as "Bubbly Creek" at times make that section of the city unendurable. The smoke ordinances are openly ignored; nor did the city meat inspector ever seriously interfere with business, as a recent civil-service investigation has demonstrated; while the water-steals for which the Stock Yards finally became notorious must have been more or less known to certain officials. But all of this merely corrupted a limited number of inspectors, and although their corruption was complete and involved the entire administration, it did not actually touch large numbers of people. During the recent strike, however, twleve hundred policemen were called upon to patrol the yards inside and out -- actual men possessed of human sensibilities. There is no doubt that the police inspector of the district thoroughly represented the alliance of the City Hall and the business interests, and that he did not mean to discover anything which was deorgatory to the packers, nor to embarass them in any way during the conduct of the strike. But these twleve hundred men themselves were called upon to face a very peculiar situation because of the type of men and women who formed the bulk of the strike-breakers, and because in the first weeks of the strike these men and women were kept constantly inside the yards during day and night. In order to hold them there at all, discipline outside the working hours was [page 12] thoroughly relaxed, and the policemen in charge of the yards, while there ostensibly to enforce law and order, were obliged every night to connive at prize-fighting, at open gambling, and at the most flagrant disregard of decency. They were there, not to enforce law and order as it defines itself in the minds of the bulk of healthy-minded citizens, but only to keep the strikers from molesting the nonunion workers, which was certainly commendable, but after all only part of their real duty. They were shocked by the law-breaking which they were ordered to protect, and much drawn in sympathy to those whom they were supposed to regard as public enemies. An investigator who interviewed one hundred policemen found only one who did not frankly extol the restraint of the strikers as over against the laxity of the imported men. This, of course, was an extreme case, broguht about by the unusual and peculiar type of the imported strike-breakers, of which there is much trustworthy evidence, incorporated in affidavits submitted to the mayor of Chicago.
It was hard for a patriot not to feel jealous of the trades unions and of the enthusiasm of those newly arrived citizens. They poured out their gratitude and affection upon this first big, friendly force which had offered them help in their desperate struggle in a new world. This devotion, this comradeship and fine esprit de corps, should have been won by the government itself from these scared and untrained citizens. The union was that which had concerned itself with real life, shelter, a chance to work, and bread for their children. It had come to them in a language they could understand, and through men with interests akin to their own, and it gave them their first chance to express themselves through a democratic vote, to register by a ballot their real opinion upon a very important matter.
They used the referendum vote, the latest and perhaps most clever device of democratic government, and yet they were using it to decide a question which the government presupposed to be quite outside its realm. When they left the old country, the government of America held their deepest hopes and represented that which they believed would obtain for them an opportunity for [page 13] that [fullness] of life which had been denied them in the lands of oppressive government.
It is a curious commentary on the fact that we have not yet attained self-government, when the real and legitimate objects of men's desires must still be incorporated in those voluntary groups, for which the government, when it does its best, can afford only protection from interference. As the religious revivalist looks with longing upon the fervor of a single-taxing meeting, and as the Orthodox Jew sees his son ignoring the Yom Kippur, and pouring all his religious fervor, his precious zeal for righteousness which has been gathered through the centuries, into the Socialsit Labor Party, so a patriot finds himself exclaiming, like Browning's Andrea del Sarto: "Ah, but what do they, what do they, to please you more?"
So timid are American cities in dealing with this perfectly reasonable subject of wages in its relation to municipal employees that when they do prescribe a minimum wage for city contract work, they allow it to fall into the hands of the petty politician and to become part of a political game, making no effort to give it a dignified treatment in relation to cost of living and to margin of leisure. In this the English cities have anticipated us, both as to time and legitimate procedure. Have Americans formed a sort of "imperialism of virtue," holding on to the preconceived ideas of self-government, and insisting that they must fit all the people who come to our shores, even although we crush the most promising bits of self-government and self-expression in the process? Is the American's attitude toward self-government like that of his British cousin toward Anglo-Saxon civilization, save that he goes forth to rule all the nations of the earth by one pattern, whether it fits or not, while we sit at home and bid them to rule themselves by one set pattern? Both of us many times ruining the most precious experiments which embody ages of travail and experience.
In the midst of the city, which at moments seems to stand only for the triumph of the strongest, the successful exploitation of the weak, the ruthlessness and hidden crime which follow in the wake of the struggle for mere existence on its lowest terms, there [page 14] come daily accretions of simple people, who carry in their hearts the desire for mere goodness, who regularly deplete their scanty livelihood in response to a primitive pity, and who, independently of the religions which they have professed, of the wrongs which they have suffered, or of the fixed morality which they have been taught, have an unquenchable desire that charity and simple justice shall regulate men's relations.
This disinterestedness, although as yet an intangible ideal, is taking hold of men's hopes and imaginations in every direction. Even now we only dimly comprehend the strength and irresistible power of those "universal and imperious ideals which are formed in the depths of anonymous life," and which the people insist shall come to realization, not because they have been tested by logic or history, but because the mass of men are eager that they should be tried, should be made a living experience in time and in reality.
In this country it seems to be only the politician at the bottom, the man nearest the people, who understands this. He often plays upon it and betrays it, but he at least knows it is there.
This is perhaps easily explained, for, after all, the man in this century who realizes human equality is not he who repeats the formula of the eighteenth century, but he who has learned, if I may quote again from Mr. Wilcox, that the "idea of equality is an outgrowth of man's primary relations in nature. Birth, growth, nutrition, reproduction, death, are the great levelers that remind us of the essential equality of human life. It is with teh guarantee of equal opportunities to play our parts well in these primary processes, that government is actually concerned," and not merely in the repression of the vicious nor in guarding the rights of property. There is no doubt that the rapid growth of the Socialist party in all crowded centers is largely due to their recognition of those primary needs and experiences which the well-established governments so stupidly ignore, and also to the fact that they are preaching industrial government to an industrial age which recognizes it as vital and adapted to its needs. All of that devotion, all of that speculative philosophy concerning the real issues of life, could, of course, easily be turned into a passion for self-government and the development of the national life, if [page 15] we were really democratic from the modern evolutionary standpoint, and did we but hold our town-meetings upon topics that most concern us.
In point of fact, government ignores industrial questions as the traditional ostrich hides his head in the sand, for no great strike is without its political significance, nor without the attempt of political interference, quite as none of the mammoth business combinations of manufacturers or distributors are without their lobbyists in the city council, unless they are fortuante enough to own aldermen outright. It is merely a question as to whether industry in relation to government is to be discussed as a matter of popular interest and concern at the moment when that relation might be modified and controlled, or whether we prefer to wait a decade and to read about it later in the magazines, horrified that such interferences of business with government should have taken place.
Again we see the doctrinaire of the eighteenth century preferring to hold to his theory of government and ignoring the facts, as over against the open-minded scientist of the present day who would scorn to ignore facts because they might disturb his theory.
The two points at which government is developing most rapidly at the present moment are naturally the two in which it geniunely exercises its function -- in relation to the vicious, and in relation to the poor and dependent.
The juvenile courts which the large cities are inaugurating are supplied with probation officers, whose duty it is to encourage the wavering virtues of the wayward boy, and to keep him out of the police courts without their consequent penal institutions -- a real recognition of social obligation. In one of the most successful of these courts, that of Denver, the judge, who can point to a remarkable record with the bad boys of the city, plays a veritable game with them against the police force, he and the boys undertaking to be "good" without the help of repression, and in spite of the machinations of the police. For instance, if the boys who have been sentenced to the state reform school at Golden deliver themselves without the aid of the sheriff, whose duty it is to take them [page 16] there, they not only vindicate their manliness and readiness "to take their medicine," but they beat the sheriff, who belongs to the penal machinery, out of his five-dollar fee, over which fact they openly triumph. A simple example, perhaps, but significant of the attitude of the well-intentioned toward repressive government.
As the juvenile courts are beginning to take an interest in the social life of the child, in order to prevent arrest, on the same principle the reform schools are inaugurating the most advanced education in agriculture and manual arts. A bewildered foreign parent comes from time to time to Hull House, asking that his boy be sent to a school to learn farming, basing his request upon the fact that his neighbor's boy has been sent to "a nice green country place." It is carefully explained that the neighbor's boy was bad, and was arrested and sent away because of his badness, and it is quite possible sometimes to make clear to the man that the city assumes that he is looking out for himself and taking care of his own boy; but it ought to be further possible to make him see that, if he feels that his son needs the education of a farm school, it lies with him to agitate the subject and to vote for the candidate who will secure such schools. He might well look amazed, were this advice tendered him, for these questions have never been presented to him to vote upon. Because he does not easily discuss the tariff, or other remote subjects, which the political parties present to him from time to time, we assume that he is not to be trusted to vote on the education of his child; and in Chicago, at least, the school board is not elective. The ancestors of this same immigrant, from the days of bows and arrows, doubtless taught their children those activities which seemed valuable to them.
Again, we build enormous city hospitals and almshouses for the defective and dependent, but for that great mass of people just beyond the line from which they are constantly recruited we do practically nothing. We are afraid of the notion of governmental function which would minister to the primitive needs of the mass of people, although we are quite ready to care for him whom misfortunate or disease has made the exception. It is really the rank and file, the average citizen, who is ignored by government, while he works out his real problems through other agencies, and is scolded for staying at home on election day. [page 17]
It is comparatively easy to understand the punitive point of view, which seeks to suppress, or the philanthropic, which seeks to palliate; but it is much more difficult to formulate that city government which is adapted to our present normal living. As over against the survival of the first two, excellent and necessary as they are, we have the many municipal activities of which Mr. Shaw had told us, but we have attained them surreptitously, as it were, by means of appointed commissions, through boards of health endowed with exceptional powers, or through the energy of a mayor who has pushed his executive function beyond the charter limit. The people themselves have not voted on these measurers, and they have lost both the education and the nourishing of the democratic ideal, which their free discussion would have secured and to which they were more entitled than to the benefits themselves.
In the department of social economy in this exposition is an enormous copy of Charles Booth's monumental survey of the standard of living for the people of London. From his accompanying twelve volumes may be deduced the occupations of the people, with their real wages, their family budget, their culture-level, and to a certain extent their recreations and spiritual life. If one gives oneself over to a moment of musing on this mass of information, so huge and so accurate, one is almost instinctively aware that any radical changes, so much needed in the blackest and the bluest districts, must largely come from forces outside the life of the people: enlarged mental life from the educationalists, increased wages from the business interests, alleviation of suffering from the philanthropists. What vehicle of correction is provided for the people themselves? What broad basis has been laid for modification of their most geniune and pressing needs through their own initiative? What device has been invented for conserving, in the interests of the nation, that kindliness and mutual aid which is the marvel of all charity workers who know the poor? So conservative an economiust as Marshall has pointed out that, in the fear of crushing "individual initiative," we every year allow to go to waste untold capacity, talent, and even genius, among the children of the poor, whose parents are unable to shelter them [page 18] from premature labor; or among the adults, whose vital force is exhausted long before the allotted span of life. We distrust the instinct to shelter and care for them, although it is as old and as much at the foundation of human progress as is individual initiative itself.
The traditional government of East London expresses its activity in keeping the streets clean, and the district lighted and policed. It is only during the last quarter of the century that the London County Council has erected decent houses, public baths, and many other devices for the purer social life of the people; while American cities have gone no farther, although they presumably started at workingmen's representation a hundred years ago, so completely were the founders misled by the name of government, and the temptation to substitute the form of political democracy for real self-government dealing with advancing social ideals. Even now London has twenty-eight borough councils in addition to the London County Council itself, and fifteen hundred direct representatives of the people, as over against seventy in Chicago, with a population one-half as large. Paris has twenty mayors with corresponding machinery for local government, as over against New York's concentration in one huge city hall, too often corrupt.
In Germany, as the munincipal and social-economic exhibits of this exposition so magnificently show, the government has come to concern itself with the primitive essential needs of its working-people. In their behalf the government has forced industry, in the person of the large manufacturers, to make an alliance with it, and they are taxed for accident insurance of workingmen, for old age pensions, and for sick benefits; indeed, a project is being formed in which they shall bear the large share of insurance against nonemployment, when it has been made clear that nonemployment is the result of financial crisis brought about through the maladministration of finance. And yet industry in Germany has flourished, and this control on behalf of the normal workingman, as he faces life in the pursuit of his daily vocation, has apparently not checked its systematic growth nor limited its place in the world's market. [page 19]
Almost every Sunday, in the Italian quarter in which I live, various mutual-benefit societies march with fife and drum and with a brave showing of banners, celebrating their achievement in having surrounded themselves by at least a thin wall of protection against disaster, setting up their mutual good-will against the day of misfortune. These parades have all the emblems of patriotism; indeed, the associations represent the core of patriotism--brothers standing by each other against hostile forces from without. I assure you that no Fourth of July celebration, no rejoicing over the birth of an heir to the Italian throne, equals in heartiness and sincerity these simple celebrations. Again, one longs to pour into the government of their adopted country all this affection and zeal, this real patriotism.
Germany affords, perhaps, the best example of this concern of government for the affairs of the daily living of its wage-earners, although Belgium and France, with their combination of state savings banks, with life-insurance and building associations backed by the state, afford a close second in ingeniuty and success. All this would be impossible in America, because it would be hotly resented by the American business man, who will not brook any governmental interference in industrial affairs. Is this due to the inherited instinct that government is naturally oppressive, and that its inroads must be checked? Are we in America retaining this tradition, while Europe is gradually evolving governments logically fitted to cope with the industrial situation?
Did the founders cling too hard to that which they had won through persecution, hardship, and finally through a war of revolution? Did these doctrines seem so precious to them that they were determined to tie men up to them as long as possible, and allow them no chance to go on to new devices of government, lest they slight these that had been so hardly won? Did they estimate, not too highly, but by too exclusive a valuation, that which they had secured through the shedding of blood?
Man has ever overestimated the spoils of war, and tended to lose his sense of proportion in regard to their value. He has ever surrounded them with a glamour beyond their [desserts]. This is quite harmless when the booty is an enemy's sword hung over a household fire, or a battered flag decorating a city hall; but when [page 20] the spoil of war is an idea which is bound on the forehead of the victor till it cramps his growth, a theory which he cherishes in his bosom until it grows so large and so near that it afflicts its possessor with a sort of disease of responsibility for its preservation, it may easily overshadow the very people for whose cause the warrior issued forth.
We have not yet apprehended what the scientists call "the doctrine of the unspecialized," what the religious man calls "the counsel of imperfection," and the wise educator calls "the wisdom of the little child." If successful struggle ends in survival, in blatant and tangible success, and, as it is popularly supposed to do, in a certain hardness of heart, with an invincible desire to cling fast to the booty which has been thus hardly acquired, government will also have to reckon with the many who have been beaten in this struggle, with the effect upon them of the contest and the defeat; for, after all, they will always represent the majority of citizens, and it is with its large majority that self-government must eventually deal, whatever else other governments may determine for themselves.
Professor Weaver, of Columbia, has lately pointed out that "the cities have traditionally been the cradles of liberty, as they are today the centers of radicalism," and that it is natural that brute selfishness should first be curbed and social feeling created at the point of the greatest congestion. If we once admit the human dynamic character of progress, then we must look to the cities as the focal points of that progress; and it is not without significance that the most vigorous effort at governmental reform, as well as the most generous experiments in ministering to social needs, have come from the largest cities. Are we beginning to see the first timid, forward reach of one of those instinctive movements which carry forward the goodness of the race?
If we could trust democratic government as over against and distinct from the older types--from those which repress, rather than release, the power of the people--then we should begin to know what democracy really is, and our municipal administration would at last be free to attain Aristotle's ideal of a city, "where men live a commnon life for a noble end."
HULL HOUSE, CHICAGO.