CHICAGO SETTLEMENTS AND SOCIAL UNREST.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE EVENTING POST:
SIR: An article by Jane Addams in Charities and the Commons for May 3 should be given the widest publicity. Hull House has come to be regarded -- and justly so -- as the highest development in settlement work. After twenty years of service, when the period of experiment is long since gone, the public is interested in knowing what the settlement stands for, from one so well qualified to speak. The article comes at a period of great business depression, when thousands of unemployed are to be found in every large city, and, in consequence, the social unrest is intensified. It comes likewise upon the very heels of what many of the newspapers of the country have called an unmistakable evidence of a revival of anarchistic plots.
Because the settlement undertakes the obligation, as Miss Addams puts it, of "interpreting foreign colonies to the rest of the city," an unthinking public in a time of excitement jumps to the conclusion that it is but a hot-bed of anarchy. The newspapers cannot escape a full measure of responsibility for the spread of an impression so utterly wrong. This feeling, always present, is deepened in times when the whole public is stirred by such things as the Averbuch incident in Chicago and the Union Square bomb incident in New York. It would seem as if the occurrences themselves would make for sanity and large-mindedness in a people that is constantly parading its largeness of mind, its beneficent attitude to the civilized world. And yet the very opposite situation presents itself. A public all too eager for sensation, already in a state of hysteria, in its desire to blame [someone], is aided and abetted in its unjust course by a "yellow" and undiscriminating press.
It is small wonder that the Russian Jewish colony in Chicago should have been horrified at what followed the killing of Averbuch. The incident itself and the facts and circumstances surrounding it carried with it, it would seem, "an obligation ... to go into the matter with that decorum and gravity which is inevitably attached to governmental affairs." For two hundred years we have been crying aloud our bill of rights; the immigrant heard it in all its variations long before he touched our shore. He came from the persecution of Russian officialdom with a heart full of gladness, to be plunged into an experience which in every detail is the counterpart of the horrors from which he fled.
Could Russia do worse than this? All the printing offices that the police could locate in the Jewish colony ransacked; a restaurant which had been supplying food at cost to the unemployed raided; private houses searched for papers and photographs of revolutionists; a library seized and carried to the City Hall; two friends of Averbuch kept in jail for forty-eight hours after the police themselves acknowledged their acquaintance with the young man had been most casual. Olga, the sister, "sweated" and led up between two officers to the half-naked body of her brother, that she might be startled into a confession; to be told that her brother had killed three men, so that it was with difficulty this untruth was made clear to her when she was released on the fourth day and returned to her friends.
As a matter of course, indignation spread through the colony. They had been told over and over again of constitutional limitations and guarantees against Russian police methods.
And in this hour of need, when the settlement with a large sympathy, the outcome of free intercourse for years with the people themselves, steps in and endeavors to allay the terror of the situation and thereby help the colony itself, and a frenzied police force as well, it is misunderstood, criticized, and condemned. It is small credit to the press that it should have been the worst aggressor; that it should have been so completely wrong in its criticisms; that it should not have set its face resolutely against the methods that were used, and that is should not have made some effort to get at the point of view of social workers whose lives of service entitled them to this consideration. "At the end of twenty years," says Miss Addams, "it seems absurd that the Chicago settlements should be explaining their positions to the public upon these grave matters. They have received much generous support from Chicago; in many respects they have been overestimated, but in a moment of great public excitement it is possible that they themselves are realizing for the first time that they have attained a professional standard of conduct and may, perhaps, begin to clear themselves of the charge of being amateur. This standard may demand that the newly arrived immigrant shall have his [defense] and his chances, in so far as the settlements can obtain it."
Let the explanation come rather from those agencies that in a moment of panic lose sight of every safeguard around person and property for which our government should stand.
Louisville, Ky., May 26.