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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Social Progress and Problems
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


The great social forces that have wrought the marvellous transformation in our national life show no signs of slackening. On the contrary, their momentum seems to increase with the years. Each new step forward impels to swifter strides. History is being made at a speed that would bewilder the Fathers of our country, who were themselves no laggards when love of freedom indicated patriotic duty. In the very stress and eagerness of our ambition to hasten the millennial era that seems so temptingly within reach, it is possible that complex schemes and worthy aims that clash with each other are sometimes fated to confuse rather than promote the end in view. Our progress has surpassed the dreams of the seers; but in its wake have followed a multitude of problems hard indeed to solve, often baffling to simplify or diagnose aright. Side by side with education still stalks ignorance; increased wealth has not yet out-paced the poverty that defies extinction; disease and pain tread in the footprints of the fortunate well-born; with unexampled lavishness the fast multiplying temples of religion and learning are being endowed, though the appalling voices of hunger, savagery, and depravity still echo in the darkness. Material prosperity coexists with material misery, and spiritual ideals are sorely racked by the seeming failure of life-long self-sacrifice and devotion to the noble task of radically reforming the conditions under which these social ills continue to flourish.

What gives the touch of divine grace and hope to our glorious but incomplete civilization is the universal sympathy that reaches out to help the weak and ill-developed and the ill-born. The history of the century glows with the benign flame of practical philanthropy, not in its almsgiving manifestation only, but in its efforts to prevent social evils by legislative and other feasible means. No stone can be justly cast at the religious and other organizations of the period on the charge that they labor only in cloudland. The second half of the last century saw a great, genuine revival throughout Christendom, a resolute determination to have works keep pace with faith, to see to it that creeds should be expressed in deeds. The stimulus given by the churches to secular philanthropies, and by lay agencies to the churches, has been one of the most cheering facts of recent history. Its good results can never be summed in dollar totals. Statistics are unable to reveal the unseen influences of this vast tidal wave of Good Samaritanism, which, as we have said, is gaining rather than slackening its beneficent force.

The sense of personal rights to liberty and prosperity has developed a powerful movement that has permeated society, leavening and levelling, controlled only by the natural checks of civilization. The poor prisoner dwells in a paradise compared with the unfortunate inmate of the old-time jails. The golden mean of penal treatment has perhaps not yet been attained. Excesses of vindictive punishment, even with fatal torture, are reported together with prison laxities that mock the name of justice. Relics of Puritanism here and there dull the beauty of life, while elsewhere the accepted proprieties of a seventh-day of rest are openly discarded in favor of a Parisian Sunday. Contrasts flourish on all hands, which at least denotes an era of rapid progress; and where this prevails, the greatest good of the greatest number is sure to be attained, sooner or later.

Education for all has been one of the grand causes of national progress. Less than a century ago comparatively few of the working folk could read.

" One of the reasons for the growth of popular education has been the spread of democratic ideas and of the application of industry to science. It began to dawn upon the people how profitable it would be for each inhabitant of a country to be able to communicate with or receive communications from others through ability to read and write. This ability, once gained and used, would break down the barriers which cut off a large part of the people from the influence of the current of the intellectual life of the nation, and also in a measure would efface the inequality which is caused by the neglect to provide any kind of instruction for the masses. There were charity schools supported by the churches or other charitable organizations before the beginning of the last century, but these were few and far between. Whatever education was given was granted as a boon. To-day education is regarded as a right in a civilized country, and an enlightened government appreciates the fact that the illiterate cannot become good citizens. Mental development leads to moral development, and influences physical improvement."

Governments have taken measures to insure public education, assisted or free. If the United States was not the first, it has made the most progress, until now there are about 17,000,000 children enrolled in the common schools. The normal schools have multiplied fast. "These schools have trained the teachers to make the best of their opportunities for the education of the young, and nowadays the important duty of teaching is not left to men who can do nothing else, as was the case not much longer than a half-century ago. These normal trained teachers have brought the best methods to their aid in their work. The methods are so numerous that we cannot go into detail here. The comfortable, well-lighted school-room of to-day and the excellent school-books are among the results. It is difficult to make easily appreciable comparisons in a few words; but it may be said that the schools are more carefully graded, fewer pupils assigned to each teacher, much oral instruction, scientific study, and physical exercise introduced, so that, while the school year has been shortened, holidays multiplied, and the hours of school attendance lessened, yet in the short school year of to-day more than double the ground is covered that was covered in the long school year of the olden time. Colleges and universities have grown up in all quarters, not a few of them with very rich endowments.

"Another development of the century has been the establishment of agricultural, commercial, scientific, and industrial schools.

"Civil engineers had to go abroad to study before the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was established at Troy, N. Y., in 1824, with no dead or foreign language in its curriculum. In 1826, twenty-five students were registered there, while now more than 20,000 are attending similar courses in this country. The Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University was established in 1847, the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1848, and the Chandler Scientific School of Dartmouth in 1852. The land grants of 1862 by Congress encouraged this system of education, and scientific courses were added to the State universities; while Columbia organized its School of Mines, Washington University of St. Louis its School of Engineering, and in 1861 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened its doors. In 1871 the Stevens Institute of Technology was founded at Hoboken, and the Green School of Science was established as a branch of Princeton College. The growth from that day has been steady, until now, in practical scientific education, the United States ranks with the best in the world.

"Women were not admitted to university examinations in England until 1867, when the doors of the University of London were thrown open, and, in 1871, Miss Clough opened a house for women students in Cambridge, which in 1875 became Newnham College. Women were formally admitted to Cambridge in 1881, and somewhat similar privileges were given at Oxford in 1884. The two earliest women's colleges in the United States are generally reported to be Mount Holyoke, which dates from 1836, and was organized by Mary Lyon; but it had for its curriculum merely an academic course, and this is true of the Georgia Female College, opened at Macon, Georgia, in 1839. The first institution in the world designed to give women a full collegiate course was founded at Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1861, by Matthew Vassar, and it was opened in 1865. The first co-educational institutions were Antioch and Oberlin Colleges; but during the last generation co-education has met with growing favor, until now more than half the colleges of the United States admit women as well as men. Having gained a collegiate education the women sought admission to the professional schools, which they have gradually secured, until now women lawyers and physicians are quite common in the larger cities, and women legislators and mayors win public favor in Colorado and Iowa."

The colleges have their difficulties in the matter of discipline, there being a tendency on the part of students in some seats of learning to assert a degree of independence utterly at variance with the traditions of school-life. Exposures of childish and brutal "hazing" of juniors by seniors, inflicted generally by gangs upon individual victims, have aroused public indignation. Respect for authority will doubtless be re-established in these places. Another unpleasant feature in college discussion is the occasional discovery of an illicit sale of examination questions, procured in some surreptitious way through the printing office. It is reassuring to note that the majority of college professors agree in thinking that an appeal to the students' word of honor will effectually stamp out the temptation to cheat.

A strong and active movement for reform in city government gives promise of the coming end of corrupt rule. In each large city, organizations eagerly scan every act of the professional politicians who may misuse their powers to the public detriment. Against strongly intrenched foes, progress must be slow; but the fact that the people are bestirring themselves has a wholesome effect on wrongdoers.

Labor and capital have not yet made their peace with each other, though a spirit of conciliation is in the air. The decrees of the trades-unions are hard to deal with. Great strikes occur, a truce is patched up, adjustments are made for the sake of each side equally, as both are heavy losers. How it fares afterwards with the weaker in the fight is not usually made known. The condition of general unrest is thus described by Professor Albion W. Small in the American Journal of Sociology. He discusses "the social movement," as it is called. In his view it comprehends something more than the impulse among men to better themselves, for men have always had that impulse; but now there is a new note in their purpose, a new force and a changed outlook. By the new note in men's purpose is meant this: men used to accept the situation, and tried to make themselves as comfortable as possible in it-to-day they propose to change the situation. Besides trying to better themselves in the condition to which they were born, they now try to better the condition itself.

" They are not content with trying to get better wages. They want to overthrow the wage system. They do not stop with plans to provide for a rainy day. They want to abolish the rainy day. They are not content with conjugal fidelity. They want to reconstruct the family. They are not satisfied with improvements in the working of governments. They want to eliminate governments. They look with contempt upon adjustment of relations between social classes. They want to obliterate social classes. The emphasis to-day is on change of conditions rather than upon adjustment of conditions. Consequently too much of the labor problem is simply the problem of avoiding labor. Instead of feeling a pride and obligation in service, men and women through all the grades are debauched by the vision of escape from service, or, what amounts to the same thing, exchange of work for a state that seems to require less work. Not how to do well the work of our present condition, but how to get into a condition which seems to promise release from work, is the question which teases the least respectable and sometimes the more respectable of those who make the social movement. In the older countries Americans are constantly surprised by evidences of pride in being the latest of several generations in the line of fathers and sons who have succeeded to the same lowly occupation and still find satisfaction in conducting it well. With us the rule is discontent unless the occupation of the children promotes them to conditions supposed to be more dignified than those of their parents."

A factor of the first importance in estimating national progress is the striking industrial advance made by the Southern States since 1880. Between 1880 and 1890 the true valuation of real and personal property in the South increased from $6,448,000,000 to $9,621,000,000, a gain of $3,173,000,000, or fifty-one per cent.; while the New England and Middle States combined gained only $3,900,000,000, or an increase of but twenty-two per cent. The per capita wealth of the South increased during the same period twenty-two per cent., while the increase in New England for the same period was but one and eight-tenths per cent., and in the Middle States but three per cent. The value of farm property in the South in 1880 was $2,314,000,000; in 1890, $3,182,000,000, a gain of thirty-seven per cent. The increase in farm values in all other sections was about thirty per cent. The total value of farm products in the South in 1880 was $666,000,000, against $1,550,000,000 for the remainder of the country. In 1890 the South produced $773,000,000, a gain of sixteen per cent., while the gain of the rest of the country was only nine per cent. A comparison of these figures discloses the fact that in the South there was a gross revenue of twenty-four and one-tenth per cent. on the capital invested in farm interests, while in all other sections of the country the gross revenue was thirteen and one-tenth per cent. In 1880 the South had $257,244,000 invested in manufacturing. In 1890 she had $657,288,000, a gain of 156 per cent., while the gain of the entire country was about 121 per cent. The value of the manufactured products of the South in 1880 was $457,454,000. In 1890 it was $917,589,000, a gain of 100 per cent. In 1880 the factory hands alone in the South received $75,917,000 in wages. In 1890 they received $222,118,000. In 1880 the South had invested in cotton manufacturing $21,976,000; in 1890, $61,100,000, and now about $125,000,000. In 1880 the South had $3,500,000 invested in the cotton-seed-oil industry. It has now more than $30,000,000 so invested. The railroad mileage of the South has been increased since 1880 more than twenty-five thousand miles, at a cost in building new roads and in the improvement of old ones of over $1,000,000,000. In 1880 the South made 289,816 tons of pig iron. In 1897 it made 1,796,712 tons. In 1880 the value of the product was $7,269,050. In 1897 its estimated value was $26,592,719. In 1880 the South's output of coal was 3,756,144 tons. Last year it was 32,852,630 tons, and has exceeded 25,000,000 tons each year since 1891. The resources of the national banks of the South increased from $29,337,700 in 1880, to $287,594,604 in 1897, and the amount of individual deposits from $69,846,500 to $160,875,309 in the same period. These figures are exclusive of savings banks, the deposits in which increased proportionately. These figures are taken from Presby's "Empire of the South." The negro laborer is reported as being fairly contented with his lot as a mill-worker, and so are the whites. Wages are about ten per cent. lower than in the East, and the hours are longer, but "the operatives have so vastly improved their condition by working in the mill, not on the farm, that they are little inclined to ask for shorter hours or increased wages. They are the most uniformly contented and prosperous class in the South." The factory at High Shoals, for example, has been in operation forty years with labor drawn from the vicinity, and "no strike has ever occurred, not even a misunderstanding arisen." Trion factory, in northern Georgia, established by the Allgood family, affords another instance. It has been running fifty-five years, and "no strike, friction of any kind, or demand for change of hours or pay ever occurred at this large mill." Practically all the operatives are white, the blacks acting as servants in the operatives' households or draymen at the mill. (Some leaders among the Southern blacks have organized cotton-mills to be operated by negro labor, but this interesting phase of the Southern industrial situation is still in the experimental stage.) It is Mr. Smith's opinion that "the negroes are going to return to farming when the whites come to the mill." He adds: "A negro can't work in a mill. The hum of the machinery would put him to sleep, and if he even got a dollar ahead he would loaf a week."

The Indian problem still awaits a practical solution. Dr. Lyman Abbott offers his advice, through the North American Review, in frank terms. He blames the reservation system for the evils that exist and the problem as it stands. To reform our Indian administration the essential thing to do is to abolish that system. This involves placing the Indian on an equality of privilege and opportunity with the Caucasian and the negro. "Cease to treat the Indian as a red man," says Dr. Abbott, "and treat him as a man. Treat him as we have treated the Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Scandinavians. Many of them are no better able to take care of themselves than the Indians; but we have thrown on them the responsibility of their own custody, and they have learned to live by living. Treat them as we have treated the negro. As a race the African is less competent than the Indian; but we do not shut the negroes up in reservations, and put them in charge of politically appointed parents called agents. The lazy grow hungry; the criminal are punished; the industrious get on. And though sporadic cases of injustice are frequent and often tragic, they are the gradually disappearing relics of a slavery that is past, and the negro is finding his place in American life gradually, both as a race and as an individual. The reform necessary in the administration of Indian affairs is: Let the Indian administer his own affairs and take his chances. The future relations of the Indians with the Government should be precisely the same as the relations of any other individual, the readers of this article or the writer of it, for example. This should be the objective point, and the sooner we can get there the better. But this will bring hardship and even injustice on some individuals! Doubtless. The world has not yet found any way in which all hardship and all injustice to individuals can be avoided. Turn the Indian loose on the continent, and the race will disappear! Certainly. The sooner the better.

"There is no more reason why we should endeavor to preserve intact the Indian race than the Hungarians, Poles, or Italians. Americans all, from ocean to ocean, should be the aim of all American statesmanship. Let us understand once for all that an inferior race must either adapt and conform itself to the higher civilization, wherever the two come in conflict, or else die. This is the law of God, from which there is no appeal. Let Christian philanthropy do all it can to help the Indian to conform to American civilization; but let not sentimentalism fondly imagine that it can save any race or any community from this inexorable law."

The population of the United States, as shown by the official returns of the census of 1900, is 76,295,220. In 1890 it was 63,039,756, thus showing an increase of nearly twenty-one per cent. in ten years. A total Indian population of 134,158 is included in the above total for 1900. The cost of the census up to October 30, including enumeration and supervision, was $6,361,961, of which sum over $4,000,000 was expended in enumeration.

One of the most terrible calamities that has befallen any American city in recent times was that of the great hurricane of September 8 and 9, which literally wrecked the city of Galveston, Texas. The loss of life and property and the scenes of horror were appalling. It was estimated that about 7,000 were killed. Many other towns lying in the path of the cyclone were also wrecked; but Galveston, both on account of its size and its situation on a low, exposed island, was the chief sufferer. More than half of the city was wrecked by the wind and the big waves which swept over it from the Gulf. The catastrophe was overwhelming; but by the prompt aid of the Government, and generous contributions of money, food and clothing from all parts of the United States, everything possible was done for the relief of the survivors.

The United States made the largest display at the Paris Exposition of 1900 of any foreign nation, exhibiting in 101 out of 121 classes; and the exhibits were awarded: Grand prizes, 240; gold medals, 597; silver medals, 776; bronze medals, 541, and honorable mentions, 322,-2,476 in all, being the greatest total number given to the display of any exhibiting nation, as well as the largest number in each grade.

"This significant recognition of merit," said President McKinley in his message, "in competition with the chosen exhibits of all other nations, and at the hands of juries almost wholly made up of representatives of France and other competing countries, is not only most gratifying, but is especially valuable, since it sets us to the front in international questions of supply and demand, while the large proportion of awards in the classes of art and artistic manufacture afforded unexpected proof of the stimulation of national culture by the prosperity that flows from natural productiveness joined to industrial excellence."

Despite occasional differences over fisheries, canals, and in national points of view, there has been a marked disposition on the part of the United States and Great Britain to establish a fraternal understanding, for mutual good. It is worth remarking, as a sign of the times. The feeling was strengthened on this side by the friendly attitude of England at the time of our war with Spain.

" The Spanish diplomats were busy misrepresenting our intentions and plans respecting Cuba, and stirring up the holders of Spanish bonds, especially in France and Germany, as well as other interests and influences friendly to Spain, and notably the Pope of Rome and the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, in the attempt to get sympathy and support. This produced a division between the great powers, which became sharper as the prospect increased that the future disposition of the Philippines would be determined by the impending war. Europe became very distinctly divided into two hostile camps; and, by the time the war became imminent, Great Britain was the only great power which sympathized with the United States, even Russia and France, our traditional friends, siding more or less openly with Spain, together with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, each from mixed and different motives. But Great Britain's friendship, even though it may have been largely due to enlightened self-interest, and although it undoubtedly hurt our cause in Russia, France, and Germany, was invaluable to us in many ways; and the good understanding brought about between the two governments by Secretary Day and Ambassador Hay was a most important achievement. There was no suggestion of a formal alliance with or without a treaty, for that was at once unnecessary and undesirable under the circumstances, and the benevolent neutrality of Great Britain was much more useful. But the informal and unwritten understanding between the two governments, based on a temporary coincidence of interests and backed by popular good-will, was recognized by the other great powers as of the first importance, and at once prevented them from combining to support Spain, secured their co- operation in trying to make Spain yield, and compelled them to maintain neutrality in more or less good faith. No formal attempt was ever made to combine Europe in alliance against the United States, for the simple reason that it was well known that Great Britain would not join in such a movement, but, on the contrary, would take her stand beside the United States against any European combination."

The obvious grounds for sympathy with England are familiar,- community of language, kinship in race, similarity of institutions, fellowship in religion. Then there is the commercial argument, scarcely less familiar. She is by far our best customer.

The number of English and American families who are united by personal ties is far greater than is the case with any other two nations. We may jest about the marriages of American girls to the scions of prominent English houses; but the fact remains that these alliances, and many others that are not chronicled, have their effect. How deep may be the sentiments so earnestly uttered on both sides of the Atlantic of recent years, it is not important to inquire. The remarkable manifestations of regard that went out from every large American city on the death of Queen Victoria testified to a sincere appreciation of the blameless career of a good woman and sovereign, and the effect on the English people was profound. The aspirations of both nations are towards a union of sympathies and aims in the interests of the Anglo-Saxon race. Their lines lie in different directions, their national interests are not common, nor are they likely to be, so that any suggestion of a formal pact would be a mistake and possibly worse. Still, no well-wisher of his country, whichever it be, can contemplate the possibility of a closer friendship between these two great powers without wishing it godspeed.

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