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BY MR. Z. SWIFT HOLBROOK.
THE American people are a nation of reformers. This republic was founded by men who sought to purify the Church of England, its clergy, its members, its forms of worship, and its ordinances. This task involved the reformation of such subjects as Henry VIII., Edward VI., Bloody Mary, and Queen Elizabeth. Of course they failed. So they fled to Holland for liberty, and then came to the desolate shores of a new world. The mightiest force that landed on Plymouth Rock was the spirit of reform. This spirit formed the Massachusetts Colony; for the Pilgrims joined the Puritans, and the Plymouth Colony was augmented by some of the ablest minds and choicest spirits from England, France, and Holland. Moved by a longing for freedom; with lofty ideas of the rights of the individual; with notions of democracy that have since shaped the governments of the world; with fundamental conceptions of the duties and functions of the state,-these reformers from every land hastened to these shores that they might find room for the expression of their high ideals without opposition of church or state. No sooner had they landed than they began to reform the Indian, and this they accomplished with distinguished success by planting him in the ground. The Quakers tried their hand at reform on the Massachusetts Colony, but soon discovered that the genu
Address before the Civic and Philanthropic Conference, Battle Creek,
ine reformer does not care to be molested himself while he is busy working out his own ideals. So these "disturbers of the peace," as they were esteemed, fled to Rhode Island. Their descendants have since tried their hand at reform on President Andrews of Brown University; but, like their ancestors, have discovered that an advocate of currency reform is not himself ambitious to be reformed by methods that stifle personal liberty.
Then the Massachusetts Colony reformed a cargo of tea that landed in Boston Harbor, and this they planted, not in the ground like the Indian, but in the sea. This was revenue reform. Encouraged by this success, they next tried their hand on George III., and planted a few of his personal friends as a simple demonstration of what they could do. He decided to remain at home for his health, and just here began the great constructive period in our history as a nation. It may be asserted as a general proposition needing no proof, but simply suggestion, that the lofty ideas of civil and religious liberty, the American spirit of optimism, our institutions, our notions of democracy, are all the fruitage of a passion for reform that filled the minds and hearts of the noble men who founded this republic. This age of invention is indebted to this love for improvement and desire for perfection; for the wonderful success that has attended the attempts to annihilate space and time and reduce costs of production has its origin in the spirit of reform. A spirit of faith and of heroism accompanied with high ideals leads to overcoming difficulties and surmounting obstacles such as animate an Edison and a Bessemer.
The spirit of reform, therefore, runs in our veins, we breathe it in the air, we dig it in the soil. It is the one genuine American characteristic, as much a part of our national being as the sense of the beautiful is in the Italian, the passion for power in the Englishman, or the love of
excitement in the Frenchman. So generally has this truth come to be recognized in other nations, that the oppressed, the downtrodden, the professional agitators and disturbers of the peace, even the criminals and the cranks with wheels in their heads, the Utopian dreamers and theorists, who are never embarrassed by facts nor hampered by principles,— all such have sought this land as an asylum. They come here imagining that land may yet be preëmpted in the heart of our cities for cultivating their crazy notions and carrying out their visionary schemes. Hence with the genuine American spirit of reform that honestly and sincerely seeks better things and works for their realization, we have here in America in our larger cities the idle visions or the mouthy vaporings of the ignorant and the vicious, who lack not only a good bath but a kindergarten training in some of the simplest principles of government. Hence the sale of such books as Bellamy's "Looking Backward," Coin's "Financial School," and a host of sentimental or visionary works on fundamental questions. Herr Most and Debs are side-shows in the great menagerie of living curiosities. Currency reform, revenue reform, economic reform, the new ethic, a fine plan for a social Utopia that has never been tried anywhere, higher criticism not in theology alone but in politics and economics and ethics. The one familiar face that is not new in this gallery, is that of the old man, and he is really what most needs reforming in the entire aggregation. In other words, human nature or human beings need reforming first, and other reforms will follow, as effect follows cause.
It is an age of
The passion to destroy is now upon us. destructive criticism, and our advancement in science and inventions has awakened our pride and our self-confidence. We proceed to call in question principles and truths that are as fundamental and as well established as the hills and rocks of New England. There are truths that grow not
old with the years, and will still have the bloom of youth upon their cheeks when the moon grows old, the stars grow cold, and the leaves of the judgment-book unfold. Such truths are in every realm of thought, no less than in mathematics. The world will not part with them; for the eternal years of God are theirs, like the instinct of immortality and the sense of accountability.
In summarizing the Saint-Simonian doctrines, John Stuart Mill said that society is now passing through a critical, transitional period that forms the natural prelude to a new order. The Saint-Simonians divided the history of the human race into organic and critical periods. "The period of Greek or Roman polytheism, so long as really believed in by instructed Greeks and Romans, was an organic period, succeeded by the critical or skeptical period of the Greek philosophers. Another organic period began with Christianity. The corresponding critical period began with the Reformation, has lasted ever since, still lasts, and cannot altogether cease until a new organic period has been inaugurated by the triumph of a yet more advanced creed."1
What shall be the creed of the new century upon whose threshold we now stand? We are near enough to catch through the open window the breath of its springtime with its opening buds and awakening life.
The seventeenth century was literary, the eighteenth was theological, the nineteenth has been scientific, will the twentieth be sociological? Man in his social aspects is to receive the profoundest study. We have studied the state from the standpoint of individual rights; now the individ ual must be studied in his relations to society. What Mrs. Humphrey Ward calls the New Reformation is to open the eyes of the people to the social sciences. Individualism must again be weighed in the balances, its true limi1 Mill's Autobiography, pp. 163-164.
tations defined; the duties and functions of the state must be put in the crucible. The result must be to create a fashion of thought, a public opinion founded on principles of right and justice that have been verified; to awaken the social conscience; to quicken the social sensibilities, giving new direction to the social will, higher ideals of citizenship, a nobler sense of obligation and duty to the state. This must be a nearer approach to an ideal social condition. The result must be civic righteousness and, therefore, civic reform.
Will not this new reformation be shaped by what has been? Shall we abandon the historical, the inductive, for the speculative, the philosophical, or the visionary? Has the past no lessons of value for the present? Suppose the founders of this republic were individualists, must we go to the other extreme and adopt state socialism for a part of our creed? What if they did leave the ninety and nine and come to this wilderness to find that lost sheep, individualism, shall we again let it go astray because we are now interested in the ninety and nine? They brought home rejoicing that which was lost, even if it was an exaggeration to make such an ado over it. If we lose sight of individualism, we shall have again the unsolvable problem of how to make a social paradise out of individual sinners; how to create a perfect whole out of imperfect units. Herbert Spencer has said that the type of society is determined by the character of its units. The retail work of reforming individuals must always continue; for this is as divine a plan for doing it as at wholesale, as Mr. B. Fay Mills has found by experience. Civic righteousness is accumulated individual righteousness; the public conscience is the accumulated conscience of individuals and, as superior atoms attract the smaller, it is often the conscience of the few. The basis of true civic reform must be an enlightened purpose on the part of the many to attain the ideal of citizen