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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/426

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in the world's great cities, with multiplied luxuries, present temptations to self-indulgence and idleness, ultimating in poverty.

If, as Mr. Smiley asserts, the benevolent methods of relieving the poor have not diminished their number, it is evidently due not to such altruism but to these antagonistic causes. Can he prove that such benevolence has not legitimately tended, in any measure whatever, toward the checking of such evils as lead to poverty, and to the forestalling of such corruptions as ruined the republics of Greece and Rome as well as other great nationalities? Just here Mr. Smiley does not recognize the clear logical distinction between a mere occasion and an efficient cause—between an incidental result and a legitimate effect. Pro-slavery men, both at the North and the South, failed to make this distinction when they declared that the anti-slavery men brought on the rebellion, and that therefore they were the culpable cause of it. No! Slavery itself was the cause—the abolitionist was only the occasion. The one worked for evil, the other for good: if evil came through the latter, it was but incidental, not legitimate. Every system, however excellent in itself—not being perfect, of necessity—implies or involves occasional ills. Is Mr. Smiley logical in making the incidental results of altruism, as evil, its necessary and legitimate effects? Is it a causal force to human ills? Granting, indeed, that some among the poor have abused gifts and become idlers, has this been the universal fact? Has charity always made beggars and tramps, or are such only sporadic and exceptional cases, while, to a large extent, social benefits and industrial results have come from individual and organized benevolences? Does not Mr. Smiley reason illogically and with a pessimistic spirit, taking only a few isolated and unfavorable facts and the worse aspects of the case from which to draw a general deduction?

While, indeed, his argument rightly prevails against a heedless and indiscriminate benevolence, it does not appertain to careful and systematic giving. All properly organized institutions and all thoughtful schemes of benefit to the poor take into consideration and aim at the improved industrial condition and moral advancement of their beneficiaries. Such organizations are designed and formed to operate for the very end of rendering beggary dishonorable and unprofitable, and for inspiring the poor with industrial self-respect. They say to the charitable man, "Do not give promiscuously, but through the medium of those agencies which have regard to the elevation as well as the relief of the poor."

If, as Mr. Smiley assumes, the improvidence and demoralization of the poor are the legitimate effects of charity working as an efficient cause, then, of course, it is a curse. But this is not the case. Rather the primary causes are the ignorance, the illiteracy, the prodigality, and the lack of moral training among the poor, as well as bad legislation and tempting surroundings. To charge all this upon a self-denying charity is logically wide of the mark.

The first argument which Mr. Smiley offers against orphan asylums is that "moral corruption, brought in a little by each child, leavens the whole lump." Here he assumes that each child necessarily brings in more or less corruption, and therefore he presumes that no orphan has any inherent purity, which is a virtual admission of a native depravity such as he would, perhaps, be far from positively asserting. As a general rule, children are received into orphan asylums before they are old enough to carry corruption into them. If this argument of Mr. Smiley has any real force, it must equally prevail against all schools, private or public, against families and neighborhoods in which children of different ranks and characters come into close personal contact with each other, and are more or less good or evil. Would Mr. Smiley isolate these children and segregate such communities? Does he not know that in all these orphan asylums moral and Christian teaching is often more clear, pronounced, and effective for the good of the child than may be found in many a school or household? Is it not most likely that, where one or two children may prove corrupt, the moral tone of the many, under right training, would tend to counteract and correct the evil of the few?

In his second argument against these asylums Mr. Smiley assumes that only incompetent teachers are employed in them, and, as if in proof of this, he asks, "Who ever knew a scholar reared in an orphan asylum?" Well! who ever heard of one reared in a State-prison, a factory, or a coal-mine? Who ever expected orphan asylums to turn out scholars? Was this the design of their establishment? But, in answer to this charge of Mr. Smiley, it may be truthfully said that not all, and indeed very few teachers in such institutions are incompetent. They stand, generally, on a par with those of our public schools, some of them being men and women of education and refinement, who, from pure love of children and their moral good, devote themselves, in some cases gratuitously, to such benevolent work. Mr. Smiley can scarcely have studied the histories and statistics of orphan asylums, or he would not have charged upon them bad food, poor training, and rejection from good families, in respect to all which it may be shown unquestionably that he is sadly mistaken. Neither would he have ignored the fact that the children of drunken fathers and mothers are not usually taken into orphan asylums, or, if they ever are, then they are saved from the horror and ruin of a drunkard's home, in which every true philanthropist should rejoice.

As to "foundling asylums," Mr. Smiley is still more severe, asserting that every one "in America should be instantly disorgan-