Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/427

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
413
CORRESPONDENCE.

ized"! On what ground? Because, he says, "they encourage crime"! But does the vile man or trail girl, committing evil, pause beforehand to deliberate how the possible fruit of the crime is to be taken care of? No! any such consequence is not thought of; if it were, that would be a restraint upon immoral tendencies. But Mr. Smiley can be shown some "foundling asylums" where poor but virtuous women have found homes for their true children, when they have not been able to provide for these, or have been out at labor in families and factories, especially when their husbands have been sick, feeble, or vicious, and therefore could not provide for their legitimate children. Would Mr. Smiley deny to such women so great a privilege?

As to the encouragement of immoral girls, I can point Mr. Smiley to one "foundling asylum," at least, in Chicago, originated by Dr. George Shipman, a homœopathic physician, who assured me that only about one in a hundred women, coming with their babes, could be regarded as essentially criminal. They were either unfortunate wives or deceived girls, who, having received at the asylum proper instruction, were taken into respectable families as domestics. Rarely did one such fall, especially as the restraint was put upon them that a second lapse would forbid their return. Would Mr. Smiley disorganize such an institution? Would he break up Mr. Muller's great establishment in Bristol, or that of Dr. Cullis in Boston, wherein many have been housed, fed, comforted, and rightly trained, fitted for death or for usefulness in life, and from which so many rescued victims of poverty and distress have gone forth into the world to find success and honor?

If Mr. Smiley had consulted the records of education societies, he would have found, what any one of its secretaries, I know, would have told him, that scores and even hundreds of thorough female teachers and distinguished pulpit orators have been the happy and successful beneficiaries of such societies. Their statistics plainly show this. The one sporadic case to which he refers is an individual and marked exception to the general rule and does not justify a broad deduction as to the evil of those organizations. "One swallow does not make a summer," neither does one snow-flake make a winter.

In pressing "egoism" to the exclusion of "altruism," or to its disparagement, Mr. Smiley would feed that natural selfishness which is common, more or less, to all men, and which, unrestrained, tends to such extremes as bring vast misery to mankind. He thus antagonizes that law of love which is the rhythmic force in the moral world. A great Teacher said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"—no more, no less. He here brings altruism into juxtaposition with egoism. They are counterparts and correlatives, each essential to the other. As in the solar system the centripetal and centrifugal forces keep its orbs apart and in space with equilibrium, so these two forces of egoism and altruism balance each other, and promote the harmony of society. As in physical science both the positive and negative poles of the battery are needed for the generation of magnetism or electricity, so these two moral poles must be coincidently present and work together to the production of moral magnetism for human benefit. As in logic, induction and deduction, according to Sir William Hamilton, are not antagonisms, but, if not identical, are certainly counterparts, the one reciprocally leading to and involving the other—so are egoism and altruism; they are associative and co-operative. Common love binds them together; common interests, as with all human associations, bring them into unity of thought and action for the greatest mutual good. Once, Wendell Phillips, speaking of capital and labor, said, "They are twins—Siamese twins—bound together by a living ligament, to cut which would be to kill both." They are interdependent, vitally united. So with egoism and altruism. They need each other for true existence and right action. Egoism alone runs to selfism; altruism alone to fanaticism. Together, they are mutually compensative—apart, destructive. Of the two in union, the words of Shakespeare's Portia may be predicated: "It blesseth him that gives and him that takes." That union fulfills Christ's words: "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For, with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again." In these words, egoism and altruism are pronounced correlative and compensative. Does not the patriot feel rewarded fully when dying for his country? Does not the martyr, though suffering physically, rejoice thus to maintain truth? Does not the benefactor, like a Slater or a Hand, giving his millions for the education of an ignorant and despised race, feel assured of due return? If the arguments of Mr. Smiley were carried out practically to their ultimate and logical results, then all such patriots, martyrs, and benefactors must be relegated to the realms of folly or forgetfulness. Then the egoistic Alexanders and Napoleons must have exaltations above all Howards, Wilberforces, Garrisons, and Caroline Frys.

May it not be suggested that Mr. Smiley has taken rather a one-sided, prejudiced, and pessimistic view of his subject? Has he not failed to take note of abundant and palpable facts controverting his positions? What if the altruism he condemns be banished from society? What then would the world do without the multitude of noble, self-sacrificing men and women whose love of humanity has led them into the deep, dark slums of