Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 1.djvu/344

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

must be grateful to those who cheer the timid essays of groping minds by uniting the foremost men in companies of pioneers. Church and state would perish, and even good customs would corrupt the world if we did not have associations of self-appointed censors to disturb our complacency and goad us to reflection. But even martyrs and prophets have their fainting fits and sink down under a sense of loneliness, as we see in the case of the bold Elijah. Two are more than twice as brave as one, and a man on a committee of the Civic Federation feels strong even before a spoils politician. And then prophets have other weaknesses which need the correction of association. Reformers most of all men require the balance and brake of counsel. They are prone to forget, in sanguine moments, that the first question to settle is not how to do a thing but whether a thing should be done. Social doctors must sometimes be urged to study anatomy with the help of cadavers and cats before they indulge in vivisection on palpitating human beings. It is desirable that people with a strong reforming zeal should at least debate in companies of ten up to the point of agreement before they ask for legislation which involves sixty millions of people. A debating society has a fine field for suppressing raw social schemes, and this is one of its normal functions.

After discussion comes experimentation. It is wise to let an adventurous Stanley survey the Dark Continent before we send capital and colonies into the malarial coast. Our government has set up many experiment stations for the benefit of farmers, but groups of farmers have themselves tried new methods. If they fail only a few persons have suffered, and when they succeed all the world is wiser. In the administration of relief a local benevolent society can test methods which may, at a later stage, be found available for a province or an empire. The Workmen's Colonies of Germany have been developed by the efforts of small groups of generous people, and their utility and limitations have been discovered. It now seems probable that they will gradually come to be supported and controlled by the political authorities. They seem to have become too great for private