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men who otherwise would know one another not at all, or else as members of alien bodies or classes.
This being the case, how much more is it true if the same habit of association for a common purpose can be applied where the purpose is really of the highest! Much is accomplished in this way by the university settlements and similar associations. Wherever these associations are entered into in a healthy and sane spirit, the good they do is incalculable, from the simple fact that they bring together in pursuit of a worthy common object men of excellent character, who would never otherwise meet. It is of just as much importance to the one as to the other that the man from Hester Street or the Bowery or Avenue B, and the man from the Riverside Drive or Fifth Avenue, should have some meeting-ground where they can grow to understand one another as an incident of working for a common end. Of course if, on the one hand, the work is entered into in a patronizing spirit, no good will result; and, on the other hand, if the zealous enthusiast loses his sanity, only harm will follow. There is much dreadful misery in a great city, and a high-spirited, generous young man, when first brought into contact with it, has his sympathies so excited that he is very apt to become a socialist, or turn to the advocacy of any wild scheme, courting a plunge from bad to worse, exactly as do too many
of the leaders of the discontent around him. His sanity and cool-headedness will be thoroughly tried, and if he loses them his power for good will vanish.
But this is merely to state one form of a general truth. If a man permits largeness of heart to degenerate into softness of head, he inevitably becomes a nuisance in any relation of life. If sympathy becomes distorted and morbid, it hampers instead of helping the effort toward social betterment. Yet without sympathy, without fellow-feeling, no permanent good can be accomplished. In any healthy community there must be a solidarity of sentiment and a knowledge of solidarity of interest among the different members. Where this solidarity ceases to exist, where there is no fellow-feeling, the community is ripe for disaster. Of course the fellow-feeling may be of value much in proportion as it is unconscious. A sentiment that is easy and natural is far better than one which has to be artificially stimulated. But the artificial stimulus is better than none, and with fellow-feeling, as with all other emotions, what is started artificially may become quite natural in its continuance. With most men courage is largely an acquired habit, and on the first occasions when it is called for it necessitates the exercise of will-power and self-control; but by exercise it gradually becomes almost automatic.
So it is with fellow-feeling. A man who con
scientiously endeavors to throw in his lot with those about him, to make his interests theirs, to put himself in a position where he and they have a common object, will at first feel a little self-conscious, will realize too plainly his own aims. But with exercise this will pass off. He will speedily find that the fellow-feeling which at first he had to stimulate was really existent, though latent, and is capable of a very healthy growth. It can, of course, become normal only when the man himself becomes genuinely interested in the object which he and his fellows are striving to attain. It is therefore obviously desirable that this object should possess a real and vital interest for every one. Such is the case with a
proper political association.
Much has been done, not merely by the ordinary political associations, but by the city clubs, civic federations, and the like, and very much more can be done. Of course there is danger of any such association being perverted either. by knavery or folly. When a partisan political organization becomes merely an association for purposes of plunder and patronage, it may be a menace instead of a help to a community; and when a non-partisan political organization falls under the control of the fantastic extremists always attracted to such movements, in its turn it becomes either useless or noxious. if these organizations, partisan or non-partisan, are
conducted along the lines of sanity and honesty, they produce a good more far-reaching than their, promoters suppose, and achieve results of greater importance than those immediately aimed at.
It is an excellent thing to win a triumph for good government at a given election; but it is a far better thing gradually to build up that spirit of fellowfeeling among American citizens, which, in the long run, is absolutely necessary if we are to see the principles of virile honesty and robust common-sense triumph in our civic life.
PUBLISHED IN THE "CENTURY," OCTOBER, 1900
N Mr. Lecky's profoundly suggestive book, "The Map of Life," referred to by me in a former article, he emphasizes the change that has been gradually coming over the religious attitude of the world because of the growing importance laid upon conduct as compared with dogma. In this country we are long past the stage of regarding it as any part of the State's duty to enforce a particular religious dogma; and more and more the professors of the different creeds themselves are beginning tacitly to acknowledge that the prime worth of a creed is to be gauged by the standard of conduct it exacts among its followers toward their fellows. The creed which each man in his heart believes to be essential to his own salvation is for him alone to determine; but we have a right to pass judgment upon his actions toward those about him.
Tried by this standard, the religious teachers of the community stand most honorably high. It is probable that no other class of our citizens do anything like the amount of disinterested labor for