The Confessions of a Reformer

The Confessions of a Reformer

The Confessions of a Reformer

The Confessions of a Reformer

Excerpt

I am not nearly as old as the records of births in Meadville, Pennsylvania, make me seem. My life really began in the early nineties instead of the late sixties. It began at Johns Hopkins University. Under the influence of Richard T. Ely, Woodrow Wilson, Albert Shaw, James Bryce, I came alive. I felt a sense of responsibility to the world. I wanted to change things. It was not very clear what I wanted to change or how I should go about it. It had to do with politics. Also with economics. My mind found new authorities. They were intellectual rather than moral, social rather than personal.

From Professor Richard T. Ely I learned that the industrial system was not what I had assumed it to be in Meadville, where my father was a manufacturer on a small scale; not a kindly family affair, like my father's furniture store, in which he employed his brother, his nephews, and other good- looking and engaging young men who came and went in our house as guests. Employers, I now learned, were capitalists. They exploited their workers. They were not considerate men who got rather less than their employees out of the enterprise. Those friendly young men who sang and joked and took me on picnics, occasionally went to a saloon and had a glass of beer. That distressed me. Ought I to tell my father about it? Surely he would remonstrate with them if he knew. One man was always in domestic difficulties. He overdrew his account by several thousand dollars. Such problems of personal . . .

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