One of the most sacred trusts of any country is its child life. The youth of today is the citizenship of tomorrow. Directly, the children at our fireside and in our schools will govern and control the destiny of the nation.
Our best citizens do not come f rom the very wealthy classes where children grow up in luxury and idleness, with little or no responsibility, but with ample time to indulge their appetites and stimulate their more dangerous inclinations; neither do they come from the very poor class where children do not have necessary nutriment, or the comforts and opportunities to encourage and draw out that which is best in them.
Our best citizens come from the vast middle class; those people who, by industry and frugality, are able to live respectably, with many of the common comforts of life, whose children are taught industry and assist their parents cheerfully in those lighter services which they can perform without damage to themselves, physically or mentally, who become habituated to work, and that economy which most children practice who are taught to earn their own spending money.
Through a long life, much travel and wide observation, I have been impressed with the fact that a vast majority of our most successful and influential men, as lawyers, physicians, preachers, business men, teachers, and that army of respectable people who make up a worthwhile and progressive population, come from the middle class of respectable, industrious people by whom they were taught the important lessons of industry and economy.
Having been a College President for a number of years, and having contact with thousands of young people, I have had opportunity to observe that many of those students who worked to pay part of their expenses through school, developed the best character; they do not neglect their studies, they become self-reliant; while learning how to exercise their mental faculties, they also become accustomed to the exercise of their physical being, and on the whole, such students are better prepared for the battle of life than those who have the advantages of wealth, and do not enjoy the privilege of honest and worthy physical service. It is quite probable if Abraham Lincoln had been born of wealthy parents, had grown up in a city, attended high school, lived in idleness, attended a dozen dances each semester, and spent a few nights each week in some vaudeville show, we never would have heard of him. He had the advantage of silence, of time for meditation, of hard work, of the careful improvement of whatever leisure came to him in study. His intellectual and moral life rooted itself in toil, longing, aspirations and behold the man!
King David, one of the greatest men of ancient times, the musician and poet who wrote the Psalms, the hymn book of the Hebrews, grew up in the midst of toil and responsibility. As a lad, he herded his father’s sheep when bears and lions were plentiful and mutton hungry; but he had learned the use, under these trying circumstances, of all of his physical powers, and was one of the very best rock throwers of his time. He practiced on lions and bears which he slew with slingstones until he was ready to strike down the armed champion of the Philistines, turn the tide of battle, and save his nation. He never could have hurled the stone at Goliath with such accuracy if he had not grown up in earnest, cheerful toil protecting his father’s sheep.
I am in full sympathy with Agur’s spirit when he prays, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” Prov. 30:8, 9.
Wide observation and considerable experience among my fellow beings compel me to believe that the best homes in which to grow sons and daughters, who will eventually become leaders of the people, are the homes of the middle class families that live industriously, frugally and piously, where every member of the family has its task, properly adjusted to its age and capacity, and performs the same in happy harmony with the best interests of a well regulated home.
There is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, should it be ratified by three-fourths of the states of the Union, Congress will have power to regulate and prohibit the labor of all children under the age of eighteen years; in other words, the Federal Government would take charge of the child and youth life of this nation. It would not seem possible that any state legislature would vote for such a law, and yet, quite a number of state legislatures have done this very thing.
One is curious to know where such a proposition originated. It has a strong odor of Soviet Russia, and there is no question in the mind of this writer, but that it is the effort of the communistic spirit to get hold of and control the young life of this nation. Sometime ago, Miss Frances Perkins, United States Secretary of Labor, discussed this child labor amendment to the Constitution in an issue of `The Forum,’ and by the way, she is a strong advocate of this amendment to the Constitution. Parents should make a note of this fact.
The proposed amendment would be to give power “to Congress to limit, control and prohibit the labor of all persons under eighteen years of age.” Miss Perkins makes a plea for this amendment, and makes various claims in which she endeavors to camouflage the danger of such legislation. In her discussion she says, “The claim that it, the amendment, was inspired by communists, is most incomprehensible.”
The fact is, that in a discussion before the Committee, it was learned that the amendment was drafted by Mrs. Florence Kelley Wischnewetsky. What a name! That’s certainly Russia! What business has a woman with that sort of name undertaking to interfere with our Constitution? It appears also, that she was assisted by Mrs. Julia Lethrop, Grace Abbott and Anna Louis Strong. It turns out that this woman, with the difficult name, beginning Kelley, has been a disciple of Engels, a leading communist of Germany, and she was the editor in Berlin, Germany, of a socialistic paper. It appears that she has been a lobbyist about Washington for socialistic legislation. Miss Strong was once an American press agent for the Moscow Soviets, and editor of the `Moscow News’. Miss Abbott has been fed up on the same sort of pabulum with the other members of this group. With these facts before her, how is it that Miss Perkins will deny communistic influence is seeking to get hold of the young life of this nation?
What sort of family government could we have if children grow up with the understanding that their parents have practically no control over them, and cannot command them to perform any simple task or service about the home. You will never convince this writer that these women do not represent the spirit of Soviet Russia; and it would seem impossible that any group of legislators could be found ignorant enough to be beguiled into voting for any such legislation.
The time has come when this Perkins woman should hear from an intelligent and indignant people all over this nation. Legislators, congressmen and senators should be duly warned against any legislation that would interfere with the practical regulation of the child life of the American home. Children should be protected from the slavery which was once imposed upon many of them in cotton mills and factories, and most states have such legislation.
This chapter is being written in the state of Florida, and I find that this state has certain laws for the protection of children which seem to me to be practical, that safeguard the childhood of the country, and at the same time, do not interfere with proper family government. In the state of Florida, no boy under ten years of age, and no girl under sixteen years of age, can be lawfully employed in sellingnewspapers in any city of the state of 6,000 population or more. Selling and distributing newspapers is hardly the work of a girl, and certainly not the work of any girl in a considerable city. The reader will note that this law does not prohibit the selling of papers in towns or villages where the child is much safer and better protected than in larger populations.
The law provides that children under twelve years of age are not permitted to work in stores, offices, or in the transmission or sale of merchandise, or the delivery of messages. This protects children from dangers involved and temptations that they may not be old enough to resist. No child under fourteen years of age is permitted to work in mills, factories, workshops, mechanical establishments, laundries, or on the stage of any theater. The reader will remember that children under fourteen years of age are small and tender and not fitted for heavy work that would stultify their physical growth or subject them to the dangers of machinery of factories and mills. It is a good law that forbids young children to act upon theatrical stages. The law also provides that persons under sixteen years of age cannot be employed in mills or factories except by permission given by the county superintendent of public schools, after that official has made a careful and thorough investigation of all facts involved.
The next prohibition is very excellent. No person under twenty-one years of age may lawfully be employed in any pool-room, billiard-room, brewery, saloon or bar-room where intoxicating liquors are sold. The law also provides for the safety, comfort and protection of children coming within the prohibitive age. It occurs to this writer that these laws are reasonable, equitable, protective, without any effort to interfere with the common services that can be rendered by children in the life of any well regulated family.
It is high time that the people of these United States awake to the dangers that beset us on every hand, from visionaries and dreamers who would legislate laws that would take all of our much beloved freedom away from us, and tie us hand and foot in the exercise of common liberty, personal freedom, and the direction and control of our individual affairs.
Russia, Germany, Italy, and a number of other countries have either willingly, or under compulsion, given up the entire spirit of true democracy and exalted despots, who rule the people with a rod of iron, and having, while they promised freedom, enslaved the masses of the people and do not hesitate to slaughter in cold blood any one who interferes with their despotic control of an enslaved and oppressed people.
The people of this nation ought, en masse, insist upon the maintaining of their personal liberty. Of course, this should be without selfishness and a spirit of co-operation for the best interests of the entire people; but it is not to the best interests of any people that communism thrust in upon us its exaggerated and dictatorial spirit that means the wreckage of all of the best and highest ideals of our American civilization.
Children should, and must be, protected from physical slavery, hard work and heavy burdens that would stultify the development of their bodies, hinder the advantages of education and opportunities for exercise, innocent amusement and healthful play. These are the rights of children, which are sacred and should be secured, if necessary, by the legislation of proper and equitable laws.
The drift is in the direction of extreme and fanatical legislation and usages which are out of harmony with our past history, the teachings of Holy Writ, and all of those things that contribute to the growth and development of the best American life and spirit. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” The good people of this nation must be awake and ready for action, and we do not want men and women with those unpronounceable Russian names, and their coadjutors, to be lobbying around the halls of congress, in the capital of our nation. The proper use of the hoe handle is a means of grace; healthy toil is excellent exercise; it fosters an appetite, assists digestion and is followed by restful sleep, growth and development of all that is best in the building of sturdy, self-reliant American citizenship.