ETHICAL CULTURE, SOCIETIES FOR.
1. Origin and Spread of Movement. The ethical movement had its beginnings with the establishment in 1876 of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The founder was Felix Adler, who was at the time a lecturer at Cornell University. Unable to identify himself with orthodox Judaism, he felt the need of a movement which should gather together the increasing number of the unchurched of all creeds and denominations and unite them on the basis of ethical endeavor. The key-notes of his inaugural address were the appeal to those present to unfurl a new flag of peace and conciliation over the bloody battlegrounds where religions had fought in the past; the urgent need of a stronger morality to grapple with moral perils of the hour, and the duty of caring for the weak and oppressed and for the moral education of the young. The motto of the new movement was "deed rather than creed," and it at once undertook practical educational and philanthropic work, such as district nursing, aid to crippled children, tenement-house reform, the establishment of a free kindergarten, etc. These initial undertakings have expanded and multiplied, although, in accordance with its general pioneering policy, the society has dropped such work as new public bodies have been established to promote. Its educational work has been its first care. The free kindergarten has gradually expanded until the large school on Central Park West includes elementary, secondary, and normal training departments. During the first ten years of its life, the movement spread by attracting to it four men, who, after serving their apprenticeship in New York, went forth to establish other societies. William M. Salter established a society in Chicago in 1882, S. Burns Weston one in Philadelphia in 1885, Walter L. Sheldon a third in St. Louis in 1886, while Stanton Coit, after having founded the Neighborhood Guild in New York (the first social settlement in this country), went to England and became the successor of Moncure D. Conway of South Place Chapel, London, and afterward the founder of several ethical societies in England and the recognized head of the ethical movement there. Contemporaneously with the establishment of the first ethical society by Stanton Coit, there was established in England a London Ethical Society, among whose members were Bernard Bosanquet, Professors J. H. Muirhead, J. S. Mackenzie, G. F. Stout, Mrs. Sophie Bryant, and among other lecturers, Prof. Henry Sidgwick, Leslie Stephen, John Seeley, and Edward Caird. Prof. Nathaniel Schmidt is associate lecturer of the Chicago Ethical Society, which also includes on its staff of lecturers Prof. Charles Zueblin of the University of Chicago and Miss Jane Addams of Hull House. In addition to the four American societies named, there is a society in Brooklyn, N. Y., and branches of the New York society in the Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights. The number of the actually enrolled adherents is 2,057, to which the New York society contributes over 1,100. Various scattered adherents are attached to the movement as non-resident members of the New York society.
2. American Societies. The New York society which naturally tends to become a type and model, is governed and administered by a board of trustees numbering thirty and an advisory council of fifty. In addition to its leader, Felix Adler, it has seven associate leaders, viz., John Lovejoy Elliott, Percival Chubb, Leslie Willis Sprague, Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer, David Saville Muzzey, and Henry Moskowitz, and as especial assistant Alfred W. Martin. Among the more important organizations are: the Sunday School, of which John L. Elliott is the superintendent, and a system of supplementary ethical classes for young men, young women, and adults; the Women's Conference, numbering about 300, which is largely responsible for the philanthropies of the society, including the District Nursing Section, the Sewing Society, the Visiting Guild for Crippled Children, the Society for the Study of Child Nature, the Young Women's Union, and the Women's Evening Club; and, finally, there is a Young Men's Union of over 200 members which owns and manages a country home where fresh-air work is conducted, and contributes largely to the Down-Town Ethical Society and the Hudson Guild. Of these two settlements, or neighborhood houses, on the lower East Side, and in the Chelsea district on the West Side, the first has organized well-graded classes for the ethical education of the immigrant population; the other is working for the democratic organization of the neighborhood for purposes of self-help and self-culture. Finally, the classes for adult instruction aim to meet the needs of adolescents, young married people, parents, and teachers. Normal instruction in the methods of teaching ethics is also a distinctive feature of this work.
The American societies are united in an American Ethical Union, which holds annual conferences. Up to the end of 1907 eleven such conventions had been held. The Union is responsible for a Summer School of Ethics, along the lines of that conducted for some years at Plymouth, Mass. It is also taking the initiative in the establishment of a National Moral Instruction League.
3. Foreign Societies. In 1892, the first German Society for Ethical Culture was founded in Berlin, the chief leaders being Prof. F. von Gizycki and Prof. Wilhelm Forster. Branches were later formed in other German cities, including Munich, Dresden, Danzig, Freiburg, and in 1904 the Vienna Ethical Society was formed. The movement also took root in Switzerland, societies being formed in Lausanne under Prof. Auguste Ford and others and in Zurich under Prof. Frederick W. Förster. In France the movement took somewhat different form. In 1891 the Union pour L'Action Morale was started; later it became the Union pour la Vérité. Foremost among those who have been active in the development of the movement is Paul Desjardins. Under the leadership of Prof. Levi-Morenos the Circolo per la Cultura Ethico Sociale was established in Venice in 1893, and societies later sprung up elsewhere; but they have met such severe church opposition that the movement remains in abeyance. Societies have also been started in Lahore, India; Tokyo, Japan; Auckland, New Zealand, and Johannesburg, Transvaal. It is in England that ethical societies have multiplied most rapidly. Twenty-eight societies are included in the Union of Ethical Societies, which has its headquarters at 19 Buckingham Street, Strand, London. Among these are many labor churches, which have a somewhat distinctive character. The Union has conducted a School of Ethics and a Central Ethical Library. It was instrumental in starting the Moral Instruction League, whose aim is to introduce systematic non-theological moral instruction into all schools. Among the affiliated societies which maintain an independent position are the Ethical Religion Society, conducted by Washington Sullivan at Steinway Hall, London, and the Leicester Secular Society, of which F. J. Gould is the leader. In 1896 the first international congress was held at Zurich, when the International Ethical Union was founded. At the third congress held in Eisenach in 1906, the headquarters of the movement were transferred to Berlin, under the secretaryship of Gustav Spiller.
- 4. Aims. The aims of the Societies for Ethical Culture are variously expressed, but the one thought that is common to them all is "the primacy and independence of ethics." The Basis of Union of the New York society reads that the object of the society is that of "increasing among men the knowledge, the love, and the practise of the right"; the means to this end being public meetings, the maintenance of a public platform for the enforcement of recognized standards of right, the development of newer and higher conceptions of duty in the quickening of the moral life; systematic moral instruction of the young; the promotion of continued self-education among adults; general educational reform, with stress on the formation of character; the earnest encouragement of all practical efforts tending to elevate social conditions. It is added that the supremacy of the moral end is implied as a truth; and that, interpreting the word "religion" to mean fervent devotion to the highest moral ends, the society is distinctly a religious body; while toward religion as a confession of faith in things superhuman, its attitude is neutral, neither acceptance nor denial of any theological doctrine disqualifying for membership. The most inclusive statement expressive of the general spirit of the movement is that of the International Union which reads: "The general aim of the Union is to assert the supreme importance of the ethical factor in all the relations of life, personal, social, national, and international, apart from all theological and meta physical considerations."
- PERCIVAL CHUBB.