The man or woman who goes wrong is a victim of unkind environment. Booker Washington says that when the negro has something that we want, or can perform a task that we want done, we waive the color line, and the race problem then ceases to be a problem. So it is with the Ex. Question. When the ex-convict is able to show that he is useful to the world, the world will cease to shun him. When Superintendent Whittaker graduates a man it is pretty good evidence that the man is able and willing to render a service to society.
The only places where the ex-convicts get the icy mitt are pink teas and prayer meetings. An ex-convict should work all day and then spend his evenings at the library, feeding his mind—then he is safe.
If I were an ex-convict I would fight shy of all “Refuges,” “Sheltering Arms,” “Saint Andrew’s Societies” and the philanthropic “College Settlements.” I would never go to those good professional people, or professional good people, who patronize the poor and spit upon the alleged wrongdoer, and who draw sharp lines of demarcation in distinguishing between the “good” and the “bad.” If you can work and are willing to work, business men will not draw the line on you. Get a job, and then hold it down hard by making yourself necessary. Employers of labor and the ex-convicts themselves are fast settling this Ex. Question, with the help of the advanced type of the Reform School where the inmates are being taught to be useful and are not punished nor patronized, but are simply given a chance. My heart goes out in sympathy to the man who gives a poor devil a chance. I myself am a poor devil!
A colonel in the United States Army told me the other day something like this: The most valuable officer, the one who has the greatest responsibility, is the sergeant. The true sergeant is born, not made—he is the priceless gift of the gods. He is so highly prized that when found he is never promoted, nor is he allowed to resign. If he is dissatisfied with his pay, Captain, Lieutenant and Colonel chip in—they cannot afford to lose him. He is a rara avis—the apple of their eye.
His first requirement is that he must be able to lick any man in the company. A drunken private may damn a captain upside down and wrong-side out, and the captain is not allowed to reply. He can neither strike with his fist, nor engage in a cussing match, but your able sergeant is an adept in both of these polite accomplishments. Even if a private strike an officer, the officer is not allowed to strike back. Perhaps the man who abuses him could easily beat him in a rough-and-tumble fight, and then it is quite a sufficient reason to keep one’s clothes clean. We say the revolver equalizes all men, but it doesn’t. It is disagreeable to shoot a man. It scatters brains and blood all over the sidewalk, attracts a crowd, requires a deal of explanation afterward, and may cost an officer his stripes. No good officer ever hears anything said about him by a private.