To none of these questions were answers forthcoming, so he had this information gathered on his own account with the purpose of helping to make the new plan effective. His studies revealed the fact that the city where the new asylum was to be built was so well provided with such institutions that there were already vastly more beds for children than there were applicants to fill them, and that the field was well and fully covered. These facts being presented to the organizers of the enterprise, it was shown that no real need for such an institution existed. I wish I might add that the scheme was abandoned. It was not. Such charities seldom are when once the sympathies of the worthy people, however misinformed, are heartily enlisted.
It may be urged that doing the work in this systematic and apparently cold-blooded way leaves out of consideration, to a large extent, the merits of individual cases. My contention is that the organization of work in combination should not and does not stifle the work of individuals, but strengthens and stimulates it. The orderly combination of philanthropic effort is growing daily, and at the same time the spirit of broad philanthropy never was so general as it is now.
The giver who works out these problems for himself will, no doubt, find many critics. So many people see the pressing needs of every-day life that possibly they fail to realize those which are, if less obvious, of an even larger significance—for instance, the great claims of higher education. Ignorance is the source of a large part of the poverty and a vast amount of the crime in the world—hence the need of education. If we assist the highest forms of education—in whatever field—we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge; for all the new facts discovered or set in motion become the universal heritage. I think we cannot overestimate the importance of this matter. The mere fact that most of the great achievements in science, medicine, art, and literature are the flower of the higher education is sufficient. Some great writer will one day show how these things have ministered to the wants of all the people, educated and uneducated, high and low, rich and poor, and made life more what we all wish it to be.
The best philanthropy is constantly in search of the finalities—a search for cause, an attempt to cure evils at their source. My interest in the University of Chicago has been enhanced by the fact that while it has comprehensively considered the other features of a collegiate course, it has given so much attention to research.
The mention of this promising young institution always brings to my mind the figure of Dr. William R. Harper, whose enthusiasm for its work was so great that no vision of its future seemed too large.