No Vicarious Virtue

“The episodes of conflict, of legislative struggle, of school-board clash and educational campaign of which that life was made up, all have the enduring interest that clings to scenes which are lighted up by a true light — things which have been seen in their passage by the eye of genius. Not by their own virtue, but by this vision do they live. Howe’s central thesis is thus given in his own words by Sanborn, being quoted from a report of the Massachusetts State Board of Charities, 1866:

‘The attempt to reduce to its lowest point the number of the dependent, vicious and criminal classes, and tenderly provide for those who cannot be lifted out of them, is surely worthy the best effort of a Christian people. But that the work may be well done, it must be by the people themselves, directly, and in the spirit of Him who taught that the poor ye shall always have with you — that is, near you — in your heart and affections, within your sight and knowledge; and not thrust far away from you, and always shut up alone by themselves in almshouses, or reformatories, that they may be kept at the cheapest rate by such a cold abstraction as a state government. The people cannot be absolved from these duties of charily which require knowledge of and sympathy with sufferers; and they should never needlessly delegate the power of doing good. There can be no vicarious virtue; and true charity is not done by deputy.'” (John Jay Chapman, Learning and Other Essays)