The New York World/December 10, 1893
The President of The Society For Suppression of Crime
Explains His Motives and His Methods of Work
A New Line Of Action
He Will Not Pursue Fallen Women, But Will Make the Police Do Their Duty
His Many Strange Experiences
How the Police Have Foolishly Driven Into His Arms the Very Witnesses He Needed
Ready To Die For The Cause!
Dr. Parkhurst Candidly Admits That It Is Impossible to Exterminate the Social Evil
New York The Worst City In America
Mrs. Parkhurst Fully Indorses Her Husband’s Work,
Believing that He Has the Protection of Heaven
Which Will Win? Parkhurst or the Police?
Now wait! Don’t be prejudiced. Only narrow-minded people have prejudices; other people read, think and, with the blessed privileges of our glorious country, judge for themselves.
We haven’t been saying things “out loud,” but we must all confess that we know the true condition of affairs in New York. We are not looking with unfamiliar eyes upon the vision of an official, in blue cloth and brass buttons, with citizens on his right putting money into his outstretched hand, saying: “We are paying you to protect us against crime,” while the outcast throng, putting money into the other hand, are saying: “We are paying you to protect us in crime.”
I say, we are not unfamiliar with it, but it was left to one man to resent this double-dealing. And he has been scorned, scoffed at, preached about, written about, but with the entire city against him, as it was once, he still persevered.
That man is Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst. I spent five hours interviewing him in order to tell the public just what he is like and what are his hopes and aims.
He received me in his study. I was glad of that, for there is something about the air of a drawing-room that would put ice in the warmest interview. The maid was taking me up when the doctor, running half way downstairs, met me, and giving me a hearty clasp of the hand, led the way.
The very first impression I received was that his eyes had a merry twinkle, and next, that he was unlike the newspaper representations of him, being short instead of tall, and, while thin, has no appearance of age in the way of being dried up and wrinkled, as pictured.
“The most truthful report I have read of myself,” he began as soon as I was seated, “since beginning this work, appeared in this morning’s (Thursday’s) World.”
The doctor picked up The World and read the interview to me.
“When did the idea of this reform work first occur to you?” I began.
“About four years ago, I knew nothing about wickedness until then,” Dr. Parkhurst replied. “Having lived all my life in the country, away from towns, I knew absolutely nothing of that side of life. When I was a boy we had no daily papers, and had to travel a mile and a half to get our weekly. But I can tell you, it was read when we did get it. We didn’t miss a single word of the entire paper, advertisements and all. Those weekly papers gave us no conception of the wickedness of New York.”
“Did you learn nothing of it while at college?”
“When I was at the university, attending lectures, I was too much engrossed to have any thought for anything also. As we said, we ‘boned down to business.’ After graduating I married, and I had my wife and my home.”
“Having lived the life you describe, how did you learn at last how much wickedness there was in New York?” was the next question I asked.
“I learned it from young men, I was always interested in the welfare of young men, and while trying to solve the reason of their absence from churches, I learned of the temptations that surround them, and for the first time knew what this city life really is. I became engrossed with the subject. I wanted to do all in my power to lessen these temptations, so I began to study the questions.”
The Doctor paused. The seriousness that settled over his face made his expression change instantly from a youthful look to one of sadness and age.
“About the time,” he resumed, “that I learned these facts, I went abroad on a three months’ vacation. I took with me a map of the city of New York. I studied it so thoroughly that I could draw it in the dark. I knew every street, its location and inhabitants, I knew the different wards and the spots where crime breeds.”
“What did you learn from this study?” I questioned, curiously.
He looked at me through his glasses with eyes that no longer twinkled, but were firm and steady and grave.
Then he said slowly and deliberately and with a distinctness that impressed every word on my memory:
“I instantly ran against the fact that the department whose sworn object it is to make crime difficult was the department that made crime easy.”
He leaned back in his chair and drew his brows together as if he had not yet learned to forget the shame of this knowledge.
“Upon reaching this conclusion what did you do?”
“That brings us to the point of two years ago,” he said, as if to keep me from losing the thread of his story. “I preached a sermon then expressing my opinion of Tammany Hall that I knew was the back and foundation of this state of things. My sermon attracted the attention of Dr. Crosby, who wrote to me, asking me to come into the Society for Prevention of Crime, of which he was the President.”
“Is the Society for Prevention of Crime very old?”
“It took out articles of incorporation in 1878. The society was known almost entirely then as Dr. Crosby’s society. About six months after I entered it, Dr. Crosby died and I was offered the presidency. I told the members that if they meant to pursue their old course of taking individual cases of crime, I would not be president, I had no time for desultory warfare. ‘If you are willing,’ I said to them, ‘to fight the police as the guardian angels of crime, I’m in it for all I am worth.’ ”
“And they agreed?”
“Yes; and I became the president.”
“How many members are there in the society?”
“About twenty, but they are not active workers. There are three executive members, who meet weekly and decide on plans for work.”
“Did you learn much about crime from reading newspapers?”
“After I became interested in the subject, yes. At first, I regret to say, I did not read the newspapers as much as I should.”
“Was Hattie Adams’s the first place of its kind you were ever in?”
“Not first, nor worst,” very emphatically.
“Why, then, did you use it for your first big expose?”
“I hit upon it because it was widely known; because it was in a reputable part of town and because it was within a stone’s throw of my own church.
“I only take houses that are flagrant,” he added. “I do not reach for places the police cannot know about.”
“You were severely censured for visiting those houses at all. Why did you do it?”
“To prove to people the openness of the vice. When our case came before the Grand Jury in 1892 I said then I was not there to indict those houses in Third Street. I was there to bring, practically, an indictment against the police. It was not the houses I was making war against but the fountain-head from which springs such resorts.”
“Had you ever seen this side of life as a young man before you entered the ministry?”
“No; I’ve told you my early environments. I knew nothing of the wickedness of this city until four years ago.”
“Did it require much moral courage the first night to start out to visit these places?”
“Not a great deal. I only thought of the result to be accomplished in the end. I remember we visited a lot of dives in Cherry Street: it has improved since then; and we went to others on the Bowery.”
“Did you attempt to disguise yourself in any way?”
Dr. Parkhurst looked at me and smiled.
“Of course I didn’t wear a white necktie nor a clerical suit,” he replied: “but I made no other change in my appearance.
“Of course,” he added, with an amused laugh, “since they have my picture in the Rogues’ Gallery and placarded in disreputable houses, I do not go among them.”
“After learning the facts for yourself, what did you do?”
“I made charges against the police and Tammany Hall from my pulpit. They were promptly and unqualifiedly denied by the officials. I was forced then to go on and prove what I had affirmed. As Judge Noah Davis said in Cooper Union, if the gauntlet had been thrown down in that fashion to him, he would have gone into hell, if necessary, to establish his truthfulness.”
“What was your next step in the work?”
“I went on a general tour of discovery.”
“As the public is familiar with the Hattie Adams case, will you please tell me how you felt when those poor women came trooping into the room?”
“I felt sorry for the poor women,” he said, earnestly: “sorry and mortified, and yet I felt I must endure it, for how else could I accomplish the task I had undertaken? It was my object to see and learn. Many criticised me because I did not stop the dance. They did not consider that I had to maintain silence or I would have blocked the object of my work.”
“Have you ever felt any fear while you were in any of those places?”
“Once I was alarmed. While we were in a low French house a policeman came in. He talked to the madam at the foot of the stairs, and I heard him say: ‘It’s all right.’ I thought he had recognized me, for we are often followed when we go out; but he went away, and nothing resulted from his visit so far as I knew.”
“Did you consult Mrs. Parkhurst before you visited these places?”
“Yes: and told her of our work on my return.”
“What is her feeling towards your personal contact with such persons?”
“I have her sympathy in everything, and she endorses my work. She enters heartily into the work, and would do anything to help towards bettering the world.”
“Have your congregation objected to your defiling yourself in mingling with such persons?”
“It has stood by me loyally from the first. I have not heard one criticizing word.”
“Is your face known to the women of the streets?”
“I don’t think so. I have never had any reason to think so.”
“Have you never been annoyed in the streets—people pointing at you or making audible remarks?”
“I have never been annoyed in the streets to any extent. I have heard remarks made about me—oh, yes! The remarks were always made by men; never by women.”
“Have you ever had any one call at your house and threaten you?”
“I have never had any one call to make trouble. Of course, there is a possibility of cranks doing so, but we guard against that in many ways. I have had many threatening letters, but I credit them to cranks.”
“Do you never fear that somebody will assassinate you?”
“I am not afraid, I never go out alone after dark, and there would be no chance at any other time.”
“Don’t you think that the police will try to get rid of you as they did with Detective Gardner?”
“Oh, no,” he replied, with confidence; “it would be too much to my advantage and too much to their disadvantage to do anything to me. In fact, as a man said to me, he thought no one’s life in New York was safer than mine. Any act of violence to me would only hasten the end they are trying to avoid. They know that. If I were assassinated it would bring all my opponents into my camp.”
“If all the disorderly houses in New York are really closed up by the police, what will become of the women?”
“Now,” lifting his hands as if to ward off something, “you are entering upon a very difficult question. The first thing to do is to let Brother Williams close the houses. The large number of women is the outgrowth of police protection. Any industry flourishes under protection. These women increase and grow because they are protected. If they are routed out of other cities they come here, because they know if they put up money, which they do regularly, they will be protected. It is an encouragement to women who, feeling no moral reasons, would not do wrong for fear of the laws.”
“Have you any idea of the number of such people in New York?”
“Not the slightest. Stead said it is commonly estimated that there are 60,000 in London, but it is impossible to arrive at any number with any degree of certainty.”
“Is not one of the great difficulties with the reformation of these women their lack of ability to work?”
“You have struck the keynote. But my heart is very warm towards all those helpless women, and I am most willing to help them in any way. There are those who desire to reform. I shall certainly not help a woman to food and shelter tonight who tells me she will go back to her old life tomorrow. Those who wish to lead better lives I will provide with food and shelter and do everything to aid them. But I am not responsible for them if they persist in their old life.”
“Can you trust them if they profess a wish to reform?”
“Yes, I have helped gamblers to better lives. You see, we will help any one, it matters not their life or crime. I had a very touching case of a gambler who came here with his little boy, a bright child of some five years. ‘You see my boy,’ he said, sadly, ‘I can’t let him grow up and become a gambler like his father, and I don’t know how to do anything else.’ We took him and helped him. That is only one case.”
“Don’t you think if you had some home where women could be sent to stay until they learned a trade it would facilitate your cause?”
“That is what we want and hope to have some day. Why, if one of those girls knew how to work and came to me or my wife and asked to work in our house we would take her. Of course, everybody wouldn’t do the same, but I don’t know what Christianity means, unless it means a willingness to help those who are down and to assist those whose advantages have been less than ours.
“When we erect that home,” the Doctor said, returning to that subject, “I will go to the Police Commissioners for liberal contributions. I would like nothing better (very energetically and warmly) than to start with the mayor with a subscription and come all the way down to Brother Williams.”
“Do you really believer that in a great city of three or four million inhabitants it is possible to suppress the social evil?”
“To suppress? Yes! To exterminate? No! I don’t know why an exception should be made to this particular kind of crime unless men want it so. But men always escape. The women get the cursing. And yet,” with uplifted hand, “when you think of it, the cursing is a tribute to woman, society believes in the purity of woman, and demands more of her because its ideal is higher of her than of man. But at the same time it puts on woman a great injustice. She must bear the man’s sin as well as her own in falling from the standard ideal of a woman. I can’t understand,” indignantly, “how men who knew those women and had associated with and cared for them could endure to picture to themselves the suffering that followed, according to the newspapers, their eviction.”
“What do you think of the theory advanced by your strongest opponents, that places like Hattie Adams’s are a means of safety to the community and that they are really a protection to poor and innocent girls?”
“I do not believe it. On the other hand, I assert such places promote viciousness, instigate it, breed it and are in this way a menace to all the good.”
“If all such places were really suppressed, would there not be more betrayals? In other words, if disreputable women were driven out of New York would it not be a menace to good women?”
“That question is so palpably the outgrowth of masculine wickedness that it answers itself. Be assured, a police force that is strong enough to suppress vicious houses is strong enough to protect innocent girls upon the streets. Think the result would be evil? No; it would make men better. The ease with which they can be evil tends to discourage all loyalty. That is viewed from the masculine side, and I am sure of it. Vicious places plant the seed of crime, nourish it and after a time its arms reach out to grasp everything without respect to person.”
“If the social evil cannot be absolutely suppressed, and I believe you said it could not be exterminated, how would you regulate and control it?”
“Regulate? I don’t like the word,” was the quick and emphatic reply.
“Why?” I asked, wonderingly.
“Because, used in its technical sense, it means a certain amount of legal recognition. Legal recognition must not be given to such crimes.”
“Do you believe that the French system is wise, of police regulation and public medical supervision?”
“I do not believe in it. I believe in treating crime as crime. This crime is the same as any other. Do we license thieves, murderers, housebreakers? Why, then, these women, who are more dangerous criminals than the others? I tell you the police must not tolerate viciousness. Suppose a mother says to her son about something: ‘This is wrong, but if you want to do it, I will give you my protection.’ Wouldn’t the son do it? Now the police stand in loco parentis to young men. They virtually say, ‘These crimes exist, and if you wish to be vicious, I will protect you.’ It doesn’t take much to break the moral resolution of a young man, and once broken, who can tell the end?”
“Some people will say you are wrong,” I suggested.
“Certainly. If a man is color-blind, you can’t talk to him about color. If a man says crime is right, you can’t argue. There is no common ground to argue on.”
“Are you going to dedicate your life to this work?”
“I can’t tell. I do each day’s work as it comes without a thought of the morrow. I hadn’t the slightest conception of the amount of work and labor it was going to entail. Our policy has to vary to adapt it to some unexpected move on the part of the police. It is like playing a game of chess.”
“Will you pursue this fight as long as you live?”
“I will fight always, until I die or we conquer.”
“Have you the moral support of your congregation?”
“Yes, most emphatically.”
“Are you disturbed because you are abused by other clergymen?”
“What do you mean by disturbed? My feelings hurt? Yes, I claim a right to have feelings and they are often hurt, but it never makes me swerve one speck from my line of duly. As my purpose becomes more manifest I am receiving more support. The clergy is more in favor lately of the movement.”
“Do you think these other brother clergymen just as sincere in their beliefs that you are wrong as you are that you are right?”
“They are out of touch with the world, and are therefore unfit to judge me or my work,” Dr. Parkhurst replied, convincingly, “A few years ago and I was as they are. My range was narrow because I did not know life that is the sinful side. But I wouldn’t today surrender my knowledge and consequent grip, with all pain that comes with it, for any pride or consideration. One cannot improve a situation until one knows it. I did not know it, but I repeat that with all the pain the learning that cost me, I would-not give up my knowledge for any price.”
“Do you not think that ministers as a rule are very narrow?”
“Ah!” ejaculated the doctor, “I would not like to answer that. I have been severely criticised, but I do not criticize.”
“Well, then,” trying to get the information in another way, “don’t you think that if ministers were to learn a little more about life and take broader views of subjects that they would be more fitted to be preachers and leaders of congregations?”
“In order to preach”—thoughtfully—“a man’s got to know two things—the Bible and human conditions. Limitation operates to produce narrowness. The more a minister knows the better fitted he is to preach. How can a physician cure a disease if he has not knowledge of it? How can a minister deal with sin if he does not know it? It is a notable fact that the Lord selected for his disciples those who had been thirty years among the sinners and masses. If they had been brought up in the cloister it would have been the last we would have heard of Christianity.”
“Are you willing, if such were to be the result, to sacrifice your life at the hands of an assassin in this work you have undertaken?”
“I don’t want to die,” he responded reluctantly. “I have so much I want to accomplish first. But if necessary for the good of the cause, or in its defence, I would die without a murmur.”
“If you succeed in all you wish to accomplish in purifying New York, will you undertake a similar work elsewhere?”
“Everything that is done here is done for all other cities. The large correspondence I receive shows the interest other towns take in my work. What affects one town usually affects another. My success is immensely enhanced by the necessary consequence in other towns. All good gained in one city helps in a measure all others.”
“While abroad did you study the police system and social evil in the great European cities?”
“I did a year ago last summer. Always before I refrained from it because I wanted complete rest. I regularly for three months every summer withdraw from everything and devote myself to rest and recreation.”
“Is it your impression that the New York police force is more dishonest than the police force in other cities?”
“The same evil that exists here in regard to protection of vice exists in a lesser degree in other cities, except by the English police. There it does not exist in any manner or form.”
“From your investigations is New York, in proportion to its size, the worst city in America?”
“Yes, indeed, the very worst.
“This social evil is carried further here than in any other place. There is not anything like it anywhere. Continental or English, I cannot speak of the Orient. I can only say after a thorough search prosecuted under the most favorable circumstances I could not find any vice in London to equal the vice in New York. I said in London, ‘Show me the worst,’ and when I saw it, I had to exclaim. ‘And is that your worst!’ As regards the amount of crime, I don’t wish to speak, I only repeat, in reply to your question, that in no city have I found anything like the crime here and that in police exemption no city approaches ours.”
“Do you think you had a good chance to know London?”
“I saw it under circumstances most favourable to my purpose. I wanted to know if police collusion was a necessity. I did not get my information from officials, oh, no; they would, like our police, say that the city they guarded was a Garden of Eden on earth. I went with people who were in constant contact with the court and humanitarians, who are against all municipal institutions. The things I saw were extremely mild after New York. I can’t mention all I have seen in New York. There is nothing like it in London or anywhere.”
“I was told by a person engaged in slum work that children in New York were worse than those in London. Do you think this statement, is true?”
“I do. From all I have seen I think the children here are more depraved than anywhere.”
“If you were appointed superintendent of police would you accept the office?”
Dr. Parkhurst tilted his chin into the air, tilted his chair back on the ends of its rockers and burst into a hearty laugh. When he subsided into graveness he replied earnestly:
“I tell you if I were appointed superintendent, and had four respectable men back of me in the commissioners I would jump at it.
“With the commissioners as they are today, tools of Tammany Hall, I could do nothing. Even Byrnes is helpless where the commissioners are concerned. By the way, I greatly rejoice in the good fight The World has been making against the corruption of Tammany hall, I feel the influence of it very much already. I am rejoiced over it. It will result in great good to New York.”
“Tell me, if you were mayor of New York, could you accomplish the objects of your society?”
“I could accomplish them provided I were no more handicapped than the mayor of Brooklyn is going to be. I could accomplish everything. If one man were permitted to control the office the same as one man controls his business. I think,” musingly, “I would rather like it, although I wouldn’t want to give up my dear church, and the two wouldn’t go well together, would they?”
The idea seemed to please Dr. Parkhurst, for he lingered over it thoughtfully.
“The head of the city government! What great things could be done! Still, the head of the city is like the head of the human body—it is hampered, hindered and handicapped by the rest of it. Oh, no: what could any man do with such ignorant and corrupt police justices? And, with very few exceptions, they are all corrupt and ignorant.”
“Would you be willing to be a candidate for mayor of New York purely in the interest of reform?”
His eyes twinkled merrily.
“I would rather not answer,” he said, and, as I considered the question fully settled in the preceding reply, I did not urge it.
“What plan of work does your society pursue?”
“No regular pan. Our aim is always the same. But it is like playing a game of chess. We are always watching every move the police make and alter our moves accordingly. I will tell you what we did with Capt. Devery, and that will let you understand our system insomuch as we have any.
“We went to work quietly and collected evidence against about sixty places. In August we wrote letters to the mayor, commissioners, inspector and captain, stating this, that and that house are run for immoral purposes. The matter was whitewashed. The report was made that no such places existed. Of course they thought the public would be disgusted with me and there the matter would drop. October came and we repeated our work, writing the mayor, commissioners, inspector and captain, just what we had at first. Again the matter was whitewashed and word was sent forth that no more attention would be paid to my letters. They thought this settle me effectually. I took five houses, the most open, made arrests, had the inmates tried before the Court of Special Sessions, and the result was, in spite of open opposition on every hand, wholesale conviction. I was not warring against the women, but trying to force the police to do their sworn duty. After the convictions I went before the Grand Jury and Capt. Devery was indicted.”
“What do you think of Inspector Williams? Will he be indicted?”
“Of course Mr. Williams, being inspector, is as responsible as the captain,” was the quiet reply.
“How much money has been subscribed to your society?”
“Enough to sustain our efforts. Of course our work is very expensive. Detectives cost money. But nothing succeeds like success. The other day a man who had been opposed to the movement wrote me a line and enclosed $50 that we would have been very grateful for at first. ‘I see that you have accomplished something,’ he wrote, ‘so find enclosed a check for fifty.’ ”
“What do you claim is the cause for so much wickedness—poverty or inclination?”
“As a Presbyterian, I should say original sin,” he said, quickly. “I think the root of evil is in every man’s heart. Conditions exert influences. Poverty and wealth are both progenitors of crime. I think men come into the world very heavily handicapped. Of course, early environment has much to do with the making for our lives. If I had been born in the Seventh Ward I don’t doubt that I would have been a thug. This thought ought to make us gentler of people. That doesn’t mean (being) gentle of crime. It is the old truth that evil communications corrupt good manners.’”
“Have you known of any permanent reformations?”
“Yes; a few.”
“I believe it is the common belief among the police that a thief is always a thief. They do not believe in the reform of criminals.”
“I regard all things as possible.”
“Are you going to fight the police on anything else? Such as pool-rooms, policy shops?”
“Yes, but later on. One man can’t do everything. I take the worst crimes first. The pool-rooms Croker shut up when it was to his advantage to do so. Now they will all be opening again. The excise law we shall attend to later, although it is a very different work. Drinking beer is not a sin; violence of chastity is. The breakers of the excise law are very hard people to get at. You see they have made the proper arrangements [sarcastically] and are exempt. Take the case the other Sunday of a poor man who was arrested for selling two loaves of bread. He hadn’t made the proper arrangements. His next door neighbour was a saloon-keeper whose back door was on the swing all day with men, women and children for their pails for beer. Why wasn’t he arrested? The police knew of the beer cans as well as the two loaves of bread. But the saloon man had made the proper arrangements. Go along the see one walk piled full of stuff so that you can’t pass without going into the street. Next door the walk is clear. Why? One failed to make the proper arrangements.”
“What kind of charities do you believe in?”
“The kind that helps people to help themselves.”
“What are your politics?”
“I have no politics in regard to municipal matters. Of politics I do not care to speak. I will only say that I am heart and soul against national and municipal elections coming at the same time. One party will always sell out to the other. Municipal elections should come to an entirely different time of the year to the national.”
“What do you think of woman’s suffrage? Would you give women a vote?”
“I think a woman’s highest providence is wifehood and motherhood. If mothers tended more closely to their children their boys wouldn’t go to the devil. Home is a woman’s first place. She was ordained for it. You know the old French saying: ‘She that rocks the cradle rocks the world?’ That is my belief. I think women have immense capacity, but they have their hands full if they tend properly to their children. No, I wouldn’t give them a vote.”
“What is your opinion of the daily press?”
“A great newspaper,” he said, heartily, “is a marvel of influence and power. I think unfortunately, that the business end is running most newspapers now. They will devote space to things that have no interest except in a pecuniary way to the newspapers. I think also, that they are more often led than they lead.”
“Have you any prejudices against any race or any religion?”
“I am prejudiced for the Caucasian, but not against any race. Religion? I think goodness is always economized. Goodness is never wasted. Religion or belief has nothing to do with it.”
“Do you believe in pew rent and such church rules as make strangers fear to trespass?”
“I believe thoroughly in free churches. But money has got to come in some way. Churches must be sustained. I believe people think more of religion if they have to pay for it. You know there are strictly honest people who consider it perfectly legitimate to dead-head it in matters of religion.”
“What amusements do you like and indulge in?”
“My only amusement is my three months’ rest every summer. All my other time I am too busy for anything outside of work. My passion is mountain climbing, I have a regular passion for it, and go every year to Switzerland.”
“Are you opposed to theatres?”
“Theoretically, no. Practical theatres, yes. Theatres cater to the average taste and the average taste is not gratifying.”
“What do you read?”
“Nothing now but the Bible and the daily newspapers. I am fond of novels and read them during my vacation in the summer, but I am so fond of them that if I dared to touch them in the winter I am afraid I wouldn’t accomplish much else. I never read ‘the latest’ novels. I always like somebody to experiment for me. I am intensely fond of Dickens. Intensely fond of him.”
“Do you think horse-racing is any more sinful that the horse show?”
“Yes, because the effects are bad. I like horses, but horse-racing leads to gambling.”
“Do you believe in foreordination?”
“I should say I do!”
“Then how can these sinners you are fighting against help their sinning, if before their birth a Divine power or ordained that they should sin?”
Dr. Parkhurst looked at me a moment in silence.
“We believe,” he replied at length, “in the Divine Sovereignty and we also believe in free agency. Every one who seeks without limitation or qualification can be saved.”
“Don’t you believe that unbaptized infants go to perdition or some such winter resort?”
“No, indeed: we believe in the salvation of infants. We believe baptism is right because by it parents testify their recognition to God for the gift of the child.”
“Do you think it likely that we will have a war before many years?”
“I saw no prospects of it. I don’t think we will. There is a fermentation going on in all classes, a spirit of dissatisfaction of longing, that the people do not understand themselves. What it will lead to no man can tell, but I hardly think war.”
“Do you believe in immigration?”
The Doctor laughed as he said, heartfully:
“I believe in emigration—especially from Ireland, but I do not believe in immigration. Immigration should be very much restricted. We are pressing hard our powers of assimilation. We have now a great mass of foreign population that will always remain foreign.”
“Don’t you think if you brought war against short weights, high prices and adulterated food that you would be doing a greater good for the poor classes?”
“One man can’t do all. The charities are doing good in this way. They are doing more good every, for they are giving less and less of money.”
“You see,” he resumed after a pause, “the police felt as if they had to do something to justify themselves, so for the dramatic effect of it, they threw all those poor girls out of their houses in the most brutal fashion. It was their policy to do something to produce a reaction, and what could be better, they wondered, than to throw out all those poor girls just to show what the effects of such work would be. The brutality of the police in evicting those women was committed solely to injure me, but it only injured themselves, and when they saw that, the result was the wholesale shifting of captains.
“I have said always, and from the first,” the Doctor added emphatically “that our fight is not directed against those women, but against the police. How they could have been guilty of such heartlessness as is reported of them, that night they made the wholesale evictions is past my understanding. I could not injure one of those poor women. I would help them and I ordered to do so—to help any that would come to me.”
“Before I finish my interview,” I said, with the air of a school-mistress, I want to know where you were born and brought up.”
“In the country, thank God!” was his emphatic reply.
“That is,” he added thoughtfully, “I got a good country start, and I am thankful for and proud of it. I was born in New England, some miles out from Framingham. My parents were poor, my father being a farmer, but they were very anxious that I should get a thorough education and went to great pains to put me through college. So, you see, I know the hard side of life and what struggles mean, but I do not regret it. I believe there is more success made of difficulty than of facility.”
“When I was twelve years old my father moved to Framingham. He believed that every boy should learn a trade, and so he put me in a dry-goods store, I detested it—I always detested it—and I’m afraid,” laughing, “I gave the proprietor more Latin and Greek than he cared for. But it gave me a chance to study. I always wanted to study from the first I can remember. At last I got my wish and was sent to the old town of Lancaster, Mass., to be fitted for college.”
One of the nice things about Dr. Parkhurst is the almost boyish touch of merriment that breaks forth every few moments. It makes me feel what a jolly fellow he would have been if it were not for his broadcloth coat.
At such moments it is absolutely impossible to realize that he is the Dr. Parkhurst we’ve been wont to think of as a grim old Puritan, who would shoot a man for missing Sunday-school.
“Have you any brothers and sisters?”
“I had two brothers and one sister. One brother is engaged in editorial writing. The other has charge of the choir in my church.”
“None of them entered the ministry?”
“No; I am the only one in the family.”
“What made you come to New York?”
“Well, you know, Lenox is a summer resort for many New York families. I made acquaintances in this way that led to my coming to the city.”
“Have you always had the one church here?”
“Always, I have been pastor of the Madison Square Church for fourteen years now.”
At this point in our conversation there was a knock on the door, followed by a pretty-faced maid who said:
“If you please, sir, there is a woman below that would like to see you.”
“Have you told Mrs. Parkhurst?” the doctor asked, and the maid said she had.
“That will do, then,” he said, and the maid disappeared just as Mrs. Parkhurst came to the door.
She is a tall woman, with silvery hair that shows in streaks how black it was once. Mrs. Parkhurst is not only a handsome woman, but her sweet expression and beautiful eyes tell of a tender heart within her breast. I am so glad she “looks her part,” as a manager would say. It makes it so much easier for those who come to seek her aid. I detest the usual ministerial wife, with her unsmiling face, stern air and repellent manner, and I rejoiced to find such a sweet, womanly woman the wife of the reformer.
And her manner to her husband was indeed that of a helpmate.
“Won’t you spare a moment to come, down to see a poor woman?” she asked, and the minister goes at once, and Mrs. Parkhurst remains in his stead.
“So you sympathize with your husband’s work and aid him in it?” I ask.
“It is the least a wife can do.”
“I should think,” I hurry on, “that you would dislike to have him mix with such people.”
“He thinks it is his mission,” she says, simply, “and if he is called to do this work I can only rejoice that he does it to the best of his ability.”
“But aren’t you afraid some harm will come to him?”
“I have been afraid,” was the frank reply; “but then I believe if heaven willed that he should do this work no harm will come to him until he has completed it. Once a woman sought to offer me comfort and consolation in speaking of the possible danger. ‘Well, if the doctor should lose his life in this cause it would be the best thing that could happen to it.’ I thought that would be small comfort to me.”
“Are you annoyed at all by threats?”
“By letter only. It is not so bad now as it was. But we receive fewer threatening letters than we do vile ones—addressed to both the doctor and myself. They are frightful.”
“Have you any idea who are the authors of the letters?”
“I think they are from cranks: not from the police or immoral women.”
“Do you see all the women who come here?”
“I see them first. We try to be very careful, for we wish to avoid many things. I see the women, and then the doctor sees them, as he promised. We do all we can for them.”
One very important question I forgot to ask Dr. Parkhurst, and afterwards I sent him a note. His letter, which I copy, gives the question and answer:
“Dear Miss Bly: In reply to your question just received, permit me to say that I think it probable that if disorderly houses are broken up the inmates will in some instances seek refuge in apartment-houses occupied by respectable people. In such case, let the respectable make war upon them and drive them out. They can do it if they care enough about their respectability to do it. If in such cases parents of families will make as determined a fight for the purity of their children as some of us are making for them the situation will be easily met. Sincerely, C. H. Parkhust.”
My impression of Dr. Parkhurst is that he is thoroughly honest in his views, a trifle self-conscious, perhaps, but with that self-consciousness of a fighter who knows that the crowd is with his opponent and not only thirsts for the fray, in which he sees vindication for himself, but means to win either the fight or die fighting.
His last remark to me was very characteristic of the man, a strange mingling of sternness and humor, of hatred for some things, and yet charity for those responsible for it.
“I don’t expect the termination of these places before the millennium and there will be a good many police shake ups before then.”
Be quite sure if Dr. Parkhurst does not win the battle it will not be for lack of nerve, courage and perseverance.
(Source: Nellie Bly Online, http://www.nellieblyonline.com/herwriting)
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