The Industrial Problem

by Lyman Abbott
Being the William Levi Bull Lectures for 1905

From 1870, when I took up my residence in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, to 1887, when I assumed the pastorate of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, I was engaged in two courses of study: one in the New Testament in preparation for a Commentary on that Book; the other
on our industrial and sociological problems, impelled thereto by the journalistic duty of reporting and interpreting the incidents in our current American history. The result of that study was an early conviction that the principles of the Manchester School of Political
Economy, which had dominated academic instruction in my college days, as they were commonly understood and practically applied, could not be reconciled with either the principles or the spirit inculcated by Jesus Christ. To apply those principles to the solution of our industrial problems became my endeavor, which has now been pursued
as a life purpose for upwards of a quarter of a century. In an appendix to this volume is given a list of some of the principal books which have entered into this course of study; but more important has been the study of that problem at first hand,—in the investigation of
specific incidents and events in our industrial development, in visits to mines, factories, and other organized industries, and in conferences with both labor leaders and captains of industry. When in 1904 I was invited to give this course of Lectures on the conditions expressed in the letter establishing this Lectureship, the invitation was gladly accepted because it furnished an opportunity to put into a compact form some of the conclusions which had been reached as a result of my faith “in the moral teachings and principles of the Christian religion as the true solvent of our Social, Industrial and Economic
problems.” The American community is slowly coming to the conclusion that universal suffrage is no solvent of our political problems unless it is accompanied by a universal education which must be moral as well as intellectual. It is also slowly coming to the conclusion that industrial liberty is no solvent of our economic problems unless it is accompanied by a recognition of economic duties and obligations. This too tardy rediscovery of the essential teaching of Jesus Christ makes this beginning of the twentieth century far more full of hope for industrial peace and prosperity than was the beginning of the nineteenth, with its calm assurance that educated selfinterest would prove a panacea for all industrial evils.

This brief statement sufficiently explains the genesis of this volume, the object of which is to indicate certain lessons which the industrial evolution of the last half century has to teach us in the light of the precepts and principles inculcated by Jesus Christ.
Lyman Abbott.
Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, N. Y., May, 1905.

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