Scanned, proofed and corrected from the original edition for your reading pleasure. It is also searchable and contains
hyper-links to chapters.
An excerpt from the the beginning of the Introduction:
In 1872, when the author of the essays here assembled was elected professor of political and social science in Yale College, he was, to use his own words, “a young and untried man.” He was selected for his position, not as a specialist, but because he was what he was. Someone in those days must have been an excellent judge of men. “I have tried,” Sumner wrote, in 1881, “to justify their [the Corporation's] confidence. I threw myself into the work of my department and of the college with all my might. I had no other interest or ambition.” He could have repeated these words, with equal truth, at the end of his incumbency; for the prime interest in Sumner's professional career from his election to the day of his retirement, in June, 1909, was the scrupulously faithful discharge of his academic duties; and to this end he spent freely the powers of a sturdy frame and an eager mind. His teaching and the many administrative tasks that fell to him always occupied his attention to the subordination of what he might have preferred to do, or of what might have been to his personal interest to do. Of a consequence his writings and public utterances represented extra labor, out of hours. The only one of his books not written at the behest of a publisher, he once told me, was the Folkways. In addition to the engrossing activities which I have mentioned, there was yet another factor which held back systematic enterprises on the large scale; left to himself, Sumner's tendency was to wait on further acquisition and on organization of his knowledge rather than to hasten his output. This was particularly evident in respect to his purely sociological work. A dozen years ago a breezy young reporter is said to have asked him why he did not publish on sociology, and to have received the gruff rejoinder: “Because I would rather correct my own mistakes than have other people do it for me.”
In view of these circumstances it is natural that the shorter writings and lectures of Professor Sumner should have been more characteristic of him than are most of his books — however weighty the latter in their scholarship and however highly esteemed by his colleagues in the social sciences. The most characteristic of all his activities was his teaching, for this was his absorbing interest; but next to that, I think, come his occasional essays — with which I should class the two little volumes on Protectionism and What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. Sumner had time for essays where he was sure to be hurried on his books; his consecutive leisure came in small fragments. And he could improve such shorter periods with great success, for he was remarkably rapid in his composition; his ideas were in order from his much teaching, and he could go ahead, he once told me, as fast as he could drive the pen.
These are the main reasons why Sumner's essays form a more spontaneous, characteristic, and finished product than his longer writings; and so he has been known, if not to scholars, at any rate to the general public, better through them than through his books.
No one who has the interests of American education at heart can regret that Sumner's fidelity to duty prevented him from writing more — or even from completing what he had begun. His enduring output is the human document, the awakened minds of many young men, which is a product that can only roll up in significance as time passes, and is incapable of being antedated or superseded. It was the influence of a mind and character that could not harbor the small and mean which made Sumner such a power in his world. This was true throughout his career, and neither the force of his intellect nor that of his character ever deserted him, even in the shadow of the end. It is the Sumner of the later years whom the present writer knew; and I have been asked, as a close associate and co-worker, to afford his friends and admirers some idea of his activities, and of the man himself, particularly in this his latter phase.1 I am aware that, in these days, so soon after his death, anything that I may write of him is sure to betray a personal feeling for the man, one which grew ever stronger as I knew him better.
Of Sumner's labors one might say in general that they were as unremitting as strength would allow, whereas before his illness of the early nineties they had been virtually incessant. There seems to have been in this man such intellectual eagerness, such a very mania for discovering the truth, coupled with so strong a power of will, that he wore out a robust physique untimely — for with his vigorous frame...