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one commission after another for the establishment of a bureau whose sole duty it should be to collect statistics relating to industrial conditions, etc. Nothing had come of them. The rejection of the petition of the Knights of St. Crispin caused the members of the legislature towards the end of its session to become aware of the fact that a political mistake had been made. They could not take up the petition again very well and incorporate the Knights of St. Crispin, so all at once a bill was introduced providing for the establishment of a Bureau of Statistics of Labor, and this bill was carried through very promptly and rapidly under a suspension of the rules, the members of the prevailing party in the legislature having an idea that by doing this they would appease the labor element, especially the Knights of St. Crispin, which was very strong in those days. The result politically was not satisfactory, but by this action the legislature of Massachusetts set the pace by feeding this hunger and appeasing the pathetic appeal for statistical information.
What constitutes the great difference between the statistics of the present time and those of forty or more years ago? Statistics have been called "dry bones.” Mr. North, in an address a few years ago, stated that statisticians resented this popular idea about the dry bones of statistics, that there is nothing dry about them, that they are moist, juicy, fragrant as all the “perfumes of Arabia.” They are more poetic than poetry, more artistic than art, more musical than music, more philosophical than philosophy. He thought then, and I think he is of the same opinion now, that the temptation to weave romances out of statistics is so strong that some so-called statisticians are wholly unable to resist it, and this is mainly true.
This romantic idea leads to what we know as the statistical mechanic, the man who is ready to construct tables to order. Yet the real statistician, the man who is working out the process of making them, does not make tables to order, but he puts an integrity and devotion into his work that is not surpassed in any other line of official conduct.
The spirit of the modern statistician lies in the precepts laid
down by General Walker and in the fact that there is something deeper and more comprehensive than the mere statement of figures, for the statistician must have the spirit of what again Mr. North has called ethical philosophy, the recognition of the existence of the great fundamental law, the principle which governs this world and all things in it,--the principle of evolution.
How perfectly true this is, and how absolutely lacking was this spirit at the time of the organization of this Association! The modern statistician makes statistics popular by presenting their results in popular and readable form. The official statistician is under limitations in this respect, for his work, no matter what his spirit is, must, to a certain degree, be conventional, for it must be official in its character; but the Association to which we are devoted can put this spirit into its work in interpreting the statistics of the government.
The field for our exploitation is vast and rich, and it is growing vaster and richer as time goes on. We now have what we have long needed, a permanent census office, a great clearing house of federal statistics, and more and more Congress will use it as the vehicle for sending out to the people its costly information. Not only this, but more and more will it consolidate into the Census Office other statistical works, so that there shall be harmony in preparation, unity and science in presentation.
The United States now holds a unique position in statistical work. As I have intimated, no other country approaches it. Any one who has given any consideration whatever to the volumes and bulletins which are coming out of that office must concede this fact, and feel proud every time that such a volume is examined that we not only now have an office competent, adequate, skilfully manned to make it a great clearing house of statistical information, but that we have a man, one of our own Vice-Presidents, at the head of it who comprehends that spirit to which I have alluded, --who has the judgment, the intellect, and the ability which makes him pre-eminently the peer of any statistician the world can name, and holding a field
and having an opportunity not even approached by any other statistician on earth. He understands clearly the duty to which he is assigned. He understands not only the present scope of his work, but what it may be made to reach in the future.
He knows that he is painting a grand and enduring picture, not in bright colors mixed and laid by an artist's hand on canvas which might not tell at the close of another century of the work of our generation, nor yet in glowing words of description by sentences constructed by most gifted writers, whose language one hundred years hence might not mean all the interpretation we give it in our time, nor in any of the perishable methods which convey to posterity as much of the vanity of a people as of the reality which makes the Commonwealth of to-day; but that he sets the picture in cold, enduring Arabic characters, which have survived through the centuries that have passed, unchanged and unchangeable by time, by accident, or by decay, and will remain through the ages to come as truthful as of old. They are the symbols that have unlocked to us the growth of the periods which make up our past. They are the fitting and never-changing symbols by which to tell the story of our present state, so that, when the age we live in becomes the past of successive generations of men, the story and the picture shall be found to exist in all the just proportions in which it has been set by ourselves. A quiet and may be unlovely setting the statistician chooses, but he knows it will endure through all time.
At the close of the address of the President, Dr. Samuel W. Dike said:
This address has noted the many State Bureaus of Labor (34 in all, I think) besides the National Bureaus that have grown out of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mr. Wright, I believe, might have also mentioned two or three important European Statistical Bureaus that owe their origin largely to our Massachusetts Bureau. I happen to have heard from excellent authority many years ago the story of the
way in which the Massachusetts Bureau was saved from impending extinction and started on the road to success. The briefest statement of an incident will give you the clue. The Massachusetts Bureau had dragged along for three or four years, and seemed to be on its last legs. Governor Washburn sent for Colonel Carroll D. Wright, then a young man scarcely rising above thirty years of age, who was completing his term of service in the State Senate, and said to him, “I have watched your work on some measures before the legislature, and now I want you to take this Bureau of Labor and make it or bust it!” After considerable urging on the part of the governor, the young man, who was intent on returning to his excellent law practice and was without statistical experience, consented.
THE OUTLOOK FOR STATISTICAL SCIENCE IN
THE UNITED STATES.*
By S. N. D. NORTH.
I am glad of the opportunity to supplement President Wright's interesting retrospect with a brief allusion to the present situation and the future outlook for statistical science in this country, and more especially in relation to the statistical work of the government.
I have but one criticism to make upon the address. It resembles the play of “Hamlet," with Hamlet left out. It nowhere hints that Colonel Wright has contributed more to the development of statistical work in the United States, and to its substantial advancement along straight and sane lines, than any other living American Colonel Wright could not say all this, but I can.
We cannot yet fully realize what a tremendous step forward was taken when the Census Office was made a permanent institution by the act of March 6, 1902. No single thing, save only the requirement for a decennial census in the Federal Constitution, has done so much to promote the study and to perfect the methods of statistics as that legislation, to which Congress consented with the utmost reluctance and with much misgiving
It will only be after a decennial census has been taken that we can measure the gain that must come in the quality of the work by reason of the existence of the permanent bureau. That the gain will be tangible and real we already know; for a large part of the work of the office has been concentrated during this interval upon a study of weaknesses and defects and upon plans for strengthening the machinery and improving the methods.
* Address delivered at the annual meeting of the American Statistical Association Jan. 17, 1908.