"THE SECRET SOCIETY SYSTEM. By E. E. Aiken, Yale, '81. New Haven: O. H. Briggs." The series of essays by E. E. Aiken, which appeared last spring in that singularly able but anomalous paper, the Yale Critic, have been collected and published in pamphlet form and entitled "The Secret Society System." The publishers say:
"It discusses the question in its social, intellectual, political and religious bearings, and among the authorities quoted are Lieber, Howard Crosby and President Noah Porter. Thus, while it gleans the best ideas that have been offered by preceding writers, it is a thoroughly new and original treatment of the question, from the standpoint of the student, discussing the principles involved, pointing out the fallacies of the secret society theory, and explaining the true principles. Many statements made are fortified by the testimony of such eminent public men as John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, Daniel Webster, William H. Seward, George William Curtis; distinguished graduates and educators of the standing of William M. Evarts, ex-President Theodore D. Woolsey and President Hitchcock."
The author takes a decided stand against the secret society system of our American colleges. His arguments are dispassionate, often cogent, and frequently - fallacious. All the reasons against the system are ably presented and urged; in much, in very much, his criticisms are just and unanswerable; but they frequently go too far. No better statement of all the charges against college secret societies from the standpoint of the student could be made. No more misleading and partial judgment on the question could be given. The many and imperative reasons for the existence of these societies are half unanswered, half ignored. Our college societies supply an undoubted social want in student life. In this - in principle - they are perfectly justifiable and commendable. Many criticisms, however, are just. Much in college society life, in respect to tendency and spirit, could well be reformed. But the abolition of the social unions of students in clubs is not the way to accomplish this result - and this abolition is the legitimate outcome of Mr. Aiken's arguments. The book, however, is well worth reading by all college men. The author will certainly win respect for his sincerity and earnestness, and one's individual profit from reading the book, even when opposed to the general conclusions of the writer, cannot but be great.