Forgotten Man

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"FORGOTTEN MAN" was the title of a public lecture delivered by William Graham Sumner of Yale University in 1883. Sumner, a leading social Darwinist, was critical of those who favored social improvement schemes that took money from or imposed restrictions upon this "honest, industrious, economical" working man in order to help his negligent neighbor. In Sumner's view, such efforts as philanthropy, guild restrictions, and temperance legislation inhibited competition among workers by which worthy individuals might succeed and thereby contribute to the general prosperity. On 18 May 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt revived the term in an address at Warms Springs, Georgia. However, he used the term to refer to the underprivileged, those whom he wanted to help with government programs.


Curtis, Bruce. William Graham Sumner. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

Sumner, William Graham, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1883. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1972.

Wiebe, Robert H. The Search for Order 1877–1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

Alvin F.Harlow/c. p.

See alsoLaissez-Faire ; Philanthropy ; Social Legislation .