This is an old story, from around 1850 or so, but it illustrates a bit of humility, and the mutability of acceptability.
THEY SET THE FASHION,
How a Main Judge Persuaded Shoeless Boys and Girls to Go to Sunday-School
Judge Carter, of Haverhill, Mass., who died last January at an advanced age, was a native of Maine. It was one of pleasantries of this excellent magistrate to confess that once in his life he was “guilty of bribery.”
While practicing his profession in Bridgton, Me., 40 or 50 years ago, both he and Mrs. Carter were active church helpers, and both took a particular interest in the Sunday school, serving as teachers and using all their influence to keep the classes full.
In those simpler times children went barefoot in the summer on week days, but there were exceptions to the rule in a few well-to-do families of position, and when Sunday came the etiquette for young church-going feet was so far in favor of shoes that poor people, out of pride, kept their unshod children at home.
Lawyer Carter noticed this, and when several promised recruits to the Sunday school failed to come, he divined the cause without offending the sensibilities of the parents. It was a question how to secure the shoeless boys and girls, and finally it occurred to him to work out the problem at home. He “bribed” his own children to got to Sunday school barefoot.
Whether the household at first “filed a demurrer” we are not told, but the little folks agreed to their father’s terms and went. One appearance was enough to set the fashion. The shoeless families said: “If Squire Carter’s children can come to Sunday school barefoot, it’s a pretty how-de-do if ours can’t.” And after that there were no more stay-at-homes for pride’s sake.
The end does not always justify the means, but in this case most of us will be inclined to call the expedient of the good “squire” by a gentler name than he used.