Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/30

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the erection of a new dam. Though the embankment of a railway ran nearly parallel with the stream, and trains passed backward and forward daily, they seemed in no way disturbed, and worked steadily on until the water had risen a foot or more. The track-master, observing that this endangered the line—for the embankment had been utilized as a wing of the dam—ordered the water drawn off. But the following day the beavers had repaired the damage done them, and the water was at its former height. Again and again and again was the dam cut through, and as often would it be repaired. All in all, it was cut and repaired some fifteen or twenty times ere the beavers were sufficiently discouraged to abandon their attempts.


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THE PROGRESS OF THE WORKING-CLASSES IN THE LAST HALF-CENTURY.[1]

By ROBERT GIFFEN, LL.D.,

PRESIDENT OF THE STATISTICAL SOCIETY.

WE are carried back on this occasion very naturally to the origin of the society, by an impending event which now casts its shadow before—our approaching jubilee, which we may hope will be worthily celebrated. On such an occasion, I believe the subject on which I propose to address you to-night will be not unsuitable—a review of the official statistics bearing on the progress of the working-classes—the masses of the nation—in the last half-century. If you go back to the early records of the society, you will find that one of the leading objects of its founders was to obtain means by which to study the very question I have selected. Happily we have still with us one or two honored members associated with the early history of the society—I may mention Dr. Guy and Sir Rawson Rawson—who will bear me out in what I have stated. I may remind you, moreover, that one of the founders of the society was Mr. Porter, of the Board of Trade, whose special study for years was much the same, as his well-known book, "The Progress of the Nation," bears witness; and that in one of the earliest publications of the society, a volume preceding the regular issue of the "Journal," he has left a most interesting account of what he hoped might be effected by means of statistics in studying the subject I have put before you, or the more general subject of the "Progress of the Nation." In asking you, therefore, to look for a little at what statistics tell us of the progress of the great masses of the nation, I feel that I am selecting a subject which is con-

  1. Inaugural address before the London Statistical Society, read November 20, 1883. Mr. Gladstone writes to Mr. Giffen December 28, 1883: "I have read with great pleasure your masterly paper. It is probably, in form and in substance, the best reply to George."