Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/368

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354
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

does not send his child to school down to the abandoned city sinner whoa outrages Mr. Dowsett's feelings by playing cards in the railway-carriage. Why should we tread any longer that toilsome road by which men have sought to better themselves and each other? Why paint a picture by hand, when you can do it so well by a chromo-lithographic process? Why exert ourselves to enlist the active moral forces of society on our side; to work by sympathy, discussion, advice and teaching of every kind; by personal contact; by that wonderful force of example which makes every better kind of life a magnetic power among the lower kinds; by that softening of character and greater gentleness that diffuse themselves everywhere, as savagery of all kinds is just allowed to melt quietly away under the thousand influences of civilization; by raising and ennobling our own motives for helping each other, and, above all, by constant efforts to enlarge and increase our own powers of seeing truly, so that we may understand what are the causes of the evils we see round us, and what are the conditions under which they can be successfully attacked? All this is simply superfluous in presence of the modern omniscient and omnipotent act of Parliament. Think how much trouble, how many long years of slow conversion are saved by our present admirable process of compulsion. Charlemagne—not St. Paul or St. John—was the really enlightened Christian apostle. Be baptized, or, is the one argument specially fitted for the souls of men. But, however excellent these compulsions may be for the first ten minutes, still every ten minutes has its afterward; and let me now ask, what is the after-fruit borne by these compulsions? Let us take for granted that before the first factory acts were passed many children were overworked. There were two ways open for those to take who felt the wrong and wished to remedy it. There was the easy, rapid, and unfruitful parliamentary way; there was the way—slow, up-hill, but very rich in after-fruits—of appealing directly to the people to reform the thing for themselves. I know this last way would have been slow. I know that all those who wish to gather fruit before the tree is planted would have exclaimed, "And meanwhile the children are left to suffer." I know it would have required a personal devotion and belief in their work far greater than that which is necessary for conducting a parliamentary agitation, with its showy and rather sensational rewards; but I also know that in the end the parent would not simply be rendering mechanical obedience to a law; I know that vigilant individual care and intelligent appreciation of the interests of their children would, as a consequence, have slowly grown to be a part of their character. How can these things ever grow into being, if by a compulsory law you make them as regards each special case in turn unnecessary? Did anything in this world ever come into being if you had rendered its growth superfluous? What is it that develops all the best qualities of human nature? Simply the pressure upon us of those natural pains