Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/78

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78
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tions for the release of an unfortunate inmate of Moyamensing are of less significance than the institution of measures calculated to reduce the number of commitments, so the application of means for the pre- vention of disease is of far higher value than effort in the direction of mere relief.

It is not, however, with the view of the prevention of physical suffering alone that I desire to commend to you the sphere of pre- ventive medicine. My main thesis introduces us to a far higher and broader region of thought viz., to a consideration of the moral value of preventive medicine. In presenting this subject I shall en- deavor to show that hygiene is the basis of morals, and this from the two following points of view: 1. That whatever promotes the physical well-being of the individual and of the community, promotes also their moral well-being. 2. That the tendency of disease is to undermine morality.

The hygienic value of moral living (a proposition the exact con- verse of that just stated) has long been recognized. Even its curative influence has not been overlooked. In that charming story, "Little Lord Fauntleroy," the author is true to the universal experience in depicting the improvement in health of the unfeeling old earl which follows upon the springing up in his heart of a true affection for his young grandson and heir. In this new unfolding of sympathetic in- terests, he gradually forgets the twinges of gout which have hereto- fore made life a burden; and, thus neglected, the disease languishes or rather, the new tide of life which courses through his weakened veins gradually sweeps away the ashes which have accumulated around his miserable joints and he again mounts his horse and rides forth into the life-renewing air and sunshine, tempted to the effort by the winning companionship of the loving and tender-hearted young phi- lanthropist. The returns of moral well-doing in the guise of physical well-being have, indeed, ever been held up as an incentive to morality, from that remote time when length of days was promised as the re- ward of filial piety, to those modern exhortations to honesty and virtue embodied in the mercenary maxims of the shrewd Ben Franklin. But the idea that hygienic living is the real basis of moral living has scarce- ly been hinted at, except by the few leaders in this department of thought among whom alone a science of morals is definitely recog- nized.

It would be idle to claim that society can be regenerated by a scientific formula, however profound; but, if the future progress of the race can be said to depend on the application of any one principle if the field of rational effort toward this end may be illuminated by any one conception it is this one of the dependence of morality upon the observance, both public and private, of the principles of health. This claim (which may be regarded by some as a fanciful one) is based upon the penetrating character and universal applicability of