Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/555

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541
VEGETABLE AND ANIMAL ALBUMEN.

is, Shall commerce be permitted to run smoothly in its own natural channels, or shall it be hampered and obstructed by the changeable temper of uncertain and unintelligent legislation?[1]


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VEGETABLE AND ANIMAL ALBUMEN.

By W. BERNHARDT.

HOWEVER numerous and prolific our investigations into the composition and properties of organic bodies may have been, we yet are very imperfectly acquainted with those processes by which these manifold forms of matter originate from simple constituents of air and water, and are as yet unaware of the causes on which the changes are depending that they undergo during life. We are acquainted with the artificial preparation of many of them, and still our experience is not sufficient to explain their natural origin.

We may produce oxalic acid, a body contained in the juice of many plants and also in certain animal secretions, by heating sugar together with nitric acid, but this is not the natural process of its formation, nor does it explain it. We imitate Nature in preparing grape-sugar from starch, but our method is different from hers, although the sugar we make by treating starch with hot dilute acids is identical-with the product of the natural act of fermentation (caused in germinating grain by diastase, a product of decomposition of albuminous matter). It was considered a success of the highest scientific consequence, when Wohler found out a way of artificially preparing urea, a matter resulting from

  1. Since this paper was written there has been another practical and important demonstration of the disastrous results of the long-and-short-haul legislation. The Canadian Pacific Railway, being free from any legislative shackles, is rapidly absorbing the traffic which otherwise would naturally seek the Pacific roads of the United States. A large diversion of the through transportation business from China and Japan has already taken place as a direct result of this remarkable policy of aiding our foreign rivals at our own expense. The handicapped condition of the American roads has been still further intensified in consequence of a recent renewal by our National Administration of a former concession, contained in the treaty of Washington, with her Britannic Majesty, which allows the transportation in bond of American merchandise from one port or place in the United States to another by a route, a part of which is by land-carriage, through the Dominion of Canada. By this means very large amounts of merchandise are now shipped from San Francisco and other American Pacific ports by steamers to the western terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and thence brought over that line and distributed by American connecting lines to various commercial centers in the United States. Instead of fostering and building up the commerce of our own country, the Congress first takes away the freedom of competition from our carriers, and then our National Administration, while our legislative branch is not in session', restores to our rivals those special privileges which the Congress had abrogated in connection with the fisheries controversy. If such a peculiar joint policy by the legislative and Executive departments of our Government is long continued, and our Pacific roads can survive its effects, it will prove that they are possessed of great vitality.