Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/571

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

mechanics' pay. With the day's work rated at one dollar, farming here at the East would be a remunerative occupation, but with wages at twelve and fourteen shillings agriculture in New England is dead. A gentleman, whose little fortune of $10,000 brought him at 7 per cent an income of $700 just before the war, thought himself on a somewhat higher social plane than his neighbor the carpenter who, working 240 days out of the 365 at $1.50 per day obtained $360 for his year's labor; but nowadays receiving $720 for the same labor for the same period, the mechanic looks down condescendingly upon the possessor of ten myriads of dimes, whose annual income at 4 per cent is reduced to $320 loss than his own; and, to beautify this picture by adding the proper sidelights and shadings, the property-holder is heavily taxed to educate the carpenter's children while he, the carpenter aforesaid, howls for higher wages and less hours of work and weeps copiously over the oppressive rapacity of capital. One might proceed through all social grades and all human occupations, and everywhere find high wages effecting disturbances in some cases beneficial, in others disastrous, but always attended by low prices for everything else and by circumstances which should depreciate the price of labor also, and yet it would seem that the workman is most in demand and paid the best where his products are most overproduced. Why should this be so? Will the Hon. David A. Wells attempt an answer?

W. B. Weed.

Darien, Connecticut, December, 1887.




OYSTER-FATTENING.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I have only to-day had the good fortune to see Professor Atwater's most interesting paper on the chemistry of oyster-fattening. I am induced to say that thirty to thirty-five years ago it was common for well-to-do families in the North of Ireland — County Derry — to buy oysters by "the long hundred," that is one hundred and twenty, and to lay them down in tubs or pans in fresh water, with a very little salt added. When they had been so laid down a few hours, some oatmeal was thrown into the water, in pinches, and they were thus "fed" for two or three days when they were found heavier, plumper, and more delicate in flavor. If I recollect rightly, they were also made whiter by this process. Was the effect wholly imaginary, or did the oysters really assimilate the oatmeal, which was always of the finest, that is, the flouriest, sort? Yours truly,

Charles Williams, F.R.G.S.

New York, November 22, 1887.


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EDITOR'S TABLE.


THE "ACT OF GOD" AND "HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY:"

NOW and again, amid the rush of modern progress, we catch a note or sign of reaction. Such a note we most distinctly have in the article published a couple of months ago in "Science" over the signature of Mr. Appleton Morgan, Mr. Morgan is a lawyer of distinction, whose talents have been largely employed by railway companies, and who has thus naturally contracted a sympathy, very allowable in its way, for those corporations. But to say that Mr. Morgan is a lawyer in active practice is almost tantamount to saying that his line of thought and argument on any given practical subject will be forensic rather than scientific — that is to say, that it will be skillfully adapted to lead up to a prearranged conclusion rather than to bring out all the truth that is obtainable in connection with the matter in hand. Mr. Morgan writes a clever article to prove that some railway accidents proceed from causes so far beyond human control that we might properly apply to them the old expression, "the act of God." The suggestion is that in such cases the railway companies should hardly be held accountable. What we are not given, however, is any clear principle of distinction by which accidents for which railway companies might, in Mr. Morgan's opinion, properly be held accountable may be separated from those where all responsibility fails, and "the act of God" must be invoked as the only hypothesis suited to the case. Yet, without some such clear principle of distinction, the whole