Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/14
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
duction, "as due, to a great extent, to the yet imperfect development of the art of practical mechanics"; and that mechanical skill will ultimately effect "a return to the system (now almost extinct) of independent, self-sustaining domiciliary labor" by the introduction of cheap, compact, easily set up and operated labor-saving machinery into the smaller workshops and the homes of the workingmen. Should the difficulties now attendant upon the transmission of electricity from points where it can be cheaply generated, and its safe and effective subdivision and distribution as a motive force, be overcome (as it is not improbable they ultimately will be), thus doing away with the necessity of multiplying expensive and cumbersome machinery — steam-engines, boilers, dams, reservoirs, and water-wheels — for the local generation and application of mechanical power, there can be no doubt that most radical changes in the use of power for manufacturing purposes will speedily follow, and that the anticipations of Dr. Siemens, as to the change in the relations of machinery to its operatives, may at no distant day be realized.
The third cause which has especially operated in recent years to occasion discontent on the part of labor has been undoubtedly the increase in intelligence or general information on the part of the masses in all civilized countries.
The best definition, or rather statement, of the essential difference between a man and an animal that has ever been given is, that a man has progressive wants, and an animal has not. Under the guidance of what is termed instinct, the animal wants the same habitat and quantity and quality of food as its progenitors, and nothing more. And the more nearly man approaches in condition to the animal, the more limited is the sphere of his wants, and the greater his contentment. A greater supply of blubber and skins to the Esquimaux, more "pulque" to the native Mexican, to the West Indian negro a constant supply of yams and plantains without labor, and the ability to buy five salt herring for the same price that he has now to give for three, would, in each case, temporarily fill the cup of individual happiness nearly to repletion. And, among civilized men, the contentment and also sluggishness of those neighborhoods in which the population come little in contact with the outer world and have little of diversity of employment open to them, are proverbial. Now the wonderful material progress which has been made within the last quarter of a century has probably done more to overcome the inertia, and quicken the energy of the masses, than all that has been hitherto achieved in this direction in all preceding centuries. The railroad, the steamship, and the telegraph have broken down the barriers of space and time that