Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/350

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346
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

equal — the hydrocephalous infant is not to be confounded with the normal child, nor the Bushman's baby with the offspring of the Anglo-Saxon.

But, it may be objected with impatience, why all this insistence upon what is so perfectly evident? Why whisper around the secret of all the world — the very first thing that our common experience of mankind brings to our notice? We do not have to wait for science to tell us that men are not so outrageously free and so ridiculously equal. Science corroborates what common experience reveals, of course; but does not every one know of himself that when we warm up over the subject of the rights of man, and grow pardonably oratorical, we never intend to be understood with a literal exactness?

Yes, everybody knows, under normal circumstances, that men are not alike, and that it would be the very height of all that is unreasonable to expect all to act in the same way. No man of sense goes to the thistle for figs, or to the penitentiary for saints. And as human beings differ, and may reasonably be expected to find the attainment of the halo difficult in varying degrees, and the descent to Avernus easy, easier or easiest, according to their proclivities and to the help furnished them by their environment, everybody knows that there is no sense in treating all men alike, if our object is, as it ought to be, the betterment of society. One man does not need special inducements to be good; one has to have a cake dangled before him; one would be cut to the quick if the cake were merely hinted at. One man needs a gentle admonition, as his feet begin to move on the above-mentioned slope; a second must have a pretty sharp jerk, if he is to be stopped in his downward career; a third whizes by with such an impetus that to lay hands suddenly upon him is to endanger his comfort and happiness. Shall we treat them all alike, and call it even-handed justice?

Everybody, I say, knows, under normal circumstances, that it is folly to expect men to act alike, when they are not alike; to look to see them influenced in the same way by the same object of desire or aversion; to hope to make them better by offering the same rewards or by holding up the same threats of punishment. The same heavy dumpling that will lure the hungry schoolboy to the paths of virtue, will drive the aged dyspeptic to the vice of imprecation.

But men only know this, be it marked, under normal circumstances. We must recognize the fact that men — not stupid men, or ignorant men, but men of the highest intelligence and of much learning — are capable of putting all this resolutely behind them, and of knowing nothing save that all men are free and equal, when they fall into the clutches of a certain strange metaphysical theory.

It is wonderful what abstract metaphysical reasonings will do. They have smothered the voice of seemingly indubitable fact, and have led