Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/78

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74
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

tears, enough to give a dull background to any picture; but that is not to say that when one compares this day with that of our fathers he must find reason for renewed sorrow.

Man can not pass at once from savagery to civilization; that change has been in process for millenniums and still it is far from complete. Equally slow is the passage from primeval grossness to ideal purity. The golden rule is a fundamental principle of the ethnic religions as much as of Judaism and Christianity. During more than three thousand years it has been urged as the rule of life, but war and rapine still fill the pages of man's history; yet it has not been ignored and, with the passing centuries, its hold on mankind becomes stronger. In the business world, each period of advance ends abruptly in a storm of stress and panic, by which all seem to be prostrated; but the recession never returns to the previous stage. So in the moral world, the tide flows and ebbs, but each rise advances farther up the slope than did the last — as much in this land as elsewhere.

Three years ago the community was startled by revelations of mismanagement in the great insurance companies and the matter was more than a nine days' wonder. Pulpit and press vied in condemnation of the wicked men. Yet the culprits had not looted their companies; they had not decreased the security of the policy-holders; they had merely utilized their positions for personal gain, making themselves partners with their companies in profitable ventures; they had been guilty of imperfect consecration to the interest of their trust and had shown what wholly unscrupulous men could do. One can well imagine the perplexity of a resurrected magnate of sixty years ago, when told of this crime. Surely he would think that times had changed. In his day such conduct would have passed unrebuked, nay, it might have been commended, as the companies had profited by the transactions. It is rebuked now because there is at last a public conscience which compels respect.

Even politicians recognize this and are not slow to turn it to their own advantage. Only a little while ago, the operations of a syndicate in connection with a western railroad were the subject of governmental investigation; the so-called exposure filled columns of the papers, was made almost a national issue, being utilized in political strife. Yet the whole transaction had occurred in full view of the public without attempt at concealment or deception. The syndicate which owned the property almost outright was charged with increasing the capitalization without equivalent expenditure, but there was no evidence that any one had suffered by the operation, though clearly some one had profited. Whether or not there was any wrong in this transaction is difficult for a layman to discover; but as presented in ex parte form, the matter sufficed to justify the astute politician's appeal to the pub-