Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 1.djvu/190

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
1800.
179
AMERICAN IDEALS.

hopes,—as in 1815, at a moment of despondency, he wrote: "I fear from the experience of the last twenty-­five years that morals do not of necessity advance hand in hand with the sciences." In 1800, in the flush of triumph, he believed that his task in the world was to establish a democratic republic, with the sciences for an intellectual field, and physical and moral advancement keeping pace with their ad­vance. Without an excessive introduction of more recent ideas, he might be imagined to define demo­cratic progress, in the somewhat affected precision of his French philosophy: "Progress is either phy­sical or intellectual. If we can bring it about that men are on the average an inch taller in the next generation than in this; if they are an inch larger round the chest; if their brain is an ounce or two heavier, and their life a year or two longer,—that is progress. If fifty years hence the average man shall invariably argue from two ascertained premises where he now jumps to a conclusion from a single supposed revelation,—that is progress! I expect it to be made here, under our democratic stimulants, on a great scale, until every man is potentially an athlete in body and an Aristotle in mind." To this doctrine the New Englander replied, "What will you do for moral progress?" Every possible answer to this question opened a chasm. No doubt Jefferson held the faith that men would improve morally with their physical and intellectual growth; but he had no idea of any moral improvement other than that which