Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/339

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lished by the authority of Congress on geographical, geological, engineering, and other subjects—reports often in imposing quartos magnificently illustrated.

Not without interest may we explore the origin of the depreciation of which we thus complain. In other countries it is commonly the case that each claims for itself all that it can, and often more than is its due. Each labors to bring its conspicuous men and its public acts into the most favorable point of view; each goes upon the maxim that a man is usually valued at the value he puts upon himself. But how is it with us? Can any impartial person read without pain the characters we so often attribute to our most illustrious citizens in political and, what is worse, in social life? Can we complain if strangers accept us at our own depreciation, whether of men or things?

We need not go far to detect the origin of all this—it is in our political condition. Here wealth, power, preferment—preferment even to the highest position of the nation—are seemingly within the reach of all, and in the internecine struggle that takes place every man is occupied in pushing some other man into the background.

I fear that in political life there is no remedy for this, such is the violence of the competition, so great are the prizes at stake. But in the less turbulent domain of science and letters we may hope for better things. And those who make it their practice to decry the contributions of their own country to the stock of knowledge may perhaps stand rebuked by the expressions that sometimes fall from her generous rivals. How can they read without blushing at their own conduct such declarations as that recently uttered by the great organ of English opinion, the foremost of English journals? The Times, which no one will accuse of partiality in this instance, says: "In the natural distribution of subjects, the history of enterprise, discovery, and conquest, and the growth of republics, fell to America, and she has dealt nobly with them. In the wider and multifarious provinces of art and science she runs neck and neck with the mother-country, and is never left behind!"

There are among us some persons who depreciate science merely through illiterate arrogance; there are some who, incited by superficiality, dislike it; there are some who regard it with an evil eye, because they think it is undermining the placid tranquillity they find in life-long cherished opinions. There are some who hate it because they fear it, and many because they find that it is in conflict with their interests.

But let us who are the servants of Science, who have dedicated ourselves to her, take courage. Day by day the number of those who hold her in disfavor is diminishing. We can disregard their misrepresentations and maledictions. Mankind has made the great discovery that she is the long-hoped-for civilizing agent of the world. Let us continue our labor unobtrusively, conscious of the integrity of