in the good as forever allied to the true, this devotion to duty as the result of such faith and zeal, constitute probably the most needed element at this moment in the political regeneration of this country, and that, therefore, the example of our little army of true devotees of science has an exceeding preciousness.
Said a justly-distinguished senator to me yesterday, in Washington: "The true American idea of education is to give all children a good and even start; then to hold up the prizes of life before them; then to say to them: 'Go in and win; let the smartest have the prizes.'"
Who of the common herd shall dispute the conclusions of a senator beneath the great cast-iron dome at Washington?—But here, in this presence, I may venture to say that such a theory of education is one of the main causes of our greatest national danger and disgrace. No theory can be more false, or, in the long-run, more fatal. Look at it for a moment:
We are greatly stirred, at times, as this fraud or that scoundrel is dragged to light, and there rise cries and moans over the corruption of the times; but, my friends, these frauds and these scoundrels are not the "corruption of the times." They are the mere pustules which the body politic throws to the service. Thank God, that there is vitality enough left to throw them to the surface! The disease is below all this; infinitely more wide-spread.
What is that disease? I believe that it is, first of all, indifference—indifference to truth as truth; next, skepticism, by which I do not mean inability to believe this or that dogma, but the skepticism which refuses to believe that there is any power in the universe strong enough, large enough, good enough, to make the thorough search for truth safe in every line of investigation; next, infidelity, by which I do not mean want of fidelity to this or that dominant creed, but want of fidelity to that which underlies all creeds, the idea that the true and the good are one; and, finally, materialism, by which I do not mean this or that scientific theory of the universe, but that devotion to the mere husks and rinds of good, that struggle for place and pelf, that faith in mere material comfort and wealth, which eats out of human hearts all patriotism, and which is the very opposite of the spirit that gives energy to scientific achievement.
The education which our senatorial friend approved leads naturally to just this array of curses.
On the other hand, I believe that the little army of scientific men furnish a very precious germ from which better ideas may spring.
And we should strengthen them. We have already multitudes of foundations and appliances for the dilution of truth—for the stunting of truth—for the promotion of half-truths—for the development of this or that side of truth.
We have no end of intellectual hot-house arrangements for the cultivation of the plausible rather than the true; and therefore it is that