Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/485

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forests and deserts, of men as ignorant, superstitious, wild, and brutal as the Comanche Indians. Such, nevertheless, is the fact; and the question naturally arises: How, through the ages, have our ancestors been able to overcome their abject condition, and rise to the heights of knowledge and art, to survey an immense horizon of truth, and use the magical bounties of invention? Did the light break upon us all at once; did we get all the superior advantages of science and art we now enjoy from a single hand or from one inspiration, or was the process not only slow and gradual, but difficult and terrible? To what or to whom do we owe this great change, this wonderful transformation of the mind, manners, and labors of the human race?

We answer at once: The progress of man from the savage to the civilized state of society and to its functions and uses was indeed slow and arduous, and is due to the studies of solitary, thinking book-men, careful theorists, or inquisitive philosophers, who, in each generation, and one after the other, have promulgated the result of their meditations.

Understand us—we mean what we say: we say book-men, we say theorists; and, if humor prompts, it may add contemptuous epithets to the terms. We may say, if we choose, mere book-men, mad theorists, or dreamy philosophers, and still the proposition would be true.

To demonstrate this truth we might begin with primeval man, go through ancient history, tracing the march of mind from the mythic Hermes of Egypt, the Pythagoras of Greece, the Zoroaster of Persia, to the grand display of civilization exhibited by the Roman Empire under Aurelius Antoninus, or under Constantine the Great, and thence follow the current in all its vicissitudes down to the present age. But the limits of a single article preclude so extended a review of human progress. Hence, we are compelled to select, if possible, a period of history within which a fair illustration of the march of mind may be found (leaving out former and subsequent ages), to test other periods by the same laws of development. Let us, therefore, begin in the middle of the middle ages, that is to say, in the year 800 after Christ, and finish with the discovery of America, in the fifteenth century. From this first point our premises will be apparent. At the last point our conclusion will be reached; and then all the consequences, as applicable to modern times, will show themselves as clearly as the landscape in the light of day.

In the year 800 after Christ, what was the state of Europe? The Goths, the Vandals, the Franks, the Huns, the Normans, the Turks, and other barbarian hordes, had invaded and overthrown the Roman Empire, and had established various kingdoms upon its ruins. These hordes of savages had destroyed, not only all the works of civilization, but civilization itself. Ignorant as they were of everything that distinguishes and elevates human nature, they broke up the schools, ruined the monuments, abolished arts and manufactures, prevented commerce,