Many who had signed the remonstrance now signed the petition, so that the consent of the village to the measure proposed was regarded as practically unanimous.
But there was an active party in favor of the boys, who were determined that they should not be interfered with in their amusement, and so the selectmen played into the hands of this party by excluding all bicycles, large and small, from the sidewalks, well knowing that this step would cause such irritation as to defeat itself. The consequence was that the order of exclusion was rescinded, and all bicycles, large and small, were once more allowed to run freely on the sidewalks, except in the small portion of the village occupied by the stores, hotel, and bank.
The gentleman, a distinguished professor of Columbia College, who moved in the matter, attempted to arouse public sentiment upon the subject, and, as there was no newspaper printed in the village, he posted up a handbill with a list of thirteen accidents, and cases of serious annoyance, that had occurred; and shortly after posted up ten additional cases, signed with his well-known initials, to show by facts that the practice resisted was really a dangerous one. These posters were removed by the selectmen. He then printed a letter, stating the case fully, and giving an account of twenty accidents, and placed a copy in every box in the village post-office, addressed to the chief residents. One was also sent to the editor of the "Springfield Republican," who made a notice of it, and one hundred copies of his paper were distributed in the village, all of which failed to produce any effect.
Now, our interest in this matter is purely scientific. We take the data, find their explanation, and draw conclusions respecting the true grade of Stockbridge society.
The facts in a sentence are simply these: Half a dozen boys, in the pursuit of a selfish gratification, persist in violating the rights of citizens, and this conduct is sustained by the community which yet acknowledges the outrage.
And how is it to be explained? By the indifference of the people to the subject as a matter of right and wrong; or a laxity of moral sense. The gentleman who moved in the matter, and should have been regarded as a public benefactor, was not supported, but was condemned for his action. Of course, when such an issue was once raised, there was tenfold necessity to put down the openly immoral party; but the raising of the issue only cowed their opponents, and disclosed the absence of moral backbone in the Stockbridge character. "It was really such a petty matter, such small business, to be meddling with the enjoyments of the dear boys!" from which we get an idea of the quality of Stockbridge ethics, which is far too much the American sort. Small trespasses are to be tolerated, and only outrages that comport with the scale of American ideas are to be reprobated. Abuses that have in them something of the breadth of the continent or the length of the Mississippi, or the bigness of the national debt, are worthy to excite indignation; but mere sidewalk offenses—nonsense!
It is to be presumed, of course, that Stockbridge education conforms to the standard of its public opinion. The boys are sent to school, and taught book-lessons in morality, including sensitiveness to the rightful claims of others, and especially solicitude for the weak and helpless, and then they take lessons in the out-of-door practical morality of running over baby-carriages, upsetting old people, and disturbing everybody, because the sidewalk is a little nicer than the street for bicycle riding.
From all of which we may fairly infer the grade of Stockbridge civilization. Its people may be refined and educated, affluent, polished, and devo-