Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/171

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ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT.

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and to the confirmation of which he had contributed so much, had come in on the side of the French vengeful hatred and unappeasable hostility. Humboldt, a son of the eighteenth century, was, like Goethe, cosmopolitan in his feelings, without being on that account any less a patriot. Nothing would have shocked him, who spent the best part of his life in Paris, in intercourse with the noblest men of the nation, more than the preponderance of Chauvinism; nothing would have troubled him more than to observe that mental disease suggesting a back-sliding into the barbarism of primitive society which is becoming epidemic over Europe, and more seriously threatens the progress of mankind than the rivalry of dynasties ever could do.

Among the articles of faith with which Humboldt was thoroughly permeated, was that of the unity of the human race. On it he theoretically based his abhorrence of slavery, the worser side of which in practice he had observed in its very home, and he spared no opportunity to make his convictions public. The Abolitionist party in the United States did not fail to make use of so desirable a confederate, and at many an anti-slavery meeting, besides "Uncle Tom's Cabin," brought the "Cosmos" into the fight. Humboldt did not live to see the melancholy drama of the war of secession. The final defeat of the slave-holders and the abolition of slavery would have given him great joy. But how would we have stood before him, the friend of the house of Mendelssohn, who corresponded with Henrietta Herz in the Jewish current hand, if he had heard of the race-persecution we have instituted?

In science we could, however, point with peculiar pride to the insight into the unity of the forces of Nature which has become so clear: to spectrum analysis; to the recognition of the nature of comets, a sequel to his observations in Cumana; and to the establishment of the doctrine of descent, and the associated one of persistent natural selection. To-day, when the nebular hypothesis has, through the mechanical theory of heat, been combined with geology, and the hand of the doctrine of descent is reaching through paleontology over the hiatus of spontaneous generation; when we can so far survey the birth of cosmos out of chaos as to be able clearly to define the really doubtful points—now, perhaps, a "Cosmos" might be written, but no one longer thinks of doing it. Two qualities which Humboldt possessed in the highest degree, and would be missed by us with regret were necessary to it, and can no more be found—the view over the whole field of science, and the careful effort to create beautiful forms. Humboldt would also deeply lament the decay of the historical sense, which often in the growth of science first teaches us the true connection of things.

Since Alexander von Humboldt was a universal naturalist, and thought historically, while William, not less universal in the mental sciences, sometimes acted as a naturalist, the two brothers met at