Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/573

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557
EDITOR'S TABLE.

results of the striking advance and widening influence of modern scientific knowledge must be a sharp revision of the ancient and current valuations of great men. The old standards can not continue to be accepted, and the declaration of the Lord Mayor of London is a clear admission of it. He represents the position of Professor Huxley as President of the Royal Society not merely as the head of an eminent body of English investigators, distinguished as that position would be, but as "the head of the intellectual life of the world," and he gives greater emphasis to the statement by affirming that Huxley's position is "really one of even greater importance" than that of Gladstone, Prime Minister of England. This is in no sense a comparison of the talents or genius of two distinguished personalities, but a comparison of their positions as representative men, and an affirmation of the superiority of the illustrious scientist to the illustrious politician. The deeper meaning of this averment is that it brings into contrast two types of character—that formed under scientific influences and embodying its spirit, and that formed under political influences and embodying its spirit. The immense import of the statement arises from its recognition that a new order of men has arisen in these times and worked its way to acknowledged supereminence as leaders in "the intellectual life of the world." This means a great deal.

Undoubtedly the great changes of modern thought which threaten to displace an old ideal of great men, and to substitute a new ideal, have far-reaching consequences, which may turn out to be of the most practical kind. It would be folly to deny that in recent years there has been a rapid decline in the respect generally entertained for eminent political men. The world has always worshiped successful politicians, and will no doubt long continue to worship them as the embodiments of power in society; but, as the possession of political power becomes more and more a matter of accident, there will be increasing hollowness in the homage rendered to those who have had the good luck to get possession of official places. Already political success has altogether ceased to imply greatness of character; the machinery of partisan politics may give prominence to a wary and skillful manager—the tricky manœuvring of a convention may furnish a President but nobody is deceived into supposing that distinguished merit is thereby disclosed, or that genuine greatness has met with the honor to which it is entitled. Incontestably, there are no such shams and humbugs in modern society as successful politicians. "We do not expect them to be men of solid acquisitions, to have mastered the knowledge that is needful for statesmen, or to exemplify anything like manliness and independence of character. These traits are all in the way of political success. Transparency and uprightness of mind are not wanted, insincerity and crookedness of mind are indispensable to the political manager. He views all things with reference to immediate results, and holds any expedients justifiable that will enable him to win in partisan conflict. The school of politics, in short, gives us men that are not entitled to public respect, and this scandalous fact is universally understood.

But are we to regard this as the hopeless finality of things in the political and public sphere? There are strong reasons for taking a different view and indulging in better anticipations. Agencies are at work which will form men of more elevated character. We look to the extension of science and the deepening of scientific influences to give us minds capable of improving the existing state of things. It is impossible to overestimate the good that may be hoped from this scientific influence, as it becomes strengthened and organized and brought to bear