Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/241

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231
NATURAL SELECTION IN POLITICS.

en, and vitalize a people; and the purer they are, the more they are worth as factors of nationality.

It is worth while to try to be decent, to reform bad habits, and fortify exposed places in our public life; for the best is the longest lived.

This is not very new; a good deal of such preaching was wasted upon the Jews; but, after being sickened upon the doctrine that a fall of temperature produces a given number of suicides, and that morals have no influence in civilization, it is worth the cost of listening to a sermon, to get back again, under a disciple of Darwin, to the old truth, that it is well with the good, and ill with the evil, evermore on the earth.

The hopeful aspect given to change in national life by Darwinian Politics deserves special notice, and seems timely.

We are all afraid to change—born conservatives; and we all want something changed—born radicals; and we do change. All human life varies incessantly; the new generation sees life in new aspects, and rejoices in other colors. The variation comes in constantly; and it is our safety. Our inborn conservatism would kill us off if the variation did not help our inborn radicalism in the else unequal struggle. That which is, like the bird in the hand, is worth two reforms in the bush, for a contest. In short, nations grow, progress, thrive, through the law of variation from inheritance.

"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea;" the consolation is, that only in pain does progress get birth, and that the things born are, on the whole, like the babies of any year, a little stronger and better than the things which die to give them room. Nor is this so because the moon is not made of green cheese, but because a beneficent law underlies human existence. The exceptions are numerous; so too are the small graves at Rose Hill, and yet there are more men on the earth, on the whole, happier than their ancestors, than there were fifty years ago. We must change; it is our cowardice or indolence that makes change a danger. The law deals generously with virtue and strength.

It is curious to mark how slowly we learn some of these simple lessons. A century ago, we respected, envied, the noble savage. The contemptible creature was semi-divine to first-rate poets and statesmen. They bewailed society, and longed for nakedness in the woods.

The same men knew that one Roman soldier had outmatched fifty semi-barbarians in every struggle, and that noble savages fell into the toils of the meanest civilized men in the slave-trade.

Civilization is strength and happiness. Miss Fragilla may not get all the new bonnets she wants; but that pain is easier borne than the "sound belashing" her ancestor got at her age, two centuries ago. She may not be all we could wish, but no young man of our blood would pass her by for a Choctaw princess.