Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/868

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

worthy persons having been drawn into the pursuit of science, it apparently assumes that they would display sufficient ability in this field to make them very dangerous. Our bogy-hunter says:

As a rule, science turns itself away from producing what is not useful but injurious, and concentrates its attention on what is likely to benefit mankind. It helps, of course, to make war inventions more effective, but no scientific man has yet persistently searched for means of destroying non-combatants wholesale, or for sterilizing vast tracts of country as a lava-flood sterilizes them. If once, however, the tone of scientific feeling is lowered, there is no knowing how far the maleficent side of science may be developed. . . . The results of scientific discoveries intended to be beneficial are often, as it is, turned to very ill uses. What would be the result if we had hundreds of active brains consciously attempting to shape Nature's actions to evil ends?

There is probably no career that is less likely to hold any unworthy persons who might be attracted to it than the pursuit of science. A sufficient command of chemistry, for instance, to enable a man "actuated by worldly motives" to produce "an air-poison so potent as to act instantaneously over a very wide area" can not be acquired except through an amount of patient research that no such person would endure. The Spectator had better sound its warnings where they are more needed. Take the field of literature, for example. Poets receive and have long received a vast deal more of adulation than has yet fallen to the lot of men of science. We like to think of poets as persons who can utter none but fine and noble thoughts. Is there not great danger that the ambitious youth may say of poetry what The Spectator imagines him saying of science, "Here is a field in which I can exchange my brains and my assiduity against popularity and worldly position with great advantage?" Would it not be better to withhold all marks of public esteem from poets than to risk having the craft adulterated with "persons primarily actuated by worldly motives"? Nor is this all. It is well known that poetry exerts a vast influence over the passions of men. The oft-quoted saying, "I care not who makes the laws of a people if I may make their songs," tersely attests this. What dreadful deeds a populace might be incited to "if half the [poets] were primarily anxious to sell their powers [of song] to the highest bidder!" Here, indeed, is a bogy by which The Spectator might well be terrified.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Africa and America. By Alex Cremmell. Springfield, Mass.: Willey & Co. Pp. 466.

It is difficult to finish this volume of addresses without renewed interest in the condition and future of the African people. The author has not only studied the needs of the freedman in America, but through a residence of twenty years on the western coast of Africa has made himself acquainted with the Liberian colonists and many native negro tribes, and can differentiate the natural characteristics of his race from those acquired in years of bondage. He allows no rancor against those who have been its oppressors to obscure his judgment, and writes of slaveholders that they, "like all other sorts of men, were divided into two classes—the good and the bad."

Far worse than any present political injustice is the terrible inheritance of two hundred years of moral and intellectual degradation. To counteract this, an uplifting of character and industrial training are needed. The educational and material progress since emancipation disproves any idea of retrogression. According to the census of 1880, the colored population was assessed for over $91,000,000 of taxable property, and nearly 16,000 school-teachers were credited to them.

The race problem can not be settled by amalgamation nor by absorption. It is not a social question, but one of civil and political equality. Unless this is conferred upon the negro, the democratic idea is a failure. The trend of national affairs, however, is toward a fuller realization of justice, and the dwelling together of various races in amity.

Several papers treat of the condition of