making, shortened working hours for the people came and leisure for the enjoyment of the best that life affords, for thought, for contrivance, for self-communing, for self-exaltation in spiritual realms, became a birthright with mankind.
Mechanical engineering is the highest illustration of applied science; and applied science is the fruition of pure science. A fundamental basis for mechanical engineering could not be secured until physical science could find safe development, and this could only be when, the age of martyrdom past and perfect freedom of thought and research assured, later Brahes and Galileos could work in peace and Gilbert and Lavoisier and Faraday and Davy and their successors could devote themselves to their labors in all the fields of science without molestation. Invention could not freely develop the arts until after these master-minds had assured freedom to the more modest but none the less glorious workers in science and the arts, and to the mechanics and the inventors, and had secured that political and social freedom to work in any and all fields, irrespective of birth and caste and creed, which has only, even now, been witnessed in America. When absolute liberty of mind and body and freedom of choice of vocation had become possible without dictation by church or state or convention; when any man could pursue research and publish results, and could follow any art and could give vent to his highest and best aspirations and impulses—only then could steady progress become possible.
It was only in the nineteenth century that a Darwin could safely pronounce his judgment, that a Spencer could formulate a system of philosophy, that a Huxley could declare his conviction and a Haeckel could face the dogmatist and that warfare between science and dogma could no longer effectively repress honest work and sincere conviction. It was only in the century lately closed that the mechanic could take up any trade, without regard to the caste of his fathers, that progress became easy for the scientific Papin, the clerical Cartwright and the physicist Black, or that the instrument-maker Watt could proceed with the evolution of the heat-engines. Only in the nineteenth century came it to pass that the inventor, impelled into any line of study and experiment and labor, could unite with every other man in the same field to perfect the machinery of the world, and that invention could build up nations like Great Britain and the United States, and give wealth to Germany and to France. Only in the century just closed did it become possible to gain freedom in the competition of brain with brain for all men.
The political freedom of the United States and its admirable policy and its practice of encouraging invention by wise patent laws have now made our country the leader among nations in all fundamental modern industries.