Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/July 1890/Correspondence

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Editor Popular Science Monthly:

SIR: The letter of E. P. Meredith, in the April Monthly, reviewing the article by Benjamin Reece on "Public Schools as affecting Crime and Vice" in your January number, does not seem to go to the root of the evils deprecated. It is true that high mental culture is not always accompanied by a correspondingly high ethical standard, but often the reverse, and that, as a general rule, our public-school teachers "bear an exceptionally good moral character, and a majority of them are members of good standing in the various churches," and that "the Sunday school, where moral training is especially attended to, is now considered an indispensable adjunct of every church; yet, with all this, vice and crime are on the ascending scale, and in a most astonishing degree." But when he says that "with this guarantee for the moral training of the pupils by precept and example on the part of the teachers, it seems to me that all is being done in that line that can be done," is he equally right? Is there not some moral taint, some poison-bearing germ from which such evils grow, lurking within these ethical influences? When we read of some great bank defalcation, of some much-trusted man absconding with fiduciary funds, and the like, in nine cases in ten the paragraph will end by stating that the perpetrator was a leader in a Sunday school, or a leading man in a church or a mission. Naturally we often ask why it is so. The usual and the easy answer is, that he put on the cloak of religion to screen and facilitate his dishonest methods—"the livery of heaven to serve the devil in." But that facile answer prompts another still more pertinent question, "Why did this professed religious man add hypocrisy to his other iniquities?" Must we not search the foundations of his ethical culture for the fruitful germ from which these evil actions sprang? It is more than probable that had any one of those leaders of a church or Sunday school, or of that majority of public-school teachers "of good standing in the various churches," confessed that he did not believe, or even that he doubted, that the world was made in six days some six thousand years ago; the first man molded from its clay, and the first woman from his newly made rib; that Moses conversed face to face with God; that Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt; that infants dying unbaptized are eternally damned; that the laws of nature were set aside when Christ was begot—he would have lost the position he held, and his social standing, as

Dr. Robertson Smith, Dr. Woodrow, and many others have, for telling the truth. He was therefore reticent, and soothed his stultified conscience by saying to himself that, if those things were not literally true, they were in a figurative sense, and went on acting if not uttering a lie, as a very large class of people are doing every day for the same reasons. The teacher, preacher, or layman who does this is committing an immoral act, and preparing his conscience for tolerating others of a darker hue. We all know that it is the first willful lie or profane oath uttered that shocks the youthful conscience and sears it for repetitions that cease to shock. The late Henry Ward Beecher told us somewhere that his was so shocked at the first lie, that he sought the attic and behaved in such a peculiar, repentant manner that his mother questioned him, thinking that he was about to experience religion. Now the number of men and women who believe in the supernatural part of our religion is constantly growing less, yet for the reasons that I have alluded to they do not avow it. May it not be this constant acting of a lie that corrodes the conscience and causes, in a measure, the rapidly ascending degree of vice and crime, and the "venality and corruption pervading every branch of the Government"? Have we not reached that stage of enlightenment and that sound policy at which we can safely drop the supernatural from our religion, and relegate it to the cults of less advanced peoples, who still find it necessary to keep that element ingrafted into their theogonies, in order to awe their simple and unintelligent followers? We have outgrown the age of witchcraft which our Puritan ancestors believed in so fully, and we have denied the divine rights of kings, which had the same ethnic origin and for the same ends. Why not eliminate the same element in our religion, retaining all its sound ethical tenets, and administer it upon the human teachings of Christ and the natural laws that science has revealed in the progress of civilization? The time is rapidly approaching when the Bible will be expurgated, and all that science proves false expunged; the stirpiculture of its patristic writers and the foul genesis of Ammonite, Moabite, and Ishmaelite banished to the pages of a dead language, leaving a work that men can read without repulse, and the children in our public schools without pollution. As Mr. Meredith says, "Purify the fountain, and the stream will become likewise limpid and pure."

Addison Child.
Childwold, N. Y., April 8, 1890.


From The Irish Textile Journal.

Under this heading a correspondent in Boston sends us for verification the following cutting from a magazine article of recent date:

"The finest flax grown in the north of Ireland, in order to attain its highest quality, must be sent to Belgium to be steeped in the water of a certain river. Returning from there, it is spun into superfine yarns by the best machinery and in the naturally adapted moist climate of Belfast. At that stage the product is again sent back to Belgium, where it is woven into gossamer-like fabrics, in low, damp cellars, under conditions that would not be agreeable to the north of Ireland, and the work of the Belgian hand-loom weaver must then be carried back to be bleached under the dripping skies of the Green Isle."

The writer of the foregoing is a little mixed in his ideas. The finest flax comes to us from the Courtrai district, and the "certain river" in which it is steeped is the Lys, but no flax is sent from Ireland to be steeped there. Courtrai flax is used by our spinners for the finer counts of their yarns, chiefly for hand-loom linens; but these goods are not necessarily woven in low, damp cellars on the Continent any more than in the north of Ireland, where the finest goods can be made. Some descriptions of "gossamer-like" lace are made in damp cellars in France, and from hand-spun flax of the very finest quality, worth £180 to £200 per ton. Of course, we claim for Ireland that it possesses the best climate in the world for bleaching, but only a small quantity of foreign linen is sent here to be finished.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In reply to your esteemed favor of the 10th, received this morning, I have to say that while the object of the remarks quoted from the Irish Textile Journal apparently is to discredit or belittle the statements in the extract given from The Popular Science Monthly, it is the fact that these statements are only confirmed thereby in quite a remarkable manner. While, for instance, there may appear to be a contradiction in the point made by the Irish authority when he says that "no flax is sent from Ireland to be steeped" in Belgium—that is, at the present time—an examination of the text of The Popular Science Monthly will show that no statement on that subject is contained therein, and that it was not necessary to the argument. If the critic in question had been able to say that no Irish flax had ever been sent to Belgium for the specified purpose, or that no benefit would have been derived therefrom, then his remarks would have possessed a measure of weight and of justification that the mere fact of its being apparently for the moment, for undefined reasons, more advantageous to employ Belgian-grown flax does not confer upon them. The other comments made by the same journal require absolutely no reply, when it is borne in mind that the statements of The Popular Science Monthly article have reference only to the accomplishment of the highest possible excellence in a certain limited industry at a given period, and by no means can be held to apply to the production of Irish fine linen generally or permanently, or to other similar fabrics that may be produced in different parts of the world.

Yours very truly,
J. J. Menzies.
220 South Hill Street, Los Angeles, Cal.,
April 17, 1890.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: May I ask for the publicity of your pages to aid me in procuring co-operation in a scientific investigation for which I am responsible? I refer to the Census of Hallucinations, which was begun several years ago by the Society for Psychical Research, and of which the International Congress of Experimental Psychology at Paris, last summer, assumed the future responsibility, naming a committee in each country to carry on the work.

The object of the inquiry is twofold: (1) To get a mass of facts about hallucinations which may serve as a basis for a scientific study of these phenomena; and (2) to ascertain approximately the proportion of persons who have had such experiences. Until the average frequency of hallucinations in the community is known, it can never be decided whether the so-called "veridical" hallucinations (visions or other "warnings" of the death, etc., of people at a distance), which are so frequently reported, are accidental coincidences or something more.

Some eight thousand or more persons in England, France, and the United States have already returned answers to the question which heads the census sheets, and which runs as follows:

"Have you ever, when completely awake, had a vivid impression of seeing or being touched by a living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which impression, so far as you could discover, was not due to any external physical cause?"

The Congress hopes that at its next meeting, in England in 1892, as many as fifty thousand answers may have been collected. It is obvious that, for the purely statistical inquiry, the answer "No" is as important as the answer "Yes."

I have been appointed to superintend the census in America, and I most earnestly bespeak the co-operation of any among your readers who may be actively interested in the subject. It is clear that very many volunteer canvassers will be needed to secure success. Each census blank contains instructions to the collector and places for twenty-five names; and special blanks for the "Yes" cases are furnished in addition. I shall be most happy to supply these blanks to any one who will be good enough to make application for them to

Yours truly,
(Professor) William James,
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: Mr. Chidsey's article upon The Mysterious Music of Pascagoula, in your April number, recalls a recent experience of mine. While cruising on the west coast of Florida, we lay at anchor one night at Rocky Point in Old Tampa Bay, and heard most distinctly a very curious musical note of some denizen of the water. The sound consisted of a single note, and was continuous for a long time. It recalled the singing of telegraph wires, or the hum of a planing-mill, or the music of an Æolian harp. It occasionally approached or receded, and more than one such note—apparently from different animals—could at times be heard at once. In our cabin the sound seemed very distinct, but it was in reality probably faint, as it was hardly, or not at all, audible upon deck. My companion and myself have both cruised along the Gulf coast south of that point before, but had never heard this sound anywhere else; our captain, also, had never heard it anywhere else, but said it was always to be heard at Rocky Point, which is a principal oystering-ground for Tampa. The sound bore no resemblance to that of the drum, which is very common in Florida, and which is a booming, interrupted noise. Its most remarkable peculiarity was its steady continuance—it certainly often lasted without interruption for several minutes.

Yours, etc.,William M. Meigs.
216 South Third Street,
Philadelphia, April 16, 1890.