Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/437

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the subject in a speech which was listened to with close attention, and, as we are informed by Mr. Nathan Appleton, who was a critical observer of the proceedings, his statement of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different contemplated lines was undoubtedly influential in determining the vote of the Congress in favor of the Panama route.

We have had engraved, to accompany the article, two very instructive maps, one representing the location of the different routes under consideration, and the other showing the relation which this project bears to the oceanic commerce of the world.

Without venturing to decide which is the best route—a question that belongs to the engineers—we are clear as to certain of the considerations which should have weight in determining it. That the canal must come is inevitable. The Isthmus barrier is a hindrance to commerce—a kind of natural tariff that must be removed in the interest of advancing free trade. It must disappear with other old restrictions on the world's exchanges. It will be a step forward in civilization, and is in the strictest and largest sense an international affair. Commerce is pacific; war and the military spirit are its deadly foes. It is, therefore, of the first necessity that the enterprise should be "hedged about with ample international guarantees of perpetual neutrality." The opening of a water-way across the narrow strip of land that separates two oceans is a world's measure, and ought not to be complicated with any local political considerations. The talk about "patriotism" and the "Monroe doctrine" in connection with this great project is therefore impertinent. It springs from the same narrowness of national feeling that has killed our foreign commerce by prohibiting American citizens from buying ships where they please, and it is a policy which will be condemned by all liberal-minded people.

 

LITERARY NOTICES.

Is Life worth Living? By William Hurrell Mallock. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 323. Price, $1.50.

This work, which has recently attracted considerable attention, is a sort of theological manifesto directed against the tendencies of modern science. Those who have arrived at what may be called the conundrum-stage of mental development, and do not object to irreverent impudence, may be pleased with it. Its author is a young English writer, who made a hit with his impertinent satire, "The New Republic," and, having sustained his reputation by various sensational contributions to the periodicals, he now comes jauntily forward with his grand question as to the worth of life, to which his book is an answer. He anticipates the work of the day of judgment by summing up the experiment of universe-making and estimating the net value of the result.

Mr. Mallock is well skilled in rhetorical and dialectic art, and writes in a lively and spirited way. To the amusement-seeking, novel-reading mind, ever on the lookout for a new sensation, and with a frivolous side-interest in religious matters, we should say that the book may be entertaining; but, viewed as a deliverance of sober thought addressed to sensible people, it is a book of nonsense.

The pert effrontery of Mr. Mallock's question, and the unutterable stupidity of the conclusion to which his logic brings him, are apparent at a glance. The question whether life is worth living, of course involves the question of the value of existence and the universe, for life is the grand outcome of the order of Nature. It is something that has arisen by slow degrees and through innumerable forms and grades, during immeasurable time, and is the agency by which the human mind has come into being and reached its present perfection. Life is therefore the thing that has been aimed at, in the onworking of universal law, for more millions of years than we are at liberty to talk about. Life is not a foreign and mysterious something that has been thrust into the system of nature, but