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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/659

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LINGERING BARBARISM.

now that a rival has grown up beside it which it never through all time can prevail against.

While writing this, a pamphlet is sent me by a friend, entitled "Secession—Berlin, Julius Springer, 1881," in which the anonymous but certainly very intelligent author questions our political and financial conditions from his point of view. While this pamphlet is highly remarkable, as well for its contents as for its way of expressing them, it is perhaps yet more remarkable for that which it either hints or leaves unsaid—I mean, to speak plainly, for its indulgence toward that easy-going confidence with which some of the eminent minds of the past ten years have allowed themselves to believe that the whole nature of mankind is radically changed, because it has walked for a while with a varnished cane instead of a knotty club. I find in it an agreement with my doctrine partly gratifying and partly saddening, since I can hardly understand how an author of so much insight should not long ago have felt the scales drop from his eyes. "Wherever our glance falls," he says, "nothing strikes us but ideas, laws, institutions, that existed a century ago, and yet have been set aside for ten years past or more, by the course of culture and increasing insight. Reaction toward restrictions on our trade with foreigners followed by restrictions on domestic trade; next, fetters on personal liberty and freedom of action; then, backward steps to the stern penal codes of past ages, and to the proscriptive and coercive laws of a patriarchal world. The whole contrivance, piece by piece, is borrowed and brought out from the rusty arsenal of the good old times. Whatever is now devised is dug up from the deep and ever-deeper dust of centuries."

It is even so. Yet it may, perhaps, be said that, with a little less classical and philosophical training, and a little more education in natural science, it would probably earlier have become evident that, even without wishing or intending it, we were taking an active part in this disinterment from the dust of centuries. At all events, it is well that this conviction is now forcing its way: it is only to be hoped that it may gain clearer reality and wider range in those who have won it.

These things, however, press with light weight in the scales of the future, how lamentable soever they may be in the present. Whether a reactionary law the more or the less be made, whether the secessionists thrive or perish, it is of course a pitiable sign of the times that the student body here roar with applause at their hero gabbler Treitschke, there pledge themselves to the Jewish persecution, and raise dueling squabbles about it—a sign hardly compensated for by the indignation with which the cities kick Chaplain Stöcker's nauseous double-faced hypocrisy out of doors. But this does not touch the root of the matter, which lies in the training of our youth in increasing wastepaper scribblings and reactionary barbarism. Not much improvement can be hoped for in the present generation; we may check and repress,