question, and said to her he was very sorry to hear that her husband had been run into by a bicycle, and hoped it was nothing serious. "Why, no," said she, "he was not actually run into, but you know he is quite infirm, and a bicycle came very near him and he was a good deal alarmed lest it might hit him." This was the residuum from the analysis of the two accidents. A list of burlesque "escapes" was posted from day to day by the side of that of the so-called "accidents" and about equal credence was given to each. Both were worthy of "Patience," or the "Belle Hélène." To the annoyance of both parties, the selectmen at last impartially took down both sets of notices, not because of any improper motives as charged, but because of the crowd which gathered daily in front of the post-office so thickly as to become a nuisance. The professor was laughed out of court; and we villagers, while all conceding his excellence and genius, think him daft on the bicycle question. The real bullying was all done by him, though unconsciously; and the real "cowards" were those who, like the writer, under the glare of those wonderful eyes, had not dared to refuse to sign his pieced and patched compromise petition.
In sooth, this particular charge of moral cowardice in the Stockbridge people is unfounded and ridiculous. Not only were there no accidents deserving the name, but none were likely to occur on the sidewalk, which might not be avoided by that reasonable circumspection which the law expects from every one, and the want of which would precipitate a misfortune from a post or a wheelbarrow equally with a bicycle. The names attached to the bicycle-petition were signed because of the deliberate conviction that the danger from frightened horses was greater than from bicycles on the sidewalks. Horses in the country do not all get accustomed to these Centaur-like appearances, as those in the city do to corresponding monsters, such as the elevated trains, because different horses come into the village daily from the surrounding region. These animals standing on their hind legs, or rushing and shying, were frequent occurrences, whereas an unskilled bicycle-rider on the sidewalk can be avoided, and a skilled one can always avoid the pedestrian.
It is now, we hope, made apparent that Stockbridge barbarism has been prematurely assumed on ex parte testimony. Until a law should be passed to the contrary, the wide sidewalks away from the crowded part of the town were rightfully free to baby-carriages, children's wagons, wheelbarrows, and bicycles, and in the present state of the population there seem to have been good reasons why there should be no such law. At least, enough has been said to show that "the community" does not "acknowledge the outrage," and that the reason why the gentleman in question was "not supported but was condemned for his action" was, that it was reasonably regarded as an un-wise and unnecessary attempt to curtail those rural privileges which citizens commorant in the country as well as the villagers themselves regard as a great charm of their summer.
Inaccurate "data" and the proposal of unnecessary legislation come strangely from the disciples of Herbert Spencer. Strange, too, would it be if they were nearer the "barbarism" of their master's code than the orderly lovers of freedom whom they denounce. "Infinite presumption is discernible in this attempt at regulating the doings of men by law. . . . The desire to command is essentially a barbarous desire" (Spencer's "Social Statics," pp. 321, 80).
The length of this communication may seem monstrous. But the writer has been long-suffering. As a lover of peace, he had allowed the printed circular distributed throughout the village, which contained the same one-sided version of facts on which your article is based, as well as the impertinent and libelous attack in the "Springfield Republican," to go unanswered. For the good fame of Stockbridge, at which the professor, while leaving it for some years, it is understood, as a residence, aims through the editor of "The Popular Science Monthly" this Parthian shot, I could hardly say less. But, unless some astonishing twisting or suppression of material facts compel a further statement, I shall not again ask permission to trespass on your interesting columns.
|New York, December 22, 1882.|
WE hear much of the bad effects of machine politics, but it is questionable if the evils of machine education are not far worse. By machine education, we mean the rigid, mechanical, law-established routine applied to great multitudes of children of all conceivable sorts who are got together in large establishments and sub-