Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/757

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THE ECONOMIC FUNCTION OF VICE.

sary to the health of society. The humblest work incessantly to lift themselves into the ranks of the middle classes. The middle classes strive as earnestly to make themselves plutocrats, aristocrats, and lordlings. This passion for worldly advancement is one of society's most powerful engines for good. When a man at last reaches the social summit, he desists from further efforts at improvement, or, if this period comes too late in life, his children do it after him. He becomes like a man who has struggled forward to the head of a procession, and then refuses to march another step. Some vice speedily removes him, and clears the ground for another man to come to the front, who is also removed summarily when he becomes obstructive. Were it not for this, the upper stratum of society would speedily become so crowded that ascent to it would be impossible, all healthful, ambitious motive be taken away from the middle and lower classes, stagnation follow, and society perish from congestion.

History is full of illustrations of the benefits of vice in assisting to shape the destinies of nations and peoples. Take, for example, the Bourbons, whose stupidity and tyranny have passed into a proverb. In the last century their worse than worthless carcasses filled nearly every throne in Southern Europe. They seemed to breed like wolves in a famine-stricken land, and their fangs were at every people's throat. Fortunately, they had vices. Wine and lechery did what human enemies could not. The pack of wolves rotted away like a flock of diseased sheep. The mortality was so great that for a long time French kings were succeeded by their grandsons, and great-grandsons, their sons all burning themselves out before the time came for ascending the throne. The unutterably vile life of Louis XV was terminated by the small-pox, communicated to him in the course of a most disgraceful amour. His grandson, who succeeded him, had no destructive vices, and so the people were compelled at last to resort to the guillotine to rid themselves of him. The vast problem before the French in 1790 would have been greatly simplified if Louis XIV had been a short-lived débauché like his father and two brothers. The healthy German blood of his Saxon mother corrected somewhat the virus in the Bourbon veins, and he lived to become an intolerable cumberer and obstructive.

The only Bourbon still remaining on a throne is the King of Spain, with whom the race, as a royal family, will probably become extinct. His teeth are on edge from the sour grapes of unchastity which his fathers ate. Like his mother, the notorious Isabella II, his sisters and cousins, and indeed every one of the Bourbons, the scrofula, into which the ancestral syphilitic taint has been modified, has made of him a mass of physical decay. In his mother it has shown itself in a very disgusting cutaneous disease, which she has for years tried to ameliorate or cure, in a truly Bourbonish way, by wearing the underclothing of a nun of high repute for piety. His sisters and kinsmen