Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/357

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THE GREAT BRIDGE AND ITS LESSONS.

They are, indeed, grievous, and to lighten them is, as it should be, the chief concern of statesmanship. But this comparison proves that through forty centuries these hardships have been steadily diminished; that all the achievements of science, all the discoveries of art, all the inventions of genius, all the progress of civilization, tend, by a higher and immutable law, to the steady and certain amelioration of the condition of society. It shows that, notwithstanding the apparent growth of great fortunes, due to an era of unparalleled development, the distribution of the fruits of labor is approaching, from age to age, to more equitable conditions, and must, at last, reach the plane of absolute justice between man and man.

But this is not the only lesson to be drawn from such a comparison. The Pyramids were built by the sacrifices of the living for the dead. They served no useful purpose, except to make odious to future generations the tyranny which reduces human beings into beasts of burden. In this age of the world such a waste of effort would not be tolerated. To-day the expenditures of communities are directed to useful purposes. Except only works designed for defense in time of war, the wealth of society is now mainly expended in opening channels of communication for the free play of commerce and the communion of the human race. An analysis of the distribution of the surplus earnings of man after providing food, shelter, and raiment, shows that they are chiefly absorbed by railways, canals, ships, bridges, and telegraphs. In ancient times these objects of expenditure were scarcely known. Our bridge is one of the most conspicuous examples of this change in the social condition of the world and of the feeling of men. In the middle ages, cities walled each other out, and the fetters of prejudice and tyranny held the energies of man in hopeless bondage. To-day men and nations seek for free intercourse with each other, and the whole force of the intellect and energy of the world is expended in breaking down the barriers, established by Nature or created by man, to the solidarity of the human race.

And yet in view of this tendency, the most striking and characteristic feature of the nineteenth century, there still are those who believe and teach that obstruction is the creator of wealth; that the peoples can be made great and free by the erection of artificial barriers to the beneficent action of commerce, and the unrestricted intercourse of men and nations with each other. If they are right, then this bridge is a gigantic blunder, and the doctrine which bids us to love our neighbors as ourselves is founded upon a misconception of the Divine purpose.

But the bridge is more than an embodiment of the scientific knowledge of physical laws, or a symbol of social tendencies. It is equally a monument to the moral qualities of the human soul. It could never have been built by mere knowledge and scientific skill alone. It required in addition the infinite patience and unwearied courage by which great results are achieved. It demanded the endurance of heat and