Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/367

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
353
THE GREAT BRIDGE AND ITS LESSONS.

if it be exercised, the will of the community can never be paralyzed. Our safety and our success rest on the ballot in the hands of freemen at the polls, deliberately deposited, never for an unworthy man, but always with a profound sense of the responsibility which should govern every citizen in the exercise of this fundamental right.

If the lesson of the bridge, which I have thus sought to enforce, shall revive the confidence of the people in their own power, and induce them to use it practically for the election of good men to office, then indeed will its completion be a public blessing worthy of the new era of industrial development in which it is our fortunate lot to live.

Great indeed has been our national progress. Perhaps we, who belong to a commercial community, do not fully realize its significance and promise. We buy and sell stocks, without stopping to think that they represent the most astonishing achievements of enterprise and skill in the magical extension of our vast railway system; we speculate in wheat, without reflecting on the stupendous fact that the plains of Dakota and California are feeding hungry mouths in Europe; we hear that the Treasury has made a call for bonds, and forget that the rapid extinction of our national debt is a proof of our prosperity and patriotism, as wonderful to the world as was the power we exhibited in the struggle which left that apparently crushing burden upon us. If, then, we deal successfully with the evils which threaten our political life, who can venture to predict the limits of our future wealth and glory—wealth that shall enrich all; glory that shall be no selfish heritage, but the blessing of mankind? Beyond all legends of Oriental treasure, beyond all dreams of the golden age, will be the splendor, and majesty, and happiness of the free people dwelling upon this fair domain, if, as may be fairly anticipated, they shall then have learned how to make equitable distribution among themselves of the fruits of their common labor. As our own Bryant sang as long ago as 1821:

"Here the free spirit of mankind at length
Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
A limit to the giant's untamed strength,
Or curb its swiftness in the forward race!
Far, like the comet's way, through infinite space,
Stretches the long, untraveled path of light
Into the depths of ages; we may trace
Distant, the brightening glory of its flight,
Till the receding rays are lost to human sight."

At the ocean gateway of such a nation, well may stand the stately figure of "Liberty enlightening the World"; and, in hope and faith, as well as gratitude, we write upon the towers of our beautiful bridge, to be illuminated by her electric ray, the words of exultation, Finis coronat opus.