Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/753

This page has been validated.

accumulation of large quantities of wealth in single hands; while such accumulation has not only been indispensable, as it still is, in developing our country, and an indispensable reward of enterprise, but, even leaving this out of account, is for the greatest good of the greatest number because it best preserves capital and employs labor most productively. We may say that public opinion favors interference with the natural ratios of distribution, as may be seen by usury laws, exemption laws, laws abridging freedom of contract, river and harbor bills, laws imposing heavy taxes on corporations, and so forth; while in general the natural ratios are the best for the public interest. Only the most immediate considerations are generally weighed; and unjust laws, like the Potter railroad law of Wisconsin, have to result in manifest public damage before they are repealed. It can hardly be doubted that before the late war, when the Jeffersonian maxims in regard to legislation still held sway, our political development was higher than it has been since; and the same may be said of our general ideas on public policy. But unceasing education in business methods of thinking are plainly forcing public opinion in the right direction, as was proved by the tone of the public press regarding the recent strike on the Missouri Pacific, and by the strong attacks lately made on the Blair education bill. Meanwhile there will be much of what might be called unnecessary blundering and suffering; but in reality this will be necessary to develop the needed habits and ideas.




YOU are kindly giving to me an hour to-night in which I may speak to you. I do not have enough confidence in myself to justify me in speaking to such an audience as this upon one of those broad subjects that belong equally to all sections of the Association. The progress, the encouragements, and the difficulties in each field are best known to the workers in the field, and I should do you little good by trying to sum up and recount them. Let me rather err, then, if at all, by going to the opposite extreme.

Two years ago your distinguished president instructed and delighted us all by speaking of the pending problems of astronomy, what they are, and what hopes we have of solving them. To one subject in this one science, a subject so subordinate that he very properly gave it only brief notice, I ask your attention. I propose to state some propositions which we may believe to be probably true about the meteorites, the meteors, and the shooting-stars.

  1. Address of the retiring President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered at Buffalo, August 19, 1886.