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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/525

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THE INFLUENCE OF RACE IN HISTORY.

the moment; the true cause of their success is, then, generally long anterior to themselves. The really great men in politics are those who anticipate the demands that are going to arise, the events for which the past has prepared, and point out the way to be followed. They, also, like the great inventors, synthetize the results of a long previous, work.

Of what, in the eye of philosophy, is history, as the books tell it, composed, except of the long recital of the struggles endured by men to create an ideal, adore it, and then destroy it? And have such ideals any more value in the eyes of pure science than the mirage of the desert? There have been, however, great enthusiasts, creators of such mirages, who have profoundly transformed the world. They still from their tombs hold the minds of multitudes under the sway of their thoughts. While not mistaking the significance of their achievements, let us not forget that they would not have succeeded in accomplishing what they did if they had not unconsciously incarnated and expressed the dominant ideal of their race and their time.

It is, in fact, ideas, and consequently those who incarnate them, that lead the world. They rise at first under vague forms, and float in the air, gradually changing their aspect, till some day they appear under the form of a great man or a great act. It is of little account, as determining the force with which they shall act, whether they are true or false. History teaches us that the most chimerical illusions have excited more enthusiasm among men than the best demonstrated truths. Such illusions are only shadows, but nevertheless have to be respected. Through them our fathers were hopeful, and in their heroic and heedless course they have brought us out of barbarism and led us to the point where we stand to-day. Mankind has expended most of its efforts, not in the pursuit of truth, but of error. It has not been able to reach the chimerical aims it was pursuing; but in pursuing them it has realized a progress that it was not seeking.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.

 


 
Mr. Gardiner C. Hubbard shows a good record, in his presidential address to the American Geographical Society, of American contributions to the extension of geographical knowledge. Our country "has contributed its quota of martyrs In the frozen North, and has led the way into the torrid regions of Africa." It has laid the foundations of the new science of the geography of the sea, by the discoveries of its explorers in ocean currents, the topography of the sea-bottoms, and deep-sea life, in which Americans were first to engage. "The exploring vessels of our Fish Commission have discovered in the deep sea, in one single season, more forms of life than were found by the Challenger Expedition in a three years' cruise." We have also led the way in founding the "geography of the air," or the science of storms, etc., and are still keeping at the front.