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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/652

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sible to be wise and yet to know very few facts. Wisdom does not consist in the ability to heap up facts, although our school instructors seem to think it does. Wisdom is concerned with something far higher than facts; it is concerned with the true, the eternal, the unchanging relations of things. The man who has grasped a few of the elementary truths of existence and governs his life in accordance with them is wise, even if he can not read a line of Latin, or solve a problem in algebra, or work out a sum in the rule of three. A few of the elementary truths of existence are that you must treat others as you would be treated yourself; that, if you would derive the utmost possible advantage from your relations with your fellows, you must be frank and open in what you do; that you must not build up barriers of restrictions between yourself and others and expect to thrive, either materially or morally, as you would if the barriers did not exist—in a word, the elemental truths of existence upon which we must depend are justice, fraternity, and love. The man who governs his life by these principles may not be a learned man; he may not be able to construct ingenious arguments from census reports; but he will be a good father, a kind neighbor, a man you can trust in business, and he is pretty sure to be prosperous, because he is on the side of truth and righteousness, and somehow or other truth and righteousness, sooner or later, always win.

The great questions, as we have said, are all the time arising, and they have to be met in some way. Each generation has its own particular question to settle. In this country, a generation ago, it was the abolition of slavery. That question was effectually settled, as we all know. Now a new generation has come upon the stage, and a new question arises. The new question is broader than the other, although it does not go so deep. If it does not affect so closely the very principle of manhood or call for such heroic treatment, its settlement concerns the welfare of a far greater number, and upon it depend the prosperity and happiness of the whole nation. It is not, then, a question to be decided lightly. Every man should think long and carefully before rendering his decision. The question with which we are now concerned is that of protection and free trade.

Here, as in all other great questions, we find men taking sides and trying to win converts to their own special views by arguments in which statistics—that is, facts—in one form or another, are brought together to prove diametrically opposite things. If we listen to them, we are perplexed, we are not enlightened. If one man tells us that wages are higher in this country because of protection, and that consequently everybody is better off with protection than without it; and another man tells us that, while wages will be lower under free trade, the expenses of living will