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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/721

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

score of centuries. With her spirit the modern woman should say of her home, "This is my diploma"; and of her children, "These are my degrees."

 

 

SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION.

That civilizations have perished in the past is a commonplace of historical reflection. That all is not well in the latest of civilizations is a truth which earnest men are feeling more deeply from day to day. Undoubtedly there are influences at work that tend to antagonize the true evolution of society. There probably never was a time when so many people felt themselves unsuited to their environment, when there was so much of unsatisfied' ambition or so much unsettlement of purpose. We have disengaged forces that sometimes threaten to be too strong for us. We have created in thousands of minds expectations which even the improved conditions of modern life are unable to satisfy. Men have been taught that two giants of unexampled strength are ready to do their bidding, one called Science and the other Legislation: with these the world is to be renovated. That there can be little renovation apart from renovation of individual character is a truth which, whether believed in or not, has been kept in the background. The discussion that has taken place regarding "General" Booth's scheme for the extinction of pauperism and degradation in London has made it clear that certain guiding principles of social reformation are seriously needed, and that, unless these are found and acted upon, our whole social system may suffer grievous injury.

The key-note, the watch-word of social reform, some say, is to be found in charity—that is to say, in the benevolent interest of man in his fellow-man. These would organize moral salvage corps, would visit the poor and degraded and try to heal and restore them by kind words, good advice, and pecuniary or other equivalent assistance. That, under favorable circumstances, something can be accomplished in this way we should be extremely sorry to deny. Many a man doubtless needs no more than some slight, kindly intervention to enable him to recover a wavering balance and betake himself with fresh courage to the battle of life; but whether wide-spread social diseases are to be successfully coped with by charity in any of its forms is still a question. Charity is the word of Religion, and a beautiful word it is, expressing fundamentally a beautiful idea; but it is not the word of Science: the word of Science is Justice. Are, then, charity and justice incompatible? Far from it; there is a charity that is just—that is no more and no less than justice—and there is a justice that is charitable in the highest sense. We shall attack our social problems successfully only when, leaving all sentiment and all unproved assumptions aside, we seriously ask ourselves as a community what we ought to do, what justice requires us to do. If justice demands what might be called charity, let us not call it charity or disguise it under any other specious name, but let us call it justice and nothing else. If it is pleasant to get good in the form and name of charity, far sweeter and far more strengthening and every way beneficial is it to get it in the form and name of justice. It is a misfortune that the word justice has been so often associated with the penal administration of the law, and that in this way it wears a severer aspect than properly belongs to it. The law should be a terror to evildoers and to none else; and we should accustom ourselves to think of justice as the most beneficent of divinities and the very palladium of our civilization. This it is, whether we so recognize it or not; only as we are in the main a nation of just men is our civilization secure.

To follow out in detail the applications of the principle of justice to our