Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/681

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industrialism, the railroads of the country, had fallen into the hands of incompetent knaves to be used to plunder and impoverish their patrons, a powerful commission has been mercifully provided to avert the disaster. So slight is the confidence to be placed in the integrity of the men of genius intrusted with the solution of the difficult and complicated problems of transportation that they are denied the freedom to make the needful agreements to forestall the ruin of cutthroat competition. With the faith of idolaters in a state supervision that has been pronounced a failure, the apostates propose that the Government shall depart still further from its legitimate functions, and assume itself the ownership of the railroads, thus adding billions to the spoils to be fought for in caucus and convention. Enamored of the dubious success of the Postal Department, whose wretched management has furnished a deficit for sixty years, they demand that it shall saddle itself with a telegraph service and a savings attachment. A postmaster general has so far taken leave of his senses as to suggest that the savings shall be devoted to the construction of public buildings, which would necessitate the taxation of the depositors to meet the interest paid to them, and make it impossible to provide ready money in case of a run. But it is not alone in the regulation of the great interests of life like agriculture and transportation that the Federal Government has favored the American people with its paternal care and superior wisdom. Descending to more personal matters, it has begun to look after their food and drink. I have mentioned the legislation against the chemical substitutes for butter and cheese. Other legislation, equally violative of personal freedom, seeks to rescue the country from the degradation due to the cheaper grades of tea. Thanks to enlightened statesmen, it must be over a brew of the leaf that has met the official test that the assassins of character will continue the pursuit of their favorite diversion.

The loss of freedom involved in the thousand restraints upon activities that have no kinship with crime is not, however, the most odious product of the civil war. That distinction belongs to the spirit of proscription that now animates the American people—the spirit that formerly took, and still takes to some extent, in the militant countries of Europe, the hideous form of a barbarous persecution of the Jewish race. For three quarters of a century they boasted that the United States were the refuge of the oppressed and unfortunate of all countries. Heartily did they welcome every immigrant, not a pauper or criminal, that was willing to work, no matter whether ignorant or literate, yellow or white. They even sent agents abroad to seduce with stories of freedom and plenty the impoverished victims of military despotisms. With their vast re-