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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/131

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work cut out for us at home. We had the breadth of a continent under our feet, rich in the products of every latitude; we had unlimited room for expansion and development; we had unlimited confidence in the destinies that awaited us as a nation, if only we applied ourselves earnestly to the improvement of the heritage which, in the order of Providence, had become ours. We thanked Heaven that we were not as other nations, which, insufficiently provided with home blessings, were tempted to put forth their hands and—steal, or something like it, in heathen lands.

Well, we have changed all that: we give our sympathy to the nations of the Old World in their forays on the heathen, and are vigorously tackling "the white man's burden" according to the revised version. It is unfortunate and quite unpleasant that this should involve shooting down people who are only asking what our ancestors asked and obtained—the right of self-government in the land they occupy. Still, we must do it if we want to keep up with the procession we have joined. Smoking tobacco is not pleasant to the youth of fifteen or sixteen who has determined to line up with his elders in that manly accomplishment. He has many a sick stomach, many a flutter of the heart, before he breaks himself into it; but, of course, he perseveres—has he not taken up the white boy's burden? So we. Who, outside of that rowdy element to which we have referred, has not been, whether he has confessed it or not, sick at heart at the thought of the innocent blood we have shed and of the blood of our kindred that we have shed in order to shed that blood? Still, spite of all misgivings and qualms, we hold our course, Kipling leading on, and the colonel of the Rough Riders assuring us that it is all right.

Revised versions are not always the best versions; and for our own part we prefer to think that the true "white man's burden" is that which lies at his own door, and not that which he has to compass land and sea to come in sight of. We have in this land the burden of a not inconsiderable tramp and hoodlum population. This is a burden of which we can never very long lose sight; it is more or less before us every day. It is a burden in a material sense, and it is a burden in what we may call a spiritual sense. It impairs the satisfaction we derive from our own citizenship, and it lies like a weight on the social conscience. It is the opprobrium alike of our educational system and of our administration of the law. How far would the national treasure and individual energy which we have expended in failing to subdue the Filipino "rebels" have gone—if wisely applied—in subduing the rebel elements in our own population, and rescuing from degradation those whom our public schools have failed to civilize? Shall the reply be that we can not interfere with individual liberty? It would be a strange reply to come from people who send soldiers ten thousand miles away for the express purpose of interfering with liberty as the American nation has always hitherto understood that term; but, in point of fact, there is no question of interfering with any liberty that ought to be respected. It is a question of the protection of public morals, of public decency, and of the rights of property. It is a question of the rescue of human beings—our fellow-citizens—from ignorance, vice, and wretchedness. It is a question of making us as a nation right with ourselves, and making citizenship under our flag something to be prized by every one entitled to claim it.

It is not in the cities only that