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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/14

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"But," interposes the optimist, "have the Americans not their great public-school system, unrivaled in the world, to check and finally to end the evils that appear thus far to be inseparably connected with popular government? Is there any truth more firmly established than that it is the bulwark of American institutions, and that if we maintain it as it should be maintained they will be able to weather any storm that may threaten?" Precisely the same argument has been urged time out of mind in behalf of an ecclesiastical system supported at the expense of the taxpayer. Good men without number have believed, and have fought to maintain their belief, that only by the continuance of this form of aggression could society be saved from corruption and barbarism. Even in England to-day, where freedom and civilization have made their most brilliant conquests, this absurd contention is made to bolster up the rotten and tottering union of Church and state, and to justify the seizure of the property of taxpayers to support a particular form of ecclesiastical instruction. But no fact of history has received demonstrations more numerous and conclusive than that such instruction, whether Protestant or Catholic, Buddhist or Mohammedan, in the presence of the demoralizing forces of militant activities, is as impotent as the revolutions of the prayer wheel of a pious Hindu. To whatever country or people or age we may turn, we find that the spirit of the warrior tramples the spirit of the saint in the dust. Despite the lofty teachings of Socrates and Plato, the Athenians degenerated until the name of the Greek became synonymous with that of the blackest knave. With the noble examples and precepts of the Stoics in constant view, the Romans became beastlier than any beast. All through the middle ages and down to the present century the armies of ecclesiastics, the vast libraries of theology, and the myriads of homilies and prayers were impotent to prevent the social degradation that inundated the world with the outbreak of every great conflict. Take, for example, a page from the history of Spain. At the time of Philip II, who tried to make his people as rigid as monks, that country had no rival in its fanatical devotion to the Church, or its slavish observance of the forms of religion. Yet its moral as well as its intellectual and industrial life was sinking to the lowest level. Official corruption was rampant. The most shameless sexual laxity pervaded all ranks. The name of Spanish women, who had "in previous times been modest, almost austere and Oriental in their deportment," became a byword and a reproach throughout the world. "The ladies are naturally shameless," says Camille Borghese, the Pope's delegate to Madrid in 1593, "and even in the streets go up and address men unknown to them, looking upon it