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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/38

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as gambling deteriorates and demoralizes the individual, so the greed for dominion demoralizes governments. The welfare of the people is little cared for, except so far as to make them submissive taxpayers, enabling the ruling and moneyed classes to extend their sway over new territories and to create well-paid places and exciting work for their sons and relatives.

Hence, says Wallace, comes the force that ever urges on the increase of armaments and the extension of empire. Great vested interests are at stake, and ever-growing pressure is brought to bear upon the too-willing governments in the name of the greatness of the country, the extension of commerce, or the advance of civilization. This state of things is not progress, but retrogression. It will be held by the historian of the future to show that we of the nineteenth century were morally and socially unfit to possess the enormous powers for good and evil which the rapid advance of scientific discovery has given us, that our boasted civilization was in many respects a mere superficial veneer, and that our methods of government were not in accord with either Christianity or civilization.

Comparing the conduct of these modern nations, who call themselves Christian and civilized, with that of the Spanish conquerors of the West Indies, Mexico, and Peru, and making some allowances for differences of race and public opinion, Wallace says there is not much to choose between them.

Wealth and territory and native labor were the real objects in both cases, and if the Spaniards were more cruel by nature and more reckless in their methods the results were much the same. In both cases the country was conquered and thereafter occupied and governed by the conquerors frankly for their own ends, and with little regard for the feelings or the well-being of the conquered. If the Spaniards exterminated the natives of the West Indies, we, he says, have done the same thing in Tasmania and about the same in temperate Australia. Their belief that they were really serving God in converting the heathen, even at the point of the sword, was a genuine belief, shared by priests and conquerors alikeā€”not a mere sham as ours is when we defend our conduct by the plea of "introducing the blessings of civilization."

It is quite possible, says Wallace, that both the conquest of Mexico and Peru by the Spaniards and our conquest of South Africa may have been real steps in advance, essential to human progress, and helping on the future reign of true civilization and the well-being of the human race. But if so, we have been and are unconscious agents in hastening the "far-off divine event." We deserve no credit for it. Our aims have been for the most part