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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/662

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

righted it will bring disaster. Indeed, I do not recall a pessimist, however dyspeptic, nor a doctrinaire, however visionary, that has struck a more melancholy note than he. In all his reports much will be found that indicates anything but a belief that a democracy that plunders and enslaves a people is any better than any other despotism guilty of the same offense, or that the practice in the one case will be productive of greater prosperity and happiness than in the other.

It is, however, in the report for 1897 that Mr. Roberts gives the fullest expression to his apprehensions. "This country," he says in an elaborate argument for a graded inheritance tax, which he believed would bring some relief to the poor and discontented, "has just passed through the most threatening political campaign in its history. The portents in 1896 were vastly more dangerous than those of 1860, when peace and internecine war hung in the balance. Issues were advanced last year, and vigorously supported by a large element of the American electorate, which, if adopted, would have undermined the very foundations of American institutions. These issues were largely the outgrowth of discontent among the people. The farmer, as a class, the work people, and the small trade folk were in distress. . . . Hundreds of thousands of industrious people were out of employment, the best efforts of the farmer had been attended with poor results, and the small tradesman and business man were worse off than if they had been doing nothing." In the report for the following year he spoke again of the "public discontent and dissatisfaction with existing conditions in this State." Instead of joining the comfortable and contented in a denunciation of them as a delusion, born of envy or criminal instincts, he expressed the opinion that they had a very substantial basis. "My four years of close official study of the State finances," he says, "compels me to say there is serious ground for complaint." After giving an impressive summary in another place of the enormous increase of public expenditures within recent years he is moved to ask, "Whither are we drifting?"

The answer commonly given to this question is one quite flattering to American vanity. It is that we are drifting away from "parochial" things and taking our proper place as a great "world power." Having solved all the petty problems that have absorbed our thoughts and energies for a hundred years, we have gone forth to "take up the white man's burden," and to solve the greater problems that a discriminating Providence has so wisely confided to our ability and philanthropy. At the same time we are going to have our say as to how the affairs of the world outside of our narrow and cramping borders shall be managed. Mr. Roberts,