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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/103

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SCIENCE STUDY AND NATIONAL CHARACTER.

erned by reason and not by feeling alone. When the Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor her captain, in a notable dispatch telling of the disaster, urged a suspension of judgment until the facts should be known. Facts! In an hour our battle-cry was, "Remember the Maine!" Under that motto, within a few days, one of the great Chicago dailies (the Inter-Ocean) hung out the pennant of the wrecked battle ship and enlistment signs. Who was right—the Maine's captain or the paper? Which appeal meant safety, and which danger? Our own commission investigated the wreck. After an examination, which was kept entirely within our own hands, the commission reported that the ship had been destroyed from the outside, but that there was no evidence to fix the responsibility. Did we fix the responsibility? Though the investigation board could find no evidence, though reason said that the destroyer of the Maine, were he Spain's own king, was Spain's worst enemy, we forgot the cause of deliverance, and went into battle with the cry of vengeance on our lips. This is not a statement of sentiment but of fact. Your motives, or the President's, or mine may have been pure—your opinion may have been unprejudiced—but these things around us we all saw and all heard. We know that many men were carried away by their feelings, and did not think. We know that their feelings grew into a prejudice which was absolutely certain to distort the facts and to drive them far from the truth if they ever came to the point of thinking. The ears of the multitude have been closed to all counsels, however wise; their eyes to all consequences, however fatal; their minds to all logic, however clear and simple.

We may consider more briefly, but not less carefully, other tendencies which have been shown, seeing many of them in the facts which have already been referred to.

From the fact that passion has so largely supplanted reason in moving many of our people we have developed some wonderful instances of credulity. The sequence is most natural. When men become unwilling, or uncaring, to ascertain the truth for themselves they inevitably display a great willingness to swallow any statement which may obligingly be offered them by some one else. So, with half of the Spanish navy sunk and the other half accounted for, we spent hours of glorious, wild conjecture, in the dear dead days beyond recall, listening to the awful sound of cannonading in the Windward Passage, which reached us by the w T ay of Mole St. Nicholas. We believe what is sufficiently exciting to be true.

Related to the phenomena we have noticed is another—the evident loss of individuality—of moral and mental independence.