Commercialism, leading to such broad results for all, has a marked influence upon those who have led in the advance. American men of commerce, be they lawyers, merchants, manufacturers, bankers or railroad managers, acknowledge the community of interest and seek fame or immortality as philanthropists. They cherish hospitals, they endeavor to improve the condition of the poor, they found universities, they endow public libraries, they establish vast museums. A Howard, a Shaftesbury was a strange phenomenon. There are many Howards and Shaftesburys in our great cities, who, having acquired or inherited great wealth, spend their hours not in selfish indulgence but in devoted efforts to make the world better and happier.
One cannot ignore the fact there are many, whose only enjoyment apparently is found in flaunting their wealth in the face of the poor, but they are no longer objects of admiration on the one hand or of fear on the other; the community looks upon them with mingled pity and contempt. Selfish employers are not unknown, oppression has not ceased, poverty, suffering and crime are on every side; in many respects, the evil more than counterbalances the good; all this we know; but we know also that, in all that makes for good, the condition in the two great commercial nations to-day is far, far beyond that existing in the golden age of Rome or Greece or in the Elizabethan age of England. The very anxiety to relieve the oppressed makes us familiar with the prevailing sorrow and leads those, who under former conditions would have been ignorant or unobserving, to their gloomy pessimism respecting the future.
As for the fires of creative imagination, one may say only that they are as brilliant now as at any previous time—with this difference, creative imagination is about better business now than formerly—it no longer wastes itself in cultivating merely the esthetic side of man, it works for his uplifting, physically, morally, intellectually.