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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/542

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES
By Professor CHARLES F. EMERICK

SMITH COLLEGE

Introduction

THE student of public affairs finds much in the course of nineteenth century development in which the friends of orderly progress may well take heart. For one thing, the world underwent a great advance materially. In 1800, the appliances for producing wealth and the modes of transportation did not differ greatly from those that had been in vogue for hundreds of years. If the men of the fifteenth century could have been brought back to life three centuries later, they would have found the world in these respects substantially what it was when they lived and died. The nineteenth century supplied the world for the first time with the conditions of comfortable living. But it did something more. It contributed greatly to the advance of knowledge and to the diffusion of enlightenment. It witnessed a tremendous increase in the spirit of humanitarianism and the sense of justice. More of the material comforts of life, greater knowledge and enlightenment, and a keener sense of brotherhood and justice have gone hand in hand. The three have, for the most part, been in accord, but occasionally the facts of the material situation have failed to conform to the demands of the other two. It is the purpose of these pages to consider how two or three of these conflicts have contributed to our progress as a nation, and more particularly to discuss certain phases of the existing situation.

 

The Declaration of Independence

Equality and private property are the two things dear to the American heart. The influence of frontier conditions where one man socially is as good as another and where every one is a potential, if not an actual, owner of land, has stimulated a high regard for the former. On the other hand, in addition to the need of property which civilized man the world over experiences, the environment has been peculiarly favorable in arousing in nearly every one the desire to better his economic condition. In the absence of titled rank, the acquisition of property has been the chief stepping stone to political and social recognition. Besides, immigration has added to our population large numbers in whom the acquisitive instinct is exceptionally strong. The very richness of the rewards open to men of energy and intelligence has given zest to the economic struggle. It may well be, therefore, that the desire to get on