Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/258

This page has been validated.



REVOLUTIONS are a part of our modern world. Men have come to look upon them as natural moments in national life. So much experience have the western nations had with social upheavals and the reversal of political practises that they have learned how to revolute without war or violence.

To many thoughtful men, we are now in the midst of such a peaceful revolution. In America, England, Germany, old ideals are being forsaken and settled institutions are submitted to a criticism that unsettles their foundations. Everywhere, in religion, politics, industry, education, there is the antithesis between conservative and radical, the latter bringing about the ears of the former a perfect storm of clamor and bewilderment. In America we incline to view the current tumult as the fallow ground out of which is to spring a new and better form of social organization. The evident unrest is but the symptom of fundamental changes going on. It indicates the recasting of our ideals into a new and larger program of democracy.

Clearly to apprehend the portent of our current confusion, one needs to look below the symptoms for the cause. The fires of significant revolution are never kindled on the surface. They smolder in secret places and in obscurity gather the strength which overturns existing institutions. The overt crisis comes finally as the breaking forth of a long suppressed flame. So was it in France in 1789; so was it in America in 1860; so was it in China in 1912. So is it in all our western world in this year of grace. Causally contributing to our present ferment there

  1. This paper was read to the Indiana University Chapter of Sigma XI, December 11, 1913, and subsequently to the Liberal Lecture League at Indianapolis. On superficial reading it may seem that some of its claims have been refuted by the present European war. To the writer it seems that the development of mankind is a deep movement in which the present war, terrible and reactionary as it is, is an episode. Its most harmful effect upon the march of civic emancipation will be the economic one, the destruction of the means of life. When the "glorious victory" shall have been won there will be less to eat than before. The "strong man" will get his disproportionate share, and the common men who are left in Europe will be hungry. They will be less aggressive than before, and the tide of economic liberation which was steadily rising in 1913 will be stayed. But a new generation will be born to try again the fight for freedom. Some day that fight will be really won and Europe will forget William III. and Nicholas II. as France has forgotten Napoleon and as we have forgotten George III. To the achievement of such oblivion science lends its indirect but powerful aid.