Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/November 1877/Correspondence



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

SIR: Returning a day or two ago to Columbus at the end of our vacation, I last night took up the September number of The Popular Science Monthly. Therein is a letter from Evanston, Illinois, in which some of Prof. Schneider's mistakes, in his article on "The Tides," are pointed out. Two or three years ago Mr. Schneider caused his explanation of the tides to be printed in a little periodical used extensively by Ohio teachers—I refer to Notes and Queries, Salem, Ohio. The errors of fact and philosophy were then pointed out in that journal. And, inasmuch as Prof. Carhart has abundantly exposed Mr. Schneider's mistakes, I content myself with showing a single point. The whole article on "The tides" is a bundle of absurdities, mistakes of fact and philosophy, and errors of figures in regard to quantity. Mr. Schneider, knowing absolutely nothing of the theory of the tides, as understood and explained for the last two hundred years, has concocted a mass of nonsense which is set out as the only rational theory. I incline to the opinion that the New York gentleman who advised you to print the article was playing a practical joke on Mr. Schneider, or else he belongs to that order of city mathematicians who recommended Benson's "Geometry," a work in which there is proof(?) that an inscribed polygon of twelve sides is exactly equal to the circle which contains the polygon—i. e., circumscribes the polygon. Had this new philosophy been put forth in the ordinary newspapers of the day, no notice would have been taken of it. On page 276, July number of The Popular Science Monthly, we find the following: "The earth will then feel a centrifugal force on her side farthest from the moon, and equal to the centripetal force felt on her side facing the moon. These two equal forces, acting in opposite directions," etc. On page 279: "This

Fig. 1.

force [centrifugal] acts in a line tangent to the earth's orbit." Then the centripetal force must also act parallel to the "tangent to the earth's orbit;" and so, whether you are a mathematician or not, you can easily see that things are going on at loose ends, if they act in this way. (See Fig. 1.) Did you ever elsewhere see, or hear either, of such a centripetal or such a centrifugal force?

Fig. 2.

Again, on page 276: "This large amount of centrifugal force is produced by axial rotation, by revolution round the sun, and by revolution round the centre of gravity [between the earth and the moon] already named."

Let us see: the centrifugal force, in connection with the revolution of the earth on its axis, is uniform all around the equator—consequently it cannot have any part in producing a tide at one side of the earth merely. This must be ruled out.

Let us take up the last item of the three. C (Fig. 2) is the centre of gravity between the moon and the earth, about 3,000 miles from the earth's centre, and 1,000 from the surface. Now, the centrifugal force is always proportional to the distance from the centre of motion, other things being equal (see any work on mechanics). Then the force at D is seven times as great as the force at A, for it is seven times as far from C. Therefore the tide at D will be seven times as high as that at A. Do your New York tides play such tricks?

It is also easy to show that the first item of the three has nothing to do with the tides. So in that sentence there are three bald-faced absurdities; and in fact there are about as many such as there are sentences in the whole article. A hundred pages of manuscript are not sufficient to show them all up.

Take the next two sentences following the preceding, viz.: "The direction of these three forces is in the same line. The motion of this part of her surface, which is in this line of direction, is therefore the most rapid; consequently the centrifugal force felt here is also the greatest."

Scan this closely, and you will find what the logicians call a vicious circle in the reasoning.R. W. McFarland,

Professor of Mathematics, etc., Ohio
Agricultural and Mechanical College.
Columbus, Ohio, September 12, 1877.


To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

The discussion of the present economical problem, the depression of profits and wages, which the article of Prof. Bonamy Price ("One per Cent,") initiated, ought to be continued, and facts and opinions ought freely to be contributed toward a full understanding of the subject.

Prof. Price writes from the money-centre, and reflects the state of enlightened opinion as influenced by his surroundings. The money accumulated there represents savings, and he very naturally and very truly finds fault with our extravagance.

Next comes Mr. Bunce, in the July number ("Over-Consumption or Over-Production?"), giving the views as held in a manufacturing centre; he admits over-production and advises restriction.

This, the distributive (or trade) centre, New York, will not submit to; and Mr. Leland, in the August number, exposes the fallacy of some of Mr. Bunce's reasoning. Without wishing to imply that these writers did not intend to present the question in its total aspect, yet they are viewing it through the glass of their surroundings; and, if I now add the opinion which is held in an agricultural region, the next writer will include this and make his exposition more comprehensive.

We in the agricultural districts deny that there is over-production in our line, or stagnation of trade in our articles. The facts are, that with three very good harvests and several average ones previously, we have not produced more than has been consumed. At the end of June, when the present abundant wheat-harvest was begun, there was not old wheat sufficient for a month's home supply in the Western granary. The new wheat was hurried from the threshing-machine to the mill and ground immediately, to fill the regular orders for the Boston, New York, and Philadelphia markets. Evidently, there has been no over-production in wheat or in corn. We have readily sold all our beef-cattle, our sheep and swine, our wool, fruit, and dairy products. The production of all these has met the demand, and we have realized fair prices.

And, as a natural consequence, there has been no stagnation nor depression in our trade. Our farmers and small town and village mechanics, and our small retail stores, have had all the necessaries of life in abundance, and not a few of the comforts. Mortgages have been lifted, improvements have been made, surplus cash is in all our savings-banks at four per cent, or less interest to the depositors. Our trade centres, doing the honest business of first-hand traffic, are prospering.

All through our country, farms and fisheries have not produced more grain, meat, or wool, than has been consumed from one harvest to another. But we have produced more cotton than can be worn out from one year to another. Our mines have yielded more iron, in many places more coal, than is wanted; much less iron is now required for trades-tools, machinery, and railroading, than at that not far-distant period when a great deal was consumed in building new roads and erecting new machinery where there had been none before. Mines are bringing up more silver than can be usefully employed; hence it is being hoarded, and its price must sink.

The cotton and the iron are forced upon the converting trades, in which so many mill-hands and factory-operatives are employed. The raw material in excess becomes cheaper. The converted products, the articles manufactured for consumption, are in excess, and, forcing themselves upon the market, reduce prices, as well their own as the price of the labor that produced and distributed them. And, as a last consequence, these products are glutting the shelves of the merchants' warerooms, diminishing the profits of the carrier and merchant to a trifle, and ending in bankruptcy and strikes.

If all our cotton-mills and their dependencies, all our iron industries, and some others, were to suspend, we should not exhaust the supply on hand of their fabrics for quite a number of years.

To sum up—

1. There is do over-production of grain and meat.

2. There is a great surplus of textile, iron, and similar fabrics.

Hence, there is a one-sided over-production, a one-sided depression of prices for labor and for fabrics; and, on the other side, a normal prosperity and attending accumulation of savings.

The problem for relief at once presents itself in the question whether a change of occupation of a considerable number of factory-operatives, mechanics, and forwarders, from the trades to agriculture, would afford the remedy and reëstablish the equilibrium.

The farmer, even at the most Western frontier, has always a sufficiency of food raised by himself, and generally a surplus, adequate for furnishing his family some comforts, and always independence.

If a large majority of the weavers and machine-workers of to-day were to become agriculturists, they would become consumers instead of producers of the very articles which are now made in excess; and, while the price of the articles might not be advanced, those that made them would have full and steady, instead of interrupted and uncertain, employment—a double gain on the present disturbed state.

No legislative or government interference is needed or desirable. The adjustment of the disturbed equilibrium in the productions will work itself out as soon as the true causes of the "stagnation in trade" are clearly understood.

A case in point will illustrate. In a small county town, the trade-centre of a good farming district, the retail stores had done a very profitable business up to about 1874. As a natural consequence, many persons with a small capital had engaged in this line; finally their sales diminished, profits declined, because their number had increased beyond the former ratio between stores and customers. A few of them looked about for other occupations. One engaged in tanning, which was a good field; another started a custom grist-mill, for which there was a demand; another opened a pork-packing establishment; another went into farming on a large scale. Here, the overcrowding with its attendant evils was understood as the cause of the decline in trade; the enterprising members of the profession left it for occupations that pay better, and the equilibrium has been reëstablished.

All efforts at relief from the dull times must lie in the same direction. A large number of our mill-hands and factory-operatives must take to farming, must, raise themselves the food for their families, and some to exchange for comforts which their fields and herds cannot directly give.

The old mill-hands ought not to attempt the change; but the young and middle-aged ought, and escape from their "bondage" in the East to the free fields of our wide Western country.F. A. Nitchy.

Jefferson City, Missouri.


To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

The loss from peculation in the management of railways has probably been exaggerated; these important institutions have, in the main, been conducted on business principles, with an eye to dividends. Those in control have aimed—with success, until recently—to secure competent and willing aid, and the esprit de corps so essential in great enterprises. But managers and men are alike the victims of a train of circumstances foreseen only by a few political economists. The plain fact is, that the railroad system finds itself in the brunt of a movement that has been long approaching culmination. Multitudes of our native youth, seduced by the supposed attractions and opportunities of the city, and swarms of the poorer immigrants, have precipitated the catastrophe, by swelling the already overcrowded centres of population—have added to the number to be fed, by decimating the army of producers—have lowered the price of labor, by increasing the number of applicants. Reduction of extravagant salaries and other "leaks" is to be commended, but will not, it is to be feared, effect any material increase of wages for a long time to come, and that from no indisposition on the part of managers, but from causes beyond their control.

Populations have been passing through the throes of greater social transitions than were ever before crowded into a century, and a vast amount of inconvenience was and is inevitable. The immense industries created by labor-saving machinery have, in not a few instances, outrun the present demand, and hence—too often—an advancing throng of aspirants has found itself confronted with another throng in disorderly retreat: the result is a fierce struggle for existence, in which reason exercises but a feeble sway.

Nature and Providence are inexorable, and take no thought for the individual intruder in their track. These forces are now apparently engaged in starving the surplus humanity back into the cornfields.

But he is a sorry physician who is content with a diagnosis of the disease, and prescribes no preventive, or even remedy; and as in the corporeal body, so in the body corporate—the best remedy is that which operates through natural forces: let us see if such cannot be made available. Cannot this drift cityward be checked, or even turned backward, by rendering farm-life more attractive to young men? For example:

Instead of isolated homesteads, often miles asunder, why not dedicate a central space for a good, old-fashioned Saxon "common," which might hold the school, the church, the park, and other amenities of civilization, and be surrounded by the dwellings of the settlement? And why cannot parents, instead of placing their sons in dusty city offices, or behind ignoble counters, enable these young men—with the aid of competent experts, where necessary—to establish such settlements? Might not education in such a community, by embracing the study of natural objects, applied science, and the practice of handicrafts, convert material that now evolves into boors, "hoodlums," or "counter-hoppers," into interested (because intelligent) and occupied producers, for whom rural life and scenes would possess attractions superior to the vulgar dissipations of the faubourg and the feverish competitions of trade?

G. H. Knight.

Cincinnati, August 10, 1877.