Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/April 1890/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

IN "The Popular Science Monthly" for January I read with much interest, but not surprise, an article by Benjamin Reece, on "Public Schools as affecting Crime and Vice." The author very clearly shows that our school system is not elevating the moral standard of the rising generation, as had been so sanguinely expected, but rather, that as the minds of the masses are increased in knowledge, there is an equal if not more rapid increase of vice and crime. But the root of the evil is not in the system of public instruction, for, as a general rule, no teacher is given a school who does not bear an exceptionally good moral character, and a majority of them are members of good standing in the various churches. With this guarantee for the moral training of the pupils by precept and example on the part of the teachers, it seems to me that all is being done in that line that can be done. Furthermore, the Sunday school, where moral training is especially attended to, is now considered an indispensable adjunct to every church; yet, with all this, vice and crime are on the ascending scale, and in a most astonishing degree.

It is a mistaken notion that simply to educate a people is to improve them morally; for a man can possess the most exalted moral qualities without the least intellectual culture, and vice versa. Now that our ethical hopes in public-school education are not fulfilled, what shall be further done to lessen this dark cloud of vice and crime? My answer is, we must combine other lessons with our present system of moral teachings, and these other lessons must be ethical object-lessons. Man, to a very large degree, is an imitative creature, and especially so in childhood. By constant imitation of what he sees others do, habits are formed, and, once formed at that early period, be they good or bad are rarely, if ever, entirely suppressed in after-years. All the ethical subject-lessons may be given him that is possible; but if there be object-lessons that go counter to them, these invariably take the deeper root, and soon nullify or supplant the former.

With these truths before us, is it not the imperative duty of all—all who wish for good government, safety of person and property, and the advancement of the race—to become bright and living ethical object-lessons to the rising generation? Nor is this all that is to be done: we should discountenance and remove all who are not ethical object-lessons worthy of study. Man's imitative propensity is called forth principally by those whom he thinks are his superiors. Consequently all those in high places of all kinds who are pernicious object-lessons should be the first to be removed; for, if the source be putrid, the onflowing stream becomes foul also. The author, in the article referred to, very truly tells us that the fall of the Roman Empire was "an effect of a moral ruin." Now, all readers of Roman history know that the germ of this "moral ruin" had its birth in the topmost strata of Roman society; and the masses, with ready imitativeness, became rotten to the core. The sad finale of that wonderful empire we all know.

Is Roman history now preparing to repeat itself in these United States? The indications all strongly point that way. Do we not see venality and corruption pervading, more or less, every branch of the Government? Even our halls of justice are frequently tainted with it, while the politicians and office-seekers, with scarcely an exception, are prostituting the elective franchise throughout the land by a venal use of the "almighty dollar." This bribe-money is brought to bear almost exclusively upon the needy poor—making their pockets heavier, but dwarfing their moral manhood. With this state of things, is it to be wondered at that vice and crime are rolling up m billows mountain-high? Is it to be wondered at that our public schools, our Sunday schools, and pulpits are impotent to check the approach of this "moral ruin"? Nor can it be checked until the wise and the good throughout the land determine to elevate to places of honor and trust only those who are calculated to make the best ethical object-lessons for the study of the rising generation. How many can we point to who now sit in high places that would make good object-lessons for the study of all our school children? Purify the fountain, and the stream will become likewise limpid and pure.

E. P. Meredith.
Atlee's Station. Hanover County, Va.,
January 27, 1890.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: It was a gloomy picture of the condition and prospects of agriculture in the United States which Mr. Joel Benton drew in his article entitled "The Decadence of Farming," in the November "Monthly." A similar view is presented by Judge Nott, in a series of articles published by the New York "Evening Post;" while recent reports of the State Commissioner of Agriculture of Vermont and of New Hampshire substantiate these accounts as regards those two States. Abandoned farms in the East and farm-mortgage foreclosures in the West, Mr. Benton tells us, are becoming distressingly common, and many farmers who still hold and work their lands are struggling along under increasing indebtedness, or at best obtain only rapidly diminishing returns.

Certain of our public men, however, deny that agriculture in the United States is suffering such a severe depression as these statements indicate. The Hon. Philetus Sawyer, Senator from Wisconsin, has said, according to the "Milwaukee Daily Journal," that he had never known of but one foreclosure of a farm mortgage in his section of the country, and the remark was used in debate in the Senate by his colleague, Hon. John C. Spooner. Our members of Congress might be expected to furnish reliable information. They are selected to make laws for the people, theoretically, because each one knows the condition and needs of his constituents, and how to provide for them. But the above assertion has been investigated by the "Journal," with the result of proving, either that a false statement had been willfully made by one of the Senators, and repeated by the other, or that both were ignorant of affairs in the State they represent that any observing man must be aware of. Foreclosures have to be advertised in the local papers, and, out of forty of the "Journal's" exchanges from within the State, foreclosure notices were found in fourteen. In these papers were thirty-two notices. The papers examined are not more than one eighth of those published in the State. The "Journal" also wrote for the records of foreclosures for the last ten years in most of the counties of eastern Wisconsin, as far north as the farming region extends. In reply, letters were received, mostly from county officials, which were published in the "Journal" of February 1st, and which showed that in nine counties of Wisconsin there have been seven hundred and eleven farm-mortgage foreclosures in ten years, involving $1,297,905.49. These counties contain about one sixth of the population of the State, and, allowing liberal margins, the "Journal" estimates that twenty-five hundred farm mortgages have been foreclosed in the whole State during the past ten years. Senator Sawyer resides at Oshkosh, in Winnebago County, which is not one of the nine counties above mentioned, but foreclosures occur in the Senator's immediate vicinity as well as in the rest of the State. The "Journal" quotes the "Oshkosh Times" as saying, "In the year 1888 ten mortgages were foreclosed on farms in Winnebago County, and in 1889 four more changed hands in the same way." And yet Politician Sawyer declared that he had never known of but one foreclosure in his section of the country. It is obviously unsafe to assume that what a politician don't know, therefore, does not exist.

Senator Sawyer's alleged ignorance reminds one of Sam Weller's behavior on the witness-stand in the great Pickwick trial, when his father had been guilty of disturbing the court. On that occasion the judge asked:

"Do you know who that was, sir?"

"I rayther suspect it was my father, my lord," replied Sam.

"Do you see him here now?" said the judge.

"No, I don't, my lord," replied Sam, staring right up into the lantern in the roof of the court.

Senator Sawyer must have been looking hard in some other direction when notices of foreclosures in his section were floating about. Politicians do not deal much in facts. Their stock in trade is mainly exaggerated assertions, off-hand denials, and buncombe, and they trust to their eloquence, their artful ways of putting things, or to the authority of their official positions to secure belief. When it suits their purposes to have the truth known, they bring it out with a grand flourish of figures; but when it seems to them more politic to keep the public in ignorance, they take refuge in general assertions. The true state of affairs in any given case can only be learned by searching out all the separate facts. Just as truly as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, the price of truth is thorough investigation.

Very truly yours,
Frederik A. Fernald.
New York, February 22, 1890.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In the article on "The Evolution of the Modern Railway Bridge," by Prof. Jameson, he says (page 478) that "it" (namely, the cantilever bridge) "can be given great rigidity and stability, which are impossible in the suspension (bridge)," to which should have been added, "as usually built," because otherwise the statement would not be correct.

Prof. Jameson himself correctly states in another place (on page 475) that "a suspension bridge is nothing else than an arch bridge turned upside down." It follows that a suspension bridge can be built just as rigid as an erect arch bridge. But it is demonstrable that a suspension bridge can be made more rigid, particularly against lateral forces, than an erect arch. A suspension arch is in stable equilibrium; an erect arch is in unstable equilibrium, and requires lateral bracing, which the suspended arch does not require. Thus, if the steel arches of the St. Louis Railway Bridge were turned upside down, with the roadway suspended from them, and if the compression tubes were replaced by steel links, the suspended arches thus formed would have the same vertical rigidity as the existing compression arches, and it is obvious that the lateral bracing which is necessary for the tubes of the erect arch could be dispensed with for the links of the suspended arch. The question of anchorages is outside of the comparison.

The popular misconception as to suspension bridges is due to the many insufficiently stiffened structures of this kind. No other bridge system can be built so imperfectly stiffened, and yet be safe, as the suspension bridge. An erect arch bridge built in the same manner would fall of its own weight.

Another popular and fashionable conception, but a misconception all the same, is as to the merits of the cantilever bridge. Theoretically and practically, the cantilever of all bridge systems has the greatest deflections and oscillations under passing loads, all other things being equal, and therefore is the least rigid system. It has, however, its good uses otherwise.

Gustav Lindenthal.
Pittsburg, Pa., February 2, 1890.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Dear Sir: In your issue of January, 1890, page 430, under "Notes," it is said, "One hundred and fifty-five barrels of salt were manufactured in Kansas in 1888, and it is estimated that the output in 1889 will be not less than three times as large."

From the annual report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture for 1888, it is learned that seven salt-works reporting produced 122,420 barrels. Of the seven, three reported to December 31st, and four to November 30th. One of the seven reporting began March 15th, three in October, and two in November.

From the same source for 1889, 547,224 barrels of salt were manufactured and 19,056 tons of salt not put in barrels. Seventeen companies reported in the latter year.

I have bought a copy of "The Popular Science Monthly" since its first publication, and I was loath to pass such an error unchallenged. Success to you and yours.

J. G. Wood.

Topeka, Kansas, February 11, 1890.

[The number intended was 1 55,000 barrels. The dropping out of the thousands in transcribing the item escaped notice. On the basis of that number, the output of Kansas salt in 1889 would be, according to Mr. Hay's estimate, not less than 465,000 barrels. We thank our correspondent for giving us the opportunity of correcting the error.—Editor.]