Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/March 1898/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Dear Sir: The ordinary reader, having neither the time nor the facilities for verifying much of what he reads, must needs take a great deal for granted.

And this habit of childlike confidence applies especially to the numerous quotations he encounters, for he very naturally assumes that no writer of any pretensions and standing can be so utterly lost to all that is fair and honorable as to deliberately misquote and misrepresent a fellow-craftsman and serve him up to undeserved ridicule. Yet experience proves that it is not prudent to rely too implicitly upon the infallibility of any writer, for it is sometimes apparent that even those who pose as the most strenuous sticklers for the truth when it comes to quoting from the works of rival contemporaries are not always so successful in resisting a natural propensity to lie as was the poet Schiller.

Criminal carelessness also accounts for many of these garbled quotations, and we find too that in some instances the offender has taken them second hand, and is himself the victim of misplaced confidence, as in the case of Professor Drummond, whose high character constrains us to believe that it was because of his too ready reliance upon the accuracy and integrity of a certain writer in the Contemporary Review that he committed the flagrant injustice of incorporating in his admirable book, the Ascent of Man, not only a palpably garbled version of Herbert Spencer's definition of evolution, but also the sarcastic comments of this unprincipled critic upon his own miserable perversion of it.

But while granting full absolution to the erring professor, we can not but wonder nevertheless that he should have been so easily betrayed into this grave injustice, when, had he carefully read the very paragraph from Spencer to which he refers the reader, he must have discovered how false and misleading was this citation from the Review, as will plainly appear from the following comparison:

On page 5 of the third edition of the Ascent of Man (James Potts, publisher, 1894) we read: "Mr. Herbert Spencer's famous definition of evolution, as a change from an indefinite coherent heterogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity through continuous differentiations and integrations," etc., while the version as given on page 65 of Spencer's Data of Ethics, to which Mr. Drummond refers us, is really as follows: "Taking the evolution point of view, and remembering that while an aggregate evolves not only the matter composing it, but also the motion of that matter passes from an indefinite incoherent homo-geneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity," etc.

It will be observed how effectually the substitution of the underscored syllables clarifies the alleged version and redeems it from utter and idiotic unintelligibility.

Even when correctly stated we may have differing opinions as to the clearness, consistency, and scientific value of Mr. Spencer's "famous definition," but we can not differ as to his right to have it quoted correctly, and doubtless Professor Drummond would have so quoted it but for his overweening confidence in the careless or mendacious reviewer before alluded to.

James W. Donaldson.
Ellenville, N. Y., November 6, 1897.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In an article entitled The Foreign Element in American Civilization, published in the Popular Science Monthly for January, the writer, referring to the Irish, states, "He is first an Irishman, then an American, and such only so far as it is an America of the green flag." To prove his proposition he refers to the great pilgrimage to Ireland this summer to celebrate the centenary of 1798.

It has been conceded by all impartial writers that of all nationalities there is none that more readily or more naturally assimilates as an American citizen or forms a more integral part of the great republic than the Irishman. Every true American feels, knows, and enthusiastically declares that of all human emotions there is none more powerful as an incentive to grand and noble deeds than that which brings us back to the spot where we first received a mother's smile, a father's blessing, to the cradle of our childhood, the playground of our boyhood, the theater of our manhood. I appeal to every battlefield of the Revolution, from Stony Point to Yorktown, upon which Irish blood flowed freely, and the Irish sunburst waved side by side with the red, white, and blue. I appeal to Wayne's bayonets, Knox's artillery, and Morgan's rifles.

"New force we want to stem the brunt,
So bring the Irish to the front."

They were brought to the front at Stony Point, Monmouth, Bennington, King's Mountain, and the Cowpens. I appeal to the volcanic heights, the towers, the gates, the cactus-circled fortresses of Mexico. I appeal to the bloody slopes of Malvern Hill, the crimson stone wall of Fredericksburg, the deadly swamps of the Chickahominy, the thickets of the Wilderness, the purple waters of Antietam, and the bloody angle at Gettysburg. I appeal to the hundred fields now billowed with Irish graves to prove that never man fought more devotedly or more heroically for the inviolability of the Stars and Stripes and the indissolubility of the Union than did the men who cherished in their hearts the memories and love of their native land.

Their fame will live as long as the Great Republic herself—yea, while mountains raise their summits to the sky and rivers journey onward to the sea—

"While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps."

Dr. J. C. O'Connell.
Washington, D. C, February 1, 1898.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Dear Sir: In the Sketch of Carl Vogt in the last November number of the Popular Science Monthly, Prof. Charles Follen, of Harvard University (1825-1835), was referred to as "implicated in the assassination of Kotzebue." This statement, unexplained, is misleading and unjust. Two months after the assassination Carl Follenius, at the time teaching in Jena, was brought to trial by a hostile government as an accomplice, but was fully acquitted. In those disturbed times—1819—this vague charge was easily made, but should not now be allowed to pursue unchallenged the memory of so estimable a man as Dr. Follen, with whose entire life it was inconsistent.

Will you be so kind as to insert this statement in an early number of your magazine?

Very truly yours,
Charles W. Eliot.
Harvard University, Cambridge,
January 6, 1898.

Had space permitted, the writer of the sketch of Carl Vogt would have more fully set forth the real nature of the incident referred to, which the Vogt family evidently considered anything but a discredit. He did not regard it as derogatory to Professor Follen's character, and mentioned it simply as tending to establish a bond between Carl Vogt and the United States, and as showing that Vogt's revolutionary sympathies were an affair of the blood. We are glad to publish President Eliot's letter, and the fact that Follenius was acquitted on his trial, which is not mentioned in William Vogt's life of his father, La Vie d'un Homme—Carl Vogt, whence the material for the sketch was derived. That work opens with a pen picture of two young students—Carl Sand and Carl Follenius—casting dice, at an inn between Erfurt and Jena, as to which should slay Kotzebue. The lot fell to Sand. William Vogt further records that Follenius, "they say," when Sand confided his purpose to him, abhorring murder, tried to dissuade him from carrying it out, as he did, too, after the casting; but, finding Sand was immovable, he "demanded for himself, Follenius, the perilous honor of striking down the monster" (réclama pour lui, Follenius, le périlleux honneur d'abattre le monstre); also that Follenius attended the execution of Sand, and embraced him on the scaffold. He was afterward banished from Germany and took refuge in Switzerland, where he was professor of civil law at Basle, till the monarchs of the Holy Alliance demanded his extradition. He then went to Paris on the invitation of Lafayette, and thence came to America.—Editor.