After dinner the doctor said that he had an excursion to suggest for the afternoon.
"It has often occurred to me," he went on, "that when you shall go out into the world and become familiar with its features by your own observation, you will, in looking back on these preparatory lessons I have tried to give you, form a very poor impression of my talent as a pedagogue. I am very much dissatisfied myself with the method in which I have developed the subject, which, instead of having been philosophically conceived as a plan of instruction, has been merely a series of random talks, guided rather by your own curiosity than any scheme on my part."
"I am very thankful, my dear friend and teacher," I replied, "that you have spared me the philosophical method. Without boasting that I have acquired so soon a complete understanding of your modern system, I am very sure that I know a good deal more about it than I otherwise should, for the very reason that you have so good-naturedly followed the lead of my curiosity instead of tying me to the tailboard of a method."
"I should certainly like to believe," said the doctor, "that our talks have been as instructive to you as they have been delightful to me, and if I have made mistakes it should be remembered that perhaps no instructor ever had or is likely to have a task quite so large as mine, or one so unexpectedly thrust upon him, or, finally, one which, being so large, the natural curiosity of his pupil compelled him to cover in so short a time."
"But you were speaking of an excursion for this afternoon."
"Yes," said the doctor. "It is a suggestion in the line of an attempt to remedy some few of my too probable omissions of important things in trying to acquaint you with how we live now. What do you say to chartering an air car this afternoon for the purpose of taking a bird's-eye view of the city and environs, and seeing what its various aspects may suggest in the way of features of present-day civilization which we have not touched upon?"
The idea struck me as admirable, and we at once proceeded to put it in execution.
In these brief and fragmentary reminiscences of my first experiences in the modern world it is, of course, impossible that I should refer to one in a hundred of the startling things which happened to me. Still, even with that limitation, it may seem strange to my readers that I have not had more to say of the wonder excited in my mind by the number and character of the great mechanical inventions and applications unknown in my day, which contribute to the material fabric and actuate the mechanism of your civilization. For example, although this was very far from being my first air trip, I do not think that I have before referred to a sort of experience which, to a representative of the last century, must naturally have been nothing less than astounding. I can only say, by way of explanation of this seeming indifference to the mechanical wonders of this age, that had they been ten times more marvelous, they would still have impressed me with infinitely less astonishment than the moral revolution illustrated by your new social order.
This, I am sure, is what would be the experience of any man of my time under my circumstances. The march of scientific discovery and mechanical invention during the last half of the nineteenth century had already been so great and was proceeding so rapidly that we were prepared to expect almost any amount of development in the same lines in the future. Your submarine shipping we had distinctly anticipated and even partially realized. The discovery of the electrical powers had made almost any mechanical conception seem possible. As to navigation of the air, we fully expected that would be somehow successfully solved by our grandchildren if not by our children. If, indeed, I had not found men sailing the air I should have been distinctly disappointed.
But while we were prepared to expect well-nigh anything of man's intellectual development and the perfecting of his mastery over the material world, we were utterly skeptical as to the possibility of any large moral improvement on his part. As a moral being, we believed that he had got his growth, as the saying was, and would never in this world at least attain to a nobler stature. As a philosophical proposition, we recognized as fully as you do that the golden rule would afford the basis of a social life in which every one would be infinitely happier than anybody was in our world, and that the true interest of all would be furthered by establishing such a social order; but we held at the same time that the moral baseness and self-blinding selfishness of man would forever prevent him from realizing such an ideal. In vain, had he been endowed with a godlike intellect; it would not avail him for any of the higher uses of life, for an ineradicable moral perverseness would always hinder him from doing as well as he knew and hold him in hopeless subjection to the basest and most suicidal impulses of his nature.
"Impossible; it is against human nature!" was the cry which met and for the most part overbore and silenced every prophet or teacher who sought to rouse the world to discontent with the reign of chaos and awaken faith in the possibility of a kingdom of God on earth.
Is it any wonder, then, that one like me, bred in that atmosphere of moral despair, should pass over with comparatively little attention the miraculous material achievements of this age, to study with ever-growing awe and wonder the secret of your just and joyous living?
As I look back I see now how truly this base view of human nature was the greatest infidelity to God and man which the human race ever fell into, but, alas! it was not the infidelity which the churches condemned, but rather a sort which their teachings of man's hopeless depravity were calculated to implant and confirm.
This very matter of air navigation of which I was speaking suggests a striking illustration of the strange combination on the part of my contemporaries of unlimited faith in man's material progress with total unbelief in his moral possibilities. As I have said, we fully expected that posterity would achieve air navigation, but the application of the art most discussed was its use in war to drop dynamite bombs in the midst of crowded cities. Try to realize that if you can. Even Tennyson, in his vision of the future, saw nothing more. You remember how he
Heard the heavens fill with shouting,
And there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations airy navies,
Grappling in the central blue.
HOW THE PEOPLE HOLD THE REINS.
"And now," said the doctor, as he checked the rise of our car at an altitude of about one thousand feet, "let us attend to our lesson. What do you see down there to suggest a question?"
"Well, to begin with," I said, as the dome of the Statehouse caught my eye, "what on earth have you stuck up there? It looks for all the world like one of those self-steering windmills the farmers in my day used to pump up water with. Surely that is an odd sort of ornament for a public building."
"It is not intended as an ornament, but a symbol," replied the doctor. "It represents the modern ideal of a proper system of government. The mill stands for the machinery of administration, the wind that drives it symbolizes the public will, and the rudder that always keeps the vane of the mill before the wind, however suddenly or completely the wind may change, stands for the method by which the administration is kept at all times responsive and obedient to every mandate of the people, though it be but a breath.
"I have talked to you so much on that subject that I need enlarge no further on the impossibility of having any popular government worthy of the name which is not based upon the economic equality of the citizens with its implications and consequences. No constitutional devices or cleverness of parliamentary machinery could have possibly made popular government anything but a farce, so long as the private economic interest of the citizen was distinct from and opposed to the public interest, and the so-called sovereign people ate their bread from the hand of capitalists. Given, on the other hand, economic unity of private interests with public interest, the complete independence of every individual on every other, and universal culture to cap all, and no imperfection of administrative machinery could prevent the government from being a good one. Nevertheless, we have improved the machinery as much as we have the motive force. You used to vote once a year, or in two years, or in six years, as the case might be, for those who were to rule over you till the next election, and those rulers, from the moment of their election to the term of their offices, were as irresponsible as czars. They were far more so, indeed, for the czar at least had a supreme motive to leave his inheritance unimpaired to his son, while these elected tyrants had no interest except in making the most they could out of their power while they held it.
"It appears to us that it is an axiom of democratic government that power should never be delegated irrevocably for an hour, but should always be subject to recall by the delegating power. Public officials are nowadays chosen for a term as a matter of convenience, but it is not a term positive. They are liable to have their powers revoked at any moment by the vote of their principals; neither is any measure of more than merely routine character ever passed by a representative body without reference back to the people. The vote of no delegate upon any important measure can stand until his principals--or constituents, as you used to call them--have had the opportunity to cancel it. An elected agent of the people who offended the sentiment of the electors would be displaced, and his act repudiated the next day. You may infer that under this system the agent is solicitous to keep in contact with his principals. Not only do these precautions exist against irresponsible legislation, but the original proposition of measures comes from the people more often than from their representatives.
"So complete through our telephone system has the most complicated sort of voting become, that the entire nation is organized so as to be able to proceed almost like one parliament if needful. Our representative bodies, corresponding to your former Congresses, Legislatures, and Parliaments, are under this system reduced to the exercise of the functions of what you used to call congressional committees. The people not only nominally but actually govern. We have a democracy in fact.
"We take pains to exercise this direct and constant supervision of our affairs not because we suspect or fear our elected agents. Under our system of indefeasible, unchangeable, economic equality there is no motive or opportunity for venality. There is no motive for doing evil that could be for a moment set against the overwhelming motive of deserving the public esteem, which is indeed the only possible object that nowadays could induce any one to accept office. All our vital interests are secured beyond disturbance by the very framework of society. We could safely turn over to a selected body of citizens the management of the public affairs for their lifetime. The reason we do not is that we enjoy the exhilaration of conducting the government of affairs directly. You might compare us to a wealthy man of your day who, though having in his service any number of expert coachmen, preferred to handle the reins himself for the pleasure of it. You used to vote perhaps once a year, taking five minutes for it, and grudging the time at that as lost from your private business, the pursuit of which you called, I believe, 'the main chance.' Our private business is the public business, and we have no other of importance. Our 'main chance' is the public welfare, and we have no other chance. We vote a hundred times perhaps in a year, on all manner of questions, from the temperature of the public baths or the plan to be selected for a public building, to the greatest questions of the world union, and find the exercise at once as exhilarating as it is in the highest sense educational.
"And now, Julian, look down again and see if you do not find some other feature of the scene to hang a question on."
THE LITTLE WARS AND THE GREAT WAR.
"I observe," I said, "that the harbor forts are still there. I suppose you retain them, like the specimen tenement houses, as historical evidences of the barbarism of your ancestors, my contemporaries."
"You must not be offended," said the doctor, "if I say that we really have to keep a full assortment of such exhibits, for fear the children should flatly refuse to believe the accounts the books give of the unaccountable antics of their great-grandfathers."
"The guarantee of international peace which the world union has brought," I said, "must surely be regarded by your people as one of the most signal achievements of the new order, and yet it strikes me I have heard you say very little about it."
"Of course," said the doctor, "it is a great thing in itself, but so incomparably less important than the abolition of the economic war between man and man that we regard it as merely incidental to the latter. Nothing is much more astonishing about the mental operations of your contemporaries than the fuss they made about the cruelty of your occasional international wars while seemingly oblivious to the horrors of the battle for existence in which you all were perpetually involved. From our point of view, your wars, while of course very foolish, were comparatively humane and altogether petty exhibitions as contrasted with the fratricidal economic struggle. In the wars only men took part--strong, selected men, comprising but a very small part of the total population. There were no women, no children, no old people, no cripples allowed to go to war. The wounded were carefully looked after, whether by friends or foes, and nursed back to health. The rules of war forbade unnecessary cruelty, and at any time an honorable surrender, with good treatment, was open to the beaten. The battles generally took place on the frontiers, out of sight and sound of the masses. Wars were also very rare, often not one in a generation. Finally, the sentiments appealed to in international conflicts were, as a rule, those of courage and self-devotion. Often, indeed generally, the causes of the wars were unworthy of the sentiments of self-devotion which the fighting called out, but the sentiments themselves belonged to the noblest order.
"Compare with warfare of this character the conditions of the economic struggle for existence. That was a war in which not merely small selected bodies of combatants took part, but one in which the entire population of every country, excepting the inconsiderable groups of the rich, were forcibly enlisted and compelled to serve. Not only did women, children, the aged and crippled have to participate in it, but the weaker the combatants the harder the conditions under which they must contend. It was a war in which there was no help for the wounded, no quarter for the vanquished. It was a war not on far frontiers, but in every city, every street, and every house, and its wounded, broken, and dying victims lay underfoot everywhere and shocked the eye in every direction that it might glance with some new form of misery. The ear could not escape the lamentations of the stricken and their vain cries for pity. And this war came not once or twice in a century, lasting for a few red weeks or months or years, and giving way again to peace, as did the battles of the soldiers, but was perennial and perpetual, truceless, lifelong. Finally, it was a war which neither appealed to nor developed any noble, any generous, any honorable sentiment, but, on the contrary, set a constant premium on the meanest, falsest, and most cruel propensities of human nature.
"As we look back upon your era, the sort of fighting those old forts down there stood for seems almost noble and barely tragical at all, as compared with the awful spectacle of the struggle for existence.
"We even are able to sympathize with the declaration of some of the professional soldiers of your age that occasional wars, with their appeals, however false, to the generous and self-devoting passions, were absolutely necessary to prevent your society, otherwise so utterly sordid and selfish in its ideals, from dissolving into absolute putrescence."
"It is to be feared," I was moved to observe, "that posterity has not built so high a monument to the promoters of the universal peace societies of my day as they expected."
"They were well meaning enough so far as they saw, no doubt," said the doctor, "but seem to have been a dreadfully short-sighted and purblind set of people. Their efforts to stop wars between nations, while tranquilly ignoring the world-wide economic struggle for existence which cost more lives and suffering in any one month than did the international wars of a generation, was a most striking case of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.
"As to the gain to humanity which has come from the abolition of all war or possibility of war between nations of to-day, it seems to us to consist not so much in the mere prevention of actual bloodshed as in the dying out of the old jealousies and rancors which used to embitter peoples against one another almost as much in peace as in war, and the growth in their stead of a fraternal sympathy and mutual good will, unconscious of any barrier of race or country."
THE OLD PATRIOTISM AND THE NEW.
As the doctor was speaking, the waving folds of a flag floating far below caught my eye. It was the Star-Spangled Banner. My heart leaped at the sight and my eyes grew moist.
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "it is Old Glory!" for so it had been a custom to call the flag in the days of the civil war and after.
"Yes," replied my companion, as his eyes followed my gaze, "but it wears a new glory now, because nowhere in the land it floats over is there found a human being oppressed or suffering any want that human aid can relieve.
"The Americans of your day," he continued, "were extremely patriotic after their fashion, but the difference between the old and the new patriotism is so great that it scarcely seems like the same sentiment. In your day and ever before, the emotions and associations of the flag were chiefly of the martial sort. Self-devotion to the nation in war with other nations was the idea most commonly conveyed by the word 'patriotism' and its derivatives. Of course, that must be so in ages when the nations had constantly to stand ready to fight one another for their existence. But the result was that the sentiment of national solidarity was arrayed against the sentiment of human solidarity. A lesser social enthusiasm was set in opposition to a greater, and the result was necessarily full of moral contradictions. Too often what was called love of country might better have been described as hate and jealousy of other countries, for no better reason than that there were other, and bigoted prejudices against foreign ideas and institutions--often far better than domestic ones--for no other reason than that they were foreign. This sort of patriotism was a most potent hindrance for countless ages to the progress of civilization, opposing to the spread of new ideas barriers higher than mountains, broader than rivers, deeper than seas.
"The new patriotism is the natural outcome of the new social and international conditions which date from the great Revolution. Wars, which were already growing infrequent in your day, were made impossible by the rise of the world union, and for generations have now been unknown. The old blood-stained frontiers of the nations have become scarcely more than delimitations of territory for administrative convenience, like the State lines in the American Union. Under these circumstances international jealousies, suspicions, animosities, and apprehensions have died a natural death. The anniversaries of battles and triumphs over other nations, by which the antique patriotism was kept burning, have been long ago forgotten. In a word, patriotism is no longer a martial sentiment and is quite without warlike associations. As the flag has lost its former significance as an emblem of outward defiance, it has gained a new meaning as the supreme symbol of internal concord and mutuality; it has become the visible sign of the social solidarity in which the welfare of all is equally and impregnably secured. The American, as he now lifts his eyes to the ensign of the nation, is not reminded of its military prowess as compared with other nations, of its past triumphs in battle and possible future victories. To him the waving folds convey no such suggestions. They recall rather the compact of brotherhood in which he stands pledged with all his countrymen mutually to safeguard the equal dignity and welfare of each by the might of all.
"The idea of the old-time patriots was that foreigners were the only people at whose hands the flag could suffer dishonor, and the report of any lack of etiquette toward it on their part used to excite the people to a patriotic frenzy. That sort of feeling would be simply incomprehensible now. As we look at it, foreigners have no power to insult the flag, for they have nothing to do with it, nor with what it stands for. Its honor or dishonor must depend upon the people whose plighted faith one to another it represents, to maintain the social contract. To the old-time patriot there was nothing incongruous in the spectacle of the symbol of the national unity floating over cities reeking with foulest oppressions, full of prostitution, beggary, and dens of nameless misery. According to the modern view, the existence of a single instance in any corner of the land where a citizen had been deprived of the full enjoyment of equality would turn the flag into a flaunting lie, and the people would demand with indignation that it should be hauled down and not raised again till the wrong was remedied."
"Truly," I said, "the new glory which Old Glory wears is a greater than the old glory."
MORE FOREIGN TRAVEL BUT LESS FOREIGN TRADE.
As we had talked, the doctor had allowed our car to drift before the westerly breeze till now we were over the harbor, and I was moved to exclaim at the scanty array of shipping it contained.
"It does not seem to me," I said, "that there are more vessels here than in my day, much less the great fleets one might expect to see after a century's development in population and resources."
"In point of fact," said the doctor, "the new order has tended to decrease the volume of foreign trade, though on the other hand there is a thousandfold more foreign travel for instruction and pleasure."
"In just what way," I asked, "did the new order tend to decrease exchanges with foreign countries?"
"In two ways," replied the doctor. "In the first place, as you know, the profit idea is now abolished in foreign trade as well as in domestic distribution. The International Council supervises all exchanges between nations, and the price of any product exported by one nation to another must not be more than that at which the exporting nation provides its own people with the same. Consequently there is no reason why a nation should care to produce goods for export unless and in so far as it needs for actual consumption products of another country which it can not itself so well produce.
"Another yet more potent effect of the new order in limiting foreign exchange is the general equalization of all nations which has long ago come about as to intelligence and the knowledge and practice of sciences and arts. A nation of to-day would be humiliated to have to import any commodity which insuperable natural conditions did not prevent the production of at home. It is consequently to such productions that commerce is now limited, and the list of them grows ever shorter as with the progress of invention man's conquest of Nature proceeds. As to the old advantage of coal-producing countries in manufacturing, that disappeared nearly a century ago with the great discoveries which made the unlimited development of electrical power practically costless.
"But you should understand that it is not merely on economic grounds or for self-esteem's sake that the various peoples desire to do everything possible for themselves rather than depend on people at a distance. It is quite as much for the education and mind-awakening influence of a diversified industrial system within a small space. It is our policy, so far as it can be economically carried out in the grouping of industries, not only to make the system of each nation complete, but so to group the various industries within each particular country that every considerable district shall present within its own limits a sort of microcosm of the industrial world. We were speaking of that, you may remember, the other morning, in the Labor Exchange."
THE MODERN DOCTOR'S EASY TASK.
The doctor had some time before reversed our course, and we were now moving westward over the city.
"What is that building which we are just passing over that has so much glass about it?" I asked.
"That is one of the sanitariums," replied the doctor, "which people go to who are in bad health and do not wish to change their climate, as we think persons in serious chronic ill health ought to do and as all can now do if they desire. In these buildings everything is as absolutely adapted to the condition of the patient as if he were for the time being in a world in which his disease were the normal type."
"Doubtless there have been great improvements in all matters relating to your profession--medicine, hygiene, surgery, and the rest--since my day."
"Yes," replied the doctor, "there have been great improvements in two ways--negative and positive--and the more important of the two is perhaps the negative way, consisting in the disappearance of conditions inimical to health, which physicians formerly had to combat with little chance of success in many cases. For example, it is now two full generations since the guarantee of equal maintenance for all placed women in a position of economic independence and consequent complete control of their relations to men. You will readily understand how, as one result of this, the taint of syphilis has been long since eliminated from the blood of the race. The universal prevalence now for three generations of the most cleanly and refined conditions of housing, clothing, heating, and living generally, with the best treatment available for all in case of sickness, have practically--indeed I may say completely--put an end to the zymotic and other contagious diseases. To complete the story, add to these improvements in the hygienic conditions of the people the systematic and universal physical culture which is a part of the training of youth, and then as a crowning consideration think of the effect of the physical rehabilitation--you might almost call it the second creation of woman in a bodily sense--which has purified and energized the stream of life at its source."
"Really, doctor, I should say that, without going further, you have fairly reasoned your profession out of its occupation."
"You may well say so," replied the doctor. "The progress of invention and improvement since your day has several times over improved the doctors out of their former occupations, just as it has every other sort of workers, but only to open new and higher fields of finer work.
"Perhaps," my companion resumed, "a more important negative factor in the improvement in medical and hygienic conditions than any I have mentioned is the fact that people are no longer in the state of ignorance as to their own bodies that they seem formerly to have been. The progress of knowledge in that respect has kept pace with the march of universal culture. It is evident from what we read that even the cultured classes in your day thought it no shame to be wholly uninformed as to physiology and the ordinary conditions of health and disease. They appear to have left their physical interests to the doctors, with much the same spirit of cynical resignation with which they turned over their souls to the care of the clergy. Nowadays a system of education would be thought farcical which did not impart a sufficient knowledge of the general principles of physiology, hygiene, and medicine to enable a person to treat any ordinary physical disturbance without recourse to a physician. It is perhaps not too much to say that everybody nowadays knows as much about the treatment of disease as a large proportion of the members of the medical profession did in your time. As you may readily suppose, this is a situation which, even apart from the general improvement in health, would enable the people to get on with one physician where a score formerly found business. We doctors are merely specialists and experts on subjects that everybody is supposed to be well grounded in. When we are called in, it is really only in consultation, to use a phrase of the profession in your day, the other parties being the patient and his friends.
"But of all the factors in the advance of medical science, one of the most important has been the disappearance of sectarianism, resulting largely from the same causes, moral and economic, which banished it from religion. You will scarcely need to be reminded that in your day medicine, next to theology, suffered most of all branches of knowledge from the benumbing influence of dogmatic schools. There seems to have been well-nigh as much bigotry as to the science of curing the body as the soul, and its influence to discourage original thought and retard progress was much the same in one field as the other.
"There are really no conditions to limit the course of physicians. The medical education is the fullest possible, but the methods of practice are left to the doctor and patient. It is assumed that people as cultured as ours are as competent to elect the treatment for their bodies as to choose that for their souls. The progress in medical science which has resulted from this complete independence and freedom of initiative on the part of the physician, stimulated by the criticism and applause of a people well able to judge of results, has been unprecedented. Not only in the specific application of the preserving and healing arts have innumerable achievements been made and radically new principles discovered, but we have made advances toward a knowledge of the central mystery of life which in your day it would have been deemed almost sacrilegious to dream of. As to pain, we permit it only for its symptomatic indications, and so far only as we need its guidance in diagnosis."
"I take it, however, that you have not abolished death."
"I assure you," laughed the doctor, "that if perchance any one should find out the secret of that, the people would mob him and burn up his formula. Do you suppose we want to be shut up here forever?"
"HOW COULD WE INDEED?"
Applying myself again to the study of the moving panorama below us, I presently remarked to the doctor that we must be pretty nearly over what was formerly called Brighton, a suburb of the city at which the live stock for the food supply of the city had mainly been delivered.
"I see the old cattle-sheds are gone," I said. "Doubtless you have much better arrangements. By the way, now that everybody is well-to-do, and can afford the best cuts of beef, I imagine the problem of providing a big city with fresh meats must be much more difficult than in my day, when the poor were able to consume little flesh food, and that of the poorest sort."
The doctor looked over the side of the car for some moments before answering.
"I take it," he said, "that you have not spoken to any one before on this point."
"Why, I think not. It has not before occurred to me."
"It is just as well," said the doctor. "You see, Julian, in the transformation in customs and habits of thought and standards of fitness since your day, it could scarcely have happened but that in some cases the changes should have been attended with a decided revulsion in sentiment against the former practices. I hardly know how to express myself, but I am rather glad that you first spoke of this matter to me."
A light dawned on me, and suddenly brought out the significance of numerous half-digested observations which I had previously made.
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "you mean you don't eat the flesh of animals any more."
"Is it possible you have not guessed that? Had you not noticed that you were offered no such food?"
"The fact is," I replied, "the cooking is so different in all respects from that of my day that I have given up all attempt to identify anything. But I have certainly missed no flavor to which I have been accustomed, though I have been delighted by a great many novel ones."
"Yes," said the doctor, "instead of the one or two rude processes inherited from primitive men by which you used to prepare food and elicit its qualities, we have a great number and variety. I doubt if there was any flavor you had which we do not reproduce, besides the great number of new ones discovered since your time."
"But when was the use of animals for food discontinued?"
"Soon after the great Revolution."
"What caused the change? Was it a conviction that health would be favored by avoiding flesh?"
"It does not seem to have been that motive which chiefly led to the change. Undoubtedly the abandonment of the custom of eating animals, by which we inherited all their diseases, has had something to do with the great physical improvement of the race, but people did not apparently give up eating animals mainly for health's sake any more than cannibals in more ancient times abandoned eating their fellow-men on that account. It was, of course, a very long time ago, and there was perhaps no practice of the former order of which the people, immediately after giving it up, seem to have become so much ashamed. This is doubtless why we find such meager information in the histories of the period as to the circumstances of the change. There appears, however, to be no doubt that the abandonment of the custom was chiefly an effect of the great wave of humane feeling, the passion of pity and compunction for all suffering--in a word, the impulse of tender-heartedness--which was really the great moral power behind the Revolution. As might be expected, this outburst did not affect merely the relations of men with men, but likewise their relations with the whole sentient world. The sentiment of brotherhood, the feeling of solidarity, asserted itself not merely toward men and women, but likewise toward the humbler companions of our life on earth and sharers of its fortunes, the animals. The new and vivid light thrown on the rights and duties of men to one another brought also into view and recognition the rights of the lower orders of being. A sentiment against cruelty to animals of every kind had long been growing in civilized lands, and formed a distinct feature of the general softening of manners which led up to the Revolution. This sentiment now became an enthusiasm. The new conception of our relation to the animals appealed to the heart and captivated the imagination of mankind. Instead of sacrificing the weaker races to our use or pleasure, with no thought for their welfare, it began to be seen that we should rather, as elder brothers in the great family of Nature, be, so far as possible, guardians and helpers to the weaker orders whose fate is in our hands and to which we are as gods. Do you not see, Julian, how the prevalence of this new view might soon have led people to regard the eating of their fellow-animals as a revolting practice, almost akin to cannibalism?"
"That is, of course, very easily understood. Indeed, doctor, you must not suppose that my contemporaries were wholly without feeling on this subject. Long before the Revolution was dreamed of there were a great many persons of my acquaintance who owned to serious qualms over flesh-eating, and perhaps the greater part of refined persons were not without pangs of conscience at various times over the practice. The trouble was, there really seemed nothing else to do. It was just like our economic system. Humane persons generally admitted that it was very bad and brutal, and yet very few could distinctly see what the world was going to replace it with. You people seem to have succeeded in perfecting a cuisine without using flesh, and I admit it is every way more satisfactory than ours was, but you can not imagine how absolutely impossible the idea of getting on without the use of animal food looked in my day, when as yet nothing definite had been suggested to take its place which offered any reasonable amount of gratification to the palate, even if it provided the means of aliment."
"I can imagine the difficulty to some extent. It was, as you say, like that which so long hindered the change of economic systems. People could not clearly realize what was to take its place. While one's mouth is full of one flavor it is difficult to imagine another. That lack of constructive imagination on the part of the mass is the obstacle that has stood in the way of removing every ancient evil, and made necessary a wave of revolutionary force to do the work. Such a wave of feeling as I have described was needful in this case to do away with the immemorial habit of flesh-eating. As soon as the new attitude of men's minds took away their taste for flesh, and there was a demand that had to be satisfied for some other and adequate sort of food, it seems to have been very promptly met."
"From what source?"
"Of course," replied the doctor, "chiefly from the vegetable world, though by no means wholly. There had never been any serious attempt before to ascertain what its provisions for food actually were, still less what might be made of them by scientific treatment. Nor, as long as there was no objection to killing some animal and appropriating without trouble the benefit of its experiments, was there likely to be. The rich lived chiefly on flesh. As for the working masses, which had always drawn their vigor mainly from vegetables, nobody of the influential classes cared to make their lot more agreeable. Now, however, all with one consent set about inquiring what sort of a table Nature might provide for men who had forsworn murder.
"Just as the crude and simple method of slavery, first chattel slavery and afterward wage slavery, had, so long as it prevailed, prevented men from seeking to replace its crude convenience by a scientific industrial system, so in like manner the coarse convenience of flesh for food had hitherto prevented men from making a serious perquisition of Nature's edible resources. The delay in this respect is further accounted for by the fact that the preparation of food, on account of the manner of its conduct as an industry, had been the least progressive of all the arts of life."
"What is that?" I said. "The least progressive of arts? Why so?"
"Because it had always been carried on as an isolated household industry, and as such chiefly left to servants or women, who in former times were the most conservative and habit-bound class in the communities. The rules of the art of cookery had been handed down little changed in essentials since the wife of the Aryan cowherd dressed her husband's food for him.
"Now, it must remain very doubtful how immediately successful the revolt against animal food would have proved if the average family cook, whether wife or hireling, had been left each for herself in her private kitchen to grapple with the problem of providing for the table a satisfactory substitute for flesh. But, thanks to the many-sided character of the great Revolution, the juncture of time at which the growth of humane feeling created a revolt against animal food coincided with the complete breakdown of domestic service and the demand of women for a wider life, facts which compelled the placing of the business of providing and preparing food on a co-operative basis, and the making of it a branch of the public service. So it was that as soon as men, losing appetite for their fellow-creatures, began to ask earnestly what else could be eaten, there was already being organized a great governmental department commanding all the scientific talent of the nation, and backed by the resources of the country, for the purpose of solving the question. And it is easy to believe that none of the new departments was stimulated in its efforts by a keener public interest than this which had in charge the preparation of the new national bill of fare. These were the conditions for which alimentation had waited from the beginnings of the race to become a science.
"In the first place, the food materials and methods of preparing them actually extant, and used in the different nations, were, for the first time in history, collected and collated. In presence of the cosmopolitan variety and extent of the international menu thus presented, every national cuisine was convicted of having until then run in a rut. It was apparent that in nothing had the nations been more provincial, more stupidly prejudiced against learning from one another, than in matters of food and cooking. It was discovered, as observing travelers had always been aware, that every nation and country, often every province, had half a dozen gastronomic secrets that had never crossed the border, or at best on very brief excursions.
"It is well enough to mention, in passing, that the collation of this international bill of fare was only one illustration of the innumerable ways in which the nations, as soon as the new order put an end to the old prejudices, began right and left to borrow and adopt the best of one another's ideas and institutions, to the great general enrichment.
"But the organization of a scientific system of alimentation did not cease with utilizing the materials and methods already existing. The botanist and the chemist next set about finding new food materials and new methods of preparing them. At once it was discovered that of the natural products capable of being used as food by man, but a petty proportion had ever been utilized; only those, and a small part even of that class, which readily lent themselves to the single primitive process whereby the race hitherto had attempted to prepare food--namely, the application of dry or wet heat. To this, manifold other processes suggested by chemistry were now added, with effects that our ancestors found as delightful as novel. It had hitherto been with the science of cooking as with metallurgy when simple fire remained its only method.
"It is written that the children of Israel, when practicing an enforced vegetarian diet in the wilderness, yearned after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and probably with good reason. The experience of our ancestors appears to have been in this respect quite different. It would seem that the sentiments with which, after a very short period had elapsed, they looked back upon the flesh-pots they had left behind were charged with a feeling quite the reverse of regret. There is an amusing cartoon of the period, which suggests how brief a time it took for them to discover what a good thing they had done for themselves in resolving to spare the animals. The cartoon, as I remember it, is in two parts. The first shows Humanity, typified by a feminine figure regarding a group of animals consisting of the ox, the sheep, and the hog. Her face expresses the deepest compunction, while she tearfully exclaims, 'Poor things! How could we ever bring ourselves to eat you?' The second part reproduces the same group, with the heading 'Five Years After.' But here the countenance of Humanity as she regards the animals expresses not contrition or self-reproach, but disgust and loathing, while she exclaims in nearly identical terms, but very different emphasis, 'How could we, indeed?'"
WHAT BECAME OF THE GREAT CITIES.
Continuing to move westward toward the interior, we had now gradually left behind the more thickly settled portions of the city, if indeed any portion of these modern cities, in which every home stands in its own inclosure, can be called thickly settled. The groves and meadows and larger woods had become numerous, and villages occurred at frequent intervals. We were out in the country.
"Doctor," said I, "it has so happened, you will remember, that what I have seen of twentieth-century life has been mainly its city side. If country life has changed since my day as much as city life, it will be very interesting to make its acquaintance again. Tell me something about it."
"There are few respects, I suppose," replied the doctor, "in which the effect of the nationalization of production and distribution on the basis of economic equality has worked a greater transformation than in the relations of city and country, and it is odd we should not have chanced to speak of this before now."
"When I was last in the world of living people," I said, "the city was fast devouring the country. Has that process gone on, or has it possibly been reversed?"
"Decidedly the latter," replied the doctor, "as indeed you will at once see must have been the case when you consider that the enormous growth of the great cities of the past was entirely an economic consequence of the system of private capitalism, with its necessary dependence upon individual initiative, and the competitive system."
"That is a new idea to me," I said.
"I think you will find it a very obvious one upon reflection," replied the doctor. "Under private capitalism, you see, there was no public or governmental system for organizing productive effort and distributing its results. There was no general and unfailing machinery for bringing producers and consumers together. Everybody had to seek his own occupation and maintenance on his own account, and success depended on his finding an opportunity to exchange his labor or possessions for the possessions or labor of others. For this purpose the best place, of course, was where there were many people who likewise wanted to buy or sell their labor or goods. Consequently, when, owing either to accident or calculation, a mass of people were drawn together, others flocked to them, for every such aggregation made a market place where, owing simply to the number of persons desiring to buy and sell, better opportunities for exchange were to be found than where fewer people were, and the greater the number of people the larger and better the facilities for exchange. The city having thus taken a start, the larger it became, the faster it was likely to grow by the same logic that accounted for its first rise. The laborer went there to find the largest and steadiest market for his muscle, and the capitalist--who, being a conductor of production, desired the largest and steadiest labor market--went there also. The capitalist trader went there to find the greatest group of consumers of his goods within least space.
"Although at first the cities rose and grew, mainly because of the facilities for exchange among their own citizens, yet presently the result of the superior organization of exchange facilities made them centers of exchange for the produce of the surrounding country. In this way those who lived in the cities had not only great opportunities to grow rich by supplying the needs of the dense resident population, but were able also to levy a tribute upon the products of the people in the country round about by compelling those products to pass through their hands on the way to the consumers, even though the consumers, like the producers, lived in the country, and might be next door neighbors.
"In due course," pursued the doctor, "this concentration of material wealth in the cities led to a concentration there of all the superior, the refined, the pleasant, and the luxurious ministrations of life. Not only did the manual laborers flock to the cities as the market where they could best exchange their labor for the money of the capitalists, but the professional and learned class resorted thither for the same purpose. The lawyers, the pedagogues, the doctors, the rhetoricians, and men of special skill in every branch, went there as the best place to find the richest and most numerous employers of their talents, and to make their careers.
"And in like manner all who had pleasure to sell--the artists, the players, the singers, yes, and the courtesans also--flocked to the cities for the same reasons. And those who desired pleasure and had wealth to buy it, those who wished to enjoy life, either as to its coarse or refined gratifications, followed the pleasure-givers. And, finally, the thieves and robbers, and those pre-eminent in the wicked arts of living on their fellow-men, followed the throng to the cities, as offering them also the best field for their talents. And so the cities became great whirlpools, which drew to themselves all that was richest and best, and also everything that was vilest, in the whole land.
"Such, Julian, was the law of the genesis and growth of the cities, and it was by necessary consequence the law of the shrinkage, decay, and death of the country and country life. It was only necessary that the era of private capitalism in America should last long enough for the rural districts to have been reduced to what they were in the days of the Roman Empire, and of every empire which achieved full development--namely, regions whence all who could escape had gone to seek their fortune in the cities, leaving only a population of serfs and overseers.
"To do your contemporaries justice, they seemed themselves to realize that the swallowing up of the country by the city boded no good to civilization, and would apparently have been glad to find a cure for it, but they failed entirely to observe that, as it was a necessary effect of private capitalism, it could only be remedied by abolishing that."
"Just how," said I, "did the abolition of private capitalism and the substitution of a nationalized economic system operate to stop the growth of the cities?"
"By abolishing the need of markets for the exchange of labor and commodities," replied the doctor. "The facilities of exchange organized in the cities under the private capitalists were rendered wholly superfluous and impertinent by the national organization of production and distribution. The produce of the country was no longer handled by or distributed through the cities, except so far as produced or consumed there. The quality of goods furnished in all localities, and the measure of industrial service required of all, was the same. Economic equality having done away with rich and poor, the city ceased to be a place where greater luxury could be enjoyed or displayed than the country. The provision of employment and of maintenance on equal terms to all took away the advantages of locality as helps to livelihood. In a word, there was no longer any motive to lead a person to prefer city to country life, who did not like crowds for the sake of being crowded. Under these circumstances you will not find it strange that the growth of the cities ceased, and their depopulation began from the moment the effects of the Revolution became apparent."
"But you have cities yet!" I exclaimed.
"Certainly--that is, we have localities where population still remains denser than in other places. None of the great cities of your day have become extinct, but their populations are but small fractions of what they were."
"But Boston is certainly a far finer-looking city than in my day."
"All the modern cities are far finer and fairer in every way than their predecessors and infinitely fitter for human habitation, but in order to make them so it was necessary to get rid of their surplus population. There are in Boston to-day perhaps a quarter as many people as lived in the same limits in the Boston of your day, and that is simply because there were four times as many people within those limits as could be housed and furnished with environments consistent with the modern idea of healthful and agreeable living. New York, having been far worse crowded than Boston, has lost a still larger proportion of its former population. Were you to visit Manhattan Island I fancy your first impression would be that the Central Park of your day had been extended all the way from the Battery to Harlem River, though in fact the place is rather thickly built up according to modern notions, some two hundred and fifty thousand people living there among the groves and fountains."
"And you say this amazing depopulation took place at once after the Revolution?"
"It began then. The only way in which the vast populations of the old cities could be crowded into spaces so small was by packing them like sardines in tenement houses. As soon as it was settled that everybody must be provided with really and equally good habitations, it followed that the cities must lose the greater part of their population. These had to be provided with dwellings in the country. Of course, so vast a work could not be accomplished instantly, but it proceeded with all possible speed. In addition to the exodus of people from the cities because there was no room for them to live decently, there was also a great outflow of others who, now there had ceased to be any economic advantages in city life, were attracted by the natural charms of the country; so that you may easily see that it was one of the great tasks of the first decade after the Revolution to provide homes elsewhere for those who desired to leave the cities. The tendency countryward continued until the cities having been emptied of their excess of people, it was possible to make radical changes in their arrangements. A large proportion of the old buildings and all the unsightly, lofty, and inartistic ones were cleared away and replaced with structures of the low, broad, roomy style adapted to the new ways of living. Parks, gardens, and roomy spaces were multiplied on every hand and the system of transit so modified as to get rid of the noise and dust, and finally, in a word, the city of your day was changed into the modern city. Having thus been made as pleasant places to live in as was the country itself, the outflow of population from the cities ceased and an equilibrium became established."
"It strikes me," I observed, "that under any circumstances cities must still, on account of their greater concentration of people, have certain better public services than small villages, for naturally such conveniences are least expensive where a dense population is to be supplied."
"As to that," replied the doctor, "if a person desires to live in some remote spot far away from neighbors he will have to put up with some inconveniences. He will have to bring his supplies from the nearest public store and dispense with various public services enjoyed by those who live nearer together; but in order to be really out of reach of these services he must go a good way off. You must remember that nowadays the problems of communication and transportation both by public and private means have been so entirely solved that conditions of space which were prohibitive in your day are unimportant now. Villages five and ten miles apart are as near together for purposes of social intercourse and economic administration as the adjoining wards of your cities. Either on their own account or by group combinations with other communities dwellers in the smallest villages enjoy installations of all sorts of public services as complete as exist in the cities. All have public stores and kitchens with telephone and delivery systems, public baths, libraries, and institutions of the highest education. As to the quality of the services and commodities provided, they are of absolutely equal excellence wherever furnished. Finally, by telephone and electroscope the dwellers in any part of the country, however deeply secluded among the forests or the mountains, may enjoy the theater, the concert, and the orator quite as advantageously as the residents of the largest cities."
Still we swept on mile after mile, league after league, toward the interior, and still the surface below presented the same parklike aspect that had marked the immediate environs of the city. Every natural feature appeared to have been idealized and all its latent meaning brought out by the loving skill of some consummate landscape artist, the works of man blending with the face of Nature in perfect harmony. Such arrangements of scenery had not been uncommon in my day, when great cities prepared costly pleasure grounds, but I had never imagined anything on a scale like this.
"How far does this park extend?" I demanded at last. "There seems no end to it."
"It extends to the Pacific Ocean," said the doctor.
"Do you mean that the whole United States is laid out in this way?"
"Not precisely in this way by any means, but in a hundred different ways according to the natural suggestions of the face of the country and the most effective way of co-operating with them. In this region, for instance, where there are few bold natural features, the best effect to be obtained was that of a smiling, peaceful landscape with as much diversification in detail as possible. In the mountainous regions, on the contrary, where Nature has furnished effects which man's art could not strengthen, the method has been to leave everything absolutely as Nature left it, only providing the utmost facilities for travel and observation. When you visit the White Mountains or the Berkshire Hills you will find, I fancy, their slopes shaggier, the torrents wilder, the forests loftier and more gloomy than they were a hundred years ago. The only evidences of man's handiwork to be found there are the roadways which traverse every gorge and top every summit, carrying the traveler within reach of all the wild, rugged, or beautiful bits of Nature."
"As far as forests go, it will not be necessary for me to visit the mountains in order to perceive that the trees are not only a great deal loftier as a rule, but that there are vastly more of them than formerly."
"Yes," said the doctor, "it would be odd if you did not notice that difference in the landscape. There are said to be five or ten trees nowadays where there was one in your day, and a good part of those you see down there are from seventy-five to a hundred years old, dating from the reforesting."
"What was the reforesting?" I asked.
"It was the restoration of the forests after the Revolution. Under private capitalism the greed or need of individuals had led to so general a wasting of the woods that the streams were greatly reduced and the land was constantly plagued with droughts. It was found after the Revolution that one of the things most urgent to be done was to reforest the country. Of course, it has taken a long time for the new plantings to come to maturity, but I believe it is now some twenty-five years since the forest plan reached its full development and the last vestiges of the former ravages disappeared."
"Do you know," I said presently, "that one feature which is missing from the landscape impresses me quite as much as any that it presents?"
"What is it that is missing?"
"Ah! yes, no wonder you miss it," said the doctor. "I understand that in your day hay was the main crop of New England?"
"Altogether so," I replied, "and now I suppose you have no use for hay at all. Dear me, in what a multitude of important ways the passing of the animals out of use both for food and work must have affected human occupations and interests!"
"Yes, indeed," said the doctor, "and always to the notable improvement of the social condition, though it may sound ungrateful to say so. Take the case of the horse, for example. With the passing of that long-suffering servant of man to his well earned reward, smooth, permanent, and clean roadways first became possible; dust, dirt, danger, and discomfort ceased to be necessary incidents of travel.
"Thanks to the passing of the horse, it was possible to reduce the breadth of roadways by half or a third, to construct them of smooth concrete from grass to grass, leaving no soil to be disturbed by wind or water, and such ways once built, last like Roman roads, and can never be overgrown by vegetation. These paths, penetrating every nook and corner of the land, have, together with the electric motors, made travel such a luxury that as a rule we make all short journeys, and when time does not press even very long ones, by private conveyance. Had land travel remained in the condition it was in when it depended on the horse, the invention of the air-car would have strongly tempted humanity to treat the earth as the birds do--merely as a place to alight on between flights. As it is, we consider the question an even one whether it is pleasanter to swim through the air or to glide over the ground, the motion being well-nigh as swift, noiseless, and easy in one case as in the other."
"Even before 1887," I said, "the bicycle was coming into such favor and the possibilities of electricity were beginning so to loom up that prophetic people began to talk about the day of the horse as almost over. But it was believed that, although dispensed with for road purposes, he must always remain a necessity for the multifarious purposes of farm work, and so I should have supposed. How is it about that?"
"Wait a moment," replied the doctor; "when we have descended a little I will give you a practical answer."
After we had dropped from an altitude of perhaps a thousand feet to a couple of hundred, the doctor said:
"Look down there to the right."
I did so, and saw a large field from which the crops had been cut. Over its surface was moving a row of great machines, behind which the earth surged up in brown and rigid billows. On each machine stood or sat in easy attitude a young man or woman with quite the air of persons on a pleasure excursion.
"Evidently," I said, "these are plows, but what drives them?"
"They are electric plows," replied the doctor. "Do you see that snakelike cord trailing away over the broken ground behind each machine? That is the cable by which the force is supplied. Observe those posts at regular intervals about the field. It is only necessary to attach one of those cables to a post to have a power which, connected with any sort of agricultural machine, furnishes energy graduated from a man's strength to that of a hundred horses, and requiring for its guidance no other force than the fingers of a child can supply."
And not only this, but it was further explained to me that by this system of flexible cables of all sizes the electric power was applied not only to all the heavy tasks formerly done by animals, but also to the hand instruments--the spade, the shovel, and the fork--which the farmer in my time must bend his own back to, however well supplied he might be with horse power. There was, indeed, no tool, however small, the doctor explained, whether used in agriculture or any other art, to which this motor was not applicable, leaving to the worker only the adjustment and guiding of the instrument.
"With one of our shovels," said the doctor, "an intelligent boy can excavate a trench or dig a mile of potatoes quicker than a gang of men in your day, and with no more effort than he would use in wheeling a barrow."
I had been told several times that at the present day farm work was considered quite as desirable as any other occupation, but, with my impressions as to the peculiar arduousness of the earth worker's task, I had not been able to realize how this could really be so. It began to seem possible.
The doctor suggested that perhaps I would like to land and inspect some of the arrangements of a modern farm, and I gladly assented. But first he took advantage of our elevated position to point out the network of railways by which all the farm transportation was done and whereby the crops when gathered could, if desirable, be shipped directly, without further handling, to any point in the country. Having alighted from our car, we crossed the field toward the nearest of the great plows, the rider of which was a dark-haired young woman daintily costumed, such a figure certainly as no nineteenth-century farm field ever saw. As she sat gracefully upon the back of the shining metal monster which, as it advanced, tore up the earth with terrible horns, I could but be reminded of Europa on her bull. If her prototype was as charming as this young woman, Jupiter certainly was excusable for running away with her.
As we approached, she stopped the plow and pleasantly returned our greeting. It was evident that she recognized me at the first glance, as, thanks doubtless to the diffusion of my portrait, everybody seemed to do. The interest with which she regarded me would have been more flattering had I not been aware that I owed it entirely to my character as a freak of Nature and not at all to my personality.
When I asked her what sort of a crop they were expecting to plant at this season, she replied that this was merely one of the many annual plowings given to all soil to keep it in condition.
"We use, of course, abundant fertilizers," she said, "but consider the soil its own best fertilizer if kept moving."
"Doubtless," said I, "labor is the best fertilizer of the soil. So old an authority as Aesop taught us that in his fable of 'The Buried Treasure,' but it was a terribly expensive sort of fertilizer in my day when it had to come out of the muscles of men and beasts. One plowing a year was all our farmers could manage, and that nearly broke their backs."
"Yes," she said, "I have read of those poor men. Now you see it is different. So long as the tides rise and fall twice a day, let alone the winds and waterfalls, there is no reason why we should not plow every day if it were desirable. I believe it is estimated that about ten times the amount of power is nowadays given to the working of every acre of land that it was possible to apply in former times."
We spent some time inspecting the farm. The doctor explained the drainage and pumping systems by which both excess and deficiency of rain are guarded against, and gave me opportunity to examine in detail some of the wonderful tools he had described, which make practically no requisition on the muscle of the worker, only needing a mind behind them.
Connected with the farm was one of the systems of great greenhouse establishments upon which the people depend for fresh vegetables in the winter, and this, too, we visited. The wonders of intensive culture which I saw in that great structure would of course astonish none of my readers, but to me the revelation of what could be done with plants when all the conditions of light, heat, moisture, and soil ingredients were absolutely to be commanded, was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. It seemed to me that I had stolen into the very laboratory of the Creator, and found him at the task of fashioning with invisible hands the dust of the earth and the viewless air into forms of life. I had never seen plants actually grow before and had deemed the Indian juggler's trick an imposture. But here I saw them lifting their heads, putting forth their buds, and opening their flowers by movements which the eye could follow. I confess that I fairly listened to hear them whisper.
"In my day, greenhouse culture of vegetables out of season had been carried on only to an extent to meet the demands of a small class of very rich. The idea of providing such supplies at moderate prices for the entire community, according to the modern practice, was of course quite undreamed of."
When we left the greenhouse the afternoon had worn away and the sun was setting. Rising swiftly to a height where its rays still warmed us, we set out homeward.
Strongest of all the impressions of that to me so wonderful afternoon there lingered most firmly fixed in my mind the latest--namely, the object lesson I had received of the transformation in the conditions of agriculture, the great staple human occupation from the beginning, and the basis of every industrial system. Presently I said:
"Since you have so successfully done away with the first of the two main drawbacks of the agricultural occupation as known in my day--namely, its excessive laboriousness--you have no doubt also known how to eliminate the other, which was the isolation, the loneliness, the lack of social intercourse and opportunity of social culture which were incident to the farmer's life."
"Nobody would certainly do farm work," replied the doctor, "if it had continued to be either more lonesome or more laborious than other sorts of work. As regards the social surroundings of the agriculturist, he is in no way differently situated from the artisan or any other class of workers. He, like the others, lives where he pleases, and is carried to and fro just as they are between the place of his residence and occupation by the lines of swift transit with which the country is threaded. Work on a farm no longer implies life on a farm, unless for those who like it."
"One of the conditions of the farmer's life, owing to the variations of the season," I said, "has always been the alternation of slack work and periods of special exigency, such as planting and harvesting, when the sudden need of a multiplied labor force has necessitated the severest strain of effort for a time. This alternation of too little with too much work, I should suppose, would still continue to distinguish agriculture from other occupations."
"No doubt," replied the doctor, "but this alternation, far from involving either a wasteful relaxation of effort or an excessive strain on the worker, furnishes occasions of recreation which add a special attraction to the agricultural occupation. The seasons of planting and harvesting are of course slightly or largely different in the several districts of a country so extensive as this. The fact makes it possible successively to concentrate in each district as large an extra contingent of workers drawn from other districts as is needed. It is not uncommon on a few days' notice to throw a hundred thousand extra workers into a region where there is a special temporary demand for labor. The inspiration of these great mass movements is remarkable, and must be something like that which attended in your day the mobilizing and marching of armies to war."
We drifted on for a space in silence through the darkening sky.
"Truly, Julian," said the doctor at length, "no industrial transformation since your day has been so complete, and none surely has affected so great a proportion of the people, as that which has come over agriculture. The poets from Virgil up and down have recognized in rural pursuits and the cultivation of the earth the conditions most favorable to a serene and happy life. Their fancies in this respect have, however, until the present time, been mocked by the actual conditions of agriculture, which have combined to make the lot of the farmer, the sustainer of all the world, the saddest, most difficult, and most hopeless endured by any class of men. From the beginning of the world until the last century the tiller of the soil has been the most pathetic figure in history. In the ages of slavery his was the lowest class of slaves. After slavery disappeared his remained the most anxious, arduous, and despairing of occupations. He endured more than the poverty of the wage-earner without his freedom from care, and all the anxiety of the capitalist without his hope of compensating profits. On the one side he was dependent for his product, as was no other class, upon the caprices of Nature, while on the other in disposing of it he was more completely at the mercy of the middleman than any other producer. Well might he wonder whether man or Nature were the more heartless. If the crops failed, the farmer perished; if they prospered, the middleman took the profit. Standing as a buffer between the elemental forces and human society, he was smitten by the one only to be thrust back by the other. Bound to the soil, he fell into a commercial serfdom to the cities well-nigh as complete as the feudal bondage had been. By reason of his isolated and unsocial life he was uncouth, unlettered, out of touch with culture, without opportunities for self-improvement, even if his bitter toil had left him energy or time for it. For this reason the dwellers in the towns looked down upon him as one belonging to an inferior race. In all lands, in all ages, the countryman has been considered a proper butt by the most loutish townsman. The starving proletarian of the city pavement scoffed at the farmer as a boor. Voiceless, there was none to speak for him, and his rude, inarticulate complaints were met with jeers. Baalam was not more astonished when the ass he was riding rebuked him than the ruling classes of America seem to have been when the farmers, toward the close of the last century, undertook to have something to say about the government of the country.
"From time to time in the progress of history the condition of the farmer has for brief periods been tolerable. The yeoman of England was once for a little while one who looked nobles in the face. Again, the American farmer, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, enjoyed the golden age of agriculture. Then for a space, producing chiefly for use and not for sale to middlemen, he was the most independent of men and enjoyed a rude abundance. But before the nineteenth century had reached its last third, American agriculture had passed through its brief idyllic period, and, by the inevitable operation of private capitalism, the farmer began to go down hill toward the condition of serfdom, which in all ages before had been his normal state, and must be for evermore, so long as the economic exploitation of men by men should continue. While in one sense economic equality brought an equal blessing to all, two classes had especial reason to hail it as bringing to them a greater elevation from a deeper degradation than to any others. One of these classes was the women, the other the farmers."