« AnkstesnisTęsti »
be done through rotation of crops, which would operate further in the direction of sound economics by giving the planter independence in the matter of food-stuffs and provender; and the ravages of the boll weevil should be checked by intelligent methods, including the enforcement of strict laws for the protection of birds-the quail particularly being an inveterate enemy of this destructive and apparently indestructible pest. There is no reason, if due intelligence and industry be used, why the optimism of the present American Ambassador to England should not be confirmed, and "the cotton grower in the old Slave States become the most prosperous tiller of the earth"-justifying the eloquence of Grady, who once exclaimed:
"Cotton-what a royal plant it is! Not the fleeces that Jason sought can rival the richness of this plant, as it unfurls its banners in our fields. It is gold from the instant it puts forth its tiny shoot. The world waits in attendance on its growth; the shower that falls whispering on its leaves is heard around the earth; the sun that shines on it is tempered by the prayers of all the people; the frost that chills it and the dew that descends from the stars are noted, and the trespass of a little worm upon its green leaf is more to England than the advance of the Russian army on her Asian outposts.15 Its fiber is current in every bank and when, loosing its fleeces to the sun, it floats a sunny banner that glorifies the fields of the humble farmer, that man is marshaled under a flag that will compel the allegiance of the world and wring a subsidy from every nation
on earth." 16
15 Written in 1887.
18 H. W. Grady, Writings and Speeches: New York, 1890; p. 107, and Burkett and Poe, p. 3.
EVOLUTION AND HUMAN WELFARE
INCOMPLETE, and with only meager suggestions, here and there, where independent volumes would be warranted, has been this sketch of the course of our narrative from prehistoric times to the present. Beginning with perplexing myth and ancient legend, but planting our feet on firm historic ground in ancient India, we followed the course of empire ever westward, through Renaissance and revolution and civil war, the power of cotton evolving with the evolution of the power of man, only to reach our conclusion at a moment when the subject engaging our attention holds an unusual share of world-wide interest by virtue of its complex entanglement in the maddest human havoc that has ever cursed the earth,―a havoc made deadly beyond the wildest dreams of ancient hate through those very powers of civilization that spell the highest gifts of man.
It is a fact by no means encouraging to the lover of his kind that while the housing of well-to-do men and their clothing are scarcely on a higher level now than they were in ancient Egypt long before the earliest date in cotton history, the war-club of that time has become the 42-centimeter gun, the puny bow is now a seven-league catapult, and Pharaoh's
1 Of course the comforts of life are far more widely distributed; men of average means now share them with the well-to-do; this, rather than an absolute advance in housing and clothing, would seem to denote the chief material advantage of the modern world over the ancient.
chariots have evolved into battleships and Zeppelins. The art of weaving produces no more beautiful raiment than those Tyrian hues wrought by Arachne on her primitive Mæonian loom, nothing more fine and delicate than those "webs of the woven wind" conjured from the heart of the cotton boll by the Hindu with his handful of reeds,-and yet our innocent fleece has been transmuted in the crucible of war to a veritable magic of condensed power for the mutilation and destruction of human life and property.
A brilliant dramatist, impressed with this discouraging discrepancy, imagines Satan as thus taunting
"Have you walked up and down the earth lately? I have; and I have examined Man's wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. The peasant I tempt to-day eats and drinks what was eaten and drunk by the peasants of ten thousand years ago; and the house he lives in has not altered as much in a thousand centuries as the fashion of a lady's bonnet in a score of weeks. But when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind. In the arts of peace man is a bungler. I have seen his cotton factories and the like, with machinery that a greedy dog could have invented if it had wanted money instead of food. I know his clumsy typewriters and bungling locomotives and tedious bicycles: they are toys compared to the
Maxim gun, the submarine torpedo boat. There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons. This marvelous force of Life of which you boast is a force of Death: Man measures his strength by his destructiveness." 2
There is poetry in this dramatic monologue, and also poetic license; but that there is some truth in it, who can deny? A sober biologist, writing on the topic, "War, Science and Civilization," matches this sardonic eloquence of Bernard Shaw's devil with the measured statement that dominant ethical theory seems to be essentially what it was when human history was supposed to have begun with Adam and Eve, or Romulus and Remus, "or other full-fledged mythical personages," while if the history of leading nations during the last half-century be viewed in the light of the course and nature of scientific discovery, "the supposition seems justified that civilization is well on the road to self-destruction through its power of creating and using mechanical appliances for thus disposing of itself."
Professor Ritter confirms the opinion, already expressed in Chapter 21, that the widespread acceptance of the jungle law of struggle and survival as the single, permanent, and inevitable condition of social progress accounts largely for those hideous anomalies whereof he writes. The abuse of this doctrine, he believes, has done "incalculable harm, not only to biology, but to sociology and to human welfare generally. The doctrine that all human progress is accomplished by somebody's beating some
2 Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: New York, 1913; pp. 106
8 W. E. Ritter, War, Science and Civilization: Boston, 1915; p. 20.
body else, usually to the death, has had such vogue during the last few decades, particularly in business and politics, that it sometimes seems hopeless to get people to see how far it comes from agreeing with all the relevant facts." 4
As pointed out in Chapter 21, the law of struggle and survival, which was brought to light against the gloomy background of conditions occasioned by the Industrial Revolution in England, suggests at most not more than half of the secret processes at work in the laboratories of Nature. A green field on a summer's day reveals to the searching eye not only overcrowding and strife, but, quite as clearly and certainly, organization and sacrifice. The vegetative process of mere expansive growth, by which the plant as an individual presses upward and outward ambitiously, and at hazard to itself and its neighbors, is continually controlled and modified by that floral process which appropriates the strength of the individual toward the function of family reproduction, -a flower being essentially a sort of "protean birthrobe" for seed.5 Biologists assure us that the further we carry our studies of plant anatomy, the more we shall find of this subordination of the merely vegetative or nutritive process to the reproductive, so that the "self-interest" in which the utilitarian economists found the all-sufficient spring of action, and which naturalists too long and too uncritically adopted from these, turns out to be enlightened by family interest, species interest, however "subconscious," so to speak; and the ideal of evolution is thus seen to be no mere "gladiator's show," as was.
4 The same, p. 75.
5 P. Geddes and J. Arthur Thomson, Evolution: London, n. d.; pp. 95, 241, 243.