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Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 online

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instantly became the embodiment of fury. He had not sufficient
perceptive power to recognize the point of assault, so that his keeper,
standing behind him, was not in danger. With flashing eyes and hair all
erect the dog howled and barked furiously, incessantly snapping and
biting, first on this side and then on that, tearing with his fore legs
and in every way manifesting rage. When his tail was dropped by the
attendant and his head touched, the storm at once subsided, the fury was
turned into calm, and the animal, a few seconds before so rageful, was
purring like a cat and stretching out its head for caresses. This
curious process could be repeated indefinitely. Take hold of his tail,
and instantly the storm broke out afresh: pat his head, and all was
tenderness. It was possible to play at will with the passions of the
animal by the slightest touches.

During the Franco-German contest a French soldier was struck in the head
with a bullet and left on the field for dead, but subsequently showed
sufficient life to cause him to be carried to the hospital, where he
finally recovered his general health, but remained in a mental state
very similar to that of Professor Goltz's dog. As he walked about the
rooms and corridors of the soldiers' home in Paris he appeared to the
stranger like an ordinary man, unless it were in his apathetic manner.
When his comrades were called to the dinner-table he followed, sat down
with them, and, the food being placed upon his plate and a knife and
fork in his hands, would commence to eat. That this was not done in
obedience to thought or knowledge was shown by the fact that his dinner
could be at once interrupted by awakening a new train of feeling by a
new external impulse. Put a crooked stick resembling a gun into his
hand, and at once the man was seized with a rage comparable to that
produced in the Strasburg dog by taking hold of his tail. The fury of
conflict was on him: with a loud yell he would recommence the skirmish
in which he had been wounded, and, crying to his comrades, would make a
rush at the supposed assailant. Take the stick out of his hand, and at
once his apathy would settle upon him; give him a knife and fork, and,
whether at the table or elsewhere, he would make the motions of eating;
hand him a spade, and he would begin to dig. It is plain that the
impulse produced by seeing his comrades move to the dining-room started
the chain of automatic movements which resulted in his seating himself
at the table. The weapon called into new life the well-known acts of the
battle-field. The spade brought back the day when, innocent of blood, he
cultivated the vineyards of sunny France.

In both the dog and the man just spoken of the control of the will over
the emotions and mental acts was evidently lost, and the mental
functions were performed only in obedience to impulses from
without - i.e. were automatic. The human brain is a complex and very
delicate mechanism, so uniform in its actions, so marvellous in its
creation, that it is able to measure the rapidity of its own processes.
There are scarcely two brains which work exactly with the same rapidity
and ease. One man thinks faster than another man for reasons as purely
physical as those which give to one man a faster gait than that of
another. Those who move quickly are apt to think quickly, the whole
nervous system performing its processes with rapidity. This is not,
however, always the case, as it is possible for the brain to be
differently constructed, so far as concerns its rapidity of action, from
the spinal cord of the same individual. Our power of measuring time
without instruments is probably based upon the cerebral system of each
individual being accustomed to move at a uniform rate. Experience has
taught the brain that it thinks so many thoughts or does so much work in
such a length of time, and it judges that so much time has elapsed when
it has done so much work. The extraordinary sense of prolongation of
time which occurs in the intoxication produced by hasheesh is probably
due to the fact that under the influence of the drug the brain works
very much faster than it habitually does. Having produced a multitude of
images or thoughts in a moment, the organ judges that a corresponding
amount of time has elapsed. Persons are occasionally seen who have the
power of waking at any desired time: going to bed at ten o'clock, they
will rouse themselves at four, five or six in the morning, as they have
made up their minds to do the previous night. The explanation of this
curious faculty seems to be that in these persons the brain-functions go
on with so much regularity during sleep that the brain is enabled to
judge, though unconsciously, when the time fixed upon has arrived, and
by an unconscious effort to recall consciousness.

Of course the subject of automatism might have been discussed at far
greater length than is allowable in the limits of two magazine articles,
but sufficient has probably been said to show the strong current of
modern physiological psychology toward proving that all ordinary mental
actions, except the exercise of the conscious will, are purely physical,
produced by an instrument which works in a method not different from
that in which the glands of the mouth secrete saliva and the tubules of
the stomach gastric juice. Some of my readers may say this is pure
materialism, or at least leads to materialism. No inquirer who pauses to
think how his investigation is going to affect his religious belief is
worthy to be called scientific. The scientist, rightly so called, is a
searcher after truth, whatever may be the results of the discovery of
the truth. Modern science, however, has not proved the truth of
materialism. It has shown that the human organism is a wonderful
machine, but when we come to the further question as to whether this
machine is inhabited by an immortal principle which rules it and directs
it, or whether it simply runs itself, science has not, and probably
cannot, give a definite answer. It has reached its limit of inquiry, and
is unable to cross the chasm that lies beyond. There are men who
believe that there is nothing in the body save the body itself, and that
when that dies all perishes: there are others, like the writer, who
believe that they feel in their mental processes a something which they
call "will," which governs and directs the actions of the machine, and
which, although very largely influenced by external surroundings, is
capable of rising above the impulses from without, leading them to
believe in the existence of more than flesh - of soul and God. The
materialist, so far as natural science is concerned, stands upon logical
ground, but no less logical is the foundation of him who believes in
human free-will and immortality. The decision as to the correctness of
the beliefs of the materialist or of the theist must be reached by other
data than those of natural science.

H.C. WOOD, M.D.




OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.

CIVIL-SERVICE REFORM AND DEMOCRATIC IDEAS.


A movement which appeals not to the emotions, but to the
intellect - whose advocates aim at enlightening-the public mind and
convincing it of the truth of some new or disregarded principle, and the
necessity of enforcing it - needs above all things open and active
opposition, both as a stimulant to its supporters and as a means of
arousing general attention. It has been very unfortunate for our
Civil-Service Reformers that they have never been able to provoke
discussion. They have had the field of argument all to themselves. Their
repeated challenges have been received only with silent respect,
scornful indifference, or expressions of encouragement still more
depressing. Those whose hostility they were prepared to encounter have
been the readiest to acknowledge the truth of their propositions -
considered as pure abstractions - and have even invited
them to apply their system - in conjunction with that which it seeks to
supplant. Meanwhile, the popular interest has been kept busily absorbed
by issues of a different nature; and the Reformers, snubbed in quarters
where they had confidently counted on aid, and hustled from the arena in
which they had fondly imagined they were to play a prominent part and
exert a decisive influence, are now, it is announced, about to devote
their energies to the quiet propagation of their views by means of
tracts and other publications, abstaining from any appearance in the
domain of actual politics either as a distinct party or as an organized
body of independent voters appealing to the hopes and fears of existing
parties, and ready to co-operate with one or the other according to the
inducements offered for their support.

We heartily wish them success in this new enterprise, and it is as a
contribution to their efforts that we publish in this number of the
Magazine an article which, so far as our observation extends, is the
first direct argumentative attack upon their doctrines and open defence
of the system they have assailed. We shall not undertake to anticipate
their reply, but I shall content ourselves with pointing out, on the
principle of _fas est ab hoste doceri,_ what they may learn from this
attack, and especially what hints may be derived from it in regard to
the proper objective point of their proposed operations. Hitherto, if we
mistake not, they have been led to suppose that the only obstacles in
their way are the interested antagonism of the "politicians" and the
ignorant apathy of the great mass of the people, and it is because they
have found themselves powerless to make head against the tactics of the
former class that they intend to confine themselves henceforth to the
work of awaking and enlightening the latter. There is always danger,
however, when we are expounding our pet theories to a group of silent
listeners, of ignoring their state of mind in regard to the
subject-matter and mistaking the impression produced by our eloquence.
George Borrow tells us that when preaching in Rommany to a congregation
of Gypsies he felt highly flattered by the patient attention of his
hearers, till he happened to notice that they all had their eyes fixed
in a diabolical squint. Something of the same kind would, we fear, be
the effect on a large number of persons of well-meant expositions of the
English civil-service reform and its admirable results. Nor will any
appeals to the moral sense excite an indignation at the workings of our
present system sufficiently deep and general to demand its overthrow.
Civil-service reform had a far easier task in England than it has here,
and forces at its back which are here actively or inertly opposed to it.
There the system of patronage was intimately connected with
oligarchical rule; official positions were not so much monopolized by a
victorious party as by a privileged class; the government of the day had
little interest in maintaining the system, the bulk of the nation had a
direct interest in upsetting it, and its downfall was a natural result
of the growth of popular power and the decline of aristocracy. Our
system, however similar in its character and effects, had no such
origin; it does not belong to some peculiar institution which we are
seeking to get rid of: on the contrary, it has its roots in certain
conceptions of the nature of government and popular freedom - of the
relations between a people and those who administer its affairs - which
are all but universally current among us.

It is this last point which is clearly and forcibly presented in the
article of our contributor, and which it will behoove the Reformers not
to overlook. Nothing is more characteristic of the American mind, in
reference to political ideas, than its strong conservatism. This fact,
which has often puzzled foreign observers accustomed to connect
democracy with innovating tendencies and violent fluctuations, is yet
easily explained. Though ours is a new country, its system of government
is really older than that of almost any other civilized country. In the
century during which it has existed intact and without any material
modification the institutions of most other nations have undergone a
complete change, in some cases of form and structure, in others of
theory and essence. Even England, which boasts of the stability of its
government and its immunity from the storms that have overturned so many
thrones and disorganized so many states, has experienced a fundamental,
though gradual and peaceable, revolution. There, as elsewhere, the
centre of power has changed, the chain of tradition has been broken, and
new conceptions of the functions of government and its relations to the
governed have taken the place of the old ones. But in America nothing of
this kind has occurred: the "old order" has not passed away, nor have
its foundations undergone the least change; the municipal and colonial
institutions under which we first exercised the right of
self-government, and the Constitution which gave us our national
baptism, are still the fountain of all our political ideas; and our
party struggles are not waged about new principles or animated by new
watch words, but are fenced and guided by the maxims transmitted by the
founders of the republic. This is our strength and our safeguard against
wild experiments, but it is also an impediment to every suggestion of
improvement. It binds us to the letter of tradition, leads us to
confound the accidental with the essential, and gives to certain notions
and certain words a potency which must be described as an anachronism.
We still use the language of the Revolutionary epoch, recognize no
perils but those against which our ancestors had to guard, and put faith
in the efficacy of methods that have no longer an object, and of phrases
that have lost their original significance. Because George III.
distributed offices at his pleasure as rewards, and bound the holders to
party services in conformity with his will, the sovereign people is to
do the same. "Rotation in office" having been the means in the
eighteenth century of dispelling political stagnation and checking
jobbery and corruption, it is still the only process for correcting
abuses and getting the public service properly performed. The prime duty
of all good citizens is to emulate the incessant political activity of
their patriotic forefathers, and it is owing solely to a too general
neglect of this duty that ballot-stuffing and machine-running, and all
the other evils unknown in early days and in primitive communities, have
come into existence and gained sway throughout the land. These and
similar views, according to our observation, characterize what we may
without disrespect, and without confining the remark to the rural
districts, term the provincial mind, and wherever they exist the ideas
of the Civil-Service Reformers are not only not understood or treated as
visionary, but are regarded with aversion and distrust as foreign,
monstrous and inconsistent with popular freedom and republican
government.


AN UNFINISHED PAGE OF HISTORY.

I can easily understand why educated Americans cross the Atlantic every
year in shoals in search of the picturesque; and I can understand, too,
all that they say of the relief which ivied ruins and cathedrals and
galleries, or any other reminders of past ages, give to their eyes,
oppressed so long by our interminable rows of store-box houses, our
pasteboard villas, the magnificence of our railway accommodations for
Ladies and Gents, and all the general gaseous glitter which betrays how
young and how rich we are. But I cannot understand why it is that their
eyes, thus trained, should fail to see the exceptional picturesqueness
of human life in this country. The live man is surely always more
dramatic and suggestive than a house or a costume, provided we have eyes
to interpret him; and this people, as no other, are made up of the
moving, active deposits and results of world-old civilizations and
experiments in living.

Outwardly, if you choose, the country is like one of the pretentious
houses of its rich citizens - new, smug, complacently commonplace - but
within, like the house again, it is filled with rare bits gathered out
of every age and country and jumbled together in utter confusion. If you
ride down Seventh street in a horse-car, you are in a psychological
curio-shop. On one side, very likely, is a Russian Jew just from the
Steppes; on the other, a negro with centuries of heathendom and slavery
hinting themselves in lip and eye; the driver is a Fenian, with the
blood of the Phoenicians in his veins; in front of you is a gentleman
with the unmistakable Huguenot nose, and chin; while an almond-eyed
pagan, disguised behind moustache and eye-glasses, courteously takes
your fare and drops it for you in the Slawson box. Nowhere do all the
elements of Tragedy and Comedy play so strange a part as on the
dead-level of this American stage. It is because it is so dead a level
that we fail to see the part they play - because "furious Goth and fiery
Hun" meet, not on the battle-field, but in the horse-car, dropping their
cents together in a Slawson box.

For example, as to the tragedy.

I met at dinner not long ago a lady who was introduced to me under a
French name, but whose clear olive complexion, erect carriage and
singular repose of manner would indicate her rather to be a Spaniard.
She wore a red rose in the coils of her jetty hair, and another fastened
the black lace of her corsage. Her eyes, which were slow, dark and
brilliant, always rested on you an instant before she spoke with that
fearless candor which is not found in the eyes of a member of any race
that has ever been enslaved. I was told that her rank was high among her
own people, and in her movements and voice there were that quiet
simplicity and total lack of self-consciousness which always belong
either to a man or woman of the highest breeding, or to one whose
purpose in life is so noble as to lift him above all considerations of
self. Although a foreigner, she spoke English with more purity than most
of the Americans at the table, but with a marked and frequent recurrence
of forcible but half-forgotten old idioms; which was due, as! learned
afterward, to her having had no book of English literature to study for
several years but Shakespeare. I observed that she spoke but seldom, and
to but one person at a time; but when she did, her casual talk was the
brimming over of a mind of great original force as yet full and unspent.
She was, besides, a keen observer who had studied much, but seen more.

This lady, in a word, was one who would deserve recognition by the best
men and women in any country; and she received it here, as many of the
readers of _Lippincott_, who will recognize my description, will
remember. She was caressed and feted by literary and social celebrities
in Washington and New York; Boston made much of her; Longfellow and
Holmes made verses in her honor; prying reporters gave accounts of her
singular charm and beauty to the public in the daily papers.

She was accompanied by two of the men of her family. They did not speak
English, but they were men of strong practical sense and business
capacity, with the odd combination in their character of that
exaggerated perception of honorable dealing which we are accustomed to
call chivalric. They had, too, a grave dignity and composure of bearing
which would have befitted Spanish hidalgos, and beside which our pert,
sociable American manner and slangy talk were sadly belittled. These men
(for I had a reason in making particular inquiries concerning them) were
in private life loyal friends, good citizens, affectionate husbands and
fathers - in a word, Christian men, honest from the marrow to the
outside.

Now to the strange part of my story, revolting enough to our republican
ears. This lady and her people, in the country to which they belong, are
held in a subjection to which that of the Russian serf was comparative
freedom. They are held legally as the slaves not of individuals, but of
the government, which has absolute power over their persons, lives and
property. Its manner of exercising that power is, however, peculiar.
They are compelled to live within certain enclosures. Each enclosure is
ruled by a man of the dominant race, usually of the lower class, who, as
a rule, gains the place by bribing the officer of government who has
charge of these people. The authority of this man within the limits of
the enclosure is literally as autocratic as that of the Russian czar. He
distributes the rations intended by the government for the support of
these people, or such part of them as he thinks fit, retaining whatever
amount he chooses for himself. There is nothing to restrain him in these
robberies. In consequence, the funds set aside by the government for the
support of its wretched dependants are stolen so constantly by the
officers at the capital and the petty tyrants of the separate enclosures
that the miserable creatures almost yearly starve and freeze to death
from want. Their resource would be, of course, as they are in a
civilized country, to work at trades, to farm, etc. But this is not
permitted to them. Another petty officer is appointed in each enclosure
to barter goods for the game or peltry which they bring in or crops that
they manage to raise. He fixes his own price for both his goods and
theirs, and cheats them by wholesale at his leisure. There is no appeal:
they are absolutely forbidden to trade with any other person. The men of
my friend's family - educated men and shrewd in business as any merchant
of Philadelphia - when at home were liable to imprisonment and a fine of
five hundred dollars if they bought from or sold to any other person
than this one man. They are, too, taught no trade or profession. Each
enclosure has its appointed blacksmith, carpenter, etc. of the dominant
class, who, naturally, will not share their profits by teaching their
trade to the others.

Within the enclosures my friend and her people, no matter how
enlightened or refined they may be, are herded, and under the same
rules, as so many animals. They cannot leave the enclosure without
passes, such as were granted to our slaves before the war when they
wished to go outside of the plantation. This woman, when seated at
President Hayes's table, the equal in mind and breeding of any of her
companions, was, by the laws of her country, a runaway, legally liable
to be haled by the police back to her enclosure, and shot if she
resisted. She and her people are absolutely unprotected by any law. It
is indeed the only case, so far as I know, in any Christian country, in
which a single class are so set aside, unprotected by any law. When our
slaves were killed or tortured by inhuman masters, there was at least
some show of justice for them. The white murderer went through some form
of trial and punishment. The slave, though a chattel, was still a human
being. But these people are not recognized by the law as human beings.
They cannot buy nor sell; they cannot hold property: if with their own
hands they build a house and gather about them the comforts of
civilization and the wife and children to which the poorest negro, the
most barbarous savage, has a right, any man of the dominant class can,
without violating any law, take possession of the house, ravage the
wife and thrust the children out to starve. The wrong-doer is subject to
no penalty. The victim has no right of appeal to the courts. Hence such
outrages are naturally of daily occurrence. Not only are they
perpetrated on individuals, but frequently there is a raid made upon the
whole of the inmates of one enclosure - whenever, in fact, the people in
the neighborhood fancy they would like to take possession of their land.
The kinsmen of my friend, with their clan numbering some seven hundred
souls - a peaceable, industrious Christian community, living on land
which had belonged to their ancestors for centuries - were swept off of
it a few years ago at the whim of two of their rulers: their houses and
poor little belongings were all left behind, and they were driven a
thousand miles into a sterile, malarious region where nearly half of
their number died. The story of their sufferings, their homesickness and
their despair on the outward journey, and of how still later some thirty
of them returned on foot, carrying the bones of those who had died to
lay them in their old homes, is one of the most dramatic pages in
history. De Quincey's "Flight of a Tartar Clan" does not equal it in
pathos or as a story of heroism and endurance. At the end of their


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Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 18 of 20)