Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Article Index




Prof. Cortlandt, preparing a history of the times at the beginning of the great terrestrial and astronomical change, wrote as follows: "This period--A.D. 2000--is by far the most wonderful the world has as yet seen. The advance in scientific knowledge and attainment within the memory, of the present generation has been so stupendous that it completely overshadows all that has preceded. All times in history and all periods of the world have been remarkable for some distinctive or characteristic trait. The feature of the period of Louis XIV was the splendour of the court and the centralization of power in Paris. The year 1789 marked the decline of the power of courts and the evolution of government by the people. So, by the spread of republican ideas and the great advance in science, education has become universal, for women as well as for men, and this is more than ever a mechanical age.

"With increased knowledge we are constantly coming to realize how little we really know, and are also continually finding manifestations of forces that at first seem like exceptions to established laws. This is, of course, brought about by the modifying influence of some other natural law, though many of these we have not yet discovered.

"Electricity in its varied forms does all work, having superseded animal and manual labour in everything, and man has only to direct. The greatest ingenuity next to finding new uses for this almost omnipotent fluid has been displayed in inducing the forces of Nature, and even the sun, to produce it. Before describing the features of this perfection of civilization, let us review the steps by which society and the political world reached their present state.

"At the close of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1871, Continental Europe entered upon the condition of an armed camp, which lasted for nearly half a century. The primary cause of this was the mutual dislike and jealousy of France and Germany, each of which strove to have a larger and better equipped national defence than the other. There were also many other causes, as the ambition of the Russian Czar, supported by his country's vast though imperfectly developed resources and practically unlimited supply of men, one phase of which was the constant ferment in the Balkan Peninsula, and another Russia's schemes for extension in Asia; another was the general desire for colonies in Africa, in which one Continental power pretty effectually blocked another, and the latent distrust inside the Triple Alliance. England, meanwhile, preserved a wise and profitable neutrality.

"These tremendous sacrifices for armaments, both on land and water, had far-reaching results, and, as we see it now, were clouds with silver linings. The demand for hardened steel projectiles, nickel-steel plates, and light and almost unbreakable machinery, was a great incentive to improvement in metallurgy while the necessity for compact and safely carried ammunition greatly stimulated chemical research, and led to the discovery of explosives whose powers no obstacle can resist, and incidentally to other more useful things.

"Further mechanical and scientific progress, however, such as flying machines provided with these high explosives, and asphyxiating bombs containing compressed gas that could be fired from guns or dropped from the air, intervened. The former would have laid every city in the dust, and the latter might have almost exterminated the race. These discoveries providentially prevented hostilities, so that the 'Great War,' so long expected, never came, and the rival nations had their pains for nothing, or, rather, for others than themselves.

"Let us now examine the political and ethnological results. Hundreds of thousands, of the flower of Continental Europe were killed by overwork and short rations, and millions of desirable and often--unfortunately for us--undesirable people were driven to emigration, nearly all of whom came to English-speaking territory, greatly increasing our productiveness and power. As, we have seen, the jealousy of the Continental powers for one another effectually prevented their extending their influence or protectorates to other continents, which jealousy was considerably aided by the small but destructive wars that did take place. High taxes also made it more difficult for the moneyed men to invest in colonizing or development companies, which are so often the forerunners of absorption; while the United States, with her coal--of which the Mediterranean states have scarcely any--other resources, and low taxes, which, though necessary, can be nothing but an evil, has been able to expand naturally as no other nation ever has before.

"This has given the English-speakers, especially the United States, a free hand, rendering enforcement of the Monroe doctrine easy, and started English a long way towards becoming the universal language, while all formerly unoccupied land is now owned by those speaking it.

"At the close of our civil war, in 1865, we had but 3,000,000 square miles, and a population of 34,000,000. The country staggered beneath a colossal debt of over $4,000,000,000, had an expensive but essentially perishable navy, and there was an ominous feeling between the sections. The purchase of Alaska in 1867, by which we added over half a million square miles to our territory, marked the resumption of the forward march of the United States. Twenty-five years later, at the presidential campaign of 1892, the debt had been reduced to $900,000,000, deducting the sinking fund, and the charge for pensions had about reached its maximum and soon began to decrease, though no one objected to any amount of reward for bona fide soldiers who had helped to save the country. The country's wealth had also enormously increased, while the population had grown to 65,000,000. Our ancestors had, completed or in building, a navy of which no nation need be ashamed; and, though occasionally marred by hard times, there was general prosperity.

"Gradually the different States of Canada--or provinces, as they were then called--came to realize that their future would be far grander and more glorious in union with the United States than separated from it; and also that their sympathy was far stronger for their nearest neighbours than for any one else. One by one these Northern States made known their desire for consolidation with the Union, retaining complete control of their local affairs, as have the older States. They were gladly welcomed by our Government and people, and possible rivals became the best of friends. Preceding and also following this, the States of Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, tiring of the incessant revolutions and difficulties among themselves, which had pretty constantly looked upon us as a big brother on account of our maintenance of the Monroe doctrine, began to agitate for annexation, knowing they would retain control of their local affairs. In this they were vigorously supported by the American residents and property-holders, who knew that their possessions would double in value the day the United States Constitution was signed.

"Thus, in the first place, by the encouragement of our people, and latterly, apparently, by its own volition, the Union has increased enormously in power, till it now embraces 10,000,000 square miles, and has a free and enlightened population of 300,000,000. Though the Union established by Washington and his contemporaries has attained such tremendous proportions, its growth is by no means finished; and as a result of modern improvements, it is less of a journey now to go from Alaska to the Orinoco than it was for the Father of his Country to travel from New York or Philadelphia to the site of the city named in his honour.

"Adequate and really rapid transportation facilities have done much to bind the different parts of the country together, and to rub off the edges of local prejudice. Though we always favour peace, no nation would think of opposing the expressed wishes of the United States, and our moral power for good is tremendous. The name Japhet means enlargement, and the prophecy seems about to be literally fulfilled by these his descendants. The bankrupt suffering of so many European Continental powers had also other results. It enabled the socialists--who have never been able to see beyond themselves--to force their governments into selling their colonies in the Eastern hemisphere to England, and their islands in the Western to us, in order to realize upon them. With the addition of Canada to the United States and its loss to the British Empire, the land possessions of the two powers became about equal, our Union being a trifle the larger. All danger of war being removed by the Canadian change, a healthful and friendly competition took its place, the nations competing in their growth on different hemispheres. England easily added large areas in Asia and Africa, while the United States grew as we have seen. The race is still, in a sense, neck-and-neck, and the English-speakers together possess nearly half the globe. The world's recent rate of progress would have been impossible without this approximation to a universal language. The causes that checkmated the Continental powers have ceased to exist. Many millions of men whose principal thought had been to destroy other members of the race became producers, but it was then too late, for the heavy armaments had done their work.

"Let us now glance at the times as they are, and see how the business of life is transacted. Manhattan Island has something over 2,500,000 inhabitants, and is surrounded by a belt of population, several miles wide, of 12,000,000 more, of which it is the focus, so that the entire city contains more than 14,500,000 souls. The several hundred square miles of land and water forming greater New York are perfectly united by numerous bridges, tunnels, and electric ferries, while the city's great natural advantages have been enhanced and beautified by every ingenious device. No main avenue in the newer sections is less than two hundred feet wide, containing shade and fruit trees, a bridle-path, broad sidewalks, and open spaces for carriages and bicycles. Several fine diagonal streets and breathing-squares have also been provided in the older sections, and the existing parks have been supplemented by intermediate ones, all being connected by parkways to form continuous chains.

"The hollow masts of our ships--to glance at another phase en passant--carry windmills instead of sails, through which the wind performs the work, of storing a great part of the energy required to run them at sea, while they are discharging or loading cargo in port; and it can, of course, work to better advantage while they are stationary than when they are running before it. These turbines are made entirely of light metal, and fold when not in use, so that only the frames are visible. Sometimes these also fold and are housed, or wholly disappear within the mast. Steam-boilers are also placed at the foci of huge concave mirrors, often a hundred feet in diameter, the required heat being supplied by the sun, without smoke, instead of by bulky and dirty coal. This discovery gave commercial value to Sahara and other tropical deserts, which are now desirable for mill-sites and for generating power, on account of the directness with which they receive the sun's rays and their freedom from clouds. Mile after mile Africa has been won for the uses of civilization, till great stretches that were considered impassible are as productive as gardens. Our condensers, which compress, cool, and rarefy air, enabling travellers to obtain water and even ice from the atmosphere, are great aids in desert exploration, removing absolutely the principal distress of the ancient caravan. The erstwhile 'Dark Continent' has a larger white population now than North America had a hundred years ago, and has this advantage for the future, that it contains 11,600,000 square miles, while North America has less than 9,000,000. Every part of the globe will soon sustain about as large and prosperous a population as the amount of energy it receives from the sun and other sources will warrant; public debts and the efficiency of the governments being the variable elements.

"The rabbits in Australia, and the far more objectionable poisonous snakes in South America and India, have been exterminated by the capture of a few dozen of the creatures in the infested districts, their inoculation with the virus similar to the murus tiphi, tuberculosis or any other contagious-germ complaint to which the species treated was particularly susceptible, and the release of these individuals when the disease was seen to be taking hold. The rabbits and serpents released at once returned to their old haunts, carrying the plague far and wide. The unfortunate rabbits were greatly commiserated even by the medicos that wielded the death-dealing syringe; but, fortunately for themselves, they died easily. The reptiles, perhaps on account of the wider distribution of the nerve centres, had more lingering but not painful deaths, often, while in articulo mortis, leaving the holes with which they seemed to connect their discomfort, and making a final struggle along the ground, only to die more quickly as a result of their exertions. We have applied this also to the potato-bug, locust, and other insect pests, no victim being too small for the ubiquitous, subtle germ, which, properly cultivated and utilized, has become one of man's best friends.

"We have microbe tests that show us as unmistakably whether the germs of any particular disease--like malaria, typhoid, or scarlet fever--are present in the air, as litmus-paper shows alkalinity of a solution. We also inoculate as a preventive against these and almost all other germ diseases, with the same success that we vaccinate for smallpox.

"The medicinal properties of all articles of food are so well understood also, that most cures are brought about simply by dieting. This, reminds me of the mistakes perpetrated on a friend of mine who called in Dr. Grave-Powders, one of the old-school physicians, to be treated for insomnia and dyspepsia. This old numskull restricted his diet, gave him huge doses of medicine, and decided most learnedly that he was daily growing worse. Concluding that he had but a short time to live, my friend threw away the nauseating medicines, ate whatever he had a natural desire for, and was soon as well as ever--the obvious moral of which is, that we can get whatever treatment we need most beneficially from our food. Our physicians are most serious and thoughtful men. They never claim to be infallible, but study scientifically to increase their knowledge and improve the methods of treatment. As a result of this, fresh air, regular exercise for both sexes, with better conditions, and the preservation of the lives of children that formerly died by thousands from preventable causes, the physique, especially of women, is wonderfully improved, and the average longevity is already over sixty.

"Our social structure, to be brief, is based on science, or the conservation of energy, as the Greek philosophers predicted. It was known to them that a certain amount of power would produce only a certain amount of work--that is, the weight of a clock in descending or a spring in uncoiling returns theoretically the amount of work expended in raising or coiling it, and in no possible way can it do more. In practice, on account of friction, etc., we know it does less. This law, being invariable, of course limits us, as it did Archimedes and Pythagoras; we have simply utilized sources of power that their clumsy workmen allowed to escape. Of the four principal sources--food, fuel, wind, and tide--including harnessed waterfalls, the last two do by far the most work. Much of the electrical energy in every thunderstorm is also captured and condensed in our capacious storage batteries, as natural hygeia in the form of rain was and is still caught in our country cisterns. Every exposed place is crowned by a cluster of huge windmills that lift water to some pond or reservoir placed as high as possible. Every stiff breeze, therefore, raises millions of tons of water which operate hydraulic turbines as required. Incidentally these storage reservoirs, by increasing the surface exposed to evaporation and the consequent rainfall, have a very beneficial effect on the dry regions in the interior of the continent, and in some cases have almost superseded irrigation. The windmill and dynamo thus utilize bleak mountain-tops that, till their discovery, seemed to be but indifferent successes in Dame Nature's domain. The electricity generated by these, in connection with that obtained by waterfalls, tidal dynamos, thunderstorms, chemical action, and slow-moving quadruple-expansion steam engines, provides the power required to run our electric ships and water-spiders, railways, and stationary and portable motors, for heating the cables laid along the bottom of our canals to prevent their freezing in winter, and for almost every conceivable purpose. Sometimes a man has a windmill on his roof for light and heat; then, the harder the wintry blasts may blow the brighter and warmer becomes the house, the current passing through a storage battery to make it more steady. The operation of our ordinary electric railways is very simple: the current is taken from an overhead, side, or underneath wire, directly through the air, without the intervention of a trolley, and the fast cars, for they are no longer run in trains, make five miles a minute. The entire weight of each car being used for its own traction, it can ascend very steep grades, and can attain high speed or stop very quickly.

"Another form is the magnetic railway, on which the cars are wedge-shaped at both ends, and moved by huge magnets weighing four thousand tons each, placed fifty miles apart. On passing a magnet, the nature of the electricity charging a car is automatically changed from positive to negative, or vice versa, to that of the magnet just passed, so that it repels while the next attracts. The successive magnets are charged oppositely, the sections being divided halfway between by insulators, the nature of the electricity in each section being governed by the charge in the magnet. To prevent one kind of electricity from uniting with and neutralizing that in the next section by passing through the car at the moment of transit, there is a "dead stretch" of fifty yards with rails not charged at all between the sections. This change in the nature of the electricity is repeated automatically every fifty miles, and obviates the necessity of revolving machinery, the rails aiding communication.

"Magnetism being practically as instantaneous as gravitation, the only limitations to speed are the electrical pressure at the magnets, the resistance of the air, and the danger of the wheels bursting from centrifugal force. The first can seemingly be increased without limit; the atmospheric resistance is about to be reduced by running the cars hermetically sealed through a partial vacuum in a steel and toughened glass tube; while the third has been removed indefinitely by the use of galvanized aluminum, which bears about the same relation to ordinary aluminum that steel does to iron, and which has twice the tensile strength and but one third the weight of steel. In some cases the rails are made turned in, so that it would be impossible for a car to leave the track without the road-bed's being totally demolished; but in most cases this is found to be unnecessary, for no through line has a curve on its vast stretches with a radius of less than half a mile. Rails, one hundred and sixty pounds to the yard, are set in grooved steel ties, which in turn are held by a concrete road-bed consisting of broken stone and cement, making spreading rails and loose ballast impossible. A large increase in capital was necessary for these improvements, the elimination of curves being the most laborious part, requiring bridges, cuttings, and embankments that dwarf the Pyramids and would have made the ancient Pharaohs open their eyes; but with the low rate of interest on bonds, the slight cost of power, and great increase in business, the venture was a success, and we are now in sight of further advances that will enable a traveller in a high latitude moving west to keep pace with the sun, and, should he wish it, to have unending day."