by Edward Bellamy
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press
COPYRIGHT, 1887, BY TICKNOR AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1889, BY EDWARD BELLAMY
COPYRIGHT, 1898, 1915, AND 1917, BY EMMA S. BELLAMY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BY HEYWOOD BROUN
A good many of my radical friends express a certain kindly
condescension when they speak of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward.
Of course you know, they say, that it really isn't first-rate
And yet in further conversation I have known a very large number of
these same somewhat scornful Socialists to admit, You know, the first
thing that got me started to thinking about Socialism was Bellamy's
From the beginning it has been a highly provocative book. It is now.
Many of the questions both of mood and technique are even more
pertinent in the year 1931 than they were in 1887. A critic of the
Boston Transcript said, when the novel first appeared, that the new
State imagined by Bellamy was all very well, but that the author lost
much of his effectiveness by putting his Utopia a scant fifty years
ahead, and that he might much better have made it seventy-five
It is true that the fifty years assigned for changing the world
utterly are almost gone by now. Not everything which was predicted in
Looking Backward has come to pass. But the laugh is not against
Bellamy, but against his critic. Some of the things which must have
seemed most improbable of all to the Transcript man of 1887 are
now actually in being.
In one respect Edward Bellamy set down a picture of modern American
life which is almost a hundred per cent realized. It startled me to
read the passage in which Edith shows the musical schedule to Julian
West, and tells him to choose which selection he wishes to have brought
through the air into the music room. It is true that Bellamy imagined
this broadcasting to be done over telephone wires, as is indeed the
case to-day in some phases of national hook-ups. But consider this
He [Dr. Leete] showed how, by turning a screw, the volume of the
music could be made to fill the room, or die away to an echo so faint
and far that one could scarcely be sure whether he heard or imagined
That might almost have been lifted bodily from an article in some
newspaper radio column.
But Bellamy did see with clear vision things and factors much more
important than the possibility of hearing a sermon without going to
church. Much which is now established in Soviet Russia bears at least a
likeness to the industrial army visioned in this prophetic book.
However, Communism can scarcely claim Bellamy as its own, for he
emphasizes repeatedly the non-violent features of the revolution which
he imagined. Indeed, at one point he argues that the left-wingers of
his own day impeded change by the very excesses of their technical
There is in his book no acceptance of a transitional stage of class
dictatorship. He sees the change coming through a general recognition
of the failings of the capitalist system. Indeed, he sees a point in
economic development where capitalism may not even be good enough for
To the strict Marxian Socialist this is profound and ridiculous
heresy. To me it does not seem fantastic. And things have happened in
the world already which were not dreamt of in Karl Marx's philosophy.
The point I wish to stress is the prevalent notion that all radical
movements in America stem from the writings of foreign authors. Now,
Bellamy, of course, was familiar with the pioneer work of Marx. And
that part of it which he liked he took over. Nevertheless, he developed
a contribution which was entirely his own. It is irrelevant to say
that, after all, the two men differed largely in their view of the
technique by which the new world was to be accomplished. A difference
in technique, as Trotzky knows to his sorrow, may be as profound as a
difference in principle.
Bellamy was essentially a New-Englander. His background was that of
Boston and its remote suburbs. And when he preaches the necessity of
the coöperative commonwealth, he does it with a Yankee twang. In fact,
he is as essentially native American as Norman Thomas, the present
leader of the Socialist Party in this country.
I cannot confess any vast interest in the love story which serves as
a thread for Bellamy's vision of a reconstructed society. But it can be
said that it is so palpably a thread of sugar crystal that it need not
get in the way of any reader.
I am among those who first became interested in Socialism through
reading Looking Backward when I was a freshman in college. It came in
the first half-year of a course which was designed to prove that all
radical panaceas were fundamentally unsound in their conception. The
professor played fair. He gave us the arguments for the radical cause
in the fall and winter, and proceeded to demolish them in spring and
But what one learns in the winter sticks more than words uttered in
the warmth of drowsy May and June. Possibly I took more cuts toward the
end of the lecture course. All I can remember is the arguments in favor
of the radical plans. Their fallacies I have forgotten.
I differ from Bellamy's condescending converts because I feel that
he is close to an entirely practical and possible scheme of life. Since
much of the fantastic quality of his vision has been rubbed down into
reality within half a century, I think there is at least a fair chance
that another fifty years will confirm Edward Bellamy's position as one
of the most authentic prophets of our age.
THE AUTHOR OF LOOKING BACKWARD
To put forth just our strength, our human strength,
All starting fairly, all equipped alike.
But when full roused, each giant limb awake,
Each sinew strung, the great heart pulsing fast,
He shall start up and stand on his own earth,
Then shall his long, triumphant march begin,
Thence shall his being date.
The great poet's lines express Edward Bellamy's aim in writing his
famous book. That aim would realize in our country's daily being the
Great Declaration that gave us national existence; would, in equality
of opportunity, give man his own earth to stand on, and therebythe
race for the first time enabled to enter unhampered upon the use of its
God-given possibilitiesachieve a progress unexampled and marvelous.
It is now twelve years since the writing of 'Looking Backward'
changed one of the most brilliant of the younger American authors into
an impassioned social reformer whose work was destined to have
momentous effect upon the movement of his age. His quality had hitherto
been manifest in romances like 'Doctor Heidenhof's Process' and 'Miss
Ludington's Sister,' and in many short stories exquisite in their
imaginative texture and largely distinguished by a strikingly original
development of psychical themes. Tales like 'The Blindman's World' and
'To Whom This May Come' will long linger in the memory of magazine
readers of the past twenty years.
'Doctor Heidenhof' was at once recognized as a psychological study
of uncommon power. Its writer, said an English review, is the lineal
intellectual descendant of Hawthorne. Nor was there in America any
lack of appreciation of that originality and that distinction of style
which mark Edward Bellamy's early work. In all this there was a strong
dominant note prophetic of the author's future activity. That note was
a steadfast faith in the intrinsic goodness of human nature, a sense of
the meaning of love in its true and universal sense. 'Looking
Backward,' though ostensibly a romance, is universally recognized as a
great economic treatise in a framework of fiction. Without this guise
it could not have obtained the foothold that it did; there is just
enough of the skillful novelist's touch in its composition to give
plausibility to the book and exert a powerful influence upon the
popular imagination. The ingenious device by which a man of the
nineteenth century is transferred to the end of the twentieth, and the
vivid dramatic quality of the dream at the end of the book, are
instances of the art of the trained novelist which make the work unique
of its kind. Neither could the book have been a success had not the
world been ripe for its reception. The materials were ready and
waiting; the spark struck fire in the midst of them. Little more than a
decade has followed its publication, and the world is filled with the
agitation that it helped kindle. It has given direction to economic
thought and shape to political action.
Edward Bellamy was born in 1850,almost exactly in the middle of
the century whose closing years he was destined so notably to affect.
His home has always been in his native village of Chicopee Falls,
Massachusetts, now a portion of the city of Chicopee, one of the group
of municipalities of which Springfield is the nucleus. He lived on
Church Street in a house long the home of his father, a beloved Baptist
clergyman of the town. His clerical ancestry is perhaps responsible for
his essentially religious nature. His maternal grandfather was the Rev.
Benjamin Putnam, one of the early pastors of Springfield, and among his
paternal ancestors was Dr. Joseph Bellamy of Bethlehem, Connecticut, a
distinguished theologian of revolutionary days, a friend of Jonathan
Edwards, and the preceptor of Aaron Burr. He, however, outgrew with his
boyhood all trammels of sect. But this inherited trait marked his
social views with a strongly anti-materialistic and spiritual cast; an
ethical purpose dominated his ideas, and he held that a merely material
prosperity would not be worth the working for as a social ideal. An
equality in material well-being, however, he regarded as the soil
essential for the true spiritual development of the race.
Young Bellamy entered Union College at Schenectady, but was not
graduated. After a year in Germany he studied law and entered the bar,
but never practiced. A literary career appealed to him more strongly,
and journalism seemed the more available gateway thereto. His first
newspaper experience was on the staff of the New York 'Evening Post,'
and from that journal he went to the Springfield 'Union.' Besides his
European trip, a journey to Hawaii by way of Panama and a return across
the continent gave a considerable geographical range to his knowledge
of the world at large.
It is notable that his first public utterance, made before a local
lyceum when a youth in his teens, was devoted to sentiments of social
reform that foreshadowed his future work. When 'Looking Backward' was
the sensation of the year, a newspaper charge brought against Mr.
Bellamy was that he was posing for notoriety. To those who know the
retiring, modest, and almost diffident personality of the author,
nothing could have been more absurd. All opportunities to make money
upon the magnificent advertising given by a phenomenal literary success
were disregarded. There were offers of lecture engagements that would
have brought quick fortune, requests from magazine editors for articles
and stories on any terms that he might name, proffered inducements from
publishers to write a new book and to take advantage of the occasion to
make a volume of his short stories with the assurance of a magnificent
sale,to all this he was strikingly indifferent. Two or three public
addresses, a few articles in the reviews, and for a while the
editorship of 'The New Nation,' a weekly periodical which he
established in Boston,this was the sum of his public activity until
he should have made himself ready for a second sustained effort. To all
sordid incentives he was as indifferent as if he had been a child of
his new order, a century later. The hosts of personal friends whom his
work made for him knew him as a winsome personality; and really to know
him was to love him. His nature was keenly sympathetic; his
conversation ready and charming, quickly responsive to suggestion,
illuminated by gentle humor and occasionally a flash of playful satire.
He disliked controversy, with its waste of energy in profitless
discussion, and jestingly averred that if there were any reformers
living in his neighborhood he should move away.
The cardinal features of 'Looking Backward,' that distinguish it
from the generality of Utopian literature, lie in its definite scheme
of industrial organization on a national basis, and the equal share
allotted to all persons in the products of industry, or the public
income, on the same ground that men share equally in the free gifts of
nature, like air to breathe and water to drink; it being absolutely
impossible to determine any equitable ratio between individual
industrial effort and individual share in industrial product on a
graded basis. The book, however, was little more than an outline of the
system, and, after an interval devoted to continuous thought and study,
many points called for elaboration. Mr. Bellamy gave his last years and
his ripest efforts to an exposition of the economical and ethical basis
of the new order which he held that the natural course of social
evolution would establish.
'Equality' is the title of his last book. It is a more elaborate
work than 'Looking Backward,' and in fact is a comprehensive economic
treatise upon the subject that gives it its name. It is a sequel to its
famous predecessor, and its keynote is given in the remark that the
immortal preamble of the American Declaration of Independence
(characterized as the true constitution of the United States),
logically contained the entire statement of universal economic equality
guaranteed by the nation collectively to its members individually. The
corner-stone of our state is economic equality, and is not that the
obvious, necessary, and only adequate pledge of these three
rights,life, liberty, and happiness? What is life without its
material basis, and what is an equal right to life but a right to an
equal material basis for it? What is liberty? How can men be free who
must ask the right to labor and to live from their fellow-men and seek
their bread from the hands of others? How else can any government
guarantee liberty to men save by providing them a means of labor and of
life coupled with independence; and how could that be done unless the
government conducted the economic system upon which employment and
maintenance depend? Finally, what is implied in the equal right of all
to the pursuit of happiness? What form of happiness, so far as it
depends at all upon material facts, is not bound up with economic
conditions; and how shall an equal opportunity for the pursuit of
happiness be guaranteed to all save by a guarantee of economic
The book is so full of ideas, so replete with suggestive aspects, so
rich in quotable parts, as to form an arsenal of argument for apostles
of the new democracy. As with 'Looking Backward,' the humane and
thoughtful reader will lay down 'Equality' and regard the world about
him with a feeling akin to that with which the child of the tenement
returns from his country week to the foul smells, the discordant
noises, the incessant strife of the wonted environment.
But the writing of 'Equality' was a task too great for the physical
strength and vitality of its author. His health, never robust, gave way
completely, and the book was finished by an indomitable and inflexible
dominion of the powerful mind over the failing body which was nothing
short of heroic. Consumption, that common New England inheritance,
developed suddenly, and in September of 1897 Mr. Bellamy went with his
family to Denver, willing to seek the cure which he scarcely hoped to
The welcome accorded to him in the West, where his work had met with
widespread and profound attention, was one of his latest and greatest
pleasures. Letters came from mining camps, from farms and villages, the
writers all longing to do something for him to show their love.
The singular modesty already spoken of as characterizing Mr.
Bellamy, and an entire unwillingness to accept any personal and public
recognition, had perhaps kept him from a realization of the fact that
his fame was international. But the author of a book which in ten years
had sold nearly a million of copies in England and America, and which
had been translated into German, French, Russian, Italian, Arabic,
Bulgarian, and several other languages and dialects, found himself not
among strangers, although two thousand miles from the home of his
He greatly appreciated and gratefully acknowledged his welcome to
Colorado, which he left in April, 1898, when he realized that his life
was rapidly drawing to a close.
He died on Sunday morning, May 22, after a month in the old home
which he had eagerly desired to see again, leaving a widow and two
At the simple service held there, with his kindred and the friends
of a lifetime about him, the following passages from 'Looking Backward'
and 'Equality' were read as a fitting expression, in his own words, of
that hope for the bettering and uplifting of Humanity, which was the
real passion of his noble life.
Said not the serpent in the old story, 'If you eat of the fruit of
the tree of knowledge you shall be as gods?' The promise was true in
words, but apparently there was some mistake about the tree. Perhaps it
was the tree of selfish knowledge, or else the fruit was not ripe. The
story is obscure. Christ later said the same thing when he told men
that they might be the sons of God. But he made no mistake as to the
tree he showed them, and the fruit was ripe. It was the fruit of love,
for universal love is at once the seed and fruit, cause and effect, of
the highest and completest knowledge. Through boundless love man
becomes a god, for thereby is he made conscious of his oneness with
God, and all things are put under his feet. 'If we love one another,
God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.' 'He that loveth
his brother dwelleth in the light.' 'If any man say, I love God, and
hateth his brother, he is a liar.' 'He that loveth not his brother
abideth in death.' 'God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth
in God.' 'Every one that loveth knoweth God.' 'He that loveth not
knoweth not God.'
Here is the very distillation of Christ's teaching as to the
conditions of entering on the divine life. In this we find the
sufficient explanation why the revelation which came to Christ so long
ago and to other illumined souls could not possibly be received by
mankind in general so long as an inhuman social order made a wall
between man and God, and why, the moment that wall was cast down, the
revelation flooded the earth like a sunburst.
'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us,' and mark how the
words were made good in the way by which at last the race found God! It
was not, remember, by directly, purposely, or consciously seeking God.
The great enthusiasm of humanity which overthrew the older and brought
in the fraternal society was not primarily or consciously a Godward
aspiration at all. It was essentially a humane movement. It was a
melting and flowing forth of men's hearts toward one another; a rush of
contrite, repentant tenderness; an impassioned impulse of mutual love
and self-devotion to the common weal. But 'if we love one another, God
dwelleth in us,' and so man found it. It appears that there came a
moment, the most transcendent moment in the history of the race of man,
when with the fraternal glow of this world of new-found embracing
brothers there seems to have mingled the ineffable thrill of a divine
participation, as if the hand of God were clasped over the joined hands
of men. And so it has continued to this day and shall for evermore.
Your seers and poets in exalted moments had seen that death was but
a step in life, but this seemed to most of you to have been a hard
saying. Nowadays, as life advances toward its close, instead of being
shadowed by gloom, it is marked by an access of impassioned expectancy
which would cause the young to envy the old, but for the knowledge that
in a little while the same door will be opened to them. In your day the
undertone of life seems to have been one of unutterable sadness, which,
like the moaning of the sea to those who live near the ocean, made
itself audible whenever for a moment the noise and bustle of petty
engrossments ceased. Now this undertone is so exultant that we are
still to hear it.
Do you ask what we look for when unnumbered generations shall have
passed away? I answer, the way stretches far before us, but the end is
lost in light. For twofold is the return of man to God, 'who is our
home,' the return of the individual by the way of death, and the return
of the race by the fulfillment of its evolution, when the divine secret
hidden in the germ shall be perfectly unfolded. With a tear for the
dark past, turn we then to the dazzling future, and, veiling our eyes,
press forward. The long and weary winter of the race is ended. Its
summer has begun. Humanity has burst the chrysalis. The heavens are
There are those who have made strenuous objections to the ideals of
Edward Bellamy on the ground that they are based on nothing better than
purely material well-being. In the presence of the foregoing utterance
can they maintain that attitude?
Historical Section Shawmut College, Boston, December 26, 2000.
Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century,
enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical
that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is no doubt difficult
for those whose studies have not been largely historical to realize
that the present organization of society is, in its completeness, less
than a century old. No historical fact is, however, better established
than that till nearly the end of the nineteenth century it was the
general belief that the ancient industrial system, with all its
shocking social consequences, was destined to last, with possibly a
little patching, to the end of time. How strange and wellnigh
incredible does it seem that so prodigious a moral and material
transformation as has taken place since then could have been
accomplished in so brief an interval? The readiness with which men
accustom themselves, as matters of course, to improvements in their
condition, which, when anticipated, seemed to leave nothing more to be
desired, could not be more strikingly illustrated. What reflection
could be better calculated to moderate the enthusiasm of reformers who
count for their reward on the lively gratitude of future ages!
The object of this volume is to assist persons who, while desiring
to gain a more definite idea of the social contrasts between the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are daunted by the formal aspect of
the histories which treat the subject. Warned by a teacher's experience
that learning is accounted a weariness to the flesh, the author has
sought to alleviate the instructive quality of the book by casting it
in the form of a romantic narrative, which he would be glad to fancy
not wholly devoid of interest on its own account.
The reader, to whom modern social institutions and their underlying
principles are matters of course, may at times find Dr. Leete's
explanations of them rather trite,but it must be remembered that to
Dr. Leete's guest they were not matters of course, and that this book
is written for the express purpose of inducing the reader to forget for
the nonce that they are so to him. One word more. The almost universal
theme of the writers and orators who have celebrated this bi-millennial
epoch has been the future rather than the past, not the advance that
has been made, but the progress that shall be made, ever onward and
upward, till the race shall achieve its ineffable destiny. This is
well, wholly well, but it seems to me that nowhere can we find more
solid ground for daring anticipations of human development during the
next one thousand years, than by Looking Backward upon the progress
of the last one hundred.
That this volume may be so fortunate as to find readers whose
interest in the subject shall incline them to overlook the deficiencies
of the treatment is the hope in which the author steps aside and leaves
Mr. Julian West to speak for himself.
I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857.
What! you say, eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means
nineteen fifty-seven, of course. I beg pardon, but there is no
mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one
day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed
the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote
period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the
present year of grace, 2000.
These statements seem so absurd on their face, especially when I add
that I am a young man apparently of about thirty years of age, that no
person can be blamed for refusing to read another word of what promises
to be a mere imposition upon his credulity. Nevertheless I earnestly
assure the reader that no imposition is intended, and will undertake,
if he shall follow me a few pages, to entirely convince him of this. If
I may, then, provisionally assume, with the pledge of justifying the
assumption, that I know better than the reader when I was born, I will
go on with my narrative. As every schoolboy knows, in the latter part
of the nineteenth century the civilization of to-day, or anything like
it, did not exist, although the elements which were to develop it were
already in ferment. Nothing had, however, occurred to modify the
immemorial division of society into the four classes, or nations, as
they may be more fitly called, since the differences between them were
far greater than those between any nations nowadays, of the rich and
the poor, the educated and the ignorant. I myself was rich and also
educated, and possessed, therefore, all the elements of happiness
enjoyed by the most fortunate in that age. Living in luxury, and
occupied only with the pursuit of the pleasures and refinements of
life, I derived the means of my support from the labor of others,
rendering no sort of service in return. My parents and grandparents had
lived in the same way, and I expected that my descendants, if I had
any, would enjoy a like easy existence.
But how could I live without service to the world? you ask. Why
should the world have supported in utter idleness one who was able to
render service? The answer is that my great-grandfather had accumulated
a sum of money on which his descendants had ever since lived. The sum,
you will naturally infer, must have been very large not to have been
exhausted in supporting three generations in idleness. This, however,
was not the fact. The sum had been originally by no means large. It
was, in fact, much larger now that three generations had been supported
upon it in idleness, than it was at first. This mystery of use without
consumption, of warmth without combustion, seems like magic, but was
merely an ingenious application of the art now happily lost but carried
to great perfection by your ancestors, of shifting the burden of one's
support on the shoulders of others. The man who had accomplished this,
and it was the end all sought, was said to live on the income of his
investments. To explain at this point how the ancient methods of
industry made this possible would delay us too much. I shall only stop
now to say that interest on investments was a species of tax in
perpetuity upon the product of those engaged in industry which a person
possessing or inheriting money was able to levy. It must not be
supposed that an arrangement which seems so unnatural and preposterous
according to modern notions was never criticised by your ancestors. It
had been the effort of law-givers and prophets from the earliest ages
to abolish interest, or at least to limit it to the smallest possible
rate. All these efforts had, however, failed, as they necessarily must
so long as the ancient social organizations prevailed. At the time of
which I write, the latter part of the nineteenth century, governments
had generally given up trying to regulate the subject at all.
By way of attempting to give the reader some general impression of
the way people lived together in those days, and especially of the
relations of the rich and poor to one another, perhaps I cannot do
better than to compare society as it then was to a prodigious coach
which the masses of humanity were harnessed to and dragged toilsomely
along a very hilly and sandy road. The driver was hunger, and permitted
no lagging, though the pace was necessarily very slow. Despite the
difficulty of drawing the coach at all along so hard a road, the top
was covered with passengers who never got down, even at the steepest
ascents. These seats on top were very breezy and comfortable. Well up
out of the dust, their occupants could enjoy the scenery at their
leisure, or critically discuss the merits of the straining team.
Naturally such places were in great demand and the competition for them
was keen, every one seeking as the first end in life to secure a seat
on the coach for himself and to leave it to his child after him. By the
rule of the coach a man could leave his seat to whom he wished, but on
the other hand there were many accidents by which it might at any time
be wholly lost. For all that they were so easy, the seats were very
insecure, and at every sudden jolt of the coach persons were slipping
out of them and falling to the ground, where they were instantly
compelled to take hold of the rope and help to drag the coach on which
they had before ridden so pleasantly. It was naturally regarded as a
terrible misfortune to lose one's seat, and the apprehension that this
might happen to them or their friends was a constant cloud upon the
happiness of those who rode.
But did they think only of themselves? you ask. Was not their very
luxury rendered intolerable to them by comparison with the lot of their
brothers and sisters in the harness, and the knowledge that their own
weight added to their toil? Had they no compassion for fellow beings
from whom fortune only distinguished them? Oh, yes; commiseration was
frequently expressed by those who rode for those who had to pull the
coach, especially when the vehicle came to a bad place in the road, as
it was constantly doing, or to a particularly steep hill. At such
times, the desperate straining of the team, their agonized leaping and
plunging under the pitiless lashing of hunger, the many who fainted at
the rope and were trampled in the mire, made a very distressing
spectacle, which often called forth highly creditable displays of
feeling on the top of the coach. At such times the passengers would
call down encouragingly to the toilers of the rope, exhorting them to
patience, and holding out hopes of possible compensation in another
world for the hardness of their lot, while others contributed to buy
salves and liniments for the crippled and injured. It was agreed that
it was a great pity that the coach should be so hard to pull, and there
was a sense of general relief when the specially bad piece of road was
gotten over. This relief was not, indeed, wholly on account of the
team, for there was always some danger at these bad places of a general
overturn in which all would lose their seats.
It must in truth be admitted that the main effect of the spectacle
of the misery of the toilers at the rope was to enhance the passengers'
sense of the value of their seats upon the coach, and to cause them to
hold on to them more desperately than before. If the passengers could
only have felt assured that neither they nor their friends would ever
fall from the top, it is probable that, beyond contributing to the
funds for liniments and bandages, they would have troubled themselves
extremely little about those who dragged the coach.
I am well aware that this will appear to the men and women of the
twentieth century an incredible inhumanity, but there are two facts,
both very curious, which partly explain it. In the first place, it was
firmly and sincerely believed that there was no other way in which
Society could get along, except the many pulled at the rope and the few
rode, and not only this, but that no very radical improvement even was
possible, either in the harness, the coach, the roadway, or the
distribution of the toil. It had always been as it was, and it always
would be so. It was a pity, but it could not be helped, and philosophy
forbade wasting compassion on what was beyond remedy.
The other fact is yet more curious, consisting in a singular
hallucination which those on the top of the coach generally shared,
that they were not exactly like their brothers and sisters who pulled
at the rope, but of finer clay, in some way belonging to a higher order
of beings who might justly expect to be drawn. This seems
unaccountable, but, as I once rode on this very coach and shared that
very hallucination, I ought to be believed. The strangest thing about
the hallucination was that those who had but just climbed up from the
ground, before they had outgrown the marks of the rope upon their
hands, began to fall under its influence. As for those whose parents
and grandparents before them had been so fortunate as to keep their
seats on the top, the conviction they cherished of the essential
difference between their sort of humanity and the common article was
absolute. The effect of such a delusion in moderating fellow feeling
for the sufferings of the mass of men into a distant and philosophical
compassion is obvious. To it I refer as the only extenuation I can
offer for the indifference which, at the period I write of, marked my
own attitude toward the misery of my brothers.
In 1887 I came to my thirtieth year. Although still unmarried, I was
engaged to wed Edith Bartlett. She, like myself, rode on the top of the
coach. That is to say, not to encumber ourselves further with an
illustration which has, I hope, served its purpose of giving the reader
some general impression of how we lived then, her family was wealthy.
In that age, when money alone commanded all that was agreeable and
refined in life, it was enough for a woman to be rich to have suitors;
but Edith Bartlett was beautiful and graceful also.
My lady readers, I am aware, will protest at this. Handsome she
might have been, I hear them saying, but graceful never, in the
costumes which were the fashion at that period, when the head covering
was a dizzy structure a foot tall, and the almost incredible extension
of the skirt behind by means of artificial contrivances more thoroughly
dehumanized the form than any former device of dressmakers. Fancy any
one graceful in such a costume! The point is certainly well taken, and
I can only reply that while the ladies of the twentieth century are
lovely demonstrations of the effect of appropriate drapery in accenting
feminine graces, my recollection of their great-grandmothers enables me
to maintain that no deformity of costume can wholly disguise them.
Our marriage only waited on the completion of the house which I was
building for our occupancy in one of the most desirable parts of the
city, that is to say, a part chiefly inhabited by the rich. For it must
be understood that the comparative desirability of different parts of
Boston for residence depended then, not on natural features, but on the
character of the neighboring population. Each class or nation lived by
itself, in quarters of its own. A rich man living among the poor, an
educated man among the uneducated, was like one living in isolation
among a jealous and alien race. When the house had been begun, its
completion by the winter of 1886 had been expected. The spring of the
following year found it, however, yet incomplete, and my marriage still
a thing of the future. The cause of a delay calculated to be
particularly exasperating to an ardent lover was a series of strikes,
that is to say, concerted refusals to work on the part of the
brick-layers, masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and other trades
concerned in house building. What the specific causes of these strikes
were I do not remember. Strikes had become so common at that period
that people had ceased to inquire into their particular grounds. In one
department of industry or another, they had been nearly incessant ever
since the great business crisis of 1873. In fact it had come to be the
exceptional thing to see any class of laborers pursue their avocation
steadily for more than a few months at a time.
The reader who observes the dates alluded to will of course
recognize in these disturbances of industry the first and incoherent
phase of the great movement which ended in the establishment of the
modern industrial system with all its social consequences. This is all
so plain in the retrospect that a child can understand it, but not
being prophets, we of that day had no clear idea what was happening to
us. What we did see was that industrially the country was in a very
queer way. The relation between the workingman and the employer,
between labor and capital, appeared in some unaccountable manner to
have become dislocated. The working classes had quite suddenly and very
generally become infected with a profound discontent with their
condition, and an idea that it could be greatly bettered if they only
knew how to go about it. On every side, with one accord, they preferred
demands for higher pay, shorter hours, better dwellings, better
educational advantages, and a share in the refinements and luxuries of
life, demands which it was impossible to see the way to granting unless
the world were to become a great deal richer than it then was. Though
they knew something of what they wanted, they knew nothing of how to
accomplish it, and the eager enthusiasm with which they thronged about
any one who seemed likely to give them any light on the subject lent
sudden reputation to many would-be leaders, some of whom had little
enough light to give. However chimerical the aspirations of the
laboring classes might be deemed, the devotion with which they
supported one another in the strikes, which were their chief weapon,
and the sacrifices which they underwent to carry them out left no doubt
of their dead earnestness.
As to the final outcome of the labor troubles, which was the phrase
by which the movement I have described was most commonly referred to,
the opinions of the people of my class differed according to individual
temperament. The sanguine argued very forcibly that it was in the very
nature of things impossible that the new hopes of the workingmen could
be satisfied, simply because the world had not the wherewithal to
satisfy them. It was only because the masses worked very hard and lived
on short commons that the race did not starve outright, and no
considerable improvement in their condition was possible while the
world, as a whole, remained so poor. It was not the capitalists whom
the laboring men were contending with, these maintained, but the
iron-bound environment of humanity, and it was merely a question of the
thickness of their skulls when they would discover the fact and make up
their minds to endure what they could not cure.
The less sanguine admitted all this. Of course the workingmen's
aspirations were impossible of fulfillment for natural reasons, but
there were grounds to fear that they would not discover this fact until
they had made a sad mess of society They had the votes and the power to
do so if they pleased, and their leaders meant they should. Some of
these desponding observers went so far as to predict an impending
social cataclysm. Humanity, they argued, having climbed to the top
round of the ladder of civilization, was about to take a header into
chaos, after which it would doubtless pick itself up, turn round, and
begin to climb again. Repeated experiences of this sort in historic and
prehistoric times possibly accounted for the puzzling bumps on the
human cranium. Human history, like all great movements, was cyclical,
and returned to the point of beginning. The idea of indefinite progress
in a right line was a chimera of the imagination, with no analogue in
nature. The parabola of a comet was perhaps a yet better illustration
of the career of humanity. Tending upward and sunward from the aphelion
of barbarism, the race attained the perihelion of civilization only to
plunge downward once more to its nether goal in the regions of chaos.
This, of course, was an extreme opinion, but I remember serious men
among my acquaintances who, in discussing the signs of the times,
adopted a very similar tone. It was no doubt the common opinion of
thoughtful men that society was approaching a critical period which
might result in great changes. The labor troubles, their causes,
course, and cure, took lead of all other topics in the public prints,
and in serious conversation.
The nervous tension of the public mind could not have been more
strikingly illustrated than it was by the alarm resulting from the talk
of a small band of men who called themselves anarchists, and proposed
to terrify the American people into adopting their ideas by threats of
violence, as if a mighty nation which had but just put down a rebellion
of half its own numbers, in order to maintain its political system,
were likely to adopt a new social system out of fear.
As one of the wealthy, with a large stake in the existing order of
things, I naturally shared the apprehensions of my class. The
particular grievance I had against the working classes at the time of
which I write, on account of the effect of their strikes in postponing
my wedded bliss, no doubt lent a special animosity to my feeling toward
The thirtieth day of May, 1887, fell on a Monday. It was one of the
annual holidays of the nation in the latter third of the nineteenth
century, being set apart under the name of Decoration Day, for doing
honor to the memory of the soldiers of the North who took part in the
war for the preservation of the union of the States. The survivors of
the war, escorted by military and civic processions and bands of music,
were wont on this occasion to visit the cemeteries and lay wreaths of
flowers upon the graves of their dead comrades, the ceremony being a
very solemn and touching one. The eldest brother of Edith Bartlett had
fallen in the war, and on Decoration Day the family was in the habit of
making a visit to Mount Auburn, where he lay.
I had asked permission to make one of the party, and, on our return
to the city at nightfall, remained to dine with the family of my
betrothed. In the drawing-room, after dinner, I picked up an evening
paper and read of a fresh strike in the building trades, which would
probably still further delay the completion of my unlucky house. I
remember distinctly how exasperated I was at this, and the
objurgations, as forcible as the presence of the ladies permitted,
which I lavished upon workmen in general, and these strikers in
particular. I had abundant sympathy from those about me, and the
remarks made in the desultory conversation which followed, upon the
unprincipled conduct of the labor agitators, were calculated to make
those gentlemen's ears tingle. It was agreed that affairs were going
from bad to worse very fast, and that there was no telling what we
should come to soon. The worst of it, I remember Mrs. Bartlett's
saying, is that the working classes all over the world seem to be
going crazy at once. In Europe it is far worse even than here. I'm sure
I should not dare to live there at all. I asked Mr. Bartlett the other
day where we should emigrate to if all the terrible things took place
which those socialists threaten. He said he did not know any place now
where society could be called stable except Greenland, Patagonia, and
the Chinese Empire. Those Chinamen knew what they were about,
somebody added, when they refused to let in our western civilization.
They knew what it would lead to better than we did. They saw it was
nothing but dynamite in disguise.
After this, I remember drawing Edith apart and trying to persuade
her that it would be better to be married at once without waiting for
the completion of the house, spending the time in travel till our home
was ready for us. She was remarkably handsome that evening, the
mourning costume that she wore in recognition of the day setting off to
great advantage the purity of her complexion. I can see her even now
with my mind's eye just as she looked that night. When I took my leave
she followed me into the hall and I kissed her good-by as usual. There
was no circumstance out of the common to distinguish this parting from
previous occasions when we had bade each other good-by for a night or a
day. There was absolutely no premonition in my mind, or I am sure in
hers, that this was more than an ordinary separation.
The hour at which I had left my betrothed was a rather early one for
a lover, but the fact was no reflection on my devotion. I was a
confirmed sufferer from insomnia, and although otherwise perfectly well
had been completely fagged out that day, from having slept scarcely at
all the two previous nights. Edith knew this and had insisted on
sending me home by nine o'clock, with strict orders to go to bed at
The house in which I lived had been occupied by three generations of
the family of which I was the only living representative in the direct
line. It was a large, ancient wooden mansion, very elegant in an
old-fashioned way within, but situated in a quarter that had long since
become undesirable for residence, from its invasion by tenement houses
and manufactories. It was not a house to which I could think of
bringing a bride, much less so dainty a one as Edith Bartlett. I had
advertised it for sale, and meanwhile merely used it for sleeping
purposes, dining at my club. One servant, a faithful colored man by the
name of Sawyer, lived with me and attended to my few wants. One feature
of the house I expected to miss greatly when I should leave it, and
this was the sleeping chamber which I had built under the foundations.
I could not have slept in the city at all, with its never ceasing
nightly noises, if I had been obliged to use an upstairs chamber. But
to this subterranean room no murmur from the upper world ever
penetrated. When I had entered it and closed the door, I was surrounded
by the silence of the tomb. In order to prevent the dampness of the
subsoil from penetrating the chamber, the walls had been laid in
hydraulic cement and were very thick, and the floor was likewise
protected. In order that the room might serve also as a vault equally
proof against violence and flames, for the storage of valuables, I had
roofed it with stone slabs hermetically sealed, and the outer door was
of iron with a thick coating of asbestos. A small pipe, communicating
with a wind-mill on the top of the house, insured the renewal of air.
It might seem that the tenant of such a chamber ought to be able to
command slumber, but it was rare that I slept well, even there, two
nights in succession. So accustomed was I to wakefulness that I minded
little the loss of one night's rest. A second night, however, spent in
my reading chair instead of my bed, tired me out, and I never allowed
myself to go longer than that without slumber, from fear of nervous
disorder. From this statement it will be inferred that I had at my
command some artificial means for inducing sleep in the last resort,
and so in fact I had. If after two sleepless nights I found myself on
the approach of the third without sensations of drowsiness, I called in
He was a doctor by courtesy only, what was called in those days an
irregular or quack doctor. He called himself a Professor of Animal
Magnetism. I had come across him in the course of some amateur
investigations into the phenomena of animal magnetism. I don't think he
knew anything about medicine, but he was certainly a remarkable
mesmerist. It was for the purpose of being put to sleep by his
manipulations that I used to send for him when I found a third night of
sleeplessness impending. Let my nervous excitement or mental
preoccupation be however great, Dr. Pillsbury never failed, after a
short time, to leave me in a deep slumber, which continued till I was
aroused by a reversal of the mesmerizing process. The process for
awaking the sleeper was much simpler than that for putting him to
sleep, and for convenience I had made Dr. Pillsbury teach Sawyer how to
My faithful servant alone knew for what purpose Dr. Pillsbury
visited me, or that he did so at all. Of course, when Edith became my
wife I should have to tell her my secrets. I had not hitherto told her
this, because there was unquestionably a slight risk in the mesmeric
sleep, and I knew she would set her face against my practice. The risk,
of course, was that it might become too profound and pass into a trance
beyond the mesmerizer's power to break, ending in death. Repeated
experiments had fully convinced me that the risk was next to nothing if
reasonable precautions were exercised, and of this I hoped, though
doubtingly, to convince Edith. I went directly home after leaving her,
and at once sent Sawyer to fetch Dr. Pillsbury. Meanwhile I sought my
subterranean sleeping chamber, and exchanging my costume for a
comfortable dressing-gown, sat down to read the letters by the evening
mail which Sawyer had laid on my reading table.
One of them was from the builder of my new house, and confirmed what
I had inferred from the newspaper item. The new strikes, he said, had
postponed indefinitely the completion of the contract, as neither
masters nor workmen would concede the point at issue without a long
struggle. Caligula wished that the Roman people had but one neck that
he might cut it off, and as I read this letter I am afraid that for a
moment I was capable of wishing the same thing concerning the laboring
classes of America. The return of Sawyer with the doctor interrupted my
It appeared that he had with difficulty been able to secure his
services, as he was preparing to leave the city that very night. The
doctor explained that since he had seen me last he had learned of a
fine professional opening in a distant city, and decided to take prompt
advantage of it. On my asking, in some panic, what I was to do for some
one to put me to sleep, he gave me the names of several mesmerizers in
Boston who, he averred, had quite as great powers as he.
Somewhat relieved on this point, I instructed Sawyer to rouse me at
nine o'clock next morning, and, lying down on the bed in my
dressing-gown, assumed a comfortable attitude, and surrendered myself
to the manipulations of the mesmerizer. Owing, perhaps, to my unusually
nervous state, I was slower than common in losing consciousness, but at
length a delicious drowsiness stole over me.
He is going to open his eyes. He had better see but one of us at
Promise me, then, that you will not tell him.
The first voice was a man's, the second a woman's, and both spoke in
I will see how he seems, replied the man.
No, no, promise me, persisted the other.
Let her have her way, whispered a third voice, also a woman.
Well, well, I promise, then, answered the man. Quick, go! He is
coming out of it.
There was a rustle of garments and I opened my eyes. A fine looking
man of perhaps sixty was bending over me, an expression of much
benevolence mingled with great curiosity upon his features. He was an
utter stranger. I raised myself on an elbow and looked around. The room
was empty. I certainly had never been in it before, or one furnished
like it. I looked back at my companion. He smiled.
How do you feel? he inquired.
Where am I? I demanded.
You are in my house, was the reply.
How came I here?
We will talk about that when you are stronger. Meanwhile, I beg you
will feel no anxiety. You are among friends and in good hands. How do
A bit queerly, I replied, but I am well, I suppose. Will you tell
me how I came to be indebted to your hospitality? What has happened to
me? How came I here? It was in my own house that I went to sleep.
There will be time enough for explanations later, my unknown host
replied, with a reassuring smile. It will be better to avoid agitating
talk until you are a little more yourself. Will you oblige me by taking
a couple of swallows of this mixture? It will do you good. I am a
I repelled the glass with my hand and sat up on the couch, although
with an effort, for my head was strangely light.
I insist upon knowing at once where I am and what you have been
doing with me, I said.
My dear sir, responded my companion, let me beg that you will not
agitate yourself. I would rather you did not insist upon explanations
so soon, but if you do, I will try to satisfy you, provided you will
first take this draught, which will strengthen you somewhat.
I thereupon drank what he offered me. Then he said, It is not so
simple a matter as you evidently suppose to tell you how you came here.
You can tell me quite as much on that point as I can tell you. You have
just been roused from a deep sleep, or, more properly, trance. So much
I can tell you. You say you were in your own house when you fell into
that sleep. May I ask you when that was?
When? I replied, when? Why, last evening, of course, at about ten
o'clock. I left my man Sawyer orders to call me at nine o'clock. What
has become of Sawyer?
I can't precisely tell you that, replied my companion, regarding
me with a curious expression, but I am sure that he is excusable for
not being here. And now can you tell me a little more explicitly when
it was that you fell into that sleep, the date, I mean?
Why, last night, of course; I said so, didn't I? that is, unless I
have overslept an entire day. Great heavens! that cannot be possible;
and yet I have an odd sensation of having slept a long time. It was
Decoration Day that I went to sleep.
Yes, Monday, the 30th.
Pardon me, the 30th of what?
Why, of this month, of course, unless I have slept into June, but
that can't be.
This month is September.
September! You don't mean that I've slept since May! God in heaven!
Why, it is incredible.
We shall see, replied my companion; you say that it was May 30th
when you went to sleep?
May I ask of what year?
I stared blankly at him, incapable of speech, for some moments.
Of what year? I feebly echoed at last.
Yes, of what year, if you please? After you have told me that I
shall be able to tell you how long you have slept.
It was the year 1887, I said.
My companion insisted that I should take another draught from the
glass, and felt my pulse.
My dear sir, he said, your manner indicates that you are a man of
culture, which I am aware was by no means the matter of course in your
day it now is. No doubt, then, you have yourself made the observation
that nothing in this world can be truly said to be more wonderful than
anything else. The causes of all phenomena are equally adequate, and
the results equally matters of course. That you should be startled by
what I shall tell you is to be expected; but I am confident that you
will not permit it to affect your equanimity unduly. Your appearance is
that of a young man of barely thirty, and your bodily condition seems
not greatly different from that of one just roused from a somewhat too
long and profound sleep, and yet this is the tenth day of September in
the year 2000, and you have slept exactly one hundred and thirteen
years, three months, and eleven days.
Feeling partially dazed, I drank a cup of some sort of broth at my
companion's suggestion, and, immediately afterward becoming very
drowsy, went off into a deep sleep.
When I awoke it was broad daylight in the room, which had been
lighted artificially when I was awake before. My mysterious host was
sitting near. He was not looking at me when I opened my eyes, and I had
a good opportunity to study him and meditate upon my extraordinary
situation, before he observed that I was awake. My giddiness was all
gone, and my mind perfectly clear. The story that I had been asleep one
hundred and thirteen years, which, in my former weak and bewildered
condition, I had accepted without question, recurred to me now only to
be rejected as a preposterous attempt at an imposture, the motive of
which it was impossible remotely to surmise.
Something extraordinary had certainly happened to account for my
waking up in this strange house with this unknown companion, but my
fancy was utterly impotent to suggest more than than the wildest guess
as to what that something might have been. Could it be that I was the
victim of some sort of conspiracy? It looked so, certainly; and yet, if
human lineaments ever gave true evidence, it was certain that this man
by my side, with a face so refined and ingenuous, was no party to any
scheme of crime or outrage. Then it occurred to me to question if I
might not be the butt of some elaborate practical joke on the part of
friends who had somehow learned the secret of my underground chamber
and taken this means of impressing me with the peril of mesmeric
experiments. There were great difficulties in the way of this theory;
Sawyer would never have betrayed me, nor had I any friends at all
likely to undertake such an enterprise; nevertheless the supposition
that I was the victim of a practical joke seemed on the whole the only
one tenable. Half expecting to catch a glimpse of some familiar face
grinning from behind a chair or curtain, I looked carefully about the
room. When my eyes next rested on my companion, he was looking at me.
You have had a fine nap of twelve hours, he said briskly, and I
can see that it has done you good. You look much better. Your color is
good and your eyes are bright. How do you feel?
I never felt better, I said, sitting up.
You remember your first waking, no doubt, he pursued, and your
surprise when I told you how long you had been asleep?
You said, I believe, that I had slept one hundred and thirteen
You will admit, I said, with an ironical smile, that the story
was rather an improbable one.
Extraordinary, I admit, he responded, but given the proper
conditions, not improbable nor inconsistent with what we know of the
trance state. When complete, as in your case, the vital functions are
absolutely suspended, and there is no waste of the tissues. No limit
can be set to the possible duration of a trance when the external
conditions protect the body from physical injury. This trance of yours
is indeed the longest of which there is any positive record, but there
is no known reason wherefore, had you not been discovered and had the
chamber in which we found you continued intact, you might not have
remained in a state of suspended animation till, at the end of
indefinite ages, the gradual refrigeration of the earth had destroyed
the bodily tissues and set the spirit free.
I had to admit that, if I were indeed the victim of a practical
joke, its authors had chosen an admirable agent for carrying out their
imposition. The impressive and even eloquent manner of this man would
have lent dignity to an argument that the moon was made of cheese. The
smile with which I had regarded him as he advanced his trance
hypothesis did not appear to confuse him in the slightest degree.
Perhaps, I said, you will go on and favor me with some
particulars as to the circumstances under which you discovered this
chamber of which you speak, and its contents. I enjoy good fiction.
In this case, was the grave reply, no fiction could be so strange
as the truth. You must know that these many years I have been
cherishing the idea of building a laboratory in the large garden beside
this house, for the purpose of chemical experiments for which I have a
taste. Last Thursday the excavation for the cellar was at last begun.
It was completed by that night, and Friday the masons were to have
come. Thursday night we had a tremendous deluge of rain, and Friday
morning I found my cellar a frog-pond and the walls quite washed down.
My daughter, who had come out to view the disaster with me, called my
attention to a corner of masonry laid bare by the crumbling away of one
of the walls. I cleared a little earth from it, and, finding that it
seemed part of a large mass, determined to investigate it. The workmen
I sent for unearthed an oblong vault some eight feet below the surface,
and set in the corner of what had evidently been the foundation walls
of an ancient house. A layer of ashes and charcoal on the top of the
vault showed that the house above had perished by fire. The vault
itself was perfectly intact, the cement being as good as when first
applied. It had a door, but this we could not force, and found entrance
by removing one of the flagstones which formed the roof. The air which
came up was stagnant but pure, dry and not cold. Descending with a
lantern, I found myself in an apartment fitted up as a bedroom in the
style of the nineteenth century. On the bed lay a young man. That he
was dead and must have been dead a century was of course to be taken
for granted; but the extraordinary state of preservation of the body
struck me and the medical colleagues whom I had summoned with
amazement. That the art of such embalming as this had ever been known
we should not have believed, yet here seemed conclusive testimony that
our immediate ancestors had possessed it. My medical colleagues, whose
curiosity was highly excited, were at once for undertaking experiments
to test the nature of the process employed, but I withheld them. My
motive in so doing, at least the only motive I now need speak of, was
the recollection of something I once had read about the extent to which
your contemporaries had cultivated the subject of animal magnetism. It
had occurred to me as just conceivable that you might be in a trance,
and that the secret of your bodily integrity after so long a time was
not the craft of an embalmer, but life. So extremely fanciful did this
idea seem, even to me, that I did not risk the ridicule of my fellow
physicians by mentioning it, but gave some other reason for postponing
their experiments. No sooner, however, had they left me, than I set on
foot a systematic attempt at resuscitation, of which you know the
Had its theme been yet more incredible, the circumstantiality of
this narrative, as well as the impressive manner and personality of the
narrator, might have staggered a listener, and I had begun to feel very
strangely, when, as he closed, I chanced to catch a glimpse of my
reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall of the room. I rose and went
up to it. The face I saw was the face to a hair and a line and not a
day older than the one I had looked at as I tied my cravat before going
to Edith that Decoration Day, which, as this man would have me believe,
was celebrated one hundred and thirteen years before. At this, the
colossal character of the fraud which was being attempted on me, came
over me afresh. Indignation mastered my mind as I realized the
outrageous liberty that had been taken.
You are probably surprised, said my companion, to see that,
although you are a century older than when you lay down to sleep in
that underground chamber, your appearance is unchanged. That should not
amaze you. It is by virtue of the total arrest of the vital functions
that you have survived this great period of time. If your body could
have undergone any change during your trance, it would long ago have
Sir, I replied, turning to him, what your motive can be in
reciting to me with a serious face this remarkable farrago, I am
utterly unable to guess; but you are surely yourself too intelligent to
suppose that anybody but an imbecile could be deceived by it. Spare me
any more of this elaborate nonsense and once for all tell me whether
you refuse to give me an intelligible account of where I am and how I
came here. If so, I shall proceed to ascertain my whereabouts for
myself, whoever may hinder.
You do not, then, believe that this is the year 2000?
Do you really think it necessary to ask me that? I returned.
Very well, replied my extraordinary host. Since I cannot convince
you, you shall convince yourself. Are you strong enough to follow me
I am as strong as I ever was, I replied angrily, as I may have to
prove if this jest is carried much farther.
I beg, sir, was my companion's response, that you will not allow
yourself to be too fully persuaded that you are the victim of a trick,
lest the reaction, when you are convinced of the truth of my
statements, should be too great.
The tone of concern, mingled with commiseration, with which he said
this, and the entire absence of any sign of resentment at my hot words,
strangely daunted me, and I followed him from the room with an
extraordinary mixture of emotions. He led the way up two flights of
stairs and then up a shorter one, which landed us upon a belvedere on
the house-top. Be pleased to look around you, he said, as we reached
the platform, and tell me if this is the Boston of the nineteenth
At my feet lay a great city. Miles of broad streets, shaded by trees
and lined with fine buildings, for the most part not in continuous
blocks but set in larger or smaller inclosures, stretched in every
direction. Every quarter contained large open squares filled with
trees, among which statues glistened and fountains flashed in the late
afternoon sun. Public buildings of a colossal size and an architectural
grandeur unparalleled in my day raised their stately piles on every
side. Surely I had never seen this city nor one comparable to it
before. Raising my eyes at last towards the horizon, I looked westward.
That blue ribbon winding away to the sunset, was it not the sinuous
Charles? I looked east; Boston harbor stretched before me within its
headlands, not one of its green islets missing.
I knew then that I had been told the truth concerning the prodigious
thing which had befallen me.
I did not faint, but the effort to realize my position made me very
giddy, and I remember that my companion had to give me a strong arm as
he conducted me from the roof to a roomy apartment on the upper floor
of the house, where he insisted on my drinking a glass or two of good
wine and partaking of a light repast.
I think you are going to be all right now, he said cheerily. I
should not have taken so abrupt a means to convince you of your
position if your course, while perfectly excusable under the
circumstances, had not rather obliged me to do so. I confess, he added
laughing, I was a little apprehensive at one time that I should
undergo what I believe you used to call a knockdown in the nineteenth
century, if I did not act rather promptly. I remembered that the
Bostonians of your day were famous pugilists, and thought best to lose
no time. I take it you are now ready to acquit me of the charge of
If you had told me, I replied, profoundly awed, that a thousand
years instead of a hundred had elapsed since I last looked on this
city, I should now believe you.
Only a century has passed, he answered, but many a millennium in
the world's history has seen changes less extraordinary.
And now, he added, extending his hand with an air of irresistible
cordiality, let me give you a hearty welcome to the Boston of the
twentieth century and to this house. My name is Leete, Dr. Leete they
My name, I said as I shook his hand, is Julian West.
I am most happy in making your acquaintance, Mr. West, he
responded. Seeing that this house is built on the site of your own, I
hope you will find it easy to make yourself at home in it.
After my refreshment Dr. Leete offered me a bath and a change of
clothing, of which I gladly availed myself.
It did not appear that any very startling revolution in men's attire
had been among the great changes my host had spoken of, for, barring a
few details, my new habiliments did not puzzle me at all.
Physically, I was now myself again. But mentally, how was it with
me, the reader will doubtless wonder. What were my intellectual
sensations, he may wish to know, on finding myself so suddenly dropped
as it were into a new world. In reply let me ask him to suppose himself
suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, transported from earth, say, to
Paradise or Hades. What does he fancy would be his own experience?
Would his thoughts return at once to the earth he had just left, or
would he, after the first shock, wellnigh forget his former life for a
while, albeit to be remembered later, in the interest excited by his
new surroundings? All I can say is, that if his experience were at all
like mine in the transition I am describing, the latter hypothesis
would prove the correct one. The impressions of amazement and curiosity
which my new surroundings produced occupied my mind, after the first
shock, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. For the time the memory
of my former life was, as it were, in abeyance.
No sooner did I find myself physically rehabilitated through the
kind offices of my host, than I became eager to return to the
house-top; and presently we were comfortably established there in
easy-chairs, with the city beneath and around us. After Dr. Leete had
responded to numerous questions on my part, as to the ancient landmarks
I missed and the new ones which had replaced them, he asked me what
point of the contrast between the new and the old city struck me most
To speak of small things before great, I responded, I really
think that the complete absence of chimneys and their smoke is the
detail that first impressed me.
Ah! ejaculated my companion with an air of much interest, I had
forgotten the chimneys, it is so long since they went out of use. It is
nearly a century since the crude method of combustion on which you
depended for heat became obsolete.
In general, I said, what impresses me most about the city is the
material prosperity on the part of the people which its magnificence
I would give a great deal for just one glimpse of the Boston of
your day, replied Dr. Leete. No doubt, as you imply, the cities of
that period were rather shabby affairs. If you had the taste to make
them splendid, which I would not be so rude as to question, the general
poverty resulting from your extraordinary industrial system would not
have given you the means. Moreover, the excessive individualism which
then prevailed was inconsistent with much public spirit. What little
wealth you had seems almost wholly to have been lavished in private
luxury. Nowadays, on the contrary, there is no destination of the
surplus wealth so popular as the adornment of the city, which all enjoy
in equal degree.
The sun had been setting as we returned to the house-top, and as we
talked night descended upon the city.
It is growing dark, said Dr. Leete. Let us descend into the
house; I want to introduce my wife and daughter to you.
His words recalled to me the feminine voices which I had heard
whispering about me as I was coming back to conscious life; and, most
curious to learn what the ladies of the year 2000 were like, I assented
with alacrity to the proposition. The apartment in which we found the
wife and daughter of my host, as well as the entire interior of the
house, was filled with a mellow light, which I knew must be artificial,
although I could not discover the source from which it was diffused.
Mrs. Leete was an exceptionally fine looking and well preserved woman
of about her husband's age, while the daughter, who was in the first
blush of womanhood, was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Her
face was as bewitching as deep blue eyes, delicately tinted complexion,
and perfect features could make it, but even had her countenance lacked
special charms, the faultless luxuriance of her figure would have given
her place as a beauty among the women of the nineteenth century.
Feminine softness and delicacy were in this lovely creature deliciously
combined with an appearance of health and abounding physical vitality
too often lacking in the maidens with whom alone I could compare her.
It was a coincidence trifling in comparison with the general
strangeness of the situation, but still striking, that her name should
The evening that followed was certainly unique in the history of
social intercourse, but to suppose that our conversation was peculiarly
strained or difficult would be a great mistake. I believe indeed that
it is under what may be called unnatural, in the sense of
extraordinary, circumstances that people behave most naturally, for the
reason, no doubt, that such circumstances banish artificiality. I know
at any rate that my intercourse that evening with these representatives
of another age and world was marked by an ingenuous sincerity and
frankness such as but rarely crown long acquaintance. No doubt the
exquisite tact of my entertainers had much to do with this. Of course
there was nothing we could talk of but the strange experience by virtue
of which I was there, but they talked of it with an interest so naive
and direct in its expression as to relieve the subject to a great
degree of the element of the weird and the uncanny which might so
easily have been overpowering. One would have supposed that they were
quite in the habit of entertaining waifs from another century, so
perfect was their tact.
For my own part, never do I remember the operations of my mind to
have been more alert and acute than that evening, or my intellectual
sensibilities more keen. Of course I do not mean that the consciousness
of my amazing situation was for a moment out of mind, but its chief
effect thus far was to produce a feverish elation, a sort of mental
Edith Leete took little part in the conversation, but when several
times the magnetism of her beauty drew my glance to her face, I found
her eyes fixed on me with an absorbed intensity, almost like
fascination. It was evident that I had excited her interest to an
extraordinary degree, as was not astonishing, supposing her to be a
girl of imagination. Though I supposed curiosity was the chief motive
of her interest, it could but affect me as it would not have done had
she been less beautiful.
Dr. Leete, as well as the ladies, seemed greatly interested in my
account of the circumstances under which I had gone to sleep in the
underground chamber. All had suggestions to offer to account for my
having been forgotten there, and the theory which we finally agreed on
offers at least a plausible explanation, although whether it be in its
details the true one, nobody, of course, will ever know. The layer of
ashes found above the chamber indicated that the house had been burned
down. Let it be supposed that the conflagration had taken place the
night I fell asleep. It only remains to assume that Sawyer lost his
life in the fire or by some accident connected with it, and the rest
follows naturally enough. No one but he and Dr. Pillsbury either knew
of the existence of the chamber or that I was in it, and Dr. Pillsbury,
who had gone that night to New Orleans, had probably never heard of the
fire at all. The conclusion of my friends, and of the public, must have
been that I had perished in the flames. An excavation of the ruins,
unless thorough, would not have disclosed the recess in the foundation
walls connecting with my chamber. To be sure, if the site had been
again built upon, at least immediately, such an excavation would have
been necessary, but the troublous times and the undesirable character
of the locality might well have prevented rebuilding. The size of the
trees in the garden now occupying the site indicated, Dr. Leete said,
that for more than half a century at least it had been open ground.
[Footnote 1: In accounting for this state of mind it must be
remembered that, except for the topic of our conversations, there was
in my surroundings next to nothing to suggest what had befallen me.
Within a block of my home in the old Boston I could have found social
circles vastly more foreign to me. The speech of the Bostonians of the
twentieth century differs even less from that of their cultured
ancestors of the nineteenth than did that of the latter from the
language of Washington and Franklin, while the differences between the
style of dress and furniture of the two epochs are not more marked than
I have known fashion to make in the time of one generation.]
When, in the course of the evening the ladies retired, leaving Dr.
Leete and myself alone, he sounded me as to my disposition for sleep,
saying that if I felt like it my bed was ready for me; but if I was
inclined to wakefulness nothing would please him better than to bear me
company. I am a late bird, myself, he said, and, without suspicion
of flattery, I may say that a companion more interesting than yourself
could scarcely be imagined. It is decidedly not often that one has a
chance to converse with a man of the nineteenth century.
Now I had been looking forward all the evening with some dread to
the time when I should be alone, on retiring for the night. Surrounded
by these most friendly strangers, stimulated and supported by their
sympathetic interest, I had been able to keep my mental balance. Even
then, however, in pauses of the conversation I had had glimpses, vivid
as lightning flashes, of the horror of strangeness that was waiting to
be faced when I could no longer command diversion. I knew I could not
sleep that night, and as for lying awake and thinking, it argues no
cowardice, I am sure, to confess that I was afraid of it. When, in
reply to my host's question, I frankly told him this, he replied that
it would be strange if I did not feel just so, but that I need have no
anxiety about sleeping; whenever I wanted to go to bed, he would give
me a dose which would insure me a sound night's sleep without fail.
Next morning, no doubt, I would awake with the feeling of an old
Before I acquire that, I replied, I must know a little more about
the sort of Boston I have come back to. You told me when we were upon
the house-top that though a century only had elapsed since I fell
asleep, it had been marked by greater changes in the conditions of
humanity than many a previous millennium. With the city before me I
could well believe that, but I am very curious to know what some of the
changes have been. To make a beginning somewhere, for the subject is
doubtless a large one, what solution, if any, have you found for the
labor question? It was the Sphinx's riddle of the nineteenth century,
and when I dropped out the Sphinx was threatening to devour society,
because the answer was not forthcoming. It is well worth sleeping a
hundred years to learn what the right answer was, if, indeed, you have
found it yet.
As no such thing as the labor question is known nowadays, replied
Dr. Leete, and there is no way in which it could arise, I suppose we
may claim to have solved it. Society would indeed have fully deserved
being devoured if it had failed to answer a riddle so entirely simple.
In fact, to speak by the book, it was not necessary for society to
solve the riddle at all. It may be said to have solved itself. The
solution came as the result of a process of industrial evolution which
could not have terminated otherwise. All that society had to do was to
recognize and coöperate with that evolution, when its tendency had
I can only say, I answered, that at the time I fell asleep no
such evolution had been recognized.
It was in 1887 that you fell into this sleep, I think you said.
Yes, May 30th, 1887.
My companion regarded me musingly for some moments. Then he
observed, And you tell me that even then there was no general
recognition of the nature of the crisis which society was nearing? Of
course, I fully credit your statement. The singular blindness of your
contemporaries to the signs of the times is a phenomenon commented on
by many of our historians, but few facts of history are more difficult
for us to realize, so obvious and unmistakable as we look back seem the
indications, which must also have come under your eyes, of the
transformation about to come to pass. I should be interested, Mr. West,
if you would give me a little more definite idea of the view which you
and men of your grade of intellect took of the state and prospects of
society in 1887. You must, at least, have realized that the widespread
industrial and social troubles, and the underlying dissatisfaction of
all classes with the inequalities of society, and the general misery of
mankind, were portents of great changes of some sort.
We did, indeed, fully realize that, I replied. We felt that
society was dragging anchor and in danger of going adrift. Whither it
would drift nobody could say, but all feared the rocks.
Nevertheless, said Dr. Leete, the set of the current was
perfectly perceptible if you had but taken pains to observe it, and it
was not toward the rocks, but toward a deeper channel.
We had a popular proverb, I replied, that 'hindsight is better
than foresight,' the force of which I shall now, no doubt, appreciate
more fully than ever. All I can say is, that the prospect was such when
I went into that long sleep that I should not have been surprised had I
looked down from your house-top to-day on a heap of charred and
moss-grown ruins instead of this glorious city.
Dr. Leete had listened to me with close attention and nodded
thoughtfully as I finished speaking. What you have said, he observed,
will be regarded as a most valuable vindication of Storiot, whose
account of your era has been generally thought exaggerated in its
picture of the gloom and confusion of men's minds. That a period of
transition like that should be full of excitement and agitation was
indeed to be looked for; but seeing how plain was the tendency of the
forces in operation, it was natural to believe that hope rather than
fear would have been the prevailing temper of the popular mind.
You have not yet told me what was the answer to the riddle which
you found, I said. I am impatient to know by what contradiction of
natural sequence the peace and prosperity which you now seem to enjoy
could have been the outcome of an era like my own.
Excuse me, replied my host, but do you smoke? It was not till
our cigars were lighted and drawing well that he resumed. Since you
are in the humor to talk rather than to sleep, as I certainly am,
perhaps I cannot do better than to try to give you enough idea of our
modern industrial system to dissipate at least the impression that
there is any mystery about the process of its evolution. The Bostonians
of your day had the reputation of being great askers of questions, and
I am going to show my descent by asking you one to begin with. What
should you name as the most prominent feature of the labor troubles of
Why, the strikes, of course, I replied.
Exactly; but what made the strikes so formidable?
The great labor organizations.
And what was the motive of these great organizations?
The workmen claimed they had to organize to get their rights from
the big corporations, I replied.
That is just it, said Dr. Leete; the organization of labor and
the strikes were an effect, merely, of the concentration of capital in
greater masses than had ever been known before. Before this
concentration began, while as yet commerce and industry were conducted
by innumerable petty concerns with small capital, instead of a small
number of great concerns with vast capital, the individual workman was
relatively important and independent in his relations to the employer.
Moreover, when a little capital or a new idea was enough to start a man
in business for himself, workingmen were constantly becoming employers
and there was no hard and fast line between the two classes. Labor
unions were needless then, and general strikes out of the question. But
when the era of small concerns with small capital was succeeded by that
of the great aggregations of capital, all this was changed. The
individual laborer, who had been relatively important to the small
employer, was reduced to insignificance and powerlessness over against
the great corporation, while at the same time the way upward to the
grade of employer was closed to him. Self-defense drove him to union
with his fellows.
The records of the period show that the outcry against the
concentration of capital was furious. Men believed that it threatened
society with a form of tyranny more abhorrent than it had ever endured.
They believed that the great corporations were preparing for them the
yoke of a baser servitude than had ever been imposed on the race,
servitude not to men but to soulless machines incapable of any motive
but insatiable greed. Looking back, we cannot wonder at their
desperation, for certainly humanity was never confronted with a fate
more sordid and hideous than would have been the era of corporate
tyranny which they anticipated.
Meanwhile, without being in the smallest degree checked by the
clamor against it, the absorption of business by ever larger monopolies
continued. In the United States there was not, after the beginning of
the last quarter of the century, any opportunity whatever for
individual enterprise in any important field of industry, unless backed
by a great capital. During the last decade of the century, such small
businesses as still remained were fast-failing survivals of a past
epoch, or mere parasites on the great corporations, or else existed in
fields too small to attract the great capitalists. Small businesses, as
far as they still remained, were reduced to the condition of rats and
mice, living in holes and corners, and counting on evading notice for
the enjoyment of existence. The railroads had gone on combining till a
few great syndicates controlled every rail in the land. In
manufactories, every important staple was controlled by a syndicate.
These syndicates, pools, trusts, or whatever their name, fixed prices
and crushed all competition except when combinations as vast as
themselves arose. Then a struggle, resulting in a still greater
consolidation, ensued. The great city bazar crushed its country rivals
with branch stores, and in the city itself absorbed its smaller rivals
till the business of a whole quarter was concentrated under one roof,
with a hundred former proprietors of shops serving as clerks. Having no
business of his own to put his money in, the small capitalist, at the
same time that he took service under the corporation, found no other
investment for his money but its stocks and bonds, thus becoming doubly
dependent upon it.
The fact that the desperate popular opposition to the consolidation
of business in a few powerful hands had no effect to check it proves
that there must have been a strong economical reason for it. The small
capitalists, with their innumerable petty concerns, had in fact yielded
the field to the great aggregations of capital, because they belonged
to a day of small things and were totally incompetent to the demands of
an age of steam and telegraphs and the gigantic scale of its
enterprises. To restore the former order of things, even if possible,
would have involved returning to the day of stage-coaches. Oppressive
and intolerable as was the régime of the great consolidations of
capital, even its victims, while they cursed it, were forced to admit
the prodigious increase of efficiency which had been imparted to the
national industries, the vast economies effected by concentration of
management and unity of organization, and to confess that since the new
system had taken the place of the old the wealth of the world had
increased at a rate before undreamed of. To be sure this vast increase
had gone chiefly to make the rich richer, increasing the gap between
them and the poor; but the fact remained that, as a means merely of
producing wealth, capital had been proved efficient in proportion to
its consolidation. The restoration of the old system with the
subdivision of capital, if it were possible, might indeed bring back a
greater equality of conditions, with more individual dignity and
freedom, but it would be at the price of general poverty and the arrest
of material progress.
Was there, then, no way of commanding the services of the mighty
wealth-producing principle of consolidated capital without bowing down
to a plutocracy like that of Carthage? As soon as men began to ask
themselves these questions, they found the answer ready for them. The
movement toward the conduct of business by larger and larger
aggregations of capital, the tendency toward monopolies, which had been
so desperately and vainly resisted, was recognized at last, in its true
significance, as a process which only needed to complete its logical
evolution to open a golden future to humanity.
Early in the last century the evolution was completed by the final
consolidation of the entire capital of the nation. The industry and
commerce of the country, ceasing to be conducted by a set of
irresponsible corporations and syndicates of private persons at their
caprice and for their profit, were intrusted to a single syndicate
representing the people, to be conducted in the common interest for the
common profit. The nation, that is to say, organized as the one great
business corporation in which all other corporations were absorbed; it
became the one capitalist in the place of all other capitalists, the
sole employer, the final monopoly in which all previous and lesser
monopolies were swallowed up, a monopoly in the profits and economies
of which all citizens shared. The epoch of trusts had ended in The
Great Trust. In a word, the people of the United States concluded to
assume the conduct of their own business, just as one hundred odd years
before they had assumed the conduct of their own government, organizing
now for industrial purposes on precisely the same grounds that they had
then organized for political purposes. At last, strangely late in the
world's history, the obvious fact was perceived that no business is so
essentially the public business as the industry and commerce on which
the people's livelihood depends, and that to entrust it to private
persons to be managed for private profit is a folly similar in kind,
though vastly greater in magnitude, to that of surrendering the
functions of political government to kings and nobles to be conducted
for their personal glorification.
Such a stupendous change as you describe, said I, did not, of
course, take place without great bloodshed and terrible convulsions.
On the contrary, replied Dr. Leete, there was absolutely no
violence. The change had been long foreseen. Public opinion had become
fully ripe for it, and the whole mass of the people was behind it.
There was no more possibility of opposing it by force than by argument.
On the other hand the popular sentiment toward the great corporations
and those identified with them had ceased to be one of bitterness, as
they came to realize their necessity as a link, a transition phase, in
the evolution of the true industrial system. The most violent foes of
the great private monopolies were now forced to recognize how
invaluable and indispensable had been their office in educating the
people up to the point of assuming control of their own business. Fifty
years before, the consolidation of the industries of the country under
national control would have seemed a very daring experiment to the most
sanguine. But by a series of object lessons, seen and studied by all
men, the great corporations had taught the people an entirely new set
of ideas on this subject. They had seen for many years syndicates
handling revenues greater than those of states, and directing the
labors of hundreds of thousands of men with an efficiency and economy
unattainable in smaller operations. It had come to be recognized as an
axiom that the larger the business the simpler the principles that can
be applied to it; that, as the machine is truer than the hand, so the
system, which in a great concern does the work of the master's eye in a
small business, turns out more accurate results. Thus it came about
that, thanks to the corporations themselves, when it was proposed that
the nation should assume their functions, the suggestion implied
nothing which seemed impracticable even to the timid. To be sure it was
a step beyond any yet taken, a broader generalization, but the very
fact that the nation would be the sole corporation in the field would,
it was seen, relieve the undertaking of many difficulties with which
the partial monopolies had contended.
Dr. Leete ceased speaking, and I remained silent, endeavoring to
form some general conception of the changes in the arrangements of
society implied in the tremendous revolution which he had described.
Finally I said, The idea of such an extension of the functions of
government is, to say the least, rather overwhelming.
Extension! he repeated, where is the extension?
In my day, I replied, it was considered that the proper functions
of government, strictly speaking, were limited to keeping the peace and
defending the people against the public enemy, that is, to the military
and police powers.
And, in heaven's name, who are the public enemies? exclaimed Dr.
Leete. Are they France, England, Germany, or hunger, cold, and
nakedness? In your day governments were accustomed, on the slightest
international misunderstanding, to seize upon the bodies of citizens
and deliver them over by hundreds of thousands to death and mutilation,
wasting their treasures the while like water; and all this oftenest for
no imaginable profit to the victims. We have no wars now, and our
governments no war powers, but in order to protect every citizen
against hunger, cold, and nakedness, and provide for all his physical
and mental needs, the function is assumed of directing his industry for
a term of years. No, Mr. West, I am sure on reflection you will
perceive that it was in your age, not in ours, that the extension of
the functions of governments was extraordinary. Not even for the best
ends would men now allow their governments such powers as were then
used for the most maleficent.
Leaving comparisons aside, I said, the demagoguery and corruption
of our public men would have been considered, in my day, insuperable
objections to any assumption by government of the charge of the
national industries. We should have thought that no arrangement could
be worse than to entrust the politicians with control of the
wealth-producing machinery of the country. Its material interests were
quite too much the football of parties as it was.
No doubt you were right, rejoined Dr. Leete, but all that is
changed now. We have no parties or politicians, and as for demagoguery
and corruption, they are words having only an historical significance.
Human nature itself must have changed very much, I said.
Not at all, was Dr. Leete's reply, but the conditions of human
life have changed, and with them the motives of human action. The
organization of society with you was such that officials were under a
constant temptation to misuse their power for the private profit of
themselves or others. Under such circumstances it seems almost strange
that you dared entrust them with any of your affairs. Nowadays, on the
contrary, society is so constituted that there is absolutely no way in
which an official, however ill-disposed, could possibly make any profit
for himself or any one else by a misuse of his power. Let him be as bad
an official as you please, he cannot be a corrupt one. There is no
motive to be. The social system no longer offers a premium on
dishonesty. But these are matters which you can only understand as you
come, with time, to know us better.
But you have not yet told me how you have settled the labor
problem. It is the problem of capital which we have been discussing, I
said. After the nation had assumed conduct of the mills, machinery,
railroads, farms, mines, and capital in general of the country, the
labor question still remained. In assuming the responsibilities of
capital the nation had assumed the difficulties of the capitalist's
The moment the nation assumed the responsibilities of capital those
difficulties vanished, replied Dr. Leete. The national organization
of labor under one direction was the complete solution of what was, in
your day and under your system, justly regarded as the insoluble labor
problem. When the nation became the sole employer, all the citizens, by
virtue of their citizenship, became employees, to be distributed
according to the needs of industry.
That is, I suggested, you have simply applied the principle of
universal military service, as it was understood in our day, to the
Yes, said Dr. Leete, that was something which followed as a
matter of course as soon as the nation had become the sole capitalist.
The people were already accustomed to the idea that the obligation of
every citizen, not physically disabled, to contribute his military
services to the defense of the nation was equal and absolute. That it
was equally the duty of every citizen to contribute his quota of
industrial or intellectual services to the maintenance of the nation
was equally evident, though it was not until the nation became the
employer of labor that citizens were able to render this sort of
service with any pretense either of universality or equity. No
organization of labor was possible when the employing power was divided
among hundreds or thousands of individuals and corporations, between
which concert of any kind was neither desired, nor indeed feasible. It
constantly happened then that vast numbers who desired to labor could
find no opportunity, and on the other hand, those who desired to evade
a part or all of their debt could easily do so.
Service, now, I suppose, is compulsory upon all, I suggested.
It is rather a matter of course than of compulsion, replied Dr.
Leete. It is regarded as so absolutely natural and reasonable that the
idea of its being compulsory has ceased to be thought of. He would be
thought to be an incredibly contemptible person who should need
compulsion in such a case. Nevertheless, to speak of service being
compulsory would be a weak way to state its absolute inevitableness.
Our entire social order is so wholly based upon and deduced from it
that if it were conceivable that a man could escape it, he would be
left with no possible way to provide for his existence. He would have
excluded himself from the world, cut himself off from his kind, in a
word, committed suicide.
Is the term of service in this industrial army for life?
Oh, no; it both begins later and ends earlier than the average
working period in your day. Your workshops were filled with children
and old men, but we hold the period of youth sacred to education, and
the period of maturity, when the physical forces begin to flag, equally
sacred to ease and agreeable relaxation. The period of industrial
service is twenty-four years, beginning at the close of the course of
education at twenty-one and terminating at forty-five. After
forty-five, while discharged from labor, the citizen still remains
liable to special calls, in case of emergencies causing a sudden great
increase in the demand for labor, till he reaches the age of
fifty-five, but such calls are rarely, in fact almost never, made. The
fifteenth day of October of every year is what we call Muster Day,
because those who have reached the age of twenty-one are then mustered
into the industrial service, and at the same time those who, after
twenty-four years' service, have reached the age of forty-five, are
honorably mustered out. It is the great day of the year with us, whence
we reckon all other events, our Olympiad, save that it is annual.
It is after you have mustered your industrial army into service, I
said, that I should expect the chief difficulty to arise, for there
its analogy with a military army must cease. Soldiers have all the same
thing, and a very simple thing, to do, namely, to practice the manual
of arms, to march and stand guard. But the industrial army must learn
and follow two or three hundred diverse trades and avocations. What
administrative talent can be equal to determining wisely what trade or
business every individual in a great nation shall pursue?
The administration has nothing to do with determining that point.
Who does determine it, then? I asked.
Every man for himself in accordance with his natural aptitude, the
utmost pains being taken to enable him to find out what his natural
aptitude really is. The principle on which our industrial army is
organized is that a man's natural endowments, mental and physical,
determine what he can work at most profitably to the nation and most
satisfactorily to himself. While the obligation of service in some form
is not to be evaded, voluntary election, subject only to necessary
regulation, is depended on to determine the particular sort of service
every man is to render. As an individual's satisfaction during his term
of service depends on his having an occupation to his taste, parents
and teachers watch from early years for indications of special
aptitudes in children. A thorough study of the National industrial
system, with the history and rudiments of all the great trades, is an
essential part of our educational system. While manual training is not
allowed to encroach on the general intellectual culture to which our
schools are devoted, it is carried far enough to give our youth, in
addition to their theoretical knowledge of the national industries,
mechanical and agricultural, a certain familiarity with their tools and
methods. Our schools are constantly visiting our workshops, and often
are taken on long excursions to inspect particular industrial
enterprises. In your day a man was not ashamed to be grossly ignorant
of all trades except his own, but such ignorance would not be
consistent with our idea of placing every one in a position to select
intelligently the occupation for which he has most taste. Usually long
before he is mustered into service a young man has found out the
pursuit he wants to follow, has acquired a great deal of knowledge
about it, and is waiting impatiently the time when he can enlist in its
Surely, I said, it can hardly be that the number of volunteers
for any trade is exactly the number needed in that trade. It must be
generally either under or over the demand.
The supply of volunteers is always expected to fully equal the
demand, replied Dr. Leete. It is the business of the administration
to see that this is the case. The rate of volunteering for each trade
is closely watched. If there be a noticeably greater excess of
volunteers over men needed in any trade, it is inferred that the trade
offers greater attractions than others. On the other hand, if the
number of volunteers for a trade tends to drop below the demand, it is
inferred that it is thought more arduous. It is the business of the
administration to seek constantly to equalize the attractions of the
trades, so far as the conditions of labor in them are concerned, so
that all trades shall be equally attractive to persons having natural
tastes for them. This is done by making the hours of labor in different
trades to differ according to their arduousness. The lighter trades,
prosecuted under the most agreeable circumstances, have in this way the
longest hours, while an arduous trade, such as mining, has very short
hours. There is no theory, no a priori rule, by which the
respective attractiveness of industries is determined. The
administration, in taking burdens off one class of workers and adding
them to other classes, simply follows the fluctuations of opinion among
the workers themselves as indicated by the rate of volunteering. The
principle is that no man's work ought to be, on the whole, harder for
him than any other man's for him, the workers themselves to be the
judges. There are no limits to the application of this rule. If any
particular occupation is in itself so arduous or so oppressive that, in
order to induce volunteers, the day's work in it had to be reduced to
ten minutes, it would be done. If, even then, no man was willing to do
it, it would remain undone. But of course, in point of fact, a moderate
reduction in the hours of labor, or addition of other privileges,
suffices to secure all needed volunteers for any occupation necessary
to men. If, indeed, the unavoidable difficulties and dangers of such a
necessary pursuit were so great that no inducement of compensating
advantages would overcome men's repugnance to it, the administration
would only need to take it out of the common order of occupations by
declaring it 'extra hazardous,' and those who pursued it especially
worthy of the national gratitude, to be overrun with volunteers. Our
young men are very greedy of honor, and do not let slip such
opportunities. Of course you will see that dependence on the purely
voluntary choice of avocations involves the abolition in all of
anything like unhygienic conditions or special peril to life and limb.
Health and safety are conditions common to all industries. The nation
does not maim and slaughter its workmen by thousands, as did the
private capitalists and corporations of your day.
When there are more who want to enter a particular trade than there
is room for, how do you decide between the applicants? I inquired.
Preference is given to those who have acquired the most knowledge
of the trade they wish to follow. No man, however, who through
successive years remains persistent in his desire to show what he can
do at any particular trade, is in the end denied an opportunity.
Meanwhile, if a man cannot at first win entrance into the business he
prefers, he has usually one or more alternative preferences, pursuits
for which he has some degree of aptitude, although not the highest.
Every one, indeed, is expected to study his aptitudes so as to have not
only a first choice as to occupation, but a second or third, so that
if, either at the outset of his career or subsequently, owing to the
progress of invention or changes in demand, he is unable to follow his
first vocation, he can still find reasonably congenial employment. This
principle of secondary choices as to occupation is quite important in
our system. I should add, in reference to the counter-possibility of
some sudden failure of volunteers in a particular trade, or some sudden
necessity of an increased force, that the administration, while
depending on the voluntary system for filling up the trades as a rule,
holds always in reserve the power to call for special volunteers, or
draft any force needed from any quarter. Generally, however, all needs
of this sort can be met by details from the class of unskilled or
How is this class of common laborers recruited? I asked. Surely
nobody voluntarily enters that.
It is the grade to which all new recruits belong for the first
three years of their service. It is not till after this period, during
which he is assignable to any work at the discretion of his superiors,
that the young man is allowed to elect a special avocation. These three
years of stringent discipline none are exempt from, and very glad our
young men are to pass from this severe school into the comparative
liberty of the trades. If a man were so stupid as to have no choice as
to occupation, he would simply remain a common laborer; but such cases,
as you may suppose, are not common.
Having once elected and entered on a trade or occupation, I
remarked, I suppose he has to stick to it the rest of his life.
Not necessarily, replied Dr. Leete; while frequent and merely
capricious changes of occupation are not encouraged or even permitted,
every worker is allowed, of course, under certain regulations and in
accordance with the exigencies of the service, to volunteer for another
industry which he thinks would suit him better than his first choice.
In this case his application is received just as if he were
volunteering for the first time, and on the same terms. Not only this,
but a worker may likewise, under suitable regulations and not too
frequently, obtain a transfer to an establishment of the same industry
in another part of the country which for any reason he may prefer.
Under your system a discontented man could indeed leave his work at
will, but he left his means of support at the same time, and took his
chances as to future livelihood. We find that the number of men who
wish to abandon an accustomed occupation for a new one, and old friends
and associations for strange ones, is small. It is only the poorer sort
of workmen who desire to change even as frequently as our regulations
permit. Of course transfers or discharges, when health demands them,
are always given.
As an industrial system, I should think this might be extremely
efficient, I said, but I don't see that it makes any provision for
the professional classes, the men who serve the nation with brains
instead of hands. Of course you can't get along without the
brain-workers. How, then, are they selected from those who are to serve
as farmers and mechanics? That must require a very delicate sort of
sifting process, I should say.
So it does, replied Dr. Leete; the most delicate possible test is
needed here, and so we leave the question whether a man shall be a
brain or hand worker entirely to him to settle. At the end of the term
of three years as a common laborer, which every man must serve, it is
for him to choose, in accordance to his natural tastes, whether he will
fit himself for an art or profession, or be a farmer or mechanic. If he
feels that he can do better work with his brains than his muscles, he
finds every facility provided for testing the reality of his supposed
bent, of cultivating it, and if fit of pursuing it as his avocation.
The schools of technology, of medicine, of art, of music, of
histrionics, and of higher liberal learning are always open to
aspirants without condition.
Are not the schools flooded with young men whose only motive is to
Dr. Leete smiled a little grimly.
No one is at all likely to enter the professional schools for the
purpose of avoiding work, I assure you, he said. They are intended
for those with special aptitude for the branches they teach, and any
one without it would find it easier to do double hours at his trade
than try to keep up with the classes. Of course many honestly mistake
their vocation, and, finding themselves unequal to the requirements of
the schools, drop out and return to the industrial service; no
discredit attaches to such persons, for the public policy is to
encourage all to develop suspected talents which only actual tests can
prove the reality of. The professional and scientific schools of your
day depended on the patronage of their pupils for support, and the
practice appears to have been common of giving diplomas to unfit
persons, who afterwards found their way into the professions. Our
schools are national institutions, and to have passed their tests is a
proof of special abilities not to be questioned.
This opportunity for a professional training, the doctor
continued, remains open to every man till the age of thirty is
reached, after which students are not received, as there would remain
too brief a period before the age of discharge in which to serve the
nation in their professions. In your day young men had to choose their
professions very young, and therefore, in a large proportion of
instances, wholly mistook their vocations. It is recognized nowadays
that the natural aptitudes of some are later than those of others in
developing, and therefore, while the choice of profession may be made
as early as twenty-four, it remains open for six years longer.
A question which had a dozen times before been on my lips now found
utterance, a question which touched upon what, in my time, had been
regarded the most vital difficulty in the way of any final settlement
of the industrial problem. It is an extraordinary thing, I said,
that you should not yet have said a word about the method of adjusting
wages. Since the nation is the sole employer, the government must fix
the rate of wages and determine just how much everybody shall earn,
from the doctors to the diggers. All I can say is, that this plan would
never have worked with us, and I don't see how it can now unless human
nature has changed. In my day, nobody was satisfied with his wages or
salary. Even if he felt he received enough, he was sure his neighbor
had too much, which was as bad. If the universal discontent on this
subject, instead of being dissipated in curses and strikes directed
against innumerable employers, could have been concentrated upon one,
and that the government, the strongest ever devised would not have seen
two pay days.
Dr. Leete laughed heartily.
Very true, very true, he said, a general strike would most
probably have followed the first pay day, and a strike directed against
a government is a revolution.
How, then, do you avoid a revolution every pay day? I demanded.
Has some prodigious philosopher devised a new system of calculus
satisfactory to all for determining the exact and comparative value of
all sorts of service, whether by brawn or brain, by hand or voice, by
ear or eye? Or has human nature itself changed, so that no man looks
upon his own things but 'every man on the things of his neighbor?' One
or the other of these events must be the explanation.
Neither one nor the other, however, is, was my host's laughing
response. And now, Mr. West, he continued, you must remember that
you are my patient as well as my guest, and permit me to prescribe
sleep for you before we have any more conversation. It is after three
The prescription is, no doubt, a wise one, I said; I only hope it
can be filled.
I will see to that, the doctor replied, and he did, for he gave me
a wineglass of something or other which sent me to sleep as soon as my
head touched the pillow.
When I awoke I felt greatly refreshed, and lay a considerable time
in a dozing state, enjoying the sensation of bodily comfort. The
experiences of the day previous, my waking to find myself in the year
2000, the sight of the new Boston, my host and his family, and the
wonderful things I had heard, were a blank in my memory. I thought I
was in my bed-chamber at home, and the half-dreaming, half-waking
fancies which passed before my mind related to the incidents and
experiences of my former life. Dreamily I reviewed the incidents of
Decoration Day, my trip in company with Edith and her parents to Mount
Auburn, and my dining with them on our return to the city. I recalled
how extremely well Edith had looked, and from that fell to thinking of
our marriage; but scarcely had my imagination begun to develop this
delightful theme than my waking dream was cut short by the recollection
of the letter I had received the night before from the builder
announcing that the new strikes might postpone indefinitely the
completion of the new house. The chagrin which this recollection
brought with it effectually roused me. I remembered that I had an
appointment with the builder at eleven o'clock, to discuss the strike,
and opening my eyes, looked up at the clock at the foot of my bed to
see what time it was. But no clock met my glance, and what was more, I
instantly perceived that I was not in my room. Starting up on my couch,
I stared wildly round the strange apartment.
I think it must have been many seconds that I sat up thus in bed
staring about, without being able to regain the clew to my personal
identity. I was no more able to distinguish myself from pure being
during those moments than we may suppose a soul in the rough to be
before it has received the ear-marks, the individualizing touches which
make it a person. Strange that the sense of this inability should be
such anguish! but so we are constituted. There are no words for the
mental torture I endured during this helpless, eyeless groping for
myself in a boundless void. No other experience of the mind gives
probably anything like the sense of absolute intellectual arrest from
the loss of a mental fulcrum, a starting point of thought, which comes
during such a momentary obscuration of the sense of one's identity. I
trust I may never know what it is again.
I do not know how long this condition had lasted,it seemed an
interminable time,when, like a flash, the recollection of everything
came back to me. I remembered who and where I was, and how I had come
here, and that these scenes as of the life of yesterday which had been
passing before my mind concerned a generation long, long ago mouldered
to dust. Leaping from bed, I stood in the middle of the room clasping
my temples with all my might between my hands to keep them from
bursting. Then I fell prone on the couch, and, burying my face in the
pillow, lay with out motion. The reaction which was inevitable, from
the mental elation, the fever of the intellect that had been the first
effect of my tremendous experience, had arrived. The emotional crisis
which had awaited the full realization of my actual position, and all
that it implied, was upon me, and with set teeth and laboring chest,
gripping the bedstead with frenzied strength, I lay there and fought
for my sanity. In my mind, all had broken loose, habits of feeling,
associations of thought, ideas of persons and things, all had dissolved
and lost coherence and were seething together in apparently
irretrievable chaos. There were no rallying points, nothing was left
stable. There only remained the will, and was any human will strong
enough to say to such a weltering sea Peace, be still? I dared not
think. Every effort to reason upon what had befallen me, and realize
what it implied, set up an intolerable swimming of the brain. The idea
that I was two persons, that my identity was double, began to fascinate
me with its simple solution of my experience.
I knew that I was on the verge of losing my mental balance. If I lay
there thinking, I was doomed. Diversion of some sort I must have, at
least the diversion of physical exertion. I sprang up, and, hastily
dressing, opened the door of my room and went down-stairs. The hour was
very early, it being not yet fairly light, and I found no one in the
lower part of the house. There was a hat in the hall, and, opening the
front door, which was fastened with a slightness indicating that
burglary was not among the perils of the modern Boston, I found myself
on the street. For two hours I walked or ran through the streets of the
city, visiting most quarters of the peninsular part of the town. None
but an antiquarian who knows something of the contrast which the Boston
of to-day offers to the Boston of the nineteenth century can begin to
appreciate what a series of bewildering surprises I underwent during
that time. Viewed from the house-top the day before, the city had
indeed appeared strange to me, but that was only in its general aspect.
How complete the change had been I first realized now that I walked the
streets. The few old landmarks which still remained only intensified
this effect, for without them I might have imagined myself in a foreign
town. A man may leave his native city in childhood, and return fifty
years later, perhaps, to find it transformed in many features. He is
astonished, but he is not bewildered. He is aware of a great lapse of
time, and of changes likewise occurring in himself meanwhile. He but
dimly recalls the city as he knew it when a child. But remember that
there was no sense of any lapse of time with me. So far as my
consciousness was concerned, it was but yesterday, but a few hours,
since I had walked these streets in which scarcely a feature had
escaped a complete metamorphosis. The mental image of the old city was
so fresh and strong that it did not yield to the impression of the
actual city, but contended with it, so that it was first one and then
the other which seemed the more unreal. There was nothing I saw which
was not blurred in this way, like the faces of a composite photograph.
Finally, I stood again at the door of the house from which I had
come out. My feet must have instinctively brought me back to the site
of my old home, for I had no clear idea of returning thither. It was no
more homelike to me than any other spot in this city of a strange
generation, nor were its inmates less utterly and necessarily strangers
than all the other men and women now on the earth. Had the door of the
house been locked, I should have been reminded by its resistance that I
had no object in entering, and turned away, but it yielded to my hand,
and advancing with uncertain steps through the hall, I entered one of
the apartments opening from it. Throwing myself into a chair, I covered
my burning eyeballs with my hands to shut out the horror of
strangeness. My mental confusion was so intense as to produce actual
nausea. The anguish of those moments, during which my brain seemed
melting, or the abjectness of my sense of helplessness, how can I
describe? In my despair I groaned aloud. I began to feel that unless
some help should come I was about to lose my mind. And just then it did
come. I heard the rustle of drapery, and looked up. Edith Leete was
standing before me. Her beautiful face was full of the most poignant
Oh, what is the matter, Mr. West? she said. I was here when you
came in. I saw how dreadfully distressed you looked, and when I heard
you groan, I could not keep silent. What has happened to you? Where
have you been? Can't I do something for you?
Perhaps she involuntarily held out her hands in a gesture of
compassion as she spoke. At any rate I had caught them in my own and
was clinging to them with an impulse as instinctive as that which
prompts the drowning man to seize upon and cling to the rope which is
thrown him as he sinks for the last time. As I looked up into her
compassionate face and her eyes moist with pity, my brain ceased to
whirl. The tender human sympathy which thrilled in the soft pressure of
her fingers had brought me the support I needed. Its effect to calm and
soothe was like that of some wonder-working elixir.
God bless you, I said, after a few moments. He must have sent you
to me just now. I think I was in danger of going crazy if you had not
come. At this the tears came into her eyes.
Oh, Mr. West! she cried. How heartless you must have thought us!
How could we leave you to yourself so long! But it is over now, is it
not? You are better, surely.
Yes, I said, thanks to you. If you will not go away quite yet, I
shall be myself soon.
Indeed I will not go away, she said, with a little quiver of her
face, more expressive of her sympathy than a volume of words. You must
not think us so heartless as we seemed in leaving you so by yourself. I
scarcely slept last night, for thinking how strange your waking would
be this morning; but father said you would sleep till late. He said
that it would be better not to show too much sympathy with you at
first, but to try to divert your thoughts and make you feel that you
were among friends.
You have indeed made me feel that, I answered. But you see it is
a good deal of a jolt to drop a hundred years, and although I did not
seem to feel it so much last night, I have had very odd sensations this
morning. While I held her hands and kept my eyes on her face, I could
already even jest a little at my plight.
No one thought of such a thing as your going out in the city alone
so early in the morning, she went on. Oh, Mr. West, where have you
Then I told her of my morning's experience, from my first waking
till the moment I had looked up to see her before me, just as I have
told it here. She was overcome by distressful pity during the recital,
and, though I had released one of her hands, did not try to take from
me the other, seeing, no doubt, how much good it did me to hold it. I
can think a little what this feeling must been like, she said. It
must have been terrible. And to think you were left alone to struggle
with it! Can you ever forgive us?
But it is gone now. You have driven it quite away for the present,
You will not let it return again, she queried anxiously.
I can't quite say that, I replied. It might be too early to say
that, considering how strange everything will still be to me.
But you will not try to contend with it alone again, at least, she
persisted. Promise that you will come to us, and let us sympathize
with you, and try to help you. Perhaps we can't do much, but it will
surely be better than to try to bear such feelings alone.
I will come to you if you will let me, I said.
Oh yes, yes, I beg you will, she said eagerly. I would do
anything to help you that I could.
All you need do is to be sorry for me, as you seem to be now, I
It is understood, then, she said, smiling with wet eyes, that you
are to come and tell me next time, and not run all over Boston among
This assumption that we were not strangers seemed scarcely strange,
so near within these few minutes had my trouble and her sympathetic
tears brought us.
I will promise, when you come to me, she added, with an expression
of charming archness, passing, as she continued, into one of
enthusiasm, to seem as sorry for you as you wish, but you must not for
a moment suppose that I am really sorry for you at all, or that I think
you will long be sorry for yourself. I know, as well as I know that the
world now is heaven compared with what it was in your day, that the
only feeling you will have after a little while will be one of
thankfulness to God that your life in that age was so strangely cut
off, to be returned to you in this.
Dr. and Mrs. Leete were evidently not a little startled to learn,
when they presently appeared, that I had been all over the city alone
that morning, and it was apparent that they were agreeably surprised to
see that I seemed so little agitated after the experience.
Your stroll could scarcely have failed to be a very interesting
one, said Mrs. Leete, as we sat down to table soon after. You must
have seen a good many new things.
I saw very little that was not new, I replied. But I think what
surprised me as much as anything was not to find any stores on
Washington Street, or any banks on State. What have you done with the
merchants and bankers? Hung them all, perhaps, as the anarchists wanted
to do in my day?
Not so bad as that, replied Dr. Leete. We have simply dispensed
with them. Their functions are obsolete in the modern world.
Who sells you things when you want to buy them? I inquired.
There is neither selling nor buying nowadays; the distribution of
goods is effected in another way. As to the bankers, having no money we
have no use for those gentry.
Miss Leete, said I, turning to Edith, I am afraid that your
father is making sport of me. I don't blame him, for the temptation my
innocence offers must be extraordinary. But, really, there are limits
to my credulity as to possible alterations in the social system.
Father has no idea of jesting, I am sure, she replied, with a
The conversation took another turn then, the point of ladies'
fashions in the nineteenth century being raised, if I remember rightly,
by Mrs. Leete, and it was not till after breakfast, when the doctor had
invited me up to the house-top, which appeared to be a favorite resort
of his, that he recurred to the subject.
You were surprised, he said, at my saying that we got along
without money or trade, but a moment's reflection will show that trade
existed and money was needed in your day simply because the business of
production was left in private hands, and that, consequently, they are
I do not at once see how that follows, I replied.
It is very simple, said Dr. Leete. When innumerable different and
independent persons produced the various things needful to life and
comfort, endless exchanges between individuals were requisite in order
that they might supply themselves with what they desired. These
exchanges constituted trade, and money was essential as their medium.
But as soon as the nation became the sole producer of all sorts of
commodities, there was no need of exchanges between individuals that
they might get what they required. Everything was procurable from one
source, and nothing could be procured anywhere else. A system of direct
distribution from the national storehouses took the place of trade, and
for this money was unnecessary.
How is this distribution managed? I asked.
On the simplest possible plan, replied Dr. Leete. A credit
corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation is given
to every citizen on the public books at the beginning of each year, and
a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public
storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he
desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the
necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and
consumers. Perhaps you would like to see what our credit-cards are
You observe, he pursued as I was curiously examining the piece of
pasteboard he gave me, that this card is issued for a certain number
of dollars. We have kept the old word, but not the substance. The term,
as we use it, answers to no real thing, but merely serves as an
algebraical symbol for comparing the values of products with one
another. For this purpose they are all priced in dollars and cents,
just as in your day. The value of what I procure on this card is
checked off by the clerk, who pricks out of these tiers of squares the
price of what I order.
If you wanted to buy something of your neighbor, could you transfer
part of your credit to him as consideration? I inquired.
In the first place, replied Dr. Leete, our neighbors have nothing
to sell us, but in any event our credit would not be transferable,
being strictly personal. Before the nation could even think of honoring
any such transfer as you speak of, it would be bound to inquire into
all the circumstances of the transaction, so as to be able to guarantee
its absolute equity. It would have been reason enough, had there been
no other, for abolishing money, that its possession was no indication
of rightful title to it. In the hands of the man who had stolen it or
murdered for it, it was as good as in those which had earned it by
industry. People nowadays interchange gifts and favors out of
friendship, but buying and selling is considered absolutely
inconsistent with the mutual benevolence and disinterestedness which
should prevail between citizens and the sense of community of interest
which supports our social system. According to our ideas, buying and
selling is essentially anti-social in all its tendencies. It is an
education in self-seeking at the expense of others, and no society
whose citizens are trained in such a school can possibly rise above a
very low grade of civilization.
What if you have to spend more than your card in any one year? I
The provision is so ample that we are more likely not to spend it
all, replied Dr. Leete. But if extraordinary expenses should exhaust
it, we can obtain a limited advance on the next year's credit, though
this practice is not encouraged, and a heavy discount is charged to
check it. Of course if a man showed himself a reckless spendthrift he
would receive his allowance monthly or weekly instead of yearly, or if
necessary not be permitted to handle it all.
If you don't spend your allowance, I suppose it accumulates?
That is also permitted to a certain extent when a special outlay is
anticipated. But unless notice to the contrary is given, it is presumed
that the citizen who does not fully expend his credit did not have
occasion to do so, and the balance is turned into the general surplus.
Such a system does not encourage saving habits on the part of
citizens, I said.
It is not intended to, was the reply. The nation is rich, and
does not wish the people to deprive themselves of any good thing. In
your day, men were bound to lay up goods and money against coming
failure of the means of support and for their children. This necessity
made parsimony a virtue. But now it would have no such laudable object,
and, having lost its utility, it has ceased to be regarded as a virtue.
No man any more has any care for the morrow, either for himself or his
children, for the nation guarantees the nurture, education, and
comfortable maintenance of every citizen from the cradle to the grave.
That is a sweeping guarantee! I said. What certainty can there be
that the value of a man's labor will recompense the nation for its
outlay on him? On the whole, society may be able to support all its
members, but some must earn less than enough for their support, and
others more; and that brings us back once more to the wages question,
on which you have hitherto said nothing. It was at just this point, if
you remember, that our talk ended last evening; and I say again, as I
did then, that here I should suppose a national industrial system like
yours would find its main difficulty. How, I ask once more, can you
adjust satisfactorily the comparative wages or remuneration of the
multitude of avocations, so unlike and so incommensurable, which are
necessary for the service of society? In our day the market rate
determined the price of labor of all sorts, as well as of goods. The
employer paid as little as he could, and the worker got as much. It was
not a pretty system ethically, I admit; but it did, at least, furnish
us a rough and ready formula for settling a question which must be
settled ten thousand times a day if the world was ever going to get
forward. There seemed to us no other practicable way of doing it.
Yes, replied Dr. Leete, it was the only practicable way under a
system which made the interests of every individual antagonistic to
those of every other; but it would have been a pity if humanity could
never have devised a better plan, for yours was simply the application
to the mutual relations of men of the devil's maxim, 'Your necessity is
my opportunity.' The reward of any service depended not upon its
difficulty, danger, or hardship, for throughout the world it seems that
the most perilous, severe, and repulsive labor was done by the worst
paid classes; but solely upon the strait of those who needed the
All that is conceded, I said. But, with all its defects, the plan
of settling prices by the market rate was a practical plan; and I
cannot conceive what satisfactory substitute you can have devised for
it. The government being the only possible employer, there is of course
no labor market or market rate. Wages of all sorts must be arbitrarily
fixed by the government. I cannot imagine a more complex and delicate
function than that must be, or one, however performed, more certain to
breed universal dissatisfaction.
I beg your pardon, replied Dr. Leete, but I think you exaggerate
the difficulty. Suppose a board of fairly sensible men were charged
with settling the wages for all sorts of trades under a system which,
like ours, guaranteed employment to all, while permitting the choice of
avocations. Don't you see that, however unsatisfactory the first
adjustment might be, the mistakes would soon correct themselves? The
favored trades would have too many volunteers, and those discriminated
against would lack them till the errors were set right. But this is
aside from the purpose, for, though this plan would, I fancy, be
practicable enough, it is no part of our system.
How, then, do you regulate wages? I once more asked.
Dr. Leete did not reply till after several moments of meditative
silence. I know, of course, he finally said, enough of the old order
of things to understand just what you mean by that question; and yet
the present order is so utterly different at this point that I am a
little at loss how to answer you best. You ask me how we regulate
wages; I can only reply that there is no idea in the modern social
economy which at all corresponds with what was meant by wages in your
I suppose you mean that you have no money to pay wages in, said I.
But the credit given the worker at the government storehouse answers
to his wages with us. How is the amount of the credit given
respectively to the workers in different lines determined? By what
title does the individual claim his particular share? What is the basis
His title, replied Dr. Leete, is his humanity. The basis of his
claim is the fact that he is a man.
The fact that he is a man! I repeated, incredulously. Do you
possibly mean that all have the same share?
The readers of this book never having practically known any other
arrangement, or perhaps very carefully considered the historical
accounts of former epochs in which a very different system prevailed,
cannot be expected to appreciate the stupor of amazement into which Dr.
Leete's simple statement plunged me.
You see, he said, smiling, that it is not merely that we have no
money to pay wages in, but, as I said, we have nothing at all answering
to your idea of wages.
By this time I had pulled myself together sufficiently to voice some
of the criticisms which, man of the nineteenth century as I was, came
uppermost in my mind, upon this to me astounding arrangement. Some men
do twice the work of others! I exclaimed. Are the clever workmen
content with a plan that ranks them with the indifferent?
We leave no possible ground for any complaint of injustice,
replied Dr. Leete, by requiring precisely the same measure of service
How can you do that, I should like to know, when no two men's
powers are the same?
Nothing could be simpler, was Dr. Leete's reply. We require of
each that he shall make the same effort; that is, we demand of him the
best service it is in his power to give.
And supposing all do the best they can, I answered, the amount of
the product resulting is twice greater from one man than from another.
Very true, replied Dr. Leete; but the amount of the resulting
product has nothing whatever to do with the question, which is one of
desert. Desert is a moral question, and the amount of the product a
material quantity. It would be an extraordinary sort of logic which
should try to determine a moral question by a material standard. The
amount of the effort alone is pertinent to the question of desert. All
men who do their best, do the same. A man's endowments, however
godlike, merely fix the measure of his duty. The man of great
endowments who does not do all he might, though he may do more than a
man of small endowments who does his best, is deemed a less deserving
worker than the latter, and dies a debtor to his fellows. The Creator
sets men's tasks for them by the faculties he gives them; we simply
exact their fulfillment.
No doubt that is very fine philosophy, I said; nevertheless it
seems hard that the man who produces twice as much as another, even if
both do their best, should have only the same share.
Does it, indeed, seem so to you? responded Dr. Leete. Now, do you
know, that seems very curious to me? The way it strikes people nowadays
is, that a man who can produce twice as much as another with the same
effort, instead of being rewarded for doing so, ought to be punished if
he does not do so. In the nineteenth century, when a horse pulled a
heavier load than a goat, I suppose you rewarded him. Now, we should
have whipped him soundly if he had not, on the ground that, being much
stronger, he ought to. It is singular how ethical standards change.
The doctor said this with such a twinkle in his eye that I was obliged
I suppose, I said, that the real reason that we rewarded men for
their endowments, while we considered those of horses and goats merely
as fixing the service to be severally required of them, was that the
animals, not being reasoning beings, naturally did the best they could,
whereas men could only be induced to do so by rewarding them according
to the amount of their product. That brings me to ask why, unless human
nature has mightily changed in a hundred years, you are not under the
We are, replied Dr. Leete. I don't think there has been any
change in human nature in that respect since your day. It is still so
constituted that special incentives in the form of prizes, and
advantages to be gained, are requisite to call out the best endeavors
of the average man in any direction.
But what inducement, I asked, can a man have to put forth his
best endeavors when, however much or little he accomplishes, his income
remains the same? High characters may be moved by devotion to the
common welfare under such a system, but does not the average man tend
to rest back on his oar, reasoning that it is of no use to make a
special effort, since the effort will not increase his income, nor its
withholding diminish it?
Does it then really seem to you, answered my companion, that
human nature is insensible to any motives save fear of want and love of
luxury, that you should expect security and equality of livelihood to
leave them without possible incentives to effort? Your contemporaries
did not really think so, though they might fancy they did. When it was
a question of the grandest class of efforts, the most absolute
self-devotion, they depended on quite other incentives. Not higher
wages, but honor and the hope of men's gratitude, patriotism and the
inspiration of duty, were the motives which they set before their
soldiers when it was a question of dying for the nation, and never was
there an age of the world when those motives did not call out what is
best and noblest in men. And not only this, but when you come to
analyze the love of money which was the general impulse to effort in
your day, you find that the dread of want and desire of luxury was but
one of several motives which the pursuit of money represented; the
others, and with many the more influential, being desire of power, of
social position, and reputation for ability and success. So you see
that though we have abolished poverty and the fear of it, and
inordinate luxury with the hope of it, we have not touched the greater
part of the motives which underlay the love of money in former times,
or any of those which prompted the supremer sorts of effort. The
coarser motives, which no longer move us, have been replaced by higher
motives wholly unknown to the mere wage earners of your age. Now that
industry of whatever sort is no longer self-service, but service of the
nation, patriotism, passion for humanity, impel the worker as in your
day they did the soldier. The army of industry is an army, not alone by
virtue of its perfect organization, but by reason also of the ardor of
self-devotion which animates its members.
But as you used to supplement the motives of patriotism with the
love of glory, in order to stimulate the valor of your soldiers, so do
we. Based as our industrial system is on the principle of requiring the
same unit of effort from every man, that is, the best he can do, you
will see that the means by which we spur the workers to do their best
must be a very essential part of our scheme. With us, diligence in the
national service is the sole and certain way to public repute, social
distinction, and official power. The value of a man's services to
society fixes his rank in it. Compared with the effect of our social
arrangements in impelling men to be zealous in business, we deem the
object-lessons of biting poverty and wanton luxury on which you
depended a device as weak and uncertain as it was barbaric. The lust of
honor even in your sordid day notoriously impelled men to more
desperate effort than the love of money could.
I should be extremely interested, I said, to learn something of
what these social arrangements are.
The scheme in its details, replied the doctor, is of course very
elaborate, for it underlies the entire organization of our industrial
army; but a few words will give you a general idea of it.
At this moment our talk was charmingly interrupted by the emergence
upon the aerial platform where we sat of Edith Leete. She was dressed
for the street, and had come to speak to her father about some
commission she was to do for him.
By the way, Edith, he exclaimed, as she was about to leave us to
ourselves, I wonder if Mr. West would not be interested in visiting
the store with you? I have been telling him something about our system
of distribution, and perhaps he might like to see it in practical
My daughter, he added, turning to me, is an indefatigable
shopper, and can tell you more about the stores than I can.
The proposition was naturally very agreeable to me, and Edith being
good enough to say that she should be glad to have my company, we left
the house together.
If I am going to explain our way of shopping to you, said my
companion, as we walked along the street, you must explain your way to
me. I have never been able to understand it from all I have read on the
subject. For example, when you had such a vast number of shops, each
with its different assortment, how could a lady ever settle upon any
purchase till she had visited all the shops? for, until she had, she
could not know what there was to choose from.
It was as you suppose; that was the only way she could know, I
Father calls me an indefatigable shopper, but I should soon be a
very fatigued one if I had to do as they did, was Edith's laughing
The loss of time in going from shop to shop was indeed a waste
which the busy bitterly complained of, I said; but as for the ladies
of the idle class, though they complained also, I think the system was
really a godsend by furnishing a device to kill time.
But say there were a thousand shops in a city, hundreds, perhaps,
of the same sort, how could even the idlest find time to make their
They really could not visit all, of course, I replied. Those who
did a great deal of buying, learned in time where they might expect to
find what they wanted. This class had made a science of the specialties
of the shops, and bought at advantage, always getting the most and best
for the least money. It required, however, long experience to acquire
this knowledge. Those who were too busy, or bought too little to gain
it, took their chances and were generally unfortunate, getting the
least and worst for the most money. It was the merest chance if persons
not experienced in shopping received the value of their money.
But why did you put up with such a shockingly inconvenient
arrangement when you saw its faults so plainly? Edith asked me.
It was like all our social arrangements, I replied. You can see
their faults scarcely more plainly than we did, but we saw no remedy
Here we are at the store of our ward, said Edith, as we turned in
at the great portal of one of the magnificent public buildings I had
observed in my morning walk. There was nothing in the exterior aspect
of the edifice to suggest a store to a representative of the nineteenth
century. There was no display of goods in the great windows, or any
device to advertise wares, or attract custom. Nor was there any sort of
sign or legend on the front of the building to indicate the character
of the business carried on there; but instead, above the portal,
standing out from the front of the building, a majestic life-size group
of statuary, the central figure of which was a female ideal of Plenty,
with her cornucopia. Judging from the composition of the throng passing
in and out, about the same proportion of the sexes among shoppers
obtained as in the nineteenth century. As we entered, Edith said that
there was one of these great distributing establishments in each ward
of the city, so that no residence was more than five or ten minutes'
walk from one of them. It was the first interior of a twentieth-century
public building that I had ever beheld, and the spectacle naturally
impressed me deeply. I was in a vast hall full of light, received not
alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome, the point of
which was a hundred feet above. Beneath it, in the centre of the hall,
a magnificent fountain played, cooling the atmosphere to a delicious
freshness with its spray. The walls and ceiling were frescoed in mellow
tints, calculated to soften without absorbing the light which flooded
the interior. Around the fountain was a space occupied with chairs and
sofas, on which many persons were seated conversing. Legends on the
walls all about the hall indicated to what classes of commodities the
counters below were devoted. Edith directed her steps towards one of
these, where samples of muslin of a bewildering variety were displayed,
and proceeded to inspect them.
Where is the clerk? I asked, for there was no one behind the
counter, and no one seemed coming to attend to the customer.
I have no need of the clerk yet, said Edith; I have not made my
It was the principal business of clerks to help people to make
their selections in my day, I replied.
What! To tell people what they wanted?
Yes; and oftener to induce them to buy what they didn't want.
But did not ladies find that very impertinent? Edith asked,
wonderingly. What concern could it possibly be to the clerks whether
people bought or not?
It was their sole concern, I answered. They were hired for the
purpose of getting rid of the goods, and were expected to do their
utmost, short of the use of force, to compass that end.
Ah, yes! How stupid I am to forget! said Edith. The storekeeper
and his clerks depended for their livelihood on selling the goods in
your day. Of course that is all different now. The goods are the
nation's. They are here for those who want them, and it is the business
of the clerks to wait on people and take their orders; but it is not
the interest of the clerk or the nation to dispose of a yard or a pound
of anything to anybody who does not want it. She smiled as she added,
How exceedingly odd it must have seemed to have clerks trying to
induce one to take what one did not want, or was doubtful about!
But even a twentieth-century clerk might make himself useful in
giving you information about the goods, though he did not tease you to
buy them, I suggested.
No, said Edith, that is not the business of the clerk. These
printed cards, for which the government authorities are responsible,
give us all the information we can possibly need.
I saw then that there was fastened to each sample a card containing
in succinct form a complete statement of the make and materials of the
goods and all its qualities, as well as price, leaving absolutely no
point to hang a question on.
The clerk has, then, nothing to say about the goods he sells? I
Nothing at all. It is not necessary that he should know or profess
to know anything about them. Courtesy and accuracy in taking orders are
all that are required of him.
What a prodigious amount of lying that simple arrangement saves! I
Do you mean that all the clerks misrepresented their goods in your
day? Edith asked.
God forbid that I should say so! I replied, for there were many
who did not, and they were entitled to especial credit, for when one's
livelihood and that of his wife and babies depended on the amount of
goods he could dispose of, the temptation to deceive the customeror
let him deceive himselfwas wellnigh overwhelming. But, Miss Leete, I
am distracting you from your task with my talk.
Not at all. I have made my selections. With that she touched a
button, and in a moment a clerk appeared. He took down her order on a
tablet with a pencil which made two copies, of which he gave one to
her, and enclosing the counterpart in a small receptacle, dropped it
into a transmitting tube.
The duplicate of the order, said Edith as she turned away from the
counter, after the clerk had punched the value of her purchase out of
the credit card she gave him, is given to the purchaser, so that any
mistakes in filling it can be easily traced and rectified.
You were very quick about your selections, I said. May I ask how
you knew that you might not have found something to suit you better in
some of the other stores? But probably you are required to buy in your
Oh, no, she replied. We buy where we please, though naturally
most often near home. But I should have gained nothing by visiting
other stores. The assortment in all is exactly the same, representing
as it does in each case samples of all the varieties produced or
imported by the United States. That is why one can decide quickly, and
never need visit two stores.
And is this merely a sample store? I see no clerks cutting off
goods or marking bundles.
All our stores are sample stores, except as to a few classes of
articles. The goods, with these exceptions, are all at the great
central warehouse of the city, to which they are shipped directly from
the producers. We order from the sample and the printed statement of
texture, make, and qualities. The orders are sent to the warehouse, and
the goods distributed from there.
That must be a tremendous saving of handling, I said. By our
system, the manufacturer sold to the wholesaler, the wholesaler to the
retailer, and the retailer to the consumer, and the goods had to be
handled each time. You avoid one handling of the goods, and eliminate
the retailer altogether, with his big profit and the army of clerks it
goes to support. Why, Miss Leete, this store is merely the order
department of a wholesale house, with no more than a wholesaler's
complement of clerks. Under our system of handling the goods,
persuading the customer to buy them, cutting them off, and packing
them, ten clerks would not do what one does here. The saving must be
I suppose so, said Edith, but of course we have never known any
other way. But, Mr. West, you must not fail to ask father to take you
to the central warehouse some day, where they receive the orders from
the different sample houses all over the city and parcel out and send
the goods to their destinations. He took me there not long ago, and it
was a wonderful sight. The system is certainly perfect; for example,
over yonder in that sort of cage is the dispatching clerk. The orders,
as they are taken by the different departments in the store, are sent
by transmitters to him. His assistants sort them and enclose each class
in a carrier-box by itself. The dispatching clerk has a dozen pneumatic
transmitters before him answering to the general classes of goods, each
communicating with the corresponding department at the warehouse. He
drops the box of orders into the tube it calls for, and in a few
moments later it drops on the proper desk in the warehouse, together
with all the orders of the same sort from the other sample stores. The
orders are read off, recorded, and sent to be filled, like lightning.
The filling I thought the most interesting part. Bales of cloth are
placed on spindles and turned by machinery, and the cutter, who also
has a machine, works right through one bale after another till
exhausted, when another man takes his place; and it is the same with
those who fill the orders in any other staple. The packages are then
delivered by larger tubes to the city districts, and thence distributed
to the houses. You may understand how quickly it is all done when I
tell you that my order will probably be at home sooner than I could
have carried it from here.
How do you manage in the thinly settled rural districts? I asked.
The system is the same, Edith explained; the village sample shops
are connected by transmitters with the central county warehouse, which
may be twenty miles away. The transmission is so swift, though, that
the time lost on the way is trifling. But, to save expense, in many
counties one set of tubes connect several villages with the warehouse,
and then there is time lost waiting for one another. Sometimes it is
two or three hours before goods ordered are received. It was so where I
was staying last summer, and I found it quite inconvenient.
There must be many other respects also, no doubt, in which the
country stores are inferior to the city stores, I suggested.
No, Edith answered, they are otherwise precisely as good. The
sample shop of the smallest village, just like this one, gives you your
choice of all the varieties of goods the nation has, for the county
warehouse draws on the same source as the city warehouse.
As we walked home I commented on the great variety in the size and
cost of the houses. How is it, I asked, that this difference is
consistent with the fact that all citizens have the same income?
Because, Edith explained, although the income is the same,
personal taste determines how the individual shall spend it. Some like
fine horses; others, like myself, prefer pretty clothes; and still
others want an elaborate table. The rents which the nation receives for
these houses vary, according to size, elegance, and location, so that
everybody can find something to suit. The larger houses are usually
occupied by large families, in which there are several to contribute to
the rent; while small families, like ours, find smaller houses more
convenient and economical. It is a matter of taste and convenience
wholly. I have read that in old times people often kept up
establishments and did other things which they could not afford for
ostentation, to make people think them richer than they were. Was it
really so, Mr. West?
I shall have to admit that it was, I replied.
Well, you see, it could not be so nowadays; for everybody's income
is known, and it is known that what is spent one way must be saved
[Footnote 2: I am informed since the above is in type that this lack
of perfection in the distributing service of some of the country
districts is to be remedied, and that soon every village will have its
own set of tubes.]
When we arrived home, Dr. Leete had not yet returned, and Mrs. Leete
was not visible. Are you fond of music, Mr. West? Edith asked.
I assured her that it was half of life, according to my notion.
I ought to apologize for inquiring, she said. It is not a
question that we ask one another nowadays; but I have read that in your
day, even among the cultured class, there were some who did not care
You must remember, in excuse, I said, that we had some rather
absurd kinds of music.
Yes, she said, I know that; I am afraid I should not have fancied
it all myself. Would you like to hear some of ours now, Mr. West?
Nothing would delight me so much as to listen to you, I said.
To me! she exclaimed, laughing. Did you think I was going to play
or sing to you?
I hoped so, certainly, I replied.
Seeing that I was a little abashed, she subdued her merriment and
explained. Of course, we all sing nowadays as a matter of course in
the training of the voice, and some learn to play instruments for their
private amusement; but the professional music is so much grander and
more perfect than any performance of ours, and so easily commanded when
we wish to hear it, that we don't think of calling our singing or
playing music at all. All the really fine singers and players are in
the musical service, and the rest of us hold our peace for the main
part. But would you really like to hear some music?
I assured her once more that I would.
Come, then, into the music room, she said, and I followed her into
an apartment finished, without hangings, in wood, with a floor of
polished wood. I was prepared for new devices in musical instruments,
but I saw nothing in the room which by any stretch of imagination could
be conceived as such. It was evident that my puzzled appearance was
affording intense amusement to Edith.
Please look at to-day's music, she said, handing me a card, and
tell me what you would prefer. It is now five o'clock, you will
The card bore the date September 12, 2000, and contained the
longest programme of music I had ever seen. It was as various as it was
long, including a most extraordinary range of vocal and instrumental
solos, duets, quartettes, and various orchestral combinations. I
remained bewildered by the prodigious list until Edith's pink
finger-tip indicated a particular section of it, where several
selections were bracketed, with the words 5 P.M. against them; then I
observed that this prodigious programme was an all-day one, divided
into twenty-four sections answering to the hours. There were but a few
pieces of music in the 5 P.M. section, and I indicated an organ piece
as my preference.
I am so glad you like the organ, said she. I think there is
scarcely any music that suits my mood oftener.
She made me sit down comfortably, and, crossing the room, so far as
I could see, merely touched one or two screws, and at once the room was
filled with the music of a grand organ anthem; filled, not flooded,
for, by some means, the volume of melody had been perfectly graduated
to the size of the apartment. I listened, scarcely breathing, to the
close. Such music, so perfectly rendered, I had never expected to hear.
Grand! I cried, as the last great wave of sound broke and ebbed
away into silence. Bach must be at the keys of that organ; but where
is the organ?
Wait a moment, please, said Edith; I want to have you listen to
this waltz before you ask any questions. I think it is perfectly
charming; and as she spoke the sound of violins filled the room with
the witchery of a summer night. When this had also ceased, she said:
There is nothing in the least mysterious about the music, as you seem
to imagine. It is not made by fairies or genii, but by good, honest,
and exceedingly clever human hands. We have simply carried the idea of
labor saving by coöperation into our musical service as into everything
else. There are a number of music rooms in the city, perfectly adapted
acoustically to the different sorts of music. These halls are connected
by telephone with all the houses of the city whose people care to pay
the small fee, and there are none, you may be sure, who do not. The
corps of musicians attached to each hall is so large that, although no
individual performer, or group of performers, has more than a brief
part, each day's programme lasts through the twenty-four hours. There
are on that card for to-day, as you will see if you observe closely,
distinct programmes of four of these concerts, each of a different
order of music from the others, being now simultaneously performed, and
any one of the four pieces now going on that you prefer, you can hear
by merely pressing the button which will connect your house-wire with
the hall where it is being rendered. The programmes are so coördinated
that the pieces at any one time simultaneously proceeding in the
different halls usually offer a choice, not only between instrumental
and vocal, and between different sorts of instruments; but also between
different motives from grave to gay, so that all tastes and moods can
It appears to me, Miss Leete, I said, that if we could have
devised an arrangement for providing everybody with music in their
homes, perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to every mood,
and beginning and ceasing at will, we should have considered the limit
of human felicity already attained, and ceased to strive for further
I am sure I never could imagine how those among you who depended at
all on music managed to endure the old-fashioned system for providing
it, replied Edith. Music really worth hearing must have been, I
suppose, wholly out of the reach of the masses, and attainable by the
most favored only occasionally, at great trouble, prodigious expense,
and then for brief periods, arbitrarily fixed by somebody else, and in
connection with all sorts of undesirable circumstances. Your concerts,
for instance, and operas! How perfectly exasperating it must have been,
for the sake of a piece or two of music that suited you, to have to sit
for hours listening to what you did not care for! Now, at a dinner one
can skip the courses one does not care for. Who would ever dine,
however hungry, if required to eat everything brought on the table? and
I am sure one's hearing is quite as sensitive as one's taste. I suppose
it was these difficulties in the way of commanding really good music
which made you endure so much playing and singing in your homes by
people who had only the rudiments of the art.
Yes, I replied, it was that sort of music or none for most of
Ah, well, Edith sighed, when one really considers, it is not so
strange that people in those days so often did not care for music. I
dare say I should have detested it, too.
Did I understand you rightly, I inquired, that this musical
programme covers the entire twenty-four hours? It seems to on this
card, certainly; but who is there to listen to music between say
midnight and morning?
Oh, many, Edith replied. Our people keep all hours; but if the
music were provided from midnight to morning for no others, it still
would be for the sleepless, the sick, and the dying. All our
bedchambers have a telephone attachment at the head of the bed by which
any person who may be sleepless can command music at pleasure, of the
sort suited to the mood.
Is there such an arrangement in the room assigned to me?
Why, certainly; and how stupid, how very stupid, of me not to think
to tell you of that last night! Father will show you about the
adjustment before you go to bed to-night, however; and with the
receiver at your ear, I am quite sure you will be able to snap your
fingers at all sorts of uncanny feelings if they trouble you again.
That evening Dr. Leete asked us about our visit to the store, and in
the course of the desultory comparison of the ways of the nineteenth
century and the twentieth, which followed, something raised the
question of inheritance. I suppose, I said, the inheritance of
property is not now allowed.
On the contrary, replied Dr. Leete, there is no interference with
it. In fact, you will find, Mr. West, as you come to know us, that
there is far less interference of any sort with personal liberty
nowadays than you were accustomed to. We require, indeed, by law that
every man shall serve the nation for a fixed period, instead of leaving
him his choice, as you did, between working, stealing, or starving.
With the exception of this fundamental law, which is, indeed, merely a
codification of the law of naturethe edict of Edenby which it is
made equal in its pressure on men, our system depends in no particular
upon legislation, but is entirely voluntary, the logical outcome of the
operation of human nature under rational conditions. This question of
inheritance illustrates just that point. The fact that the nation is
the sole capitalist and land-owner of course restricts the individual's
possessions to his annual credit, and what personal and household
belongings he may have procured with it. His credit, like an annuity in
your day, ceases on his death, with the allowance of a fixed sum for
funeral expenses. His other possessions he leaves as he pleases.
What is to prevent, in course of time, such accumulations of
valuable goods and chattels in the hands of individuals as might
seriously interfere with equality in the circumstances of citizens? I
That matter arranges itself very simply, was the reply. Under the
present organization of society, accumulations of personal property are
merely burdensome the moment they exceed what adds to the real comfort.
In your day, if a man had a house crammed full with gold and silver
plate, rare china, expensive furniture, and such things, he was
considered rich, for these things represented money, and could at any
time be turned into it. Nowadays a man whom the legacies of a hundred
relatives, simultaneously dying, should place in a similar position,
would be considered very unlucky. The articles, not being salable,
would be of no value to him except for their actual use or the
enjoyment of their beauty. On the other hand, his income remaining the
same, he would have to deplete his credit to hire houses to store the
goods in, and still further to pay for the service of those who took
care of them. You may be very sure that such a man would lose no time
in scattering among his friends possessions which only made him the
poorer, and that none of those friends would accept more of them than
they could easily spare room for and time to attend to. You see, then,
that to prohibit the inheritance of personal property with a view to
prevent great accumulations would be a superfluous precaution for the
nation. The individual citizen can be trusted to see that he is not
overburdened. So careful is he in this respect, that the relatives
usually waive claim to most of the effects of deceased friends,
reserving only particular objects. The nation takes charge of the
resigned chattels, and turns such as are of value into the common stock
You spoke of paying for service to take care of your houses, said
I; that suggests a question I have several times been on the point of
asking. How have you disposed of the problem of domestic service? Who
are willing to be domestic servants in a community where all are social
equals? Our ladies found it hard enough to find such even when there
was little pretense of social equality.
It is precisely because we are all social equals whose equality
nothing can compromise, and because service is honorable, in a society
whose fundamental principle is that all in turn shall serve the rest,
that we could easily provide a corps of domestic servants such as you
never dreamed of, if we needed them, replied Dr. Leete. But we do not
Who does your housework, then? I asked.
There is none to do, said Mrs. Leete, to whom I had addressed this
question. Our washing is all done at public laundries at excessively
cheap rates, and our cooking at public kitchens The making and
repairing of all we wear are done outside in public shops. Electricity,
of course, takes the place of all fires and lighting. We choose houses
no larger than we need, and furnish them so as to involve the minimum
of trouble to keep them in order. We have no use for domestic
The fact, said Dr. Leete, that you had in the poorer classes a
boundless supply of serfs on whom you could impose all sorts of painful
and disagreeable tasks, made you indifferent to devices to avoid the
necessity for them. But now that we all have to do in turn whatever
work is done for society, every individual in the nation has the same
interest, and a personal one, in devices for lightening the burden.
This fact has given a prodigious impulse to labor-saving inventions in
all sorts of industry, of which the combination of the maximum of
comfort and minimum of trouble in household arrangements was one of the
In case of special emergencies in the household, pursued Dr.
Leete, such as extensive cleaning or renovation, or sickness in the
family, we can always secure assistance from the industrial force.
But how do you recompense these assistants, since you have no
We do not pay them, of course, but the nation for them. Their
services can be obtained by application at the proper bureau, and their
value is pricked off the credit card of the applicant.
What a paradise for womankind the world must be now! I exclaimed.
In my day, even wealth and unlimited servants did not enfranchise
their possessors from household cares, while the women of the merely
well-to-do and poorer classes lived and died martyrs to them.
Yes, said Mrs. Leete, I have read something of that; enough to
convince me that, badly off as the men, too, were in your day, they
were more fortunate than their mothers and wives.
The broad shoulders of the nation, said Dr. Leete, bear now like
a feather the burden that broke the backs of the women of your day.
Their misery came, with all your other miseries, from that incapacity
for coöperation which followed from the individualism on which your
social system was founded, from your inability to perceive that you
could make ten times more profit out of your fellow men by uniting with
them than by contending with them. The wonder is, not that you did not
live more comfortably, but that you were able to live together at all,
who were all confessedly bent on making one another your servants, and
securing possession of one another's goods.
There, there, father, if you are so vehement, Mr. West will think
you are scolding him, laughingly interposed Edith.
When you want a doctor, I asked, do you simply apply to the
proper bureau and take any one that may be sent?
That rule would not work well in the case of physicians, replied
Dr. Leete. The good a physician can do a patient depends largely on
his acquaintance with his constitutional tendencies and condition. The
patient must be able, therefore, to call in a particular doctor, and he
does so just as patients did in your day. The only difference is that,
instead of collecting his fee for himself, the doctor collects it for
the nation by pricking off the amount, according to a regular scale for
medical attendance, from the patient's credit card.
I can imagine, I said, that if the fee is always the same, and a
doctor may not turn away patients, as I suppose he may not, the good
doctors are called constantly and the poor doctors left in idleness.
In the first place, if you will overlook the apparent conceit of
the remark from a retired physician, replied Dr. Leete, with a smile,
we have no poor doctors. Anybody who pleases to get a little
smattering of medical terms is not now at liberty to practice on the
bodies of citizens, as in your day. None but students who have passed
the severe tests of the schools, and clearly proved their vocation, are
permitted to practice. Then, too, you will observe that there is
nowadays no attempt of doctors to build up their practice at the
expense of other doctors. There would be no motive for that. For the
rest, the doctor has to render regular reports of his work to the
medical bureau, and if he is not reasonably well employed, work is
found for him.
The questions which I needed to ask before I could acquire even an
outline acquaintance with the institutions of the twentieth century
being endless, and Dr. Leete's good-nature appearing equally so, we sat
up talking for several hours after the ladies left us. Reminding my
host of the point at which our talk had broken off that morning, I
expressed my curiosity to learn how the organization of the industrial
army was made to afford a sufficient stimulus to diligence in the lack
of any anxiety on the worker's part as to his livelihood.
You must understand in the first place, replied the doctor, that
the supply of incentives to effort is but one of the objects sought in
the organization we have adopted for the army. The other, and equally
important, is to secure for the file-leaders and captains of the force,
and the great officers of the nation, men of proven abilities, who are
pledged by their own careers to hold their followers up to their
highest standard of performance and permit no lagging. With a view to
these two ends the industrial army is organized. First comes the
unclassified grade of common laborers, men of all work, to which all
recruits during their first three years belong. This grade is a sort of
school, and a very strict one, in which the young men are taught habits
of obedience, subordination, and devotion to duty. While the
miscellaneous nature of the work done by this force prevents the
systematic grading of the workers which is afterwards possible, yet
individual records are kept, and excellence receives distinction
corresponding with the penalties that negligence incurs. It is not,
however, policy with us to permit youthful recklessness or
indiscretion, when not deeply culpable, to handicap the future careers
of young men, and all who have passed through the unclassified grade
without serious disgrace have an equal opportunity to choose the life
employment they have most liking for. Having selected this, they enter
upon it as apprentices. The length of the apprenticeship naturally
differs in different occupations. At the end of it the apprentice
becomes a full workman, and a member of his trade or guild. Now not
only are the individual records of the apprentices for ability and
industry strictly kept, and excellence distinguished by suitable
distinctions, but upon the average of his record during apprenticeship
the standing given the apprentice among the full workmen depends.
While the internal organizations of different industries,
mechanical and agricultural, differ according to their peculiar
conditions, they agree in a general division of their workers into
first, second, and third grades, according to ability, and these grades
are in many cases subdivided into first and second classes. According
to his standing as an apprentice a young man is assigned his place as a
first, second, or third grade worker. Of course only young men of
unusual ability pass directly from apprenticeship into the first grade
of the workers. The most fall into the lower grades, working up as they
grow more experienced, at the periodical regradings. These regradings
take place in each industry at intervals corresponding with the length
of the apprenticeship to that industry, so that merit never need wait
long to rise, nor can any rest on past achievements unless they would
drop into a lower rank. One of the notable advantages of a high grading
is the privilege it gives the worker in electing which of the various
branches or processes of his industry he will follow as his specialty.
Of course it is not intended that any of these processes shall be
disproportionately arduous, but there is often much difference between
them, and the privilege of election is accordingly highly prized. So
far as possible, indeed, the preferences even of the poorest workmen
are considered in assigning them their line of work, because not only
their happiness but their usefulness is thus enhanced. While, however,
the wish of the lower grade man is consulted so far as the exigencies
of the service permit, he is considered only after the upper grade men
have been provided for, and often he has to put up with second or third
choice, or even with an arbitrary assignment when help is needed. This
privilege of election attends every regrading, and when a man loses his
grade he also risks having to exchange the sort of work he likes for
some other less to his taste. The results of each regrading, giving the
standing of every man in his industry, are gazetted in the public
prints, and those who have won promotion since the last regrading
receive the nation's thanks and are publicly invested with the badge of
their new rank.
What may this badge be? I asked.
Every industry has its emblematic device, replied Dr. Leete, and
this, in the shape of a metallic badge so small that you might not see
it unless you knew where to look, is all the insignia which the men of
the army wear, except where public convenience demands a distinctive
uniform. This badge is the same in form for all grades of industry, but
while the badge of the third grade is iron, that of the second grade is
silver, and that of the first is gilt.
Apart from the grand incentive to endeavor afforded by the fact
that the high places in the nation are open only to the highest class
men, and that rank in the army constitutes the only mode of social
distinction for the vast majority who are not aspirants in art,
literature, and the professions, various incitements of a minor, but
perhaps equally effective, sort are provided in the form of special
privileges and immunities in the way of discipline, which the superior
class men enjoy. These, while intended to be as little as possible
invidious to the less successful, have the effect of keeping constantly
before every man's mind the great desirability of attaining the grade
next above his own.
It is obviously important that not only the good but also the
indifferent and poor workmen should be able to cherish the ambition of
rising. Indeed, the number of the latter being so much greater, it is
even more essential that the ranking system should not operate to
discourage them than that it should stimulate the others. It is to this
end that the grades are divided into classes. The grades as well as the
classes being made numerically equal at each regrading, there is not at
any time, counting out the officers and the unclassified and apprentice
grades, over one-ninth of the industrial army in the lowest class, and
most of this number are recent apprentices, all of whom expect to rise.
Those who remain during the entire term of service in the lowest class
are but a trifling fraction of the industrial army, and likely to be as
deficient in sensibility to their position as in ability to better it.
It is not even necessary that a worker should win promotion to a
higher grade to have at least a taste of glory. While promotion
requires a general excellence of record as a worker, honorable mention
and various sorts of prizes are awarded for excellence less than
sufficient for promotion, and also for special feats and single
performances in the various industries. There are many minor
distinctions of standing, not only within the grades but within the
classes, each of which acts as a spur to the efforts of a group. It is
intended that no form of merit shall wholly fail of recognition.
As for actual neglect of work, positively bad work, or other overt
remissness on the part of men incapable of generous motives, the
discipline of the industrial army is far too strict to allow anything
whatever of the sort. A man able to do duty, and persistently refusing,
is sentenced to solitary imprisonment on bread and water till he
The lowest grade of the officers of the industrial army, that of
assistant foremen or lieutenants, is appointed out of men who have held
their place for two years in the first class of the first grade. Where
this leaves too large a range of choice, only the first group of this
class are eligible. No one thus comes to the point of commanding men
until he is about thirty years old. After a man becomes an officer, his
rating of course no longer depends on the efficiency of his own work,
but on that of his men. The foremen are appointed from among the
assistant foremen, by the same exercise of discretion limited to a
small eligible class. In the appointments to the still higher grades
another principle is introduced, which it would take too much time to
Of course such a system of grading as I have described would have
been impracticable applied to the small industrial concerns of your
day, in some of which there were hardly enough employees to have left
one apiece for the classes. You must remember that, under the national
organization of labor, all industries are carried on by great bodies of
men, many of your farms or shops being combined as one. It is also
owing solely to the vast scale on which each industry is organized,
with coördinate establishments in every part of the country, that we
are able by exchanges and transfers to fit every man so nearly with the
sort of work he can do best.
And now, Mr. West, I will leave it to you, on the bare outline of
its features which I have given, if those who need special incentives
to do their best are likely to lack them under our system. Does it not
seem to you that men who found themselves obliged, whether they wished
or not, to work, would under such a system be strongly impelled to do
I replied that it seemed to me the incentives offered were, if any
objection were to be made, too strong; that the pace set for the young
men was too hot; and such, indeed, I would add with deference, still
remains my opinion, now that by longer residence among you I have
become better acquainted with the whole subject.
Dr. Leete, however, desired me to reflect, and I am ready to say
that it is perhaps a sufficient reply to my objection, that the
worker's livelihood is in no way dependent on his ranking, and anxiety
for that never embitters his disappointments; that the working hours
are short, the vacations regular, and that all emulation ceases at
forty-five, with the attainment of middle life.
There are two or three other points I ought to refer to, he added,
to prevent your getting mistaken impressions. In the first place, you
must understand that this system of preferment given the more efficient
workers over the less so, in no way contravenes the fundamental idea of
our social system, that all who do their best are equally deserving,
whether that best be great or small. I have shown that the system is
arranged to encourage the weaker as well as the stronger with the hope
of rising, while the fact that the stronger are selected for the
leaders is in no way a reflection upon the weaker, but in the interest
of the common weal.
Do not imagine, either, because emulation is given free play as an
incentive under our system, that we deem it a motive likely to appeal
to the nobler sort of men, or worthy of them. Such as these find their
motives within, not without, and measure their duty by their own
endowments, not by those of others. So long as their achievement is
proportioned to their powers, they would consider it preposterous to
expect praise or blame because it chanced to be great or small. To such
natures emulation appears philosophically absurd, and despicable in a
moral aspect by its substitution of envy for admiration, and exultation
for regret, in one's attitude toward the successes and the failures of
But all men, even in the last year of the twentieth century, are
not of this high order, and the incentives to endeavor requisite for
those who are not must be of a sort adapted to their inferior natures.
For these, then, emulation of the keenest edge is provided as a
constant spur. Those who need this motive will feel it. Those who are
above its influence do not need it.
I should not fail to mention, resumed the doctor, that for those
too deficient in mental or bodily strength to be fairly graded with the
main body of workers, we have a separate grade, unconnected with the
others,a sort of invalid corps, the members of which are provided
with a light class of tasks fitted to their strength. All our sick in
mind and body, all our deaf and dumb, and lame and blind and crippled,
and even our insane, belong to this invalid corps, and bear its
insignia. The strongest often do nearly a man's work, the feeblest, of
course, nothing; but none who can do anything are willing quite to give
up. In their lucid intervals, even our insane are eager to do what they
That is a pretty idea of the invalid corps, I said. Even a
barbarian from the nineteenth century can appreciate that. It is a very
graceful way of disguising charity, and must be grateful to the
feelings of its recipients.
Charity! repeated Dr. Leete. Did you suppose that we consider the
incapable class we are talking of objects of charity?
Why, naturally, I said, inasmuch as they are incapable of
But here the doctor took me up quickly.
Who is capable of self-support? he demanded. There is no such
thing in a civilized society as self-support. In a state of society so
barbarous as not even to know family coöperation, each individual may
possibly support himself, though even then for a part of his life only;
but from the moment that men begin to live together, and constitute
even the rudest sort of society, self-support becomes impossible. As
men grow more civilized, and the subdivision of occupations and
services is carried out, a complex mutual dependence becomes the
universal rule. Every man, however solitary may seem his occupation, is
a member of a vast industrial partnership, as large as the nation, as
large as humanity. The necessity of mutual dependence should imply the
duty and guarantee of mutual support; and that it did not in your day
constituted the essential cruelty and unreason of your system.
That may all be so, I replied, but it does not touch the case of
those who are unable to contribute anything to the product of
Surely I told you this morning, at least I thought I did, replied
Dr. Leete, that the right of a man to maintenance at the nation's
table depends on the fact that he is a man, and not on the amount of
health and strength he may have, so long as he does his best.
You said so, I answered, but I supposed the rule applied only to
the workers of different ability. Does it also hold of those who can do
nothing at all?
Are they not also men?
I am to understand, then, that the lame, the blind, the sick, and
the impotent, are as well off as the most efficient, and have the same
Certainly, was the reply.
The idea of charity on such a scale, I answered, would have made
our most enthusiastic philanthropists gasp.
If you had a sick brother at home, replied Dr. Leete, unable to
work, would you feed him on less dainty food, and lodge and clothe him
more poorly, than yourself? More likely far, you would give him the
preference; nor would you think of calling it charity. Would not the
word, in that connection, fill you with indignation?
Of course, I replied; but the cases are not parallel. There is a
sense, no doubt, in which all men are brothers; but this general sort
of brotherhood is not to be compared, except for rhetorical purposes,
to the brotherhood of blood, either as to its sentiment or its
There speaks the nineteenth century! exclaimed Dr. Leete. Ah, Mr.
West, there is no doubt as to the length of time that you slept. If I
were to give you, in one sentence, a key to what may seem the mysteries
of our civilization as compared with that of your age, I should say
that it is the fact that the solidarity of the race and the brotherhood
of man, which to you were but fine phrases, are, to our thinking and
feeling, ties as real and as vital as physical fraternity.
But even setting that consideration aside, I do not see why it so
surprises you that those who cannot work are conceded the full right to
live on the produce of those who can. Even in your day, the duty of
military service for the protection of the nation, to which our
industrial service corresponds, while obligatory on those able to
discharge it, did not operate to deprive of the privileges of
citizenship those who were unable. They stayed at home, and were
protected by those who fought, and nobody questioned their right to be,
or thought less of them. So, now, the requirement of industrial service
from those able to render it does not operate to deprive of the
privileges of citizenship, which now implies the citizen's maintenance,
him who cannot work. The worker is not a citizen because he works, but
works because he is a citizen. As you recognize the duty of the strong
to fight for the weak, we, now that fighting is gone by, recognize his
duty to work for him.
A solution which leaves an unaccounted-for residuum is no solution
at all; and our solution of the problem of human society would have
been none at all had it left the lame, the sick, and the blind outside
with the beasts, to fare as they might. Better far have left the strong
and well unprovided for than these burdened ones, toward whom every
heart must yearn, and for whom ease of mind and body should be
provided, if for no others. Therefore it is, as I told you this
morning, that the title of every man, woman, and child to the means of
existence rests on no basis less plain, broad, and simple than the fact
that they are fellows of one racemembers of one human family. The
only coin current is the image of God, and that is good for all we
I think there is no feature of the civilization of your epoch so
repugnant to modern ideas as the neglect with which you treated your
dependent classes. Even if you had no pity, no feeling of brotherhood,
how was it that you did not see that you were robbing the incapable
class of their plain right in leaving them unprovided for?
I don't quite follow you there, I said. I admit the claim of this
class to our pity, but how could they who produced nothing claim a
share of the product as a right?
How happened it, was Dr. Leete's reply, that your workers were
able to produce more than so many savages would have done? Was it not
wholly on account of the heritage of the past knowledge and
achievements of the race, the machinery of society, thousands of years
in contriving, found by you ready-made to your hand? How did you come
to be possessors of this knowledge and this machinery, which represent
nine parts to one contributed by yourself in the value of your product?
You inherited it, did you not? And were not these others, these
unfortunate and crippled brothers whom you cast out, joint inheritors,
co-heirs with you? What did you do with their share? Did you not rob
them when you put them off with crusts, who were entitled to sit with
the heirs, and did you not add insult to robbery when you called the
Ah, Mr. West, Dr. Leete continued, as I did not respond, what I
do not understand is, setting aside all considerations either of
justice or brotherly feeling toward the crippled and defective, how the
workers of your day could have had any heart for their work, knowing
that their children, or grand-children, if unfortunate, would be
deprived of the comforts and even necessities of life. It is a mystery
how men with children could favor a system under which they were
rewarded beyond those less endowed with bodily strength or mental
power. For, by the same discrimination by which the father profited,
the son, for whom he would give his life, being perchance weaker than
others, might be reduced to crusts and beggary. How men dared leave
children behind them, I have never been able to understand.
NOTE.Although in his talk on the previous evening Dr. Leete
had emphasized the pains taken to enable every man to
ascertain and follow his natural bent in choosing an
occupation, it was not till I learned that the worker's
income is the same in all occupations that I realized how
absolutely he may be counted on to do so, and thus, by
selecting the harness which sets most lightly on himself,
find that in which he can pull best. The failure of my age in
any systematic or effective way to develop and utilize the
natural aptitudes of men for the industries and intellectual
avocations was one of the great wastes, as well as one of the
most common causes of unhappiness in that time. The vast
majority of my contemporaries, though nominally free to do
so, never really chose their occupations at all, but were
forced by circumstances into work for which they were
relatively inefficient, because not naturally fitted for it.
The rich, in this respect, had little advantage over the
poor. The latter, indeed, being generally deprived of
education, had no opportunity even to ascertain the natural
aptitudes they might have, and on account of their poverty
were unable to develop them by cultivation even when
ascertained. The liberal and technical professions, except by
favorable accident, were shut to them, to their own great
loss and that of the nation. On the other hand, the
well-to-do, although they could command education and
opportunity, were scarcely less hampered by social prejudice,
which forbade them to pursue manual avocations, even when
adapted to them, and destined them, whether fit or unfit, to
the professions, thus wasting many an excellent
handicraftsman. Mercenary considerations, tempting men to
pursue money-making occupations for which they were unfit,
instead of less remunerative employments for which they were
fit, were responsible for another vast perversion of talent.
All these things now are changed. Equal education and
opportunity must needs bring to light whatever aptitudes a
man has, and neither social prejudices nor mercenary
considerations hamper him in the choice of his life work.
As Edith had promised he should do, Dr. Leete accompanied me to my
bedroom when I retired, to instruct me as to the adjustment of the
musical telephone. He showed how, by turning a screw, the volume of the
music could be made to fill the room, or die away to an echo so faint
and far that one could scarcely be sure whether he heard or imagined
it. If, of two persons side by side, one desired to listen to music and
the other to sleep, it could be made audible to one and inaudible to
I should strongly advise you to sleep if you can to-night, Mr.
West, in preference to listening to the finest tunes in the world, the
doctor said, after explaining these points. In the trying experience
you are just now passing through, sleep is a nerve tonic for which
there is no substitute.
Mindful of what had happened to me that very morning, I promised to
heed his counsel.
Very well, he said, then I will set the telephone at eight
What do you mean? I asked.
He explained that, by a clock-work combination, a person could
arrange to be awakened at any hour by the music.
It began to appear, as has since fully proved to be the case, that I
had left my tendency to insomnia behind me with the other discomforts
of existence in the nineteenth century; for though I took no sleeping
draught this time, yet, as the night before, I had no sooner touched
the pillow than I was asleep.
I dreamed that I sat on the throne of the Abencerrages in the
banqueting hall of the Alhambra, feasting my lords and generals, who
next day were to follow the crescent against the Christian dogs of
Spain. The air, cooled by the spray of fountains, was heavy with the
scent of flowers. A band of Nautch girls, round-limbed and
luscious-lipped, danced with voluptuous grace to the music of brazen
and stringed instruments. Looking up to the latticed galleries, one
caught a gleam now and then from the eye of some beauty of the royal
harem, looking down upon the assembled flower of Moorish chivalry.
Louder and louder clashed the cymbals, wilder and wilder grew the
strain, till the blood of the desert race could no longer resist the
martial delirium, and the swart nobles leaped to their feet; a thousand
scimitars were bared, and the cry, Allah il Allah! shook the hall and
awoke me, to find it broad daylight, and the room tingling with the
electric music of the Turkish Reveille.
At the breakfast-table, when I told my host of my morning's
experience, I learned that it was not a mere chance that the piece of
music which awakened me was a reveille. The airs played at one of the
halls during the waking hours of the morning were always of an
By the way, I said, I have not thought to ask you anything about
the state of Europe. Have the societies of the Old World also been
Yes, replied Dr. Leete, the great nations of Europe as well as
Australia, Mexico, and parts of South America, are now organized
industrially like the United States, which was the pioneer of the
evolution. The peaceful relations of these nations are assured by a
loose form of federal union of world-wide extent. An international
council regulates the mutual intercourse and commerce of the members of
the union and their joint policy toward the more backward races, which
are gradually being educated up to civilized institutions. Complete
autonomy within its own limits is enjoyed by every nation.
How do you carry on commerce without money? I said. In trading
with other nations, you must use some sort of money, although you
dispense with it in the internal affairs of the nation.
Oh, no; money is as superfluous in our foreign as in our internal
relations. When foreign commerce was conducted by private enterprise,
money was necessary to adjust it on account of the multifarious
complexity of the transactions; but nowadays it is a function of the
nations as units. There are thus only a dozen or so merchants in the
world, and their business being supervised by the international
council, a simple system of book accounts serves perfectly to regulate
their dealings. Customs duties of every sort are of course superfluous.
A nation simply does not import what its government does not think
requisite for the general interest. Each nation has a bureau of foreign
exchange, which manages its trading. For example, the American bureau,
estimating such and such quantities of French goods necessary to
America for a given year, sends the order to the French bureau, which
in turn sends its order to our bureau. The same is done mutually by all
But how are the prices of foreign goods settled, since there is no
The price at which one nation supplies another with goods, replied
Dr. Leete, must be that at which it supplies its own citizens. So you
see there is no danger of misunderstanding. Of course no nation is
theoretically bound to supply another with the product of its own
labor, but it is for the interest of all to exchange some commodities.
If a nation is regularly supplying another with certain goods, notice
is required from either side of any important change in the relation.
But what if a nation, having a monopoly of some natural product,
should refuse to supply it to the others, or to one of them?
Such a case has never occurred, and could not without doing the
refusing party vastly more harm than the others, replied Dr. Leete.
In the first place, no favoritism could be legally shown. The law
requires that each nation shall deal with the others, in all respects,
on exactly the same footing. Such a course as you suggest would cut off
the nation adopting it from the remainder of the earth for all purposes
whatever. The contingency is one that need not give us much anxiety.
But, said I, supposing a nation, having a natural monopoly in
some product of which it exports more than it consumes, should put the
price away up, and thus, without cutting off the supply, make a profit
out of its neighbors' necessities? Its own citizens would of course
have to pay the higher price on that commodity, but as a body would
make more out of foreigners than they would be out of pocket
When you come to know how prices of all commodities are determined
nowadays, you will perceive how impossible it is that they could be
altered, except with reference to the amount or arduousness of the work
required respectively to produce them, was Dr. Leete's reply. This
principle is an international as well as a national guarantee; but even
without it the sense of community of interest, international as well as
national, and the conviction of the folly of selfishness, are too deep
nowadays to render possible such a piece of sharp practice as you
apprehend. You must understand that we all look forward to an eventual
unification of the world as one nation. That, no doubt, will be the
ultimate form of society, and will realize certain economic advantages
over the present federal system of autonomous nations. Meanwhile,
however, the present system works so nearly perfectly that we are quite
content to leave to posterity the completion of the scheme. There are,
indeed, some who hold that it never will be completed, on the ground
that the federal plan is not merely a provisional solution of the
problem of human society, but the best ultimate solution.
How do you manage, I asked, when the books of any two nations do
not balance? Supposing we import more from France than we export to
At the end of each year, replied the doctor, the books of every
nation are examined. If France is found in our debt, probably we are in
the debt of some nation which owes France, and so on with all the
nations. The balances that remain after the accounts have been cleared
by the international council should not be large under our system.
Whatever they may be, the council requires them to be settled every few
years, and may require their settlement at any time if they are getting
too large; for it is not intended that any nation shall run largely in
debt to another, lest feelings unfavorable to amity should be
engendered. To guard further against this, the international council
inspects the commodities interchanged by the nations, to see that they
are of perfect quality.
But what are the balances finally settled with, seeing that you
have no money?
In national staples; a basis of agreement as to what staples shall
be accepted, and in what proportions, for settlement of accounts, being
a preliminary to trade relations.
Emigration is another point I want to ask you about, said I. With
every nation organized as a close industrial partnership, monopolizing
all means of production in the country, the emigrant, even if he were
permitted to land, would starve. I suppose there is no emigration
On the contrary, there is constant emigration, by which I suppose
you mean removal to foreign countries for permanent residence, replied
Dr. Leete. It is arranged on a simple international arrangement of
indemnities. For example, if a man at twenty-one emigrates from England
to America, England loses all the expense of his maintenance and
education, and America gets a workman for nothing. America accordingly
makes England an allowance. The same principle, varied to suit the
case, applies generally. If the man is near the term of his labor when
he emigrates, the country receiving him has the allowance. As to
imbecile persons, it is deemed best that each nation should be
responsible for its own, and the emigration of such must be under full
guarantees of support by his own nation. Subject to these regulations,
the right of any man to emigrate at any time is unrestricted.
But how about mere pleasure trips; tours of observation? How can a
stranger travel in a country whose people do not receive money, and are
themselves supplied with the means of life on a basis not extended to
him? His own credit card cannot, of course, be good in other lands. How
does he pay his way?
An American credit card, replied Dr. Leete, is just as good in
Europe as American gold used to be, and on precisely the same
condition, namely, that it be exchanged into the currency of the
country you are traveling in. An American in Berlin takes his credit
card to the local office of the international council, and receives in
exchange for the whole or part of it a German credit card, the amount
being charged against the United States in favor of Germany on the
* * * * *
Perhaps Mr. West would like to dine at the Elephant to-day, said
Edith, as we left the table.
That is the name we give to the general dining-house of our ward,
explained her father. Not only is our cooking done at the public
kitchens, as I told you last night, but the service and quality of the
meals are much more satisfactory if taken at the dining-house. The two
minor meals of the day are usually taken at home, as not worth the
trouble of going out; but it is general to go out to dine. We have not
done so since you have been with us, from a notion that it would be
better to wait till you had become a little more familiar with our
ways. What do you think? Shall we take dinner at the dining-house
I said that I should be very much pleased to do so.
Not long after, Edith came to me, smiling, and said:
Last night, as I was thinking what I could do to make you feel at
home until you came to be a little more used to us and our ways, an
idea occurred to me. What would you say if I were to introduce you to
some very nice people of your own times, whom I am sure you used to be
well acquainted with?
I replied, rather vaguely, that it would certainly be very
agreeable, but I did not see how she was going to manage it.
Come with me, was her smiling reply, and see if I am not as good
as my word.
My susceptibility to surprise had been pretty well exhausted by the
numerous shocks it had received, but it was with some wonderment that I
followed her into a room which I had not before entered. It was a
small, cosy apartment, walled with cases filled with books.
Here are your friends, said Edith, indicating one of the cases,
and as my eye glanced over the names on the backs of the volumes,
Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Defoe, Dickens,
Thackeray, Hugo, Hawthorne, Irving, and a score of other great writers
of my time and all time, I understood her meaning. She had indeed made
good her promise in a sense compared with which its literal fulfillment
would have been a disappointment. She had introduced me to a circle of
friends whom the century that had elapsed since last I communed with
them had aged as little as it had myself. Their spirit was as high,
their wit as keen, their laughter and their tears as contagious, as
when their speech had whiled away the hours of a former century. Lonely
I was not and could not be more, with this goodly companionship,
however wide the gulf of years that gaped between me and my old life.
You are glad I brought you here, exclaimed Edith, radiant, as she
read in my face the success of her experiment. It was a good idea, was
it not, Mr. West? How stupid in me not to think of it before! I will
leave you now with your old friends, for I know there will be no
company for you like them just now; but remember you must not let old
friends make you quite forget new ones! and with that smiling caution
she left me.
Attracted by the most familiar of the names before me, I laid my
hand on a volume of Dickens, and sat down to read. He had been my prime
favorite among the book-writers of the century,I mean the nineteenth
century,and a week had rarely passed in my old life during which I
had not taken up some volume of his works to while away an idle hour.
Any volume with which I had been familiar would have produced an
extraordinary impression, read under my present circumstances, but my
exceptional familiarity with Dickens, and his consequent power to call
up the associations of my former life, gave to his writings an effect
no others could have had, to intensify, by force of contrast, my
appreciation of the strangeness of my present environment. However new
and astonishing one's surroundings, the tendency is to become a part of
them so soon that almost from the first the power to see them
objectively and fully measure their strangeness, is lost. That power,
already dulled in my case, the pages of Dickens restored by carrying me
back through their associations to the standpoint of my former life.
With a clearness which I had not been able before to attain, I saw now
the past and present, like contrasting pictures, side by side.
The genius of the great novelist of the nineteenth century, like
that of Homer, might indeed defy time; but the setting of his pathetic
tales, the misery of the poor, the wrongs of power, the pitiless
cruelty of the system of society, had passed away as utterly as Circe
and the sirens, Charybdis and Cyclops.
During the hour or two that I sat there with Dickens open before me,
I did not actually read more than a couple of pages. Every paragraph,
every phrase, brought up some new aspect of the world-transformation
which had taken place, and led my thoughts on long and widely ramifying
excursions. As meditating thus in Dr. Leete's library I gradually
attained a more clear and coherent idea of the prodigious spectacle
which I had been so strangely enabled to view, I was filled with a
deepening wonder at the seeming capriciousness of the fate that had
given to one who so little deserved it, or seemed in any way set apart
for it, the power alone among his contemporaries to stand upon the
earth in this latter day. I had neither foreseen the new world nor
toiled for it, as many about me had done regardless of the scorn of
fools or the misconstruction of the good. Surely it would have been
more in accordance with the fitness of things had one of those
prophetic and strenuous souls been enabled to see the travail of his
soul and be satisfied; he, for example, a thousand times rather than I,
who, having beheld in a vision the world I looked on, sang of it in
words that again and again, during these last wondrous days, had rung
in my mind:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see.
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were
In the Parliament of man, the federation of the world.
Then the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
For I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the
What though, in his old age, he momentarily lost faith in his own
prediction, as prophets in their hours of depression and doubt
generally do; the words had remained eternal testimony to the seership
of a poet's heart, the insight that is given to faith.
I was still in the library when some hours later Dr. Leete sought me
there. Edith told me of her idea, he said, and I thought it an
excellent one. I had a little curiosity what writer you would first
turn to. Ah, Dickens! You admired him, then! That is where we moderns
agree with you. Judged by our standards, he overtops all the writers of
his age, not because his literary genius was highest, but because his
great heart beat for the poor, because he made the cause of the victims
of society his own, and devoted his pen to exposing its cruelties and
shams. No man of his time did so much as he to turn men's minds to the
wrong and wretchedness of the old order of things, and open their eyes
to the necessity of the great change that was coming, although he
himself did not clearly foresee it.
A heavy rainstorm came up during the day, and I had concluded that
the condition of the streets would be such that my hosts would have to
give up the idea of going out to dinner, although the dining-hall I had
understood to be quite near. I was much surprised when at the dinner
hour the ladies appeared prepared to go out, but without either rubbers
The mystery was explained when we found ourselves on the street, for
a continuous waterproof covering had been let down so as to inclose the
sidewalk and turn it into a well lighted and perfectly dry corridor,
which was filled with a stream of ladies and gentlemen dressed for
dinner. At the corners the entire open space was similarly roofed in.
Edith Leete, with whom I walked, seemed much interested in learning
what appeared to be entirely new to her, that in the stormy weather the
streets of the Boston of my day had been impassable, except to persons
protected by umbrellas, boots, and heavy clothing. Were sidewalk
coverings not used at all? she asked. They were used, I explained, but
in a scattered and utterly unsystematic way, being private enterprises.
She said to me that at the present time all the streets were provided
against inclement weather in the manner I saw, the apparatus being
rolled out of the way when it was unnecessary. She intimated that it
would be considered an extraordinary imbecility to permit the weather
to have any effect on the social movements of the people.
Dr. Leete, who was walking ahead, overhearing something of our talk,
turned to say that the difference between the age of individualism and
that of concert was well characterized by the fact that, in the
nineteenth century, when it rained, the people of Boston put up three
hundred thousand umbrellas over as many heads, and in the twentieth
century they put up one umbrella over all the heads.
As we walked on, Edith said, The private umbrella is father's
favorite figure to illustrate the old way when everybody lived for
himself and his family. There is a nineteenth century painting at the
Art Gallery representing a crowd of people in the rain, each one
holding his umbrella over himself and his wife, and giving his
neighbors the drippings, which he claims must have been meant by the
artist as a satire on his times.
We now entered a large building into which a stream of people was
pouring. I could not see the front, owing to the awning, but, if in
correspondence with the interior, which was even finer than the store I
visited the day before, it would have been magnificent. My companion
said that the sculptured group over the entrance was especially
admired. Going up a grand staircase we walked some distance along a
broad corridor with many doors opening upon it. At one of these, which
bore my host's name, we turned in, and I found myself in an elegant
dining-room containing a table for four. Windows opened on a courtyard
where a fountain played to a great height and music made the air
You seem at home here, I said, as we seated ourselves at table,
and Dr. Leete touched an annunciator.
This is, in fact, a part of our house, slightly detached from the
rest, he replied. Every family in the ward has a room set apart in
this great building for its permanent and exclusive use for a small
annual rental. For transient guests and individuals there is
accommodation on another floor. If we expect to dine here, we put in
our orders the night before, selecting anything in market, according to
the daily reports in the papers. The meal is as expensive or as simple
as we please, though of course everything is vastly cheaper as well as
better than it would be if prepared at home. There is actually nothing
which our people take more interest in than the perfection of the
catering and cooking done for them, and I admit that we are a little
vain of the success that has been attained by this branch of the
service. Ah, my dear Mr. West, though other aspects of your
civilization were more tragical, I can imagine that none could have
been more depressing than the poor dinners you had to eat, that is, all
of you who had not great wealth.
You would have found none of us disposed to disagree with you on
that point, I said.
The waiter, a fine-looking young fellow, wearing a slightly
distinctive uniform, now made his appearance. I observed him closely,
as it was the first time I had been able to study particularly the
bearing of one of the enlisted members of the industrial army. This
young man, I knew from what I had been told, must be highly educated,
and the equal, socially and in all respects, of those he served. But it
was perfectly evident that to neither side was the situation in the
slightest degree embarrassing. Dr. Leete addressed the young man in a
tone devoid, of course, as any gentleman's would be, of
superciliousness, but at the same time not in any way deprecatory,
while the manner of the young man was simply that of a person intent on
discharging correctly the task he was engaged in, equally without
familiarity or obsequiousness. It was, in fact, the manner of a soldier
on duty, but without the military stiffness. As the youth left the
room, I said, I cannot get over my wonder at seeing a young man like
that serving so contentedly in a menial position.
What is that word 'menial'? I never heard it, said Edith.
It is obsolete now, remarked her father. If I understand it
rightly, it applied to persons who performed particularly disagreeable
and unpleasant tasks for others, and carried with it an implication of
contempt. Was it not so, Mr. West?
That is about it, I said. Personal service, such as waiting on
tables, was considered menial, and held in such contempt, in my day,
that persons of culture and refinement would suffer hardship before
condescending to it.
What a strangely artificial idea, exclaimed Mrs. Leete,
And yet these services had to be rendered, said Edith.
Of course, I replied. But we imposed them on the poor, and those
who had no alternative but starvation.
And increased the burden you imposed on them by adding your
contempt, remarked Dr. Leete.
I don't think I clearly understand, said Edith. Do you mean that
you permitted people to do things for you which you despised them for
doing, or that you accepted services from them which you would have
been unwilling to render them? You can't surely mean that, Mr. West?
I was obliged to tell her that the fact was just as she had stated.
Dr. Leete, however, came to my relief.
To understand why Edith is surprised, he said, you must know that
nowadays it is an axiom of ethics that to accept a service from another
which we would be unwilling to return in kind, if need were, is like
borrowing with the intention of not repaying, while to enforce such a
service by taking advantage of the poverty or necessity of a person
would be an outrage like forcible robbery. It is the worst thing about
any system which divides men, or allows them to be divided, into
classes and castes, that it weakens the sense of a common humanity.
Unequal distribution of wealth, and, still more effectually, unequal
opportunities of education and culture, divided society in your day
into classes which in many respects regarded each other as distinct
races. There is not, after all, such a difference as might appear
between our ways of looking at this question of service. Ladies and
gentlemen of the cultured class in your day would no more have
permitted persons of their own class to render them services they would
scorn to return than we would permit anybody to do so. The poor and the
uncultured, however, they looked upon as of another kind from
themselves. The equal wealth and equal opportunities of culture which
all persons now enjoy have simply made us all members of one class,
which corresponds to the most fortunate class with you. Until this
equality of condition had come to pass, the idea of the solidarity of
humanity, the brother hood of all men, could never have become the real
conviction and practical principle of action it is nowadays. In your
day the same phrases were indeed used, but they were phrases merely.
Do the waiters, also, volunteer?
No, replied Dr. Leete. The waiters are young men in the
unclassified grade of the industrial army who are assignable to all
sorts of miscellaneous occupations not requiring special skill. Waiting
on table is one of these, and every young recruit is given a taste of
it. I myself served as a waiter for several months in this very
dining-house some forty years ago. Once more you must remember that
there is recognized no sort of difference between the dignity of the
different sorts of work required by the nation. The individual is never
regarded, nor regards himself, as the servant of those he serves, nor
is he in any way dependent upon them. It is always the nation which he
is serving. No difference is recognized between a waiter's functions
and those of any other worker. The fact that his is a personal service
is indifferent from our point of view. So is a doctor's. I should as
soon expect our waiter to-day to look down on me because I served him
as a doctor, as think of looking down on him because he serves me as a
After dinner my entertainers conducted me about the building, of
which the extent, the magnificent architecture and richness of
embellishment, astonished me. It seemed that it was not merely a
dining-hall, but likewise a great pleasure-house and social rendezvous
of the quarter, and no appliance of entertainment or recreation seemed
You find illustrated here, said Dr. Leete, when I had expressed my
admiration, what I said to you in our first conversation, when you
were looking out over the city, as to the splendor of our public and
common life as compared with the simplicity of our private and home
life, and the contrast which, in this respect, the twentieth bears to
the nineteenth century. To save ourselves useless burdens, we have as
little gear about us at home as is consistent with comfort, but the
social side of our life is ornate and luxurious beyond anything the
world ever knew before. All the industrial and professional guilds have
clubhouses as extensive as this, as well as country, mountain, and
seaside houses for sport and rest in vacations.
NOTE. In the latter part of the nineteenth century it became
a practice of needy young men at some of the colleges of the
country to earn a little money for their term bills by
serving as waiters on tables at hotels during the long summer
vacation. It was claimed, in reply to critics who expressed
the prejudices of the time in asserting that persons
voluntarily following such an occupation could not be
gentlemen, that they were entitled to praise for vindicating,
by their example, the dignity of all honest and necessary
labor. The use of this argument illustrates a common
confusion in thought on the part of my former contemporaries.
The business of waiting on tables was in no more need of
defense than most of the other ways of getting a living in
that day, but to talk of dignity attaching to labor of any
sort under the system then prevailing was absurd. There is no
way in which selling labor for the highest price it will
fetch is more dignified than selling goods for what can be
got. Both were commercial transactions to be judged by the
commercial standard. By setting a price in money on his
service, the worker accepted the money measure for it, and
renounced all clear claim to be judged by any other. The
sordid taint which this necessity imparted to the noblest and
the highest sorts of service was bitterly resented by
generous souls, but there was no evading it. There was no
exemption, however transcendent the quality of one's service,
from the necessity of haggling for its price in the
market-place. The physician must sell his healing and the
apostle his preaching like the rest. The prophet, who had
guessed the meaning of God, must dicker for the price of the
revelation, and the poet hawk his visions in printers' row.
If I were asked to name the most distinguishing felicity of
this age, as compared to that in which I first saw the light,
I should say that to me it seems to consist in the dignity
you have given to labor by refusing to set a price upon it
and abolishing the market-place forever. By requiring of
every man his best you have made God his task-master, and by
making honor the sole reward of achievement you have imparted
to all service the distinction peculiar in my day to the
When, in the course of our tour of inspection, we came to the
library, we succumbed to the temptation of the luxurious leather chairs
with which it was furnished, and sat down in one of the book-lined
alcoves to rest and chat awhile.
Edith tells me that you have been in the library all the morning,
said Mrs. Leete. Do you know, it seems to me, Mr. West, that you are
the most enviable of mortals.
I should like to know just why, I replied.
Because the books of the last hundred years will be new to you,
she answered. You will have so much of the most absorbing literature
to read as to leave you scarcely time for meals these five years to
come. Ah, what would I give if I had not already read Berrian's
Or Nesmyth's, mamma, added Edith.
Yes, or Oates' poems, or 'Past and Present,' or, 'In the
Beginning,' or,oh, I could name a dozen books, each worth a year of
one's life, declared Mrs. Leete, enthusiastically.
I judge, then, that there has been some notable literature produced
in this century.
Yes, said Dr. Leete. It has been an era of unexampled
intellectual splendor. Probably humanity never before passed through a
moral and material evolution, at once so vast in its scope and brief in
its time of accomplishment, as that from the old order to the new in
the early part of this century. When men came to realize the greatness
of the felicity which had befallen them, and that the change through
which they had passed was not merely an improvement in details of their
condition, but the rise of the race to a new plane of existence with an
illimitable vista of progress, their minds were affected in all their
faculties with a stimulus, of which the outburst of the mediæval
renaissance offers a suggestion but faint indeed. There ensued an era
of mechanical invention, scientific discovery, art, musical and
literary productiveness to which no previous age of the world offers
By the way, said I, talking of literature, how are books
published now? Is that also done by the nation?
But how do you manage it? Does the government publish everything
that is brought it as a matter of course, at the public expense, or
does it exercise a censorship and print only what it approves?
Neither way. The printing department has no censorial powers. It is
bound to print all that is offered it, but prints it only on condition
that the author defray the first cost out of his credit. He must pay
for the privilege of the public ear, and if he has any message worth
hearing we consider that he will be glad to do it. Of course, if
incomes were unequal, as in the old times, this rule would enable only
the rich to be authors, but the resources of citizens being equal, it
merely measures the strength of the author's motive. The cost of an
edition of an average book can be saved out of a year's credit by the
practice of economy and some sacrifices. The book, on being published,
is placed on sale by the nation.
The author receiving a royalty on the sales as with us, I suppose,
Not as with you, certainly, replied Dr. Leete, but nevertheless
in one way. The price of every book is made up of the cost of its
publication with a royalty for the author. The author fixes this
royalty at any figure he pleases. Of course if he puts it unreasonably
high it is his own loss, for the book will not sell. The amount of this
royalty is set to his credit and he is discharged from other service to
the nation for so long a period as this credit at the rate of allowance
for the support of citizens shall suffice to support him. If his book
be moderately successful, he has thus a furlough for several months, a
year, two or three years, and if he in the mean time produces other
successful work, the remission of service is extended so far as the
sale of that may justify. An author of much acceptance succeeds in
supporting himself by his pen during the entire period of service, and
the degree of any writer's literary ability, as determined by the
popular voice, is thus the measure of the opportunity given him to
devote his time to literature. In this respect the outcome of our
system is not very dissimilar to that of yours, but there are two
notable differences. In the first place, the universally high level of
education nowadays gives the popular verdict a conclusiveness on the
real merit of literary work which in your day it was as far as possible
from having. In the second place, there is no such thing now as
favoritism of any sort to interfere with the recognition of true merit.
Every author has precisely the same facilities for bringing his work
before the popular tribunal. To judge from the complaints of the
writers of your day, this absolute equality of opportunity would have
been greatly prized.
In the recognition of merit in other fields of original genius,
such as music, art, invention, design, I said, I suppose you follow a
Yes, he replied, although the details differ. In art, for
example, as in literature, the people are the sole judges. They vote
upon the acceptance of statues and paintings for the public buildings,
and their favorable verdict carries with it the artist's remission from
other tasks to devote himself to his vocation. On copies of his work
disposed of, he also derives the same advantage as the author on sales
of his books. In all these lines of original genius the plan pursued is
the same,to offer a free field to aspirants, and as soon as
exceptional talent is recognized to release it from all trammels and
let it have free course. The remission of other service in these cases
is not intended as a gift or reward, but as the means of obtaining more
and higher service. Of course there are various literary, art, and
scientific institutes to which membership comes to the famous and is
greatly prized. The highest of all honors in the nation, higher than
the presidency, which calls merely for good sense and devotion to duty,
is the red ribbon awarded by the vote of the people to the great
authors, artists, engineers, physicians, and inventors of the
generation. Not over a certain number wear it at any one time, though
every bright young fellow in the country loses innumerable nights'
sleep dreaming of it. I even did myself.
Just as if mamma and I would have thought any more of you with it,
exclaimed Edith; not that it isn't, of course, a very fine thing to
You had no choice, my dear, but to take your father as you found
him and make the best of him, Dr. Leete replied; but as for your
mother, there, she would never have had me if I had not assured her
that I was bound to get the red ribbon or at least the blue.
On this extravagance Mrs. Leete's only comment was a smile.
How about periodicals and newspapers? I said. I won't deny that
your book publishing system is a considerable improvement on ours, both
as to its tendency to encourage a real literary vocation, and, quite as
important, to discourage mere scribblers; but I don't see how it can be
made to apply to magazines and newspapers. It is very well to make a
man pay for publishing a book, because the expense will be only
occasional; but no man could afford the expense of publishing a
newspaper every day in the year. It took the deep pockets of our
private capitalists to do that, and often exhausted even them before
the returns came in. If you have newspapers at all, they must, I fancy,
be published by the government at the public expense, with government
editors, reflecting government opinions. Now, if your system is so
perfect that there is never anything to criticise in the conduct of
affairs, this arrangement may answer. Otherwise I should think the lack
of an independent unofficial medium for the expression of public
opinion would have most unfortunate results. Confess, Dr. Leete, that a
free newspaper press, with all that it implies, was a redeeming
incident of the old system when capital was in private hands, and that
you have to set off the loss of that against your gains in other
I am afraid I can't give you even that consolation, replied Dr.
Leete, laughing. In the first place, Mr. West, the newspaper press is
by no means the only or, as we look at it, the best vehicle for serious
criticism of public affairs. To us, the judgments of your newspapers on
such themes seem generally to have been crude and flippant, as well as
deeply tinctured with prejudice and bitterness. In so far as they may
be taken as expressing public opinion, they give an unfavorable
impression of the popular intelligence, while so far as they may have
formed public opinion, the nation was not to be felicitated. Nowadays,
when a citizen desires to make a serious impression upon the public
mind as to any aspect of public affairs, he comes out with a book or
pamphlet, published as other books are. But this is not because we lack
newspapers and magazines, or that they lack the most absolute freedom.
The newspaper press is organized so as to be a more perfect expression
of public opinion than it possibly could be in your day, when private
capital controlled and managed it primarily as a money-making business,
and secondarily only as a mouthpiece for the people.
But, said I, if the government prints the papers at the public
expense, how can it fail to control their policy? Who appoints the
editors, if not the government?
The government does not pay the expense of the papers, nor appoint
their editors, nor in any way exert the slightest influence on their
policy, replied Dr. Leete. The people who take the paper pay the
expense of its publication, choose its editor, and remove him when
unsatisfactory. You will scarcely say, I think, that such a newspaper
press is not a free organ of popular opinion.
Decidedly I shall not, I replied, but how is it practicable?
Nothing could be simpler. Supposing some of my neighbors or myself
think we ought to have a newspaper reflecting our opinions, and devoted
especially to our locality, trade, or profession. We go about among the
people till we get the names of such a number that their annual
subscriptions will meet the cost of the paper, which is little or big
according to the largeness of its constituency. The amount of the
subscriptions marked off the credits of the citizens guarantees the
nation against loss in publishing the paper, its business, you
understand, being that of a publisher purely, with no option to refuse
the duty required. The subscribers to the paper now elect somebody as
editor, who, if he accepts the office, is discharged from other service
during his incumbency. Instead of paying a salary to him, as in your
day, the subscribers pay the nation an indemnity equal to the cost of
his support for taking him away from the general service. He manages
the paper just as one of your editors did, except that he has no
counting-room to obey, or interests of private capital as against the
public good to defend. At the end of the first year, the subscribers
for the next either reëlect the former editor or choose any one else to
his place. An able editor, of course, keeps his place indefinitely. As
the subscription list enlarges, the funds of the paper increase, and it
is improved by the securing of more and better contributors, just as
your papers were.
How is the staff of contributors recompensed, since they cannot be
paid in money.
The editor settles with them the price of their wares. The amount
is transferred to their individual credit from the guarantee credit of
the paper, and a remission of service is granted the contributor for a
length of time corresponding to the amount credited him, just as to
other authors. As to magazines, the system is the same. Those
interested in the prospectus of a new periodical pledge enough
subscriptions to run it for a year; select their editor, who
recompenses his contributors just as in the other case, the printing
bureau furnishing the necessary force and material for publication, as
a matter of course. When an editor's services are no longer desired, if
he cannot earn the right to his time by other literary work, he simply
resumes his place in the industrial army. I should add that, though
ordinarily the editor is elected only at the end of the year, and as a
rule is continued in office for a term of years, in case of any sudden
change he should give to the tone of the paper, provision is made for
taking the sense of the subscribers as to his removal at any time.
However earnestly a man may long for leisure for purposes of study
or meditation, I remarked, he cannot get out of the harness, if I
understand you rightly, except in these two ways you have mentioned. He
must either by literary, artistic, or inventive productiveness
indemnify the nation for the loss of his services, or must get a
sufficient number of other people to contribute to such an indemnity.
It is most certain, replied Dr. Leete, that no able-bodied man
nowadays can evade his share of work and live on the toil of others,
whether he calls himself by the fine name of student or confesses to
being simply lazy. At the same time our system is elastic enough to
give free play to every instinct of human nature which does not aim at
dominating others or living on the fruit of others' labor. There is not
only the remission by indemnification but the remission by abnegation.
Any man in his thirty-third year, his term of service being then half
done, can obtain an honorable discharge from the army, provided he
accepts for the rest of his life one half the rate of maintenance other
citizens receive. It is quite possible to live on this amount, though
one must forego the luxuries and elegancies of life, with some,
perhaps, of its comforts.
When the ladies retired that evening, Edith brought me a book and
If you should be wakeful to-night, Mr. West, you might be
interested in looking over this story by Berrian. It is considered his
masterpiece, and will at least give you an idea what the stories
nowadays are like.
I sat up in my room that night reading Penthesilia till it grew
gray in the east, and did not lay it down till I had finished it. And
yet let no admirer of the great romancer of the twentieth century
resent my saying that at the first reading what most impressed me was
not so much what was in the book as what was left out of it. The
story-writers of my day would have deemed the making of bricks without
straw a light task compared with the construction of a romance from
which should be excluded all effects drawn from the contrasts of wealth
and poverty, education and ignorance, coarseness and refinement, high
and low, all motives drawn from social pride and ambition, the desire
of being richer or the fear of being poorer, together with sordid
anxieties of any sort for one's self or others; a romance in which
there should, indeed, be love galore, but love unfretted by artificial
barriers created by differences of station or possessions, owning no
other law but that of the heart. The reading of Penthesilia was of
more value than almost any amount of explanation would have been in
giving me something like a general impression of the social aspect of
the twentieth century. The information Dr. Leete had imparted was
indeed extensive as to facts, but they had affected my mind as so many
separate impressions, which I had as yet succeeded but imperfectly in
making cohere. Berrian put them together for me in a picture.
[Footnote 3: I cannot sufficiently celebrate the glorious liberty
that reigns in the public libraries of the twentieth century as
compared with the intolerable management of those of the nineteenth
century, in which the books were jealously railed away from the people,
and obtainable only at an expenditure of time and red tape calculated
to discourage any ordinary taste for literature.]
Next morning I rose somewhat before the breakfast hour. As I
descended the stairs, Edith stepped into the hall from the room which
had been the scene of the morning interview between us described some
Ah! she exclaimed, with a charmingly arch expression, you thought
to slip out unbeknown for another of those solitary morning rambles
which have such nice effects on you. But you see I am up too early for
you this time. You are fairly caught.
You discredit the efficacy of your own cure, I said, by supposing
that such a ramble would now be attended with bad consequences.
I am very glad to hear that, she said. I was in here arranging
some flowers for the breakfast table when I heard you come down, and
fancied I detected something surreptitious in your step on the stairs.
You did me injustice, I replied. I had no idea of going out at
Despite her effort to convey an impression that my interception was
purely accidental, I had at the time a dim suspicion of what I
afterwards learned to be the fact, namely, that this sweet creature, in
pursuance of her self-assumed guardianship over me, had risen for the
last two or three mornings at an unheard-of hour, to insure against the
possibility of my wandering off alone in case I should be affected as
on the former occasion. Receiving permission to assist her in making up
the breakfast bouquet, I followed her into the room from which she had
Are you sure, she asked, that you are quite done with those
terrible sensations you had that morning?
I can't say that I do not have times of feeling decidedly queer, I
replied, moments when my personal identity seems an open question. It
would be too much to expect after my experience that I should not have
such sensations occasionally, but as for being carried entirely off my
feet, as I was on the point of being that morning, I think the danger
I shall never forget how you looked that morning, she said.
If you had merely saved my life, I continued, I might, perhaps,
find words to express my gratitude, but it was my reason you saved, and
there are no words that would not belittle my debt to you. I spoke
with emotion, and her eyes grew suddenly moist.
It is too much to believe all this, she said, but it is very
delightful to hear you say it. What I did was very little. I was very
much distressed for you, I know. Father never thinks anything ought to
astonish us when it can be explained scientifically, as I suppose this
long sleep of yours can be, but even to fancy myself in your place
makes my head swim. I know that I could not have borne it at all.
That would depend, I replied, on whether an angel came to support
you with her sympathy in the crisis of your condition, as one came to
me. If my face at all expressed the feelings I had a right to have
toward this sweet and lovely young girl, who had played so angelic a
rôle toward me, its expression must have been very worshipful just
then. The expression or the words, or both together, caused her now to
drop her eyes with a charming blush.
For the matter of that, I said, if your experience has not been
as startling as mine, it must have been rather overwhelming to see a
man belonging to a strange century, and apparently a hundred years
dead, raised to life.
It seemed indeed strange beyond any describing at first, she said,
but when we began to put ourselves in your place, and realize how much
stranger it must seem to you, I fancy we forgot our own feelings a good
deal, at least I know I did. It seemed then not so much astounding as
interesting and touching beyond anything ever heard of before.
But does it not come over you as astounding to sit at table with
me, seeing who I am?
You must remember that you do not seem so strange to us as we must
to you, she answered. We belong to a future of which you could not
form an idea, a generation of which you knew nothing until you saw us.
But you belong to a generation of which our forefathers were a part. We
know all about it; the names of many of its members are household words
with us. We have made a study of your ways of living and thinking;
nothing you say or do surprises us, while we say and do nothing which
does not seem strange to you. So you see, Mr. West, that if you feel
that you can, in time, get accustomed to us, you must not be surprised
that from the first we have scarcely found you strange at all.
I had not thought of it in that way, I replied. There is indeed
much in what you say. One can look back a thousand years easier than
forward fifty. A century is not so very long a retrospect. I might have
known your great-grand-parents. Possibly I did. Did they live in
I believe so.
You are not sure, then?
Yes, she replied. Now I think, they did.
I had a very large circle of acquaintances in the city, I said.
It is not unlikely that I knew or knew of some of them. Perhaps I may
have known them well. Wouldn't it be interesting if I should chance to
be able to tell you all about your great-grandfather, for instance?
Do you know your genealogy well enough to tell me who your forbears
were in the Boston of my day?
Perhaps, then, you will some time tell me what some of their names
She was engrossed in arranging a troublesome spray of green, and did
not reply at once. Steps upon the stairway indicated that the other
members of the family were descending.
Perhaps, some time, she said.
After breakfast, Dr. Leete suggested taking me to inspect the
central warehouse and observe actually in operation the machinery of
distribution, which Edith had described to me. As we walked away from
the house I said, It is now several days that I have been living in
your household on a most extraordinary footing, or rather on none at
all. I have not spoken of this aspect of my position before because
there were so many other aspects yet more extraordinary. But now that I
am beginning a little to feel my feet under me, and to realize that,
however I came here, I am here, and must make the best of it, I must
speak to you on this point.
As for your being a guest in my house, replied Dr. Leete, I pray
you not to begin to be uneasy on that point, for I mean to keep you a
long time yet. With all your modesty, you can but realize that such a
guest as yourself is an acquisition not willingly to be parted with.
Thanks, doctor, I said. It would be absurd, certainly, for me to
affect any oversensitiveness about accepting the temporary hospitality
of one to whom I owe it that I am not still awaiting the end of the
world in a living tomb. But if I am to be a permanent citizen of this
century I must have some standing in it. Now, in my time a person more
or less entering the world, however he got in, would not be noticed in
the unorganized throng of men, and might make a place for himself
anywhere he chose if he were strong enough. But nowadays everybody is a
part of a system with a distinct place and function. I am outside the
system, and don't see how I can get in; there seems no way to get in,
except to be born in or to come in as an emigrant from some other
Dr. Leete laughed heartily.
I admit, he said, that our system is defective in lacking
provision for cases like yours, but you see nobody anticipated
additions to the world except by the usual process. You need, however,
have no fear that we shall be unable to provide both a place and
occupation for you in due time. You have as yet been brought in contact
only with the members of my family, but you must not suppose that I
have kept your secret. On the contrary, your case, even before your
resuscitation, and vastly more since, has excited the profoundest
interest in the nation. In view of your precarious nervous condition,
it was thought best that I should take exclusive charge of you at
first, and that you should, through me and my family, receive some
general idea of the sort of world you had come back to before you began
to make the acquaintance generally of its inhabitants. As to finding a
function for you in society, there was no hesitation as to what that
would be. Few of us have it in our power to confer so great a service
on the nation as you will be able to when you leave my roof, which,
however, you must not think of doing for a good time yet.
What can I possibly do? I asked. Perhaps you imagine I have some
trade, or art, or special skill. I assure you I have none whatever. I
never earned a dollar in my life, or did an hour's work. I am strong,
and might be a common laborer, but nothing more.
If that were the most efficient service you were able to render the
nation, you would find that avocation considered quite as respectable
as any other, replied Dr. Leete; but you can do something else
better. You are easily the master of all our historians on questions
relating to the social condition of the latter part of the nineteenth
century, to us one of the most absorbingly interesting periods of
history; and whenever in due time you have sufficiently familiarized
yourself with our institutions, and are willing to teach us something
concerning those of your day, you will find an historical lectureship
in one of our colleges awaiting you.
Very good! very good indeed, I said, much relieved by so practical
a suggestion on a point which had begun to trouble me. If your people
are really so much interested in the nineteenth century, there will
indeed be an occupation ready-made for me. I don't think there is
anything else that I could possibly earn my salt at, but I certainly
may claim without conceit to have some special qualifications for such
a post as you describe.
I found the processes at the warehouse quite as interesting as Edith
had described them, and became even enthusiastic over the truly
remarkable illustration which is seen there of the prodigiously
multiplied efficiency which perfect organization can give to labor. It
is like a gigantic mill, into the hopper of which goods are being
constantly poured by the train-load and ship-load, to issue at the
other end in packages of pounds and ounces, yards and inches, pints and
gallons, corresponding to the infinitely complex personal needs of half
a million people. Dr. Leete, with the assistance of data furnished by
me as to the way goods were sold in my day, figured out some astounding
results in the way of the economies effected by the modern system.
As we set out homeward, I said: After what I have seen to-day,
together with what you have told me, and what I learned under Miss
Leete's tutelage at the sample store, I have a tolerably clear idea of
your system of distribution, and how it enables you to dispense with a
circulating medium. But I should like very much to know something more
about your system of production. You have told me in general how your
industrial army is levied and organized, but who directs its efforts?
What supreme authority determines what shall be done in every
department, so that enough of everything is produced and yet no labor
wasted? It seems to me that this must be a wonderfully complex and
difficult function, requiring very unusual endowments.
Does it indeed seem so to you? responded Dr. Leete. I assure you
that it is nothing of the kind, but on the other hand so simple, and
depending on principles so obvious and easily applied, that the
functionaries at Washington to whom it is trusted require to be nothing
more than men of fair abilities to discharge it to the entire
satisfaction of the nation. The machine which they direct is indeed a
vast one, but so logical in its principles and direct and simple in its
workings, that it all but runs itself; and nobody but a fool could
derange it, as I think you will agree after a few words of explanation.
Since you already have a pretty good idea of the working of the
distributive system, let us begin at that end. Even in your day
statisticians were able to tell you the number of yards of cotton,
velvet, woolen, the number of barrels of flour, potatoes, butter,
number of pairs of shoes, hats, and umbrellas annually consumed by the
nation. Owing to the fact that production was in private hands, and
that there was no way of getting statistics of actual distribution,
these figures were not exact, but they were nearly so. Now that every
pin which is given out from a national warehouse is recorded, of course
the figures of consumption for any week, month, or year, in the
possession of the department of distribution at the end of that period,
are precise. On these figures, allowing for tendencies to increase or
decrease and for any special causes likely to affect demand, the
estimates, say for a year ahead, are based. These estimates, with a
proper margin for security, having been accepted by the general
administration, the responsibility of the distributive department
ceases until the goods are delivered to it. I speak of the estimates
being furnished for an entire year ahead, but in reality they cover
that much time only in case of the great staples for which the demand
can be calculated on as steady. In the great majority of smaller
industries for the product of which popular taste fluctuates, and
novelty is frequently required, production is kept barely ahead of
consumption, the distributive department furnishing frequent estimates
based on the weekly state of demand.
Now the entire field of productive and constructive industry is
divided into ten great departments, each representing a group of allied
industries, each particular industry being in turn represented by a
subordinate bureau, which has a complete record of the plant and force
under its control, of the present product, and means of increasing it.
The estimates of the distributive department, after adoption by the
administration, are sent as mandates to the ten great departments,
which allot them to the subordinate bureaus representing the particular
industries, and these set the men at work. Each bureau is responsible
for the task given it, and this responsibility is enforced by
departmental oversight and that of the administration; nor does the
distributive department accept the product without its own inspection;
while even if in the hands of the consumer an article turns out unfit,
the system enables the fault to be traced back to the original workman.
The production of the commodities for actual public consumption does
not, of course, require by any means all the national force of workers.
After the necessary contingents have been detailed for the various
industries, the amount of labor left for other employment is expended
in creating fixed capital, such as buildings, machinery, engineering
works, and so forth.
One point occurs to me, I said, on which I should think there
might be dissatisfaction. Where there is no opportunity for private
enterprise, how is there any assurance that the claims of small
minorities of the people to have articles produced, for which there is
no wide demand, will be respected? An official decree at any moment may
deprive them of the means of gratifying some special taste, merely
because the majority does not share it.
That would be tyranny indeed, replied Dr. Leete, and you may be
very sure that it does not happen with us, to whom liberty is as dear
as equality or fraternity. As you come to know our system better, you
will see that our officials are in fact, and not merely in name, the
agents and servants of the people. The administration has no power to
stop the production of any commodity for which there continues to be a
demand. Suppose the demand for any article declines to such a point
that its production becomes very costly. The price has to be raised in
proportion, of course, but as long as the consumer cares to pay it, the
production goes on. Again, suppose an article not before produced is
demanded. If the administration doubts the reality of the demand, a
popular petition guaranteeing a certain basis of consumption compels it
to produce the desired article. A government, or a majority, which
should undertake to tell the people, or a minority, what they were to
eat, drink, or wear, as I believe governments in America did in your
day, would be regarded as a curious anachronism indeed. Possibly you
had reasons for tolerating these infringements of personal
independence, but we should not think them endurable. I am glad you
raised this point, for it has given me a chance to show you how much
more direct and efficient is the control over production exercised by
the individual citizen now than it was in your day, when what you
called private initiative prevailed, though it should have been called
capitalist initiative, for the average private citizen had little
enough share in it.
You speak of raising the price of costly articles, I said. How
can prices be regulated in a country where there is no competition
between buyers or sellers?
Just as they were with you, replied Dr. Leete. You think that
needs explaining, he added, as I looked incredulous, but the
explanation need not be long; the cost of the labor which produced it
was recognized as the legitimate basis of the price of an article in
your day, and so it is in ours. In your day, it was the difference in
wages that made the difference in the cost of labor; now it is the
relative number of hours constituting a day's work in different trades,
the maintenance of the worker being equal in all cases. The cost of a
man's work in a trade so difficult that in order to attract volunteers
the hours have to be fixed at four a day is twice as great as that in a
trade where the men work eight hours. The result as to the cost of
labor, you see, is just the same as if the man working four hours were
paid, under your system, twice the wages the other gets. This
calculation applied to the labor employed in the various processes of a
manufactured article gives its price relatively to other articles.
Besides the cost of production and transportation, the factor of
scarcity affects the prices of some commodities. As regards the great
staples of life, of which an abundance can always be secured, scarcity
is eliminated as a factor. There is always a large surplus kept on hand
from which any fluctuations of demand or supply can be corrected, even
in most cases of bad crops. The prices of the staples grow less year by
year, but rarely, if ever, rise. There are, however, certain classes of
articles permanently, and others temporarily, unequal to the demand,
as, for example, fresh fish or dairy products in the latter category,
and the products of high skill and rare materials in the other. All
that can be done here is to equalize the inconvenience of the scarcity.
This is done by temporarily raising the price if the scarcity be
temporary, or fixing it high if it be permanent. High prices in your
day meant restriction of the articles affected to the rich, but
nowadays, when the means of all are the same, the effect is only that
those to whom the articles seem most desirable are the ones who
purchase them. Of course the nation, as any other caterer for the
public needs must be, is frequently left with small lots of goods on
its hands by changes in taste, unseasonable weather, and various other
causes. These it has to dispose of at a sacrifice just as merchants
often did in your day, charging up the loss to the expenses of the
business. Owing, however, to the vast body of consumers to which such
lots can be simultaneously offered, there is rarely any difficulty in
getting rid of them at trifling loss. I have given you now some general
notion of our system of production, as well as distribution. Do you
find it as complex as you expected?
I admitted that nothing could be much simpler.
I am sure, said Dr. Leete, that it is within the truth to say
that the head of one of the myriad private businesses of your day, who
had to maintain sleepless vigilance against the fluctuations of the
market, the machinations of his rivals, and the failure of his debtors,
had a far more trying task than the group of men at Washington who
nowadays direct the industries of the entire nation. All this merely
shows, my dear fellow, how much easier it is to do things the right way
than the wrong. It is easier for a general up in a balloon, with
perfect survey of the field, to manoeuvre a million men to victory than
for a sergeant to manage a platoon in a thicket.
The general of this army, including the flower of the manhood of
the nation, must be the foremost man in the country, really greater
even than the President of the United States, I said.
He is the President of the United States, replied Dr. Leete, or
rather the most important function of the presidency is the headship of
the industrial army.
How is he chosen? I asked.
I explained to you before, replied Dr. Leete, when I was
describing the force of the motive of emulation among all grades of the
industrial army, that the line of promotion for the meritorious lies
through three grades to the officer's grade, and thence up through the
lieutenancies to the captaincy or foremanship, and superintendency or
colonel's rank. Next, with an intervening grade in some of the larger
trades, come the general of the guild, under whose immediate control
all the operations of the trade are conducted. This officer is at the
head of the national bureau representing his trade, and is responsible
for its work to the administration. The general of his guild holds a
splendid position, and one which amply satisfies the ambition of most
men, but above his rank, which may be comparedto follow the military
analogies familiar to youto that of a general of division or
major-general, is that of the chiefs of the ten great departments, or
groups of allied trades. The chiefs of these ten grand divisions of the
industrial army may be compared to your commanders of army corps, or
lieutenant-generals, each having from a dozen to a score of generals of
separate guilds reporting to him. Above these ten great officers, who
form his council, is the general-in-chief, who is the President of the
The general-in-chief of the industrial army must have passed
through all the grades below him, from the common laborers up. Let us
see how he rises. As I have told you, it is simply by the excellence of
his record as a worker that one rises through the grades of the
privates and becomes a candidate for a lieutenancy. Through the
lieutenancies he rises to the colonelcy, or superintendent's position,
by appointment from above, strictly limited to the candidates of the
best records. The general of the guild appoints to the ranks under him,
but he himself is not appointed, but chosen by suffrage.
By suffrage! I exclaimed. Is not that ruinous to the discipline
of the guild, by tempting the candidates to intrigue for the support of
the workers under them?
So it would be, no doubt, replied Dr. Leete, if the workers had
any suffrage to exercise, or anything to say about the choice. But they
have nothing. Just here comes in a peculiarity of our system. The
general of the guild is chosen from among the superintendents by vote
of the honorary members of the guild, that is, of those who have served
their time in the guild and received their discharge. As you know, at
the age of forty-five we are mustered out of the army of industry, and
have the residue of life for the pursuit of our own improvement or
recreation. Of course, however, the associations of our active lifetime
retain a powerful hold on us. The companionships we formed then remain
our companionships till the end of life. We always continue honorary
members of our former guilds, and retain the keenest and most jealous
interest in their welfare and repute in the hands of the following
generation. In the clubs maintained by the honorary members of the
several guilds, in which we meet socially, there are no topics of
conversation so common as those which relate to these matters, and the
young aspirants for guild leadership who can pass the criticism of us
old fellows are likely to be pretty well equipped. Recognizing this
fact, the nation entrusts to the honorary members of each guild the
election of its general, and I venture to claim that no previous form
of society could have developed a body of electors so ideally adapted
to their office, as regards absolute impartiality, knowledge of the
special qualifications and record of candidates, solicitude for the
best result, and complete absence of self-interest.
Each of the ten lieutenant-generals or heads of departments is
himself elected from among the generals of the guilds grouped as a
department, by vote of the honorary members of the guilds thus grouped.
Of course there is a tendency on the part of each guild to vote for its
own general, but no guild of any group has nearly enough votes to elect
a man not supported by most of the others. I assure you that these
elections are exceedingly lively.
The President, I suppose, is selected from among the ten heads of
the great departments, I suggested.
Precisely, but the heads of departments are not eligible to the
presidency till they have been a certain number of years out of office.
It is rarely that a man passes through all the grades to the headship
of a department much before he is forty, and at the end of a five
years' term he is usually forty-five. If more, he still serves through
his term, and if less, he is nevertheless discharged from the
industrial army at its termination. It would not do for him to return
to the ranks. The interval before he is a candidate for the presidency
is intended to give time for him to recognize fully that he has
returned into the general mass of the nation, and is identified with it
rather than with the industrial army. Moreover, it is expected that he
will employ this period in studying the general condition of the army,
instead of that of the special group of guilds of which he was the
head. From among the former heads of departments who may be eligible at
the time, the President is elected by vote of all the men of the nation
who are not connected with the industrial army.
The army is not allowed to vote for President?
Certainly not. That would be perilous to its discipline, which it
is the business of the President to maintain as the representative of
the nation at large. His right hand for this purpose is the
inspectorate, a highly important department of our system; to the
inspectorate come all complaints or information as to defects in goods,
insolence or inefficiency of officials, or dereliction of any sort in
the public service. The inspectorate, however, does not wait for
complaints. Not only is it on the alert to catch and sift every rumor
of a fault in the service, but it is its business, by systematic and
constant oversight and inspection of every branch of the army, to find
out what is going wrong before anybody else does. The President is
usually not far from fifty when elected, and serves five years, forming
an honorable exception to the rule of retirement at forty-five. At the
end of his term of office, a national Congress is called to receive his
report and approve or condemn it. If it is approved, Congress usually
elects him to represent the nation for five years more in the
international council. Congress, I should also say, passes on the
reports of the outgoing heads of departments, and a disapproval renders
any one of them ineligible for President. But it is rare, indeed, that
the nation has occasion for other sentiments than those of gratitude
toward its high officers. As to their ability, to have risen from the
ranks, by tests so various and severe, to their positions, is proof in
itself of extraordinary qualities, while as to faithfulness, our social
system leaves them absolutely without any other motive than that of
winning the esteem of their fellow citizens. Corruption is impossible
in a society where there is neither poverty to be bribed nor wealth to
bribe, while as to demagoguery or intrigue for office, the conditions
of promotion render them out of the question.
One point I do not quite understand, I said. Are the members of
the liberal professions eligible to the presidency? and if so, how are
they ranked with those who pursue the industries proper?
They have no ranking with them, replied Dr. Leete. The members of
the technical professions, such as engineers and architects, have a
ranking with the constructive guilds; but the members of the liberal
professions, the doctors and teachers, as well as the artists and men
of letters who obtain remissions of industrial service, do not belong
to the industrial army. On this ground they vote for the President, but
are not eligible to his office. One of its main duties being the
control and discipline of the industrial army, it is essential that the
President should have passed through all its grades to understand his
That is reasonable, I said; but if the doctors and teachers do
not know enough of industry to be President, neither, I should think,
can the President know enough of medicine and education to control
No more does he, was the reply. Except in the general way that he
is responsible for the enforcement of the laws as to all classes, the
President has nothing to do with the faculties of medicine and
education, which are controlled by boards of regents of their own, in
which the President is ex-officio chairman, and has the casting vote.
These regents, who, of course, are responsible to Congress, are chosen
by the honorary members of the guilds of education and medicine, the
retired teachers and doctors of the country.
Do you know, I said, the method of electing officials by votes of
the retired members of the guilds is nothing more than the application
on a national scale of the plan of government by alumni, which we used
to a slight extent occasionally in the management of our higher
Did you, indeed? exclaimed Dr. Leete, with animation. That is
quite new to me, and I fancy will be to most of us, and of much
interest as well. There has been great discussion as to the germ of the
idea, and we fancied that there was for once something new under the
sun. Well! well! In your higher educational institutions! that is
interesting indeed. You must tell me more of that.
Truly, there is very little more to tell than I have told already,
I replied. If we had the germ of your idea, it was but as a germ.
That evening I sat up for some time after the ladies had retired,
talking with Dr. Leete about the effect of the plan of exempting men
from further service to the nation after the age of forty-five, a point
brought up by his account of the part taken by the retired citizens in
At forty-five, said I, a man still has ten years of good manual
labor in him, and twice ten years of good intellectual service. To be
superannuated at that age and laid on the shelf must be regarded rather
as a hardship than a favor by men of energetic dispositions.
My dear Mr. West, exclaimed Dr. Leete, beaming upon me, you
cannot have any idea of the piquancy your nineteenth century ideas have
for us of this day, the rare quaintness of their effect. Know, O child
of another race and yet the same, that the labor we have to render as
our part in securing for the nation the means of a comfortable physical
existence is by no means regarded as the most important, the most
interesting, or the most dignified employment of our powers. We look
upon it as a necessary duty to be discharged before we can fully devote
ourselves to the higher exercise of our faculties, the intellectual and
spiritual enjoyments and pursuits which alone mean life. Everything
possible is indeed done by the just distribution of burdens, and by all
manner of special attractions and incentives to relieve our labor of
irksomeness, and, except in a comparative sense, it is not usually
irksome, and is often inspiring. But it is not our labor, but the
higher and larger activities which the performance of our task will
leave us free to enter upon, that are considered the main business of
Of course not all, nor the majority, have those scientific,
artistic, literary, or scholarly interests which make leisure the one
thing valuable to their possessors. Many look upon the last half of
life chiefly as a period for enjoyment of other sorts; for travel, for
social relaxation in the company of their lifetime friends; a time for
the cultivation of all manner of personal idiosyncrasies and special
tastes, and the pursuit of every imaginable form of recreation; in a
word, a time for the leisurely and unperturbed appreciation of the good
things of the world which they have helped to create. But whatever the
differences between our individual tastes as to the use we shall put
our leisure to, we all agree in looking forward to the date of our
discharge as the time when we shall first enter upon the full enjoyment
of our birthright, the period when we shall first really attain our
majority and become enfranchised from discipline and control, with the
fee of our lives vested in ourselves. As eager boys in your day
anticipated twenty-one, so men nowadays look forward to forty-five. At
twenty-one we become men, but at forty-five we renew youth. Middle age
and what you would have called old age are considered, rather than
youth, the enviable time of life. Thanks to the better conditions of
existence nowadays, and above all the freedom of every one from care,
old age approaches many years later and has an aspect far more benign
than in past times. Persons of average constitution usually live to
eighty-five or ninety, and at forty-five we are physically and mentally
younger, I fancy, than you were at thirty-five. It is a strange
reflection that at forty-five, when we are just entering upon the most
enjoyable period of life, you already began to think of growing old and
to look backward. With you it was the forenoon, with us it is the
afternoon, which is the brighter half of life.
After this I remember that our talk branched into the subject of
popular sports and recreations at the present time as compared with
those of the nineteenth century.
In one respect, said Dr. Leete, there is a marked difference. The
professional sportsmen, which were such a curious feature of your day,
we have nothing answering to, nor are the prizes for which our athletes
contend money prizes, as with you. Our contests are always for glory
only. The generous rivalry existing between the various guilds, and the
loyalty of each worker to his own, afford a constant stimulation to all
sorts of games and matches by sea and land, in which the young men take
scarcely more interest than the honorary guildsmen who have served
their time. The guild yacht races off Marblehead take place next week,
and you will be able to judge for yourself of the popular enthusiasm
which such events nowadays call out as compared with your day. The
demand for 'panem et circenses' preferred by the Roman populace
is recognized nowadays as a wholly reasonable one. If bread is the
first necessity of life, recreation is a close second, and the nation
caters for both. Americans of the nineteenth century were as
unfortunate in lacking an adequate provision for the one sort of need
as for the other. Even if the people of that period had enjoyed larger
leisure they would, I fancy, have often been at a loss how to pass it
agreeably. We are never in that predicament.
In the course of an early morning constitutional I visited
Charlestown. Among the changes, too numerous to attempt to indicate,
which mark the lapse of a century in that quarter, I particularly noted
the total disappearance of the old state prison.
That went before my day, but I remember hearing about it, said Dr.
Leete, when I alluded to the fact at the breakfast table. We have no
jails nowadays. All cases of atavism are treated in the hospitals.
Of atavism! I exclaimed, staring.
Why, yes, replied Dr. Leete. The idea of dealing punitively with
those unfortunates was given up at least fifty years ago, and I think
I don't quite understand you, I said. Atavism in my day was a
word applied to the cases of persons in whom some trait of a remote
ancestor recurred in a noticeable manner. Am I to understand that crime
is nowadays looked upon as the recurrence of an ancestral trait?
I beg your pardon, said Dr. Leete with a smile half humorous, half
deprecating, but since you have so explicitly asked the question, I am
forced to say that the fact is precisely that.
After what I had already learned of the moral contrasts between the
nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, it was doubtless absurd in me
to begin to develop sensitiveness on the subject, and probably if Dr.
Leete had not spoken with that apologetic air and Mrs. Leete and Edith
shown a corresponding embarrassment, I should not have flushed, as I
was conscious I did.
I was not in much danger of being vain of my generation before, I
said; but, really
This is your generation, Mr. West, interposed Edith. It is the
one in which you are living, you know, and it is only because we are
alive now that we call it ours.
Thank you. I will try to think of it so, I said, and as my eyes
met hers their expression quite cured my senseless sensitiveness.
After all, I said, with a laugh, I was brought up a Calvinist, and
ought not to be startled to hear crime spoken of as an ancestral
In point of fact, said Dr. Leete, our use of the word is no
reflection at all on your generation, if, begging Edith's pardon, we
may call it yours, so far as seeming to imply that we think ourselves,
apart from our circumstances, better than you were. In your day fully
nineteen twentieths of the crime, using the word broadly to include all
sorts of misdemeanors, resulted from the inequality in the possessions
of individuals; want tempted the poor, lust of greater gains, or the
desire to preserve former gains, tempted the well-to-do. Directly or
indirectly, the desire for money, which then meant every good thing,
was the motive of all this crime, the taproot of a vast poison growth,
which the machinery of law, courts, and police could barely prevent
from choking your civilization outright. When we made the nation the
sole trustee of the wealth of the people, and guaranteed to all
abundant maintenance, on the one hand abolishing want, and on the other
checking the accumulation of riches, we cut this root, and the poison
tree that overshadowed your society withered, like Jonah's gourd, in a
day. As for the comparatively small class of violent crimes against
persons, unconnected with any idea of gain, they were almost wholly
confined, even in your day, to the ignorant and bestial; and in these
days, when education and good manners are not the monopoly of a few,
but universal, such atrocities are scarcely ever heard of. You now see
why the word atavism is used for crime. It is because nearly all
forms of crime known to you are motiveless now, and when they appear
can only be explained as the outcropping of ancestral traits. You used
to call persons who stole, evidently without any rational motive,
kleptomaniacs, and when the case was clear deemed it absurd to punish
them as thieves. Your attitude toward the genuine kleptomaniac is
precisely ours toward the victim of atavism, an attitude of compassion
and firm but gentle restraint.
Your courts must have an easy time of it, I observed. With no
private property to speak of, no disputes between citizens over
business relations, no real estate to divide or debts to collect, there
must be absolutely no civil business at all for them; and with no
offenses against property, and mighty few of any sort to provide
criminal cases, I should think you might almost do without judges and
We do without the lawyers, certainly, was Dr. Leete's reply. It
would not seem reasonable to us, in a case where the only interest of
the nation is to find out the truth, that persons should take part in
the proceedings who had an acknowledged motive to color it.
But who defends the accused?
If he is a criminal he needs no defense, for he pleads guilty in
most instances, replied Dr. Leete. The plea of the accused is not a
mere formality with us, as with you. It is usually the end of the
You don't mean that the man who pleads not guilty is thereupon
No, I do not mean that. He is not accused on light grounds, and if
he denies his guilt, must still be tried. But trials are few, for in
most cases the guilty man pleads guilty. When he makes a false plea and
is clearly proved guilty, his penalty is doubled. Falsehood is,
however, so despised among us that few offenders would lie to save
That is the most astounding thing you have yet told me, I
exclaimed. If lying has gone out of fashion, this is indeed the 'new
heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness,' which the
Such is, in fact, the belief of some persons nowadays, was the
doctor's answer. They hold that we have entered upon the millennium,
and the theory from their point of view does not lack plausibility. But
as to your astonishment at finding that the world has outgrown lying,
there is really no ground for it. Falsehood, even in your day, was not
common between gentlemen and ladies, social equals. The lie of fear was
the refuge of cowardice, and the lie of fraud the device of the cheat.
The inequalities of men and the lust of acquisition offered a constant
premium on lying at that time. Yet even then, the man who neither
feared another nor desired to defraud him scorned falsehood. Because we
are now all social equals, and no man either has anything to fear from
another or can gain anything by deceiving him, the contempt of
falsehood is so universal that it is rarely, as I told you, that even a
criminal in other respects will be found willing to lie. When, however,
a plea of not guilty is returned, the judge appoints two colleagues to
state the opposite sides of the case. How far these men are from being
like your hired advocates and prosecutors, determined to acquit or
convict, may appear from the fact that unless both agree that the
verdict found is just, the case is tried over, while anything like bias
in the tone of either of the judges stating the case would be a
Do I understand, I said, that it is a judge who states each side
of the case as well as a judge who hears it?
Certainly. The judges take turns in serving on the bench and at the
bar, and are expected to maintain the judicial temper equally whether
in stating or deciding a case. The system is indeed in effect that of
trial by three judges occupying different points of view as to the
case. When they agree upon a verdict, we believe it to be as near to
absolute truth as men well can come.
You have given up the jury system, then?
It was well enough as a corrective in the days of hired advocates,
and a bench sometimes venal, and often with a tenure that made it
dependent, but is needless now. No conceivable motive but justice could
actuate our judges.
How are these magistrates selected?
They are an honorable exception to the rule which discharges all
men from service at the age of forty-five. The President of the nation
appoints the necessary judges year by year from the class reaching that
age. The number appointed is, of course, exceedingly few, and the honor
so high that it is held an offset to the additional term of service
which follows, and though a judge's appointment may be declined, it
rarely is. The term is five years, without eligibility to
reappointment. The members of the Supreme Court, which is the guardian
of the constitution, are selected from among the lower judges. When a
vacancy in that court occurs, those of the lower judges, whose terms
expire that year, select, as their last official act, the one of their
colleagues left on the bench whom they deem fittest to fill it.
There being no legal profession to serve as a school for judges, I
said, they must, of course, come directly from the law school to the
We have no such things as law schools, replied the doctor,
smiling. The law as a special science is obsolete. It was a system of
casuistry which the elaborate artificiality of the old order of society
absolutely required to interpret it, but only a few of the plainest and
simplest legal maxims have any application to the existing state of the
world. Everything touching the relations of men to one another is now
simpler, beyond any comparison, than in your day. We should have no
sort of use for the hair-splitting experts who presided and argued in
your courts. You must not imagine, however, that we have any disrespect
for those ancient worthies because we have no use for them. On the
contrary, we entertain an unfeigned respect, amounting almost to awe,
for the men who alone understood and were able to expound the
interminable complexity of the rights of property, and the relations of
commercial and personal dependence involved in your system. What,
indeed, could possibly give a more powerful impression of the intricacy
and artificiality of that system than the fact that it was necessary to
set apart from other pursuits the cream of the intellect of every
generation, in order to provide a body of pundits able to make it even
vaguely intelligible to those whose fates it determined. The treatises
of your great lawyers, the works of Blackstone and Chitty, of Story and
Parsons, stand in our museums, side by side with the tomes of Duns
Scotus and his fellow scholastics, as curious monuments of intellectual
subtlety devoted to subjects equally remote from the interests of
modern men. Our judges are simply widely informed, judicious, and
discreet men of ripe years.
I should not fail to speak of one important function of the minor
judges, added Dr. Leete. This is to adjudicate all cases where a
private of the industrial army makes a complaint of unfairness against
an officer. All such questions are heard and settled without appeal by
a single judge, three judges being required only in graver cases. The
efficiency of industry requires the strictest discipline in the army of
labor, but the claim of the workman to just and considerate treatment
is backed by the whole power of the nation. The officer commands and
the private obeys, but no officer is so high that he would dare display
an overbearing manner toward a workman of the lowest class. As for
churlishness or rudeness by an official of any sort, in his relations
to the public, not one among minor offenses is more sure of a prompt
penalty than this. Not only justice but civility is enforced by our
judges in all sorts of intercourse. No value of service is accepted as
a set-off to boorish or offensive manners.
It occurred to me, as Dr. Leete was speaking, that in all his talk I
had heard much of the nation and nothing of the state governments. Had
the organization of the nation as an industrial unit done away with the
states? I asked.
Necessarily, he replied. The state governments would have
interfered with the control and discipline of the industrial army,
which, of course, required to be central and uniform. Even if the state
governments had not become inconvenient for other reasons, they were
rendered superfluous by the prodigious simplification in the task of
government since your day. Almost the sole function of the
administration now is that of directing the industries of the country.
Most of the purposes for which governments formerly existed no longer
remain to be subserved. We have no army or navy, and no military
organization. We have no departments of state or treasury, no excise or
revenue services, no taxes or tax collectors. The only function proper
of government, as known to you, which still remains, is the judiciary
and police system. I have already explained to you how simple is our
judicial system as compared with your huge and complex machine. Of
course the same absence of crime and temptation to it, which make the
duties of judges so light, reduces the number and duties of the police
to a minimum.
But with no state legislatures, and Congress meeting only once in
five years, how do you get your legislation done?
We have no legislation, replied Dr. Leete, that is, next to none.
It is rarely that Congress, even when it meets, considers any new laws
of consequence, and then it only has power to commend them to the
following Congress, lest anything be done hastily. If you will consider
a moment, Mr. West, you will see that we have nothing to make laws
about. The fundamental principles on which our society is founded
settle for all time the strifes and misunderstandings which in your day
called for legislation.
Fully ninety-nine hundredths of the laws of that time concerned the
definition and protection of private property and the relations of
buyers and sellers. There is neither private property, beyond personal
belongings, now, nor buying and selling, and therefore the occasion of
nearly all the legislation formerly necessary has passed away.
Formerly, society was a pyramid poised on its apex. All the
gravitations of human nature were constantly tending to topple it over,
and it could be maintained upright, or rather upwrong (if you will
pardon the feeble witticism), by an elaborate system of constantly
renewed props and buttresses and guy-ropes in the form of laws. A
central Congress and forty state legislatures, turning out some twenty
thousand laws a year, could not make new props fast enough to take the
place of those which were constantly breaking down or becoming
ineffectual through some shifting of the strain. Now society rests on
its base, and is in as little need of artificial supports as the
But you have at least municipal governments besides the one central
Certainly, and they have important and extensive functions in
looking out for the public comfort and recreation, and the improvement
and embellishment of the villages and cities.
But having no control over the labor of their people, or means of
hiring it, how can they do anything?
Every town or city is conceded the right to retain, for its own
public works, a certain proportion of the quota of labor its citizens
contribute to the nation. This proportion, being assigned it as so much
credit, can be applied in any way desired.
That afternoon Edith casually inquired if I had yet revisited the
underground chamber in the garden in which I had been found.
Not yet, I replied. To be frank, I have shrunk thus far from
doing so, lest the visit might revive old associations rather too
strongly for my mental equilibrium.
Ah, yes! she said, I can imagine that you have done well to stay
away. I ought to have thought of that.
No, I said, I am glad you spoke of it. The danger, if there was
any, existed only during the first day or two. Thanks to you, chiefly
and always, I feel my footing now so firm in this new world, that if
you will go with me to keep the ghosts off, I should really like to
visit the place this afternoon.
Edith demurred at first, but, finding that I was in earnest,
consented to accompany me. The rampart of earth thrown up from the
excavation was visible among the trees from the house, and a few steps
brought us to the spot. All remained as it was at the point when work
was interrupted by the discovery of the tenant of the chamber, save
that the door had been opened and the slab from the roof replaced.
Descending the sloping sides of the excavation, we went in at the door
and stood within the dimly-lighted room.
Everything was just as I had beheld it last on that evening one
hundred and thirteen years previous, just before closing my eyes for
that long sleep. I stood for some time silently looking about me. I saw
that my companion was furtively regarding me with an expression of awed
and sympathetic curiosity. I put out my hand to her and she placed hers
in it, the soft fingers responding with a reassuring pressure to my
clasp. Finally she whispered, Had we not better go out now? You must
not try yourself too far. Oh, how strange it must be to you!
On the contrary, I replied, it does not seem strange; that is the
strangest part of it.
Not strange? she echoed.
Even so, I replied. The emotions with which you evidently credit
me, and which I anticipated would attend this visit, I simply do not
feel. I realize all that these surroundings suggest, but without the
agitation I expected. You can't be nearly as much surprised at this as
I am myself. Ever since that terrible morning when you came to my help,
I have tried to avoid thinking of my former life, just as I have
avoided coming here, for fear of the agitating effects. I am for all
the world like a man who has permitted an injured limb to lie
motionless under the impression that it is exquisitely sensitive, and
on trying to move it finds that it is paralyzed.
Do you mean your memory is gone?
Not at all. I remember everything connected with my former life,
but with a total lack of keen sensation. I remember it for clearness as
if it had been but a day since then, but my feelings about what I
remember are as faint as if to my consciousness, as well as in fact, a
hundred years had intervened. Perhaps it is possible to explain this,
too. The effect of change in surroundings is like that of lapse of time
in making the past seem remote. When I first woke from that trance, my
former life appeared as yesterday, but now, since I have learned to
know my new surroundings, and to realize the prodigious changes that
have transformed the world, I no longer find it hard, but very easy, to
realize that I have slept a century. Can you conceive of such a thing
as living a hundred years in four days? It really seems to me that I
have done just that, and that it is this experience which has given so
remote and unreal an appearance to my former life. Can you see how such
a thing might be?
I can conceive it, replied Edith, meditatively, and I think we
ought all to be thankful that it is so, for it will save you much
suffering, I am sure.
Imagine, I said, in an effort to explain, as much to myself as to
her, the strangeness of my mental condition, that a man first heard of
a bereavement many, many years, half a lifetime perhaps, after the
event occurred. I fancy his feeling would be perhaps something as mine
is. When I think of my friends in the world of that former day, and the
sorrow they must have felt for me, it is with a pensive pity, rather
than keen anguish, as of a sorrow long, long ago ended.
You have told us nothing yet of your friends, said Edith. Had you
many to mourn you?
Thank God, I had very few relatives, none nearer than cousins, I
replied. But there was one, not a relative, but dearer to me than any
kin of blood. She had your name. She was to have been my wife soon. Ah
Ah me! sighed the Edith by my side. Think of the heartache she
must have had.
Something in the deep feeling of this gentle girl touched a chord in
my benumbed heart. My eyes, before so dry, were flooded with the tears
that had till now refused to come. When I had regained my composure, I
saw that she too had been weeping freely.
God bless your tender heart, I said. Would you like to see her
A small locket with Edith Bartlett's picture, secured about my neck
with a gold chain, had lain upon my breast all through that long sleep,
and removing this I opened and gave it to my companion. She took it
with eagerness, and after poring long over the sweet face, touched the
picture with her lips.
I know that she was good and lovely enough to well deserve your
tears, she said; but remember her heartache was over long ago, and
she has been in heaven for nearly a century.
It was indeed so. Whatever her sorrow had once been, for nearly a
century she had ceased to weep, and, my sudden passion spent, my own
tears dried away. I had loved her very dearly in my other life, but it
was a hundred years ago! I do not know but some may find in this
confession evidence of lack of feeling, but I think, perhaps, that none
can have had an experience sufficiently like mine to enable them to
judge me. As we were about to leave the chamber, my eye rested upon the
great iron safe which stood in one corner. Calling my companion's
attention to it, I said:
This was my strong room as well as my sleeping room. In the safe
yonder are several thousand dollars in gold, and any amount of
securities. If I had known when I went to sleep that night just how
long my nap would be, I should still have thought that the gold was a
safe provision for my needs in any country or any century, however
distant. That a time would ever come when it would lose its purchasing
power, I should have considered the wildest of fancies. Nevertheless,
here I wake up to find myself among a people of whom a cartload of gold
will not procure a loaf of bread.
As might be expected, I did not succeed in impressing Edith that
there was anything remarkable in this fact. Why in the world should
it? she merely asked.
It had been suggested by Dr. Leete that we should devote the next
morning to an inspection of the schools and colleges of the city, with
some attempt on his own part at an explanation of the educational
system of the twentieth century.
You will see, said he, as we set out after breakfast, many very
important differences between our methods of education and yours, but
the main difference is that nowadays all persons equally have those
opportunities of higher education which in your day only an
infinitesimal portion of the population enjoyed. We should think we had
gained nothing worth speaking of, in equalizing the physical comfort of
men, without this educational equality.
The cost must be very great, I said.
If it took half the revenue of the nation, nobody would grudge it,
replied Dr. Leete, nor even if it took it all save a bare pittance.
But in truth the expense of educating ten thousand youth is not ten nor
five times that of educating one thousand. The principle which makes
all operations on a large scale proportionally cheaper than on a small
scale holds as to education also.
College education was terribly expensive in my day, said I.
If I have not been misinformed by our historians, Dr. Leete
answered, it was not college education but college dissipation and
extravagance which cost so highly. The actual expense of your colleges
appears to have been very low, and would have been far lower if their
patronage had been greater. The higher education nowadays is as cheap
as the lower, as all grades of teachers, like all other workers,
receive the same support. We have simply added to the common school
system of compulsory education, in vogue in Massachusetts a hundred
years ago, a half dozen higher grades, carrying the youth to the age of
twenty-one and giving him what you used to call the education of a
gentleman, instead of turning him loose at fourteen or fifteen with no
mental equipment beyond reading, writing, and the multiplication
Setting aside the actual cost of these additional years of
education, I replied, we should not have thought we could afford the
loss of time from industrial pursuits. Boys of the poorer classes
usually went to work at sixteen or younger, and knew their trade at
We should not concede you any gain even in material product by that
plan, Dr. Leete replied. The greater efficiency which education gives
to all sorts of labor, except the rudest, makes up in a short period
for the time lost in acquiring it.
We should also have been afraid, said I, that a high education,
while it adapted men to the professions, would set them against manual
labor of all sorts.
That was the effect of high education in your day, I have read,
replied the doctor; and it was no wonder, for manual labor meant
association with a rude, coarse, and ignorant class of people. There is
no such class now. It was inevitable that such a feeling should exist
then, for the further reason that all men receiving a high education
were understood to be destined for the professions or for wealthy
leisure, and such an education in one neither rich nor professional was
a proof of disappointed aspirations, an evidence of failure, a badge of
inferiority rather than superiority. Nowadays, of course, when the
highest education is deemed necessary to fit a man merely to live,
without any reference to the sort of work he may do, its possession
conveys no such implication.
After all, I remarked, no amount of education can cure natural
dullness or make up for original mental deficiencies. Unless the
average natural mental capacity of men is much above its level in my
day, a high education must be pretty nearly thrown away on a large
element of the population. We used to hold that a certain amount of
susceptibility to educational influences is required to make a mind
worth cultivating, just as a certain natural fertility in soil is
required if it is to repay tilling.
Ah, said Dr. Leete, I am glad you used that illustration, for it
is just the one I would have chosen to set forth the modern view of
education. You say that land so poor that the product will not repay
the labor of tilling is not cultivated. Nevertheless, much land that
does not begin to repay tilling by its product was cultivated in your
day and is in ours. I refer to gardens, parks, lawns, and, in general,
to pieces of land so situated that, were they left to grow up to weeds
and briers, they would be eyesores and inconveniences to all about.
They are therefore tilled, and though their product is little, there is
yet no land that, in a wider sense, better repays cultivation. So it is
with the men and women with whom we mingle in the relations of society,
whose voices are always in our ears, whose behavior in innumerable ways
affects our enjoyment,who are, in fact, as much conditions of our
lives as the air we breathe, or any of the physical elements on which
we depend. If, indeed, we could not afford to educate everybody, we
should choose the coarsest and dullest by nature, rather than the
brightest, to receive what education we could give. The naturally
refined and intellectual can better dispense with aids to culture than
those less fortunate in natural endowments.
To borrow a phrase which was often used in your day, we should not
consider life worth living if we had to be surrounded by a population
of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated men and women, as was
the plight of the few educated in your day. Is a man satisfied, merely
because he is perfumed himself, to mingle with a malodorous crowd?
Could he take more than a very limited satisfaction, even in a palatial
apartment, if the windows on all four sides opened into stable yards?
And yet just that was the situation of those considered most fortunate
as to culture and refinement in your day. I know that the poor and
ignorant envied the rich and cultured then; but to us the latter,
living as they did, surrounded by squalor and brutishness, seem little
better off than the former. The cultured man in your age was like one
up to the neck in a nauseous bog solacing himself with a smelling
bottle. You see, perhaps, now, how we look at this question of
universal high education. No single thing is so important to every man
as to have for neighbors intelligent, companionable persons. There is
nothing, therefore, which the nation can do for him that will enhance
so much his own happiness as to educate his neighbors. When it fails to
do so, the value of his own education to him is reduced by half, and
many of the tastes he has cultivated are made positive sources of pain.
To educate some to the highest degree, and leave the mass wholly
uncultivated, as you did, made the gap between them almost like that
between different natural species, which have no means of
communication. What could be more inhuman than this consequence of a
partial enjoyment of education! Its universal and equal enjoyment
leaves, indeed, the differences between men as to natural endowments as
marked as in a state of nature, but the level of the lowest is vastly
raised. Brutishness is eliminated. All have some inkling of the
humanities, some appreciation of the things of the mind, and an
admiration for the still higher culture they have fallen short of. They
have become capable of receiving and imparting, in various degrees, but
all in some measure, the pleasures and inspirations of a refined social
life. The cultured society of the nineteenth century,what did it
consist of but here and there a few microscopic oases in a vast,
unbroken wilderness? The proportion of individuals capable of
intellectual sympathies or refined intercourse, to the mass of their
contemporaries, used to be so infinitesimal as to be in any broad view
of humanity scarcely worth mentioning. One generation of the world
to-day represents a greater volume of intellectual life than any five
centuries ever did before.
There is still another point I should mention in stating the
grounds on which nothing less than the universality of the best
education could now be tolerated, continued Dr. Leete, and that is,
the interest of the coming generation in having educated parents. To
put the matter in a nutshell, there are three main grounds on which our
educational system rests: first, the right of every man to the
completest education the nation can give him on his own account, as
necessary to his enjoyment of himself; second, the right of his
fellow-citizens to have him educated, as necessary to their enjoyment
of his society; third, the right of the unborn to be guaranteed an
intelligent and refined parentage.
I shall not describe in detail what I saw in the schools that day.
Having taken but slight interest in educational matters in my former
life, I could offer few comparisons of interest. Next to the fact of
the universality of the higher as well as the lower education, I was
most struck with the prominence given to physical culture, and the fact
that proficiency in athletic feats and games as well as in scholarship
had a place in the rating of the youth.
The faculty of education, Dr. Leete explained, is held to the
same responsibility for the bodies as for the minds of its charges. The
highest possible physical, as well as mental, development of every one
is the double object of a curriculum which lasts from the age of six to
that of twenty-one.
The magnificent health of the young people in the schools impressed
me strongly. My previous observations, not only of the notable personal
endowments of the family of my host, but of the people I had seen in my
walks abroad, had already suggested the idea that there must have been
something like a general improvement in the physical standard of the
race since my day, and now, as I compared these stalwart young men and
fresh, vigorous maidens with the young people I had seen in the schools
of the nineteenth century, I was moved to impart my thought to Dr.
Leete. He listened with great interest to what I said.
Your testimony on this point, he declared, is invaluable. We
believe that there has been such an improvement as you speak of, but of
course it could only be a matter of theory with us. It is an incident
of your unique position that you alone in the world of to-day can speak
with authority on this point. Your opinion, when you state it publicly,
will, I assure you, make a profound sensation. For the rest it would be
strange, certainly, if the race did not show an improvement. In your
day, riches debauched one class with idleness of mind and body, while
poverty sapped the vitality of the masses by overwork, bad food, and
pestilent homes. The labor required of children, and the burdens laid
on women, enfeebled the very springs of life. Instead of these
maleficent circumstances, all now enjoy the most favorable conditions
of physical life; the young are carefully nurtured and studiously cared
for; the labor which is required of all is limited to the period of
greatest bodily vigor, and is never excessive; care for one's self and
one's family, anxiety as to livelihood, the strain of a ceaseless
battle for lifeall these influences, which once did so much to wreck
the minds and bodies of men and women, are known no more. Certainly, an
improvement of the species ought to follow such a change. In certain
specific respects we know, indeed, that the improvement has taken
place. Insanity, for instance, which in the nineteenth century was so
terribly common a product of your insane mode of life, has almost
disappeared, with its alternative, suicide.
We had made an appointment to meet the ladies at the dining-hall for
dinner, after which, having some engagement, they left us sitting at
table there, discussing our wine and cigars with a multitude of other
Doctor, said I, in the course of our talk, morally speaking, your
social system is one which I should be insensate not to admire in
comparison with any previously in vogue in the world, and especially
with that of my own most unhappy century. If I were to fall into a
mesmeric sleep to-night as lasting as that other, and meanwhile the
course of time were to take a turn backward instead of forward, and I
were to wake up again in the nineteenth century, when I had told my
friends what I had seen, they would every one admit that your world was
a paradise of order, equity, and felicity. But they were a very
practical people, my contemporaries, and after expressing their
admiration for the moral beauty and material splendor of the system,
they would presently begin to cipher and ask how you got the money to
make everybody so happy; for certainly, to support the whole nation at
a rate of comfort, and even luxury, such as I see around me, must
involve vastly greater wealth than the nation produced in my day. Now,
while I could explain to them pretty nearly everything else of the main
features of your system, I should quite fail to answer this question,
and failing there, they would tell me, for they were very close
cipherers, that I had been dreaming; nor would they ever believe
anything else. In my day, I know that the total annual product of the
nation, although it might have been divided with absolute equality,
would not have come to more than three or four hundred dollars per
head, not very much more than enough to supply the necessities of life
with few or any of its comforts. How is it that you have so much more?
That is a very pertinent question, Mr. West, replied Dr. Leete,
and I should not blame your friends, in the case you supposed, if they
declared your story all moonshine, failing a satisfactory reply to it.
It is a question which I cannot answer exhaustively at any one sitting,
and as for the exact statistics to bear out my general statements, I
shall have to refer you for them to books in my library, but it would
certainly be a pity to leave you to be put to confusion by your old
acquaintances, in case of the contingency you speak of, for lack of a
Let us begin with a number of small items wherein we economize
wealth as compared with you. We have no national, state, county, or
municipal debts, or payments on their account. We have no sort of
military or naval expenditures for men or materials, no army, navy, or
militia. We have no revenue service, no swarm of tax assessors and
collectors. As regards our judiciary, police, sheriffs, and jailers,
the force which Massachusetts alone kept on foot in your day far more
than suffices for the nation now. We have no criminal class preying
upon the wealth of society as you had. The number of persons, more or
less absolutely lost to the working force through physical disability,
of the lame, sick, and debilitated, which constituted such a burden on
the able-bodied in your day, now that all live under conditions of
health and comfort, has shrunk to scarcely perceptible proportions, and
with every generation is becoming more completely eliminated.
Another item wherein we save is the disuse of money and the
thousand occupations connected with financial operations of all sorts,
whereby an army of men was formerly taken away from useful employments.
Also consider that the waste of the very rich in your day on inordinate
personal luxury has ceased, though, indeed, this item might easily be
over-estimated. Again, consider that there are no idlers now, rich or
A very important cause of former poverty was the vast waste of
labor and materials which resulted from domestic washing and cooking,
and the performing separately of innumerable other tasks to which we
apply the coöperative plan.
A larger economy than any of theseyes, of all togetheris
effected by the organization of our distributing system, by which the
work done once by the merchants, traders, storekeepers, with their
various grades of jobbers, wholesalers, retailers, agents, commercial
travelers, and middlemen of all sorts, with an excessive waste of
energy in needless transportation and interminable handlings, is
performed by one-tenth the number of hands and an unnecessary turn of
not one wheel. Something of what our distributing system is like you
know. Our statisticians calculate that one eightieth part of our
workers suffices for all the processes of distribution which in your
day required one eighth of the population, so much being withdrawn from
the force engaged in productive labor.
I begin to see, I said, where you get your greater wealth.
I beg your pardon, replied Dr. Leete, but you scarcely do as yet.
The economies I have mentioned thus far, in the aggregate, considering
the labor they would save directly and indirectly through saving of
material, might possibly be equivalent to the addition to your annual
production of wealth of one-half its former total. These items are,
however, scarcely worth mentioning in comparison with other prodigious
wastes, now saved, which resulted inevitably from leaving the
industries of the nation to private enterprise. However great the
economies your contemporaries might have devised in the consumption of
products, and however marvelous the progress of mechanical invention,
they could never have raised themselves out of the slough of poverty so
long as they held to that system.
No mode more wasteful for utilizing human energy could be devised,
and for the credit of the human intellect it should be remembered that
the system never was devised, but was merely a survival from the rude
ages when the lack of social organization made any sort of coöperation
I will readily admit, I said, that our industrial system was
ethically very bad, but as a mere wealth-making machine, apart from
moral aspects, it seemed to us admirable.
As I said, responded the doctor, the subject is too large to
discuss at length now, but if you are really interested to know the
main criticisms which we moderns make on your industrial system as
compared with our own, I can touch briefly on some of them.
The wastes which resulted from leaving the conduct of industry to
irresponsible individuals, wholly without mutual understanding or
concert, were mainly four: first, the waste by mistaken undertakings;
second, the waste from the competition and mutual hostility of those
engaged in industry; third, the waste by periodical gluts and crises,
with the consequent interruptions of industry; fourth, the waste from
idle capital and labor, at all times. Any one of these four great
leaks, were all the others stopped, would suffice to make the
difference between wealth and poverty on the part of a nation.
Take the waste by mistaken undertakings, to begin with. In your day
the production and distribution of commodities being without concert or
organization, there was no means of knowing just what demand there was
for any class of products, or what was the rate of supply. Therefore,
any enterprise by a private capitalist was always a doubtful
experiment. The projector having no general view of the field of
industry and consumption, such as our government has, could never be
sure either what the people wanted, or what arrangements other
capitalists were making to supply them. In view of this, we are not
surprised to learn that the chances were considered several to one in
favor of the failure of any given business enterprise, and that it was
common for persons who at last succeeded in making a hit to have failed
repeatedly. If a shoemaker, for every pair of shoes he succeeded in
completing, spoiled the leather of four or five pair, besides losing
the time spent on them, he would stand about the same chance of getting
rich as your contemporaries did with their system of private
enterprise, and its average of four or five failures to one success.
The next of the great wastes was that from competition. The field
of industry was a battlefield as wide as the world, in which the
workers wasted, in assailing one another, energies which, if expended
in concerted effort, as to-day, would have enriched all. As for mercy
or quarter in this warfare, there was absolutely no suggestion of it.
To deliberately enter a field of business and destroy the enterprises
of those who had occupied it previously, in order to plant one's own
enterprise on their ruins, was an achievement which never failed to
command popular admiration. Nor is there any stretch of fancy in
comparing this sort of struggle with actual warfare, so far as concerns
the mental agony and physical suffering which attended the struggle,
and the misery which overwhelmed the defeated and those dependent on
them. Now nothing about your age is, at first sight, more astounding to
a man of modern times than the fact that men engaged in the same
industry, instead of fraternizing as comrades and co-laborers to a
common end, should have regarded each other as rivals and enemies to be
throttled and overthrown. This certainly seems like sheer madness, a
scene from bedlam. But more closely regarded, it is seen to be no such
thing. Your contemporaries, with their mutual throat-cutting, knew very
well what they were at. The producers of the nineteenth century were
not, like ours, working together for the maintenance of the community,
but each solely for his own maintenance at the expense of the
community. If, in working to this end, he at the same time increased
the aggregate wealth, that was merely incidental. It was just as
feasible and as common to increase one's private hoard by practices
injurious to the general welfare. One's worst enemies were necessarily
those of his own trade, for, under your plan of making private profit
the motive of production, a scarcity of the article he produced was
what each particular producer desired. It was for his interest that no
more of it should be produced than he himself could produce. To secure
this consummation as far as circumstances permitted, by killing off and
discouraging those engaged in his line of industry, was his constant
effort. When he had billed off all he could, his policy was to combine
with those he could not kill, and convert their mutual warfare into a
warfare upon the public at large by cornering the market, as I believe
you used to call it, and putting up prices to the highest point people
would stand before going without the goods. The day dream of the
nineteenth century producer was to gain absolute control of the supply
of some necessity of life, so that he might keep the public at the
verge of starvation, and always command famine prices for what he
supplied. This, Mr. West, is what was called in the nineteenth century
a system of production. I will leave it to you if it does not seem, in
some of its aspects, a great deal more like a system for preventing
production. Some time when we have plenty of leisure I am going to ask
you to sit down with me and try to make me comprehend, as I never yet
could, though I have studied the matter a great deal, how such shrewd
fellows as your contemporaries appear to have been in many respects
ever came to entrust the business of providing for the community to a
class whose interest it was to starve it. I assure you that the wonder
with us is, not that the world did not get rich under such a system,
but that it did not perish outright from want. This wonder increases as
we go on to consider some of the other prodigious wastes that
Apart from the waste of labor and capital by misdirected industry,
and that from the constant bloodletting of your industrial warfare,
your system was liable to periodical convulsions, overwhelming alike
the wise and unwise, the successful cut-throat as well as his victim. I
refer to the business crises at intervals of five to ten years, which
wrecked the industries of the nation, prostrating all weak enterprises
and crippling the strongest, and were followed by long periods, often
of many years, of so-called dull times, during which the capitalists
slowly regathered their dissipated strength while the laboring classes
starved and rioted. Then would ensue another brief season of
prosperity, followed in turn by another crisis and the ensuing years of
exhaustion. As commerce developed, making the nations mutually
dependent, these arises became world-wide, while the obstinacy of the
ensuing state of collapse increased with the area affected by the
convulsions, and the consequent lack of rallying centres. In proportion
as the industries of the world multiplied and became complex, and the
volume of capital involved was increased, these business cataclysms
became more frequent, till, in the latter part of the nineteenth
century, there were two years of bad times to one of good, and the
system of industry, never before so extended or so imposing, seemed in
danger of collapsing by its own weight. After endless discussions, your
economists appear by that time to have settled down to the despairing
conclusion that there was no more possibility of preventing or
controlling these crises than if they had been drouths or hurricanes.
It only remained to endure them as necessary evils, and when they had
passed over to build up again the shattered structure of industry, as
dwellers in an earthquake country keep on rebuilding their cities on
the same site.
So far as considering the causes of the trouble inherent in their
industrial system, your contemporaries were certainly correct. They
were in its very basis, and must needs become more and more maleficent
as the business fabric grew in size and complexity. One of these causes
was the lack of any common control of the different industries, and the
consequent impossibility of their orderly and coördinate development.
It inevitably resulted from this lack that they were continually
getting out of step with one another and out of relation with the
Of the latter there was no criterion such as organized distribution
gives us, and the first notice that it had been exceeded in any group
of industries was a crash of prices, bankruptcy of producers, stoppage
of production, reduction of wages, or discharge of workmen. This
process was constantly going on in many industries, even in what were
called good times, but a crisis took place only when the industries
affected were extensive. The markets then were glutted with goods, of
which nobody wanted beyond a sufficiency at any price. The wages and
profits of those making the glutted classes of goods being reduced or
wholly stopped, their purchasing power as consumers of other classes of
goods, of which there was no natural glut, was taken away, and, as a
consequence, goods of which there was no natural glut became
artificially glutted, till their prices also were broken down, and
their makers thrown out of work and deprived of income. The crisis was
by this time fairly under way, and nothing could check it till a
nation's ransom had been wasted.
A cause, also inherent in your system, which often produced and
always terribly aggravated crises, was the machinery of money and
credit. Money was essential when production was in many private hands,
and buying and selling was necessary to secure what one wanted. It was,
however, open to the obvious objection of substituting for food,
clothing, and other things a merely conventional representative of
them. The confusion of mind which this favored, between goods and their
representative, led the way to the credit system and its prodigious
illusions. Already accustomed to accept money for commodities, the
people next accepted promises for money, and ceased to look at all
behind the representative for the thing represented. Money was a sign
of real commodities, but credit was but the sign of a sign. There was a
natural limit to gold and silver, that is, money proper, but none to
credit, and the result was that the volume of credit, that is, the
promises of money, ceased to bear any ascertainable proportion to the
money, still less to the commodities, actually in existence. Under such
a system, frequent and periodical crises were necessitated by a law as
absolute as that which brings to the ground a structure overhanging its
centre of gravity. It was one of your fictions that the government and
the banks authorized by it alone issued money; but everybody who gave a
dollar's credit issued money to that extent, which was as good as any
to swell the circulation till the next crises. The great extension of
the credit system was a characteristic of the latter part of the
nineteenth century, and accounts largely for the almost incessant
business crises which marked that period. Perilous as credit was, you
could not dispense with its use, for, lacking any national or other
public organization of the capital of the country, it was the only
means you had for concentrating and directing it upon industrial
enterprises. It was in this way a most potent means for exaggerating
the chief peril of the private enterprise system of industry by
enabling particular industries to absorb disproportionate amounts of
the disposable capital of the country, and thus prepare disaster.
Business enterprises were always vastly in debt for advances of credit,
both to one another and to the banks and capitalists, and the prompt
withdrawal of this credit at the first sign of a crisis was generally
the precipitating cause of it.
It was the misfortune of your contemporaries that they had to
cement their business fabric with a material which an accident might at
any moment turn into an explosive. They were in the plight of a man
building a house with dynamite for mortar, for credit can be compared
with nothing else.
If you would see how needless were these convulsions of business
which I have been speaking of, and how entirely they resulted from
leaving industry to private and unorganized management, just consider
the working of our system. Overproduction in special lines, which was
the great hobgoblin of your day, is impossible now, for by the
connection between distribution and production supply is geared to
demand like an engine to the governor which regulates its speed. Even
suppose by an error of judgment an excessive production of some
commodity. The consequent slackening or cessation of production in that
line throws nobody out of employment. The suspended workers are at once
found occupation in some other department of the vast workshop and lose
only the time spent in changing, while, as for the glut, the business
of the nation is large enough to carry any amount of product
manufactured in excess of demand till the latter overtakes it. In such
a case of over-production, as I have supposed, there is not with us, as
with you, any complex machinery to get out of order and magnify a
thousand times the original mistake. Of course, having not even money,
we still less have credit. All estimates deal directly with the real
things, the flour, iron, wood, wool, and labor, of which money and
credit were for you the very misleading representatives. In our
calculations of cost there can be no mistakes. Out of the annual
product the amount necessary for the support of the people is taken,
and the requisite labor to produce the next year's consumption provided
for. The residue of the material and labor represents what can be
safely expended in improvements. If the crops are bad, the surplus for
that year is less than usual, that is all. Except for slight occasional
effects of such natural causes, there are no fluctuations of business;
the material prosperity of the nation flows on uninterruptedly from
generation to generation, like an ever broadening and deepening river.
Your business crises, Mr. West, continued the doctor, like either
of the great wastes I mentioned before, were enough, alone, to have
kept your noses to the grindstone forever; but I have still to speak of
one other great cause of your poverty, and that was the idleness of a
great part of your capital and labor. With us it is the business of the
administration to keep in constant employment every ounce of available
capital and labor in the country. In your day there was no general
control of either capital or labor, and a large part of both failed to
find employment. 'Capital,' you used to say, 'is naturally timid,' and
it would certainly have been reckless if it had not been timid in an
epoch when there was a large preponderance of probability that any
particular business venture would end in failure. There was no time
when, if security could have been guaranteed it, the amount of capital
devoted to productive industry could not have been greatly increased.
The proportion of it so employed underwent constant extraordinary
fluctuations, according to the greater or less feeling of uncertainty
as to the stability of the industrial situation, so that the output of
the national industries greatly varied in different years. But for the
same reason that the amount of capital employed at times of special
insecurity was far less than at times of somewhat greater security, a
very large proportion was never employed at all, because the hazard of
business was always very great in the best of times.
It should be also noted that the great amount of capital always
seeking employment where tolerable safety could be insured terribly
embittered the competition between capitalists when a promising opening
presented itself. The idleness of capital, the result of its timidity,
of course meant the idleness of labor in corresponding degree.
Moreover, every change in the adjustments of business, every slightest
alteration in the condition of commerce or manufactures, not to speak
of the innumerable business failures that took place yearly, even in
the best of times, were constantly throwing a multitude of men out of
employment for periods of weeks or months, or even years. A great
number of these seekers after employment were constantly traversing the
country, becoming in time professional vagabonds, then criminals. 'Give
us work!' was the cry of an army of the unemployed at nearly all
seasons, and in seasons of dullness in business this army swelled to a
host so vast and desperate as to threaten the stability of the
government. Could there conceivably be a more conclusive demonstration
of the imbecility of the system of private enterprise as a method for
enriching a nation than the fact that, in an age of such general
poverty and want of everything, capitalists had to throttle one another
to find a safe chance to invest their capital and workmen rioted and
burned because they could find no work to do?
Now, Mr. West, continued Dr. Leete, I want you to bear in mind
that these points of which I have been speaking indicate only
negatively the advantages of the national organization of industry by
showing certain fatal defects and prodigious imbecilities of the
systems of private enterprise which are not found in it. These alone,
you must admit, would pretty well explain why the nation is so much
richer than in your day. But the larger half of our advantage over you,
the positive side of it, I have yet barely spoken of. Supposing the
system of private enterprise in industry were without any of the great
leaks I have mentioned; that there were no waste on account of
misdirected effort growing out of mistakes as to the demand, and
inability to command a general view of the industrial field. Suppose,
also, there were no neutralizing and duplicating of effort from
competition. Suppose, also, there were no waste from business panics
and crises through bankruptcy and long interruptions of industry, and
also none from the idleness of capital and labor. Supposing these
evils, which are essential to the conduct of industry by capital in
private hands, could all be miraculously prevented, and the system yet
retained; even then the superiority of the results attained by the
modern industrial system of national control would remain overwhelming.
You used to have some pretty large textile manufacturing
establishments, even in your day, although not comparable with ours. No
doubt you have visited these great mills in your time, covering acres
of ground, employing thousands of hands, and combining under one roof,
under one control, the hundred distinct processes between, say, the
cotton bale and the bale of glossy calicoes. You have admired the vast
economy of labor as of mechanical force resulting from the perfect
interworking with the rest of every wheel and every hand. No doubt you
have reflected how much less the same force of workers employed in that
factory would accomplish if they were scattered, each man working
independently. Would you think it an exaggeration to say that the
utmost product of those workers, working thus apart, however amicable
their relations might be, was increased not merely by a percentage, but
many fold, when their efforts were organized under one control? Well
now, Mr. West, the organization of the industry of the nation under a
single control, so that all its processes interlock, has multiplied the
total product over the utmost that could be done under the former
system, even leaving out of account the four great wastes mentioned, in
the same proportion that the product of those millworkers was increased
by coöperation. The effectiveness of the working force of a nation,
under the myriad-headed leadership of private capital, even if the
leaders were not mutual enemies, as compared with that which it attains
under a single head, may be likened to the military efficiency of a
mob, or a horde of barbarians with a thousand petty chiefs, as compared
with that of a disciplined army under one generalsuch a fighting
machine, for example, as the German army in the time of Von Moltke.
After what you have told me, I said, I do not so much wonder that
the nation is richer now than then, but that you are not all
Well, replied Dr. Leete, we are pretty well off. The rate at
which we live is as luxurious as we could wish. The rivalry of
ostentation, which in your day led to extravagance in no way conducive
to comfort, finds no place, of course, in a society of people
absolutely equal in resources, and our ambition stops at the
surroundings which minister to the enjoyment of life. We might, indeed,
have much larger incomes, individually, if we chose so to use the
surplus of our product, but we prefer to expend it upon public works
and pleasures in which all share, upon public halls and buildings, art
galleries, bridges, statuary, means or transit, and the conveniences of
our cities, great musical and theatrical exhibitions, and in providing
on a vast scale for the recreations of the people. You have not begun
to see how we live yet, Mr. West. At home we have comfort, but the
splendor of our life is, on its social side, that which we share with
our fellows. When you know more of it you will see where the money
goes, as you used to say, and I think you will agree that we do well so
to expend it.
I suppose, observed Dr. Leete, as we strolled homeward from the
dining hall, that no reflection would have cut the men of your
wealth-worshiping century more keenly than the suggestion that they did
not know how to make money. Nevertheless, that is just the verdict
history has passed on them. Their system of unorganized and
antagonistic industries was as absurd economically as it was morally
abominable. Selfishness was their only science, and in industrial
production selfishness is suicide. Competition, which is the instinct
of selfishness, is another word for dissipation of energy, while
combination is the secret of efficient production; and not till the
idea of increasing the individual hoard gives place to the idea of
increasing the common stock can industrial combination be realized, and
the acquisition of wealth really begin. Even if the principle of share
and share alike for all men were not the only humane and rational basis
for a society, we should still enforce it as economically expedient,
seeing that until the disintegrating influence of self-seeking is
suppressed no true concert of industry is possible.
That evening, as I sat with Edith in the music room, listening to
some pieces in the programme of that day which had attracted my notice,
I took advantage of an interval in the music to say, I have a question
to ask you which I fear is rather indiscreet.
I am quite sure it is not that, she replied, encouragingly.
I am in the position of an eavesdropper, I continued, who, having
overheard a little of a matter not intended for him, though seeming to
concern him, has the impudence to come to the speaker for the rest.
An eavesdropper! she repeated, looking puzzled.
Yes, I said, but an excusable one, as I think you will admit.
This is very mysterious, she replied.
Yes, said I, so mysterious that often I have doubted whether I
really overheard at all what I am going to ask you about, or only
dreamed it. I want you to tell me. The matter is this: When I was
coming out of that sleep of a century, the first impression of which I
was conscious was of voices talking around me, voices that afterwards I
recognized as your father's, your mother's, and your own. First, I
remember your father's voice saying, 'He is going to open his eyes. He
had better see but one person at first.' Then you said, if I did not
dream it all, 'Promise me, then, that you will not tell him.' Your
father seemed to hesitate about promising, but you insisted, and your
mother interposing, he finally promised, and when I opened my eyes I
saw only him.
I had been quite serious when I said that I was not sure that I had
not dreamed the conversation I fancied I had overheard, so
incomprehensible was it that these people should know anything of me, a
contemporary of their great-grandparents, which I did not know myself.
But when I saw the effect of my words upon Edith, I knew that it was no
dream, but another mystery, and a more puzzling one than any I had
before encountered. For from the moment that the drift of my question
became apparent, she showed indications of the most acute
embarrassment. Her eyes, always so frank and direct in expression, had
dropped in a panic before mine, while her face crimsoned from neck to
Pardon me, I said, as soon as I had recovered from bewilderment at
the extraordinary effect of my words. It seems, then, that I was not
dreaming. There is some secret, something about me, which you are
withholding from me. Really, doesn't it seem a little hard that a
person in my position should not be given all the information possible
It does not concern youthat is, not directly. It is not about
youexactly, she replied, scarcely audibly.
But it concerns me in some way, I persisted. It must be something
that would interest me.
I don't know even that, she replied, venturing a momentary glance
at my face, furiously blushing, and yet with a quaint smile flickering
about her lips which betrayed a certain perception of humor in the
situation despite its embarrassment,I am not sure that it would even
Your father would have told me, I insisted, with an accent of
reproach. It was you who forbade him. He thought I ought to know.
She did not reply. She was so entirely charming in her confusion
that I was now prompted, as much by the desire to prolong the situation
as by my original curiosity, to importune her further.
Am I never to know? Will you never tell me? I said.
It depends, she answered, after a long pause.
On what? I persisted.
Ah, you ask too much, she replied. Then, raising to mine a face
which inscrutable eyes, flushed cheeks, and smiling lips combined to
render perfectly bewitching, she added, What should you think if I
said that it depended onyourself?
On myself? I echoed. How can that possibly be?
Mr. West, we are losing some charming music, was her only reply to
this, and turning to the telephone, at a touch of her finger she set
the air to swaying to the rhythm of an adagio. After that she took good
care that the music should leave no opportunity for conversation. She
kept her face averted from me, and pretended to be absorbed in the
airs, but that it was a mere pretense the crimson tide standing at
flood in her cheeks sufficiently betrayed.
When at length she suggested that I might have heard all I cared to,
for that time, and we rose to leave the room, she came straight up to
me and said, without raising her eyes, Mr. West, you say I have been
good to you. I have not been particularly so, but if you think I have,
I want you to promise me that you will not try again to make me tell
you this thing you have asked to-night, and that you will not try to
find it out from any one else,my father or mother, for instance.
To such an appeal there was but one reply possible. Forgive me for
distressing you. Of course I will promise, I said. I would never have
asked you if I had fancied it could distress you. But do you blame me
for being curious?
I do not blame you at all.
And some time, I added, if I do not tease you, you may tell me of
your own accord. May I not hope so?
Perhaps, she murmured.
Looking up, she read my face with a quick, deep glance. Yes, she
said, I think I may tell yousome time; and so our conversation
ended, for she gave me no chance to say anything more.
That night I don't think even Dr. Pillsbury could have put me to
sleep, till toward morning at least. Mysteries had been my accustomed
food for days now, but none had before confronted me at once so
mysterious and so fascinating as this, the solution of which Edith
Leete had forbidden me even to seek. It was a double mystery. How, in
the first place, was it conceivable that she should know any secret
about me, a stranger from a strange age? In the second place, even if
she should know such a secret, how account for the agitating effect
which the knowledge of it seemed to have upon her? There are puzzles so
difficult that one cannot even get so far as a conjecture as to the
solution, and this seemed one of them. I am usually of too practical a
turn to waste time on such conundrums; but the difficulty of a riddle
embodied in a beautiful young girl does not detract from its
fascination. In general, no doubt, maidens' blushes may be safely
assumed to tell the same tale to young men in all ages and races, but
to give that interpretation to Edith's crimson cheeks would,
considering my position and the length of time I had known her, and
still more the fact that this mystery dated from before I had known her
at all, be a piece of utter fatuity. And yet she was an angel, and I
should not have been a young man if reason and common sense had been
able quite to banish a roseate tinge from my dreams that night.
In the morning I went down stairs early in the hope of seeing Edith
alone. In this, however, I was disappointed. Not finding her in the
house, I sought her in the garden, but she was not there. In the course
of my wanderings I visited the underground chamber, and sat down there
to rest. Upon the reading table in the chamber several periodicals and
newspapers lay, and thinking that Dr. Leete might be interested in
glancing over a Boston daily of 1887, I brought one of the papers with
me into the house when I came.
At breakfast I met Edith. She blushed as she greeted me, but was
perfectly self-possessed. As we sat at table, Dr. Leete amused himself
with looking over the paper I had brought in. There was in it, as in
all the newspapers of that date, a great deal about the labor troubles,
strikes, lockouts, boycotts, the programmes of labor parties, and the
wild threats of the anarchists.
By the way, said I, as the doctor read aloud to us some of these
items, what part did the followers of the red flag take in the
establishment of the new order of things? They were making considerable
noise the last thing that I knew.
They had nothing to do with it except to hinder it, of course,
replied Dr. Leete. They did that very effectually while they lasted,
for their talk so disgusted people as to deprive the best considered
projects for social reform of a hearing. The subsidizing of those
fellows was one of the shrewdest moves of the opponents of reform.
Subsidizing them! I exclaimed in astonishment.
Certainly, replied Dr. Leete. No historical authority nowadays
doubts that they were paid by the great monopolies to wave the red flag
and talk about burning, sacking, and blowing people up, in order, by
alarming the timid, to head off any real reforms. What astonishes me
most is that you should have fallen into the trap so unsuspectingly.
What are your grounds for believing that the red flag party was
subsidized? I inquired.
Why simply because they must have seen that their course made a
thousand enemies of their professed cause to one friend. Not to suppose
that they were hired for the work is to credit them with an
inconceivable folly. In the United States, of all countries, no
party could intelligently expect to carry its point without first
winning over to its ideas a majority of the nation, as the national
party eventually did.
The national party! I exclaimed. That must have arisen after my
day. I suppose it was one of the labor parties.
Oh no! replied the doctor. The labor parties, as such, never
could have accomplished anything on a large or permanent scale. For
purposes of national scope, their basis as merely class organizations
was too narrow. It was not till a rearrangement of the industrial and
social system on a higher ethical basis, and for the more efficient
production of wealth, was recognized as the interest, not of one class,
but equally of all classes, of rich and poor, cultured and ignorant,
old and young, weak and strong, men and women, that there was any
prospect that it would be achieved. Then the national party arose to
carry it out by political methods. It probably took that name because
its aim was to nationalize the functions of production and
distribution. Indeed, it could not well have had any other name, for
its purpose was to realize the idea of the nation with a grandeur and
completeness never before conceived, not as an association of men for
certain merely political functions affecting their happiness only
remotely and superficially, but as a family, a vital union, a common
life, a mighty heaven-touching tree whose leaves are its people, fed
from its veins, and feeding it in turn. The most patriotic of all
possible parties, it sought to justify patriotism and raise it from an
instinct to a rational devotion, by making the native land truly a
father land, a father who kept the people alive and was not merely an
idol for which they were expected to die.
[Footnote 4: I fully admit the difficulty of accounting for the
course of the anarchists on any other theory than that they were
subsidized by the capitalists, but, at the same time, there is no doubt
that the theory is wholly erroneous. It certainly was not held at the
time by any one, though it may seem so obvious in the retrospect.]
The personality of Edith Leete had naturally impressed me strongly
ever since I had come, in so strange a manner, to be an inmate of her
father's house, and it was to be expected that after what had happened
the night previous, I should be more than ever preoccupied with
thoughts of her. From the first I had been struck with the air of
serene frankness and ingenuous directness, more like that of a noble
and innocent boy than any girl I had ever known, which characterized
her. I was curious to know how far this charming quality might be
peculiar to herself, and how far possibly a result of alterations in
the social position of women which might have taken place since my
time. Finding an opportunity that day, when alone with Dr. Leete, I
turned the conversation in that direction.
I suppose, I said, that women nowadays, having been relieved of
the burden of housework, have no employment but the cultivation of
their charms and graces.
So far as we men are concerned, replied Dr. Leete, we should
consider that they amply paid their way, to use one of your forms of
expression, if they confined themselves to that occupation, but you may
be very sure that they have quite too much spirit to consent to be mere
beneficiaries of society, even as a return for ornamenting it. They
did, indeed, welcome their riddance from housework, because that was
not only exceptionally wearing in itself, but also wasteful, in the
extreme, of energy, as compared with the coöperative plan; but they
accepted relief from that sort of work only that they might contribute
in other and more effectual, as well as more agreeable, ways to the
common weal. Our women, as well as our men, are members of the
industrial army, and leave it only when maternal duties claim them. The
result is that most women, at one time or another of their lives, serve
industrially some five or ten or fifteen years, while those who have no
children fill out the full term.
A woman does not, then, necessarily leave the industrial service on
marriage? I queried.
No more than a man, replied the doctor. Why on earth should she?
Married women have no housekeeping responsibilities now, you know, and
a husband is not a baby that he should be cared for.
It was thought one of the most grievous features of our
civilization that we required so much toil from women, I said; but it
seems to me you get more out of them than we did.
Dr. Leete laughed. Indeed we do, just as we do out of our men. Yet
the women of this age are very happy, and those of the nineteenth
century, unless contemporary references greatly mislead us, were very
miserable. The reason that women nowadays are so much more efficient
co-laborers with the men, and at the same time are so happy, is that,
in regard to their work as well as men's, we follow the principle of
providing every one the kind of occupation he or she is best adapted
to. Women being inferior in strength to men, and further disqualified
industrially in special ways, the kinds of occupation reserved for
them, and the conditions under which they pursue them, have reference
to these facts. The heavier sorts of work are everywhere reserved for
men, the lighter occupations for women. Under no circumstances is a
woman permitted to follow any employment not perfectly adapted, both as
to kind and degree of labor, to her sex. Moreover, the hours of women's
work are considerably shorter than those of men's, more frequent
vacations are granted, and the most careful provision is made for rest
when needed. The men of this day so well appreciate that they owe to
the beauty and grace of women the chief zest of their lives and their
main incentive to effort, that they permit them to work at all only
because it is fully understood that a certain regular requirement of
labor, of a sort adapted to their powers, is well for body and mind,
during the period of maximum physical vigor. We believe that the
magnificent health which distinguishes our women from those of your
day, who seem to have been so generally sickly, is owing largely to the
fact that all alike are furnished with healthful and inspiriting
I understood you, I said, that the women-workers belong to the
army of industry, but how can they be under the same system of ranking
and discipline with the men, when the conditions of their labor are so
They are under an entirely different discipline, replied Dr.
Leete, and constitute rather an allied force than an integral part of
the army of the men. They have a woman general-in-chief and are under
exclusively feminine régime. This general, as also the higher officers,
is chosen by the body of women who have passed the time of service, in
correspondence with the manner in which the chiefs of the masculine
army and the President of the nation are elected. The general of the
women's army sits in the cabinet of the President and has a veto on
measures respecting women's work, pending appeals to Congress. I should
have said, in speaking of the judiciary, that we have women on the
bench, appointed by the general of the women, as well as men. Causes in
which both parties are women are determined by women judges, and where
a man and a woman are parties to a case, a judge of either sex must
consent to the verdict.
Womanhood seems to be organized as a sort of imperium in imperio
in your system, I said.
To some extent, Dr. Leete replied; but the inner imperium
is one from which you will admit there is not likely to be much danger
to the nation. The lack of some such recognition of the distinct
individuality of the sexes was one of the innumerable defects of your
society. The passional attraction between men and women has too often
prevented a perception of the profound differences which make the
members of each sex in many things strange to the other, and capable of
sympathy only with their own. It is in giving full play to the
differences of sex rather than in seeking to obliterate them, as was
apparently the effort of some reformers in your day, that the enjoyment
of each by itself and the piquancy which each has for the other, are
alike enhanced. In your day there was no career for women except in an
unnatural rivalry with men. We have given them a world of their own,
with its emulations, ambitions, and careers, and I assure you they are
very happy in it. It seems to us that women were more than any other
class the victims of your civilization. There is something which, even
at this distance of time, penetrates one with pathos in the spectacle
of their ennuied, undeveloped lives, stunted at marriage, their narrow
horizon, bounded so often, physically, by the four walls of home, and
morally by a petty circle of personal interests. I speak now, not of
the poorer classes, who were generally worked to death, but also of the
well-to-do and rich. From the great sorrows, as well as the petty frets
of life, they had no refuge in the breezy outdoor world of human
affairs, nor any interests save those of the family. Such an existence
would have softened men's brains or driven them mad. All that is
changed to-day. No woman is heard nowadays wishing she were a man, nor
parents desiring boy rather than girl children. Our girls are as full
of ambition for their careers as our boys. Marriage, when it comes,
does not mean incarceration for them, nor does it separate them in any
way from the larger interests of society, the bustling life of the
world. Only when maternity fills a woman's mind with new interests does
she withdraw from the world for a time. Afterwards, and at any time,
she may return to her place among her comrades, nor need she ever lose
touch with them. Women are a very happy race nowadays, as compared with
what they ever were before in the world's history, and their power of
giving happiness to men has been of course increased in proportion.
I should imagine it possible, I said, that the interest which
girls take in their careers as members of the industrial army and
candidates for its distinctions might have an effect to deter them from
Dr. Leete smiled. Have no anxiety on that score, Mr. West, he
replied. The Creator took very good care that whatever other
modifications the dispositions of men and women might with time take
on, their attraction for each other should remain constant. The mere
fact that in an age like yours, when the struggle for existence must
have left people little time for other thoughts, and the future was so
uncertain that to assume parental responsibilities must have often
seemed like a criminal risk, there was even then marrying and giving in
marriage, should be conclusive on this point. As for love nowadays, one
of our authors says that the vacuum left in the minds of men and women
by the absence of care for one's livelihood has been entirely taken up
by the tender passion. That, however, I beg you to believe, is
something of an exaggeration. For the rest, so far is marriage from
being an interference with a woman's career, that the higher positions
in the feminine army of industry are intrusted only to women who have
been both wives and mothers, as they alone fully represent their sex.
Are credit cards issued to the women just as to the men?
The credits of the women, I suppose, are for smaller sums, owing to
the frequent suspension of their labor on account of family
Smaller! exclaimed Dr. Leete, oh, no! The maintenance of all our
people is the same. There are no exceptions to that rule, but if any
difference were made on account of the interruptions you speak of, it
would be by making the woman's credit larger, not smaller. Can you
think of any service constituting a stronger claim on the nation's
gratitude than bearing and nursing the nation's children? According to
our view, none deserve so well of the world as good parents. There is
no task so unselfish, so necessarily without return, though the heart
is well rewarded, as the nurture of the children who are to make the
world for one another when we are gone.
It would seem to follow, from what you have said, that wives are in
no way dependent on their husbands for maintenance.
Of course they are not, replied Dr. Leete, nor children on their
parents either, that is, for means of support, though of course they
are for the offices of affection. The child's labor, when he grows up,
will go to increase the common stock, not his parents', who will be
dead, and therefore he is properly nurtured out of the common stock.
The account of every person, man, woman, and child, you must
understand, is always with the nation directly, and never through any
intermediary, except, of course, that parents, to a certain extent, act
for children as their guardians. You see that it is by virtue of the
relation of individuals to the nation, of their membership in it, that
they are entitled to support; and this title is in no way connected
with or affected by their relations to other individuals who are fellow
members of the nation with them. That any person should be dependent
for the means of support upon another would be shocking to the moral
sense as well as indefensible on any rational social theory. What would
become of personal liberty and dignity under such an arrangement? I am
aware that you called yourselves free in the nineteenth century. The
meaning of the word could not then, however, have been at all what it
is at present, or you certainly would not have applied it to a society
of which nearly every member was in a position of galling personal
dependence upon others as to the very means of life, the poor upon the
rich, or employed upon employer, women upon men, children upon parents.
Instead of distributing the product of the nation directly to its
members, which would seem the most natural and obvious method, it would
actually appear that you had given your minds to devising a plan of
hand to hand distribution, involving the maximum of personal
humiliation to all classes of recipients.
As regards the dependence of women upon men for support, which then
was usual, of course, natural attraction in case of marriages of love
must often have made it endurable, though for spirited women I should
fancy it must always have remained humiliating. What, then, must it
have been in the innumerable cases where women, with or without the
form of marriage, had to sell themselves to men to get their living?
Even your contemporaries, callous as they were to most of the revolting
aspects of their society, seem to have had an idea that this was not
quite as it should be; but, it was still only for pity's sake that they
deplored the lot of the women. It did not occur to them that it was
robbery as well as cruelty when men seized for themselves the whole
product of the world and left women to beg and wheedle for their share.
Whybut bless me, Mr. West, I am really running on at a remarkable
rate, just as if the robbery, the sorrow, and the shame which those
poor women endured were not over a century since, or as if you were
responsible for what you no doubt deplored as much as I do.
I must bear my share of responsibility for the world as it then
was, I replied. All I can say in extenuation is that until the nation
was ripe for the present system of organized production and
distribution, no radical improvement in the position of woman was
possible. The root of her disability, as you say, was her personal
dependence upon man for her livelihood, and I can imagine no other mode
of social organization than that you have adopted, which would have set
woman free of man at the same time that it set men free of one another.
I suppose, by the way, that so entire a change in the position of women
cannot have taken place without affecting in marked ways the social
relations of the sexes. That will be a very interesting study for me.
The change you will observe, said Dr. Leete, will chiefly be, I
think, the entire frankness and unconstraint which now characterizes
those relations, as compared with the artificiality which seems to have
marked them in your time. The sexes now meet with the ease of perfect
equals, suitors to each other for nothing but love. In your time the
fact that women were dependent for support on men made the woman in
reality the one chiefly benefited by marriage. This fact, so far as we
can judge from contemporary records, appears to have been coarsely
enough recognized among the lower classes, while among the more
polished it was glossed over by a system of elaborate conventionalities
which aimed to carry the precisely opposite meaning, namely, that the
man was the party chiefly benefited. To keep up this convention it was
essential that he should always seem the suitor. Nothing was therefore
considered more shocking to the proprieties than that a woman should
betray a fondness for a man before he had indicated a desire to marry
her. Why, we actually have in our libraries books, by authors of your
day, written for no other purpose than to discuss the question whether,
under any conceivable circumstances, a woman might, without discredit
to her sex, reveal an unsolicited love. All this seems exquisitely
absurd to us, and yet we know that, given your circumstances, the
problem might have a serious side. When for a woman to proffer her love
to a man was in effect to invite him to assume the burden of her
support, it is easy to see that pride and delicacy might well have
checked the promptings of the heart. When you go out into our society,
Mr. West, you must be prepared to be often cross-questioned on this
point by our young people, who are naturally much interested in this
aspect of old-fashioned manners.
And so the girls of the twentieth century tell their love.
If they choose, replied Dr. Leete. There is no more pretense of a
concealment of feeling on their part than on the part of their lovers.
Coquetry would be as much despised in a girl as in a man. Affected
coldness, which in your day rarely deceived a lover, would deceive him
wholly now, for no one thinks of practicing it.
One result which must follow from the independence of women I can
see for myself, I said. There can be no marriages now except those of
That is a matter of course, replied Dr. Leete.
Think of a world in which there are nothing but matches of pure
love! Ah me, Dr. Leete, how far you are from being able to understand
what an astonishing phenomenon such a world seems to a man of the
I can, however, to some extent, imagine it, replied the doctor.
But the fact you celebrate, that there are nothing but love matches,
means even more, perhaps, than you probably at first realize. It means
that for the first time in human history the principle of sexual
selection, with its tendency to preserve and transmit the better types
of the race, and let the inferior types drop out, has unhindered
operation. The necessities of poverty, the need of having a home, no
longer tempt women to accept as the fathers of their children men whom
they neither can love nor respect. Wealth and rank no longer divert
attention from personal qualities. Gold no longer 'gilds the straitened
forehead of the fool.' The gifts of person, mind, and disposition;
beauty, wit, eloquence, kindness, generosity, geniality, courage, are
sure of transmission to posterity. Every generation is sifted through a
little finer mesh than the last. The attributes that human nature
admires are preserved, those that repel it are left behind. There are,
of course, a great many women who with love must mingle admiration, and
seek to wed greatly, but these not the less obey the same law, for to
wed greatly now is not to marry men of fortune or title, but those who
have risen above their fellows by the solidity or brilliance of their
services to humanity. These form nowadays the only aristocracy with
which alliance is distinction.
You were speaking, a day or two ago, of the physical superiority of
our people to your contemporaries. Perhaps more important than any of
the causes I mentioned then as tending to race purification has been
the effect of untrammeled sexual selection upon the quality of two or
three successive generations. I believe that when you have made a
fuller study of our people you will find in them not only a physical,
but a mental and moral improvement. It would be strange if it were not
so, for not only is one of the great laws of nature now freely working
out the salvation of the race, but a profound moral sentiment has come
to its support. Individualism, which in your day was the animating idea
of society, not only was fatal to any vital sentiment of brotherhood
and common interest among living men, but equally to any realization of
the responsibility of the living for the generation to follow. To-day
this sense of responsibility, practically unrecognized in all previous
ages, has become one of the great ethical ideas of the race,
reinforcing, with an intense conviction of duty, the natural impulse to
seek in marriage the best and noblest of the other sex. The result is,
that not all the encouragements and incentives of every sort which we
have provided to develop industry, talent, genius, excellence of
whatever kind, are comparable in their effect on our young men with the
fact that our women sit aloft as judges of the race and reserve
themselves to reward the winners. Of all the whips, and spurs, and
baits, and prizes, there is none like the thought of the radiant faces
which the laggards will find averted.
Celibates nowadays are almost invariably men who have failed to
acquit themselves creditably in the work of life. The woman must be a
courageous one, with a very evil sort of courage, too, whom pity for
one of these unfortunates should lead to defy the opinion of her
generationfor otherwise she is freeso far as to accept him for a
husband. I should add that, more exacting and difficult to resist than
any other element in that opinion, she would find the sentiment of her
own sex. Our women have risen to the full height of their
responsibility as the wardens of the world to come, to whose keeping
the keys of the future are confided. Their feeling of duty in this
respect amounts to a sense of religious consecration. It is a cult in
which they educate their daughters from childhood.
After going to my room that night, I sat up late to read a romance
of Berrian, handed me by Dr. Leete, the plot of which turned on a
situation suggested by his last words, concerning the modern view of
parental responsibility. A similar situation would almost certainly
have been treated by a nineteenth century romancist so as to excite the
morbid sympathy of the reader with the sentimental selfishness of the
lovers, and his resentment toward the unwritten law which they
outraged. I need not describefor who has not read Ruth Elton?how
different is the course which Berrian takes, and with what tremendous
effect he enforces the principle which he states: Over the unborn our
power is that of God, and our responsibility like His toward us. As we
acquit ourselves toward them, so let Him deal with us.
[Footnote 5: I may say that Dr. Leete's warning has been fully
justified by my experience. The amount and intensity of amusement which
the young people of this day, and the young women especially, are able
to extract from what they are pleased to call the oddities of courtship
in the nineteenth century, appear unlimited.]
I think if a person were ever excusable for losing track of the days
of the week, the circumstances excused me. Indeed, if I had been told
that the method of reckoning time had been wholly changed and the days
were now counted in lots of five, ten, or fifteen instead of seven, I
should have been in no way surprised after what I had already heard and
seen of the twentieth century. The first time that any inquiry as to
the days of the week occurred to me was the morning following the
conversation related in the last chapter. At the breakfast table Dr.
Leete asked me if I would care to hear a sermon.
Is it Sunday, then? I exclaimed.
Yes, he replied. It was on Friday, you see, when we made the
lucky discovery of the buried chamber to which we owe your society this
morning. It was on Saturday morning, soon after midnight, that you
first awoke, and Sunday afternoon when you awoke the second time with
faculties fully regained.
So you still have Sundays and sermons, I said. We had prophets
who foretold that long before this time the world would have dispensed
with both. I am very curious to know how the ecclesiastical systems fit
in with the rest of your social arrangements. I suppose you have a sort
of national church with official clergymen.
Dr. Leete laughed, and Mrs. Leete and Edith seemed greatly amused.
Why, Mr. West, Edith said, what odd people you must think us. You
were quite done with national religious establishments in the
nineteenth century, and did you fancy we had gone back to them?
But how can voluntary churches and an unofficial clerical
profession be reconciled with national ownership of all buildings, and
the industrial service required of all men? I answered.
The religious practices of the people have naturally changed
considerably in a century, replied Dr. Leete; but supposing them to
have remained unchanged, our social system would accommodate them
perfectly. The nation supplies any person or number of persons with
buildings on guarantee of the rent, and they remain tenants while they
pay it. As for the clergymen, if a number of persons wish the services
of an individual for any particular end of their own, apart from the
general service of the nation, they can always secure it, with that
individual's own consent, of course, just as we secure the service of
our editors, by contributing from their credit-cards an indemnity to
the nation for the loss of his services in general industry. This
indemnity paid the nation for the individual answers to the salary in
your day paid to the individual himself; and the various applications
of this principle leave private initiative full play in all details to
which national control is not applicable. Now, as to hearing a sermon
to-day, if you wish to do so, you can either go to a church to hear it
or stay at home.
How am I to hear it if I stay at home?
Simply by accompanying us to the music room at the proper hour and
selecting an easy chair. There are some who still prefer to hear
sermons in church, but most of our preaching, like our musical
performances, is not in public, but delivered in acoustically prepared
chambers, connected by wire with subscribers' houses. If you prefer to
go to a church I shall be glad to accompany you, but I really don't
believe you are likely to hear anywhere a better discourse than you
will at home. I see by the paper that Mr. Barton is to preach this
morning, and he preaches only by telephone, and to audiences often
The novelty of the experience of hearing a sermon under such
circumstances would incline me to be one of Mr. Barton's hearers, if
for no other reason, I said.
An hour or two later, as I sat reading in the library, Edith came
for me, and I followed her to the music room, where Dr. and Mrs. Leete
were waiting. We had not more than seated ourselves comfortably when
the tinkle of a bell was heard, and a few moments after the voice of a
man, at the pitch of ordinary conversation, addressed us, with an
effect of proceeding from an invisible person in the room. This was
what the voice said:
MR. BARTON'S SERMON.
We have had among us, during the past week, a critic from the
nineteenth century, a living representative of the epoch of our
great-grandparents. It would be strange if a fact so extraordinary had
not somewhat strongly affected our imaginations. Perhaps most of us
have been stimulated to some effort to realize the society of a century
ago, and figure to ourselves what it must have been like to live then.
In inviting you now to consider certain reflections upon this subject
which have occurred to me, I presume that I shall rather follow than
divert the course of your own thoughts.
Edith whispered something to her father at this point, to which he
nodded assent and turned to me.
Mr. West, he said, Edith suggests that you may find it slightly
embarrassing to listen to a discourse on the lines Mr. Barton is laying
down, and if so, you need not be cheated out of a sermon. She will
connect us with Mr. Sweetser's speaking room if you say so, and I can
still promise you a very good discourse.
No, no, I said. Believe me, I would much rather hear what Mr.
Barton has to say.
As you please, replied my host.
When her father spoke to me Edith had touched a screw, and the voice
of Mr. Barton had ceased abruptly. Now at another touch the room was
once more filled with the earnest sympathetic tones which had already
impressed me most favorably.
* * * * *
I venture to assume that one effect has been common with us as a
result of this effort at retrospection, and that it has been to leave
us more than ever amazed at the stupendous change which one brief
century has made in the material and moral conditions of humanity.
Still, as regards the contrast between the poverty of the nation
and the world in the nineteenth century and their wealth now, it is not
greater, possibly, than had been before seen in human history, perhaps
not greater, for example, than that between the poverty of this country
during the earliest colonial period of the seventeenth century and the
relatively great wealth it had attained at the close of the nineteenth,
or between the England of William the Conqueror and that of Victoria.
Although the aggregate riches of a nation did not then, as now, afford
any accurate criterion of the masses of its people, yet instances like
these afford partial parallels for the merely material side of the
contrast between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. It is when
we contemplate the moral aspect of that contrast that we find ourselves
in the presence of a phenomenon for which history offers no precedent,
however far back we may cast our eye. One might almost be excused who
should exclaim, 'Here, surely, is something like a miracle!'
Nevertheless, when we give over idle wonder, and begin to examine the
seeming prodigy critically, we find it no prodigy at all, much less a
miracle. It is not necessary to suppose a moral new birth of humanity,
or a wholesale destruction of the wicked and survival of the good, to
account for the fact before us. It finds its simple and obvious
explanation in the reaction of a changed environment upon human nature.
It means merely that a form of society which was founded on the pseudo
self-interest of selfishness, and appealed solely to the anti-social
and brutal side of human nature, has been replaced by institutions
based on the true self-interest of a rational unselfishness, and
appealing to the social and generous instincts of men.
My friends, if you would see men again the beasts of prey they
seemed in the nineteenth century, all you have to do is to restore the
old social and industrial system, which taught them to view their
natural prey in their fellow-men, and find their gain in the loss of
others. No doubt it seems to you that no necessity, however dire, would
have tempted you to subsist on what superior skill or strength enabled
you to wrest from others equally needy. But suppose it were not merely
your own life that you were responsible for. I know well that there
must have been many a man among our ancestors who, if it had been
merely a question of his own life, would sooner have given it up than
nourished it by bread snatched from others. But this he was not
permitted to do. He had dear lives dependent on him. Men loved women in
those days, as now. God knows how they dared be fathers, but they had
babies as sweet, no doubt, to them as ours to us, whom they must feed,
clothe, educate. The gentlest creatures are fierce when they have young
to provide for, and in that wolfish society the struggle for bread
borrowed a peculiar desperation from the tenderest sentiments. For the
sake of those dependent on him, a man might not choose, but must plunge
into the foul fight,cheat, overreach, supplant, defraud, buy below
worth and sell above, break down the business by which his neighbor fed
his young ones, tempt men to buy what they ought not and to sell what
they should not, grind his laborers, sweat his debtors, cozen his
creditors. Though a man sought it carefully with tears, it was hard to
find a way in which he could earn a living and provide for his family
except by pressing in before some weaker rival and taking the food from
his mouth. Even the ministers of religion were not exempt from this
cruel necessity. While they warned their flocks against the love of
money, regard for their families compelled them to keep an outlook for
the pecuniary prizes of their calling. Poor fellows, theirs was indeed
a trying business, preaching to men a generosity and unselfishness
which they and everybody knew would, in the existing state of the
world, reduce to poverty those who should practice them, laying down
laws of conduct which the law of self-preservation compelled men to
break. Looking on the inhuman spectacle of society, these worthy men
bitterly bemoaned the depravity of human nature; as if angelic nature
would not have been debauched in such a devil's school! Ah, my friends,
believe me, it is not now in this happy age that humanity is proving
the divinity within it. It was rather in those evil days when not even
the fight for life with one another, the struggle for mere existence,
in which mercy was folly, could wholly banish generosity and kindness
from the earth.
It is not hard to understand the desperation with which men and
women, who under other conditions would have been full of gentleness
and ruth, fought and tore each other in the scramble for gold, when we
realize what it meant to miss it, what poverty was in that day. For the
body it was hunger and thirst, torment by heat and frost, in sickness
neglect, in health unremitting toil; for the moral nature it meant
oppression, contempt, and the patient endurance of indignity, brutish
associations from infancy, the loss of all the innocence of childhood,
the grace of womanhood, the dignity of manhood; for the mind it meant
the death of ignorance, the torpor of all those faculties which
distinguish us from brutes, the reduction of life to a round of bodily
Ah, my friends, if such a fate as this were offered you and your
children as the only alternative of success in the accumulation of
wealth, how long do you fancy would you be in sinking to the moral
level of your ancestors?
Some two or three centuries ago an act of barbarity was committed
in India, which, though the number of lives destroyed was but a few
score, was attended by such peculiar horrors that its memory is likely
to be perpetual. A number of English prisoners were shut up in a room
containing not enough air to supply one-tenth their number. The
unfortunates were gallant men, devoted comrades in service, but, as the
agonies of suffocation began to take hold on them, they forgot all
else, and became involved in a hideous struggle, each one for himself,
and against all others, to force a way to one of the small apertures of
the prison at which alone it was possible to get a breath of air. It
was a struggle in which men became beasts, and the recital of its
horrors by the few survivors so shocked our forefathers that for a
century later we find it a stock reference in their literature as a
typical illustration of the extreme possibilities of human misery, as
shocking in its moral as its physical aspect. They could scarcely have
anticipated that to us the Black Hole of Calcutta, with its press of
maddened men tearing and trampling one another in the struggle to win a
place at the breathing holes, would seem a striking type of the society
of their age. It lacked something of being a complete type, however,
for in the Calcutta Black Hole there were no tender women, no little
children and old men and women, no cripples. They were at least all
men, strong to bear, who suffered.
When we reflect that the ancient order of which I have been
speaking was prevalent up to the end of the nineteenth century, while
to us the new order which succeeded it already seems antique, even our
parents having known no other, we cannot fail to be astounded at the
suddenness with which a transition so profound beyond all previous
experience of the race must have been effected. Some observation of the
state of men's minds during the last quarter of the nineteenth century
will, however, in great measure, dissipate this astonishment. Though
general intelligence in the modern sense could not be said to exist in
any community at that time, yet, as compared with previous generations,
the one then on the stage was intelligent. The inevitable consequence
of even this comparative degree of intelligence had been a perception
of the evils of society, such as had never before been general. It is
quite true that these evils had been even worse, much worse, in
previous ages. It was the increased intelligence of the masses which
made the difference, as the dawn reveals the squalor of surroundings
which in the darkness may have seemed tolerable. The keynote of the
literature of the period was one of compassion for the poor and
unfortunate, and indignant outcry against the failure of the social
machinery to ameliorate the miseries of men. It is plain from these
outbursts that the moral hideousness of the spectacle about them was,
at least by flashes, fully realized by the best of the men of that
time, and that the lives of some of the more sensitive and generous
hearted of them were rendered wellnigh unendurable by the intensity of
Although the idea of the vital unity of the family of mankind, the
reality of human brotherhood, was very far from being apprehended by
them as the moral axiom it seems to us, yet it is a mistake to suppose
that there was no feeling at all corresponding to it. I could read you
passages of great beauty from some of their writers which show that the
conception was clearly attained by a few, and no doubt vaguely by many
more. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the nineteenth century
was in name Christian, and the fact that the entire commercial and
industrial frame of society was the embodiment of the anti-Christian
spirit must have had some weight, though I admit it was strangely
little, with the nominal followers of Jesus Christ.
When we inquire why it did not have more, why, in general, long
after a vast majority of men had agreed as to the crying abuses of the
existing social arrangement, they still tolerated it, or contented
themselves with talking of petty reforms in it, we come upon an
extraordinary fact. It was the sincere belief of even the best of men
at that epoch that the only stable elements in human nature, on which a
social system could be safely founded, were its worst propensities.
They had been taught and believed that greed and self-seeking were all
that held mankind together, and that all human associations would fall
to pieces if anything were done to blunt the edge of these motives or
curb their operation. In a word, they believedeven those who longed
to believe otherwisethe exact reverse of what seems to us
self-evident; they believed, that is, that the anti-social qualities of
men, and not their social qualities, were what furnished the cohesive
force of society. It seemed reasonable to them that men lived together
solely for the purpose of overreaching and oppressing one another, and
of being overreached and oppressed, and that while a society that gave
full scope to these propensities could stand, there would be little
chance for one based on the idea of coöperation for the benefit of all.
It seems absurd to expect any one to believe that convictions like
these were ever seriously entertained by men; but that they were not
only entertained by our great-grandfathers, but were responsible for
the long delay in doing away with the ancient order, after a conviction
of its intolerable abuses had become general, is as well established as
any fact in history can be. Just here you will find the explanation of
the profound pessimism of the literature of the last quarter of the
nineteenth century, the note of melancholy in its poetry, and the
cynicism of its humor.
Feeling that the condition of the race was unendurable, they had no
clear hope of anything better. They believed that the evolution of
humanity had resulted in leading it into a cul de sac, and that
there was no way of getting forward. The frame of men's minds at this
time is strikingly illustrated by treatises which have come down to us,
and may even now be consulted in our libraries by the curious, in which
laborious arguments are pursued to prove that despite the evil plight
of men, life was still, by some slight preponderance of considerations,
probably better worth living than leaving. Despising themselves, they
despised their Creator. There was a general decay of religious belief.
Pale and watery gleams, from skies thickly veiled by doubt and dread,
alone lighted up the chaos of earth. That men should doubt Him whose
breath is in their nostrils, or dread the hands that moulded them,
seems to us indeed a pitiable insanity; but we must remember that
children who are brave by day have sometimes foolish fears at night.
The dawn has come since then. It is very easy to believe in the
fatherhood of God in the twentieth century.
Briefly, as must needs be in a discourse of this character, I have
adverted to some of the causes which had prepared men's minds for the
change from the old to the new order, as well as some causes of the
conservatism of despair which for a while held it back after the time
was ripe. To wonder at the rapidity with which the change was completed
after its possibility was first entertained is to forget the
intoxicating effect of hope upon minds long accustomed to despair. The
sunburst, after so long and dark a night, must needs have had a
dazzling effect. From the moment men allowed themselves to believe that
humanity after all had not been meant for a dwarf, that its squat
stature was not the measure of its possible growth, but that it stood
upon the verge of an avatar of limitless development, the reaction must
needs have been overwhelming. It is evident that nothing was able to
stand against the enthusiasm which the new faith inspired.
Here, at last, men must have felt, was a cause compared with which
the grandest of historic causes had been trivial. It was doubtless
because it could have commanded millions of martyrs, that none were
needed. The change of a dynasty in a petty kingdom of the old world
often cost more lives than did the revolution which set the feet of the
human race at last in the right way.
Doubtless it ill beseems one to whom the boon of life in our
resplendent age has been vouchsafed to wish his destiny other, and yet
I have often thought that I would fain exchange my share in this serene
and golden day for a place in that stormy epoch of transition, when
heroes burst the barred gate of the future and revealed to the kindling
gaze of a hopeless race, in place of the blank wall that had closed its
path, a vista of progress whose end, for very excess of light, still
dazzles us. Ah, my friends! who will say that to have lived then, when
the weakest influence was a lever to whose touch the centuries
trembled, was not worth a share even in this era of fruition?
You know the story of that last, greatest, and most bloodless of
revolutions. In the time of one generation men laid aside the social
traditions and practices of barbarians, and assumed a social order
worthy of rational and human beings. Ceasing to be predatory in their
habits, they became co-workers, and found in fraternity, at once, the
science of wealth and happiness. 'What shall I eat and drink, and
wherewithal shall I be clothed?' stated as a problem beginning and
ending in self, had been an anxious and an endless one. But when once
it was conceived, not from the individual, but the fraternal
standpoint, 'What shall we eat and drink, and wherewithal shall we be
clothed?'its difficulties vanished.
Poverty with servitude had been the result, for the mass of
humanity, of attempting to solve the problem of maintenance from the
individual standpoint, but no sooner had the nation become the sole
capitalist and employer than not alone did plenty replace poverty, but
the last vestige of the serfdom of man to man disappeared from earth.
Human slavery, so often vainly scotched, at last was killed. The means
of subsistence no longer doled out by men to women, by employer to
employed, by rich to poor, was distributed from a common stock as among
children at the father's table. It was impossible for a man any longer
to use his fellow-men as tools for his own profit. His esteem was the
only sort of gain he could thenceforth make out of him. There was no
more either arrogance or servility in the relations of human beings to
one another. For the first time since the creation every man stood up
straight before God. The fear of want and the lust of gain became
extinct motives when abundance was assured to all and immoderate
possessions made impossible of attainment. There were no more beggars
nor almoners. Equity left charity without an occupation. The ten
commandments became wellnigh obsolete in a world where there was no
temptation to theft, no occasion to lie either for fear or favor, no
room for envy where all were equal, and little provocation to violence
where men were disarmed of power to injure one another. Humanity's
ancient dream of liberty, equality, fraternity, mocked by so many ages,
at last was realized.
As in the old society the generous, the just, the tender-hearted
had been placed at a disadvantage by the possession of those qualities,
so in the new society the cold-hearted, the greedy, and self-seeking
found themselves out of joint with the world. Now that the conditions
of life for the first time ceased to operate as a forcing process to
develop the brutal qualities of human nature, and the premium which had
heretofore encouraged selfishness was not only removed, but placed upon
unselfishness, it was for the first time possible to see what
unperverted human nature really was like. The depraved tendencies,
which had previously overgrown and obscured the better to so large an
extent, now withered like cellar fungi in the open air, and the nobler
qualities showed a sudden luxuriance which turned cynics into
panegyrists and for the first time in human history tempted mankind to
fall in love with itself. Soon was fully revealed, what the divines and
philosophers of the old world never would have believed, that human
nature in its essential qualities is good, not bad, that men by their
natural intention and structure are generous, not selfish, pitiful, not
cruel, sympathetic, not arrogant, godlike in aspirations, instinct with
divinest impulses of tenderness and self-sacrifice, images of God
indeed, not the travesties upon Him they had seemed. The constant
pressure, through numberless generations, of conditions of life which
might have perverted angels, had not been able to essentially alter the
natural nobility of the stock, and these conditions once removed, like
a bent tree, it had sprung back to its normal uprightness.
To put the whole matter in the nutshell of a parable, let me
compare humanity in the olden time to a rosebush planted in a swamp,
watered with black bog-water, breathing miasmatic fogs by day, and
chilled with poison dews at night. Innumerable generations of gardeners
had done their best to make it bloom, but beyond an occasional
half-opened bud with a worm at the heart, their efforts had been
unsuccessful. Many, indeed, claimed that the bush was no rosebush at
all, but a noxious shrub, fit only to be uprooted and burned. The
gardeners, for the most part, however, held that the bush belonged to
the rose family, but had some ineradicable taint about it, which
prevented the buds from coming out, and accounted for its generally
sickly condition. There were a few, indeed, who maintained that the
stock was good enough, that the trouble was in the bog, and that under
more favorable conditions the plant might be expected to do better. But
these persons were not regular gardeners, and being condemned by the
latter as mere theorists and day dreamers, were for the most part, so
regarded by the people. Moreover, urged some eminent moral
philosophers, even conceding for the sake of the argument that the bush
might possibly do better elsewhere, it was a more valuable discipline
for the buds to try to bloom in a bog than it would be under more
favorable conditions. The buds that succeeded in opening might indeed
be very rare, and the flowers pale and scentless, but they represented
far more moral effort than if they had bloomed spontaneously in a
The regular gardeners and the moral philosophers had their way. The
bush remained rooted in the bog, and the old course of treatment went
on. Continually new varieties of forcing mixtures were applied to the
roots, and more recipes than could be numbered, each declared by its
advocates the best and only suitable preparation, were used to kill the
vermin and remove the mildew. This went on a very long time.
Occasionally some one claimed to observe a slight improvement in the
appearance of the bush, but there were quite as many who declared that
it did not look so well as it used to. On the whole there could not be
said to be any marked change. Finally, during a period of general
despondency as to the prospects of the bush where it was, the idea of
transplanting it was again mooted, and this time found favor. 'Let us
try it,' was the general voice. 'Perhaps it may thrive better
elsewhere, and here it is certainly doubtful if it be worth cultivating
longer.' So it came about that the rosebush of humanity was
transplanted, and set in sweet, warm, dry earth, where the sun bathed
it, the stars wooed it, and the south wind caressed it. Then it
appeared that it was indeed a rosebush. The vermin and the mildew
disappeared, and the bush was covered with most beautiful red roses,
whose fragrance filled the world.
It is a pledge of the destiny appointed for us that the Creator has
set in our hearts an infinite standard of achievement, judged by which
our past attainments seem always insignificant, and the goal never
nearer. Had our forefathers conceived a state of society in which men
should live together like brethren dwelling in unity, without strifes
or envying, violence or overreaching, and where, at the price of a
degree of labor not greater than health demands, in their chosen
occupations, they should be wholly freed from care for the morrow and
left with no more concern for their livelihood than trees which are
watered by unfailing streams,had they conceived such a condition, I
say, it would have seemed to them nothing less than paradise. They
would have confounded it with their idea of heaven, nor dreamed that
there could possibly lie further beyond anything to be desired or
But how is it with us who stand on this height which they gazed up
to? Already we have wellnigh forgotten, except when it is especially
called to our minds by some occasion like the present, that it was not
always with men as it is now. It is a strain on our imaginations to
conceive the social arrangements of our immediate ancestors. We find
them grotesque. The solution of the problem of physical maintenance so
as to banish care and crime, so far from seeming to us an ultimate
attainment, appears but as a preliminary to anything like real human
progress. We have but relieved ourselves of an impertinent and needless
harassment which hindered our ancestors from undertaking the real ends
of existence. We are merely stripped for the race; no more. We are like
a child which has just learned to stand upright and to walk. It is a
great event, from the child's point of view, when he first walks.
Perhaps he fancies that there can be little beyond that achievement,
but a year later he has forgotten that he could not always walk. His
horizon did but widen when he rose, and enlarge as he moved. A great
event indeed, in one sense, was his first step, but only as a
beginning, not as the end. His true career was but then first entered
on. The enfranchisement of humanity in the last century, from mental
and physical absorption in working and scheming for the mere bodily
necessities, may be regarded as a species of second birth of the race,
without which its first birth to an existence that was but a burden
would forever have remained unjustified, but whereby it is now
abundantly vindicated. Since then, humanity has entered on a new phase
of spiritual development, an evolution of higher faculties, the very
existence of which in human nature our ancestors scarcely suspected. In
place of the dreary hopelessness of the nineteenth century, its
profound pessimism as to the future of humanity, the animating idea of
the present age is an enthusiastic conception of the opportunities of
our earthly existence, and the unbounded possibilities of human nature.
The betterment of mankind from generation to generation, physically,
mentally, morally, is recognized as the one great object supremely
worthy of effort and of sacrifice. We believe the race for the first
time to have entered on the realization of God's ideal of it, and each
generation must now be a step upward.
Do you ask what we look for when unnumbered generations shall have
passed away? I answer, the way stretches far before us, but the end is
lost in light. For twofold is the return of man to God 'who is our
home,' the return of the individual by the way of death, and the return
of the race by the fulfilment of the evolution, when the divine secret
hidden in the germ shall be perfectly unfolded. With a tear for the
dark past, turn we then to the dazzling future, and, veiling our eyes,
press forward. The long and weary winter of the race is ended. Its
summer has begun. Humanity has burst the chrysalis. The heavens are
I never could tell just why, but Sunday afternoon during my old life
had been a time when I was peculiarly subject to melancholy, when the
color unaccountably faded out of all the aspects of life, and
everything appeared pathetically uninteresting. The hours, which in
general were wont to bear me easily on their wings, lost the power of
flight, and toward the close of the day, drooping quite to earth, had
fairly to be dragged along by main strength. Perhaps it was partly
owing to the established association of ideas that, despite the utter
change in my circumstances, I fell into a state of profound depression
on the afternoon of this my first Sunday in the twentieth century.
It was not, however, on the present occasion a depression without
specific cause, the mere vague melancholy I have spoken of, but a
sentiment suggested and certainly quite justified by my position. The
sermon of Mr. Barton, with its constant implication of the vast moral
gap between the century to which I belonged and that in which I found
myself, had had an effect strongly to accentuate my sense of loneliness
in it. Considerately and philosophically as he had spoken, his words
could scarcely have failed to leave upon my mind a strong impression of
the mingled pity, curiosity, and aversion which I, as a representative
of an abhorred epoch, must excite in all around me.
The extraordinary kindness with which I had been treated by Dr.
Leete and his family, and especially the goodness of Edith, had
hitherto prevented my fully realizing that their real sentiment toward
me must necessarily be that of the whole generation to which they
belonged. The recognition of this, as regarded Dr. Leete and his
amiable wife, however painful, I might have endured, but the conviction
that Edith must share their feeling was more than I could bear.
The crushing effect with which this belated perception of a fact so
obvious came to me opened my eyes fully to something which perhaps the
reader has already suspected,I loved Edith.
Was it strange that I did? The affecting occasion on which our
intimacy had begun, when her hands had drawn me out of the whirlpool of
madness; the fact that her sympathy was the vital breath which had set
me up in this new life and enabled me to support it; my habit of
looking to her as the mediator between me and the world around in a
sense that even her father was not,these were circumstances that had
predetermined a result which her remarkable loveliness of person and
disposition would alone have accounted for. It was quite inevitable
that she should have come to seem to me, in a sense quite different
from the usual experience of lovers, the only woman in this world. Now
that I had become suddenly sensible of the fatuity of the hopes I had
begun to cherish, I suffered not merely what another lover might, but
in addition a desolate loneliness, an utter forlornness, such as no
other lover, however unhappy, could have felt.
My hosts evidently saw that I was depressed in spirits, and did
their best to divert me. Edith especially, I could see, was distressed
for me, but according to the usual perversity of lovers, having once
been so mad as to dream of receiving something more from her, there was
no longer any virtue for me in a kindness that I knew was only
Toward nightfall, after secluding myself in my room most of the
afternoon, I went into the garden to walk about. The day was overcast,
with an autumnal flavor in the warm, still air. Finding myself near the
excavation, I entered the subterranean chamber and sat down there.
This, I muttered to myself, is the only home I have. Let me stay
here, and not go forth any more. Seeking aid from the familiar
surroundings, I endeavored to find a sad sort of consolation in
reviving the past and summoning up the forms and faces that were about
me in my former life. It was in vain. There was no longer any life in
them. For nearly one hundred years the stars had been looking down on
Edith Bartlett's grave, and the graves of all my generation.
The past was dead, crushed beneath a century's weight, and from the
present I was shut out. There was no place for me anywhere. I was
neither dead nor properly alive.
Forgive me for following you.
I looked up. Edith stood in the door of the subterranean room,
regarding me smilingly, but with eyes full of sympathetic distress.
Send me away if I am intruding on you, she said; but we saw that
you were out of spirits, and you know you promised to let me know if
that were so. You have not kept your word.
I rose and came to the door, trying to smile, but making, I fancy,
rather sorry work of it, for the sight of her loveliness brought home
to me the more poignantly the cause of my wretchedness.
I was feeling a little lonely, that is all, I said. Has it never
occurred to you that my position is so much more utterly alone than any
human being's ever was before that a new word is really needed to
Oh, you must not talk that way,you must not let yourself feel
that way,you must not! she exclaimed, with moistened eyes. Are we
not your friends? It is your own fault if you will not let us be. You
need not be lonely.
You are good to me beyond my power of understanding, I said, but
don't you suppose that I know it is pity merely, sweet pity, but pity
only. I should be a fool not to know that I cannot seem to you as other
men of your own generation do, but as some strange uncanny being, a
stranded creature of an unknown sea, whose forlornness touches your
compassion despite its grotesqueness. I have been so foolish, you were
so kind, as to almost forget that this must needs be so, and to fancy I
might in time become naturalized, as we used to say, in this age, so as
to feel like one of you and to seem to you like the other men about
you. But Mr. Barton's sermon taught me how vain such a fancy is, how
great the gulf between us must seem to you.
Oh that miserable sermon! she exclaimed, fairly crying now in her
sympathy, I wanted you not to hear it. What does he know of you? He
has read in old musty books about your times, that is all. What do you
care about him, to let yourself be vexed by anything he said? Isn't it
anything to you, that we who know you feel differently? Don't you care
more about what we think of you than what he does who never saw you?
Oh, Mr. West! you don't know, you can't think, how it makes me feel to
see you so forlorn. I can't have it so. What can I say to you? How can
I convince you how different our feeling for you is from what you
As before, in that other crisis of my fate when she had come to me,
she extended her hands towards me in a gesture of helpfulness, and, as
then, I caught and held them in my own; her bosom heaved with strong
emotion, and little tremors in the fingers which I clasped emphasized
the depth of her feeling. In her face, pity contended in a sort of
divine spite against the obstacles which reduced it to impotence.
Womanly compassion surely never wore a guise more lovely.
Such beauty and such goodness quite melted me, and it seemed that
the only fitting response I could make was to tell her just the truth.
Of course I had not a spark of hope, but on the other hand I had no
fear that she would be angry. She was too pitiful for that. So I said
presently, It is very ungrateful in me not to be satisfied with such
kindness as you have shown me, and are showing me now. But are you so
blind as not to see why they are not enough to make me happy? Don't you
see that it is because I have been mad enough to love you?
At my last words she blushed deeply and her eyes fell before mine,
but she made no effort to withdraw her hands from my clasp. For some
moments she stood so, panting a little. Then blushing deeper than ever,
but with a dazzling smile, she looked up.
Are you sure it is not you who are blind? she said.
That was all, but it was enough, for it told me that, unaccountable,
incredible as it was, this radiant daughter of a golden age had
bestowed upon me not alone her pity, but her love. Still, I half
believed I must be under some blissful hallucination even as I clasped
her in my arms. If I am beside myself, I cried, let me remain so.
It is I whom you must think beside myself, she panted, escaping
from my arms when I had barely tasted the sweetness of her lips. Oh!
oh! what must you think of me almost to throw myself in the arms of one
I have known but a week? I did not mean that you should find it out so
soon, but I was so sorry for you I forgot what I was saying. No, no;
you must not touch me again till you know who I am. After that, sir,
you shall apologize to me very humbly for thinking, as I know you do,
that I have been over quick to fall in love with you. After you know
who I am, you will be bound to confess that it was nothing less than my
duty to fall in love with you at first sight, and that no girl of
proper feeling in my place could do otherwise.
As may be supposed, I would have been quite content to waive
explanations, but Edith was resolute that there should be no more
kisses until she had been vindicated from all suspicion of precipitancy
in the bestowal of her affections, and I was fain to follow the lovely
enigma into the house. Having come where her mother was, she blushingly
whispered something in her ear and ran away, leaving us together. It
then appeared that, strange as my experience had been, I was now first
to know what was perhaps its strangest feature. From Mrs. Leete I
learned that Edith was the great-granddaughter of no other than my lost
love, Edith Bartlett. After mourning me for fourteen years, she had
made a marriage of esteem, and left a son who had been Mrs. Leete's
father. Mrs. Leete had never seen her grandmother, but had heard much
of her, and, when her daughter was born, gave her the name of Edith.
This fact might have tended to increase the interest which the girl
took, as she grew up, in all that concerned her ancestress, and
especially the tragic story of the supposed death of the lover, whose
wife she expected to be, in the conflagration of his house. It was a
tale well calculated to touch the sympathy of a romantic girl, and the
fact that the blood of the unfortunate heroine was in her own veins
naturally heightened Edith's interest in it. A portrait of Edith
Bartlett and some of her papers, including a packet of my own letters,
were among the family heirlooms. The picture represented a very
beautiful young woman about whom it was easy to imagine all manner of
tender and romantic things. My letters gave Edith some material for
forming a distinct idea of my personality, and both together sufficed
to make the sad old story very real to her. She used to tell her
parents, half jestingly, that she would never marry till she found a
lover like Julian West, and there were none such nowadays.
Now all this, of course, was merely the daydreaming of a girl whose
mind had never been taken up by a love affair of her own, and would
have had no serious consequence but for the discovery that morning of
the buried vault in her father's garden and the revelation of the
identity of its inmate. For when the apparently lifeless form had been
borne into the house, the face in the locket found upon the breast was
instantly recognized as that of Edith Bartlett, and by that fact, taken
in connection with the other circumstances, they knew that I was no
other than Julian West. Even had there been no thought, as at first
there was not, of my resuscitation, Mrs. Leete said she believed that
this event would have affected her daughter in a critical and life-long
manner. The presumption of some subtle ordering of destiny, involving
her fate with mine, would under all circumstances have possessed an
irresistible fascination for almost any woman.
Whether when I came back to life a few hours afterward, and from the
first seemed to turn to her with a peculiar dependence and to find a
special solace in her company, she had been too quick in giving her
love at the first sign of mine, I could now, her mother said, judge for
myself. If I thought so, I must remember that this, after all, was the
twentieth and not the nineteenth century, and love was, no doubt, now
quicker in growth, as well as franker in utterance than then.
From Mrs. Leete I went to Edith. When I found her, it was first of
all to take her by both hands and stand a long time in rapt
contemplation of her face. As I gazed, the memory of that other Edith,
which had been affected as with a benumbing shock by the tremendous
experience that had parted us, revived, and my heart was dissolved with
tender and pitiful emotions, but also very blissful ones. For she who
brought to me so poignantly the sense of my loss was to make that loss
good. It was as if from her eyes Edith Bartlett looked into mine, and
smiled consolation to me. My fate was not alone the strangest, but the
most fortunate that ever befell a man. A double miracle had been
wrought for me. I had not been stranded upon the shore of this strange
world to find myself alone and companionless. My love, whom I had
dreamed lost, had been reëmbodied for my consolation. When at last, in
an ecstasy of gratitude and tenderness, I folded the lovely girl in my
arms, the two Ediths were blended in my thought, nor have they ever
since been clearly distinguished. I was not long in finding that on
Edith's part there was a corresponding confusion of identities. Never,
surely, was there between freshly united lovers a stranger talk than
ours that afternoon. She seemed more anxious to have me speak of Edith
Bartlett than of herself, of how I had loved her than how I loved
herself, rewarding my fond words concerning another woman with tears
and tender smiles and pressures of the hand.
You must not love me too much for myself, she said. I shall be
very jealous for her. I shall not let you forget her. I am going to
tell you something which you may think strange. Do you not believe that
spirits sometimes come back to the world to fulfill some work that lay
near their hearts? What if I were to tell you that I have sometimes
thought that her spirit lives in me,that Edith Bartlett, not Edith
Leete, is my real name. I cannot know it; of course none of us can know
who we really are; but I can feel it. Can you wonder that I have such a
feeling, seeing how my life was affected by her and by you, even before
you came. So you see you need not trouble to love me at all, if only
you are true to her. I shall not be likely to be jealous.
Dr. Leete had gone out that afternoon, and I did not have an
interview with him till later. He was not, apparently, wholly
unprepared for the intelligence I conveyed, and shook my hand heartily.
Under any ordinary circumstances, Mr. West, I should say that this
step had been taken on rather short acquaintance; but these are
decidedly not ordinary circumstances. In fairness, perhaps I ought to
tell you, he added, smilingly, that while I cheerfully consent to the
proposed arrangement, you must not feel too much indebted to me, as I
judge my consent is a mere formality. From the moment the secret of the
locket was out, it had to be, I fancy. Why, bless me, if Edith had not
been there to redeem her great-grandmother's pledge, I really apprehend
that Mrs. Leete's loyalty to me would have suffered a severe strain.
That evening the garden was bathed in moonlight, and till midnight
Edith and I wandered to and fro there, trying to grow accustomed to our
What should I have done if you had not cared for me? she
exclaimed. I was afraid you were not going to. What should I have done
then, when I felt I was consecrated to you! As soon as you came back to
life, I was as sure as if she had told me that I was to be to you what
she could not be, but that could only be if you would let me. Oh, how I
wanted to tell you that morning, when you felt so terribly strange
among us, who I was, but dared not open my lips about that, or let
father or mother
That must have been what you would not let your father tell me! I
exclaimed, referring to the conversation I had overheard as I came out
of my trance.
Of course it was, Edith laughed. Did you only just guess that?
Father being only a man, thought that it would make you feel among
friends to tell you who we were. He did not think of me at all. But
mother knew what I meant, and so I had my way. I could never have
looked you in the face if you had known who I was. It would have been
forcing myself on you quite too boldly. I am afraid you think I did
that to-day, as it was. I am sure I did not mean to, for I know girls
were expected to hide their feelings in your day, and I was dreadfully
afraid of shocking you. Ah me, how hard it must have been for them to
have always had to conceal their love like a fault. Why did they think
it such a shame to love any one till they had been given permission? It
is so odd to think of waiting for permission to fall in love. Was it
because men in those days were angry when girls loved them? That is not
the way women would feel, I am sure, or men either, I think, now. I
don't understand it at all. That will be one of the curious things
about the women of those days that you will have to explain to me. I
don't believe Edith Bartlett was so foolish as the others.
After sundry ineffectual attempts at parting, she finally insisted
that we must say good night. I was about to imprint upon her lips the
positively last kiss, when she said, with an indescribable archness:
One thing troubles me. Are you sure that you quite forgive Edith
Bartlett for marrying any one else? The books that have come down to us
make out lovers of your time more jealous than fond, and that is what
makes me ask. It would be a great relief to me if I could feel sure
that you were not in the least jealous of my great-grandfather for
marrying your sweetheart. May I tell my great-grandmother's picture
when I go to my room that you quite forgive her for proving false to
Will the reader believe it, this coquettish quip, whether the
speaker herself had any idea of it or not, actually touched and with
the touching cured a preposterous ache of something like jealousy which
I had been vaguely conscious of ever since Mrs. Leete had told me of
Edith Bartlett's marriage. Even while I had been holding Edith
Bartlett's great-granddaughter in my arms, I had not, till this moment,
so illogical are some of our feelings, distinctly realized that but for
that marriage I could not have done so. The absurdity of this frame of
mind could only be equalled by the abruptness with which it dissolved
as Edith's roguish query cleared the fog from my perceptions. I laughed
as I kissed her.
You may assure her of my entire forgiveness, I said, although if
it had been any man but your great-grandfather whom she married, it
would have been a very different matter.
On reaching my chamber that night I did not open the musical
telephone that I might be lulled to sleep with soothing tunes, as had
become my habit. For once my thoughts made better music than even
twentieth century orchestras discourse, and it held me enchanted till
well toward morning, when I fell asleep.
It's a little after the time you told me to wake you, sir. You did
not come out of it as quick as common, sir.
The voice was the voice of my man Sawyer. I started bolt upright in
bed and stared around. I was in my underground chamber. The mellow
light of the lamp which always burned in the room when I occupied it
illumined the familiar walls and furnishings. By my bedside, with the
glass of sherry in his hand which Dr. Pillsbury prescribed on first
rousing from a mesmeric sleep, by way of awakening the torpid physical
functions, stood Sawyer.
Better take this right off, sir, he said, as I stared blankly at
him. You look kind of flushed like, sir, and you need it.
I tossed off the liquor and began to realize what had happened to
me. It was, of course, very plain. All that about the twentieth century
had been a dream. I had but dreamed of that enlightened and care-free
race of men and their ingeniously simple institutions, of the glorious
new Boston with its domes and pinnacles, its gardens and fountains, and
its universal reign of comfort. The amiable family which I had learned
to know so well, my genial host and Mentor, Dr. Leete, his wife, and
their daughter, the second and more beauteous Edith, my
betrothed,these, too, had been but figments of a vision.
For a considerable time I remained in the attitude in which this
conviction had come over me, sitting up in bed gazing at vacancy,
absorbed in recalling the scenes and incidents of my fantastic
experience. Sawyer, alarmed at my looks, was meanwhile anxiously
inquiring what was the matter with me. Roused at length by his
importunities to a recognition of my surroundings, I pulled myself
together with an effort and assured the faithful fellow that I was all
right. I have had an extraordinary dream, that's all, Sawyer, I said,
I dressed in a mechanical way, feeling lightheaded and oddly
uncertain of myself, and sat down to the coffee and rolls which Sawyer
was in the habit of providing for my refreshment before I left the
house. The morning newspaper lay by the plate. I took it up, and my eye
fell on the date, May 31, 1887. I had known, of course, from the moment
I opened my eyes that my long and detailed experience in another
century had been a dream, and yet it was startling to have it so
conclusively demonstrated that the world was but a few hours older than
when I had lain down to sleep.
Glancing at the table of contents at the head of the paper, which
reviewed the news of the morning, I read the following summary:
* * * * *
FOREIGN AFFAIRS.The impending war between France and Germany. The
French Chambers asked for new military credits to meet Germany's
increase of her army. Probability that all Europe will be involved in
case of war.Great suffering among the unemployed in London. They
demand work. Monster demonstration to be made. The authorities
uneasy.Great strikes in Belgium. The government preparing to repress
outbreaks. Shocking facts in regard to the employment of girls in
Belgium coal mines.Wholesale evictions in Ireland.
HOME AFFAIRS.The epidemic of fraud unchecked. Embezzlement of
half a million in New York.Misappropriation of a trust fund by
executors. Orphans left penniless.Clever system of thefts by a bank
teller; $50,000 gone.The coal barons decide to advance the price of
coal and reduce production.Speculators engineering a great wheat
corner at Chicago.A clique forcing up the price of coffee.Enormous
land-grabs of Western syndicates.Revelations of shocking corruption
among Chicago officials. Systematic bribery.The trials of the Boodle
aldermen to go on at New York.Large failures of business houses.
Fears of a business crisis.A large grist of burglaries and
larcenies.A woman murdered in cold blood for her money at New
Haven.A householder shot by a burglar in this city last night.A man
shoots himself in Worcester because he could not get work. A large
family left destitute.An aged couple in New Jersey commit suicide
rather than go to the poor-house.Pitiable destitution among the women
wage-workers in the great cities.Startling growth of illiteracy in
Massachusetts.More insane asylums wanted.Decoration Day addresses.
Professor Brown's oration on the moral grandeur of nineteenth century
* * * * *
It was indeed the nineteenth century to which I had awaked; there
could be no kind of doubt about that. Its complete microcosm this
summary of the day's news had presented, even to that last unmistakable
touch of fatuous self-complacency. Coming after such a damning
indictment of the age as that one day's chronicle of world-wide
bloodshed, greed, and tyranny, was a bit of cynicism worthy of
Mephistopheles, and yet of all whose eyes it had met this morning I
was, perhaps, the only one who perceived the cynicism, and but
yesterday I should have perceived it no more than the others. That
strange dream it was which had made all the difference. For I know not
how long, I forgot my surroundings after this, and was again in fancy
moving in that vivid dream-world, in that glorious city, with its homes
of simple comfort and its gorgeous public palaces. Around me were again
faces unmarred by arrogance or servility, by envy or greed, by anxious
care or feverish ambition, and stately forms of men and women who had
never known fear of a fellow man or depended on his favor, but always,
in the words of that sermon which still rang in my ears, had stood up
straight before God.
With a profound sigh and a sense of irreparable loss, not the less
poignant that it was a loss of what had never really been, I roused at
last from my reverie, and soon after left the house.
A dozen times between my door and Washington Street I had to stop
and pull myself together, such power had been in that vision of the
Boston of the future to make the real Boston strange. The squalor and
malodorousness of the town struck me, from the moment I stood upon the
street, as facts I had never before observed. But yesterday, moreover,
it had seemed quite a matter of course that some of my fellow-citizens
should wear silks, and others rags, that some should look well fed, and
others hungry. Now on the contrary the glaring disparities in the dress
and condition of the men and women who brushed each other on the
sidewalks shocked me at every step, and yet more the entire
indifference which the prosperous showed to the plight of the
unfortunate. Were these human beings, who could behold the wretchedness
of their fellows without so much as a change of countenance? And yet,
all the while, I knew well that it was I who had changed, and not my
contemporaries. I had dreamed of a city whose people fared all alike as
children of one family and were one another's keepers in all things.
Another feature of the real Boston, which assumed the extraordinary
effect of strangeness that marks familiar things seen in a new light,
was the prevalence of advertising. There had been no personal
advertising in the Boston of the twentieth century, because there was
no need of any, but here the walls of the buildings, the windows, the
broadsides of the newspapers in every hand, the very pavements,
everything in fact in sight, save the sky, were covered with the
appeals of individuals who sought, under innumerable pretexts, to
attract the contributions of others to their support. However the
wording might vary, the tenor of all these appeals was the same:
Help John Jones. Never mind the rest. They are frauds. I, John
Jones, am the right one. Buy of me. Employ me. Visit me. Hear me, John
Jones. Look at me. Make no mistake, John Jones is the man and nobody
else. Let the rest starve, but for God's sake remember John Jones!
Whether the pathos or the moral repulsiveness of the spectacle most
impressed me, so suddenly become a stranger in my own city, I know not.
Wretched men, I was moved to cry, who, because they will not learn to
be helpers of one another, are doomed to be beggars of one another from
the least to the greatest! This horrible babel of shameless
self-assertion and mutual depreciation, this stunning clamor of
conflicting boasts, appeals, and adjurations, this stupendous system of
brazen beggary, what was it all but the necessity of a society in which
the opportunity to serve the world according to his gifts, instead of
being secured to every man as the first object of social organization,
had to be fought for!
I reached Washington Street at the busiest point, and there I stood
and laughed aloud, to the scandal of the passers-by. For my life I
could not have helped it, with such a mad humor was I moved at sight of
the interminable rows of stores on either side, up and down the street
so far as I could see,scores of them, to make the spectacle more
utterly preposterous, within a stone's throw devoted to selling the
same sort of goods. Stores! stores! stores! miles of stores! ten
thousand stores to distribute the goods needed by this one city, which
in my dream had been supplied with all things from a single warehouse,
as they were ordered through one great store in every quarter, where
the buyer, without waste of time or labor, found under one roof the
world's assortment in whatever line he desired. There the labor of
distribution had been so slight as to add but a scarcely perceptible
fraction to the cost of commodities to the user. The cost of production
was virtually all he paid. But here the mere distribution of the goods,
their handling alone, added a fourth, a third, a half and more, to the
cost. All these ten thousand plants must be paid for, their rent, their
staffs of superintendence, their platoons of salesmen, their ten
thousand sets of accountants, jobbers, and business dependents, with
all they spent in advertising themselves and fighting one another, and
the consumers must do the paying. What a famous process for beggaring a
Were these serious men I saw about me, or children, who did their
business on such a plan? Could they be reasoning beings, who did not
see the folly which, when the product is made and ready for use, wastes
so much of it in getting it to the user? If people eat with a spoon
that leaks half its contents between bowl and lip, are they not likely
to go hungry?
I had passed through Washington Street thousands of times before and
viewed the ways of those who sold merchandise, but my curiosity
concerning them was as if I had never gone by their way before. I took
wondering note of the show windows of the stores, filled with goods
arranged with a wealth of pains and artistic device to attract the eye.
I saw the throngs of ladies looking in, and the proprietors eagerly
watching the effect of the bait. I went within and noted the hawk-eyed
floor-walker watching for business, overlooking the clerks, keeping
them up to their task of inducing the customers to buy, buy, buy, for
money if they had it, for credit if they had it not, to buy what they
wanted not, more than they wanted, what they could not afford. At times
I momentarily lost the clue and was confused by the sight. Why this
effort to induce people to buy? Surely that had nothing to do with the
legitimate business of distributing products to those who needed them.
Surely it was the sheerest waste to force upon people what they did not
want, but what might be useful to another. The nation was so much the
poorer for every such achievement. What were these clerks thinking of?
Then I would remember that they were not acting as distributors like
those in the store I had visited in the dream Boston. They were not
serving the public interest, but their immediate personal interest, and
it was nothing to them what the ultimate effect of their course on the
general prosperity might be, if but they increased their own hoard, for
these goods were their own, and the more they sold and the more they
got for them, the greater their gain. The more wasteful the people
were, the more articles they did not want which they could be induced
to buy, the better for these sellers. To encourage prodigality was the
express aim of the ten thousand stores of Boston.
Nor were these storekeepers and clerks a whit worse men than any
others in Boston. They must earn a living and support their families,
and how were they to find a trade to do it by which did not necessitate
placing their individual interests before those of others and that of
all? They could not be asked to starve while they waited for an order
of things such as I had seen in my dream, in which the interest of each
and that of all were identical. But, God in heaven! what wonder, under
such a system as this about mewhat wonder that the city was so
shabby, and the people so meanly dressed, and so many of them ragged
Some time after this it was that I drifted over into South Boston
and found myself among the manufacturing establishments. I had been in
this quarter of the city a hundred times before, just as I had been on
Washington Street, but here, as well as there, I now first perceived
the true significance of what I witnessed. Formerly I had taken pride
in the fact that, by actual count, Boston had some four thousand
independent manufacturing establishments; but in this very multiplicity
and independence I recognized now the secret of the insignificant total
product of their industry.
If Washington Street had been like a lane in Bedlam, this was a
spectacle as much more melancholy as production is a more vital
function, than distribution. For not only were these four thousand
establishments not working in concert, and for that reason alone
operating at prodigious disadvantage, but, as if this did not involve a
sufficiently disastrous loss of power, they were using their utmost
skill to frustrate one another's effort, praying by night and working
by day for the destruction of one another's enterprises.
The roar and rattle of wheels and hammers resounding from every side
was not the hum of a peaceful industry, but the clangor of swords
wielded by foemen. These mills and shops were so many forts, each under
its own flag, its guns trained on the mills and shops about it, and its
sappers busy below, undermining them.
Within each one of these forts the strictest organization of
industry was insisted on; the separate gangs worked under a single
central authority. No interference and no duplicating of work were
permitted. Each had his allotted task, and none were idle. By what
hiatus in the logical faculty, by what lost link of reasoning, account,
then, for the failure to recognize the necessity of applying the same
principle to the organization of the national industries as a whole, to
see that if lack of organization could impair the efficiency of a shop,
it must have effects as much more disastrous in disabling the
industries of the nation at large as the latter are vaster in volume
and more complex in the relationship of their parts.
People would be prompt enough to ridicule an army in which there
were neither companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, or
army corps,no unit of organization, in fact, larger than the
corporal's squad, with no officer higher than a corporal, and all the
corporals equal in authority. And yet just such an army were the
manufacturing industries of nineteenth century Boston, an army of four
thousand independent squads led by four thousand independent corporals,
each with a separate plan of campaign.
Knots of idle men were to be seen here and there on every side, some
idle because they could find no work at any price, others because they
could not get what they thought a fair price.
I accosted some of the latter, and they told me their grievances. It
was very little comfort I could give them. I am sorry for you, I
said. You get little enough, certainly, and yet the wonder to me is,
not that industries conducted as these are do not pay you living wages,
but that they are able to pay you any wages at all.
Making my way back again after this to the peninsular city, toward
three o'clock I stood on State Street, staring, as if I had never seen
them before, at the banks and brokers' offices, and other financial
institutions, of which there had been in the State Street of my vision
no vestige. Business men, confidential clerks, and errand boys were
thronging in and out of the banks, for it wanted but a few minutes of
the closing hour. Opposite me was the bank where I did business, and
presently I crossed the street, and, going in with the crowd, stood in
a recess of the wall looking on at the army of clerks handling money,
and the cues of depositors at the tellers' windows. An old gentleman
whom I knew, a director of the bank, passing me and observing my
contemplative attitude, stopped a moment.
Interesting sight, isn't it, Mr. West, he said. Wonderful piece
of mechanism; I find it so myself. I like sometimes to stand and look
on at it just as you are doing. It's a poem, sir, a poem, that's what I
call it. Did you ever think, Mr. West, that the bank is the heart of
the business system? From it and to it, in endless flux and reflux, the
life blood goes. It is flowing in now. It will flow out again in the
morning; and pleased with his little conceit, the old man passed on
Yesterday I should have considered the simile apt enough, but since
then I had visited a world incomparably more affluent than this, in
which money was unknown and without conceivable use. I had learned that
it had a use in the world around me only because the work of producing
the nation's livelihood, instead of being regarded as the most strictly
public and common of all concerns, and as such conducted by the nation,
was abandoned to the hap-hazard efforts of individuals. This original
mistake necessitated endless exchanges to bring about any sort of
general distribution of products. These exchanges money effectedhow
equitably, might be seen in a walk from the tenement house districts to
the Back Bayat the cost of an army of men taken from productive labor
to manage it, with constant ruinous breakdowns of its machinery, and a
generally debauching influence on mankind which had justified its
description, from ancient time, as the root of all evil.
Alas for the poor old bank director with his poem! He had mistaken
the throbbing of an abscess for the beating of the heart. What he
called a wonderful piece of mechanism was an imperfect device to
remedy an unnecessary defect, the clumsy crutch of a self-made cripple.
After the banks had closed I wandered aimlessly about the business
quarter for an hour or two, and later sat a while on one of the benches
of the Common, finding an interest merely in watching the throngs that
passed, such as one has in studying the populace of a foreign city, so
strange since yesterday had my fellow citizens and their ways become to
me. For thirty years I had lived among them, and yet I seemed to have
never noted before how drawn and anxious were their faces, of the rich
as of the poor, the refined, acute faces of the educated as well as the
dull masks of the ignorant. And well it might be so, for I saw now, as
never before I had seen so plainly, that each as he walked constantly
turned to catch the whispers of a spectre at his ear, the spectre of
Uncertainty. Do your work never so well, the spectre was
whispering,rise early and toil till late, rob cunningly or serve
faithfully, you shall never know security. Rich you may be now and
still come to poverty at last. Leave never so much wealth to your
children, you cannot buy the assurance that your son may not be the
servant of your servant, or that your daughter will not have to sell
herself for bread.
A man passing by thrust an advertising card in my hand, which set
forth the merits of some new scheme of life insurance. The incident
reminded me of the only device, pathetic in its admission of the
universal need it so poorly supplied, which offered these tired and
hunted men and women even a partial protection from uncertainty. By
this means, those already well-to-do, I remembered, might purchase a
precarious confidence that after their death their loved ones would
not, for a while at least, be trampled under the feet of men. But this
was all, and this was only for those who could pay well for it. What
idea was possible to these wretched dwellers in the land of Ishmael,
where every man's hand was against each and the hand of each against
every other, of true life insurance as I had seen it among the people
of that dream land, each of whom, by virtue merely of his membership in
the national family, was guaranteed against need of any sort, by a
policy underwritten by one hundred million fellow countrymen.
Some time after this it was that I recall a glimpse of myself
standing on the steps of a building on Tremont Street, looking at a
military parade. A regiment was passing. It was the first sight in that
dreary day which had inspired me with any other emotions than wondering
pity and amazement. Here at last were order and reason, an exhibition
of what intelligent coöperation can accomplish. The people who stood
looking on with kindling faces,could it be that the sight had for
them no more than but a spectacular interest? Could they fail to see
that it was their perfect concert of action, their organization under
one control, which made these men the tremendous engine they were, able
to vanquish a mob ten times as numerous? Seeing this so plainly, could
they fail to compare the scientific manner in which the nation went to
war with the unscientific manner in which it went to work? Would they
not query since what time the killing of men had been a task so much
more important than feeding and clothing them, that a trained army
should be deemed alone adequate to the former, while the latter was
left to a mob?
It was now toward nightfall, and the streets were thronged with the
workers from the stores, the shops, and mills. Carried along with the
stronger part of the current, I found myself, as it began to grow dark,
in the midst of a scene of squalor and human degradation such as only
the South Cove tenement district could present. I had seen the mad
wasting of human labor; here I saw in direst shape the want that waste
From the black doorways and windows of the rookeries on every side
came gusts of fetid air. The streets and alleys reeked with the
effluvia of a slave ship's between-decks. As I passed I had glimpses
within of pale babies gasping out their lives amid sultry stenches, of
hopeless-faced women deformed by hardship, retaining of womanhood no
trait save weakness, while from the windows leered girls with brows of
brass. Like the starving bands of mongrel curs that infest the streets
of Moslem towns, swarms of half-clad brutalized children filled the air
with shrieks and curses as they fought and tumbled among the garbage
that littered the court-yards.
There was nothing in all this that was new to me. Often had I passed
through this part of the city and witnessed its sights with feelings of
disgust mingled with a certain philosophical wonder at the extremities
mortals will endure and still cling to life. But not alone as regarded
the economical follies of this age, but equally as touched its moral
abominations, scales had fallen from my eyes since that vision of
another century. No more did I look upon the woful dwellers in this
Inferno with a callous curiosity as creatures scarcely human. I saw in
them my brothers and sisters, my parents, my children, flesh of my
flesh, blood of my blood. The festering mass of human wretchedness
about me offended not now my senses merely, but pierced my heart like a
knife, so that I could not repress sighs and groans. I not only saw but
felt in my body all that I saw.
Presently, too, as I observed the wretched beings about me more
closely, I perceived that they were all quite dead. Their bodies were
so many living sepulchres. On each brutal brow was plainly written the
hic jacet of a soul dead within.
As I looked, horror struck, from one death's head to another, I was
affected by a singular hallucination. Like a wavering translucent
spirit face superimposed upon each of these brutish masks I saw the
ideal, the possible face that would have been the actual if mind and
soul had lived. It was not till I was aware of these ghostly faces, and
of the reproach that could not be gainsaid which was in their eyes,
that the full piteousness of the ruin that had been wrought was
revealed to me. I was moved with contrition as with a strong agony, for
I had been one of those who had endured that these things should be. I
had been one of those who, well knowing that they were, had not desired
to hear or be compelled to think much of them, but had gone on as if
they were not, seeking my own pleasure and profit. Therefore now I
found upon my garments the blood of this great multitude of strangled
souls of my brothers. The voice of their blood cried out against me
from the ground. Every stone of the reeking pavements, every brick of
the pestilential rookeries, found a tongue and called after me as I
fled: What hast thou done with thy brother Abel?
I have no clear recollection of anything after this till I found
myself standing on the carved stone steps of the magnificent home of my
betrothed in Commonwealth avenue. Amid the tumult of my thoughts that
day, I had scarcely once thought of her, but now obeying some
unconscious impulse my feet had found the familiar way to her door. I
was told that the family were at dinner, but word was sent out that I
should join them at table. Besides the family, I found several guests
present, all known to me. The table glittered with plate and costly
china. The ladies were sumptuously dressed and wore the jewels of
queens. The scene was one of costly elegance and lavish luxury. The
company was in excellent spirits, and there was plentiful laughter and
a running fire of jests.
To me it was as if, in wandering through the place of doom, my blood
turned to tears by its sights, and my spirit attuned to sorrow, pity,
and despair, I had happened in some glade upon a merry party of
roisterers. I sat in silence until Edith began to rally me upon my
sombre looks, What ailed me? The others presently joined in the playful
assault, and I became a target for quips and jests. Where had I been,
and what had I seen to make such a dull fellow of me?
I have been in Golgotha, at last I answered. I have seen Humanity
hanging on a cross! Do none of you know what sights the sun and stars
look down on in this city, that you can think and talk of anything
else? Do you not know that close to your doors a great multitude of men
and women, flesh of your flesh, live lives that are one agony from
birth to death? Listen! their dwellings are so near that if you hush
your laughter you will hear their grievous voices, the piteous crying
of the little ones that suckle poverty, the hoarse curses of men sodden
in misery, turned half-way back to brutes, the chaffering of an army of
women selling themselves for bread. With what have you stopped your
ears that you do not hear these doleful sounds? For me, I can hear
Silence followed my words. A passion of pity had shaken me as I
spoke, but when I looked around upon the company, I saw that, far from
being stirred as I was, their faces expressed a cold and hard
astonishment, mingled in Edith's with extreme mortification, in her
father's with anger. The ladies were exchanging scandalized looks,
while one of the gentlemen had put up his eyeglass and was studying me
with an air of scientific curiosity, When I saw that things which were
to me so intolerable moved them not at all, that words that melted my
heart to speak had only offended them with the speaker, I was at first
stunned and then overcome with a desperate sickness and faintness at
the heart. What hope was there for the wretched, for the world, if
thoughtful men and tender women were not moved by things like these!
Then I bethought myself that it must be because I had not spoken
aright. No doubt I had put the case badly. They were angry because they
thought I was berating them, when God knew I was merely thinking of the
horror of the fact without any attempt to assign the responsibility for
I restrained my passion, and tried to speak calmly and logically
that I might correct this impression. I told them that I had not meant
to accuse them, as if they, or the rich in general, were responsible
for the misery of the world. True indeed it was, that the superfluity
which they wasted would, otherwise bestowed, relieve much bitter
suffering. These costly viands, these rich wines, these gorgeous
fabrics and glistening jewels represented the ransom of many lives.
They were verily not without the guiltiness of those who waste in a
land stricken with famine. Nevertheless, all the waste of all the rich,
were it saved, would go but a little way to cure the poverty of the
world. There was so little to divide that even if the rich went share
and share with the poor, there would be but a common fare of crusts,
albeit made very sweet then by brotherly love.
The folly of men, not their hard-heartedness, was the great cause of
the world's poverty. It was not the crime of man, nor of any class of
men, that made the race so miserable, but a hideous, ghastly mistake, a
colossal world-darkening blunder. And then I showed them how four
fifths of the labor of men was utterly wasted by the mutual warfare,
the lack of organization and concert among the workers. Seeking to make
the matter very plain, I instanced the case of arid lands where the
soil yielded the means of life only by careful use of the watercourses
for irrigation. I showed how in such countries it was counted the most
important function of the government to see that the water was not
wasted by the selfishness or ignorance of individuals, since otherwise
there would be famine. To this end its use was strictly regulated and
systematized, and individuals of their mere caprice were not permitted
to dam it or divert it, or in any way to tamper with it.
The labor of men, I explained, was the fertilizing stream which
alone rendered earth habitable. It was but a scanty stream at best, and
its use required to be regulated by a system which expended every drop
to the best advantage, if the world were to be supported in abundance.
But how far from any system was the actual practice! Every man wasted
the precious fluid as he wished, animated only by the equal motives of
saving his own crop and spoiling his neighbor's, that his might sell
the better. What with greed and what with spite some fields were
flooded while others were parched, and half the water ran wholly to
waste. In such a land, though a few by strength or cunning might win
the means of luxury, the lot of the great mass must be poverty, and of
the weak and ignorant bitter want and perennial famine.
Let but the famine-stricken nation assume the function it had
neglected, and regulate for the common good the course of the
life-giving stream, and the earth would bloom like one garden, and none
of its children lack any good thing. I described the physical felicity,
mental enlightenment, and moral elevation which would then attend the
lives of all men. With fervency I spoke of that new world, blessed with
plenty, purified by justice and sweetened by brotherly kindness, the
world of which I had indeed but dreamed, but which might so easily be
made real. But when I had expected now surely the faces around me to
light up with emotions akin to mine, they grew ever more dark, angry,
and scornful. Instead of enthusiasm, the ladies showed only aversion
and dread, while the men interrupted me with shouts of reprobation and
contempt. Madman! Pestilent fellow! Fanatic! Enemy of society!
were some of their cries, and the one who had before taken his eyeglass
to me exclaimed, He says we are to have no more poor. Ha! ha!
Put the fellow out! exclaimed the father of my betrothed, and at
the signal the men sprang from their chairs and advanced upon me.
It seemed to me that my heart would burst with the anguish of
finding that what was to me so plain and so all-important was to them
meaningless, and that I was powerless to make it other. So hot had been
my heart that I had thought to melt an iceberg with its glow, only to
find at last the overmastering chill seizing my own vitals. It was not
enmity that I felt toward them as they thronged me, but pity only, for
them and for the world.
Although despairing, I could not give over. Still I strove with
them. Tears poured from my eyes. In my vehemence I became inarticulate.
I panted, I sobbed, I groaned, and immediately afterward found myself
sitting upright in bed in my room in Dr. Leete's house, and the morning
sun shining through the open window into my eyes. I was gasping. The
tears were streaming down my face, and I quivered in every nerve.
* * * * *
As with an escaped convict who dreams that he has been recaptured
and brought back to his dark and reeking dungeon, and opens his eyes to
see the heaven's vault spread above him, so it was with me, as I
realized that my return to the nineteenth century had been the dream,
and my presence in the twentieth was the reality.
The cruel sights which I had witnessed in my vision, and could so
well confirm from the experience of my former life, though they had,
alas! once been, and must in the retrospect to the end of time move the
compassionate to tears, were, God be thanked, forever gone by. Long ago
oppressor and oppressed, prophet and scorner, had been dust. For
generations, rich and poor had been forgotten words.
But in that moment, while yet I mused with unspeakable thankfulness
upon the greatness of the world's salvation and my privilege in
beholding it, there suddenly pierced me like a knife a pang of shame,
remorse, and wondering self-reproach, that bowed my head upon my breast
and made me wish the grave had hid me with my fellows from the sun. For
I had been a man of that former time. What had I done to help on the
deliverance whereat I now presumed to rejoice? I who had lived in those
cruel, insensate days, what had I done to bring them to an end? I had
been every whit as indifferent to the wretchedness of my brothers, as
cynically incredulous of better things, as besotted a worshipper of
Chaos and Old Night, as any of my fellows. So far as my personal
influence went, it had been exerted rather to hinder than to help
forward the enfranchisement of the race which was even then preparing.
What right had I to hail a salvation which reproached me, to rejoice in
a day whose dawning I had mocked?
Better for you, better for you, a voice within me rang, had this
evil dream been the reality, and this fair reality the dream; better
your part pleading for crucified humanity with a scoffing generation,
than here, drinking of wells you digged not, and eating of trees whose
husbandmen you stoned; and my spirit answered, Better, truly.
When at length I raised my bowed head and looked forth from the
window, Edith, fresh as the morning, had come into the garden and was
gathering flowers. I hastened to descend to her. Kneeling before her,
with my face in the dust, I confessed with tears how little was my
worth to breathe the air of this golden century, and how infinitely
less to wear upon my breast its consummate flower. Fortunate is he who,
with a case so desperate as mine, finds a judge so merciful.
THE RATE OF THE WORLD'S PROGRESS.
To the Editor of the Boston Transcript: The Transcript of
March 30, 1888, contained a review of Looking Backward, in
response to which I beg to be allowed a word. The description to which
the book is devoted, of the radically new social and industrial
institutions and arrangements supposed to be enjoyed by the people of
the United States in the twentieth century, is not objected to as
depicting a degree of human felicity and moral development necessarily
unattainable by the race, provided time enough had been allowed for its
evolution from the present chaotic state of society. In failing to
allow this, the reviewer thinks that the author has made an absurd
mistake, which seriously detracts from the value of the book as a work
of realistic imagination. Instead of placing the realization of the
ideal social state a scant fifty years ahead, it is suggested that he
should have made his figure seventy-five centuries. There is certainly
a large discrepancy between seventy-five centuries and fifty years, and
if the reviewer is correct in his estimate of the probable rate of
human progress, the outlook of the world is decidedly discouraging. But
is he right? I think not.
Looking Backward, although in form a fanciful romance, is
intended, in all seriousness, as a forecast, in accordance with the
principles of evolution, of the next stage in the industrial and social
development of humanity, especially in this country; and no part of it
is believed by the author to be better supported by the indications of
probability than the implied prediction that the dawn of the new era is
already near at hand, and that the full day will swiftly follow. Does
this seem at first thought incredible, in view of the vastness of the
changes presupposed? What is the teaching of history, but that great
national transformations, while ages in unnoticed preparation, when
once inaugurated, are accomplished with a rapidity and resistless
momentum proportioned to their magnitude, not limited by it?
In 1759, when Quebec fell, the might of England in America seemed
irresistible, and the vassalage of the colonies assured. Nevertheless,
thirty years later, the first President of the American Republic was
inaugurated. In 1849, after Novara, Italian prospects appeared as
hopeless as at any time since the Middle Ages; yet only fifteen years
after, Victor Emmanuel was crowned King of United Italy. In 1864, the
fulfillment of the thousand-year dream of German unity was apparently
as far off as ever. Seven years later it had been realized, and William
had assumed at Versailles the Crown of Barbarossa. In 1832, the
original Anti-slavery Society was formed in Boston by a few so-called
visionaries. Thirty-eight years later, in 1870, the society disbanded,
its programme fully carried out.
These precedents do not, of course, prove that any such industrial
and social transformation as is outlined in Looking Backward is
impending; but they do show that, when the moral and economical
conditions for it are ripe, it may be expected to go forward with great
rapidity. On no other stage are the scenes shifted with a swiftness so
like magic as on the great stage of history when once the hour strikes.
The question is not, then, how extensive the scene-shifting must be to
set the stage for the new fraternal civilization, but whether there are
any special indications that a social transformation is at hand. The
causes that have been bringing it ever nearer have been at work from
immemorial time. To the stream of tendency setting toward an ultimate
realization of a form of society which, while vastly more efficient for
material prosperity, should also satisfy and not outrage the moral
instincts, every sigh of poverty, every tear of pity, every humane
impulse, every generous enthusiasm, every true religious feeling, every
act by which men have given effect to their mutual sympathy by drawing
more closely together for any purpose, have contributed from the
beginnings of civilization. That this long stream of influence, ever
widening and deepening, is at last about to sweep away the barriers it
has so long sapped, is at least one obvious interpretation of the
present universal ferment of men's minds as to the imperfections of
present social arrangements. Not only are the toilers of the world
engaged in something like a world-wide insurrection, but true and
humane men and women, of every degree, are in a mood of exasperation,
verging on absolute revolt, against social conditions that reduce life
to a brutal struggle for existence, mock every dictate of ethics and
religion, and render wellnigh futile the efforts of philanthropy.
As an iceberg, floating southward from the frozen North, is
gradually undermined by warmer seas, and, become at last unstable,
churns the sea to yeast for miles around by the mighty rockings that
portend its overturn, so the barbaric industrial and social system,
which has come down to us from savage antiquity, undermined by the
modern humane spirit, riddled by the criticism of economic science, is
shaking the world with convulsions that presage its collapse.
All thoughtful men agree that the present aspect of society is
portentous of great changes. The only question is, whether they will be
for the better or the worse. Those who believe in man's essential
nobleness lean to the former view, those who believe in his essential
baseness to the latter. For my part, I hold to the former opinion.
Looking Backward was written in the belief that the Golden Age lies
before us and not behind us, and is not far away. Our children will
surely see it, and we, too, who are already men and women, if we
deserve it by our faith and by our works.