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world enlightenment of the sixth century B.C. had human destiny been so fundamentally, irreversibly, changed. Nor is that all to tell of the fateful seventeenth century. The century of Newton also brought the dawn of mechanical steam power for the production of work, transforming the Greek toy into a machine, a later modification of which by James Watt would partly drive the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century. The seventeenth century also brought the consolidation of civil society, or the powerful accession of modern capitalism in Europe the East India Company, the London stock exchange, the Banks of Amsterdam ‘and England .. . There was also a charming footnote to the seventeenth century that would have surely pleased the ancient Greeks. A small observatory was stuck up in a place called Greenwich Park, telling the past that the roads of time no longer led to Rome. Now they would lead from Europe, from the land of Newton and John Locke whose ideas would inspire the Wesern Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Thus in rather less than eighty years the uncertainty of the Vicar was being replaced by a new philosophy of the world, a new Western construction of reality. Science, reason, enlightenment, progress the morning thunder in the modern West. For there were no ghosts in this new world machine, no unfathomable logos, no dark Manichean dualism, no angry Jehovah of the Old Testament, no Buddhist mystery to defeat the rational conquest of the universe Vienna west. Naturally, there were doubters among the new philosophers of “the light.” Thee are always doubters. And yet, even the skeptical Hume warmed for a time to the high prospect of applying the new principles of physical science to the study of human behavior, while many of the philosophes dreamed of discovering the laws of human behavior, just as Newton had done for the physical universe. They dared to think that given these new laws, they could bring order to the world of the living, just as Newton had done for the heavens. It was surely a mighty undertaking, generously conceived. And today the heirs of that undertaking are known as social and behavioral scientists, the new experts who replaced the older Christian bishops. But the drift of my remarks today is not concerned with the mixed accomplishments of the new scientists, nor with the very uneven fortunes of the Enlightenment in Western Europe. For the rather unbelievable seventeenth century also brought the English colonization of the New World, laying the foundations for what was destined to become the United States the brand-new window in the West that would open just at the “right time” in human history. Harvard was founded in 1634, the first university in the New World; while only three years later in the Old World, Descartes published his magnificent geometry, throwing open the road to the calculus of Newton and Leibniz, the most powerful single tool for the exploration of the physical universe in all human history. Thus it all came on line for this New World. Just think of it: in the same year the first Watt engine was being installed to drive an iron works in the Industrial Revolution in the same year Joseph Lagrange was composing his monumental work in mathematical physics in the same year Adam Smith was publishing his Wealth of Nations in the same year, 1776, the nigh noon of the Western Enlightnment, the Declaration of Independence of the United States was being written in the city of Philadelphia. What a fateful historical conjunction all that: mechanical steam power, human magic, economic philosophy, and a political declaration worthy of them all. It was as if the gods of Ionia had reached forward about 2,000 years to give it the go! Nor was there any social delay with the new green light in the West, no hallowed patterns of life, no rotting economic aristocracy, no Mandarin civil service of the mind, no all-consuming religious trap. Quite to the contrary as the very American John Adams wrote around 1800, “let every sluice of knowledge be opened and set a-flowing.” And so it was, particularly in mechanics. In 1807, the United States was operating about 5,000 cotton spindles. Eight years later, 500,000. The whole business was simply stolen from Europe and set to work, running. Around 1830, the North Americans also stole the railroad from Europe, and within only fifteen years had more miles of railroad track than all of Europe combined. “Lay the track first and build the road later,” was the slogan in those green years. The British boat builders said a steamboat could never cross the Atlantic. In 1819 the Savannah entered an Irish port under steam, and the harbor master thought the contraption was on fire. True, the American captain had not run the boiler all the way, but so much for the British! Then too, the fast American clipper ships appeared with their concave bow, “riding on the water and not in it.” These New Englanders could not even wait on the water. “I cannot better explain my meaning,” wrote Tocqueville, “than by saying that the Americans affect a sort of heroism in their trading . . . America is a land of wonders in which everything is in constant motion, and every movement seems in improvement.” For this new American, “weighs anchor in the midst of tempestuous gales . . . spreads his sheets to the wind . . . repairs as he goes along . . . and what is not yet done is only what he has not attempted to do,” wrote the very generous traveller from France in the year 1835. But why not? one might ask. How indeed could this North American fail given the cultural, political, mathematical, scientific, and industrial legacy of the West in making since the twelfth century and given all that on a new continent bulging with natural resources in the salubrious climate zones of the world’s economic geography? It would be difficult to miss, difficult to avoid a sense of manifest destiny in the world. A bloody, dangerous, civil war, yes. But that war was not concluded to enslave men and women but rather to free them. Long, hard hours of work in the early American mills and factory, hardly a labor of love. Yes, all that and more. But even Karl Marx, the European correspondent of the New York Tribune, wrote that the workers of Europe “felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class.” And then, never to forget, give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free .. . And come they did to the Promised Land about 32,000,000 souls during the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth. North was this new social creation of Western Europe to remain forever the pupil of the Old World. The last quarter of the nineteenth century brought a surge of American innovation from the mechanical marvels of Bell and Edison to the philosophy and psychology of Peirce and James while by the year 1890 the United States was the largest producer of iron and steel in the world. No mistake about it: these North Americans were now absolutely on the world make. And when Herbert Spencer, during his visit to the United States in 1882, suggested to the New York rich at Delmonico’s Restaurant that they might indeed be the higher primates in the survival of the fittest, it all seemed to make good business sense too. Granted, theT6 would always be individual uncertainty, even personal tragedy in the new social machine in North America. No particular individual was ever promised a thing. It has always been the curious property of American individualism \(not to be confused with tragedy, but rather social. And little doubt about it, there was, even through the thick and thin of the nineteenth century, a rising tide of social certainty in this country. For that matter, by the first quarter of this century, the only uncertainty Theodore Dreiser could find in his American Tragedy was the misadventure of a young man who had been swept off his feet by the glitter of riches, all of which hardly chills the soul, anymore than the happy, well-fed, ingenious American “war prisoners” called Hogan’s Heroes today. \(To AIL Bernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board P.O. Box 208, Waco, Texas 76703 American Income Life Insurance Company THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19