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Thomas De Witt Talmage, "World Improving All The Time"



Consider This Question


In the early 1890s, the American Press Association put together a feature series of writings in preparation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They commissioned 74 notable Americans to make predictions about American life in the 1990s, in the process producing an interesting commentary on life in the 1890s. The variety of essays reflected the diversity of the contributors, including a senator (John J. Ingalls), an electrical engineer (John J. Carty), a poet (Elizabeth Akers Allen), and a minister (Thomas De Witt Talmage). The segments ran in newspapers across the country from March through May 1893, in time for the World's Fair opening.

When you thrust me with more than 20 sharp interrogation points about what wil be the condition of the world 100 years from now, I must first say that there is a possibility that the world by that time may be a heap of ashes or knocked to flinders.

All geologists agree in saying that the world is already on fire inside. All that Chicago saw of her big fire some 20 years ago was not a spark compared with the conflagration now raging in the hulk of this old ship of a world. And then the earthquakes - witness Charleston, and San Francisco, and Java. And then the comets shooting recklessly about, and the big chunks from other worlds falling in Kansas and Iowa, or picked up by the British Museum on the other side of the sea.

The fact is that our world needs to take out a policy with some astronomical fire-insurance or accident-insurance company. From the way the world goes on, it is certain something is the matter with it. The volcanoes are merely the regurgitation cause by internal cramps.

I am not apprehensive about the world, and I sleep well nights, and I do not want to frighten nervous people. However, considering what is going on down in the depths of the earth and what is flying all about us, I am surprised that the world has not long ago gone out of business. But suppose it lasts - and I hope it will, for it is a grand old world and worth saving - what, then, will be its condition in 1993?

In medicine? Well, cancer and consumption will be as easily cured as influenza or a "run round" [diarrhea].

Theology? Far more religion than now the technicalities nothing; the spirit of religion dominant. The minister's war hatchet will be buried beside Modoc's tomahawk.

Condition of capital and labor? At peace, by the prevalence of the Golden Rule, which enjoins us to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Treatment of criminals? Prisons will have ventilation, and sunlight, and bathrooms, and libraries, and Christian influences that will be reformatory instead of damnatory.

Education methods? The stuffing machine that we call the school system, which is making the rising generation a race of invalids, will be substituted by something more reasonable. No more school girls with spectacles at 14, their eyes having been extinguished by overstudy, with overwrought brain. And no more boys in their dying dream trying to recite something in higher mathematics.

What American now living will be the most honored by 1993? By that time longevity will be so improved that 150 years will be no unusual age to reach. So I answer this question by saying that that American now sleeps in the cradle on the banks of the Hudson, or the Alabama, or the Oregon, or the Ohio - a rattle in hand, gum-swollen with a new tooth, and he will soon undertake a course of measles and mumps.

But he will pull through and advance, until I see him in 1993 presiding at a banquet. and, as he rises to speak, I hear him say, "Gentlemen, I was born in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, and here we are in the latter part of the Twentieth, and the world has been improving all the time. And now I offer the toast for the evening. Charge your glasses with apollinaris water and drink deep to this sentiment:

"The newspaper press. May its influence in the Twenty-first Century be as happy and prosperous as in the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Centuries!"


Consider This Question



1. What has more influence over Talmage's essay, religion or science?

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