Sentiment in progress: An excerpt

written by Eunice Trevor class of 1896

May 1896

The Closing decade of the present century marks the greatest decade in the world’s history. Not that more inventions have been conceived; not that more great reform have been promulgated than in any other ten years, but the social organism has never before attained to such a high plane. Never was the human organization bound by such close ties. Never did a though or an action mean as much as it does today.

Society has attained to this high state not without mighty struggles which have seemed to disturb her very foundations, but at the close of which she has appeared as gold seven times refined. History has recorded these great crises of the world’s political order, and men have collected facts which show in general this gradual development of society from its earliest beginnings. They even philosophize concerning the great changes which the future will probably unfold.

But even this age, like those of the past, has its difficult problems. Each generation settles some questions which had thus far prevented society from realizing her true ideal while she, disencumbered of some of her impediments, marches on toward the goal.

Potent forces have been at work during these ages, raising the standard of humanity by abolishing degrading customs and giving rise to new ones which tend to elevate the soul, and to unite the members of society in a closer relation. Reason and sentiment are the two great factors to be considered. Have they each been of equal value in this social evolution or has the power of the one overshadowed the power of the other? Reason with her show and careful tread has played no insignificant part. Her influence is widespread and cannot be ignored, but she must yield up her claim to sentiment. During the different stages of social progress sentiment had wielded the scepter. Whenever the voice of public sentiment has been raised against ay crying evil it has been abolished.

One of the greatest evils dethroned by the tread of civilization was the slave trade. The sentiment against it became so dominant that in European countries it was quietly wiped out. It had stood too long in the way of the moral advancement of mankind to be longer tolerated. In our own country the feeling against it was so intense that it only needed the emotional story of Harriet Beecher Stowe and other such works to ignite the flame which set the whole country ablaze. Did this work appeal to the reason of the people? If it had been a philosophical argumentative book, it never would have played the part it did in the emancipation of the slaves of America. No; this was an appeal to the sympathies of the people, and all who read the touching scenes were fired with indignation against the barbarous practice, while their hearts went out in sympathy for the unfortunate slaves.

Another curse, of the present day, and one which has been a rock of offense to social progress is the saloon, more dangerous than the slave trade in that it binds its victims with stronger and more closely linked chains. Where among all the victims of drink can a soul be found as pure and spotless as that of “Uncle Tom?” The march of this monarch means death and destruction to both body and soul.