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E who expects that the contents of this vol
ume follow the old ground of ideas in which authors usually move is mistaken; even the title of the book, “Progressive Essays" tells him what its tenor is. It is conceived and written in a progressive spirit. If our predecessors had not improved the literary heritage they received from their ancestors; where should we stand now-a-days ? On the ground of the Middle Ages. Which are the principal features of our Age? The spirit of reform and improvement in every sphere of human activity, chiefly in public education, politics and religion. Says Percy Douglas (North American Review, June, 1889): “Destruction and Revision are the two most potent weapons of Progress. By destroying what is useless, and by revisiug what is capable of improvement, we clear the way for the newer thought of our own age, which is capable of adding to and enriching the heritage of the past.”
But the orthodox Christians object: “You wound our religious feelings.” It is always the same old tune by which they accuse their opponents. But did they not hurt the feelings of the friends of progress, since thousands of years, while they turned them out of their
comfortable positions, tore them from their wives and children, confined them to prisons, tormented them, put them on the stake and burnt them alive? They say: “Three times ove is one;" observation and experience affirm: “Three times one are three.” Am I not right to follow reason rather than blind faith? Christians are like children who don't like to lay down their swadling clothes, that they have cherished from their ancestors: they never wear out the shoes of their babyhood. I don't interfere with their religious views; I don't blame them for clinging to them; I wish to be permitted only to confess my honest conviction. The religious feelings of a dearly beloved mother; the loss of a lucrative position, and the ties of a native country could not hinder me from throwing off the shackles of a superstitious Church. I am past eighty-six years of age; how much longer can I live? My hand is too stiff to be bent yet by suggestions of convenience. As I stand at the verge of my grave, it does not pay to become a hypocrite or renegade.
This is probably the last work I am publishing, because I am a very old man; may my friends and patrons receive it with benevolence, and my opponents cover it with the wings of Christian charity! May they also be indulgent, if they find in it many mistakes against the genuine idiom of the English language. I was fifty years old, when I learned English. A lady who revised a great deal of my M. S., said to me, she would like to remodel the whole book, if she had time for that.
Some of the essays appeared before this, especially in German periodicals, from which I translated them into the English.
Concerning the likenesses which adorn the book, I
put Abraham Lincoln at the head of the Presidents of the United States, because, in my opinion, he deserves this place in the temple of Honor of our Nation, being second only to George Washington. I left out Washington, the Father of the Republic, for the reason that his likeness is represented already in my book, "Elements of Universal History for Republics.". The essays on Public Schools are headed by the engraving of Ben-. jamin Franklin who was a self educated scholar, and a sincere friend of public schools. The lamented President Garfield decorates the Section on Religion as a warning example against religious fanaticism, a sacrifice to which he fell.
In conclusion I offer hundred thanks to the kind revisors of my MSS., namely: to Mrs. Washburn (lately Miss Jessica Thomson, teacher of Normal School); to Misses Clara F. Bennett and Fannie M. Estabrook, teachers of Normal School; to Misses Belle and Mary Bird, and Miss Magdalene Schilling, Public Teachers in San Jose; to Miss Agnes Barry, Public Librarian; to E. A. Clark, M. D., in San Jose.
THE AUTIIOR. San Jose, California, 1889.
TABLE OF CONTENTS SECTION I.