The New Year, 1900

January 02, 2000

The following New Year editorial appeared on The Sun's editorial page Dec. 30, 1899.

ALL of our divisions of time, though having some relation to the progress of the seasons and to the birth of Christ, are really more or less artificial. Time is an unending cycle, but man has seen fit to establish certain points in the circle which he designates as stopping and starting places.

The year is one of the periods, and on Monday we shall begin a new year of more than usual significance, for it will be the last year of the 19th century.

When it shall end on December 31, 1900, we shall reach another and more important stopping place -- the end of one century, the beginning of a new.

Time will not pause for an instant, but in the minds of men there will be a division, marked by recollections of time past and prognostications for time future. The same thing is true of the moment when one year ends and another begins, but it is of less importance than the beginning and end of the centuries.

Men are accustomed to the new year. Very few see the beginning of more than one century.

The year 1900 enjoys special distinction because it is the last year of the 19th century, the greatest century of human progress in all history.

With the exception of mathematics and astronomy, all the sciences may be said to have been established in this nineteenth century.

Some existed in name before, but all have been revised, changed and developed, so that they bear little relation to the sciences of the same names in the eighteenth or preceding centuries.

Nearly every material agency for the transaction of commerce and the comfort of men with which we are now familiar is a product of the 19th century. The use of steam for all purposes, and especially for steamships and locomotives, every commercial use of electricity, for transportation, lighting, telegraphing, telephoning, etc., belongs to the century that will begin its last stage on Monday.

All the agricultural machinery now in use, the sewing machine, the mechanical devices for setting type and printing newspapers and books and countless other inventions that have cheapened production, extended the use of luxuries to the masses and promoted the spread of intelligence, belong to this marvelous century and some of them to our own day and generation.

Civilization is advancing with mighty strides; it spreads to almost every corner of the earth, and the 20th century need do little more than gather the fruits of the 19th to make it distinguished beyond all its predecessors.

Mankind remains akin to the brute creation; force is still employed by individuals and by nations to settle their differences, though the 19th century has made sufficient advances to at least see that there is opportunity to make improvements in this respect.

The 20th century ought to realize some of the dreams of the nineteenth with respect to the relations between men and between nations, and in the closing year of the century we as individuals may promote the moral advance by giving special attention to our duties and discharging them to the best of our ability.

The mighty impulse given to the material and intellectual advance of the world during the century that is on the eve of the beginning of its last year will continue far into the next century without the expenditure of any fresh energy.

But the world needs a similar development, or rather, spread of moral principles, to the end that, in the next century, mankind may be less selfish, more helpful to one another, less warlike and more just than in any of the centuries that have disappeared in the limbo of time.

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