It is Hawthorne, I think, who tells us that when he was a boy he used once in a while to go down to the wharves in Salem, and lay his hand on the rail of some great East India merchantman, redolent of spices, and thus bring himself in actual touch with the mysterious orient. But there is nothing strange in this: almost anything that we can feel or see may start the flight of fancy, and open to us prophetic visions. This is even true of such dry symbols as figures, for our journalists would never publish statistics as they do, unless they knew that their readers liked to see them. Travellers from other parts of the world have often laughed at our fondness for revelling in the marvellous accounts of our material dimensions, but they should remember that people who do not have a taste for poetry may yet have a taste for romance, and that big figures do appeal to the imagination.
It is true that there may be something portentous in bigness. “Tom” Reed, as he was affectionately called, said many wise things in a jesting way. At a certain crisis in our history he exclaimed: “I don’t want Cuba and Hawaii; I’ve got more country now than I can love.” A foreigner might suppose that our politicians had similarly become terror-stricken at the extent of our wealth and the rate at which it was growing. They may well give the impression that there has been created in the “money power,” a Frankenstein monster, the control of whose murderous propensities has put them at their wit’s end.