The Age of Humbug
- (This editorial originally appeared in the Little Rock National Democrat, F=
ebruary 4th, 1865, author C.W. Meador.)
A vintage whine: The Age of Humbug
The Boston Pilot, in one of its clever editorials, lately characterized thi=
s as the age of humbug. Says the editor: "We are living in the age of humbug=
. Humbug has entered into all the affairs of life." This, with due respect, =
is, in good part, humbug.
Every now and then, editors, in different localities ... tell us that this =
is the age of brass, or the age of progress, the age of steam, the age of fr=
eedom, or some other kind of age, about all of which there is a great deal o=
f humbug. The past century had as much proportionate progress as the present=
has. The next century will have its relative degree of progress.
Probably, in the year 2000, men will correspond with each other though at o=
pposite extremities of the globe, by some spiritual means.
The air will then be traversed as land and water now are. By some newly dis=
covered terrible forces whole armies can be destroyed at a blow. Science wil=
l have unlocked many of her numerous stores. We will be looked upon as poor =
benighted people of a twilight age cackling over such primary discoveries as=
the telegraph, steam power, photography and monitors*.
There may be more chivalry in one age; more steam in another; more freedom =
in another, and even a greater degree of progress in another. But humbug is =
common to all ages and to all claims. It is in proportion to the number of h=
uman beings, whether they are savages or highly civilized.
Humbug pervades religion, morals, science; in fact, all that men do, or say=
, or think. The medicine man of the savage, and the very reverend of the fas=
hionable church are all tinctured with humbug.
The barbarian herbalist who uses his charms or poultice of bruised leaves, =
and the graduated practitioner who writes his prescription in the dog latin =
of the apothecaries are, to the same extent, humbugs. The patent medicine ma=
n, who has a specific for all ailments has his counterpart in the poor savag=
e who believes his medicine store, or amulet, or juices of some herb, will h=
eal all diseases. Religion has its hypocrites; patriotism its pretenders; sc=
ience its charlatans; medicine its quacks, and all things their humbugs. Say=
s Hudibras: "Doubtless the pleasure is as great, In being cheated as to chea=
There is a vast deal of truth in these lines. Men like to be humbugged.
The worst and bitterest enemies we ever made were those when we showed them=
that they had been humbugged.
They were more ready to forgive the one who cheated them, than we, who had =
exposed the cheat. It is human nature to be angry when a man discovers he ha=
s been making a fool of himself, and especially to be angry at the friend wh=
o tried to prevent him from being bamboozled.
The world is governed by humbug, from great things to small. Solomon sums u=
p human life, after tasting power and pleasure, and with the greatest means =
of the world at his command, as "vanity of vanities," which phrase may be co=
mpressed into the one word humbug.
All great events in history were humbugs. The siege of Troy was a humbug. T=
he crusades were a gigantic humbug. Wars are grand humbugs. Some humbugging =
love affair; some trivial question as to the humbug of rank; some humbug int=
erpretation of a letter or speech, has set kingdoms at war and changed the c=
urrent of events. In matters of science even the most exact ones humbug =
Astrology, that for centuries employed so much learning, turns out to be a =
humbug. The philosopher's stone is ditto. Sorcery, divination, witchcraft an=
d the thousand beliefs of the middle ages, were all humbugs. The world likes=
to be humbugged.
Humbug, an expressive English word, is not so much a form of falsehood, or =
another name for untruth. It is that species of falsehood by which men are i=
mposed upon. But, of all its forms, none is worse than where the humbugger h=
When the courtesan persuades herself that she is virtuous, or as much so as=
other women; when the rogue convinces himself that he is honest; the hypocr=
ite that he is religious at bottom; the demagogue that he is a patriot, and =
the fool that he is wise, then it becomes mischievious [sic] as well as disg=
Same old, same old, isn't it? BTW, *"monitors" refers to ironclad warships=
, not computer monitors.
2003!!! Who would have believed it!!!!
I just had a great idea!! It won't take long, and it'll save a lot of trou=
ble - I think I'm going to get out my checkbook and just write "2003" on my =
checks right now!!!