Without wishing to alarm the American people, or create a panic, I desire briefly and seriously to discuss the great question, “Whither are we drifting, and what is to be the condition of the coming man?” We can not shut our eyes to the fact that mankind is passing through a great era of change; even womankind is not built as she was a few brief years ago. And is it not time, fellow citizens, that we pause to consider what is to be the future of the American?
Food itself has been the subject of change both in the matter of material and preparation. This must affect the consumer in such a way as to some day bring about great differences. Take, for instance, the oyster, one of our comparatively modern food and game fishes, and watch the effects of science upon him. At one time the oyster browsed around and ate what he could find in Neptune’s back-yard, and we had to eat him as we found him. Now we take a herd of oysters off the trail, all run down, and feed them artificially till they swell up to a fancy size, and bring a fancy price. Where will this all lead at last, I ask as a careful scientist? Instead of eating apples, as Adam did, we work the fruit up into apple-jack and pie, while even the simple oyster is perverted, and instead of being allowed to fatten up in the fall on acorns and ancient mariners, spurious flesh is put on his bones by the artificial osmose and dialysis of our advanced civilization. How can you make an oyster stout or train him down by making him jerk a health lift so many hours every day, or cultivate his body at the expense of his mind, without ultimately not only impairing the future usefulness of the oyster himself, but at the same time affecting the future of the human race who feed upon him?
I only use the oyster as an illustration, and I do not wish to cause alarm, but I say that if we stimulate the oyster artificially and swell him up by scientific means, we not only do so at the expense of his better nature and keep him away from his family, but we are making our mark on the future race of men. Oyster-fattening is now, of course, in its infancy. Only a few years ago an effort was made at St. Louis to fatten cove oysters while in the can, but the system was not well understood, and those who had it in charge only succeeded in making the can itself more plump. But now oysters are kept on ground feed and given nothing to do for a few weeks, and even the older and overworked sway-backed and rickety oysters of the dim and murky past are made to fill out, and many of them have to put a gore in the waistband of their shells. I only speak of the oyster incidentally, as one of the objects toward which science has turned its attention, and I assert with the utmost confidence that the time will come, unless science should get a set-back, when the present hunting-case oyster will give place to the open-face oyster, grafted on the octopus and big enough to feed a hotel. Further than that, the oyster of the future will carry in a hip-pocket a flask of vinegar, half a dozen lemons and two little Japanese bottles, one of which will contain salt and the other pepper, and there will be some way provided by which you can tell which is which. But are we improving the oyster now? That is a question we may well ask ourselves. Is this a healthy fat which we are putting on him, or is it bloat? And what will be the result in the home-life of the oyster? We take him from all domestic influences whatever in order to make a swell of him by our modern methods, but do we improve his condition morally, and what is to be the great final result on man?