The Romance of Mathematics Part 2

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But, first, let me answer an objection which may have occurred to your minds. Am I wrong in my calculations in attributing too much to the power and usefulness of forms of government? Does the well-being and happiness of a nation depend on the government, or upon the individuals who compose the nation? Most a.s.suredly, I a.s.sert, they rest upon the former. Men love their country when the good of every particular man is comprehended in the public prosperity; they undertake hazard and labour for the government when it is justly administered. When the welfare of every citizen is the care of the ruling power, men do not spare their persons or their purses for the sake of their country and the support of their sovereign. But where selfish aims are manifest in Court or Parliament, the people care not for State officials who are indifferent to their country's weal; they become selfish too; Liberty hides her head, and shakes off the dust of her feet ere she leaves that doomed land, and the stability, welfare, and prosperity of that country cease.

I might refer you to many a stained page of national history in order to prove this. Compare the closing chapters of the life of the Roman empire with the record of the brave deeds of its ancient warriors and valorous statesmen. Grecian preeminence and virtue died when liberty expired. I agree with Sidney when he writes that it is absurd to impute this to the change of times; for time changes nothing, and nothing was changed in those times but the government, and that changed all things. These are his words: 'As a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which const.i.tutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desires and vanity will abound in those that will foment them.' I may not, therefore, be altogether wrong in attributing the prosperity and well-being of a nation to the form of government which it possesses.

We will now proceed to the consideration of the social advantages which an elliptical State affords. This is the form of government and social position which we, as a nation, at present enjoy; and from mathematical considerations I am of opinion that it is the best, and hope that no change will ever be made in our const.i.tution. You may remember that I have previously stated that an ellipse has a centre and two foci, in view of all the particles which compose the curve, and connected with them by close ties. The centre, in the projected figure, represents the monarchy, which is limited; and the government is carried on by the aid of the two houses of representatives of the people, depicted in the projection by the two foci.

Now the social advantages of the ellipse are given by the fact that the sum of the distances of any point from the foci is always constant. No particle is left out in the cold; no one does not possess the advantages of a social government. Though his distance may be far from the Upper House, he has the advantage of nearness to the Lower, and _vice versa_.

The sum of the distances is constant. The extinction of one focus, the House of Lords, for example, would create a complete disorganization of the whole system: the other focus would set up a powerful magnetic attraction, and a curious bulb-shaped curve would be evolved, very different from the beautiful symmetrical form which the original figure presented to the eye. The centre of the system would be disturbed; and it is probable that ere long it would disappear along the axis and be vanished to infinity. Thus the curve would become a parabola. This is the alarming result of the extinction of one focus. Abolish the House of Lords, and you will soon find that the Throne will be disturbed; the State will become disorganized; the nation will become confused by the magnetic force of the Lower House, uncounteracted by any other attraction; and very soon a complete revolution of the whole system will set in: the monarch will be dethroned, and a Republican form of government, with all the eccentricities of a parabolic course, will take the place of a more orderly and settled const.i.tution. This is a plain deduction from our mathematical investigations; and it behoves all our statesmen, our philosophers and great men, our fellow-citizens and the humblest artisans in our manufacturing towns, to weigh well this alarming result of the abolition of that House which has been threatened with destruction; and to ascertain for themselves the truths upon which my proposition and reasoning rest.

I have already observed that the fact that the earth's...o...b..t and that of other planets are in the form of ellipses; that the curvature of the earth is nearly the same, ought to guide us in choosing this particular curve as a model of the projection of a complete and most advantageous social system.

The circle described on the major axis of an ellipse, is called the _auxiliary circle_, and affords much a.s.sistance in the investigation of the properties of an ellipse. As we have already shown, the circle represents the simplest form of monarchical government. Hence, if we compare the form of government represented by an ellipse (_i.e._, such as we now enjoy) with that of a system where the king is the only governing power, we may obtain great a.s.sistance in solving complicated political problems.

In all conics there is a straight line called the 'directrix,' which represents in social or polemical science the laws of the nation, and plays a prominent part in the mutual relations of the individual particles. For instance, in the case of the parabola, the distance of any particle from the directrix is equal to its distance from the focus.

From this we may conclude that if an individual deviates at all from the path which the laws (or, directrix) indicate, if he does not show true respect to the decrees of the focal government, and preserve the true position between them, directly he is found deviating from his course, he is quickly banished to a less enlightened sphere. In an ellipse there is less likelihood of his straying away from the course which the directrix points out, on account of the two-fold guidance which he receives from the two foci.

The following curious problem may be noticed. If a parabola roll on another parabola, their vertices coinciding, the focus of the first traces out the directrix of the second.

Here we come to the consideration of the international relationship of States. Two nations have the same form of government (in this example this form is Republican); their policies coincide: we may conclude from this proposition that the course which the government of one nation will pursue, will be that which is prescribed by the laws of the other.

The subject of the contact of curves presents many interesting problems with reference to Polemical Science, and may be extended indefinitely.

It is well known that there are different orders of contact, which are designated as the _first_, _second_, or _third_ order. This last order may be termed the 'marriage of curves,' cemented by the osculating circle, or 'wedding-ring;' and when two nations have contact of the third order, they have formed a very close alliance, and by calculation we can obtain the _radius of curvature_, or size of the wedding-ring, by means of which they may be united.

The theory and nature of contact const.i.tute a branch of our newly discovered science which we commend to the careful consideration of those who have undertaken the difficult and perplexing study of international law. Alas! too many States refuse this friendly contact, and, consequently, _cut_ each other, instead of blending in sweet accord. Their peace is at best an armed neutrality; and if they have contact of only the _first_ or _second_ order, we can prove mathematically that they are sure to intersect in some other point or points; and divergence of policy and disturbed relations are the results. Contact of the _third, or highest, order_ is the only safe position for two allied, or contiguous, States.

With your permission I will add a few words to those I have already uttered with regard to the directrix. As necessary as the directrix is to the curve, so are the corresponding laws to the State. I will prove this fact by a few examples. English people have laws, and know how to obey them; therefore their numbers increase; they thrive and are prosperous. A friendly critic of another nation has said that the reason why Englishmen rule the world, is because they know how to obey. On the other hand, the gipsies have no laws; hence they become fewer and less powerful. What is the condition of all tribes and nations which are not governed by laws? They invariably remain poor and miserable. They are in want of a directrix; and if we could supplement the gift with foci and centre, they would soon emerge from their savage condition, and become more civilized.

I have omitted to mention the hyperbolic form of government. The curve formed by the intersection of the surface of a cone with a plane will be a hyperbola, when the inclination of the cutting plane to the axis of the cone is less than the constant angle which the generating line forms with the axis. It is manifest that the plane will thus intersect the higher cone, and produce the figure which is known to mathematicians as the hyperbola.

We may hence deduce the following property of the corresponding hyperbolic State. We take cognizance of that higher cone with which the mundane affairs of the lower cone are closely connected. As an example of this system we may mention the vast temporal rule and power of the Papal Throne, which formerly exercised such marvellous sway over the nations of Europe. By an appeal to a Higher Authority than that of earthly kings and potentates was this rule exercised; but its hyperbolic form is fast pa.s.sing away, and degenerating into that of a circle with indefinitely small radius. We shall not, therefore, discuss the complex polemical problems which a hyperbolic State suggests.

I will now mention a few problems which are easily capable of proof, and deduce from them the necessary conclusions which must follow when we apply our newly discovered principles of polemical science.

1. 'If from any point in a straight line a pair of tangents be drawn to an ellipse, the chords of contact will pa.s.s through a fixed point.'

I will not trouble you with the proof of this proposition, as it is evident to all mathematicians, and can easily be demonstrated. But mark well the deductions, when we interpret this mathematical language in correct polemical terms. A State, through various convulsions of its own, has merged into a condition represented by a straight line, having lost its symmetry, its beauty, its curvilinear proportion. An individual unhappily situated in this unfortunate community regards with longing eyes the prosperous condition of those who enjoy the social advantages of a settled form of government, and other blessings which accompany elliptical jurisdiction and laws. [Two tangents are drawn to an ellipse.] No matter where the individual may be in the unhappy envious straight line, the result of his reflection will be the same.

Sympathetic chords are drawn, joining the points of contact of the tangents with the curve; they all pa.s.s through a fixed point. All these conclusions of the various individuals on the straight line will be the same. All are of opinion that the elliptical form is the best; and they mourn in secret over the sad events which have occurred in their own national life, their eccentricity, their lawlessness, when they see the advantages which their more staid and sober-minded neighbours so freely enjoy.

2. The normal at any point of an ellipse bisects the angle between the focal distances of that point.

The normal is the perpendicular from the point on the major axis; it is the line of thought directed by the observance of just laws and rules.

Hence this proposition shows that the individual citizen, when guided by sound judgment, regards with equal favour and entire approval the existence of both foci, or Houses of Legislature. He considers that both are necessary to his comfort, and the right regulation of the State's welfare. He cares not for the _abnormal_ condition of those who talk as if the existence of either House were unnecessary to his country's weal, and bestows a pitying glance on those wandering lights, or disturbed erratic governments, which do not possess the advantages which from experience he has learned to love and to respect. No matter what his condition may be, the same opinions are held by all cla.s.ses, all ranks and degrees; and if a self-opinionated particle think otherwise, he ought to be transferred to a less enlightened sphere, and migrate to a parabolic state, or uninteresting straight line. And when he has changed his location, he will look back on his old home and old surroundings with longing eyes and an aching heart, thinking of the blessings he has lost by his own rash act. This can be proved mathematically. He looks for an ideal state of society, leaps after the shadow his fancy has depicted; and when he finds himself outside his former state, he looks back with longing eyes at the once-scorned focus. What is the focus of a perpendicular on the tangent of an ellipse from any external point? Can it not be proved to be a _circle_? That is to say, he will be more conservative than ever. He would like to return to a primitive form of government. Farewell to his wild schemes and revolutionary measures!

Farewell to his disestablishments, abolitions, and suppressions! The throne and government have new attractions in his eyes; loyalty, a new feeling, a.s.serts its benign influence; and if he could return to his former position, his normal conduct would be straighter than ever, for by sad experience he has learned the value of those things which he once despised.

But we need not depend upon one proof alone. Exactly the same result may be obtained from the well-known proposition which states that 'the angle between the tangent from any external point and the focal distance is equal to the angle between the other tangent and the focal distance.'

3. The same opinions are often held by individuals in quite different walks and cla.s.ses of life. Let these individuals be represented by points on an ellipse. Join these, and we have a system of parallel chords. Draw a straight line through the middle points of these chords, and lo! it will always pa.s.s through the centre. This shows that the central thought of all people is directed to the sovereign--that _loyalty_ is inherent in the hearts of those who recognise elliptical laws.

I will conclude this lecture with a few remarks on the nature and properties of the _radical axis_. This name was first given, I believe, by M. Gaultier, of Tours, and for a full account of its nature I refer you to the _Journal de l'ecole Polytechnique_, xvi., 1813. The radical axis of two circles is the line perpendicular to the line joining the centres, from any point of which the tangents to the circles are equal.

Let us suppose that one circle becomes a point, and that this point is situated on the circ.u.mference of the first circle. What is the result?

The radical axis becomes the tangent to the circle. Hence we may conclude that in a social system of monarchical government the radical axis is perpendicular to the line attaching the individual with the monarch. Therefore we may conclude that the radical axis indicates a tendency of particles, or individuals, to fly off at a tangent, at right angles to the connecting-link between the individual and the king. When any motion takes place, this is evident, and this tendency is called centrifugal force. Sad is it for the State when this force is called into play, and the radical axis is a standing menace to the stability of States and nations. The only way to counteract its baneful, disturbing influence is to increase the attraction of the monarch on the individual, which nullifies the former force, and prevents further mischief. This is the method which nature itself adopts in the motions of the planetary worlds; the attraction of the sun prevents any disturbance which might be caused in the course of the planets by the action of centrifugal force, and nature suggests this plan for our adoption. Increase the attraction of the Throne; rigidly connect each individual by the strong chords of affection, advantage and utility with the ruling power; and then, though the radical axis may be there, it will cease to indicate any motion along it, it will not prevail over the counteracting influence of loyalty, and the stability of the social system and the happiness of the individuals will be the results.

'I would serve my King, Serve him with all my fortune here at home, And serve him with my person in the wars; Watch for him, fight for him, bleed for him, die for him, As every true-born subject ought.'

This, most n.o.ble professors, is the language of true patriotic loyalty.

Let the monarch be loved and loving, let the laws be just and equal, happy will be the people, prosperous the realm. There are those who counsel different things, and preach sedition and the breaking-up of laws; but those who advocate such doctrines lack that judicial mathematical training which we, students and professors of Girtham College, have acquired. If polemical mathematics, the science of the future, should become more widely studied; if its results were disseminated far and wide; above all, if the proper position which women ought to occupy in the counsels of the nation were a.s.signed to them, we should hear less of these wild schemes and foolish theories, and the influence of women would tend greatly to promote the stability and security of the State.

Why, let me ask, should woman be excluded from that position which is so justly hers? from those duties which she can discharge so faithfully? It has been said that if we wish to know the political and moral condition of a State, we must ask what rank women hold in it. We are told that women have more strength in their looks than men have in their laws.

Why, then, do men debar her from those fields of occupation wherein she may labour for the nation's good, and use her influence, which they acknowledge to be great, in those callings wherein she may most easily benefit the State, and the country she so ardently loves?

At some future time I hope to speak more fully on this subject; and in concluding this lecture, I will remark that English politics need a leavening influence which will counteract the evil tendencies and corrupt theories which, in spite of our advantageous social system, at present exist; and this leavening influence will be best produced by the admission of those into the counsels of the nation who are acknowledged to have a benign and healthy influence--the women of England. Let women have their proper share in the government of the country, and I have no fear lest we shall preserve our elliptical const.i.tution, and all the advantages which we at present enjoy.

[Editorial Note.]--In the bundle of papers which contained the foregoing lectures, some letters of great interest were found, which show that the fame of the learned Lady Professor of Girtham College had already gone abroad, and attracted the attention of the leading statesmen of the day.

It is to be regretted that the answers to these letters are not forthcoming, as it might be proved from them that the science of polemical mathematics has already influenced the minds of our legislators in their conduct of affairs at home and abroad. The following letter is of unique interest, and may be taken as evidence of the favourable impression which this new science has made on the mind of one of our greatest thinkers and statesmen:

Downing Street, May, 18--

My dear Lady Professor,--The report of the amazing results of your scientific researches has reached me, and I congratulate you most heartily on the originality and ac.u.men which you have displayed in your investigations. A new light has dawned upon our country. Instead of groping in the darkness of political warfare, ensnared by party ties and jealousies, the statesmen of the future will be able to calculate and determine the correct course with mathematical precision and perfect accuracy. No one can dispute the truth of a proposition in Euclid, or the genuineness of Newton's laws; and if your method enables men to calculate and determine the correct political course of action, to solve political problems as easily as exponential equations, why--then adieu to the bickerings of party, the querulous complaints of the Opposition!

Nay, joy to the Ministry! There will be no Opposition! Our statesmen will be able to guide the great ship of the State by means of charts which know no error; and they will resemble an a.s.sociation of savants met together to determine the exact moment of the transit of Venus, or to examine the degree of density of a comet's tail.

This condition of Parliamentary procedure is much to be desired; you have shown how such an ideal state of things may be obtained. In the name of the Government I thank you for your endeavours on behalf of your country's welfare, and look forward to a further development of your admirably conceived system. As in the domain of ordinary science there are complex questions which defy the ac.u.men of the philosopher; so in polemical science there may be questions which present the same difficulties and complications. But as the first are daily yielding before the persevering attacks of the mathematician, so I doubt not polemical science will soon overcome the various problems which may arise.

But it is mainly on my own account that I venture to address you. I desire to consult you with regard to certain matters--political complications--which have recently occupied the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers. By the help of your new science, can you aid us in our deliberations? Of course, I am writing to you in _strict confidence_, and beg that you will keep this communication profoundly secret. I fear that would be a hard task for many of your s.e.x, who do not possess your knowledge and powers of mind; but I have great confidence in your discretion.

These are the problems which are presented to us for solution:

1. Some members of the Cabinet are secretly in favour of Protection, and the country is rather stirred by the question. Can you, from your knowledge of the contact of curves and nations, help us to determine what course we ought to take with regard to Spain, for example? Are the principles of Adam Smith mathematically correct?

2. I observe that England is represented mathematically by an ellipse.

Are we right in a.s.suming that Ireland is a portion of that ellipse? Or, on the other hand, in our chart of nations, must we describe that troublesome country as a rotating parabola, or complex figure, altogether outside our more favoured State?

3. Do you consider, from your minute observation of our social system, that the form of our elliptical government is gradually undergoing a change, and that a revolutionary parabolic tendency is observable in the action of individual particles?

4. Is it not possible that the differences in the policy of the various nations of Europe; the difficulties which beset the carrying out of international law; the jealousies, quarrels, and rivalries of States might disappear, if the same form of government (_i.e._, elliptical) were adopted in each?

If you will kindly favour Her Majesty's Ministers with your opinion on these questions, they will owe you a debt of grat.i.tude, which they, as representatives of the nation, will do their utmost to repay.

With every good wish for your further success in the regions of polemical science,

I beg to remain, My dear Lady Professor, Your faithful servant, +----------------------+ | | | [4] | | | +----------------------+

[Editorial Note.]--The next letter is not of quite the same pleasing nature as the foregoing, and shows that it is impossible to please everyone, even if that happy consummation were desirable. This letter was evidently called forth by some remarks which the learned Lady Professor had made in her third lecture with reference to eccentricity in dress. Our readers will recollect that the professor pointed out that an extravagant 'bloomer' costume--half male, half female--was no more a sign of genius than aesthetic dresses, always betokened the artist.[5]

This latter statement evidently gave great offence to the members of a society which called itself the 'aesthetic and Dress Improvement a.s.sociation,' and the following letter is the result of one of their solemn conclaves:

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The Romance of Mathematics Part 2 summary

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