While it is not within the province of the
historian to record history which has not yet transpired, the writer cannot
refrain from a casual introspection concerning the destiny of Monroe County.
All terrestrial things have an end, as well as a beginning; and in the somewhat vague theme of this chapter, one positive conclusion may be adduced - viz., that Monroe County will some day come to an end. Whether this end is brought about by fire and sword; by the peaceful readjustment of political boundaries; by the whisk of the tail of some malicious comet; or by the inevitable "crack of doom" - no man can say.
The past affords no basis upon which to even form a conjecture as to the ultimate fate awaiting the subdivisions of the United States, or even of the Republic itself. In the present age the spread of human intelligence has elevated the standard of justice so high that war and invasion can scarcely be reckoned as an agent effecting the downfall of an enlightened state, or, more properly speaking, of its transformation into some other political division.
There is a probability that at some distant day townships will enlarge their functions until their political organization shall be not very different from that of the boroughs or townships of England and other densely populated regions, but this would not affect the existence of counties. No reason can be conceived, at present, why the boundaries of the several States should be disturbed or obliterated, and new divisions of the domain substituted, thus redistricting the land into smaller or greater sub divisions.
County seats, located as they usually are, in or near the center of counties, will have a period of life coexistent with that of the counties in which they are situated. Their growth will be measured by the resources of their respective counties, and not by industrial advantages possessed by them over less favored neighbors. The great cities of the country will become fewer in number, until, by that universal
law of natural selection which adds to the favored, to the
extinction of the weaker, the smaller cities of the continent will arrive at a
stand still or tend to decay, while the greater will add to their size, wealth,
and grandeur. It is the same law which enables the giant oak of the forest to
lift its head above a grove of thousands of saplings, when all had apparently
equal advantages of growth.
There is a system of modern philosophy which asserts that all physical manifestations operate in cycles. If this be true, civilization, too, in shifting from continent to continent, may some day complete the cycle. The stork and the bittern then will perch upon the Arc de Triomphe, or the wild jackal howl through the valley of the Hudson or scamper through the deserted thoroughfares of New York. The worn out and rocky wastes, where now only broken columns and fragments of chiseled friezes, facades and domes may mark the burial places of proud empires, may some day be awakened by the touch of the returning rod of empire.
The indolent Arab, sitting cross legged beneath the shade of a giant cactus, will watch some sturdy race of foreigners gather up the fragments of tiles and bricks and stones, cart them away, and with plowshare turn them under a new growth of soil. By fertilization and culture the land will again produce, and a new race will rebuild cities and make railroads, cut canals, and cultivate soil reenriched by the most of desolation and by the sweep of the soil laden winds of the wilderness.
"Cleopatra's Needle," overthrown and submerged in the soil of Manhattan Island, may be exhumed in some far distant age, and carried back to the valley of the Nile from whence it came.
A broken shaft, over which the sands of the Potomac River have drifted for thousands of years, may tell the future archeologist of a Washington; or the washing away of the shore line of Lake Michigan may, ere its waters cease to roll, reveal a colossal horse and rider, which today stands in Lincoln Park to perpetuate the memory of Grant.
What destroying force, then, shall accomplish this desolation? Shall it be the tooth of time, alone, or the canker of a worn out, polluted, and vicious race?
In the United States civilization may not reach its zenith for thousands of years. Then will begin the equally slow process of decay; the contest for supremacy will begin.
Upon the theory of selection, the strong will oppress and
enslave the weak; those who have accumulated wealth will pass from luxury to
indolence and vice; Government will become tainted with crime and intrigue; the
population will be so great that the soil will not sustain it; the people will
no longer be self supporting by legitimate industry, and the stronger will prey
upon the weaker; a feudal condition will assert itself, and this population will
dwindle away or shift to other zones.
Then it will be that States will be broken up or subjected to principalities of some despotic form. Counties will lose their identity, and thus Monroe County, with her once proud capital, shall have run her race. Away down beneath the surface, submerged like the relics of proud Ilium, some one will find a corner stone of some stately palace - presumably the parliamentary palace of the Board of Supervisors - and, digging beneath it, he will find a sealed receptacle containing coins bearing the undefinable inscriptions, "E Pluribus Unum," "United States of America," etc. He will also find valuable parchments, and, among them, a copy of this book. Then some archeologist will turn up with a "Rosetta Stone," and by its aid translate the documents, and thus perpetuate the history of Monroe County and the deeds of her illustrious citizens.