Established but a few years ago the Pulitzer prizes have already won an esteem in the field of American letters similar to that commanded by the Nobel awards in the sphere of internation at scholarship. It is exceedingly gratifying therefore, that a member of the Harvard faculty has been announced as one of the winners. And the fact that Professor Mellwain has won the award on the basis of a treatise on the American Revolution--a subject which had apparently been exhausted by generations of American historians--is an added tribute to his scholarship. The compliment paid to a great English lecturer, that he made the dry bones of Bishop Stubbs' "Constitutional History" live, might well apply to Professor Mcllwain and the course of American constitutionalism.
The interest which has been aroused by the award of these prizes of slight pecuniary value is significant. Most of the Utopias of social reformers have foundered upon the reef of man's inherent self-seeking; and the necessity of the spur of personal gain has come to be frankly recognized. The greatest works of art and literature have doubtless never been inspired by this motive; yet with economic life pictured by Smith and Ricardo it has been deemed indispensable. While the Pulitzer prizes are for the most part a recognition of the merit of work produced under the stress of earning bread and butter, the attention aroused by their announcement suggests that some-other motive besides personal gain is effective as a stimulus to creative energy.
Within the narrow limits of the university world a system of prizes and honors--letters, keys, and cups--has called forth competitive activities noless rigorous than those induced in the greater world by the hope of pecuniary profit. The establishment of prizes, such as the Pulitzer and Carnegie awards whose significance is largely honorary, is a step toward substituting a more altruistic spur for the traditional goad of gain in the common walks of life. When the "man on the street" will strive as cagerly for such prizes as the student does for his major letter--or the graduate for his scholarship--the schemes of Bellamy and Wells may begin to be practicable.