Friday afternoons, when school-boys and girls wiped off their slates and listened to faltering eulogies on Washington and Lincoln, are still vivid memories to many of the present generation; but the golden traditions which were then pleasantly learned have withstood the ravages of time little better than the familiar red schoolhouse. Modern historians have scorned to repeat the charming stories of Pocahontas rescue and the cherry tree incident, and have instead dug up English graveyards to find the skeleton of the Indian girl and searched through old jockets to discover whether or not Washington's hair was really red.
The latest of these lconoclasts, writing in "Good Health", declares gravely that Lincoln's perpetual sadness, which has usually been deemed the result of carrying the burdens of a nation at war on his shoulders, was nothing less than the result of indigestion-to be technically frank. Had Lincoln's doctors diagnosed his case correctly, had any of the now widely advertised remedies been on the market, Lincoln would not have sought diversion from his gloom at the theatre; he would therefore not have been shot; and, declares the writer, "without doubt the political history of this country subsequent to the Civil War, and perhaps of some other civilized countries, also, might have been greatly modified." The tragic story of the horseshoe nail is thus, very nearly exemplified in American history.
The application of medical science to historical research has already given birth to one fascinating volume. The maladies of Henry VIII, however, have little but antiquarian interest. A more fertile field for investigation offers itself in--contemporary history. If it is true that Napolean lost the battle of Waterloo because, of a stomach-ache it can doubtless be proved that Hindenburg was suffering heart-burns when his famous line was smashed. And in American political life things have come to such a pass that the old stock alibis are quite ineffective; but by replacing them with pleas of wholesale dyspepsia and accounts of the ravages of amnesia, American politicians may now employ a little scientific venisimilitude in order to stave off the disapproval of their constituents for another term.