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deed, these primary interests and blessings of the world, to which we have referred, have not failed of diffusion because they have not been duly appreciated; but because they have been held by their possessors in a sort of selfish estimation; because they have been considered as too good for the mass of mankind, or because it has been imagined that they would be soiled by a common use. But it is the strong tendency of all liberal thought and feeling, at this day, to bring every human acquisition to a practical account; to make men in politics their own rulers, in religion their own guides; to spread wealth, by abolishing the laws of entail and primogeniture, into general competence and comfort; and, as the best pledge and safeguard for all the rest, to call down knowledge, from its proud and inaccessible heights, to be the companion and cheerer of the lowliest toil and of the humblest fireside. Diffusion is the watchword of the age; and unless the spread of intelligence keeps pace with that of power, of wealth, and of religious liberty, it will become the motto of universal disappointment and defeat.
It is certainly an interesting question therefore, whether this tendency of things on so large a scale, and whether the professed undertaking to further it, in the department of the sciences particularly, promises to be either successful or useful. Is not the project to diffuse a knowledge of the sciences, visionary, impracticable? Or, if it is not, if it can succeed, is there a prospect of much good to be effected by it? These are the questions before us. And there is the more occasion to discuss them, because this practical character of the age, of which we have spoken, is sometimes falsely considered in such a light as to furnish specious, but unsound objections to our views; and because there is, in many minds, a peculiar skepticism about the practicability and expediency of diffusing generally a knowledge of the sciences.
The first feeling, in many persons, to whom this sort of knowledge is proposed for their acquisition, is a vague feeling of utter incompetency to the undertaking, or of the absolute impossibility or impropriety of the thing, a feeling, as if it were proposed to them literally to scale the heights of heaven; or, at any rate, to put themselves altogether out of their place and sphere. We cannot know anything about these matters. They are for scholars to understand. They are to be learnt in colleges. If you attempt to teach us things of this
sort,' say many with an incredulous air, 'you must take patience with you at any rate.' It takes some patience to listen to the objection, we confess. For why cannot men, and all men, know? And why should they not? The objects of this kind of study are God's works, works which were expressly designed to be studied and admired by all his rational creatures; and, as religious reasoners, so far from admitting these things to be out of the province of the mass of mankind, we should say, that the world is not, and never will be, right, till they are generally understood. It is not in a fair and right state for its moral probation. But we have occasion, at present, only to urge the general propriety of these pursuits. If the object of God's works on earth had been mere temporary accommodation and comfort, less than all the infinite wisdom displayed in them would have sufficed. Plants, for instance, could have been caused to grow without their present curious structure and beautiful appearance. It is as eviident that the world was made to display to its inhabitants the wisdom, as the goodness of its Creator. It is reasonable, therefore, that they should study it. No inquiry could be more proper for men, and for all men.
And why, we repeat, can they not know? The objects to be examined are all around them; the subjects of study are the very elements with which they are every moment conversant; the instruments are their senses; to see, to hear, is to know. The times for study are all times that are not necessarily engrossed with other pursuits; when they take a walk, when they look around them upon the works of nature, especially when they are at leisure. Why cannot a man, who sits down before his evening fire, spend an hour in reading a few paragraphs that will teach him the curious and beautiful theory of combustion? Why cannot any man read enough upon the nature and changes of the atmosphere, the clouds, and the seasons, to be in the habit of reflecting philosophically on what is passing around him, instead of receiving, as passively, in this respect, as the post before his door, the visitation of the elements? And as to time, 'the time that makes a wise man is the time that makes a fool; and the counters, with which the untaught lose the game, are the same with which the skilful win it,'-says, or should say, some proverb of the East or of the West. It is strictly true in this matter, that time and chance happen to all men'; but all men do
not know how to use them. The thing to be learned is not in heaven, nor beyond the sea, but it is nigh us.' It is said that Linnæus, when abroad one day in the fields with his pupils, laid his hand upon the green turf, saying, he had that under his hand, whose consideration might justly occupy all of them for a considerable portion of their lives. He verified this assertion, by showing that within that space there were thirty-four different species, either of grass or moss, or insects, or animalcules, or varieties of mineral.'
'Yes, but all this is nothing,' say our objectors.
is what we are talking about.' Nay, but this is the very thing. The foundation of the sciences is observation. The business of philosophy is not to construct theories, but to state facts; not to deal with mysteries in mysterious language, but to deal with plain matters in intelligible language. Science, instead of being a high and abstruse mystery, is a clearer up of the mysteries that lie in our daily path. We have no doubt, that the casual observations of many practical and plain men, if they had been properly and philosophically noted down in their own minds, would have laid the foundation for much useful philosophy. The judgment, for instance, which seafaring persons form of the weather, which seems at once as sure and as mysterious as instinct, is no doubt founded on actual and careful observation. If the observer had been, in this respect, a philosopher; if he had been able fully to state the grounds of his almost unerring predictions, he might have furnished far more valuable aid to the science of meteorology, than is now given in dry tables of temperature, wind, rain, and sunshine. And if the same observations were made on the land, it would not be difficult to form a Farmer's Manual, or a Traveller's Directory, which, in many cases, would be of great convenience and utility.
When science is mentioned, the minds of many persons are at once carried away from what is around them, to strange diagrams and curious and costly apparatus. These things have their place and use, it is true. Diagrams are essential in the mathematics; and apparatus is a needful auxiliary to scientific observation. But observation need not wait for them. The inquirer may begin his researches without stirring from the spot where he stands. He has only to revive the curiosity of childhood, a curiosity unhappily dulled by repeated disappointment; he has only to ask, What is this,
and why is that? and he has begun the work of scientific philosophy. If he has any zeal in these inquiries, he will procure or invent some simple apparatus to aid him; not to say that our Lyceums are now likely to make the necessary provision for his wants.
It was thus, and without these resources of modern enterprise, that our Franklin and Rittenhouse advanced through the first steps that led to their distinction as philosophers. We do not expect that many among us will rise to the same eminence; but we do say, that, with only a moderate portion of the same inquisitiveness, many may attain to a degree and kind of knowledge, that will give a new character to their minds and a new complexion to their lives, that will open treasures in nature, more truly valuable than the most fertile soil or the wealthiest mine. And to this end, we repeat, they are not to wait for lectures or apparatus, but to begin those inquiries which will as certainly lead them to reading and to experiments, as cause will ever lead to effect. It has been proposed as a good method of instructing children, to confine their attention to the apartment they are in, and to question them with regard to the nature and origin of everything in that given space. Such a course, we believe, never fails to interest them. And thus, if a man would question himself with regard to all the objects within the circle of his vision, he would find enough to elicit his curiosity, to task his reason, and give direction and employment to his hours of reading.
True, some will say, but all this requires a great deal of thinking; and our business is to labor.' But why not join them? Need a man stop turning over the furrow of his field, because he observes the chemical properties of the soil? Must the builder pause in his work, because he proceeds upon a full understanding of the principles of mensuration and architecture? Does any artist labor less assiduously or effectually, because he understands not only the practice, but the philosophy of his art? Does the merchant lay his plans less wisely, because he brings into his contemplation a sagacious and comprehensive view of the principles of trade? The truth is, that in all these cases knowledge does not hinder, but helps a man. Precisely as the philosophical, we had almost said, the imaginative system of the double entry helps the accountant, or as the science of geometry aids the surveyor, or of navigation, the mariner. And in a simple
journey upon the land, may not the traveller, without any interruption, take a philosophical survey of the country he is passing through, notice its soil, its productions, its capabilities, its mineralogical character? Even in judging of its scenery, and no man would be thought so negligent as not to know whether he had passed through a fine or a dull tract of country, even here, there is use enough, if he understood it, for the philosophy of taste. And with a mind thus employed, he would not only not be retarded, but he would find many sources of pleasurable interest; he would be saved from some portion of the tedium of a journey; and he would not need such frequent resort to the coarser stimulants which the tavern furnishes.
'But we do not know how to class these things,' still say our men of doubt and difficulty; we have no books, and we do not know how to begin; or if we do begin, we do not know how to proceed without instruction.'
There is some ground for these objections. Nature, at first, presents itself to the observer as an indigested mass. It is desirable that he should have some elementary works to aid him at the outset, to answer immediately those first inquiries, which we have represented as the beginning of philosophy. And we must confess, that there is here a deficiency, which we trust is yet and ere long to be supplied. Most of the Manuals of Natural Philosophy, of Chemistry, of Mineralogy, Zoology, &c. are designed for scholars. We want something of a simpler character. But what then? shall we do nothing for ourselves, because everything is not done to our hands? The Lyceums which are rising around us, we trust, are to furnish an answer to the question. Some among us have undertaken to instruct and to aid one another. And let it be observed in this connexion, that those who shall, in these institutions, give the results of their inquiries in the form of dissertations or lectures, who shall, with a generous zeal, study for that purpose, cannot, in their communications, use too great plainness of speech.' On this point, also, it is important that they should not put one thing for another. Prolixity is not plainness; nor are many words to be mistaken for much simplicity. Perfect clearness of ideas, no matter in how few words, provided they be intelligible, is the first qualification of a lecturer.
But again, let it be asked, shall we not read books, beVOL. XXX.-No. 67.