Puslapio vaizdai
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"yearly wounded"), but inquire if the river is not subject to floods, and if no red clays line its banks. We worship not the Nile as a divinity, for its increase, but point to the clouds deftined to augment its waters: No, nor do we tremble at the prolonged vapours of the cometary tail, or confider them as ominous; but calmly take our glaffes, and examine their appearance. Is natural knowledge then of no benefit to mankind? or is it a light advantage to be delivered from the thraldom of portents and prodigies?

That fuperior power accompanies fuperior knowledge, appears from no inftance, that I recollect, more remarkably, than from the conduct of the Indians on the difcovery of America. In one of his early voyages COLUMBUS had fuffered by a ftorm, his vessel was in diftrefs, his provision exhausted, and his profpect, as well as his fituation, very deplorable; for the Indians brought in no fupplies: but COLUMBUS knew they were ignorant, and, of course, that they were superstitious: hereupon he threatened them with vengeance and destruction, with no less than an utter extinction of their Moon; and this, fays he, in a few hours. The Moon was one of their chief divinities, they doubted not

power to withstand his enchantments, and relied on its continued effulgence; but when the eclipse began, and the Lunar light diminished, terror fat in their faces, and dread funk their hearts; they befought COLUMBUS to reflore to fplendour their darkened planet, and purchased the liberty of their divinity with ample presents.

Reflect,

Reflect, I request you, LADIES and GENTLEMEN, on this relation: had thefe Indians never before seen an eclipfe? they must have seen many. Had they never obferved the gradual increase of the shadow, and the gradual recovery of the light? Wherefore then were they so terribly alarmed, when a little longer patience would have dispelled their fears? Because they were ignorant of its principles ; they did not see what was before their eyes, nor recollect, nor reafon, nor combine, nor calculate; and yet, in the ordinary length of life, they could not but have had opportunities. I forgive them their fears at what they had never feen before,-thunder and lightning directed by the hands of men. I forgive them, that having no quadruped of equal dignity, they confidered a horse as a swift divinity; that therefore they befought its favour, and folicited its kindness, by presents of bread and flesh, by adorations and genuflexions; but that they should suppose a mortal, like ourselves, capable of controlling the heavenly bodies, is a striking inftance of human ignorance and inconfideration! But not all were equally inconfiderate: it was noble reasoning (reported by the royal hiftorian, GARCILASSO DE LA VEGA) of one of their Incas; 'I cannot,' fays he, regard the Sun

as a deity, for he seems controlled by neceffity, and to ' have no freedom of will; he rises and he fets, and runs the fame round perpetually, and without deviation; if he was * at his liberty, he would furely fometimes vary either his • distance, or his courfe; which as he does not, I conclude * he is obedient to some superior being.' Such latent

powers the

the human mind poffeffes; but without cultivation, how fhall they fpring forth? even the most simple and ordinary elements of our lives, with which we are intimately converfant, when fomewhat varied from their ufual courses, eafily perplex the ignorant. Water is not capable of heat, thought the fimple Otaheitean, when he poured his hands full from the boiling tea-kettle: "Water is not capable of solidity,” says the fun-burnt West-Indian; "how falfely these Europeans report of their walking over its furface!" "Good heavens!" fays a footy African brought to Europe, at the fight of falling fnow, "it rains white rain! no wonder the people are white!"

At a time when the Conclave were affembled at Rome to elect a Pope, the plague broke out in that city (the very name implies devastation and mortality); many of the Cardinals died, many forfook the city; but one abode calmly in his palace, continued his conduct as ordinary, and preserved his dwelling from contagion: this was thought such a miraculous distinction as implied divine election, and, accordingly, he was chofen Pope. What was his secret? simply this: he perceived that the disorder was occasioned by stagnated air; he knew that, in confequence, a circulation of air would prevent it, and he knew that fire circulated air; the expence, therefore, of a few fires, to renew the aerial fluid, preserved himself and his household.

I fhall be permitted to obferve, that, in many refpects, we, in thefe days, poffefs much knowledge, and many opportunities of knowledge, which former ages were unac

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quainted with:-we are not now, as ALEXANDER was on the banks of the Indus, terrified at the retreat of the tide, and ready to confider it as the effect of divine anger; or, what would now be thought of a commander in chief, who, like CÆSAR, fhould omit to provide against the spring tide at a full Moon? and yet this very omiffion cost Cæfar many veffels, and risked the whole expedition in his first voyage to Britain.

If we turn our inspection to civil life, we must admit, that not only the materials of every manufacture, but also the principles of art, and of elegance, arise from the study of nature. In a commercial country, like this, I might remark that much of our very neceffaries of life is the product of foreign parts; how should we ever have profited by their ufe, had we continued ignorant of their qualities? We import cotton and filk for our drefs, many kinds of edibles for food, and a variety of other articles that might be named. In the materia medica the ufe of an intimate acquaintance with nature is notorious and undeniable, and a liberal intercourse throughout the globe is, here efpecially, mutually and highly beneficial.

·

VOLTAIRE, indeed, has faid, it is pity the quinquina (Jefuit's bark) grows in one climate, while the fever is the diforder of another:' but had that ingenious wit recollected, that the neceffity of intercourse, and friendship, among all mankind is ftrongly implied by giving to one climate what is necessary to another, he would rather have congratulated himself on being able to afcertain, by experience,

the

the virtues of the quinquina, than have murmured against the local appointments of Providence.

Indeed, I venture to say, that the more we become acquainted with the general distributions of Nature, the less of a repining spirit fhall we indulge: that the highly exalted aromatic might have grown in the cooler climate of the north, is poffible; but could it have acquired that vigour, that power, which its nearer refidence to the Sun has imparted to it? or if, for the fake of that, the folar heat had been augmented, what havock had it made among our milder fruits!

Should I mention the politer studies of mankind, I must needs place an acquaintance with Nature and her productions, as the very foundation of every elegance: it produces a kind of inferior Paradife; wherein (as originally our first parent) we may behold the infinite variety of creatures, and of objects, may acquire fome kind of knowledge of their properties, manners, and difpofitions; and, by judicious obfervation and remark, may become informed of the natures and the number of our fubjects without travelling over inhofpitable defarts and trackless waftes, over mountains elevated above afcending fnows, over burning fands, or over fields of ice.

There is nothing upon which I congratulate myself more heartily, than upon the case with which information is now acquirable: When I fancy myself a companion of thofe who explored the Andes; when from the fummit of a mountain I furvey the clouds rolling below, the lightning

flashing

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