« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Much after the fame proportion, though very inferior in point of numerous iffue, are many inhabitants of the land. If any of my auditory have amused themselves with keeping filk-worms (which I remember I did, when young) they must have noticed the prodigious number of eggs depofited by a fingle worm; as if any have had the opportunity of infpecting a bee-hive, what fwarms are the iffue of a few, and indeed are understood to be the iffue of one! (the Queen Bee) forty thousand, I think, in a season. Let me remind you, that fmall animals (quadrupeds) which are incapable of producing fo many at a time, breed very frequently, and while they are even young themselves; a rabbit is almost always breeding, and a very numerous family of cats may be reared in a year, by whoever will undergo the pleasure; these inftances admitted in lieu of many, let us fee how huge and deftructive creatures. increase.
An eagle breeds once a-year, and, if the lays three eggs, or hatch three young ones, feldom rears but two; a lionefs, one; a tigrefs, one, or two; panthers and leopards the fame; wolves, indeed, produce more, fo do badgers, foxes, and fome others; but these are among the weaker beafts of prey, and themselves prey of the stronger.
As to the more numerous fpecies of lower tribes of animals, I fhall merely hint, that we fee many of different kinds daily, as well birds as beafts; while an eagle, or a lion, bears a price to be feen; that even a fox is in fome counties a rarity to the huntfman, while he can find plenty of hares; and otters are,
fo far as I know, rather uncommon; I might have added, that rapacious creatures are ufually fo angry in their natures, or fo often famished and defperate, that they quarrel mutually, and being inclined for deftruction, exercife that talent on each other, if not more profitably engaged elfewhere.
Upon the whole, it appears, that there is fuch a propor, tionate multiplication of fome creatures, fuch a proportionate unmultiplication (pardon the phrase) of others, that rapacity gets no advantage over mildness, nor ftrength and cruelty over weakness and infecurity, fo far as relates to the fpecies.
Let us collect the evidence as it has now been offered to us; we infer, ft, that life advances from its first principles to higher qualities, by very flow, fcarcely perceptible, yet certain, degrees; exhibiting fenfations increasing in quantity, (i. e. in number) or quality (i. e. intensity). 2d, That these fenfations are fo diftributed among their poffeffors, that either by means of quality (in one) or quantity (in several) there is a proportion obferved, which leaves no room for complaint, or envy: Because, 3d, these fenfations, or the means of receiving them, are as gradual and imperceptible in their advances (confequently in their donation to any individual) as life itself, 4th, That though fome tribes of animals feem poffeffed of very great powers to do mischief, yet that their species has not prevailed, nor can prevail, to the extinction of the feebleft fpecies imaginable, being counteracted, by fertility, by diversity, and by instinctive attention.
Thus, I think, we have proved the propofition which began
our difcourfe, viz. that though the globe be liable to terrific phenomena, yet it is no unworthy feat of life; and though much worfe caufes of deftruction than are connected with the globe, are attached to its inhabitants, yet they have hitherto maintained, and ever will maintain, thofe ftations in the fcale of exiftents, which appear to have been their original appoint
We have afferted a proportion of gifts, a proportion of fertility, let us now see whether we cannot trace a proportion of feelings, fo that we may form an opinion on proportionate happinefs; for I think it a natural queftion, why are these inroads, thefe depredations committed? Might no other way of appeafing the hunger of one have been inftituted, than a confumption of the other?
What might have been inftituted we cannot fay; but we find univerfally the life of one is derived from the death of another, among all beings which are incapable of fupport by the fimple elements alone. When a tree converts into part of its fubftance, the earth, the water, the air around it, life feems to be promoted, without any death following; but no fooner does this tree attempt to reproduce its kind, than it furnishes a multitude of feeds with that intent ;-but wherefore a multitude of feeds? Becaufe Nature foresees, that few of these will accomplish that particular purpofe which has given them existence.
Poffibly fome kinds of trees may make greater provision for increafing their fpecies, than what we have ftated of fish; but
of thefe thousands, how few fhoot up into plants! Take an oak, for instance, whofe feed is the acorn, of which many bufhels are yielded by a fingle tree in one feafon (but how many during its life!) your own recollection furnishes a lift of enemies waiting to confume these feeds, in birds and beasts; not to mention man. Suppofe these acorns eaten by a bird; then has that bird prevented the life of fo many plants, as the (or he) has devoured acorns. But this bird alfo, like the tree, makes preparation for maintaining its fpecies, and lays eggs; if we denominate eggs the feed of birds, now is the where the tree was; for a bird (a hen for instance) will lay two hundred eggs, yet not hatch twenty chicken; the hundred and eighty are applied to sustain life in some other quarThis principle we have alfo feen exemplified in the roe of fome kinds of fish becoming the food of other kinds of fish. Thus it appears, that hundreds, perhaps thousands of possible lives, are confumed in maintaining one actual life; and thus it must be, on the fimpleft fuppofition that can be stated;— but obferve, that it is not thousands of fuperior lives converted to the fupport of an inferior; but thousands of poffible existences, or scarce existences, rather almost lives, than fect lives, and these go to the fupport of fuperior intelligence. The bird has more of an advance toward intelligence than the tree; and moft hens eggs, I believe, are eaten by those who think themselves far her fuperior. Thus the matter which the tree extracted from the elements, paffes from rank to rank
till it reaches its ultimatum in connection with intelligence itfelf.
It follows, I think clearly, that whatever is moft liable to be fuddenly deprived of exiftence, is the feweft degrees removed from non-existence; has, confequently, feweft principles of life to lofe, feweft fenfations are counteracted, and fewest feelings wronged in its deftruction. If there be degrees of life to which is connected infenfibility, to destroy that life, caufes no unhappiness; and if the creature poffeffing fuch a life has in itself any principle of enjoyment, which compenfates for its liablenefs to deftruction, it may be very fuperior on the scale of happiness to its destroyer.
Happiness or mifery is allied to intelligence, not to mere exiftence; to thought, to forefight, not fimply to life. This granted; the abfence of thought, of forefight, of intelligence, from creatures liable to a termination of their exiftence from fudden causes (as all caufes to them must be) is their greatest benefit, and at once equals them with every competitor; fince all they can enjoy they poffefs to the laft without allay, and all the happiness of which they are capable attends them, while the poffibility of its fatisfaction exifts, undiminished by anxiety, by expectation, by any kind of dread, and at laft the tranfition is but fmall, from the lower degrees of comparative, or proportionate fenfibility, to a ftate void of every degree of every fenfation.
But the question, why are these devastations permitted? be furveyed under another afpect; and, indeed, is partly