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anfwered, by asking, what would be the ftate of things were
Monf. BUFFON relates, what I think a cafe in point; which I have, therefore, tranflated and abridged from his Natural Hiftory of the bird he calls the Martin. "Certain plants being fent in earth from Madagascar to the Ifle Bourbon, the earth happened to contain a number of the eggs of grafshoppers, which multiplied greatly. Monf. Des Forges-Boucher, Governor general, and Monf. Poivre, Intendant, feeing the country
country ravaged by these infects, endeavoured feriously to rid the island of them, and procured from India feveral pairs of martins for that purpose. The plan was in a fair way of fucceeding, when the inhabitants obferving these birds to fcratch with eagerness in the earth newly fown, imagined they fought the grain taking the alarm, they fpread over the whole island a report of the injury expected from this bird, who was accordingly arraigned in form; his defenders infifted that he fought not the grain, but the infects inimical to the grain, wherein he proved himself a benefactor. Notwithstanding this plea he was profcribed, and two hours after the publi cation of his fentence, not a pair was left alive on the island. This rapid destruction was followed by rapid repentance; for the grasshoppers multiplying without impediment, foon caufed regret for the lofs of the martins. Eight years after this extermination, were again introduced four of these birds; they were received with transports of joy; laws were made for their prefervation and multiplication; and every poffible precaution taken for their welfare. In confequence, they increased prodigiously, and exterminated the grafshoppers; but no sooner were these infects destroyed, than having loft their usual and principal food, and being greatly overstocked in numbers, they had recourse for fubfiftence to the fruits, the dates, the figs, &c. and even attacked the corn, the rice, the maize, the beans; they alfo entered the dove-cotes, and deftroyed the pigeons; fo that after having delivered the country from one plague, they themselves became by very much a greater,
and more difficult to extirpaté. Birds of prey feem the only remedy; but a remedy not to be adopted without expecting other and ferious evils."
When we have confidered thefe inftances, how foolish, how criminal were the defire, that all life fhould continue to live? Rather let us acknowledge fome obligation to birds and beasts of prey; while fatisfying themfelves, they benefit fociety; while revelling in death, they furnish fpace for fuperior life.
Thus, it feems that Nature never confiders all animals, any more than all poffible or embrio animals, or all feeds of vegetables, as ufeful; but many, perhaps moft, for fuperfluity; and because other means are infufficient, many fhe destroys with her own hands; many perish in the feverity of the fea fons. Who can number the millions of infects thus devoted, not in a kingdom only, but throughout the globe? Many are annihilated in storms and tempefts (we mentioned this as one ufe of hurricanes). Thus, as carrion is devoured by vultures, left it should pollute the circumambient air, so these lesser exiftences, little raised above non-existence, are confumed by a variety of causes, left they should engross thofe principles which Nature appoints to fuperior purposes.
From these premises we infer, that the lower claffes of creatures are not capable of much unhappinefs; it is beyond their powers their capacity of happiness is equally limited to low degrees; but thefe degrees are more eafily, more certainly, more efficacioufly attained, than thofe which are more exalted.
In what they place their happiness they fucceed, and have no idea of infelicity, even when to us they feem to suffer.
Let me here enter my proteft, as a man of fenfe and fenfibility, as a gentleman and a christian, against every degree of wanton violence, or malevolent cruelty toward our fellowcreatures. Never may my fentiments be wrefted to a toleration of fuch practices; I merely fuggeft these hints in yindication, not of man's tyranny, but of nature's general principles, and (as I apprehend) general practice.
It remains to be noticed, that as fome animals destroy others, fome vegetables have the fame difpofition; and though we dare hardly venture to denominate them plants of prey, yet it is certain they exhale fuch poisonous vapours as render all around them defert, and blast all verdure within their reach; while others wind around a sturdy tree, creep with infidious convolutions over its ftem and branches, till at length they deprive their fupporter of that nourishment which should fuftain it; thus, flourishing at the expence of their benefactor's life, and confuming his very vitals; if not with the ferocity of a lion or a tiger.
By way of close to this difcourfe, I beg you to reflect, that, in order to form juft ideas of the propriety of nature's general courfe, we must regard as well principles as events, on an enlarged scale: a partial view is no better than total overfight; fo many combinations are cf neceffity employed, fo many apparent intricacies are of confequence to be arranged, that fuperficial obfervation is incompetent to the talk. We acknowledge, that when furveyed on a particular quarter, or PART II. in
in particular inftances, much that is amifs prefents itself; but from this very evil results a more than compenfating propor tion of advantage; of advantage not procurable without the intervention of fuch evil, whofe nature is, by its relation to evident neceffity, transformed to good: nor is it at any time fo great as it might be. The fmalleft poffible evil is employed, no greater unhappiness is introduced than cannot be avoided; and herein we difcover the hand of a master: human talents might have fuggefted many schemes, have adopted many plans and contrivances, to little purpose; most of them would have defeated themselves, and others would have fallen fhort of the effect propofed. To procure the greateft poffible quantity of happiness, at the least poffible expence of evil, is a problem which can only be folved by