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I HAVE Scarcely thought it worth while to refer to the book of M. De Paw, a Prussian, wherein he has copied the calumnies of Buffon against America, with additions and embellishments. This work, which was published in three volumes, has been amply refuted by Don Pernety, and the Abbé Clavigero. As a specimen of his accuracy it is sufficient to state, that he confidently asserts that dogs suffer so much under the deteriorating influence of our climate, that they lose the power of barking, and that all the plants of Europe have degenerated in America, except those which are aquatic and succulent.
If any person is desirous of seeing the essence of all the slanders against the United States, invented and propagated by ignorant and insignificant tourists, let him look at the eleventh article of the twentieth number of the London Quarterly Review, purporting to be a review of Inchiquin the Jesuit's Letters, but, in fact, an impotent effusion of malignity against our country, its morals, manners, intellect, and institutions. This diatribe is attributed to the pen of Southey the poet, and its whole force depends upon the liberal use of that commonplace sophism termed a false induction. From a few particulars disparaging to the country, he has inferred a general conclusion to its disadvantage: upon the faults of the few he predicates the vices of the many. Applying the same rule of judgment to himself, it would be easy to prove him the most wretched poetaster in Europe. If we look into his poems we will find, among some splendid effusions of genius, the most miserable conceits; and if, upon the selection of those offences against taste and good writing, we were to pronounce his poetical character, who would not condemn our candour as well as our logic?
This tissue of falsehood and scurrilous invective states, that General Washington was in favour of a monarchy; that Mr. Jefferson exercised a pernicious influence over Mr. Adams; that Franklin was but a small philosopher; that Rittenhouse was an Englishman; that no such character as a respectable country gentleman is known in America; that it is impossible to bring a thief to justice, &c. These violations of truth were selected as we casually cast our eyes over this review, and they are brought forward as specimens of the whole performance. The authorities to which the writer has appealed for his slander, are some newspapers, the Works of William Cobbett, and the Travels of Janson, Priest, Ashe, Wansey, Weld, Lambert, and Parkinson. Scarcely one of these had any pretensions to literature. Ashe, if such a person ever existed, was, in all probability, never in this country; Priest came over as a musical adventurer; of Parkinson we may say, in the words of Congreve, "Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude." The others, under a more decent garb, are equally regardless of truth. The character of Cobbett is known in Europe, as well as in this country; if we are desirous of attaining truth we must reverse his assertions. Janson published his book in a quarto form in London, in 1807, under the title of "The Stranger in America, by Charles William Janson, late of the State of Rhode Island, Counsellor at Law;" but who, we learn from good authority, was a barber in that state. It abounds with offences against truth, and, considering his long residence in the United States, exhibits a great dearth of information, and a great want of intelligence: take, for example, an extract from the first page I have opened: "Soon after Mr. Jefferson's advancement to the presidency, the tithes of the episcopal clergy were entirely abolished, and the church lands sold for the use of government; all religious sects are, therefore, on the same footing, without supremacy or limited salaries."
As a conspicuous example of the reviewer's total disregard of candour and justice, I might refer particularly to his unworthy attack upon Messrs. Emmet, Sampson, and M.Nevin, whose genius, learning, and virtues, would reflect honour on any country.
GOVERNOR BURNET was a man of extensive reading and information. He wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse, and made many useful astronomical observations. Swift's Discourse on the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit was supposed to be addressed to Governor Hunter. In the fifteenth volume of Swift's Works there are two letters
from the dean to him. In the first epistle Swift says, "Sometimes Mr. Addison and I steal to a pint of bad wine, and wish for no third person but you; who, if you were with us, would never be satisfied without three more." In the second letter he says, "I am very much obliged to you for the favour of a kind reproach you sent me in a letter to Mr. Addison, which he never told me of till this day, and that accidentally; but I am glad at the same time that I did not deserve it, having sent you a long letter in return to that you was pleased to honour me with, and it is a pity it should be lost; for, as I remember, it was full of the diei fabulas, and such particularities as usually do not find place in newspapers. These quotations indicate the great intimacy between Hunter and those distinguished men.
The same volume contains two letters from Hunter to Swift, dated New-York, 1st and 14th of March, 1712-13, both breathing great discontent and uneasiness with his situation. In the last he says, "Here is the finest air to live upon in the universe, and, if our trees and birds could speak and our assemblymen be silent, the finest conversation too. Fert omnia tellus; but not for me; for you must understand, according to the custom of our country, the sachems are of the poorest of the people. I have got the wrong side of Sir Polidore's office; a great deal to do, and nothing to receive. In a word, and to be serious at last, I have spent three years of life in such torment and vexation that nothing in life can ever make amends for it."
Hunter was afterwards appointed Governor and Captain General of Jamaica, in the room of the Duke of Portland, who died there in 1726.
THE first institution in the United States established as a repository of the native vegetable productions of this country, and for the purpose of naturalizing such foreign plants as are distinguished by their utility either in medicine, agriculture, or the arts, was the Elgin Botanic Garden, founded in 1801, by Dr. David Hosack, at that time Professor of Botany and Materia Medica in Columbia College. This establishment is situated about three miles from the city of New-York, on the middle road between Bloomingdale and Kingsbridge. The ground, consisting of about twenty acres, was originally purchased of the corporation of this city. The view from the most elevated part is variegated and extensive, and the soil itself of that diversified nature as to be particularly adapted to the cultivation of a great variety of vegetable productions.
Speaking of the particular situation of the Botanic Garden of this state, a British writer, in the London Medical and Physical Journal, among other remarks, has the following: "No region of the earth seems more appropriate to the improvement of botany, by the collecting and cultivating of plants, than that where the Elgin Botanic Garden is seated. Nearly midway between the northern and southern extremities of the vast American continent, and not more than forty degrees to the north of the equator, it commands resources of incalculable extent; and the European botanist will look to it for additions to his catalogue of the highest interest. The indigenous botany of America possesses most important qualities, and to that, we trust, Professor Hosack, the projector, and, indeed, the creator, of this garden, will particularly turn his attention. It can hardly be considered as an act of the imagination, so far does what has already been discovered countenance the most sanguine expectations, to conjecture, that in the unexplored wilderness of mountain, forest, and marsh, which composes so much of the western world, lie hidden plants of extraordinary forms and potent qualities."
Soon after the purchase, the proprietor, at a very considerable expense, had the ground cleared and put in a state of cultivation, arranged in a manner the best adapted to the different kinds of vegetables, and planted ageeably to the most approved style of ornamental gardening. A conservatory for the preservation of the more hardy greenhouse plants was also built. At the commencement of 1805 nearly fifteen hundred species of American plants, beside a considerable number of rare and valuable exotics, were in cultivation in this institution. In 1806 very important additions were made to this collection of plants from various parts of Europe, as well as from the East and West Indies. A second building for their preservation was also erected, and the foundation of a third was laid, which was completed in the following year. In the autumn of the same year, 1806, a catalogue of the plants, both native and exotic, which had been already collected, and which amounted to nearly two thousand, was published. Since that time the Botanic Garden has been greatly improved. The buildings, which are erected on the most recent plan adopted in institutions of this kind, consist of three large and well-constructed houses, exhibiting a front of one hundred and eighty feet. The greater part of the ground is brought in a state of the highest cultivation, and divided into various compartments, calculated for the instruction of the student of botany and medicine, and made subservient to agriculture and the arts. A greater part of the establishment is surrounded by a belt of forest trees and shrubs, and these again are enclosed by a stone wall two and a half feet in thickness, and seven feet in height.
The expense requisite to effect these several purposes far exceeding the calculations the proprietor had originally formed, and being desirous of perpetuating the institution,
he was induced to offer the whole establishment for sale to the state. An almost entire unanimity prevailing among the medical faculty relative to the advantage to be derived from an institution of the kind, as highly necessary to complete a system of medical instruction, and similar sentiments being entertained by many others who felt an interest in the literary reputation of the state, application was made to the legislature that provision might be obtained for the purchase of the Botanic Garden. On this occasion memorials were presented by the state medical society, the medical society of the city and county of New-York, and of the counties of Duchess, Ulster, Niagara, Saratoga, Clinton, &c. by the corporation of the city, the governors of the New-York Hospital, the students attending the medical schools, and from many of the most respectable inhabitants of this city; and the zeal manifested upon this subject reflects much credit upon the officers and members of these respective associations. The Botanic Garden accordingly became the property of the state of New-York, by an act of their legislature, passed on the 12th of March, 1810. The honourable the regents of the university, immediately upon this purchase being effected, allotted that extensive botanical establishment to the use of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, for the laudable purpose contemplated by the legislature. The late proceedings of the legislature, in relation to the Botanic Garden, have been stated elsewhere. It is proper to add that the enterprising and public-spirited founder of this institution, Dr. Hosack, in 1811, published a second edition, enlarged, of the Hortus Elginensis, or a Catalogue of the Plants, indigenous and exotic, cultivated in the Elgin Botanic Garden, arranged in alphabetical order, and embracing the generic and specific names of Linnæus, the synonymes of various authors, the popular appellations by which they are known, the use of the different plants in medicine and the arts, &c. See a Statement of Facts relative to the Establishment and Progress of the Elgin Botanic Garden, and the Subsequent Disposal of the same to the State of New-York; Hortus Elginensis: American Medical and Philosophical Re-gister, vol. 2. from which most of the preceding account has been taken.
It is ardently hoped that an institution so honourable to the individual by whom it was originally projected, and by whose care and munificence it has been eminently conducive to the promotion of the science of botany, may not be impaired in its character or usefulness through any want of public support; and it is respectfully suggested that nothing could more effectually secure the important objects of this institution than some permanent provision made by the legislature, and the annexation to the establishment of a botanical professorship.