« ZurückWeiter »
laborious finish of innumerable small parts, that rather detract from, than add to, the general effect.
When we consider even the pyramids themselves, as the sole exertion of the whole disposable force of a nation for a number of years, our admiration of them will soon be diminished ; and still more, if we compare the labour bestowed upon them, with that devoted to less imposing, but more useful purposes, in modern times. The pyramid of Cheops is unequalled in its mass by the erections of any succeeding age ; it is said to have employed the labour of 100,000 men for 20 years, and we may readily be satisfied of the credibility of this account, if we consider the relation between the government and the people, and the want of scientific skill that then existed. Vast as this pile is, were the power of the steam engines that are engaged in the manufactures of the British empire, applied for a few months, the same effect would be produced, and another pyramid, equal in magnitude to that of Cheops, erected, without withdrawing a single person from his ordinary employment. But although the capacity to execute equal monuments exists at the present day in so much greater a degree than it did among the ancient nations, governments have no longer the power to apply this capacity to similar objects; and even in the execution of projects of general utility, they can combine a much less formidable array of human force than was frequently done by the despotic governments of ancient times. Public opinion, which is rapidly establishing an empire that must subvert all others, controls the acts of the most absolute monarch; and even private and individual interests are frequently urged with such force, as to defeat plans in which whole nations are interested.
The pyramids are not the only instances that might be adduced, of the immense works erected by ancient nations, and referable to similar principles. The city of Babylon surpassed in extent, and in the magnitude of its public works, any metropolis of modern times. The height of its walls, their vast circuit, that forbade its being blockaded, and the strength of its brazen gates, rendered it apparently impregnable by human force; if our modern weapons would be sufficient to effect a breach, none possessed by the ancients could have produced any impression; and even the skill of Demetrius, the taker of cities himself, would have been found ineffectual to reduce it. Its materials, although, according to our ideas, perishable, possessed a durability sufficient to withstand that climate, and even in our own days their bricks have been found bearing the original impress of the manufacturer ; but the wrath of man, ,
and the wrath of the elements, were made to work the declared purposes of the Divinity; and nothing now remains except a few vast but misshapen masses, to testify its existence; they stand the monuments of the divine displeasure; around them satyrs dance, and in them the owl dwells; wild beasts cry in her desolate houses, and dragons inhabit her pleasant palaces.
The actual existence of some of these monuments, and the historical account of others, have rendered it fashionable with infidel writers to cry up the early civilization of the ancient nations, and more particularly the remote refinement of the Egyptians. From such considerations, they have laboured to produce subtile arguments against the truth of the sacred historians, and, by inference, of revealed religion itself. One of their strongest instances was drawn from the zodiac of the temple of Dendra, whence a chain of reasoning was deduced, that carried the origin of Egyptian science, and even the erection of that very temple, to a period of 25,000 years before the Christian æra, an antiquity more than five times as great as that given to the present surface of the globe by the Mosaic history. Within the last year, the description of this temple has been deciphered, and its erection referred to the times of the first Roman
emperors. To this æra the zodiae corresponds as well as to the more early one, and all cavil is at once refuted.
In like manner, if we strip these nations of the borrowed plumes in wbich modern ingenuity has decked them, we shall find that their boasted refinement probably equalled that of the Mexicans and Peruvians of our own continent at the time of the discovery, a state certainly far more enviable than that of our other aborigines, but not farther removed from it, on the one hand, than from the civilization of modern Europe on the other.
With Grecian history, an era more favourable to the happiness of the human race commences; other arts began to be cultivated than those which merely contributed to the splendour of idolatrous worship, or the barbarous magnificence of despotism; the common people acquired rights, and a portion of the public expenditure was devoted to their accommodation. Of the public works of Greece and Rome, many were exclusively intended for the use of the populace; thus, we find, in every direction in the countries held by them at different times, the remains of porticoes, theatres, and amphitheatres, of roads, bridges, and acqueducts. Archimedes, a Greek of Sicily, was the first who successfully applied science to valuable practical
purposes; and under these governments some progress was made in the comfort of social life, and the general happiness of mankind was much increased. Without attaining any thing like the perfection in which we now behold them, the mechanic arts, aided by improvements in mathematical science, made a slow but steady progress.
It would be trite and common-place, to speak of the overthrow of the Roman empire, the loss of the arts and applied science for nearly a thousand years, their revival in Italy in the 16th century, and their gradual diffusion throughout Europe. From this brilliant era dates the successful cultivation of science as applied to the mechanic arts; and a most decided amelioration, as well in the state of the man of philosophic research, as in that of governments, and of society in general. The student of philosophy no longer secludes himself in the crypt of some dark temple of idolatry, or inscribes hieroglyphic characters upon obelisks ; but all his researches are directed to some object of practical application. While he thus adds to the knowledge of his cotemporaries, their improved condition contributes to his reputation and honour; no longer dependent upon the smiles of the great, the patronage of the priesthood, or the favour of kings, he looks to the public for a remuneration commensurate with the utility of his speculations; and that public, enriched by his labours, and those of his predecessors, possesses the ability of amply rewarding him,
If no modern king or government is able to lay up treasures like those of Solomon or Crosus, or to erect pyramids—or if they cannot, like Xerxes, march their millions to the field by an application of their immediate revenues-yet the general wealth is now incontestably greater; formidable armaments may be prepared by money borrowed from the purse of productive industry, and incalculable resources derived from the skill and mechanical science of the citizen.
A man now spins, by the aid of engines founded on scientific principles, one hundred times as much yarn as he formerly could have done, even with the help of a machine; there are manufactories in England, moved by steam engines, in which the quantity of yarn produced daily, would extend a distance equal to twice the circumference of the globe. The art of weaving has improved in a like degree; the same country has establishments with power looms that turn out finished a piece of cotton stuff every minute, or a length of 15 miles per day; and in this country, if the manufacturing establishments be less extensive, the machinery is yet more perfect. A countryman of our own has invented an engine propelled by steam, that
manufactures 60 pins per minute. This branch of man ufacture, not many years back, furnished Adam Smith with an illustration of the effect of the division of labour, in increasing the productive industry of a country; it will now furnish a more striking instance of the advantages of the application of machinery constructed uponscientific principles, over the unassisted exertion of men, even when applied in the most advantageous
The steam engine has produced in this way, in England, a change, in our day, that has no precedent in any former
It bas, so to speak, “multiplied the time of man, as gas lights have multiplied his hours of daylight.* But what is the steam engine itself, compared with the machine invented by Mr. Babbage for calculating mathematical tables ; this performs a work that has hitherto been considered as purely intellectual ; and science has thus given us the means of abridging and saving the labour of mind."
Of the effect of applied science upon individual happiness, we may judge from a brief recapitulation of the advantages we ourselves enjoy, by living in an age in which all the mechanic arts have been carried by its aid to a state of unexampled perfection, and in a city where a successful commerce enables us to make the most distant regions of the earth contribute to supply our wants. For us the silk-worms of China, Italy, and Provence, exert their art, and the looms of Nankin, Lyons, Florence, and London, labour; for us the sheep of Saxony and Spain are shorn, and the clothiers of Gloster and Yorkshire ply their shuttles; for us the cotton of Carolina and Bourbon is rolled upon the spindles of Manchester; for us is raised the hemp of the Ukraine, the flax of Munster, and the sugar-cane of the Indies; for us bloom the spicy forests of Sumatra and the Moluccas, the coffee gardens of Yemen, Java, and Cuba; to close our apartments, we interpose screens of a transparent substance pervious to light, and the calorific rays of the sun, but impervious to the blast, and retentive of the grosser heat that we generate by the process of combustion; to give us light, the whale is pursued to his most secret haunts among the eternal ices of either pole; and soon will the gaseous product of his oil circulate through our streets, like the vital fluids through the veins and arteries of the animal frame.
The wants of the mind are less readily satisfied than those of the body, and exert a more powerful influence upon our happiness; to supply these, the authors of France, England, Italy, and Germany, are employed, and we receive their pro
* Revue Encyclopedique. October, 1824.
ductions yet moist from the presses of London, Paris, Milan, and Leipsic.
And above all, if I may without profanity so express myself, the extension of science and the arts among us is preparing the way for the triumphs of revealed religion, while their general diffusion appears to be one of the most important means employed by the Deity to effect the accomplishment of the sublime predictions of the gospel.
Art. IX. An Essay on the Doctrine of Contracts, being an In
quiry how Contracts are affected in Law and Morals, by concealment, error, or inadequate price. By GULIAN Č. VERPLANCK. New-York, Charles Wiley. 8vo. pp. 234.
This work is the production of a gentleman, who though educated to the bar, has, we believe, of late years, chiefly directed his attention to studies of a different character. With a mind well imbued with the theory of the common law, he has had leisure and inclination not only to compare it with other codes, but to examine it with reference to those principles of expediency and morals which should be the foundation of all law. We have no doubt that an individual thus circumstanced, and of such pursuits, is more competent than a mere lawyer, however eminent, to point out the errors and defects in an existing system. The world has seen Mansfield and Romilly, and others like them ; but they are very rare. It is next to impossible to be a good lawyer, in full practice ; and to be any thing else—the mind of such a man is necessarily contracted within the circle in which he moves. His business is to sustain the claim of this client, and the defence of that, by the laws and usages as they now exist, and not to speculate upon any possible improvement which might be introduced into the administration of justice. Knowledge is power, and skill and dexterity acquired by long practice, are power also ; and very few are desirous to introduce changes which will destroy or diminish the advantages which it has cost them much time and labour to acquire. The lawyer is, perhaps, less exempt from the prejudices of education and habit than the physician ; and scarcely more so than the theologian. His fame and his fortune depend on his success in the practice of the law as it is, and not on speculations as to what it should be. Napoleon, therefore, did wisely, when he called to his aid in the formation of that code, which is in truth (as he thought it was) his highest glory, not only men versed in the study and practice of the