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in their infancy? Or how would the purestsystem of Ethics be regarded, by a horde of half naked and starving savages, destitute of the useful arts, and ignorant of the principles whereon they are founded? Vain, too, would be all reasoning upon the ideas derived from our senses, where the mechanical structure of the organs is not understood; we should hear of no specu• lations on the existence or non-existence of matter, when the speculator was compelled to labour without mechanical aid for the daily support of his body.
Mechanical science, too, furnishes to the theologian the most powerful extrinsic arguments that can be adduced, in support of revealed religion. This point of our illustration, however, has been so ably developed by Paley, in his “Natural Theology," as not to admit of being touched upon by any less skilful hand.
If scientific men are apt to undervalue the knowledge that lies at the root of all their pursuits, so men merely practical are apt to underrate that on which their own skill depends ; and this happens in consequence of their not being themselves aware that they have insensibly, and by apparently inadequate means, acquired a knowledge founded on the accumulated scientific discoveries of centuries. Thus, when a ship carpenter, after a few years apprenticeship, finds himself enabled to project, construct, and launch intu the ocean, a vessel calculated to resist the utmost efforts of the waves; when the sailor, who navigates this ship, has acquired the power of directing it to any point of the compass, and to force his way by a series of diagonal movements, in the very teeth of opposing winds; when by an easy and almost mechanical observation, and by calculations containing but a few lines of figures, he can determine his position in the midst of the trackless sea ;--they are both unwilling to acknowledge their obligations to what they are apt to consider as mere hypothesis, or useless speculation. The very names and history of the persons to whom they are indebted, for all that is valuable in their respective arts, are unknown to them. The former would be surprised, were he told that the curves he is in the habit of describing daily, almost without calling his mind to direct the motions of his hand, had employed the sublime calculus of a Bernouilli and a Euler; the latter would be no less astonished, on being informed that the tables, the instruments, and the methods of calculation he employs, and the use of which he had learned in a few months, had for two centuries engaged the whole attention of a succession of men, of abstract science, many of whom had never set foot on ship-board. These cases are similar to what oc
curs in every other art. When a discovery is once made and reduced to practice, thousands may be readily, and without any exertion of intellect, taught to apply it; the apprentice acquires all that is previously known, with far less labour than it costs the man of science to add a single valuable invention to the common stock; hence, when the former compares
his own attainments with those of the latter, he is apt to undervalue science, which, by slow and painful steps, advances to results apparently less important than those he acquires from mere habit.
This prejudice, indulged by the mere operative mechanic, against the theoretic inquirer, is more prevalent in this country than in any other; indeed, the scientific professor of any mechanic art is hardly to be found among us, we have either practical men without learning, or theoretic men without practice, and both exert a most unfavourable influence
progress of art.
Public feeling seems rather to incline to the former class; thus, if we wish to build, for either public or private purposes, we call not upon a professed architect, conversant with the fine forms of antiquity, and possessing, from a tinished education, an eye for the picturesque that will enable him to adapt the acknowledged proportions of his art to the peculiar locality; but we invite to consult with us, a master mason, or carpenter, raised probably above his fellows, not by education or natural taste, (if such a thing exist, but by some fortunate speculation, or a greater share of worldly prudence, that has made him a little richer. Is a canal projected,--we intrust the examination of the route to some land-surveyor; in the planning of its works, we copy servilely some construction of a European engineer, that may happen fortuitously to exist among us; and we neither submit these to the test of scientific principle, nor inquire whether the art may not have been improved in Europe, since the date of their construction. Should any novel case arise, that experience in our own country has not provided for, no experiment, although founded upon principles of science the most established, will be admitted, unless it come from the practical man.
Is a city to be supplied with water,—no preliminary inquiry is made, no engineer acquainted with the theory of rivers, and the laws of the motion of fluids, is employed to examine the subject in all its bearings, to point out some feasible scheme, or to compare together and show the relative advantages of every practicable source of supply; but a committee of some corporate body is constituted the judge of the sufficiency or
insufficiency of projects that have most probably originated in private speculation; an engineer, who probably has never before been engaged in, or thought of a similar work, and who has no theory to direct his practice, (had he even any discretion left him,) is then called in to survey the prescribed route, and make an estimate of the cost of the undertaking.
When such is the course of things, can it be wondered that we find no men of education and talent, devoting themselves to mechanical pursuits? or that we are, in many respects, far behind the progress of European art ?
We have chosen as illustrations, the instances of the shipbuilder and mariner; because, in the arts of naval architecture and seamanship, and perhaps in these alone,) we probably excel every other nation. Yet, how little of this pre-eminence is in reality due to our own exertions ? Our skill in these arts has been obtained, by adopting the discoveries of others, and not by any improvements of our own. It has happened that our ships and seamen have been in frequent comparison with those of other nations; their progress has been constantly before our eyes, and our exertions have been rendered more strenuous by a continual competition. To the scientific part of naval architecture, we have added absolutely nothing, and to navigation only the quadrant of Godfrey, whose right to the invention is disputed ; and which, in truth, belongs neither to him nor Hadley, but to Newton himself. Had the French no school of naval architecture, our models would have remained unimproved; were the English Board of Longitude to suspend their labours, our India trade would be extinct.
We have already hinted at the prejudice existing in this country, against men of theoretic knowledge ; that it does obtain is extremely unfortunate ; it has prevented our practical men from seeking the education, that can alone enable them to unite the qualifications of both classes. In the absence of such education, it has laid obstacles in the way of any effective combination of men, possessing the two different species of acquirement; and it has debarred men of science from all opportunity of showing the practical value of their attainments. All these circumstances retard the advance of art, and frequently give rise to improvident expenditures of public money. It may, indeed, occasionally happen, that men of great native genius, may without the aid of learning effect wonders; or that even unassisted ingenuity, may fall upon happy inventions; for instance, it is said, that a great step in the improvement of the steam-engine was made by an idle boy, who contrived it to enable him to enjoy his play. But of such instances, very few
occur in the history of the mechanic arts; they are rare even among us, although perhaps less so than in any other country; and that they have taken place, is a circumstance productive rather of injury than of good. It is from the success which has attended a few fortuitous inventions, that it happens that we are inundated by burners of water, makers of pocket steamengines, and projectors of perpetual motions, not to mention a thousand other schemes equally easible. The truth is, that men of such commanding genius, as to dispepse with the ordinary modes of acquiring learning, are extremely rare ; like the flower of the aloe, they are the solitary productions of a whole century's growth; for one that has fallen by chance, or unassisted talent, upon a fortunate discovery, thousands have improved the arts by the aid of mature reflection, and calculations based upon the strictest scientific principles.
I shall take the liberty of illustrating this position by a few instances. The steam engine of Watt, resulted from a well conducted and accurately performed experiment; the inferences thence deduced were confirmed by the almost cotemporaneous observations of Dr. Black; yet, although the theory was thus attained, it required the laborious efforts of a whole life of continual study and scientific experiment, to bring his engine to the state of perfection in which he left it.
T'he saw-gin, for cleansing cotton, to which the commercial wealth of this country is more indebted than to any other mechanical invention whatsoever, was also, as I have been informed from high authority, the result of study and the application of principle; Whitney's attention was directed to the subject by a friend, and after the seclusion of several weeks, he produced his finished plan.
That our countryman, Fulton, had great genias, is not to be doubted; but when left to its own bent, it was directed to, and wasted upon, torpedoes, catamarans, and submarine navigation. At the instance of Chancellor Livingston, he was induced to direct the powers of his mind, and the mechanical knowledge he had acquired in his other investigations, to the subject of the steam boat. The result was the attainment of an object of incalculable value to this country, and the whole civilized world; his preliminary experiments were performed upon the river Seine, on a very small scale, and to the uninformed or incurious spectator, might have been considered as failures. They, however, as I have heard from his own lips, enabled him to investigate formulæ by which he could predict, with certainty, the speed that a given engine would produce in a boat of given dimensions. Provided with these, he proceed
ed to construct a boat so adapted to the powers of his engine as to possess a trifle more than the exact velocity required to entitle him to the grant from the state of New-York. In his subsequent boats, he predicted in every case their exact speed, a result that no other engineer has been able to attain with certainty. These formulæ have, it is to be feared, died with him.
It is a remarkable fact, that the means employed by Fulton in applying the common steam engine to propel boats, are so extremely simple, as hardly to leave room for definite specifications, and thus the very circumstance that more than any other constitutes the merit of his discovery, has, under our most inefficient system of patent laws, prevented his family from reaping the reward to which in justice they are entitled.
While Fulton was engaged in the application of his theoretic principles to practice, a younger competitor started for the same prize. Col. Stevens, of Hoboken, had been employed for the same length of time as Chancellor Livingston, in endeavours to apply steam to the purposes of navigation. Both had hitherto failed, from the want of the aid of men of scientific knowledge. While Livingston sought the matured experience of Fulton, Col. Stevens educated one of his own sons especially for the purpose ; and the result was almost equally successful. A boat, constructed under the direction of Mr. Robert L. Stevens, was in motion upon the Hudson only a few weeks later than that of Fulton. This gentleman alone has any right to share with the latter the merit of bringing this branch of the art to perfection; and it is only in his vessels that we can perceive any claims to originality, all others being no more than servile copies of those of Fulton.
The last instances I shall adduce, are those furnished by the discoveries of Sir Humphrey Davy. The first of these is his safety lamp. An explosion took place in a colliery in Northumberland, by which many valuable lives were lost; the public called loudly for some invention, by which such dangers might, in future, be avoided, and such accidents prevented. Davy, from a refined view of the properties of flame, was enabled to direct the construction of a lamp, enclosed in a substance per vious to air and light, but affording a perfect protection against the communication of fire.
The second is his improvement in the copper sheathing of vessels. When this substance was first applied to the purpose, the iron fastenings of ships, that had formerly outlasted their timbers, were found to be so quickly corroded as to endanger the safety of their crews. An obvious remedy for this was found, in using for fastenings some more durable metal; copper