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has led to the means of increasing mechanical power to an almost incalculable extent. The lever, the pulley, and the wheel, are but illustrations of it. So, too, the habit of nice observation of facts, (the almost constant attendant upon scientific acquirements) has led to surprising conjectures, which have ended in the demonstration of equally surprising truths. Let me avail myself of one or two illustrations, which have been already noticed by others, as better to my purpose,
my own memory could furnish. In the course of Sir Isaac Newton's experiments to ascertain the laws of optics, he was led, from the peculiar action of the diamond upon light, to express an opinion that it was carbon, and capable of ignition, and not belonging to the class of crystals. That conjecture has in our day been established, by chemical experiments, to be a fact. He made the discovery also of the compound nature of light, and that its white colour arises from a mixture of all the various colours. This has led to various ingenious improvements in the formation of the lenses of telescopes, by which modern astronomy has been able to display the heavens in new beauty and order. When Franklin, by close observation, had established the identity of lightning with the electric spark, he was immediately led to the practical application of his discovery, by ascertaining the relative conducting power of various substances, so as to guard our dwellings from its tremendous agency. The galvanic battery, to which we are indebted for so many discoveries in chemistry, owes its origin to an apparently trivial circumstance. The discoverer's attention was drawn to an investigation of the cause of the
twitching of a dead frog's leg; and by patient and laborious experiments, he was at length conducted to the discovery of animal electricity.
The polarization of light, as it is called, that is, the fact that rays of light have different sides, which have different properties of reflection, is a discovery in optics of very recent date, which, it is said, “is so fertile in the views it lays open of the constitution of natural bodies, and the minuter mechanism of the universe, as to place it in the very first rank of physical and mathematical science.” It was discovered by the French philosopher, Malus, as late as in 1810, by various minute and delicate experiments, and has already led to very extraordinary results.
Indeed, such is the quickening power of science, that it is scarcely possible, that its simplest germ should be planted in the human mind, without expanding into a healthy growth. It generates, as it moves on, new thoughts, and new inquiries, and is forever gathering without exhaustion, and without satiety. The curiosity, which is once awakened by it, never sleeps; the genius, which is once kindled at its altar, burns on with an inextinguishable flame.
It has been remarked, that such was the progress of astronomical science, and the number of minds engaged in it towards the close of the seventeenth century, that if Sir Isaac Newton had never lived, his splendid and invaluable discoveries must have been in the possession of the succeeding age.
The approaches had been so near, that they almost touched the very verge of the paths, which
his genius explored, and demonstrated with such matchless ability. If this were true in respect to that branch of physical science, it is far more strikingly true in respect to mechanics. The struggle here in respect to priority of inventions, is often so very close, that a single day sometimes decides the controversy.
It is from considerations of this nature ;—that, what has been, must continue to be; that art is never perfect, and nature is inexhaustible ; that science, while it is the master of art, is itself ultimately dependent upon it; that the intellectual power grows up in all stations, and in all soils ; that, all other circumstances equal, he, who knows and practices, must_forever take the lead of him, who merely knows, and has none of the skill to apply power, or the practical sagacity to overcome difficulties; that he, whose interest is indissolubly connected with his science, and who feels at every turn the animating impulse of reward, as well as the pleasure of speculation, and the desire of fame, has more enduring and instant motives for exertion, than he who merely indulges his leisure, or his curiosity ; -it is, I say, from these considerations, that I deduce the conclusion, that when the artisan and the mechanic shall have become instructed in science, the inventions of this class will be more numerous, more useful, more profitable, and more ingenious, than those of any other class, and even perhaps of all other classes of society.
What an animating prospect does this afford! What noble ends to poor, neglected, suffering genius! What constant comfort to cheer the hard hours of labour, and the heavier hours of despondency! Much less of success
in life is in reality dependent upon accident, or what is called luck, than is commonly supposed. depends upon the objects, which a man proposes to himself; what attainments he aspires to; what is the circle, which bounds his vision and his thoughts; what he chooses, not to be educated for, but to educate himself for; whether he looks to the end and aim of the whole of life, or only to the present day or hour; whether he listens to the voice of indolence or vulgar pleasure, or to the stirring voice in his own soul, urging his ambition on to the highest objects.' If his views are low and grovelling; if the work-shop, in its cold routine of duties, bounds all his wishes, and his hopes, his destiny is already fixed; and the history of his whole life may be read, though the blush of youth still lingers in his cheeks. It is not a tale merely twice told ; it has been told for millions. If, on the other hand, he aspires to be a man, in dignity, independence, spirit, and character, and to give his talents their full scope and vigour; if, to a steady devotion to the practice of his art, he adds a scientific study of its processes and principles, his success is as sure, as any thing on this side of the grave can be. He may even go further, and dream of fame ; and if he possess
sagacity of genius, may build a solid immortality upon the foundation of his own inventions.
And why should it not be so? Why should not our youth, engaged in the mechanic arts, under the auspices of institutions like this, reach such a noble elevation of purpose? America has hitherto given her full proportion of genius to the cultivation of the arts. She has never
been behind the most intelligent portions of the world in her contributions of useful inventions for the common good. There are some circumstances in the situation and character of her population, which afford a wider range for talent and inquiry, than in any other country. The very equality of condition; the natural structure of society; the total demolition of all barriers against the advancement of talent from one department of life to another; the non-existence of the almost infinite subdivisions of labour, by which, though more perfection in the result is sometimes obtained, the process has an almost uniform tendency to reduce human beings to mere machines; the mildness of the government; the general facility of subsistence; the absence of all laws regulating trades, and obstructing local competition ; these, and many other causes, and especially our free schools, and our cheap means of education, offer to ingenuous youth the most inviting prospects to expand and cultivate their intel
Under such circumstances, is it too much to prophecy, that hereafter America may take the lead in mechanical improvements, and give another bright example to the world, by the demonstration of the truth, that free governments are as well adapted to perfect the arts of life, and foster inventive genius, as they are to promote the happiness and independence of mankind. There are no real obstacles in the
may not be overcome by ordinary diligence and perseverance. A few hours, saved every week from those devoted to idle pleasure, or listless indolence, would enable every artisan to master, in a comparatively short time, the ele