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consolation to the afflicted, or even remove the irksome doubt of a poor litigant groping blindfold through the dark passages of the law
It is not easy, indeed, to name many pursuits, of which the inutility is so clearly made out, that they may be parted with without regret, or without disturbing the good order and arrangements of society. Some that at a short sight seem, if not frivolous, at least unnecessary, to men of narrow capacities, will be found on a larger survey, to be connected with the most important interests. The fine arts, for instance, painting, music, poetry, sculpture, architecture, seem almost the necessary accompaniments of a state of high civilization. They are not only the grace and ornament of society, but they are intimately connected with its solid comforts. If they did no more than gratify our taste, increase our circle of innocent enjoyment,
our imaginations, or refine our feelings, they might be fairly deemed public blessings. But who is so careless, as not to perceive, that they not only give encouragement to men of genius, but employment to whole classes in the subordinate arts ? They not only create a demand for labour; but make that very labour a means of subsistence to many, who must otherwise be idle and indolent, or by pressing upon other business, sink the compensation for labour, by a ruinous competition, to its minimum price. How many thousands are employed upon a single block of marble, before, under the forming hand of the artist, it breathes in sculptured life? Before it meets us in the surpassing beauty of a Venus, or the startling indignation of an Apollo? Our granite would have slumbered forever in its quarries, if architecture had not, under the guidance of taste, taught us to rear the dome, and the temple, the church of religion, and the hall of legislation, the column of triumph, and the obelisk of sorrow. To what an amazing extent are the daily operations of the press! With how many arts, with how much commerce, with what various manufactures, is it combined! The paper may be made of the linen of Italy and the cotton of Carolina, or Egypt, or the Indies; the type and ink of the products of various climes; and the text must be composed, and the sheets worked off, by the care and diligence of many minds. And yet if no books were to be printed, if no newspaper or pamphlet were to be struck off, but what were indispensable ; if we were to deem all classical learning useless; and all poetry and fiction, and dissertation and essay, and history, a sad abuse of time and labour and ingenuity, because we could do without them; and because they did not plant our fields, or turn our mills, or sail our ships ; I fear, that the race of authors would soon become extinct; and the press, busy, as it now is, with its myriads, would sink back into the silence of the days of Faustus, and require no aid from the supernatural arts of his suspected coadjutor. Sure I am, that the power-press of your own Treadwell, that beautiful specimen of skill and ingenuity, would be powerless, and no longer in its magical works delight us in our morning search, or in our evening lucubrations.
I have made these suggestions, not so much as appropriate to the objects, which I have in view in this address, as to guard against the supposition in what follows, that the
liberal liberal arts are not worthy of our most intense admiration and respect.
If I were called upon to state, that, which upon the whole was the most striking characteristic of our age, that which in the largest extent exemplified its spirit, I should unhesitatingly answer, that it was the superior attachment to practical science over merely speculative science. Into whatever department of knowledge we search, we shall find, that the almost uniform tendency of the last. fifty years has been to deal less and less with theory, and to confine the attention more and more to practical results There was a period, when metaphysical inquiries constituted the principal delight of scholars and philosophers ; and endless were the controversies and the subtleties, about which they distracted themselves and their followers. The works of Aristotle, one of the greatest geniuses of all antiquity, were studied with a diligence, which will hardly be believed in our day, and exerted an influence over the minds of men, almost down to the close of the seventeenth century, as wonderful, as it was universal. He was read, not in what would now be deemed most important, in his researches into natural history, and the phenomena of the external world, or in his dissertations on politics and government, and literature; but in his metaphysics, and endless inquiries into mind and spirit, and essences, and forms, and categories, and syllogisms.
Lord Bacon, two centuries ago, in some most profound discourses, exposed the absurdity of the existing system of study, and of its unsatisfactory aims and results. He vindicated the necessity of inquiring into mental as well as
natural phenomena by other means; by what is called the method of induction, that is, by a minute examination of facts, or what may properly be called experimental philosophy. This in his judgment was the only safe and sure road to the attainment of science, and by subjecting every theory to the severe test of facts, would save a useless consumption of time and thought upon vague and visionary projects.
It may seem strange, that such wise counsels should not be listened to with immediate if not universal approbation. The progress, however, even of the most salutary truths is slow, when there are no artificial obstacles in the when men's minds are pre-occupied by systems and pursuits, which have received the sanction of many generations, every effort to overcome errors, is like the effort to carry an enemy's fortress. It can rarely be accomplished by storm. It must be subdued by patient mining, by a gradual destruction of outposts, and by advances under cover of powerful batteries. Lord Bacon's admonitions can scarcely be said to have gained any general credence until the close of the seventeenth century ; and their triumphant adoption was reserved as the peculiar glory of our day.
It is to this cause, that we are mainly to attribute the comparatively slight attention at first paid to discoveries, which have since become some of the most productive sources, not only of individual opulence, but, in a large sense, of national wealth. The history of the steam-engine is full of instruction upon this subject. The Marquis of Worcester early in the reign of Charles II., (1655) first
directed the attention of the public to the expansive power of steam when used in a close vessel ; and of its capacity to be employed as a moving power in machinery. The suggestion slept almost without notice, until about the year 1698, when Capt. Savery, a man of singular ingenuity, constructed an apparatus, for which he obtained a patent, to apply it to practical purposes. The invention of a safety-valve soon afterwards followed; and that again was succeeded by the use of a close fitted piston working in a cylinder. Still, however, the engine was comparatively of little use, until Mr. Watt, a half century afterwards, effected the grand improvement of condensing the steam in a separate vessel, communicating by a pipe with the cylinder ; and Mr. Washbrough, in 1778, by the application of it to produce a rotatory motion, opened the most extensive use of it for mechanical purposes.
It was in reference to the astonishing impulse thus given to mechanical pursuits, that Dr. Darwin, more than forty years ago, broke out in strains equally remarkable for their poetical enthusiasm, and prophetic truth, and predicted the future triumph of the steam-engine.
" Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam, afar
And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud.” What would he have said, if he had but lived to witness the immortal invention of Fulton, which seems almost to