« AnteriorContinuar »
individuals who claim that they had never been able to discover new facts to modify their opinions, are universally regarded as the most conceited and stupid of mankind.
In the explanatory statements and notes which follow, I speak in the first person, for two reasons. Insincerity even in what is, perhaps, its most harmless form, affectation, is always disgusting to me. It is also futile, because subterfuges or stratagems to conceal egotism, only serve to render it more conspicuous, as the vanity of the Greek philosopher was seen the more plainly through the holes in his coat.
Again, speaking in the first person is not only more natural, but it also makes a narrative clearer and more interesting. No one regards Benjamin Franklin as especially vain, because he wrote, for publication, a narrative of his life in that style. Sir Samuel Baker's Journey up the White Nile is far more interesting than it would have been if written as histories usually are. When one speaks of what he saw or heard said, he necessarily represents himself as present, and, to some extent, a party to the transaction.
In what I may say, I shall endeavor to avoid repeating anything in the line of mere personal commendation or compliment. If, in some instances such things should be supposed to be intimated, it will, I think, be found that the purpose of the reference was to present some consideration, more or less instructive or interesting in itself, or to illustrate the character of some prominent actor.
With respect to transactions before the late civil war, I feel at liberty to speak with as much freedom of the conversations of persons in relation to public matters, as I would do with reference to the declarations of Julius Cæsar. The transactions of that period have been finished, and are now but the subject of history, and no man has a right to complain of references to his course on public questions, provided he is fairly represented as he then stood or spoke. On the contrary, if he expressed his real opinions, he ought to feel gratified by this reproduction and publication.
Most of what I shall state has either been made public in some mode, or is known to persons now living. If there are some exceptions, then those who are personally acquainted with me know that I
will not state as a fact anything, the accuracy of which I have any reason to doubt. Strangers will give such weight to my statements as they may think proper.
My purpose is to present important facts that may prove instructive, whether they may be deemed advantageous or hurtful to the reputations of individuals. If persons who write histories and biographies would speak with the same impartiality that the Bible manifests, such publications would not only be more truthful than they are, but they would be far more instructive. A fair examination or criticism of a man's life is much more interesting than a mere eulogy.
The first of these papers is intended for humanity; the second for the young men of the United States; and the third is addressed more particularly to the young men of North Carolina.
The miscellaneous articles which follow are arranged without reference to the time of their first publication, but rather in such succession as may be most agreeable to the reader.
The Congressional speeches of course follow in the order of their delivery, as that mode is best calculated to give a just idea of the current of events. The publication as a whole is presented in the hope that it may prove interesting and instructive to the young men of the country.
SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY.
DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, RALEIGH, AND AT OTHER POINTS.
By T. L. CLING MAN.
The subject I am now about to present, was strikingly brought to my mind by a casual conversation in a law office in the city of Washington. A scientific and highly educated foreigner said that no scientific man in Europe believed in the truth of the Christian religion, and that any such person, by expressing a belief in its divine origin, would lose the respect of all men of science in that enlightened part of the world.
After hearing this remark, as I was passing to New York, on the next day, my reflections took the form I am now about to present. To show the relations existing between Modern Positive Science and Christianity, I will present a series of statements and propositions.
First, let it be supposed than an Esquimaux Indian has been brought to the city of New York in mid-winter. Having lived in the Arctic regions where no trees grow, he has only seen wood in the form of a spar from a ship, and been accustomed to regard it as a thing of the highest value. He is, therefore, greatly astonished at the number and size of the trees in the parks, and looks with wonder on their great trunks and leafless limbs. By one of those mishaps that sometimes occur, he is cast into prison, and remains closely immured for a long period.
At length he is released and walks abroad. It is now, however, midsummer, and he is amazed with the change. The trees, all covered with the green foliage of the season, present their broad leaves to his gaze. Remembering their appearance in winter, the present scene seems like the work of magic.
He soon finds himself in the presence of an intelligent and dignified gentleman, a Professor in the University, and thoroughly instructed in all the sciences. Attracted by the intelligence and benevolence of his countenance, the Indian thus addresses him:
"Sir, I am an ignorant Esquimaux, just discharged from prison, and am greatly astonished with what I see around me. Will you allow me,
sir, to ask you a few questions?"
"Certainly," replies the philosopher, "for I read your singular case in the papers this morning, and as it is now vacation in the college in which I am a Professor, I have ample leisure."
"How fortunate I am," exclaims the savage, "in meeting a most learned professor, who can explain, without effort, all that perplexes my ignorance. When I first saw these trees, in the winter, their limbs were all naked, while now they are covered with broad and beautiful green leaves. Is this not wonderfully strange?"
"Not in the least," answers the Professor; "on the contrary, it would be strange if they did not have leaves on them, for they are live trees, and all live trees put out leaves in the summer."
"What is a live tree?" says the Esquimaux.
"A live tree," replies the Professor, "is one which has a vital principle in it, that causes it to germinate in the spring, and put out young branches and leaves."
"Most learned Professor," exclaims the delighted savage, "what is that vital principle that produces such wonders as I behold?"
"Why, in fact," the Professor answers, "though science explains almost everything else, it does not disclose what that vital principle is. We only see the effects, but the cause is a hidden mystery.'
"How unfortunate!" exclaims the Indian, with a look of disappointment, "that your great science, which explains everything else, should have failed in this, which seems the most wonderful of all. There are, however, other things which appear very strange, which I beg you to explain to me. During my long confinement, in cold weather they gave me a fire, and as I gazed on it, I often wondered what fire was. Do, my friend, as you can so easily, with the aid of your great science, tell me what fire is."
"Fire," answers the Professor, "is combustion attended with the extrication of light and heat."
"I am so ignorant," says the savage; "kind and learned Professor, do tell me what combustion is."
"Combustion," replies the Professor, "is the union of oxygen, which is a supporter of combustion, with the carbon and hydrogen in the fuel." "But why does the oxygen unite with the carbon and hydrogen ?" says the Esquimaux.
"That oyxgen unites with these combustibles is a fact which is observed, but for which no cause can be assigned," answers the Professor. "Then at least tell me," says the Indian, "what light and heat are, for as these things are extricated, and made manifest, your science can easily explain them."
"Light," replies the Professor, "has been the subject of so much investigation that its properties are now well understood. There is an exceedingly elastic medium which pervades all space, in which undulations are excited by the luminous body, which are propagated to the eye, and cause the perception of vision."
"How delighted I am," exclaims the poor savage, "to learn this; for in my own country when the sun, after so many months of darkness came back to us, and sent a great flood of light over our ices and snows, the beauty of its colors reflected on all sides caused me to dance for joy, and I thought how much I would give to understand what it was that made the scene so glorious. Little did I then hope that I should, in a distant land, meet with a great and learned Professor, who would explain it all to me. Tell me now what is that elastic medium
which performs such wonders."
"Science," answers his companion, "does not tell us what that medium is, we only recognize its effects."
"You cannot tell what it is, you say," answers the Indian; "then how do you know that there is any such medium at all?"
"We have no positive knowledge of its existence, but as light is perceived and must have a cause, we can account for what we observe in no other manner than to suppose that there must be a medium of the elasticity and properties necessary to cause the effects we perceive."
Hereupon the Esquimaux burst into a fit of laughter, on recovering from which he said: "Do not imagine, most learned Professor, that I laughed from any want of respect for you, but because your last remark brought to my mind something that happened when I was in prison. I had heard for some time a singular noise above my head, and I asked the man who waited on my cell, if he could tell me the cause of it. "Yes," said he, "there is something up there making a noise." "What is it," I enquired, "is it a man or a dog, or a cat or a rat?" "I don't know what it is," he answered, "but I expect there is something up there which makes the noise." "But do you know that there is anything up there?" I said. "No, I don't," he replied, "but if there is something up there, it could make a noise." Now I laughed, most learned Professor, at the folly of the man who ought merely to have said that he did not know the cause of the noise. Your saying that you did not know that there was a medium which propagated light, but that if there was one possessing certain qualities, it might do it, brought, I know not how, into my mind, the conversation I had with the silly clown."
"But as light, like the vital principle in the trees, is not explained by science, tell me at least what heat is? for that is so familiar and seemingly so near to my feelings, that it will be more easily explained."
The Professor, not without manifesting some signs of impatience, answered: "The old philosophers used to speak of heat as one of the imponderable elements of nature."
"Imponderable; that means it has no weight," said the savage, "but this only makes it more obscure, for if it had weight, I should know one thing about it."
The Professor proceeded: "Tyndall, in a most profound scientific work, has shown that heat is in all cases the equivalent of a certain amount of motion."
"Equivalent, you say, to motion," quickly said the Esquimaux; "ah, that reminds me of what I heard this morning as I came along. One man asked another what he had been doing last year, and the other