Imágenes de páginas

roots; and onomatopoetic ones, although sometimes met with, are rare, at least in the better known families of language, and in great part of late formation. Evidence does not show, and theory does not require, that the actual beginnings of speech should have been of either character. The process of root-making was in much the greatest part a free and arbitrary one; it was, as we may with especial propriety call it, a tentative process, a devisal and experimental proposal of signs, to be thenceforth associated by a community with conceptions which pressed for representation. Objective and absolute connexion between sound and sense there was none, except in words of onomatopoetic formation; of a subjective connexion, a griding analogy, we do catch occasional glimpses, or seem to catch them; they are too subtle and evanescent to be believed in with confidence, nor have we ground for suspecting their wide occurrence. There is thus enough of obscurity, of uncertainty, resting upon the earliest pe. riod of linguistic growth; but of mystery, hardly any; the process is not beyond our ken, although its details are out of our knowledge. Of all animals, man is the only one that has proved himself capable of originating a language. For this, the general reason, that man's endowments are vastly higher than those of the inferior races, is the best that can be given. When philosophers shall have determined precisely wherein lies man's superiority, they will at the same time have explained his exclusive possession of speech. If, however, it were necessary to say in what mode of action lay that deficiency of power in the lower animals which, more than any other, put language out of their reach, we should incline to maintain that it was the power of distinct reflection on the facts of consciousness; of analyzing impressions, and setting their parts so clearly before the internal sense as to perceive that each is capable of a distinct sign. Many animals come so near to a capacity for language as to be able to understand and be directed by it, when addressed to them by man; nor is their condition without analogy with that of very young children, whose power of comprehending language is developed much earlier and more rapidly than their power of employing it. It may well be questioned whether, as regards capacity for speech, the distance from the unimpressible oyster, for instance, to the intelligent dog, is not vastly greater than that from the dog to the lowest and least cultivable races of men.




To this Academy no species of scientific renown is alien; and if such men as la Pérouse, d'Entrecasteaux, Baudin, Dumont d'Urville, have disappeared from the stage of the world without having been numbered in its ranks, it was because an inauspicious destiny arrested their career. Their place here was already marked. To have obtained it would have been to them, next to the consciousness of duty fulfilled, the highest of gratifications. To you, gentlemen, the privilege of crowning their memorable labors by your suffrages would have been a subject of the most just self-congratulation. Those labors death, which has snatched away their authors, has not withdrawn from your domain. It is still grateful to you to extol them, and your committee has concurred with me in thinking that I could prefer no better claim to your favorable attention than by attempting to retrace, on this occasion, the life of a colleague who knew how to obtain and to justify all your sympathies, and whose name invariably recalls those of the heroes of hydrography we have named, of whom he was, with better fortunes and not less daring, the companion, the rival, or the master.

Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré was born August 6, 1766, at Neuville au Pont, a village situated one league north of Sainte Menehold, in that part of Champagne which now forms the department of the Marne. His father was an unpretending tiller of the soil, and the young François, who seemed destined to cultivate, in his turn, the rather prosaic fields of that worthy country, passed his first years in youthful sports on the pleasant hills which, branching from the Argonne, agreeably diversify the banks of the Aisne. His constitution, naturally robust, and strengthened by country exercise, received on one occasion a severe shock. While heedlessly playing with the rope of the parochial bell he fell with violence, and sustained such injuries of the head as to make trepanning necessary. The operation was no doubt skilfully performed, for the young sufferer became, with advancing years, a man of tall stature, of a noble and expressive mien, and retained, for nearly eighty years, the use of the exalted faculties which won him a place in this assemblage. I have not been able to recover the name of the modest provincial surgeon to whom, under Providence, our colleague was indebted for life and intelligence, and who, perhape, never knew the full value of the head he had been instrumental in restoring.

M. Beautemps-Beaupré passed, indeed, only the years of childhood at his native village. Among his relations was an eminent geographer, M. Jean Nicolas Buache, the head of a geographical establishment derived by collateral inheritance from the family of Delisle-a family wholly devoted to science, and known, through more than a century, for its connexion with almost every publication relating to geography, astronomy, and the marine. M. Buache, visiting Neuville au Pont about the year 1776, was struck with the intelligent countenance of his young relative. He was pleased at the idea of associating with bimself a docile intelligence which might be trained to the conduct of the patrimonial business, and readily induced the little Beaupré to accompany him to Paris. Thus the latter found himself installed, at the age of ten years, in the midst of the hereditary traditions of a house which had become, in some sort, the focus of geographical studies. He was charged with the arrangement and preservation of those charts, atlases, and globes with which we have most of us been occupied at some period of our lives. To this labor, which would have repelled the generality of young persons, he gave himself with unbounded devotion. He lived among his dear maps, assorting, adjusting, studying them; hence he was not long in mastering all that was necessary for understanding them. His vocation stood revealed to him; nor, with such innate tastes, could his eventual accession to this Academy be a matter of doubt, provided that for him, also, the condition stipulated in the distich of La Fontaine should be realized :

“Little fish to large will grow,

If God sball only life bestow." M. Buache, gratified at the manifestation of so happy a turn, afforded every facility in his power for its development.

The attention of this learned geographer was by no means confined to the commerce of his establishment. He had assisted in the education of the three princes who became, successively, Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X, and maintained with the first of these monarchs, himself a distinguished geographer, relations of confidence founded on a similarity of tastes and studies. It is to be presumed that he contributed much towards shaping the views of the excellent King in relation to the expedition of la Perouse, and being intrusted, jointly with M. Fleurieu, with the preparation of instructions for the voyageinstructions strongly impressed with the benevolent spirit of Louis XVI-it became necessary for him to execute in the short space of three months a numerous series of charts. Naturally he turned for assistance in this labor to his young coadjutor, with whose talent for this species of design he had been so much delighted; and, quite as naturally, the youthful enthusiast, in whom there was much more than the material for a draughtsman, grew enamored, as he proceeded, not only of the charts but of the expedition, and eagerly pressed to be allowed to embark on one of the frigates. Happily for himself and for science, M. Buache decided that, at the age of eighteen, there was yet too much for him to learn to make it advisable that he should engage in such an enterprise, and thus prevented his taking part in that fatal expedition from which no one was destined ever to return.

The young Beaupré had not, however, escaped the notice of M. de Fleurieu, and was transferred as engineer in 1785 from the department of the Marine, in which he had heretofore served under the orders of M. Buache, to that of the Controls, where, in immediate subordination to M. de Fleurieu, he was required to assist in the execution of the charts of the Baltic Neptune.

Meanwhile the expedition commanded by la Perouse had sailed from Brest, August 1, 1785. After having traversed the coasts of the Pacific ocean in all directions, and moored in the harbor of Botany Bay, it had again put to sea, March 10, 1788, in order to prosecute the route marked in its instructions. From that time nothing had been heard of it, and apprehensions for its safety began to be entertained which were unhappily too well founded.

The National Assembly having petitioned the King to despatch armed vessels in search of the distinguished navigator, two new frigates, la Recherche and l'Esperance, were designated to sail, under the orders of Rear-Admiral Bruny d'Entrecasteaux, upon this laudable mission; and this time M. Beau

temps-Beaupré obtained the favor of accompanying the expedition. He was assigned, July 31, 1791, under the title of first hydrographical engineer, to the frigate la Recherche, commanded by the admiral in person, and reported himself at Brest, whither he had repaired in company with M. de la Billardiere, the botanist of the expedition, and destined himself also to become a member of this Academy. The two vessels sailed September 29, 1791, at which time Beaupré was twenty-five years of age. By his labors during six years in the compilation of the Neptune of the Baltic sea, he had thus early become an experienced chartographer, and the expedition now departing offered the happiest occasion for the application of his talents in this line; for the admiral, being about to explore with great minuteness all the coasts where traces of la Perouse might be expected to be found, had received orders to determine at the same time their hydrography with all possible compactness. After having doubled the Cape of Good Hope, the expedition passed in sight of the isle of Amsterdam, coasted at a distance the southern shores of New Holland, and came to anchor towards the southeast point of Van Diemen's Land, at the then desert entrance of the river on which now stands the city of Hobarttown. It next penetrated into the Pacific ocean, followed the western coast of New Caledonia and the northern of New Guinea, passed to the northwest of Amboyna and Timor, to the west of New Holland, explored in detail the south coast of that vast region, and, after having thus made its entire circuit, again cast anchor, January 21, 1793, in the south part of Van Diemen's Land. Having completed, during the finest month of the austral summer, important hydrographical labors commenced the previous year, and particularly the survey of the straits of d'Entrecasteaux, which separate the isle of Bruny from the main land, the expedition again sailed, February 27, and passed anew into the wide Pacific. Directing its course towards all the points where la Perouse could be supposed to have touched or to have been driven, after his departure from Botany Bay five years before, the expedition visited Tongataboo, one of the Friendly islands, and once more shaped its course towards New Caledonia, which was now reached from the northwest. Some idea of the incidents and perils of these courses may be conveyed by a few passages of the admiral's narrative: “On the eve of our arrival at New Caledonia, April 17, 1793, it blew a hard gale; the atmosphere was thick, but not so dark as to induce me to lose a night off the Cape. I gave orders to proceed under easy sail. About three in the morning it grew very dark, and the cries of numerous birds were heard near the frigate, an almost certain indication at that hour, of the neighborhood of land. Although day was not far off, M. Merite, officer of the watch, prudently decided to bring to, and scarcely had objects become distinguishable, when a low coast presented itself to view; an instant after it was discovered to be surrounded with breakers on which we should certainly have struck but for the precaution just mentioned; for we had been making two leagues an hour under topsails alone, closely reefed. This dangerous ledge was reconnoitred, and a special draught of it carefully executed. Its length from north to south is from nine to eleven miles, and its breadth, east and west, seven to eight. We saw to the east of this reef two small wooded islands, with a third larger midway between them: these we have named the Beaupré islands.”

* The claims of M. Beautemps-Beaupré to a distinction of this kind were incidentally recognized by the distinguished and lamented explorer, Sir John Franklin. Being on a visit to Paris, just before his departure on the expedition which was destined to so fatal a result, he called on M. Beautemps-Beaupré, and, speaking of Van Diemen's Land, of which Sir John had been governor, learned from the lips of our colleague that the latter had been the first explorer of the site on which now rises Hobarttown, the capital of the island. “How

When his name was thus conferred, M. Beautemps-Beaupré had been daily prosecuting his labors for more than twenty months under the eyes of the admiral and his officers, and the testimonial may, therefore, be regarded as the more deliberate and honorable.

“ The same day," continues the admiral, “at half after 1 o'clock, we descried New Caledonia, and in two hours were a mile distant from the reef on the eastern coast of this great island, which seemed to be bordered by it, as the western coast had been ascertained to be in 1792. *

As the entrance of the harbor of Balade, where I proposed to come to anchor, was only marked by an interruption of the reef which borders the coast, we followed this reef closely in order not to miss the opening. We reached the pass by 2 o'clock, and a favorable tack gave us hopes of gaining the anchorage, when it was signalled that the other frigate, lEsperance, had struck."

Happily the imperilled vessel was safely extricated, and the two frigates finally cast anchor very nearly at the spot where Captain Cook had done in 1774.

“ The naturalists of the expedition repaired, April 25, to the neighboring mountains, and M. Beaupré ascended with them in hopes of discovering the reefs with which the channels of Balade are bestrown, and of fixing their position. The sea was discernible to the east, west, and north, and the isles of Balabra, Reconnaissance, and many other points which had been entered in the maps of 1792 were recognized. The positions of these were determined by M. Beaupré with reference to the observatory of Balade, with the view of connecting the trigonometrical operations of this year with those of the preceding one. From the top of these mountains the shelf which borders the other side of New Caledonia was perceived, and an interruption distinguished, which, after renewed observations, seemed to correspond with that discovered the previous year in visiting the western coast.”

The expedition left the roads of Balade May 9, 1793, and soon after encountered the dangerous reefs which stretch to the NW. of New Caledonia ; these laving been examined but imperfectly by Cook, have received the name of the reefs of d'Entrecasteaux. Twice, at the break of day, were the ships of the last-named navigator found to have so closely approached this barrier, that there was barely room for the evolution by which they were extricated. Directing his course northeastwardly towards the island of Santa Cruz, the admiral gave the name of la Recherche to an island in the vicinity of the former, whose latitude and longitude were determined to be, within but a few minutes, 11° 40' south, and 164° 25' east. During the numerous courses made by the vessels in the archipelago of Santa Cruz, M. Beautemps-Beaupré, favored by fine weather, succeeded in fixing the position of a multitude of points, as well on the principal island as its accessories.

According to the method which he had adopted for making his observations, and which has since become of general usc, he first made at each station a draught of the coast, in which he indicated by letters or numbers not only the most remarkable objects, but wrote the measures of the angles observed, the bearings of the points with respect to one another, the estimate of distances, &c. The draughts, on which were to be written the results of the observations made

much do I regret,” exclaimed Sir John, “that I was ignorant of the circumstance! I should have bestowed your name on the finest portion of the city."

Captain Flinders, who, in 1801-1803, conducted an expedition “for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country" to which he gave the name of Terra Australis, (afterwards changed to Australia,) and who published an account of his voyage in two 4to. volumes, accompanied by an atlas, bears testimony, as well in uotes engraved upon the maps as in passages of the text, to the accuracy of the labors of our colleague. In the introduction to the work it is said: “The charts of the bays, ports, and arms of the sea at the southeast end of Van Diemen's Land, constructed in this expedition by M. Beautemps-Beaupré and assistants, appear to conibine scientific accuracy and minutcuess of detail, with an uncominon degree of neatness in the execution. They contain some of the finest specimens of marine surveying, perhaps, ever made in a new country."

« AnteriorContinuar »