Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

mena.

After that, as a subject so full of diffi- attendant phænomena is to be assignculties ought to be viewed in every ed to each element. pollible light, it might not be amiss to In whatever light the subject is consider whether, fuppofirg the cause viewed it seems to present so many of an earthquake fituated in the earth, difficulties, that perhaps the best we that cause may not be capable of af-! can do is, to consider our knowledge fecting the atmosphere, in such a man- respecting earthquakes as consisting ner as to occasion those appearances merely in a certain number of facts, in it which we find so difficult to ex to which many more must probably plain ; or whether, if the cause be be added, before we shall be able supposed to be feated in the atmos to understand the cause of a phænophere, certain tracts of country may menon, whose dreadful effects have, in not (from fome circumstances with all ages, been too well krown in every which we are unacquainted) possess a quarter of the world. So frequent peculiar disposition to bring that cause indeed are earthquakes in fome parts, into action, by co operating with it. that it is impossible, without being ful

I have ventured to propose the ly sensible of our happiness, to reflect consideration of these mixed causes *, on their comparative infrequency if I may lo term them, because I here ; which is such as to give us think it very certain that none of the every reason to hope, that (whatever theories hitherto formed respecting philosophy might gain by the extenearthquakes, are by any means ade- fion of our knowledge on so interestquate' to explain their various pheno- ing a subject) the iiland we inhabit

I leave it to future theorists, will contribute but a small share of should any adopt the principle, to de- those materials which are still wanting termine which of the elements is con to form a complete theory of earthcerned in a primary, and which in a quakes. secondary way; also what are in the a farther proof that earthquakes either differ from each other, or appear to do fo to different persons, I may add, that though I have endeavoured to show that the flowness with which earthquakes sometimes move is a strong argument against their being caused by electricity, yet Dr. Stukeley, the first promulgator of the electric theory, as one of his argements in its favour, says that, as far as he could learn, the earthquake of Sept. 30, 1750, was felt over its whole extent preciselv at the same inftant. Beccaria also, whose theory is an electric one (though very different from Dr. Stukeley's, inasinuch as he considers the electric fluid within the earth to be the chief agent) lays great stress, in support of his theory, upon the velocity with which, as he says, earthquakes inove.

** Dr. Hales' theory of earthquakes was founded upon a sort of mixed cause : he fuppofed fulphureous vapours to arise from the earth, and to form clouds, the explofive lightning of which kindled the ascending vapours in the earth, and therehy caused what he calls an earth lightning; which lightning he considered as the immediate cause of earthquakes. Yet, so in perfect was the aerial chymistry of those days, that the experiment by which he illustrates the operation of his sulphureous vapours, consists only in mixing together nitrous gas and common air, to show the red fumes, and diminution of bulk produced. If Dr. Hales had been acquainted with modern chymistry, he would undoubtedly, I think, have made inflammable gas the basis of his theory; and indeed, when it is considered that there are great quantities of this gas in the earth, that it readily ascends into the atmosphere, and that, when inflamed, it is capable of producing the most violent effects, it appears to me that it has at least as much claim as the electric fluid, to be reckoned among the probable agents in earthquakes.

1

ON BIGOTRY.
LETTER II.

The exclamation is, this is charm Sir,

ing, beautiful, sublime;' but we felIN my laf letter, I attempted to dom hear the question, - is this true ? consequences of bigotry; I now pro- ration, no misrepresentation ?' In this ceed to conclude the subject with an loose way men borrow the opinions of enquiry, wheiher it be not posible to others, and deal them out with warmth administer a remedy for a disorder and obítinacy too great for opposition. which is equally the opprobrium of To be contradicted, is deemed an inliterature, religion, and civilization. sult; and they are content to continue Bigotry is, indeed, nothing leļs than 'wrong, from a false shame, which prea species of civilized favageness, if I vents them from condescending to be may use the expression, or polite fe- fet right. rocity.

A fecond remedy for bigotry would Some considerations there are, be to reflect, that, after all the pa'ns which, if only attended to, may have we may have taken to enquire into the an effect, at least, to foften the resent- truth, after viewing the subject in all ments of bigots.

iis lighrs, and listening to every arguThe first confideration ought to be, ment pro and con, it is yet possible that that the wiselt of us are as falible as the conclusion we draw may be wrong. the weakest; that we are naturally Whoever has attended to the disputes prone to error, and that he who con- and controversies which have raged in fides must in his own strength and at- Eurore, since the revival of literature, tainments, is frequently the foremost will see how greatly modesty becomes to run into errors and absurlities. It a man who delivers his opinions to may not be amiss, alfo, to consider, posterity, who has no more light and that there are very few opinions of knowledge than the age he lives in mere human invention which have happens to afford, and who cannot but stood the test of time ; that the human know that, in the progress of the humind is daily acquiring new light; man mird, there is a continual presting that frequently the opinions which we forward, and an improvement on what espoused with warmth and eagerness is paft. Besides, it is not only cerwhen young, have been rejecied by tain that the ableft men, after the us, upon maturer experience, with fairest and fullest enquiries, are lialle to contempt.

mistakes, but it is as certain that there We are apt, especially in youth, to are none of that description, who have prejudge an opinion, and to with it to not actually commiited mistakes. One be true, before we know that it is so. single inttance of this kind, it is but This may be owing, either to our fair to suppose, ought to make a man taking a too fuperficial view of it, or diffident of his acquisitions, and cauto our having been deceived by the tious in his affertions. Happy would artful representations of others. It is it be for controversy, if this were the astonishing how many people there are case, if pride and resentment did not who content themselves with opinions get the better of experience, and if at second-hand; who, in reading the men were disposed to improvethe fuworks of a man who has a name in the ture by the part. It would also proworld, are charmed with his style, cure a more subitantial gratification persuaded by his arguments, and sub- to vanity, than ever can arise from İcribe to his opinions, without giving remaining obstinate ; for the world is themselves time to examine whether pretty generally agreed in venerating the foundations, upon which he has the character of a man who confelles, built fo fine a superftructure, are found. and liberally retracts his

errors

be

These, therefore, who persist in a rally come into the world with a stingy contrary conduct, muft derive their narrowness, and intemperate heat. To applause from themselves only, a source fuch, promiscuous conversation will neither very lasting, nor honourable. be useful, by making them see less

Having become thoroughly sensible reason to lay great ftress upon fome of our own fallibility, we shall know things, in which perhaps they were how to make allowances for the fail- right, and to be sensible that other ings of others. We shall think it even men had more to say for themselves, a duty to address them in the language than they supposed, in things that of mildness and forbearance, and how- may wrong.

I believe that much ever forcibly we may perceive their of the political bigotry whicħ is preerror, and however absard it may ap- valent at this time, arises from clubs, pear to us, we shall not upbraid their into which none are admitted but who ignorance, nor despise their now ad- are of one opinion, and who agree to vances, but content ourselves with ex. brand each other with fome nickname, pressing a hope that more mature de- implying every thing that is bad. The Kiberation will impart to them that affociations of men to support certain conviction which we once required principles have appeared to me in a ourselves. Nor shall we be irritated light, in which, perhaps, they are not at their warmth, when we recollect generally viewed; and I mention it that, fo opposed, we should, ourselves, with diffidence. It appears to me as have been once as violent and over- if they wished to support their princibearing. Far lefs shall we descend to ples by the tamultuous approbation of that lowest of all species of bigotry, the numbers, rather than by those cool calling of names, and returning evil arguments whïch are fooner investifor evil. Antagonists of this descrip- gated in the closet than in the tavern. tion ought not to write ; they ought One evil certainly flows from them; not to pollute the schools of literature. when a man who has hastily adopted, Their proper weapon is the cudgel, that is, subscribed to such principles, and their proper place the bear-gar- becomes, on farther examination, den.

doubtful of their soundness, he is apt There will be no difficulty what- to be branded by the opprobrious ever in bearing with the failings of name of Apoftate, although his change others, when we have learned that we of opinion be from real conviction, ourselves are fallible. This, there « from a conviction he has come hofore, is the first confideration in point nestly by.' of importance. Once attained, all All obstinacy, however, is not to the rest becomes easy. The mind is be censured." To remove any prejuquiet tranquil, the temper mode- dice which may yet remain, when a rate, and its fruits are meekness, judgment is deliberately formed, we gentleness, long-suffering.'

are not obliged to alter or give it up, Another cure for bigotry depends upon any other consideration than the on the selection of our company. This clear evidence of a mistake. This, requires a free conversation with men however, is not so much obstinacy, as of different forts, and not confining a degree of constancy and perseverance, our friendship and confidence to those which becomes every man, of any party; but conversing freely part with the least truth, wheresoever with men of capacity and integrity in he may have picked it up, without the several persuasions among us. This farther' light; or even a probable would infallibly open and enlarge the truth, unless upon greater appearance mind, rescue us from abundance of of probability. What appears an imprejudices, and dispose us to enlarged portant truth may bear hard upon and generous thoughts. Those who others; it may shame their conduct, are confined to one set of men, gene, and expose their principles to con

not to

tempt, but it is not to be surrendered bearing, to fake his reputation upon, upon that account. It is in the nature his assertions, and to consider his eneof things, that truth will disgrace error, mies as completely vanquished by his and that virtue will render vice odious. prowess.

Nor Mould we blame those who are To look at the conduct of controfond of displaying their opinions, as versial writers in general, one would being dispołed to differ obtrusively think that the conteft was for victory, with others. When a man thinks and not for truth; that all subjects were himself in the right, he is not to be of equal importance, and that the censured, because he withes to bring highest importance--that no more alothers over to the same opinion. Let lowance was to be made for a man his means be fair, and his language who differed on the quadrature of the gentle, and he will at least give no circle, than for him who doubted of offence, if he make no converts. the being of a God; and that water

To conclade, the only probable ing meado vs and reforming parliamethods by which the warmth of bi- ments had an equal claim on the gotry inay be lessened, are a convic- irascible passions. While men thus tion of our own weakness, and a tem- think more of themselves than of their per consequently disposed to bear with subject, while pride ftifles charity, the errors of others. And it may not and the hope of conquest is paramount be unnecessary to reflect, that all sub- to the wish to do good, religious, jects of dispute are not of equal im- moral, and political controversy, must portance, and that no man's character continue to lie under the reproaches is necessarily involved in the dispute in which the vain and frivolous have ever which he takes a part, unless he cast upon them. I am, fir, &c. chooses to be presumptuous and over

P. O. MAXIMS AND REFLECTIONS.

ini [ From the French. ] 'HOS E who think their bare af The unhappiest day a man can spend,

is that on which he has had no occasion quire absolute proof, resemble the man to laugh at any thing. who said, 'I have the honour to af. In order to be philosophers, we sure you, that the world revolves round should not despair at the afflicting dirthe sun.'

coveries we often make in acquiring In great matters, men shew them- a knowledge of mankind. It is nefelves as they would wish to appear; cessary, in order to know them, to triin little matters, as they are.

umph over the displeasure they create, What is a philosopher He is a as an anatomist triumphs over nature, man who opposes nature to law, rea its organs and irregularities, that he son to custom, his conscience to opi- may acquire skill in his profession. nion, and his judgment to error. There is something in the value of

Instead of punishing those persons men, like that of diamonds, which whose whims are insupportable in fo- are estimated according to the groffciety, it would be better to punish ness, purity, or perfection, and have those who encourage them.

a price fixed upon them,' which is There are some men whofe object nothing after all if no one can be is to elevate themselves above others, found to become a purchaser. at any expence. It is equal to them The mass of mankind give little whether they appear at the suppers of credit to the purity of certain virtues a scoundrel, in the theatre, or on the and sentiments; and, in general, the throne, or on the scaffold, provided mass of mankind do not rise much they attract attention.

above groveling ideas.

geon, &c.

Hope is a rogue, that is always sensible people are the happiest, it recheating us. I never was happy till minds me of the Indian proverb; it I had done with it.

is better to fit than to stand, and better In order to avoid scoundrelism, to lie than to fit, but, in my mind, it you must avoid scoundrels ; for if you is better to be dead than either. don't become one in their company, The changes of fashions is the tax, the whole gang will throw ftones at which the industry of the poor imyou.

poses on the vanity of the rich. I know of no wisdom without fear. It is not a pleasant thing to reflect The Scripture says, that the fear of that the glory of many great men has God is the beginning of wisdom. I been, that they have employed their am fure the fear of man is fo. whole lives in combating prejudices

Wicked men fometimes do good or follies, which engage our pity, actions. It is an experiment. They and which, one would think, never are curious to know whether goodness ought to have entered into the head of be followed by those, rewards which man. good people pretend.

He who would have happiness too Do you wish to know how far a strictly connected with reason, who man is made better or worse by a par- examines things too nicely, and cavils ticular state of fociety? You must go with his enjoyments, in pursuit of pure to those who have lived long in it; and delicate pleasure, will never posyou must go to the old. Examnine, sess any thing. He is like a man for instance, an old courtesan, an old who cards his mattrafs until there is priest, an old lawyer, an old fur- none of it'left, and he sleeps on the

ground. Celebrity is the advantage of being The world can never be known known by those who do not know from books. That knowledge must you.

be the result of a thousand delicate Those who refer everything to observations, which felf-love will not opinion, resemble certain comedians let us impart to any one, not even to who play ill, to be applauded when our best friend. We are afraid to the public talle is bad. An honest show ourselves busied in little things, man plays as well as he can, without and yet little things are very importthinking of the gallery.

ant to the accomplishment of great There is a sort of pleasure attached matters. to the courage whicii places us above We

may

consider the edifice of sothe gifts of fortune.

ciety, as an edifice composed of differI have often remarked that the ent niches or compartments of greater first motion of those, who have per- or leffer size. Places with all their formed fome heroic action, who have rights and prerogatives for these difgiven their minds to come generous ferent niches or compartments

. They impression, who have saved the un are durable, but men pass away. fortunate, run fome great risk, or Those who fill them are for a time procured some great advantage, whe- great or little, and scarcely one is ther in the cause of the public, or of made for the place he is put individuals, I say, I have often ob. Behold that giant crouching and conferved that their firit motion was to tracted in his niche; and that dwarf refuse the recompense offered. This under a lofty arch. Rarely is the niche is found among the poorest and lowest made for the statue.

Round the ediclaffcs of people.

fice is a great concourse of men of all There are more fools than wise fizes, waiting for a vacancy which men, and in a wise man more folly fome one expects to fill, and baasis of than wisdom.

his birth and his pretensions. When I hear any one say that in We give expensive dinners to a fet

into.

« AnteriorContinuar »