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UNTIL the delivery of this lecture, Mr. Webster's fitness for such an occasion bad neither been denied nor granted; but it never was, or could have been, a matter of doubt afterwards. It will be remembered, that he chose a scientific subject for his graduating performance; his studies and acquaintance in the department of science had always been ardent and extensive; and this lecture constantly suggests the idea that it must be Lord Bacon, or Sir Isaac Newton, whose ideas we are reading. It is interesting, in this address, to see what sort of a professor Mr. Webster would have made, in some world-renowned university, had he turned his ambition in that direction. He is now forty-six years of age.
MECHANICS' INSTITUTION, BOSTON.
INTRODUCTORY LECTURE AT THE OPENING OF THE COURSE, NOV. 12, 1828.
I APPEAR before you, gentlemen, for the performance of a duty which is in so great a degree foreign from my habitual studies and pursuits, that it may be presumptuous in me to hope for a creditable execution of the task. But I have not allowed considerations of this kind to weigh against a strong and ardent desire to signify my approbation of the objects, and my conviction of the utility, of this institution ; and to manifest my prompt attention to whatever others may suppose to be in my power to promote its respectability and to further its designs.
The constitution of the association declares its precise object to be, “Mutual Instruction in the Sciences, as connected with the Mechanic Arts?”
The distinct purpose is to connect science more and more with art; to teach the established, and invent new, modes of combining skill with strength; to bring the power of the human understanding in aid of the physical powers of the human frame; to facilitate the coöperation of the mind with the hand; to augment convenience, lighten labor, and mitigate toil, by stretching the dominion of mind farther and farther over the elements of nature, and by making those elements themselves submit to human rule, follow human bidding, and work together for human happiness.
The visible and tangible creation into which we are introduced at our birth, is not, in all its parts, fixed and stationary. Motion or change of place, regular or occasional, belongs to all Animal life every
or most of the things which are around us. where moves; the earth itself has its motion, and its complexities of motion; the ocean heaves and subsides; rivers run, lingering or rushing, to the sea; and the air which we breathe moves and acts with mighty power. Motion, thus pertaining to the physical objects which surround us, is the exhaustless fountain whence philosophy draws the means by which, in various degrees and endless forms, natural agencies and the ten. dencies of inert matter are brought to the succor and assistance of human strength. It is the object of mechanical contrivance to modify motion, to produce it in new forms, to direct it to new purposes, to multiply its uses—by means of it to do better that which human strength could do without its aid—and to perform that, also, which such strength, unassisted by art, could not perform.
Motion itself is but the result of force; or, in other words, force is defined to be whatever tends to produce motion. The operation of forces, therefore, on bodies, is the broad field which is open for that philosopical examination, the results of which it is the business of mechanical contrivance to apply. The leading forces or sources of motion are, as is well known, the power of animals, gravity, heat, the winds, and water. There are various others of less power, or of more difficult application. Mechanical philosophy, therefore, may be said to be that science which instructs us in the knowledge of natural moving powers, animate or inanimate; in the manner of modifying those powers, and of increasing the intensity of some of them by artificial means, such as heat and electricity; and in applying the varieties of force and motion, thus derived from natural agencies, to the arts of life. This is the object of mechanical philosophy. None can doubt, certainly, the high importance of this sort of knowledge, or fail to see how suitable it is to the elevated rank and the dignity of reasoning beings. Man's grand distinction is his intellect, his mental capacity. It is this which
renders him highly and peculiarly responsible to his Creator. It is this on account of which, the rule over other animals is established in his hands; and it is this, mainly, which enables him to exercise dominion over the powers of nature, and to subdue them to himself.
But it is true, also, that his own animal organization gives him superiority, and is among the most wonderful of the works of God on earth. It contributes to cause, as well as prove, his elevated rank in creation. His port is erect, his face toward heaven, and he is furnished with limbs which are not absolutely necessary to his support or locomotion, and which are at once powerful, flexible, capable of innumerable modes and varieties of action, and terminated by an instrument of wonderful, heavenly workmanship--the human hand. This marvelous physical conformation gives man the power of acting with great effect upon external objects, in pursuance of the suggestions of his understanding, and of applying the results of his reasoning power to his own purposes. Without this particular formation, he would not be man, with whatever sagacity he might have been endowed. No bounteous grant of intellect, were it the pleasure of Heaven to make such grant, could raise any of the brute creation to an equality with the human race. Were it bestowed on the leviathan, he must remain, nevertheless, in the element where alone he could maintain his physical existence. He would still be but the inelegant, misshapen inhabitant of the ocean, “wallowing unwieldy, enormous in his gait." Were the elephant made to possess it, it would but teach him the deformity of his own structure, the unloveliness of his frame, though " the hugest of things,” his disability to act on external matter, and the degrading nature of his own physical wants, which lead him to the deserts, and give him for his favorite home the torrid plains of the tropics. It was placing the king of Babylon sufficiently out of the rank of human beings, though he carried all his reasoning faculties with him, when he was sent away to eat