Abbildungen der Seite

industry encouraged and rewarded, arts invented, and life made more comfortable; the advantages of liberty, mischiefs of licentiousness, benefits arising from good laws and a due execution of justice. Thus may the first principles of sound politics be fixed in the minds of youth.

On historical occasions, questions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, will naturally arise, and may be put to youth, which they may debate in conversation and in writing. When they ardently desire victory, for the sake of the praise attending it, they will begin to feel the want, and be sensible of the use, of logic, or the art of reasoning to discover truth, and of arguing to defend it, and convince adversaries. This would be the time to acquaint them with the principles of that art. Grotius, Puffendorff, and some other writers of the same kind, may be used on these occasions to decide their disputes. Public disputes warm the imagination, whet the industry, and strengthen the natural abilities.

When youth are told, that the great men, whose lives and actions they read in history, spoke two of the best languages that ever were, the most expressive, copious, beautiful; and that the finest writings, the most correct compositions, the most perfect productions of human wit and wisdom, are in those languages, which have endured for ages, and will endure while there are men; that no translation can do them justice, or give the pleasure found in reading the originals; that those languages contain all science; that one of them is become almost universal, being the language of learned men in all countries; and that to understand them is a distinguishing ornament; they may be thereby made desirous of learning those languages, and their industry sharpened in the acquisition of them. All intended for divinity, should be taught the Latin and Greek; for physic, the Latin, Greek, and French; for law, the Latin and French; merchants, the French, German, and Spanish; and, though all should not be compelled to learn Latin, Greek, or the modern foreign languages, yet none that have an ardent desire to learn them should be refused; their English; arithmetic, and other studies absolutely necessary, being at the same time not neglected.

If the new Universal History were also read, it would give a connected idea of human affairs, so far as it goes, which should be followed by the best modern histories, particularly of our mother country; then of these colonies; which should be accompanied with observations on their rise, increase, use to Great Britain, encouragements and discouragements, the means to make them flourish, and secure their liberties.

With the history of men, times, and nations, should be read at proper hours or days, some of the best histories of nature, which would not only be delightful to youth, and furnish them with matter for their letters, as well as other history, but would afterwards be of great use to them, whether they are merchants, handicrafts, or divines; enabling the first the better to understand many commodities and drugs, the second to improve his trade or handicraft by new mixtures and materials, and the last to adorn his discourses by beautiful comparisons, and strengthen them by new proofs of divine providence. The conversation of all will be improved by it, as occasions frequently occur of making natural observations, which are instructive, agreeable, and entertaining in almost all companies. Natural history will also afford opportunities of introducing many observations, relating to the preservation of health, which may be afterwards of great use. Arbuthnot on Air and Aliment, Sanctorius on Perspiration, Lemery on Foods, and some others, may now be read, and a very little explanation will make them sufficiently intelligible to youth. While they are reading natural history, might not a little gardening, planting, grafting, and inoculating, be taught and practised; and now and then excursions made to the neighbouring plantations of the best farmers, their methods observed and reasoned upon for the information of youth ! The improvement of agriculture being useful to all, and skill in it no disparagement to any. The history of commerce, of the invention of arts, rise of manufactures, progress of trade, change of its seats, with the reasons and causes, may also be made entertaining to youth, and will be useful to all. And this, with the accounts in other history of the prodigious force and effect of engines and machines used in war, will naturally introduce a desire to be instructed in mechanics, and to be informed of the principles of that art by which weak men perform such wonders, labor is saved, and manufactures expedited. This will be the time to show them prints of ancient and modern machines; to explain them, to let them be copied, and to give lectures in mechanical philosophy. With the whole should be constantly inculcated and cultivated that benignity of mind, which shows itself in searching for and seizing every opportunity to serve and to oblige; and is the foundation of what is called good breeding; highly useful to the possessor, and most agreeable to all. The idea of what is true merit should also be often presented to youth, explained and impressed on their minds, as consisting in an inclination, joined with an ability, to serve mankind, one's country, friends, and family; which ability is, with the blessing of God, to be acquired or greatly increased by true learning; and should, indeed, be the great aim and end of all learning.

No. IV. p. 144.

The suggestion of an American Philosophical Society was undoubtedly first made by Franklin. In a paper, dated May 14th, 1743, and entitled A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in America, he explains largely the objects and advantages of such an association. After mentioning the obstacles that existed in the colonies to a free communication of thoughts among men devoted to philosophical inquiries and reflection, in consequence of the extent of the country and the distances they lived apart, by which they were prevented from seeing and conversing with each other, he says; “To remedy this inconvenience for the future, it is proposed, that a society be formed of virtuosi or ingenious men, residing in the several colonies, to be called The American Philosophical Society, who are to maintain a constant correspondence; and that Philadelphia, being the city nearest the centre of the continent colonies, communicating with all of them northward and southward by post, and with all the islands by sea, and having the advantage of a good growing library, be the centre of the society.” He then enumerates in detail, and very fully, the various subjects which might properly engage the labors and zeal of the society.

With the view of extending its benefits, he proposed, “that, at the end of every year, collections should be made and printed, of such experiments, discoveries, and improvements, as might be thought of public advantage, and that every member should have a copy sent to him.” He adds a few brief hints concerning the mode of organizing the society, and concludes by saying; “Benjamin Franklin, the writer of this proposal, offers himself to serve the society as their secretary, till they shall be provided with one more capable.” Several copies of this paper were printed, and he sent them to his friends, and to such gentlemen in different parts No. IV.] AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. 577

of the country, as he supposed would be inclined to favor the undertaking. The plan was in some sort successful. A society was formed a few months afterwards, as appears by a letter from Franklin to Cadwallader Colden, dated April 5th, 1744. Thomas Hopkinson was president, and Benjamin Franklin secretary. The other original members, as mentioned in that letter, were Thomas Bond, John Bartram, Thomas Godfrey, Samuel Rhoads, William Parsons, Phineas Bond, William Coleman, all of Philadelphia. A few members were likewise chosen from some of the neighbouring colonies. This society had no connexion with the JUNto, which is often mentioned in Franklin's autobiography, and which had been established by him many years before.” Mr. Colden suggested to Franklin, that he should print by subscription a selection from the papers, that might be furnished by the members. It is probable, that this project was not encouraged; for, nearly a year afterwards, November 28th, 1745, Franklin writes to him as follows. “I am now determined to publish an American Philosophical Miscellany, monthly or quarterly. I shall begin with next January, and proceed as I find encouragement and assistance. As I purpose to take the compiling wholly upon myself, the reputation of no gentleman or society will be affected by what I insert of another's; and that, perhaps, will make them more free to communicate. Their names shall be published or concealed, as they think proper, and care taken to do exact justice to matters of invention, &c. I shall be glad of your advice in any particulars, that occurred to you in thinking of this scheme.” His design was not executed; perhaps for the want of encouragement. Nor indeed is there any evidence, that the society was ever in a flourishing state. Nothing is known of its transactions. The records of its proceedings are lost, and, if any papers were contributed by the members, they were not published. Soon after the society was formed, Franklin himself became deeply engaged in his electrical experiments, which for some time absorbed his whole attention. The society seems to have languished, till, in a few years, the regular meetings were discontinued. In the mean time, another society sprang up in Philadelphia, which was called The Junto, or Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge. The date of the origin of this association is

* See the paper above mentioned, and the letter to Colden, Vol. VI. pp. 14, 28. WOL. I. 73 W. W.

not known. That portion of the records, which has been preserved, begins September 22d, 1758; but it had an earlier origin. If we may judge from the records, it seems to have been a society rather for the mutual improvement of the members, by discussing a great variety of subjects, than for enlarged philosophical inquiries, designed for public as well as private benefit. In 1762 this society apparently began to decline. No records have been found from October, of that year, to April 25th, 1766, when the society met, and took the name of The American Society for Promoting and Propagating Useful Knowledge. Thirty members then signed the constitution and rules. It was evidently intended now to embrace a larger compass of objects than formerly, and to have more of a public character. Franklin was elected into this society on the 19th of February, 1768, and chosen president of it on the 4th of November following. He was then absent in England. In November, 1767, the old Philosophical Society of 1744 was revived by a few of the original members, then residing in Philadelphia. They elected many new members. A union was proposed by the other society, which was accepted on the 2d of February, 1768, by choosing all the members of that association into this society. But they refused to unite on these terms, or on any other, which did not imply a perfect equality between the two associations. There seems to have been a jealousy between them, or rather between some of the prominent members of each. On the 23d of September, 1768, the American Society was again organized, new rules were adopted, and its title was changed to The American Society held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge; and, on the 4th of November, the Medical Society of Philadelphia was incorporated with it. After much negotiation it was finally agreed, that the two societies should unite on equal terms, each electing all the members of the other. This union was effected on the 2d of January, 1769. A new name was formed by uniting those of the two societies, which thus became The American Philosophical Society held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge. . Five months after the union, Dr. Thomas Bond said in a letter to Dr. Franklin, “I long meditated a revival of our American Philosophical Society, and at length I thought I saw my way clear in doing it, but the old party leaven split us for a time. We are now united, and, with your presence, may make a figure; but, till that happy event, I fear much will not be done. The Assembly have countenanced and encouraged us very generously and kindly;

« ZurückWeiter »