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what other way could the inferior animals have been made to die, either with so little suffering to themselves, or so little inconvenience to their survivors; and, at the same time, with so much advantage to the plan of nature in general, by the sustenance of so many other animals ? The flowers fade upon their stalks ; their colours change; their leaves shrink; and they become manure for future flowers; but animal life could not go out thus mildly. Even a swarm of flies could not perish, and putrefy upon the surface, without the production of somewhat of the seeds of pestilence. Then, as to the sustenance of other animals, we may observe, that in the ascending series, the lower or the smaller (the feeders upon herbs, and juices, and animalcules), commonly prepare, in their own bodies, the food of the higher or the larger, both as to bulk and as to quality; just as, in human art, one artisan prepares materials for other artisans to work upon. In the economy of nature, every thing and every creature performs its allotted part; and all, while flourishing or choosing for themselves, work out their share in the grand design, and toil, although inconsciously, and while they are and think themselves at play, for the advancement of the general benefit.
“ In this manner, then, we vindicate all the flesheating animals whatever, and release them from the fantastic charge of wickedness, by showing that what they do is the very part assigned to them to perform by the law of nature; and let it be remembered that, to its share in this general defence, the human race is entitled with every other. We vindicate also, and at the same time, this law of nature which they follow, by showing, that so far from being cruel, it is at once wise and merciful.
· “But, if we thus show, that it is not wicked in the inferior animals to kill and eat the other animals which are their proper prey; that they are guilty of no cruelty in this killing and eating, and that Nature is not cruel in having thus ordained their means of sus. tenance; we find also, in these very views, what cruelty to the inferior animals really is, and wherein men are in danger of becoming cruel to them, though neither Nature authorizes the cruelty, nor do the beasts and other animals of prey fall into it. It is not in putting animals to death, nor in eating their flesh, that consists the cruelty or wickedness; but in ill-using them while living; in omitting to help them when we have it in our power ;-it is in these things that consist the cruelty and wickedness, and of these the beasts of prey are innocent, while men are often guilty.
“I might add, nevertheless,” concluded Mr. Paulett, smiling, “ that this question of the innocence, or wickedness of the inferior animals, in respect of their feeding upon each other, and even upon the innocent herbs and flowers, many whimsical notions have been very gravely entertained and asserted; some of which furnish a few curious pages, in a volume now before us, as presenting themselves even among the Indians of America, and so far furnishing a new example of Mr. Hartley's favourite truth, that there subsists, and has always subsisted, a community of sentiment and idea among all mankind* Virgil, like the Indians, makes a complaint so very comprehensive, that as you
* See the fable of Mishaboo, or the Great Hare, and the Wicked Animals, in the author's Indian, or Algonquin Fables, from the Woods of North America; in the tenor of which, beside, there is a partial, but remarkable coincidence with some pbilosophical opinions in Europe, recently started.
will see, in my translation, I am afraid it would take in your Robin-red-breast, for his dining upon worms and insects! The Indians say that the maple-trees are put to pain, by being wounded to drain their sap for sugar. All things, says the poet, make prey upon each other. In sum, the universal sin is eating:
· The deadly lioness the wolf devours;
Mr. Paulett here ended his explanations; and Richard declared himself now able to distinguish the killing of animals, and eating their flesh, from all cruelty in behaviour toward them; and equally to reconcile the practices, as well with the innocence of the men and animals that perform them, with the wisdom, and with the mercifulness of all the works of Nature. But, during the time that thus went by, I had recovered, to a certain degree, my composure and animal spirits, and the free use of my legs and wings; and, beside that I was impatient to escape, I had also allowed myself to think, that if once outside the windows, I might be able to retrace, at a safe distance, the steps of the bird-catchers; to watch their motions and their deeds; to acquaint myself with the fortunes of my mate; and even to witness and exult in her deliverance and escape, and return with her, before night. fall, to the garden of our friends! I flew, therefore, at last, from the handkerchief and table, and dashed, and pecked, and fluttered against the glass. My bint was instantly taken; and, almost as instantly was ended the short parley, as to whether it would be most for my happiness, to keep me, or to let me go? The window was opened to my wish, and I fled into the sky!
These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good! MILTON.
“ An !” said Mr. Paulett (referring to the contrast which Mr. Hartley had drawn, in one of my late chapters, between the imaginations of men, and the works of Nature *); “how deeply your observation makes me feel the frequent aspects under which we are tempted to cry out, with the great and enchanting poet of the Seasons,
O Nature, all-sufficient, over all,
For, here, it is only to this knowledge we can look for that purification of our taste, and that correction of our judgment, which can free us from the domination of such unnatural images as those to which you refer, and enable us to put their proper value upon such writers, and such imaginations, as violate the truth of Nature, while they belie her mercy and her beauty, by their hideous representations! It is only through being acquainted with the natural, that we can distin. guish the unnatural, and throw the latter from before our eyes!"
“ And yet,” answered Mr. Hartley, “ we live in days in which it is almost dangerous to speak of
* See above, page 289.
Nature, or in any manner use the term! There are those who seldom hear it without impatience. I hear it from peoples' tongues, and I read it in new books. The authors of an oracular book, published but a short time since ", imputes it (I must think as hastily as un. charitably) only to the shrunken faith' of our clergy, that they have grown apt to use the word Nature, or Providence, or Heaven, instead of the word God; and they place under the same reproach, even the use of the terms, ' the Deity,' and 'the Divinity ! »
“ In plain English,” said Mr. Paulett, “ the complaint to which you refer consists in this, that either carelessly, or with design, speakers and writers substitute the name of Nature for the name of God; and to that complaint I shall venture to propose a brief and limited reply.”
“It will be a pleasure to the whole of us,” observed Mr. Hartley.
“If it should be simply said,” pursued Mr. Paulett, “ that either in philosophy, or in polite literature, we frequently substitute the name of Nature for the name of God, or the word Nature, for the word 'God,'I apprehend that the apology, the explanation, and the justification, is to be found in a feeling of reverence for the name of God, rather than in any opposite inducement. I could enlarge much upon the universal feelings and practice of mankind, as to the direct employment of names, instead of that of substitutes, or periphrases, under the sole aspect of reverence; but I will only add, that where the practice complained of is only the substitution of the word NATURE for the word God, a true piety will commend, rather than condemn.
* Guesses at Trath.