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lowing, so readily performed by the new-born infant; indeed, evincing a skill, that all the experience of subsequent life, could not increase, or even attain; a process which calls into action, thirty pairs of muscles at every draught. In this connection, I will mention respiration or breathing, also; what instructor could initiate the aptest pupil into the mystery: so that he could bring into operation all the muscles necessary to this process, but that great Teacher, who, as He has bestowed upon organized bodies the boon of life, has also given them instinct for its preservation ?
Numerous examples might be introduced, to illustrate still farther, the universality of instinct, as possessed by all living things, and its uniformity, as ever acting for good. But they are above, beneath and on every side of you; and to him, who studies the works of nature, animate or inanimate, they will constantly present themselves, extorting, even from the unwilling heart, an acknowledgement of the unbounded be. nevolence of that Being, by whom the worlds were made.
Instinct, then, is "the operation of the principle of organized life, by the exercise of certain natural powers, directed to the present good or future welfare of the individual.” Where life is, there is instinct; within the secret chamber of the buried seed, it fans the slumbering spark into a flame; it guides unerringly the descending root, and accompanies the ascending stem; it folds the tender leaf from the frosty night; it opens the painted flower to the genial ray, and when the chill winds whistle around the shivering tree, it is there still!
Instinct is neither sentient nor intelligent; were it the lat. ter, it might profit by experience; if the former, it might writhe with pain; but plants possess neither sensation nor knowledge, and yet plants have instinct; perfect at first, it is not susceptible of improvement; unerring in its nature, wherever seen, you are compelled to exclaim with the poet,
“And Reason raise o’er instinct as you can,
In this 'tis God directs, in that 'tis man." Finally-contemplating instinct in connection with intelligence
and reason, you will observe that it is a natural power, fully developed at first, while the two latter are yet feeble, requiring time and cultivation, to arrive at maturity, so that the young of very many animals must perish, without the aid of instinct; hence the providence of the bee, the secretions in the udder of the cow, and the breasts of the mother, and the hunting excursions of the parent bird. Even then, all these promptings of instinct or affection would be unavailing, did not the calf instinctively suck, the bird gape and the insect devour. In this view, the peculiar office of instinct is an. tecedent to that, either of intelligence or reason; it fills, as if the place of a guardian to the new-born creature, while the latter, as minors, are unable to act for themselves. Hence it follows, that though instinct continues to exercise its func. tions during the whole life of the brute or the man, yet it never discharges a duty which intelligence or reason is capa. citated to perform. Thus the infant throws out its arms when falling; the man makes precisely the same movement when in similar circumstances; but so far from its being pure instinct, then, this essential difference is obvious; the man both apprehends the danger, and intelligently adopts this expedient to avert it. Here instinct may be said to act in concert with in. telligence, for the accomplishment of the same object.
In the view which I have given of the subject, you can easi. ly distinguish between the impulsion of instinct and the operation of intelligence; the former may act alone as well as the latter; the one executes what the other whispers as neces. sary, but in no instance are they so combined in their action, as to exhibit a modification of either. Thus instinct teaches us that the physical system requires food, and we intelligently cast about to procure it; we lay plans; we labor assiduously, but we do it all intelligently. Instinct induces birds to continue their species, and impresses the necessity of a habitation, but intelligence is employed in the actual construction of their curious homes; in selecting materials; in adapting its form to circumstances. Break one of the twigs that support the half-built nest, and the cunning architects will bind it more securely, to those which remain. Deprive them of down, and they levy upon your cotton; rob them of hair, but take care of your silk! Remove the bird from a tropical to a temperate climate; instinct impels it to the preservation of life, but intelligence lines the nest with another layer of down, and adds another inch to its depth.
Few are the animals, save man, that wantonly destroy the life and happiness of their fellows. True, the eagle pounces upon the serpent, and bears it away in its talons; the wily snake springs upon the sparrow in the hedge; the sparrow devours the insect or the worm; but they all act in obedience to the law of instinct, which whispers, “life, life!” The scale of being is accurately balanced; the eagle rears its solitary or twin young; the snake has a more numerous progeny; the sparrow brings up quite a family, while the insect produces myriads at a birth. Turn where you will, the pro. portion is accurately adjusted.
Instinct impels, not merely to the welfare of the individual, but to the preservation of the race. Hence, though the eagle may destroy its companion, it is not necessarily an instinctive act; famine may compel the ship-wrecked mariners to cast lots for a sacrifice, to the common life; here is the triumph of
the individual over the generic instinct; but still, how mighty the struggle; with what horror and loathing, do the miserable feed upon
the flesh of their fellow! Why? For no other reason, than that the generic instinct rebels. The fact that some tribes are cannibals, has no bearing upon this prin. ciple, for human nature may become so lost to every monition of instinct, every feeling of affection, that the mother will forget even her own child.
The peculiar skill manifested by the bird or the beast in the construction of its lair or its nest is in exact proportion to the liability and danger of detection, and the ability of the owner to protect it. Thus the eggs of the Kingfisher and Woodpecker are of a brilliant white, and therefore are concealed in holes, as they would otherwise be inevitably discovered and devoured by some hungry bird or prowling quadruped. The swallows and wrens lay eggs of the same treacherous color, but so small are the apertures to their nests, that an enemy must be extremely impudent to approach so near as to catch a glimpse of them. The eggs of the pigeon and petrel are also white, but are seldom left, while others are carefully covered and watched. The sparrow,
less cautious, deposites its pale, green eggs in the grass or reeds, but many a prying boy in vain has looked in the very bush which contains them. The dappled, gray eggs of the lark, the quail and the thrush, resemble so nearly, the materials of the nests and the surrounding stubble, in color, that they frequently escape the eye, although it actually rests upon them, while the eagle that fears naught from its winged fellows; that shrinks not from a conflict with a wild-cat or a man, fearlessly deposites its eggs upon a platform of dry limbs, built upon the rocky cliff.
It is unnecessary to multiply examples upon this point, for a little observation will teach you that the position, the formi, and the general construction of the nests of birds is determin. ed by the color of the eggs as brighter, or fainter, and the habits and number of those animals, whose individual instinct they have the greatest reason to fear; I do not say the habits or number of their enemies. You are not to suppose that in the construction of their curious homes, birds are guided altogether by intelligence, but that instinct acts in concert with its more accomplished sister, for the promotion of the same object; viz: the well-being of the creature.
Their offices may perhaps be expressed in the following manner: without instinct, the nest would never be begun; without intelligence, it would never be completed; without instinct, the parent bird would not brood many a long day and gloomy night, famished and weary, over the eggs; without intelligence and affection, it would have neither the disposition nor the ability, to supply the wants of its helpless progeny.
Architectural skill of birds-Weavers, masons and basket-ma
kers--Hindostan Swallow Tailor-bird's nest Baltimore Starling-Martin-Hint to the hypercritical—The Exeter 'Change Elephant—The Turkish wasp—Bushy Park-The canine race-Reasoning of a dog—Ulysses' dog~The squir.. rel turned sailor.
Who ever thinks of the architectural skill of certain birdis and quadrupeds, without commingled emotions of wonder and admiration? Of that little eastern bird, which, to do it