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THE utility of many of those animals which supply us with food does not terminate in merely that adaptation of them to human wants. From the same animals we are supplied with clothing also, (but this service, indeed, they render to us in common with various other animals which are unfit for food;) and, according to the different states of civilization in which mankind exists, that clothing is more or less artificially prepared. Thus while the African or Australian savage scarcely protects his body from exposure by a partial covering of leaves, or the inner bark of trees; and the Esquimaux envelopes his body in the undressed skin of the seal which he has recently killed, supplying also the separate coverings of his head and feet and hands from the same source; the poorest peasant of any civilized part of Europe derives his clothing not only from one but many different species of animals; to say nothing of those occasional parts of his dress which are obtained from the vegetable and mineral kingdom. The ox, the dog, the sheep, the beaver or the rabbit, and the silkworm, in almost every instance contribute their direct contingent to the apparel of the humblest individual of Europe, who is not absolutely a mendicant: and, with reference to the dress and ornamental appendages of individuals of more elevated rank, to the animals already mentioned may be added the deer, the goat, the camel, the elephant, the ermine, and numerous other animals which supply the various and rich furs of commerce; the ostrich, and many other birds; and even the tortoise, the oyster, and the puny architect of the more beautiful species of coral.
Nor are the advantages which mankind derive from the animal kingdom, with reference to general commerce and the arts and economical purposes of life, of less importance than the foregoing. How many different substances, as leather, and parchment, and glue; and what various instruments, either for common use, or ornament or amusement, are manufactured from skin and horn, and bone and ivory! With respect to the last mentioned of which substances indeed, it is a highly interesting fact, that the world has not been supplied with it solely from the two still existing species of elephant, but also, and in a very large proportion, from the extinct and fossil species. Under the name of licorn fossile, the tusks of the extinct species have for ages been an object of commerce in the Russian dominions: and M. Pallas describes the abundance of these fossil tusks to be such, that they are found in every direction throughout the greater part of north-eastern Russia. If we only consider the amount of the consumption of wax and honey, of what importance is not that little insect the bee: and the same observation may be made with reference to the silk-worm and the cochineal | Lastly, for it is necessary to bring the present subject to a close, what immense advantages accrue to commerce and navigation from the traffick in even a very few species of fish, as the whale, the cod, the herring, and the pilchard so great indeed are those advantages, that the question of the right of fishery on a particular coast has sometimes been the occasion of involving the most powerful nations in expensive wars: for these fisheries, at the same time that they are a source of immense riches to individuals, constitute as it were a nursery for the hardiest race of sailors; and thus become of the highest importance in a national point of view.
ADAPTATION OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD TO THE EXERCISE OF THE INTELLECTUAL FACULTIES OF MAN.
SECTION I. On the Rise and Progress of Human Knowledge.
In the preceding part of this treatise the physical character and condition of man were first considered; and, afterwards, the adaptation of external nature to the supply of his bodily wants. It remains for us to consider the adaptation of the various objects of the material world to the exercise of his intellectual faculties. -
But, in contemplating the connexion which exists between the external world and the exercise of the mind of man, who shall attempt to describe the nature and boundaries of that yet unmeasured plain of knowledge, in which man is constantly either intellectually expatiating, or practically exerting himself? who, without wandering into the mazes of metaphysical speculation—always amusing in the pursuit, but never, perhaps, satisfactory in the result—who shall develope the obscure steps by which science first finds access to the mind? In reflecting indeed on the state of civilized society during its earlier periods, there is nothing more wonderful in the intellectual history of mankind, than the skilful management of many processes in the arts, the true nature of which was not understood till ages and ages afterwards. Thus, although zinc was scarcely known as a distinct metal till about a century since; and almost within the same period, one of its commonest ores, calamine, was held in so little estimation in Great Britain that it was frequently used merely as ballast for ship
ping, (Watson's Essays, vol. iv. p. 6.5) yet that same ore was used before the time of Aristotle for the purpose of making brass, and to that purpose is principally applied at the present day. The process also of making wine was known in the earliest periods of history; although the principles on which it is produced were not well understood till a few years since.
Another remarkable fact in the history of human science, which, though frequently observed, has not yet been explained, is the occasional arrest of its progress at a point immediately bordering on discoveries which did not take place till many ages subsequently.” This may be affirmed, in a certain sense at least, with respect to glass: for this substance, though very early discovered, hardly came into general use for ordinary purposes till comparatively a very late period. But a more remarkable instance occurs with respect to the art of printing: and whoever looks at the stereotype stamps, as they may be called, which have been discovered at Herculaneum, and other places, will be disposed to allow that the embryo of the art of printing died, as it were, in the birth.*
* The substance of the following note, though not directly illustrative of the subject now under consideration, is not irrelevant to it; and is sufficiently curious in itself to justify its introduction to the notice of the reader.
In Dr. Thomson's Annals of Philosophy for 1817, p. 149, is an account of a paper read at the Royal Society, relative to some experiments made on torpedoes at Rochelle, in which it is stated that were torpedoes abound, boys are in the habit of playing the following trick to those who are not in the secret. They persuade the ignorant boy to pour water in a continued stream upon the torpedo; and the consequence is that an electrical shock is conveyed along the stream to the body of the boy.
Plutarch notices the same fact in almost the same terms. “It is affirmed by those,” he says, “who have often made the experiment, that, in pouring water on a live torpedo, the hand of the
rson who is pouring the water will be sensible of a shock, which has apparently been conveyed through the water to his hand.”
"Eno Ri is report, wära, adrās irrator Aaw8évertes, as izziro Çora (Népko, the Torpedo,) carazziław, wris Woof oval€er, airgériota roo widows *vareizevres iro row zeies, asi rhy &ps, ougxworres, as tours, 34 roares retressivew zal reewerevores.
PLUT. MoRALIA, Oxon, 4to, 1797, tom. iv. p. 643, 644.
In order that the external world may be fitted to the just exercise of our intellectual faculties, it is evidently necessary that its phenomena should be presented to our senses with a certain degree of regularity. This is a condition so obvious to a mind capable of reflection, that we find it inculcated, almost in the same terms, by two writers of the most opposite views as to the causes of those phenomena. Thus Lucretius asserts, that the sun and moon, by the constant returns of their light and by the regularity of their course, afford to mankind an assurance that day and night, and the various seasons of the year, will recur not only in a definite order, but also for definite periods of duration.f And thus also, but in language and imagery more elevated, and with a sublime acknowledgment of the cause, as well as a declaration of the fact, the author of the 19th Psalm affirms, that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.”
But it is also necessary to the just exercise of our intellectual faculties, that the senses of men in general should be similarly affected, when acted on by the same causes: for otherwise there would be no stability in our knowledge, as derived from these its most fertile sources. And though, from a peculiarity in original constitution, or from the effect of disease, the sensations of particular individuals may differ, not only in degree but in kind, from those of the world at large; the error is of no moment, since it may at once be corrected by a reference to the common sense of mankind.
* A very interesting conjectural account of the origin and progress of the arts, and of social life, occurs in the last part of the fifth book of Lucretius.
t Lib. W. 971—979, and 1435–1438.