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cal condition of man must have a special reference to those peculiarities in his structure which distinguish him essentially from other animals, it has therefore been thought important to dedicate a considerable portion of this treatise to the investigation of the characters of the two organs above mentioned.
Cursory View of the Ectent of Human Power over the Objects of the external World.
HAving examined, as far as is necessary for the purpose of this treatise, the animal character of man, both with respect to the points in which he partakes of the nature of other species, and those in which he is elevated above them; let us proceed to consider the adaptation of the external world to the physical condition of that being to whom the Creator has given dominion over all his other works; whom alone, of all the living tenants of the earth, he has endued with a mind capable of conceiving, and corporeal powers capable of executing those wonderful combinations, which make him lord of the world which he inhabits; which enable him to compel the properties of inert matter to bend to his behests; and to direct not only the energies of the inferior animals, but even those of his fellow creatures, to the purposes which he may have in view.
In contemplating, for instance, as in all the pride of its appointments it advances through the waves, the majestic movements of a man-of-war, let us trace its whole history, and thence admire the extent of human power over the material world. Look at the rude canoe of the New Zealander, or call to mind the nearly as rude coracle of our own forefathers, and compare those simple and puny products of an infant art with the complicated and gigantic triumph of naval architecture now before you; and no wonder if, observing the ease and precision of its movements, the unlettered savages of the islands of the Pacific conceived the stupendous machine to be some form of animated matter; whose fierce nature and awful power were announced by the tremendous roar and destructive effects of its artillery.
Or, passing from inert matter to living and intellectual agents, let us in imagination first view the tumultuary and predatory incursions of the aboriginal borderers of the Ohio, or even of the more civilized tribes of modern Arabia; revenge or booty their sole objects, without any plan of civil government or national aggrandizement; and then let us contemplate the profound views and combinations of the Macedonian monarch—that military meteor, whose course, though occasionally eccentric, was yet constantly regulated by the preponderating attraction of his original design; and whose plans, though marked by temporary and local devastation, yet secured the foundation of the durable and general prosperity of future generations. The theme is too vast and too sublime for the present effort, even had it never been before attempted; but the genius of the learned author of the “Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients” has admirably developed the great and profound views of Alexander, ignorantly described by Pope as the reveries of insane ambition; and has significantly alluded to the successful accomplishment of his wonderful attempt, in that beautifully appropriate legend placed under the engraving of the head of his hero,
“Aperiam terras gentibus.”f
Or let us investigate the career of the equally extraordinary conqueror of the present century. View him overcoming every moral and physical difficulty in the pursuit of his gigantic and fearful project of universal empire: uniting distant and hostile nations
* The very reverend W. Vincent, D. D. late dean of Westminster. f Q. Curt. lib. ix. cap. 6.
in confederacies against their own liberties; changing their long established dynasties, in order to set over them kings of his own family. View him absorbed in his heartless calculations on the advantages to be obtained, for his personal aggrandizement, by the endless sacrifice of human life; breaking into the peaceful occupations of domestic scenes, and desolating the happiness of myriads of his subjects, not to ward off the dangers of hostile invasion, nor to lay the foundation of the future good of his country, but solely to gratify his own insatiable thirst of power; and yet by the magic of his name rallying round his standard, even to the last, the remnants of his former reckless schemes of inordinate ambition. In meditating on the astonishing scene presented to the imagination by the description of a career so strange, we might almost be in doubt whether these effects were produced by a mere human mind; or marked the presence of a superhuman intelligence, permitted for a time to exercise a guilty world. But whatever he were, he is gone; and his place will know him no more. One moral reflection in the mean time forces itself upon the mind; partly applicable to himself, and partly to mankind at large. Inebriated with prosperity, and regardless of the Power which could alone uphold him, he fell from his towering height; and was banished far from the theatre of his former ambition, and almost, indeed, from the haunts of men. But, haply, the prolongation of his life in the silent retirement of that sequestered island was mercifully intended to lead him to a calm reflection on the real value of sublunary possessions: for how very visionary and like a dream must all his former life have frequently appeared to him, when standing on the brow of some precipitous rock, the natural boundary of his insulated prison, he mused on the interminable expanse of the Atlantic; and compared his present desolation with his former glory. Or, if the terrors of Omnipotence failed even then to reach his obdurate heart, his example at least remains a merciful beacon to others; who may learn from his doom, that there is a Power which can say, as easily to the tempestuous ocean of ambition, as to the natural deep, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”
CHAPTER VI. ADAPTATION OF THE ATMOSPHERE To THE wants of MAN. SECTION I. The general Constitution of the Atmosphere.
In the foregoing part of this treatise the physical condition of man has been considered under the view of the general capabilities of his nature, rather than of his actual state: but it is evident on a moment's reflection that his actual state will be very different at different periods of time, or in different parts of the world at the same period: and this observation applies no less to communities than to individuals. How great the contrast, with reference to the case of individuals, between the intellectual powers and attainments of a Newton and a native of New Holland; and in the case of communities, how great the contrast between any of the kingdoms of modern Europe, and the rude tribes from whence they were originally derived.
In proceeding then to illustrate the adaptation of the external world to the physical condition of the human species, we must view individuals or communities under all possible circumstances of existence, and make the illustration of as general application as the nature of the subject evidently demands.
And, in order to effect something like a systematic arrangement of the immense mass of , materials whence the following illustration is to be deduced, it is proposed to investigate separately the four kingdoms or divisions of nature, the general characters of which were given in the commencement of this treatise; beginning with the atmospherical and ending with the animal kingdom. If it were possible, with the bodily as with the mental eye, to behold the constitution of the atmosphere which surrounds our earth, we should view a compound probably the most complex in nature: for into this circumambient ocean of air, as it is called by Lucretius,” are carried up whatever exhalations arise not only from the earth itself, but from every organized form of matter whether living or in a state of decomposition that is found upon the earth's surface; the dews of morning, the balms of evening, the fragrance of every plant and flower; the breath and characteristic odour of every animal; the vapour invisibly arising from the surface of the whole ocean and its tributary streams; and, lastly, those circumscribed and baneful effluvia, however generated, which when confined to definite portions of the atmosphere produce those various forms of fever which infest particular districts: or those more awful and mysterious miasmata, which, arising in some distant region, and advancing by a slow but certain march, carry terror and death to the inhabitants of another hemisphere. Such is the complex character of the atmosphere; and, indeed, from this assemblage of vapours contained in it, it has received its peculiar appellation; being the receptacle, or magazine, as it were, ofterrestrial exhalations.# All these various exhalations however may be considered as foreign to the constitution of the air, being neither constantly nor necessarily present anywhere; all, with the exception of that aqueous vapour which