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Oh! were I not chained to this parent earth,
Art thou the rush of their armies fiying?
ON THE STATE AND PROSPECTS
SCIENCE AND LITERATURE IN MONTREAL.
DELIVERED IN THE
LECTURE ROOM OF THE MONTREAL NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY,
CONCLUDING LECTURE OF THE WINTER COURSE,
ON TUESDAY EVENING, APRIL 5, 1859.
WHEN God had finished the work of creation, having, as the chief and last portion thereof, made man in his own image, He then blessed Adam and his wife Eve, and said unto them, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it;" and again, after the flood, when Noah and his family, the sole survivors, came forth out of the Ark, God spake to them and said, "Be ye fruitful and multiply, and bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein." The earth was made as the habitation of man; subject to the supreme law of his maker, he was to have it in possession, to occupy and to subdue it. As mankind began to increase and multiply, it was God's purpose that they were to spread themselves over the earth; and the sacred historian, in Genesis, informs us, how this began to be carried into effect: acquainting us after what method the three branches of Noah's posterity did distinctly plant or settle themselves at the first, in
three distinct tracts of the earth. For that the first settlements were made, not by mere chance or confusedly, but after some regular method, is evident from the sacred history; wherein we are told, first as to the sons of Japhet, the eldest branch of Noah's posterity, that "by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations;" and so also the same is said of the descendants of Shem and of Ham.
In many of the colonies formed by thriving nations, as recorded in ancient history, something of the same order and method seems to have been observed; of which the Phoenicians, who settled in Africa at Carthage and the adjacent parts; and the Greeks, who settled in Sicily and parts of Italy, were marked instances. Whole sections, tribes or families, led by some of their most eminent public men, seem to have gone forth together, carrying with them, as it were, in miniature, the likeness of the parent State, with all its advanced civilization and institutions. In modern times colonies have been established with less system; and have been rather looked upon, simply as a means of easing the parent state of an over-burthened population at home, than with a view to the well being and due organization of the new countries. The conse quence has been that the vast majority of those, who thus seek a new home in some distant land, are of one particular class :—those whom poverty or necessity of any kind induces to seek elsewhere a better fortune, than either Providence has given or their own exertions have earned for them in their native country. And thus it is, that, though brought into constant and quick communication with advanced civilization and settled institutions in the older countries, the population of such new settlements are placed at great disadvantage, having to work out for themselves the formation of their own character, and to raise their own institutions, whether religious, political, or scientific. This development of national character and formation of institutions may eventually, where there is some sterling worth in the people, be most successfully achieved; but it cannot but be a work of deep interest to all who have at heart their well-being as a nation, a work that is encompassed with many difficulties, and only to be accomplished by much perseverance and earnest zeal and hopeful patience.
And such must be the view which we must take of Canada, and such the temper, in which all, as good citizens, should endeavour to serve the State. I shall not now advert to the difficulties experienced, in that department, with which I am more immediately connected, of continuously providing the ministrations of religion for the large immigrant population, who have been flocking into this Province in successive years, bringing with them no means of grace for themselves, and often evidencing little desire to accept them, when provided for them. Nor shall I allude to the political problem, which our legislators and statesmen are attempting to solve, and for the solution of which I trust wise and honest men will be raised up amongst us, equal to meet the difficulties of their country's need. But I shall, as bearing more pertinently upon the subject of these Lectures and this Institution, advert to "the State and Prospects of Science and Literature in Montreal;" and while pointing out the obstacles that impede our advance, do my best to encourage our efforts towards the attainment of a higher measure of success.
Whatever may be the inducements, which may tempt men of active habits and energetic wills to seek their fortunes, either as merchants, as agriculturists, or as politicians, in this growing country, and however a missionary zeal may excite others to labour for the spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures: yet it is natural that the least likely to be attracted here are men of retired and studious habits, devoted to the investigations of science, and the cultivation of letters. Neither have we yet had raised up amongst us a class of persons of independent means, who can follow at will the inclination of their minds, and give themselves up to what are felt to be, in a certain sense, unremunerative pursuits. And our endowments for their encouragement, unaided as they are by either liberal grants of public money or private subscriptions, are so small that they have scarcely began to take effect. We must not be surprised then, if hitherto we have not had any great results, in these departments, of which to boast; and yet it is no small satisfaction to believe that some foundations are being laid, which will produce good fruit, and are already giving proofs of what shall be hereafter.
If we mark the progress of other countries, similarly situated with ourselves, we shall find that they have had the same adverse circumstances to battle with; and that they have neither been dis. couraged by them, nor given up the struggle without achieving great and manifold success. It is not so very long ago, only as far back as the year 1820, that the Rev. Sydney Smith, in an article in the Edinburgh Review, wishing to compare the progress that had been made in the United States, from the date of their Independence, with the Science and Literature of England, during the same period, wrote as follows: "The Americans are a brave, industrious and acute people; but they have hitherto given no indications of genius, and made no approaches to the heroic, either in their morality or their character. ** During the thirty or forty years of their Independence, they have done absolutely nothing for the Sciences, for the Arts, for Literature, or even for the Statesmanlike studies of Politics or Political Economy. Confining ourselves to our own country, and to the period that has elapsed, since they had an independent existence, where are their Foxes, their Burkes, their Sheridans, their Windhams, their Horners, their Wilberforces? where are their Arkwrights, their Watts, their Davys? their Robertsons, Blairs, Stewarts, Paleys and Malthuses? their Porsons, Parrs, Burneys or Bloomfields? their Scotts, Rogers, Campbells, Byrons, Moores, or Crabbes? their Siddons, Kembles, Keans, or O'Neils? their Wilkies, Lawrences, Chantreys. *** In the four quarters of the Globe, who reads an American Book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue? What does the world yet owe to American Physicians or Surgeons? What new substances have their Chemists discovered, or what old ones have they analyzed? What new constellations have been discovered by the telescopes of Americans? What have they done in the Mathematics?"
If, however, with some near approach to the actual truth such a disparaging statement might have been made in the year 1820, what a marvellous change have the subsequent years produced! It is just thirty-eight years ago, quite within the memory of many of us, since Sydney Smith thus wrote;-and now in almost every de partment of Literature, of Science and even of the fine Arts, the