Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

reckoning from that in 1700, must be less than 50 23'; Mem. Acad. de Berlin, 1782. p. 284. Also that the changes in the inclinations of the planetary orbits, are all periodical, and cannot carry the planes of those orbits beyond the limits of the zodiac, or 8° on either side of the ecliptic. By the retrogradations of the nodes of the ecliptic and the planetary orbits, the precession of the equinoxes is diminished by a small quantity, which is at present about 0' 281 annually. Ibid. p. 281. All this is quite independent of the figure of the earth, and would be the same though the earth were truly spherical.

These variations in the obliquity, with their limits and peculiarities, will become still more manifest to the student, on his applying the curious theorem given by Laplace for that purpose. Let i denote the number of years from 1750, to be regarded as negative before, and as positive after that epoch ; then will the obliquity be always nearly expressed in sexigesimal measures by the formula, 23°28'23." 05 - 1191•2184 [1 -- cos (t. 13•194645)]

- 3347•' 0496 sin. (t. 32.111575). It is interesting to observe how the sentiments of astronomers have vacillated on this subject. Copernicus and Kepler were both of opinion, not only that the obliquity varied, but that the variation had limits. The former assigned them between 23° 56' and 23' 281; the latter, between 26° 5' and 22° 20',-a most remarkable conjecture, considering the time in which it was advanced. Afterwards, in the seventeenth century, and at the beginning of the eighteenth, philosophers in general aimed to prove that the obliquity was constant. Thus, Professor Bernard, of Oxford, in a paper published A. D. 1684, in No. 163, of the Philosophical Transactions, endeavoured to prove there was no diminution: and Flamstead, by transmitting that paper to the Royal Society unaccompanied by any remark, seemed to concur in the opinion. Dom. Cassini, Labire, and even Lemonnier, so late as 1715, took the same side of the question.

In 1716, when M. de Louville presented to the French Academy of Sciences a paper in which he attempted to prove that the obliquity was actually diminishing, that paper was not adinitted into their memoirs, because all the astronomical Academicians thought differently from Louville. Malgré toutes • les raisons de M. de Louville (said Fontenelle, in the History

of the Academy for 1816) les autres astronomes de l'académie sont demeurés attachés à l'obliquité constante de l'ecliptique

de 230 29'.' The disquisition being thus excluded from the Paris Memoirs, was inserted in the “ Acta Eruditorum,” of Leipsic, for June 1719. Such, however, is now the state of physical astronomy, that if a person were to call in question the fact of the variations of the obliquity, he would be ex

pected next to deny the rotation of the earth, or that the moon exhibited mutable phases.

But, looking back at the extent of what we have written, we must now return for one moment to the Professor Playfair's work, and then conclude. After remarking that the existing law of gravitation has been wisely selected out of an infinite

number;' he hints at the existence of a still more general principle, and thus terminates his work :

• If we consider how many different laws seem to regulate the other phenomena of the material world, as in the action of Impulse, Cohesion, Hlasticity, Chemical Affinity, Crystallization, Heat, Light, Magnetism, Électricity, Galvanism, the existence of a principle more general than any of these, and connecting all of them with that of Gravitation, appears highly probable.

* The discovery of this great principle may be an honour reserved for a future age, and science may again have to record names which are to stand on the same levels with those of Newton and LAPLACE. About uch ultimate attainments it were unwise to be sanguine, and unphilosophical to despair.'

This is language and sentiment worthy a Professor of Natural Philosophy. It would be well, we think, if the ingenious writer in the Edinburgh Review, whose whimsical dreamings relative to a formula wbich should comprise the trajectories described by every particle of matter in the universe we detailed in our December Number, could attend a course of Mr. Playtair's lectures.

It only remains for us to remark, that neither of these volumes contains the science of optics. Whether it is that this branch of knowledge does not constitute a portion of the Edinburgh course, or that the learned Professor means to treat it separately, are questions on which we must leave those of our readers who may be so inclined to speculate, till either a new volume from the same Author, or a preface to a new edition, furnish the requisite information

pp. 84. Paris.

Art. Vi De la Traite et de l'Esclavage des Noirs et des Blancs. Par

un Ami des Hommes de Toutes les couleurs.

Adrien Egron, Imprimeur. 1815. On the Slave Trade and the Slavery of Blacks and Whites. By a

Friend of Men of all Colours. BUONAPARTE has abolished the Slave Trade in France.

With respect to the motives which have dictated this absolute decree of the Usurper's, in contempt of all the opposing interests and other obstacles wbich we were taught to believe stood in the way of justice and humanity, there is, probably, but one opinion. Upsusceptible of any passion but ambition, the mind of such a man is not to be diverted from its openess of

object by any consideration of so remote a policy as that of morality, or by any such weakness of feeling as giving'way to the opinions of others, or to the convictions of his own mind, one degree beyond what it has become expedient to do, or to feign. All that we can know of such a man are-his acts. The relation which those acts have to his settled purpose, only a mind of equal capacities of good and evil is competent always to detect : while the hidden motive of his actions is frequently veiled from every eye but that of Omniscience. Nothing, however, could be a more ludicrous misapprehension, or could betray more completely an inability to understand the stuff and texture of such a mind, than the idea that any compunctious visitations of conscience, or any relentings towards good, were likely to prompt bim to the inconsistency of virtue. If there were room in the thoughts of Buonaparte, at this crisis of his fortunes, for any other purpose than that of evident policy, one would be apt to believe that his adoption of this measure was in calm, magnanimous derision of the Potentates and Statesmen assembled in Cungress, to deliberate, among other things, upon this point of simple humanity: who, after detaining Europe in anxious suspence for so long a period, have brought forth a Declaration on the subject, which declares nothing so clearly as the guilt of all the parties implicated in this hypocritical toleration of the traffic. In the language of this eloquent painphlet, we may render it thus :- We know that the Slave Trade is a crime, but let us agree to commit 'the crime for five years longer. Upon this famous Declaration the simple decree of Buonaparte's is a covert satire, whether designed or not, of the keenest description.

Buonaparte abolishes the Slave Trade in France. Henry the Eighth abolished popery in this kingdom. The circumstance by which the lives and liberties of millions may be preserved, is not to be the less rejoiced in, because hypocrisy, or turbulent ambition, blindly working the counsels of Providence, was the agent. How often do we find the means which the Almighty selects for accomplishing the mightiest good, those which we should have deemed both unlikely and unfit; those which human wisdom would have disdained to employ; or to which human pride would have revolted from the idea of being indebted! The instrument is, perhaps, detestable. The man can claim no gratitude for the benefit be confers. The Almighty accepts the unavailing efforts, the very willand wishes of humble goodness; but He employs the rod of the oppressor, and the sword of the conqueror, to do his work. They are fitter weapons for such harsh and unhewn materials as they are employed upon." He makes the wrath of man to praise him. It is little, after all, that the combined efforts of patriots and philanthropists seem capable of effecting: the circumstances of the world are against men, who have to proceed with a scrupulous attention to means as well as end, to integrity, sincerity, and honour : while there is something in the unincumbered operations of simple absolute power, hastening to the accomplishment of its object with the indiscriminating force of necessity, that makes us feel how much fitter an instruwent it is of vast and extensive benefits, could its agency be but securely directed to such a purpose.

The pamphlet which has suggested these remarks, is one of singular interest. It is written by a man of considerable celebrity, M. Grégoire, formerly bishop of Blois, whose name has been brought prominently forward in connexion with the late changes in France. As we believe only two or three copies of the pamphlet have yet reached this country, we conceive that our readers will not be displeased at our making from it rather copious extracts.

The motto which the Author has selected for his title page, is from an English writer :

'If you have a right to enslave others, there may be others who hare 'a right to enslave you.'--(Price on the American Revolution.)

There is a characteristic simplicity in this position, which has the force of a thousand arguments.

The work is divided into two chapters. The first treats upon the African Slave Trade. The Author begins by adducing from Ancient History the memorable conduct of Aristides, and of the Athenians who acted by his advice, in rejecting the proposal confided to bim by Themistocles, to deliver bis country by burning the fleet of Xerxes.* Aristides, persuaded that even that object would be purchased too dearly by an act repugnant to morality, declares to the assembly that the means proposed would be highly advantageous, but that it is unjust; and it is rejected. In a treaty with the Carthaginians, Gelon, king of Syracuse, expressly stipulated that they should pot sacrifice anymore children to Saturn. With these illustrious instances of national virtue, our Author contrasts the Article in the Treaty of Paris, three and twenty centuries after, by which the French are allowed to steal or buy the natives of Africa for five years longer, for the purpose of transporting them far from their country, and from every object of their atlections, and of selling them as beasts of burden, to moisten with their labour the soil, the fruits of whicb shall belong to others; and to drag out a painful existence, with no other consolation at the end of the day, than that of having taken another step towards the grave.

• Aristides and Gelon were idolaters, we are Christians!'

* M. Grégoire's memory has been treacherous. It was the combined fleet of the Lacedæmonian and other Grecian States.

Leaving these facts to make their own impression, our Author they proceeds to combat the different pretexis and evasions, to which the advocates of the Slave Trade have had recourse for the past five-and-twenty years; not scrupling to consider the ministers of the French King, on whom the responsibility of the Article devolved, the organs of the Slave merchants. Referring to the allegations of those who would depreciate the Africans in the scale of intellect,

'One might answer them," he says, " that talents are not the measure of rights. In the eye of the law, Newton's servant was his mas. ter's equal.

The Author quotes, in terms of deserved reprobation, as a blasphemy against Nature, and the Author of Nature, a sentenoe from a recent French publication, asserting that the Negro is not susceptible of any virtue. The work alluded to, is entitled, Mémoires sur l'Esclavage colonial. Par M. l'Abbé • Dillon. 8vo. Paris. 1814.' So that, it seems, this infernal traffic was not without its advocates among the clergy of Paris. In opposing the above assertions, he refers to a work, Sur la Litérature des Négres ;' and in the Notes, to a publication entitled, ' Le Cri de la Nature ; par M. Juste Chanlatte, printed at Cape Henry, in 1810, (we presume the production of a native, which he says is written with the energy of Tacitus. In this is given an account of the infernal invention, of which the Christian White-men have the exclusive honour, of bringing a pack of blood-hounds, at a great expense, from Cuba, whose arrival was celebrated as a triumph, and whose natural voracity they provoked by a stimulating diet. The day on which the first experiment of their ferocity was made upon a Negro bound to a post, was a festival for the Whites of Cape-town, who were assembled round the amphitheatre, to enjoy this spectacle, worthy of cannibals.

• But what mode of reasoning can be effectual,' our Author subsequently exclaims, with men who, if we invoke religion or mercy, answer us by speaking of cocoa, of bales of cotton, and the balance of trade? For, they will reply, what will become of commerce, if you suppress the slave Trade? Do you find an individual who saysIn continuing it, what will become of justice and humanity?'

M. Grégoire informs us of the infamous attempts that were made to represent the friends of the Slave Trade, in Paris, as having sold themselves to the English, and as having voted, at the Constituent Assembly, in favour of England against France. * The feeling which unites all good men in defence of the Africans,' he says, 'was strengthened by the indignation excited by

« AnteriorContinuar »