« AnteriorContinuar »
ment they compare them together. The peculiarity among the Hindoos of having the bone of the leg remarkably long, meets a precise parallel in the swine of Normandy, which stand so high on their hind quarters, that the back forms an inclined plane to the head; and as the head itself partakes of the same direction, the snout is but little removed from the ground. In some countries, indeed, the swine have degenerated into races that in singularity far exceed the most extravagant variations that have been found among the human species. What can differ more widely than a cloven foot and a solid hoof 4 yet swine are found with both : the variety with a solid hoof was known to the ancients, and still exists in Hungary and Sweden: and even the common sort that were carried by the Spaniards to the isle of Cuba, in 1509, have since degenerated into a variety with a hoof of the same solid kind, and of the enormous size of not less than half a span in diameter. How absurd, then, to contend that the distinctions in the different varieties of the human race must have proceeded from a plurality of species, while we are compelled to admit that distinctions of a similar kind, but more numerous o more extravagant, have proceeded from a single species in other animals : It may appear singular, perhaps, that I have taken no notice of the wide difference which is supposed to exist in the intellectual faculties of the different varieties of man. To confess the truth, I have purposely omitted it; because of all the arguments that have ever been offered to support the doctrine of different species, this appears to me the feeblest and most superficial. It may suit the narrow purpose of a slave-merchant, of a trafficker in human nerves and muscles,—of a wretch who, in equal defiance of the feelings and the laws of the day, has the impudence to offer for sale on the polluted shores of our own country, in one and the same lot, as was the case not long since, a dead cameleopard and a living Hottentot woman:—it may suit their purpose to introduce such a distinction into their creed, and to let it constitute the whole of their creed, but it is a distinction too trifling and evanescent to claim the notice of a physiologist for a moment. The variable talents of the mind are as propagable as the variable features of the body, -how, or by what means, we know not, -but the fact is incontrovertible. Wit and dulness, genius and idiotism, run in direct streams from generation to generation; and hence the moral character of families, of tribes, of whole nations. The understanding of the negro race, it is admitted, is in many tribes strikingly and habitually obtuse. It has thus, indeed, been propagated for a long succession of ages; and, till the negro mind receives a new turn, till it becomes cultivated and called forth into action by some such benevolent stimulus as that . is now abroad generally, and especially such as is afforded it by the Asrican Institution of our own country (an establishment that ought never to be mentioned without reverence), the same obtuseness must necessarily continue, and by a prolongation of the habit, may, perhaps, even increase. But let the man who would argue from this single fact, that the race of negroes must be necessarily an inferior species, distinct from all the rest of the world, compare the taste, the talents, the genius, the erudition, that have at different periods blazed forth in different individuals of this despised people, when placed under the fostering providence of kindness and cultivation, with his own or those of the generality of his own countrymen, and let him blush for the mistake he has made, and the injury he has committed. Freidig, of Vienna, was an excellent architect, and a capital performer on the violin; Hannibal was not only a colonel of artillery in the Russian service, but deeply skilled in the mathematical and physical sciences; so, too, was Lislet, of the Isle of France, who was in consequence made a member of the French Academy; and Arno, who was honoured with a diploma of doctor of philosophy by the university of Wurtemberg, in 1734. Let us add to these the names of Vasa and Ignatius Sancho, whose taste and genius have enriched the polite literature of our own country; and, with such examples O
of negro powers before us, is it possible to do otherwise than adopt the very just observation of a very quaint orator, who has told us that the “negro, ike the white man, is still God's image, although carved in ebony ?” Nor is it to a few casual individuals among the black tribes, appearing in distant countries, and at distant eras, that we have to look for the clearest proofs of human intelligence. At this moment, scattered like their own oases, their islands of beautiful verdure, over the eastern and western deserts of Africa, multitudes of little principalities of negroes are still existing,< multitudes that have, of late years, been detected and are still detecting, whose national virtues would do honour to the most polished states of Europe: while at Timbuctoo, stretching deepest towards the east of these princilities, from the western coast, we meet, if we may credit the accounts we ave received, with one of the wealthiest, perhaps one of the most populous and best governed cities in the world; its sovereign a negro, its army negroes, its people negroes ; a city which is the general mart for the commerce of western Africa, and where trade and manufactures seem to be equally esteemed and protected." We know not the antiquity of this kingdom : but there can be no doubt of its having a just claim to a very high origin: and it is possible that, at the very period in which our own ancestors, as described by Julius Caesar, were naked and smeared over with paint, or merely clothed with the skins of wild beasts, living in huts, and worshipping the misletoe, the black kingdom of Bambarra, of which Timbuctoo is the capital, was as completely established and flourishing as at the present moment. What has produced the difference we now behold? What has kept the Bambareens, like the Chinese, nearly in a stationary state for, perhaps, upwards of two thousand years, and has enabled the rude and painted Britons to become the first people of the world—the most renowned for arts and for arms—for the best virtues of the heart and the best faculties of the understanding 2 Not a difference in the colour of the skin;–but, first, the peculiar favour of the Almighty: next, a political constitution, which was sighed for and in some degree prefigured, by Plato and Tully, but regarded as a masterpiece, beyond the power of human accoomplishment; and, lastly, a fond and fostering cultivation of science, in every ramification and department. Amid the uproar and ruin of the world around us, these are blessings which we still o: and which we possess almost exclusively.f Let us prize them as they deserve; let us endeavour to be worthy of them. To the at benefit resulting from literature and mental cultivation the age is, indeed, thoroughly awake; and it is consolatory to turn from the sickening scenes of the Continent, and fix the eye in this point of view upon our own native spot; to behold the ingenuous minds of multitudes labouring with the desire of useful knowledge; to contemplate the numerous temples that are rising all around us, devoted to taste, to genius, to learning, to the liberal arts; and to mark the generous confederacies by which they are supported and embellished. In this little school of philosophy, surrounded by walls that were once enriched with the choicest collections, and the rarest curiosities of nature,” but which, from a concurrence of adverse circumstances, must have fallen into ruins, had not you, with laudable patronage, interposed, redecorated the sinking edifice, and made it once more echo to the voice of instruction and study 3-here, where the genius of Science has resumed the possession of his simple throne, and is once more thronged by a numerous train of attentive votaries—here more especially may I address these observations without incurring the charge of rhapsody or extravagance.—Long may so promising an Institution flourish! soundly may it be cultivated and of sterling value be the harvests that it produces !
*I follow Mr. Jackson's description, which is added to his “Account of the Empire of Morocco," as by far the most circumstantial and authoritative we have hitherto received. According to him, “the city is situated on a plain, surrounded by a sandy eminence, about twelve miles north of the Nile El Abcade, or Nile of the blacks; and three days’ journey (erhellat) from the confines of Sahara; about twelve miles in circumference, but without walls. The town of Kabra, situated on the banks of the river, is its commercial depôt or port. The king is the sovereign of Banbarra: the name of this potentate, in 1800, was Woolo: he is a black and a native of the country he governs. His usual place of residence is Jiunie, though he has three palaces in Timbuctoo, which are said to contain an immense quantity of gold.” The present military appointments are, it seems, entirely from the negroes of Bambarra: the inhabitants are also for the most part negroes, who possess much of the Arab hospitality, and pride themselves on being attentive to strangers. By means of a water-carriage, east and west of Kabra, great facility is given to the trade of Timbuctoo, which is very extensive, as well in European as in Barbary manufactures. Toe various costumes, indeed, exhibited in the market-places and in the streets, sufficiently indicate this, each individual being habited in the dress of his respective country. There is a perseet toleration in matters of religion, except as to Jews. The police is extolled as surpassing anything of the kind on this side the Desert: robberies and house-breaking are scarcely known. The government of the city is intrusted to a divan of twelve slemma or magistrates; and the civil jurisprudence superintended by a learned Cadi
f The Lecture was delivered in 1812.
THERE are various actions, and trains of actions, occasionally to be met with among mankind, but more frequently and more strikingly among other animals, which indicate the employment of definite means to obtain a definite end, without the intervention of that chain of thought which characterizes reason, and which have hence been ascribed to a distinct principle, that has been distinguished by the name of instinct. Such, in the new-born infant, and, indeed, in the young of all mammalian animals, is the act of hunting out for the mother's milky food, and of sucking with a perfection which can never be acquired in subsequent life. Such is the whole process of nestling or nidification among birds; the periodical change o salt for fresh water among the sturgeon, salmon, and other fishes; and, among insects, the formation of the exquisite decoy-lines of the spider, and the nice masonry of the bee, and of the termes bellicosus or white ant. The common fact admits of no dispute; the modes of accounting for it have been various, and in the utmost degree unsatisfactory. In a general survey they may be resolved into three classes: first, those hypotheses which ascribe the whole to the operation of body alone; secondly, those which ascribe it to mind alone; and, thirdly, those which derive it from a substance of a mediate nature between the two, or attribute it partly to the one and partly to the other. In pursuing this highly interesting subject, I shall first briefly notice the principal opinions which have been offered upon it, in the order thus laid down, and point out their irrelevancy: and then propose a new theory, and explain the grounds upon which it is founded. I. It was the opinion of Des Cartes that brutes are mere mechanical machines: that they have neither ideas nor sensation; neither pain nor pleasure; and that their outcries under punishment, and their alacrity in pursuing an enemy or devouring a meal are produced by the very same sort of force, which, exerted upon the different keys of an organ, compels its respective pipes to give forth different sounds. And a great part of the Cardinal Polignac's very elegant Latin poem, entitled Anti-Lucretius, is written in direct support of this most whimsical hypothesis. I shall, perhaps, have occasion to examine it somewhat more at large in a subsequent study : for the present it may be sufficient to observe that, in spite of all the philosophy in the world, the coachman to this hour has whipped, and will yet continue to whip, his horses, the huntsman to halloo his hounds, and the bird-trainer to sing or whistle to his bullfinches; though if the whole were mere mecha
• Formerly celebrated as the Leverian Museum, and erected for that purpose.
nical machines, they might as well whip the sands, halloo to the waves, and whistle to the winds. - - - - - Under this view of the subject all instinctive actions were of course referred to a principle of body, or gross tangible matter, not endowed with peculiar or exclusive properties; and wherever any thing of the same description was to be found among mankind, it was instantly separated from all connexion with intelligence, and referred to the same source. The incongruities accompanying this hypothesis have not, however, prevented other philosophers from following it to a certain latitude in modern times, although it has been seldom, of: never of late days, pursued to the extent contended for by Des Cartes. he ideas of Dr. Reid, who has exressly written upon this subject, do not appear to be very perspicuous: yet e obviously espouses the doctrine of a mechanical principle of animal actions; and the actions which are resolvable into this principle are, in his opinion, of two kinds—those of instinct, and those of habit. Instinct is with him, therefore, as well as with Des Cartes, a property of body or gross matter alone, unendowed with any peculiar powers, and merely operated upon by a combination of mechanical forces. II. In direct opposition to this corporeal hypothesis, Mr. Smellie and Dr. Darwin have contended that instinct is altogether a mental principle, the brute tribes possessing an intelligent faculty of the very same nature as mankind, though more limited in its range. From this point, however, these two hysiologists disagree, and fly off in opposite directions: the former contending that reason is the result of instinct,” and the latter that instinct is the result of reason. In the promptitude and perfection with which the newborn infant seeks out and sucks its mother's breast, Dr. Darwin asserts that, although the chain of thought which directs it to the accomplishment of its object is concealed from the view, it still exists; and he endeavours to follow it up and develope it;t in which, however, it is not worth while to accompan him, for the whole process, even upon his own showing, is so complex, that it would rather require the genius of an adult Newton to unfold it, than yield to the dawning powers of a new-born infant. I will just observe, that in various cases of the instinctive faculty the most excursive theorist cannot picture to his imagination any thing like a chain of thought, or previous reasoning; any thing like habit or imitation, by which the means and the end are joined together. Let us take, as an example, the very common instance of a brood of young ducks brought up under a hen, and contrary to all the instincts and feelings of the foster-mother, plunging suddenly into the water, while she herself trembles piteously on the brink of the pond, not daring to pursue them, and expecting every moment to see them drowned. By what kind of experience or observation, by what train of thought or reasoning has the scarcely fledged brood been able to discern that a web-foot fits them for swimming, and that a fissured foot would render them incapable —a knowledge that mankind have only acquired by long and repeated contemplation, and which has never been fully explained to this hour. *Mr. Smellie defines instinct to be “every original quality of mind which produces feelings or actions, when the proper objects are presented to it.”—Philos. of Nat. Hist. vol. i. p. 155. So, p. 150, “From the above facts and reasonings, it seems to be apparent that instincts are original qualities of mind; that every animal is essed of some of these qualitics; that the intelligence and resources of animals are proportioned to number of instincts with which their minds are endowed; that all animals are, in some measure, rational beings; and that the dignity and superiority of the human intellect are necessary results, not of the conformation of our bodies, but of the great variety of instincts which nature has been pleased to confer on the species.” In p. 156 he, in like manner, confounds mind with sensation, as he has above confounded instinct with mind. “Sensation,” says he, “implies a sentient principle or mind. Whatever feels, therefore, is mind. Of course, the lowest species of animals are endowed with mind.” It ought to have been first proved that the lowest species of animals are even endowed with sensation. t “By a due attention to these circumstances, many of the actions, which at first sight seemed only referrible to an inerplicable instinct, will appear to have been acquired, like all other animal actions that are attended with consciousness, by the repeated efforts of our muscles under the conduct of our sensations or desires.”–Zoonom. Lect. xvi. 2, 4. “If it should be asked, what induces a bird to sit weeks on its first eggs, unconscious that a brood of young ones will be the product the answer must be, that it is the same Passion that induces the human mother to hold her offspring whole nights and days in her fond arms, an
Habit, imitation, and instruction would all concur in teaching them to flee from the water, as a source of inevitable destruction: and yet, in opposition to all these influences and premonitions, we see them rush into it, and harmlessly: we see them obeying an irresistible impulse, which directs them to what is fitting, stamped in the interior of their little frames, and which is equally remote from the laws of mind and of mechanism. In like manner, by what process of imitation, education, or reasoning does the nut-weevil (curculio mucum) seek out exclusively, and with the nicest knowledge of the plant, the green hazel in the month of August, while its nut-shell is yet soft and easily penetrable % What past experience or course of argument instructs her that this is the fruit best adapted, or perhaps only adapted, to the digestive powers of her future progeny . With a finished knowledge of her art, as soon as she is prepared to deposite her eggs, she singles out a nut, pierces it with her proboscis, and then, turning round accurately, drops an egg into the minute perforation; having accomplished which, she passes on, pierces another nut, drops another egg, and so continues till she has exhausted her entire stock. The nut, not essentially injured, continues to grow. The egg is soon hatched; the young larve or maggot finds its food already ripened and in waiting for it; and about the time of its full growth, falls with the mature nut to the ground, and at length creeps out by gnawing a circular hole in the side. It then burrows under the surface of the ground, where it continues dormant for eight months, at the termination of which time it casts its skin, commences a chrysalis of the general shape and appearance of the beetle kind, and in the beginning of August throws off the chrysalid investment, creeps to the surface of the ground, finds itself accommodated with wings, becomes an inhabitant of the air, and instantly pursues the very same train of actions to provide for a new progeny which had been pursued by the parent insect of the year before. In all such cases it is clear that there is a principle implanted in the living form equally distinct from all mechanical, chemical, and rational powers, which directs the agent by an unerring impulse, or, in other words, impels it by a prescribed and unerring law, to accomplish a definite end by a definite means. Such instinctive powers are not only allowed upon Mr. Smellie's hypothesis, but are conceived to be almost innumerable; and reason, instead of giving birth to them, is, in his opinion, as I have already observed, the general result of them, and consists in the power of comparing one instinct with another, and assenting to those that preponderate. According to this hypothesis, all the actions of the involuntary organs of the o are so many instincts, as pulsation, digestion, secretion; all natural feelings are so many instincts, as love of life, dread of death, and the desire of progeny; all the passions are so many instincts, as fear, hope, envy, benevolence, reverence, superstition, devotion; and hence life is nothing more than a bundle of instincts;” and reason, which is itself founded upon an instinctive principle, consists, as I have just observed, of nothing more than a power or tendency to compare the different strengths of these antagonist forces whenever . are brought into a state of action, and to be guided by those that are prepollent; or that offer what is felt or conceived to be the best means of obtaining a proposed end. The objections to which this hypothesis is exposed, or rather the evils chargeable upon it, are innumerable; but it is sufficient to observe, at present, that it as effectually confounds the separate faculties of instinct and reason as the preceding hypothesis of Dr. Darwin, and, conseuently, that neither of the two opinions are in any respect more admissible than those which refer the instinctive faculty to a mechanical principle, or, in other words, to the common properties of unorganized matter. III. There is a third class of philosophers, who, sensible of the difficulty of the case, have endeavoured to get over it by contending that instincts are of a mixed kind: that they either originate in a power which holds an inter
* Transact. of the Royal Society of Edinb. vol. v. p. 39.