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to the curious; but as objects of utility they merit a closer atten tion. The same materials which delight the fossilist, enrich the manufacturer and the merchant. While the one is scientifically examining their structure and composition, the others, by industry and commerce, are transmuting them to gold. Possessed of the power of pleasing, they gratify on both sides; the one contemplates their natural beauties in the cabinet, the others, their re-created one in the coffer.
'Tis by the researches of the virtuoso that the hidden parts of the earth are brought to light, and from his discoveries of its qualities, the potter, the glassmaker, and numerous other artists, are enabled to furnish us with their productions. Artists, considered merely as such, would have made but a slender progress, had they not been led on by the enterprising spirit of the curious. I am unwilling to dismiss this remark without entering my protest against that unkind, ungrateful and impolitic custom of ridiculing unsuccessful experiments; and informing those unwise or overwise pasquinaders, that half the felicities they enjoy, sprung originally from generous curiosity.
Were a man to propose, or set out to bore his lands, as a carpenter does a board, he might probably bring on himself a shower of witticisms; and though he could not be jested at for building castles in the air, yet many magnanimous laughs might break forth at his expense, and vociferously predict the explosion of a mine in his subterraneous pursuits. I am led to this reflection by the present domestic state of America, because it will unavoidably happen, that before we can arrive at that perfection of things which other nations have acquired, many hopes will fail many whimsical attempts will become fortunate, and many reasonable ones end in air and expense. The degree of improvement which America has already arrived at, is unparallelec and astonishing, but 'tis miniature to what she will one day boast of, if heaven continue her happiness. We have nearly one whole region yet unexplored: I mean the internal region of the earth. By industry and tillage we have acquired a considerable knowledge of what America will produce, but very little of what it contains. The bowels of the earth have been only slightly inquired into: we seem to content ourselves with such parts of it as are absolutely necessary, and cannot well be imported, as brick, stone, &c., but have gone very little further, except in the article
of iron. The glass and the pottery manufactures are yet very imperfect, and will continue so, 'till some curious researcher finds out the proper material.
Copper, lead, and tin articles valuable both in their simple state, and as being the component parts of other metals (viz. brass and pewter) are at present but little known throughout the continent in their mineral form: yet I doubt not, but very valuable mines of them, are daily travelled over in the western parts of America. Perhaps a few feet of surface conceal a treasure sufficient to enrich a kingdom.
The value of the interior part of the earth, like ourselves, cannot be judged certainly of by the surface; neither do the corresponding strata lie with the unvariable order of the colors of the rainbow, and if they ever did, which I do not believe, age and misfortune have now broken in upon their union; earthquakes, deluges, and volcanoes have so disunited and re-united them, that in their present state they appear like a world in ruins-yet the ruins are beautiful; the caverns, museums of antiquity.
Though nature is gay, polite, and generous abroad, she is sullen, rude, and niggardly at home: return the visit, and she admits you with all the suspicion of a miser, and all the reluctance of an antiquated beauty retired to replenish her charms. Bred up in antediluvian notions, she has not yet acquired the European taste of receiving visitants in her dressing-room: she locks and bolts up her private recesses with extraordinary care, as if not only resolved to preserve her hoards, but to conceal her age, and hide the remains of a face that was young and lovely in the days of Adam. He that would view nature in her undress, and partake of her internal treasures, must proceed with the resolution of a robber, if not a ravisher. She gives no invitation to follow her to the cavern-the external earth makes no proclamation of the interior stores, but leaves to chance and industry, the discovery of the whole. In such gifts as nature can annually re-create, she is noble and profuse, and entertains the whole world with the interest of her fortunes; but watches over the capital with the care of a miser. Her gold and jewels lie concealed in the earth, in caves of utter darkness; and hoards of wealth, heaps upon heaps, mould in the chests, like the riches of a necromancer's cell. It must be very pleasant to an adventurous speculist to make excursions into these Gothic regions; and in his travels he may
possibly come to a cabinet locked up in some rocky vault, whose treasures shall reward his toil, and enable him to shine on his return, as splendidly as nature herself.
By a small degree of attention to the order and origin of things, we shall perceive, that though the surface of the earth produces us the necessaries of life, yet 'tis from the mine we extract the conveniences thereof. Our houses would diminish to wigwams, furnished in the Indian style, and ourselves resemble the building, were it not for the ores of the earth. Agriculture and manufactures would wither away for want of tools and implements, and commerce stand still for want of materials. The beasts of the field would elude our power, and the birds of the air get beyond our reach. Our dominion would shrink to a narrow circle; and our mind itself, partaking of the change, would contract its prospects, and lessen into almost animal instinct. Take away but the single article of iron, and half the felicities of life fall with it. Little as we may prize this common ore, the loss of it would cut deeper than the use of it: and by the way of laughing off misfortunes 'tis easy to prove, by this method of investigation, that an iron age is better than a golden one.
Since so great a portion of our enjoyments is drawn from the mine, it is certainly an evidence of our prudence to inquire and know what our possessions are. Every man's landed property extends to the surface of the earth. Why then should he sit down contented with a part, and practise upon his estate those fashionable follies in life, which prefer the superfice to the solid? Curiosity alone, should the thought occur conveniently, would move an active mind to examine (though not at the bottom) at least to a considerable depth.
The propriety and reasonableness of these internal inquiries are continually pointed out to us by numberless occurrences. Accident is almost every day turning out some new secret from the earth. How often has the ploughshare or the spade broken open a treasure, which for ages, perhaps for ever, had lain but just beneath the surface? And though every estate have not mines of gold or silver, yet they may contain some strata of valuable earth, proper for manufactures; and if they have not those, there is a great probability of their having chalk, marl, or some rich soil proper for manure, which only requires to be removed to the surface.
I have been informed of some land in England being raised to four times its former value by the discovery of a chalk or marl pit, in digging a hole to fix a post in; and in embanking a meadow in the Jerseys, the laborers threw out with the soil, a fine blue powdered earth, resembling indigo, which, when mixed with oil, was used for paint.-I imagine this vein is now exhausted.
Many valuable ores, clays, &c. appear in such rude forms in their natural state, as not even to excite curiosity, much less attention. A true knowledge of their different value can only be obtained by experiment: as soil proper for manure, they may be judged of by the planter; but as matter, they come under the inquiry of the philosopher-this leads me to reflect with inexpressible pleasure, on the numberless benefits arising to a community, by the institution of societies for promoting useful knowledge.
The American Philosophical Society, like the Royal Society in England, by having public spirit for its support, and public good for its object, is a treasure we ought to glory in. Here the defective knowledge of the individual is supplied by the common stock. Societies, without endangering private fortunes, are enabled to proceed in their inquiries by analysis and experiment: but individuals are seldom furnished with conveniencies for so doing, and generally rest their opinion on reasonable conjecture.
I presume that were samples of different soils from different parts of America, presented to the society for their inspection and examination, it would greatly facilitate our knowledge of the internal earth, and give a new spring both to agriculture and manufactures.
These hints are not intended to lament any loss of time, or remissness in the pursuit of useful knowledge, but to furnish matter for future studies; that while we glory in what we are, we may not neglect what we are to be.
Of the present state we may justly say, that no nation under heaven ever struck out in so short a time, and with so much spirit and reputation, into the labyrinth of art and science; and that, not in the acquisition of knowledge only, but in the happy advantages flowing from it. The world does not at this day exhibit a parallel, neither can history produce its equal.
ON THE UTILITY OF MAGAZINES.*
In a country whose reigning character is the love of science, it 18 somewhat strange that the channels of communication should continue so narrow and limited. The weekly papers are at present the only vehicles of public information. Convenience and necessity prove that the opportunities of acquiring and communicating knowledge, ought always to enlarge with the circle of population. America has now outgrown the state of infancy: her strength and commerce make large advances to manhood, and science in all its branches has not only blossomed, but even ripened on the soil. The cottages as it were of yesterday have grown to villages, and villages to cities; and while proud antiquity, like a skeleton in rags, parades the streets of other nations, their genius, as if sickened and disgusted with the phantom, comes hither for recovery.
The present enlarged and improved state of things gives every encouragement which the editor of a new magazine can reasonably hope for. The failure of former ones cannot be drawn as a parallel now. Change of times adds propriety to new measures. In the early days of colonization, when a whisper was almost sufficient to have negociated all our internal concerns, the publishing even of a newspaper would have been premature. Those times are past; and population has established both their use and their credit. But their plan being almost wholly devoted to news and commerce, affords but a scanty residence to the muses. Their path lies wide of the field of science, and has left a rich and unexplored region for new adventurers.
It has always been the opinion of the learned and curious, that a magazine when properly conducted, is the nursery of genius;
* First published in the Pennsylvania Magazine, Jan. 1775.