« PreviousContinue »
hierarchy (if there be any thing unsound in its constitution), has equal reaon to tremble, even at an air pump, or an electrical machine.” These hostile sentiments raised many opponents, and the Doctor himself might be compared to àn electrical machine. He certainly produced fire, but his enemies were the conductors.
As the powerful champion of civil and reli: gious liberty, he is entitled to our veneration ; and while we acknowledge that his zeal was too violent, we cannot withold our approbation of the motive, which undoubtedly was, a desire to promote universal happiness.
His magnanimity and resolution, on the most trying occasions, evinced heroic fortitude.
A steady advocate for what he thought right; no danger could shake his resolution. This firmness of character has been branded by his enemies with the epithet of obstinacy; but, although he was, in common with all human beings, liable to err, his dignified deportment and sentiments, amid the most severe and unmerited revilings and persecution, certainly deserved the more honourable appellation of fortitude. It now will best become his countrymen, and the
friends of science throughout the world, to remember only his valuable philosophical discoveries; his manly opposition to petty tyranny; and his philanthropy. Let us with a friendly and careful hand pluck the nettle of detraction from his grave, and be ready to controvert the misrepresentations of the base satellites of ministerial corruption, who would doubtless rejoice, were they able to vilify the memory of a man whom they feared whilst living!
But as well the North's tyrants surveying their skies,
When electrical splendour's ascend to the pole, May forbid the sublime corruscations to rise,
AS ATTEMPT TO EXTINGUISH THE LIGHT OF THE SOUL!
In philosophic retirement he was a most amiable character. Affectionate to his friends, kind to his domestics, benevolent to mankind, and pious to his Creator. His genius, though bold and decisive, was not adapted to public life. He had too much sincerity to live in a world in masquerade ; and in this respect resembled his philosophic predecessor, Lord Bacon.
“ Hapless in his choice,
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * *
“ Him for the studious shade
Since the days of the pious and illustrious Boyle, we can boast of no experimental philosopher equal to Priestley,and when we consider the wonderful versatility of his talents, and the activity of his mind, he appears almost a prodigy.
Of the great majority of mankind it can only be said, that they were born, lived so many years, and died; but to such a man as Dr. Priestley, may be applied the salutation once paid to the Oriental kings, “ live for ever!”
Fame has inscribed his name in the temple of immortality; and like other men of genius, he must live in spite of his own doctrine of materialism.
As an advocate for freedom of enquiry, and
rational liberty, Dr. Priestley commanded the esteem of the liberal-minded of every persuasion. In defence of the privileges of reason, his arguments were unanswerable, insomuch that his antagonists were obliged to have recourse to the old mode of ignition--they endeavoured to destroy by fire what they could not confute by fair and manly argumentation.
Joseph Priestley was, perhaps, the best res presentative of the old English character, that has appeared in the present age of insincere and foppish refinement; and he may be compared with Daniel De Foe, and Andrew Marvel, who so nobly stemmed the torrent of corruption in worse times. Let those persons, then, who may yet be inclined to condemn this philosopher, first candidly peruse his works, and do not let them, as is almost always the case, disapprove of his sentiments without examination.
A few narrow-minded individuals may endeavour to decry their once persecuted coun tryman, but surely the majority of unbiassed Britons are too magnanimous to remember only the errors of a man like themselves. They cannot forget his eminent services. His venerable
remains, it is true, are interred in another country far distant from his native land :
“ By stranger's honour'd and by strangers mourn’d.”
But “though dead, he yet speaketh,” in his excellent moral and philosophical works, which remain an honourable memorial of his genius and his virtue.
« 'The man resolv'd and steady to his trust,
Not the rough whirlwind that deforms
Nor the red arm of angry Jove,
The stubborn virtue of his soul can move !"
Should the whole frame of nature round him break,
In ruin and confusion hurl'd,
AND STAND SECURE AMIDST A FALLINE WORLD."