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consideration should not discourage the aspiring mind; much may be done by education, industry and perseverance.
“What cannot art and industry perform,
The inventive faculties of man, however, need a stimulus; a motive for exertion; and when this is presented, the happiest results
be anticipated And so, also, is it with mechanical skill. Wherever a liberal patronage is extended to the arts, a much greater share of inventive, as well as practical talent is brought into operation.
What a boundless field does the science of mechanics present for the exercise of human genius! What wonderful revolutions in the physical and moral world, have been produced by its agency !
There is not a particle of matter, but is subjected to its laws. For what else is there in the visible world but matter and motion? To the science of mechanics are we indebted for the simplest utensils of husbandry; all mechanical trades; all the mighty engines of war; all vehicles of navigation by sea, and of conveyance by land ;—all the vast and complicated machinery used in manufactures ;-even a knowledge of the human frame is dependent, in some measure, on the science of mechanics ;—the use of the muscles, bones, joints and sinews, proves the human frame to be little else than a mechanical engine :- Astronomy, by which we determine the motion of the heavenly bodies, their periods and revolutions, is founded on the science of mechanics. The Newtonian system of philosophy is based on the solid foundation of mechanics; a foundation which can never be shaken. Chemical operations, -the laws of reflection and refraction, depend also on this science.
Time would fail me, were I to attempt an enumeration of all the benefits derived from a knowledge of this important science. That the operative mechanic, who labours daily in his vocation, should make himself master of the science of mechanics, in its most comprehensive sense, is not to be expected, nor is it indispensable.
In a country like our own, however, blessed with the happiest system of government which the world has yet witnessed ;—in a country abounding in physical resources of every kind ;-considering that, notwithstanding the rapid advances made in manufactares, we are still dependent on foreign nations for many of the conveniences and elegancies of life,-considering also the demand for scientific and well educated men, in the higher branches of the mechanic arts,–I cannot but think, that in paying more attention, than we have hitherto paid, to the scientific principles of mechanics, we shall consult the prosperity of our fraternity, and the substantial interests of our country.
In viewing this subject, as it regards ourselves, many powerful motives are presented to induce us to cultivate our mental powers. The well educated has a decided advantage over the unlearned mechanic ; and if he does not avail himself of this advantage, the fault is his own: He is enabled, with more facility, to improve himself in his profession; he discovers new sources of wealth ;-his knowledge, when properly directed, gives him influence, inasmuch as it inspires confidence in those who employ him; and it gives him respectability in society. İn a moral point of view, the cultivation of the intellectual powers is of the highest importance.
The following remarks of a writer in a foreign journal* recently established, although intended for
* The London Mechanic's Magazine.
the meridian of London, are so pertinent to this part of my subject, that I veuture to repeat them.
“ The moral good, which results from the acquisition of knowledge, is chiefly this,—that by multiplying the mental resources, it has a tendency to exalt the character,—and, in some measure, to correct and subdue the taste for gross sensuality. It enables the possessor to beguile his leisure moments (and every man has such) in an innocent, at least, if not in a useful manner. The poor man who can read, and who possesses a taste for reading, can find entertainment at home ; without being tempted to repair to the ale-house for that
purpose. “His mind can find employment when his body is at rest; he does not lie prostrate and afloat on the current of incidents, liable to be carried whithersoever the impulse of appetite may direct. In the mind of such a man there is an intellectual spring, urging him to the pursuit of mental good; and if the minds of his family are also a little cultivated, his conversation becomes the more interesting, and the sphere of his domestic enjoyment is enlarged ; the pleasures which lie open to him at the gates of knowledge, put him in a disposition to relish more exquisitely, the tranquil delights inseparable from the indulgence of conjugal and parental affection : thus he becomes more respectable in the eyes of his family, than he who can teach them nothing : he will be naturally induced to cultivate whatever may preserve, and to shun whatever may impair that respect. Inured to reflection, he will thus carry his views beyond the present hour; he will extend his prospects a little into futurity, and be disposed to make some provision for his approaching wants, whence will result an increased motive to industry, together with a care
to husband his earnings and to avoid unnecessary expense. The poor man, who has gained a taste for good books, will, in all likelihood, become
thoughtful; and when you have once given the poor man a habit of thinking, you have conferred on him a much greater favour than by the gift of a large sum of money: since you have put into him the principle of all legitimate prosperity ;-for according to our great philosopher, Bacon, «Knowledge is power.?
The foregoing remarks, although addressed to the mechanics of the British Metropolis, may with very little alteration, apply to those of any other city in the world. I would by no means wish to be understood as conveying the idea, that the unlettered man is necessarily immoral or sensual; the man of virtuous principle, however limited his knowledge or acquirements, is guarded against the enticements of vícious example ; but the young and inexperienced, whose characters are not formed, whose principles are not fixed, need the aid of instruction and advice. It is our duty, therefore, as mastermechanics,—as members of a moral and intelligent community, to study the intellectual and moral, as well as the professional improvement of those who depend on us for instruction and employment. Any suggestions, therefore, with a view to further these objects, however humble the source from whence they proceed, will, I am sure, receive
candid and serious attention.
It is the part of wisdom, my brethren, to profit by the knowledge and experience of others ;-and although I am well convinced that the mechanics of this metropolis are not surpassed in morality and general intelligence, by those of any other city in the world, yet I am persuaded that by studying the character of our class, and observing the progress of the arts in those countries, where they are farther advanced than in our own, much may
be learnt which it will be useful for us to know.
The means of obtaining the rudiments of a common education, on account of the excellent system of
free schools established among us, are undoubtedly superior to those generally enjoyed by the European mechanic. But for obtaining a knowledge of scientific principles, the more advanced state of the arts, the greater number of scientific teachers, and the facility and cheapness with which scientific books and apparatus can be procured, must give to the European, advantages greater than we can, at present, be presumed to possess.
In the principal cities of Great Britain, the Mechanics have recently directed their attention towards the instruction of the working classes in the principles of mechanical science by means of “ Mechanical institutions," at which lectures have been given on all subjects connected with the mechanic arts. These lectures have been delivered by professors of ability, selected and paid by the mechanics themselves; and have been numerously attended. Some notice of the rise and progress of these institutions, may not be improper on this occasion.
The first scientific institution established in Great Britain, by the mechanics themselves, was in the city of Glasgow. An institution had been founded, many years previously, by the will of Professor Anderson, and bearing his name, for the purpose of instructing the middle and lower classes of the people on scientific subjects. By paying a small fee, per, sons were admitted to hear lectures ; illustrated when necessary, by experiments on most branches of science. There was a library, several models, a variety of apparatus, and a museum connected with the establishment. No branch of the “ Andersonian Institution,” however, was exclusively devoted to the instruction of mechanics, in those branches of knowledge, which are of especial use to their professional pursuits, till the year 1800, when Dr. George Birkbeck, a respectable physician, and man of science, commenced gratuitously a series of lectures on mechanical philosophy and chemistry.