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discovery and application,) — it devised a method of imprinting on a material substance an intelligible sign, not of things, but of sounds forming the names of things; — in other words, it invented the A BC. With this sirnple invention, and the mechanical contrivances with which it is carried into effect, the mind of man was, I had almost said, re-created. The day before it was invented, the voice of man, in its utmost stretch, could be heard but by a few thousands, intently listening for an hour or two, during which alone his strength would enable him to utter a succession of sounds. The day after the art of writing was invented, he stamps his thoughts on a roll of parchment, and they reach every city and hamlet of the largest empire. The day before this invention, and the mind of one country was estranged from the mind of all other countries. For almost all the purposes of intercourse, the families of man might as well not have belonged to one race. The day after it, and Wisdom was endued with the gift of tongues, and spake by her interpreters to all the tribes of kindred men. The day before this invention, and nothing but a fading tradition, constantly becoming fainter, could be preserved by the memory, of all that was spoken or acted by the greatest and wisest of men. The day after it, Thought was imperishable ; it sprung to an earthly immortality ; it seized the new-found instruments of record and commemoration, and, deserting the body as it sunk with its vocal organs into the dust, it carved on the very grave-stone, “ The mind of man shall live forever.”
It would be easy to multiply these illustrations of the importance of the aid rendered by the arts to the natural faculties of man. They present themselves to the reflecting mind in every direction; and they lead the way to the conclusion, that the mechanical arts are the great instruments of human civilization. We have some means of judging what man was before any of the useful arts were discovered, because there exist on the surface of the globe many tribes and races nearly or quite destitute of them; as, for instance, the native inhabitants of this continent. We know
not with certainty, it is true, whether these and other savage races are specimens of humanity, disjoined from the parent stock, before great progress had been made in civilization, or broken down and degenerate fragments of nations once cultivated, and retaining, even in their present degraded condition, some remnants of primitive improvement. There are some circumstances which favor the latter opinion, and consequently they do not afford us a perfect specimen of what man would be, before the discovery of any of the useful arts of life. But we may see enough in them to learn how much of all our civilization resides in these arts; that, in fact, civilization may almost be considered another word for their aggregate existence and application. For it is a somewhat humiliating reflection, that, in many things dependent on the human organs and senses, — unaided by the arts, — the savage greatly excels the most improved civilized man. Thus man, with one set of glasses, penetrates the secret organization of the minutest insect or plant,marks the rise of the sap in the capillaries of a blade of grass, counts the pulsations of the heart in an animalcule a hundred times smaller than the head of a pin ; while, with another set of glasses, he fills the heavens with a hundred millions of stars, invisible to the naked eye. To the savage, the wonders of the microscope and the telescope are unknown; but he can, by traces which elude our keenest vision, tell whether it is the foot of friend or enemy which has passed over the grass before his tent in the silence of night; and he can find his way through the pathless and tangled forest without a guide. Civilized man, with his wheels and his steam, runs a race with the winds, but, left to the natural force of his members, soon sinks from fatigue. The indefatigable savage, ignorant of artificial conveyance, outtires, on foot, the hound and the horse ; and, while the famished child of civilized life faints at the delay of his periodical meal, a three days' hunger makes no impression on the iron frame of the poor Indian. Civilized man, although surrounded by his arts, with enjoyments that seem to render life a hundred fold more precious, lies drenched in sleep
one third of his precious hours, and may well envy the physical training which enables his hardy brother of the forest, when occasion requires, to bid defiance, night after night, to the approach of weariness.
But this superiority which the savage possesses over civilized man, in the discipline of some of the natural capacities of our frame, is turned to little account of human improvement and happiness, for want of those arts which create, combine, and perpetuate the powers and agents by which our wants are supplied. — Even the few comforts of which his forlorn condition is susceptible are mostly derived, not from this superior training of his natural faculties and senses, but from his possession of some few imperfect arts. The savage needy at best, without his moccasins, his snow-shoes, his dressed buffalo skin, bis hollowed tree or bark canoe, his bow and arrow, his tent and his fishing gear, would be a much more abject being. And these simple inventions, and the tools and skill required by them, no doubt occupied a considerable period in the early history of our race. But the great difference between savage and civilized life consists in the want of those more improved arts, — the products of which we have been contemplating, — by which no inconsiderable quantity of human power and skill can be transferred to inanimate tools and machinery, and perpetuated in them ; — the arts whereby the grasp of the hand, which soon wearies, can be transferred to the iron gripe of the vice, the clamp, the bolt, that never tire ; the arts by which stone, and metal, and leather, and wood, may be made to perform the offices of poor flesh and bone. The savage, when he has parched his corn, puts it in a rude mortar, which with infinite toil he has scooped out of a rock, and laboriously pounds it into meal. It is much, if, in this way, he can prepare food enough to keep him alive while he is preparing it. The civilized man, when he has raised his corn, builds a mill with a water-wheel, and sets the indefatigable stream to grinding his grain. There are now two or three laborers at work; -- one, it is true, with forces which soon weary, and which
can only be kept up by consuming a part of the corn as fast as it can be made into food, but endowed with an untiring and inexhaustible invention ; — the other patient fellow-laborers of wood and iron, the stream, the wheel, and the mill-stone, without capacity for head-work, are willing to grind corn all day, and not ask a mouthful back by way of sustenance. — Civilization is kept up by storing the products of the labor thus economized, and imparting a share of it to those engaged in some other pursuit, who give a portion of its products in exchange for food.
Take another illustration in the arts employed in furnishing the clothing of man. The savage, when he has killed a buffalo and dried his skin, prepares it with the manual labor of several weeks for a garment;—a substantial and sightly garment; but it has taken him a long time, and he has made but one. The civilized man, having a world of business on his hands, has contrived a variety of machines, which perform almost all the work required for his clothing. He cuts a mass of curled wool from the sheep's back, - a confused, irregular heap of fibrous threads, which would seem to defy the skill and industry of the artificer. How long will it not take the busiest pair of fingers to piece those fibres together, end to end, to lay them side by side, so as to give them substance, coherence, dimensions, to convert them into a covering and defence, excluding cold and wet! The savage, in taking the skin, seems to have made the wiser choice. Nature has done the spinning and weaving to his hand. But wait a moment:— there is a group of iron-fingered artificers in yonder mill will show you a wonder. They will, with a rapidity scarcely conceivable, convert this uncouth fibrous heap into a uniform mass; they will draw out its short, curly fibres into long, even threads,-lay them side by side, and curiously cross them over and under with magical dexterity, till they form a compact tissue, covered with a soft down and a glossy lustre, - smooth, impervious, flexible,-in quantity sufficient to clothe a family for a year, with less expense of human labor, than would be required to dress a single
Consider the steam engine. It is computed that the steam power of Great Britain, not including the labor economized by the enginery it puts in motion, performs annually the work of a million of men. In other words, the steam engine adds to the human population of Great Britain another population, one million strong. Strong it may well be called. What a population ! so curiously organized, that they need neither luxuries nor comforts,
- that they have neither vices nor sorrows, — subject to an absolute control without despotism, — laboring night and day for their owners, without the crimes and woes of slavery ; a frugal population, that wastes nothing and consumes nothing unproductively ; an orderly population, to which mobs and riots are - unknown ; among which the peace is kept without police, courts, prisons, or bayonets; and annually lavishing the product of one million pairs of hands, to increase the comforts of the fifteen or twenty millions of the human population.— And yet the steam engine, which makes this mighty addition to the resources of civilization, is but a piece of machinery. You have all seen it, both in miniature and on a working scale, at the balls. In the miniature model, (constructed by Mr. Newcomb of Salem,) it can be moved by the breath of the most delicate pair of lips in this assembly; and it could easily be constructed of a size and power, which would rend these walls from their foundation, and pile the roof in ruins upon us. And yet it is but a machine. There is a cylinder and a piston; there are tubes, valves, and pumps, — water, and a vessel to boil it in. This is the whole of that enginery, with which the skill and industry of the present age are working their wonders. This is the whole of the agency which has endowed modern art with its superhuman capacities, and sent it out to traverse the continent and the ocean, with those capacities which Romance has attributed to her unearthly beings :
Tramp, tramp, along the land they ride,
Splash, splash, across the sea,