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Louis XIV. prompted by the suggestion, and assisted by the counsels of his minister, M. COLBERT. But the eighteenth century is pre-eminently remarkable for multiplying these associations; for a great increase in the number of their publications; and for their unexampled activity and usefulness in the cause of science. By far the greater number of the societies for promoting useful knowledge which now exist in the world, were formed during the period under consideration. Among these the most important and useful are the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh; the Royal Academies of Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Lisbon; the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Irish Academy of Dublin. Besides these, a multitude of others have arisen, under different names, for various purposes, and at different periods of the century, in Great-Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and almost every literary country of Europe. Perhaps in no part of the world have institutions of this kind been so much multiplied as in Italy; and next to her, in the number and activity of similar associations, we may estimate France. In the former there is scarcely a town of any importance without an academy or literary association; and in the latter they are very numerous.
In addition to the societies formed for promoting general literature and science, the eighteenth century is distinguished by the formation of many other associations, for promoting some particular art or branch of science. There were instituted, during this period, academies of Painting, of Sculpture, of Music, of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres, of Law, of Medicine, of Arts and Manufactures, of Agriculture, &c. and, indeed, for cultivating almost every particular department of human art and knowledge.
It was before remarked that the publications made by these societies and academies, exhibiting the result of their labours, were more numerous, more valuable, and more generally circulated, during the eighteenth century, than in any former period. They amount to many hundred volumes, and hold an important place among the literary and scientific productions of the age.
We had occasion to remark, in a former part of this work, that the discoveries in Geography, and the rìumerous improvements in Navigation, during the last äge, had led to a great and unexampled increase of the intercourse of men.
The same effect has been produced, in modern times, by the formation of so many learned societies, by their great extent, their frequent meetings, their numerous publications, and by their correspondence and mutual interchange of literary honours. Never, assuredly, at any former period, were learned men so well acquainted with the labours and the characters of each other, so free and mutually instructive in their intercourse, or enabled so far to combine their talents and industry in the pursuit of important investigations.
But this is by no means the only advantage of these associations. They may be reckoned among the principal causes of the superiority of the moderns over the ancients, especially in the physical sciences. They have kindled a spirit of emulation among the learned; they have stimulated into action many useful talents, by holding out literary rewards; and they have suggested objects of inquiry; and methods of experiment, which might otherwise have passed uñobserved and forgotten. Suchi societies, also, have furnished useful repositories for the observations and discoveries of the ingenibus; and have thus been enabled to present to the world many valuable productions, which would
bably otherwise have been lost through the modesty, the indolence, or the poverty of authors. Literary and scientific associations, moreover, by extend, ing their honours to distant countries, bind more closely together the members of the republic of letters in different quarters, of the globe, and teach them to feel as brethren embarked in the same cause. They inay even be said, in some instances, to have a great influence in advancing national prosperity, and promoting a spirit of general improvement. It is true, in accounting for these facts, other causes may be assigned which, beyond doubt, contributed to their production; but it can as little be doubted that the increased intercourse and connection among the learned, by means of the establishment of academies and societies, ought to be considered as holding a place among the most important sources of modern improvements in science.
The formation of literary and scientific associations in the United States began to take place in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Within that period many useful societies have been instituted which deserye some notice. The principal of these are the following
1. Societies and Academies of Arts and Sciences. Of this class there are several. « The American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge,” was instituted in January, 1769. It was formed by the union of two smaller societies, which had for some time existed in that city, and has been ever since continued on a very respectable footing. This society has published four quarto volumes of its transactions, containing many ingenious papers on literature, the sciences, and arts, which exhibit American talents and industry in a favourable light. Over this institution have successively presided, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, David RITTENHOUSE, and THOMAS JEFFERSON. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, held at Boston, was established in May, 1780, by the council and house of representatives of Massachusetts, “ for promoting the knowledge of the antiquities of America, and of the natural history of the country; for determining the uses to which its various natural productions might be applied; for encouraging medicinal discoveries, mathematical disquisitions, philosophical inquiries and experiments, astronomical, meteorological, and geographical observations, and improvements in agriculture, manufactures and commerce; and, in short, for cultivating every art and science which may tend to ad. vance the interest, honour, dignity and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." This Academy has published one quarto volume of its transactions, and several parts of a second, which will probably soon be completed. The contents of its respective publications afford a very honourable specimen of learning and diligence in the members, and furnish ground for expectations of still greater utility. The gentlemen who have presided over this association are JAMES BOWDOIN and John Adams. The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences was formed in 1799, at New Haven, “ for the purpose of encouraging literary and philosophical researches in general, and particularly for investigating the natural history of that State.' This society has existed so short a time, that no publication of its proceedings of any extent could yet be reasonably expected. The gentleman first elected president, and who yet remains in that office, is the Rev. Dr. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College.
2. Historical Society. The only association of this kind in the United States is in Massachusetts. It was instituted in the beginning of the year 1791, and the late Rev. Dr. BELKNAP, the honourable Judge TUDOR, and the Rev. Dr. Eliot, are more entitled to the honour of being called its founders than any other individuals. The design of this association is to collect and preserve all documents, either manuscript or printed, which have a tendency to throw light on the natural, civil, ecclesiastical, or literary history of America. It has already made very large and valuable collections, an important portion of which has been laid before the public, and it bids fair to be one of the most useful institutions in our country.
3. Medical Societies. Prior to the revolution, which made the United States free and independent, the physicians of our country afforded little instruction or aid to each other. Scattered over an immense territory; seldom called to confer together and compare opinions, and little habituated to the task of committing their observations to writing, each was compelled to proceed almost
Ø Dr. BELKNAP, whose taste for historical researches is well known, and who has rendered such important service to the interests of American history, first urged the adoption of some plan for collecting and preserving the numerous historical documents, relating to our country, and especially to New-England, which were widely scattered, and rapidly falling a prey to the destroying hand of time. He was zealously seconded by Judge TUDOR, who first proposed the formation of a society for this purpose, and by the Rev. Dr. Eliot, who engaged with ardour in the plan, and has been since one of the most active and useful members of the institution. These gentlemen were soon joined, and ably assisted by the Rev. Drs. Thatcher and FREEMAN, by the honourable Judges Sullivan and MINOT, Mr. Winthrop, and several others, who were members of the association when first organized.
The historical documents published by the Society amount to sever octavo volumes.
s, By far the greater part of the publications made by this Society relate to the history of New-England. This has arisen, not from any blameable partiality of the resident members to the history of their own country; but from the negligence of the corresponding members to make communications respecting the several States to which they belong. It is earnestly to be wished, either that gentlemen of a literary character in different parts of the United States would consider the Society in Boston as a national one, and exert themselves to render it more extensively useful; or, without delay, form independent societies for the same purpose, to act in co-operation with the parent society.