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At the same time, the epistolary form under which M. De Luc's work appears, must necessarily cause a relaxation of the rigorous rules of method; and we think the work rather gains than loses by this circumstance. It is a series of letters addressed to our Queen, as the patroness of every thing that is great, good, elegant, and humane ; and it is not in the letters of a philosophical traveller (who cannot help associating with his main object incidental views that open to him in his progress,) that we are to expect the severe symmetry of a regular system. The Work is divided into eleven parts.
FIRST PART. The First Part contains fourteen Discourses, which serve eminently to ascertain the connection of many discussions (that may appear to some digressive and episodical) with our Author's main design; and thus to ihew, that the materials really constitute a complete edifice. It will not be improper to give some account of these Discourses.
The first announces the great point of natural history and physical chronology, which is the main foundation of the whole work, viz. That our continents are not of a very ancient date. M, De Luc contends, throughout the course and progress of this work, that ALL the phenomena of our globe, as also the history of man, concur to persuade us, that, by a sudden, though not a violent revolution, the SEA changed its bed, --that the conTINENTS, which are now inhabited, are the bed, which it formerly occupied, and that the number of ages which have clapsed, fince this great revolution, and since the retreat of the waters of the Ocean from the present continents, is not very great. His method of proving thele propofitions in the courte of his work, is here indicated before hand, to thew the Reader where he is to employ bis principal attention. It is from the records of NaTURE, and not from those of history, that he has deduced the chronology of our continents and that of human nature; and as arguments have been drawn from the flow progress of the forences, to prove the high antiquity of the human race, he obviates these by a curious discusion of this interesting subject, -in which he thews, that the sciences, which depend upon genius, may have acquired their present degree of improvement in a short time, while those which depend on experience are yet but in a very imperfect state.
In the second Discourse M. De Luc shews the .connection fubfifting between the great point of natural history, now mentioned, and the truth and authenticity of divine revelation, and particularly of the Mosaic history, whose principal lines are confirmed, and of whose relations none are contradiéted, by an attentive study of our globe. This Icads our Author into a series of remarks on the connection of the sciences with the felicity of man, and their insufficiency to promote it with out religion, which alone can prescribe a certain rule of conduct. The reflections on the foundation of morality, which terminate this discourse, are curious and interesting. Our Au'thor condescends to refute the nonsense that runs through the book of Helvetius, concerning man and his education : but indeed, as this book more particularly seems to have been composed in a delirious state of mind, we do not think it deserved the notice which M. De Luc has thought proper to bestow upon it. What can be said to a man, who, reasoning concerning the influence of religion on society, confounds religion perpetually, either with superftition and fanaticism, or with the conduct of those who use the mask of religion to accomplish perfidious and ambitious views ? What can be said to a man, who, to give the people a certain obligatory and efficacious rule of life and manners, would have religion and its ministers suppressed, -and morality preached-by whom? by philosophers and statesmenforsooth! by the Diderots and Maupeous—by the Richlieus and Voltaires, -and so on! Even were these names ever fo respectable, -what change do names make in the business? In short, such a reasoner as Helvetius requires no answer ; but however contemptible this antagonist may be, he furnishes our Author with an occasion of saying many excellent things on the subject of religion, in its connection with the true interests of man.
The third, fourth, and fifth Discourses are relative to the history of man, and exhibit a variety of objects that deserve the attention of the man and the citizen. The improvement of lands as yet uncultivated, (the surprising quantity of which seems to furnish an argument of the recent emersion of our continents from the ocean)--the advantages to humanity resulting from commons--the happiness resulting to the villager from fimplicity, which wisdom would chuse as the true source of happiness to all men,—the effects of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, sciences, and civil polity, considered in their relation to the method of bettering the state of the human species by the cultivation of deserts ;-all these objects furnith important details in the body and progress of M. De Luc's work, and matter for many judicious reflections in the Discourses now mentioned.
The fixth and seventh Discourses contain reflections on final causes, and remarks on the natural dispositions of man, who is the final cause, in which the greatest part of the productions and arrangements of this terrestrial globe seem to terminate. The natural propensity of man to benignity and goodness, though sometimes rendered imperceptible by foreign impressions,
is ingenioully proved in the seventh Discourse, and the existence of final causes, is maintained against the Atheist in the discourse preceding. If gravitation (says our Author) does not cease to operate in a bomb, when it
' mounts in the air, though it operates invisibly, so neither does.goodness cease to be the natural propensity of man, though it be often counteracted by accidental impressions,
The subject of the eighth Discourse is, the epistolary form under which the work before us appears ;-but this has been already considered. The ninth treats of toleration, to which subject our Author was led, by considering the adversaries his book and system might set in array against him, and the spirit of candour, decency, and forbearance, that ought to guide those who are engaged in controversy, whatever may be its object, or the points in dispute. This is an excellent piece.
The tenth treats of the nature of man, and the knowledge acquired by the first men who studied themselves. The eleventh, of the properties of substances, and more especially, of the properties of matter. In the twelfth, our Author returns to the nature of man, and ascertains particularly the difference between perception and its instruments, or, in his own words, between the being, which perceives, and its organs. This discourse, which contans 114 pages, is a very ingenious refutation of materialism in general, and the discourse, which follows, is a very full and mafterly answer to the materialism of Dr. PRIESTLEY in particular. He endeavours to shew, that the reasonings of the Doctor have no sort of force, unless it be against those scholastic Spiritualists of former times, and their followers, who maintain, that the soul and the body have no property in common, no reciprocal point of conformity, or concurrence, and that, nevertheless, they are capable of an intimate communication with, and a reciprocal action on each other: he shews, that the more rational spiritualists (who do not disdain matter, but acknowledge that it must have an immediate relation to SPIRIT, though in consequence of properties, in these two substances, as get unknown to us) have palpable advantages over Dr. Priestley. He observes, that (notwithstanding the profession the Doctor makes of his attachment to the philosophy of Newton) nothing can be more anti Newtonian, than his idea of matter, and (what is more to the point) that no idea of matter is so palpably insufficient to account for sensation and intelligence, as that which reduces it to a mere unsubstantial power of attraction and repulsion. The purest logic of reason and common sense, undefiled by scholastic jargon, reigns in this and the two preceding Discourses. Our Author coincides with the ideas of Dr Price, on this subject, more than once; but these discourses, as he tells us himself, were composed before the publication of Dr. Price's Conference.
The fourteenth Discourse, which concludes the firft part of M. De Luc's work, may be considered by some as a bors d'oeuvre; but it is a very interesting one. Indeed, as these Dircourses are preliminary in part, and partake more or less of the nature of a preface, it comes in with propriety in that point of view. Its object is of the utmost importance, but also, of the moft nice and delicate nature; for it treats of the liberty of writing on philosophical subjects, and thus places an author between a Scylla and Charybdis of a momentous sort. Here again M. DE Luc has, in view, Dr. PRIESTLEY, who lays it down as a principle, that every man ought to publish with the utmost freedom, bis sentiments (whatever they may be) on the most important subjects, and refute, with the same freedom, whatever he may think false and erroneous in the opinions of the public. M. De Luc is of opinion, that a wise and good man ought to be cautious and prudent in the use of this liberty, as truth may, and public felicity must, lose much by the indiscriminate employment of it on all forts of subjects. Whether our Author be in the right or in the wrong, we thall leave it to the candid and judicious reader to determine ;-but this we can affirm, without difficulty, that he deserves to be heard, and that the confiderations he offers on the subject, are important and respectable: they have, moreover, one undoubted title to an attentive hearing, which is, that they come from an ardent friend both to civil and religious liberty, who treats the subject with the spirit of a philosopher, and of a friend to man, and not with the narrow spirit of any
That the reader may be sensible of the importance of the objects that are presented to him in this work, M. De Luc advises hin to pass from the first to the eleventh part; as he will find in this latter, all the fasts and principles that the Author designs to ascertain by the materials, observations, and reasonings, contained in the intervening parts. We, however, shall proceed in the straight line.
The second part of this great work contains, in eight letters, an examination of all the systems of cosmology, in which the prefent state of the surface of the earth is considered, as the effect of the general deluge. This examination leads our Author into prodigious details, as the science of cosmology comprehends not only the principles of physics, and requires all the materials of geography and natural history to form its ftupendous edifice, or to overturn those that have been erroneoully raised under its nime, but also extends to the history of man, of his origin, nature, and deitination, as connected with the state and revolurions of the globe, which he inhabits. For (according to our Author's excellent and truly philosophical principle) all things in nature concur in the accomplishment of one great end, and that end is
kind of party.
happiness; and the universe is the work of an intelligent Being, who has not left man in a total ignorance, either of his origin or of his end. Accordingly, in the close and circumftantial examination of the systems of Burnet, Whifton, Woodward, Leibnitz, Scheuchzer, Plúche, and Engel, which we meet with in this second part, there is a rich treasure of observations and physical knowledge. The natural historian will find here, among other things, curious difcuffions relative to the cohesion of bodies, their fall or descent in water, the mechanism of petrification, the form mation of gritts, and chryftallizations in the cavities of fossils, the state of the beds or frata at the earth's surface, considered with respect to the specific gravities of the substances which they contain, the vitrescible, but not vitrified substances, that compose the earth, and the existence of inhabited continents, while the marine bodies deposited them felves on those continents (formerly covered with water) which we now inhabit. After a refutation of the systems of the learned men already mentioned, M. De Luc shews, that, in general, all the systems, that derive the present form of the earth from a violent change or revolution, are contradicted by the regularity of the dry furface of our globe. He acknowledges, that the confused heaps of terrestrial and marine bodies, that are almost every where buried in the bowels of mountains, prove that our globe did not proceed, in the state in which it now is, from the hands of the Creator; but he observes juftly, that it is only the heterogeneous nature of these bodies, or their incongruity with the places where they are found, that can lead us to deduce from them the suppofition of a general revolution in our globe: such a revolution having no vestiges or proofs but to the eye of reason.
Nothing certainly can be more ingenious, than the arguments by which M. De Luc proves the regularity of the present continents, in the letter that terminates this second part.
In the third part, our Author treats of the cosmological systems, in which the present pate of the surface of our globe is supposed to have been produced by slow OPERATIONS, or the gradual influence of the WATERS. He shews particularly, that the motion of the waters from east to weft, to which M. Buffon, and others, have attributed the change of land into sea, and sea into land, and the present form of our continents, has not produced fuch: effects, and could not produce them, in the nature of things.
In the fourth part, with which the Second VOLUME commences, M. De Luc, examines the hypothesis of those, who? consider the rivers as the cause of the present state of the earth's sure face; and he proves, with the utmolt perspicuity and evidence, that the actual form of our continents is in direct opposition to this system. The abettors of this hypothesis, which is become a favourite one, allege, in its support, the following fact;