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pther obstacles which lie in his way, has often to spend as much time and thought to obtain a particular book, as the reading it ten times would cost. Our public Libraries are few, and, compared with those of Europe, small. Nor is this defect supplied by large private collections; these are also
And to render the evil still more grievous, the number of literary and enterprizing booksellers is yet smaller. It is only within two or three years that we have begun to receive, with any kind of regularity or promptitude, the best British works as they issue from the press.
Such are some of the causes which have hitherto impeded the progress of American Literature. Their influence, however, is gradually declining, and the literary prospects of our country are brightening every day. Letters and science are becoming more important in the public estimation.
The number of learned men is becoming rapidly greater. The plans and means of instruction in our Seminaries of learning, though by no means improving in all respects, are, in some, receiving constant melioration. The emulation of founding and sustaining a national character in science and learning begins to be more generally felt, and, from time to time, will doubtless be augmented. A larger proportion of the growing wealth of our country will hereafter be devoted to the improvements of knowledge, and especially to the fur therance of all the means by which scientific discoveries are brought within popular reach, and rendered subservient to practical utility. American publications are every day growing more nu, merous, and rising in respectability of character. Public and private Libraries are becoming more numerous and extensive. The taste in composition among our writers is making very sensible progress in correctness and refinement. American authors
of merit meet with more liberal encouragement and when the time shall arrive that we can give to our votaries of literature the same leisure, and the same stimulants to exertion with which they are favoured in Europe, it may be confidently predicted, that letters will flourish as much in America as in any part of the world; and that we shall be able to make some return to our transatlantic brethren, for the rich stores of useful knowledge which they have been pouring upon us for nearly two centuries.
We have now made a hasty tour through one of the departments of the subject which we undertook to examine. From the foregoing survey, which, however tedious it may have appeared to the reader, is, in reality, a very rapid one, the eighteenth century appears to bear a singularly distinct and interesting character. In almost every department of knowledge, we find monuments of enterprize, discovery, and improvement; and, in some, these monuments are so numerous, valuable, and splendid, as to stand without parallel in the history of the human mind. There have . been periods in which particular studies were more cul: tivated; but it may be asserted, with confidence, that in no period of the same extent, since the creation, has a mass of improvement so large, diversified and rich been presented to view. In no period have the various branches of science, art and letters, received, at the same time, such liberal accessions of light and refinement, and been made so remarkably to illustrate and enlarge each other. Never did the inquirer stand at the confluence of so many streams of knowledge as at the close of the eighteenth century.
But, in order to bring more immediately and disinctly into view the leading characteristics of the last age, as deducible from the statements which have been given, an attempt will be made to sum them up in the few following particulars:
1. The last century was pre-eminently an AGE OF FREE INQUIRY. No period in the history of man is so well entitled to this character. Two centuries have not rolled away, since the belief that the earth is globular in its form was punished as a damnable heresy; since men were afraid to avow the plainest and most fundamental principles of philosophy, government, and religion, and since the spirit of liberal inquiry was almost unknown. In the se venteenth century, this spirit began to show itself; but it was reserved for the eighteenth to witness an indulgence and extension of it truly wonderful. Never, probably, was the human mind, all things considered, so much unshackled in its inquiries. Men have learned, in a greater degree than ever before, to make light of precedent, and to throw off the authority of distinguished names, They have learned, with a readiness altogether new, to discard old opinions, to overturn systems which were supposed to test on everlasting foundations, and to push their inquiries to the utmost extent, awed by no sanctions, restrained by no prescriptions.
This revolution in the human mind has been attended with many advantages, and with many evils. It has led to the developement of much truth, and has contributed greatly to enlarge the bounds of literature, science, and general improvement. It has opened the way to a free communication of all discoveries, real or supposed, and removed various obstacles which long retarded the progress of knowledge. But this spirit of inquiry; like every thing else in the hands of man, has been perverted and abused. It has been carried to the extreme of licentiousness. In too many instances; the love of novelty, and the impatience of all restraint founded on prescription or antiquity, have triumphed over truth and wisdom; and, in the midst of zeal for demolishing old errors, the most sacred principles of virtue and happiness have been rejected or forgotten.
2. The last century may be emphatically called the AGE OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE. It was not till the seventeenth century that the physical sciences be: gan to assume a conspicuous place among the objects of study. Before that period, the learned languages, ancient history; and the metaphysical jargon of the schoolmen, had chiefly engrossed the attention of literary and scientific men. From the time of Bacon and Kepler, a taste for natural philosophy began to extend itself: This taste was cherished and improved by the scientific associa: tions which began to be formed in different parts of Europe about the middle of the seventeenth century. But in the eighteenth, it became far more predominant than at any former period; and may be said to form a prominent feature of the age.
It has been seen, that several branches of Me chanical Philosophy, wholly new, were introduced into the popular systems in the course of this period; and that in almost all the branches formerly studied, there were made immense discoveries and improvements. Chemistry has been so much improved and extended, both in its principles and application, that it may be pronounced a new sci
In Natural History, the progress of philo: sophers, within the last hundred years, has been no less signal and honourable. The amount of what has been accomplished in various plans of classification, in the corrections of nomenclature, and in additions to the former lists of specimens in natural history, more particularly in zoology, botany, and mineralogy, is too great to be collected or exhibited by any individual. A similar extension of our knowledge has taken place in Medicine, in Agriculture, in Geography, and in the principles, as well as practice of Mechanic Arts. All these come under the general denomination of Physical Science. It is too evident to admit of a doubt, that there never was a period in which so much enlightened attention was paid to objects of this kind, or any thing like such a sum of improvement introduced as in the eighteenth century
Some observers of the revolutions and progress of science have divided the century under review into three parts, and considered each part as particularly distinguished by the cultivation of one of the principal physical sciences. From 1700 till 1735, the Newtonian Philosophy engaged the largest share of the attention of the learned. How great a portion of the publications and controversies of that day had a respect to this philosophy, the well-informed reader will not be at any loss to recollect From 1735 till about the year 1765 or 1770, may be called the period of Natural History; as the various branches of study included in this general denomination, more especially zoology and botany, were never before, in any comparable degree, so much cultivated. For this prevalence of the study of Natural History we are, perhaps, indebted to the genius, labours and influence of no two individuals so much as to those of LINNÆUS, and the Count De Buffon. From 1770 till 1801, may be styled the period of Chemistry; that science having given rise to more numerous experiments and publica