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"Et rerum causas, et quid natura docebat ;
Quid quateret terras, quâ sidera lege mearent,
I have quoted these different passages from ancient authors, chiefFor wt, pu- ly as an illustration of the strength and of the similarity of the impression which the order of nature has made on the minds of reflecting men, in all ages of the world. Nor is this wonderful; for, were things differently constituted, it would be impossible for man to derive benefit from experience; and the powers of observation and memory would be subservient only to the gratification of an idle curiosity. In consequence of those uniform laws by which the succession of events is actually regulated, every fact collected with
By supposition respect to the past is a foundation of sagacity and of skill with resof gen: laws, pect to the future; and, in truth, it is chiefly this application of experience to anticipate what is yet to happen, which forms the intelpast facts lectual superiority of one individual above another. The remark teach us ý holds equally in all the various pursuits of mankind, whether speculative or active. As an astronomer is able, by reasonings founded future
* Ovid. Met. XV. 68.
While he discoursed of heaven's mysterious laws,
The world's original, and nature's cause;
And what was God, and why the fleecy snows,
In silence fell, and rattling winds arose :
Which shook the stedfast earth, and whence begun
The dance of planets round the radiant sun.
I shall only add to these quotations the epigram of Claudian on the instrument said to be invented by Archimedes for representing the movements of the heavenly bodies, in which various expressions occur coinciding remarkably with the scope of the foregoing observations:-
"Jupiter in parvo cum cerneret aethera vitro
In the progress of philosophical refinement at Rome, this metaphorical application of the word law seems to have been attended with the same consequences which (as I already observed) have resulted from an incautious use of it among some philosophers of modern Europe. Pliny tells us, that, in his time, these consequences extended both to the letter. ed, and to the unlettered multitude. "Pars alia astro suo eventus assignat, et nascendi legibus; semelque in omnes futuros unquam Deo decretum, in reliquum vero otium datum. Sedere caepit sententia haec, pariterque et eruditum vulgus êt rude in eam cursu vadit." (Plin. Ñat. Hist. Lib. ii.)
[Others assign to every star and to the laws of its rising, peculiar events. This opinion begins to prevail alike amongst the ignorant and the learned.]
man a pre
on past observations, to predict those phenomena of the heavens which astonish or terrify the savage ;-as the chemist, from his previous familiarity with the changes operated upon bodies by heat or by mixture, can predict the result of innumerable experiments, which inc to others furnish only matter of amusement and wonder;—so a stu- ou another. dious observer of human affairs acquires a prophetic foresight (still more incomprehensible to the multitude) with respect to the future fortunes of mankind;—a foresight, which, if it does not reach, like our anticipations in physical science, to particular and definite events, amply compensates for what it wants in precision, by the extent and variety of the prospects which it opens. It is from this makes hisapprehended analogy between the future and the past, that histori
cal knowledge derives the whole of its value; and were the analogy toy valuable
completely to fail, the records of former ages would, in point of utility, rank with the fictions of poetry. Nor is the case different in the business of common life. Upon what does the success of men in their private concerns so essentially depend, as on their own prudence; and what else does this word mean, than a wise regard, in every step of their conduct, to the lessons which experience has taught them?*
The laws of The departments of the universe in which we have an opportunity of seeing this regular order displayed, are the three following: nature dis1. The phenomena of inanimate matter; 2. The phenomena of of played in y the lower animals; and, 3. The phenomena exhibited by the hu- phenomena
1. On the first of these heads, I have only to repeat what was
of Matterbefore remarked, That, in all the phenomena of the material world, flower animal. the uniformity in the order of events is conceived by us to be complete and infallible; in so much that, to be assured of the same result upon a repetition of the same experiment, we require only to be satisfied, that both have been made in circumstances precisely similar. A single experiment, accordingly, if conducted with due at One experitention, is considered, by the most cal o inquirere, si nu fie sent to ment suffic establish a general physical fact; and if, on any occasion, it shouldnt to extol be repeated a second time, for the sake of greater certainty in the wish or genera conclusion, it is merely with a view of guarding against the effects. денти of the accidental concomitants which may have escaped notice, when the first result was obtained. 2. The case is nearly similar in the phenomena exhibited by the The case brutes; the various tribes of which furnish a subject of examination, so steady, that the remarks made on a few individuals may be extended, with little risk of errour, to the whole species. To this uniformity in their instincts it is owing, that man can so easily maintain his empire over them, and employ them as agents or instru- This uniform ments for accomplishing his purposes; advantages which would be
nearly. samme in brute animals.
wholly lost to him, if the operations of instinct were as much diverity in their sified as those of human reason. Here therefore we may plainly
* “Prudentiam quodammodo esse divinationem." Corn. Nep. in vita Allici.
instincts. render them
trace a purpose or design, perfectly analogous to that already remarked, with respect to the laws which regulate the material world; and the difference, in point of exact uniformity, which distinguishes the two classes of events, obviously arises from a certain latitude of action, which enables the brutes to accommodate themselves, in some measure to their accidental situations ;-rendering them, in consequence of this power of accommodation, incomparably more serviceable to our race than they would have been, if altogether subjected, like mere matter, to the influence of regular and assignable causes. It is, moreover, extremely worthy of observation, concerning these two departments of the universe, that the uniformity in the phenomena of the latter presupposes a correspondof animals ing regularity in the phenomena of the former; in so much that, if .the established order of the material world were to be essentially requiun www.disturbed (the instincts of the brutes remaining the same) all their formity in various tribes would inevitably perish. The uniformity of animal phenomena instinct, therefore, bears a reference to the constancy and immutaImatter. bility of physical laws, not less manifest, than that of the fin of the of matter fish to the properties of the water, or of the wing of the bird to those of the atmosphere.
3. When from the phenomena of inanimate matter and those of the lower animals, we turn our attention to the history of our own species, innumerable lessons present themselves for the instruction to of all who reflect seriously on the great concerns of human life. Difficult These lessons require, indeed, an uncommon degree of acuteness collettap and good sense to collect them, and a still more uncommon degree of ply general caution to apply them to practice; not only because it is difficult to pinuple find cases in which the combinations of circumstances are exactly the same; respecting but because the peculiarities of individual character are our own infinite, and the real springs of action in our fellow creatures are objects only of vague and doubtful conjecture. It is, however, a curious fact, and one which opens a wide field of interesting speculation, that, in proportion as we extend our views from particulars to generals, and from individuals to communities, human affairs ex
Uniformity bibit, more and more, a steady subject of philosophical examination, in human and furnish a greater number of general conclusions to guide our conjectures concerning future contingencies. To speculate conaffain great cerning the character or talents of the individual who shall possess ran won the throne of a particular kingdom, a hundred years hence, would from individ-be absurd in the extreme: But to indulge imagination in anticinah to com-pating, at the same distance of time, the condition and character of munitin any great nation, with whose manners and political situation we are from porti. well acquainted, (although even here our conclusions may be widely
erroneous) could not be justly censured as a misapplication of our faculties equally vain and irrational with the former. On this subject, Mr. Hume has made some very ingenious and important remarks in the beginning of his Essay on the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences
The same observation is applicable to all other cases, in which events depend on a multiplicity of circumstances. How accidental soever these circumstances may appear; and how much soever they may be placed, when individually considered, beyond the reach of our calculations, experience shows, that they are somehow or other mutually adjusted, so as to produce a certain degree of uniformity in the result; and this uniformity is the more complete, the greater is the number of circumstances combined. What can appear more uncertain than the proportion between the sexes among the children of any one family! and yet how wonderfully is the balance preserved in the case of a numerous society! What more precarious than the duration of life in an individual! and yet, in a long list of persons of the same age, and placed in the same circumstances, the mean duration of life is found to vary within ⚫ very narrow limits. In an extensive district, too, a considerable degree of regularity may sometimes be traced for a course of years, in the proportion of births and of deaths to the number of the whole inhabitants. Thus, in France, Necker informs us, that "the num"ber of births is in proportion to that of the inhabitants as one to "twenty-three aud twenty-four, in the districts that are not favoured "by nature, nor by moral circumstances: this proportion is as one "to twenty-five, twenty-five and a half, and twenty-six, in the great"est part of France: in cities, as one to twenty-seven, twenty-eight, 66 twenty-nine, and even thirty, according to their extent and their "trade." "Such proportions (he observes) can only be remarked "in districts where there are no settlers nor emigrants; but even "the differences arising from these (the same author adds,) and many other causes, acquire a kind of uniformity, when collec❝tively considered, and in the immense extent of so great a king"dom." 99*
It may be worth while to remark, that, on the principle just Pinuple
stated, all the different institutions for Assurances are founded.
object at which they all aim, in common, is, to diminish the number of assuranc of accidents to which human life is exposed; or rather, to counteract the inconveniences resulting from the irregularity of individual events, by the uniformity of general laws.
The advantages which we derive from such general conclusions as we possess concerning the order of nature, are so great, and our propensity to believe in its existence is so strong, that, even in cases where the succession of events appear the most anomalous, trong pro we are apt to suspect the operation of fixed and constant laws, pensity to though we may be unable to trace them. The vulgar, in all countries, perhaps, have a propensity to imagine, that, after a certain believe in number of years, the succession of plentiful and of scanty harvests these calen begins again to be repeated in the same series as before ;-a notion tations. to which Lord Bacon himself has given some countenance in the following passage. "There is a toy which I have heard, and I
Traité de l'Administration des Finances de France.
"would not have it given over, but waited upon a little. They "say it is observed in the Low countries, (I know not in what part) "that every five and thirty years, the same kind and suite of years "and weathers come about again; as great frosts, great wet, great "droughts, warm winters, summers with little heat, and the like; "and they call it the prime. It is a thing I do the rather mention, "because, computing backwards, I have found some concurrence."* Among the philosophers of antiquity, the influence of the same same prejudice is observable on a scale still greater; many of them having supposed, that at the end of the annus magnus, or Platonic year, notion aan a repetition would commence of all the trasactions that have occurmong red on the theatre of the world. According to this doctrine, the tient hit predictions in Virgil's Pollio will sooner or later, be literally accomplished:
"(1) Alter erit tum Tiphys, et altera quae vehat Argo
Atque iterum ad Trojam magnus mittetur Achilles."+
The astronomical cycles which the Greeks borrowed from the Its origin Egyptians and Chaldeans, when combined with that natural bias of
the mind which I have just remarked, account sufficiently for this extension to the moral world, of ideas suggested by the order of physical phenomena.
Nor is this hypothesis of a moral cycle, extravagant as it unquestionably is, without its partisans among modern theorists. The train of thought, indeed, by which they have been led to adopt it, is essentially different; but it probably received no small degree of countenance, in their opinion, from the same bias which influenced the speculations of the ancients. It has been demonstrated by one of the most profound mathematicians of the present age, that all the irregularities arising from the mutual action of the planets, are, phenomena by a combination of various arrangements, necessarily subjected to
+. all au laritin
of y heavenly boden subjected to fixed laws.
"Tum efficitur (says Cicero, speaking of this period) cum solis et lunae, et quinque errantium ad eandem inter se comparationem confectis omnium spatiis, est facta conversio. Quae quam longa sit, magna quaestio est esse vero certam et definitam necesse est."} De Nat. Deorum, Lib. ii. 74.) "Hoc intervallo (Clavius observes) quidam volunt, omnia quaecunque in mundo sunt, eodem ordine esse reditura, quo nunc cernuntur."|| (Clav. Commentar. in Sphaeram Joannis de Sacro Bosco, p. 57, Romae, 1607.)
M. De la Grange.
[It takes place, when the Sun, Moon and five planets, having completed their revolu tions, return to the original relative distances from each other. How long this period is, is much disputed; but that its length is fixed and determined, is absolutely certain.]
[At the completion of this period, according to the opinion of some, all the events of the world will return in the same order in which they now take place.]