Page images
PDF
EPUB

very important discoveries, an account of which he has given in five octavo volumes, the last published this summer. One of the most important facts, which he has discovered, is the effect of vegetation, aided by the action, not of heat, but of light, in purifying, preserving, and restoring common air, constantly injured and diminished by the breathing of animals, the burning of fires, putrefaction, and other causes. In the day time, and particularly in sunshine, the purest kind of air is emitted by the leaves of trees and all vegetables ; and this emission is more or less copious in proportion to the vigor of the vegetation, and the force of the sun's light. In the night and in the dark it ceases entirely, Dr. Priestly is going on with these experiments, and very probably another volume will be published in a little time.

If you think, that my best respects and wishes will be acceptable to the members of your academy, I beg you would deliver them. No one can observe with a more earnest attention, than I do, all, that now passes in America. With much gratitude and the greatest regard I am, Sir,

your most obedient
and humble servant,

RICHARD PRICE.

P.S. Deliver my very respectful compliments to the venerable Dr. Chauncey. Dr. Winthrop was my correspondent. With pain I reflect, that he is no more in this world to promote virtue, liberty, and science. But we are all following him. God grant, that we may leave the world wiser and better for us.

CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON.

THE readers of the Miscellany will not be displeased with the following

concise character of the man, whose name they revere. Should the subject be considered hackneyed, let it be recollected, that it ought never to die, and that few compositions in the style of a “ character” of this great and good man have ever been published.

W

ASHINGTON was a perfect example ; his character has no parallel. Modern names are diminished before him, and antiquity is rivalled. A general, statesman, magistrate, and citizen, his duties were arduous and manifold, and he sustained them without effort.

Guiding the policy of the cabinet with his intellectual, and wielding the sword of battle with his physical strength, he confounded the arts, and defeated the arms of his enemies. He commanded the hearts of his soldiers and the resources of his countrymen ; and his wishes were immediately followed by their exertions. His firmness was so undaunted, his submission to congress so meekly authoritative, his decision so moderately determined, and his exploits so prudently harrassing, that, in every vicissitude of war, his friends were overruled, and his foes overborne by his preeminence. Rising far above common conception, his actions were heroic, his virtues sublime. No difficulty reached him, that he did not surmount, and no passion' assailed him, that he did not overcome. Malignity has accused him of cruelty and indifference, but his tears on the death of André, and the effusion of his country's gratitude have completely controlled the poison of the imputation. .

No ignoble desires for arbitrary sway were produced by his universal popularity, for his magnanimity was more exalted, than his courage. 'The vile, who believed him capable of treachery, were mortified, and the weak, who mistrusted human fortitude, were astonished at his noble resignation of power.

As the absence of the law of gravitation would involve our system in original chaos, so at the retirement of Washington the union assumed the aspect of convulsive dissolution. He appeared again, and order assumed her operation. Opposition was silenced at the mention of his name, and rebellion retired to her den. So controlling was his influence, that party breathed only to expire. So patriotic were his motives, that there existed no envy, however malignant, that ever disputed his integrity, and no corruption, however har: dened, that did not tremble at his frown. The powers of his authority seemed his natural habiliments, yet his obedience, as a citizen, was a pattern for emulation. The relative duties he observed with religious attention, and his shining talents in public were equalled only by his philosophy in domestic life.

In Washington there was an aggregate of excellence rather, than any glaring peculiarity. Without those flashings of genius, which serve only to dazzle the understanding, the steady light of his intellect concentrated its rays to guide the progress of America to liberty and to fame. He was one of those few characters, which are formed by God for conducting great events. An epoch in history will accompany the life of Washington. A warlike nation humbled by the struggles of a peaceful one, a government erected by social compact, and a people flourishing under the mild influence of those institutions, which they themselves had consolidated ; these are the grand concomitants, with which the name of Washington will be adorned for the imitation of posterity.

TRIBUTE.

OBSERVATIONS TENDING TO SHOW THE IN. EFFICACY OF LAWS, DESIGNED TO REG.

ULATE THE INTEREST OF MONEY.

I HE consideration of every subject, relating to man in his civil connexion, ought to be interesting, if not entertaining. To investigate therefore the principles, on which laws, regulating the interest of money, are founded, and as far, as possible, ascertain the benefit or disadvantage of such laws to society, may not be useless. A belief, that they are disadvantageous ; that they check in a degree that spirit of enterprise, which so justly distinguishes the inhabitants of many parts of our republic ; and that they tend, as here established, to weaken the obligation of an oath, has induced us to give them a cursory examination. Though we may be superficial and indistinct, our readers will suggest for us an excuse, when they reflect, that this subject is as abstruse and difhcult of elucidation, as many of those, an adequate knowledge of which confessedly requires the uninterrupted and patient attention of years.

To restrain those passions, which in their operation would produce evils in society, seems to have been the object of legislators of every age. Among these passions avarice has appeared to them one of ths most conspicuous. Speculating on the nature, and tracing the history of man, they have been induced to consider the desire of wealth in every degree, when under no legal restraint, as the cause of extortion. Imagination then draws her picture. The poor are seen falling by the oppression of the rich ; widows and orphans are at the mercy of brokers and scriveners. These alarming evils can be prevented only by seizing the instrument, with which they are effected ; and laws are made to fix the uniform price of money, whose natural value must ever fluctuate with circumstances. This principle appears ever to have operated,

and therefore in all nations, which have so far progressed in civilization, as to make the precious metals the measure of the value of every other commodity, we find laws regulating the value of these metals in use; and settlingthe price, which one man shall give another for the possession of any portion of them for any certain time.

Do such laws effect the design, for which they are enacted, to defend the poor against the oppressive extortion of the rich ? If they do not, it may be safely affirmed, that they are disadvantageous to society ; for it is a political maxa im well established, that it is better to have no law, than one, which cannot be executed..

To determine this question it is requisite to examine the relation subsisting between the medium of exchange, which universal consent has established, as a measure of the value of all things, and the things themselves. · ·

Originally there was no particular standard, by which to compare the value of various commodities among different nations. In many instances no such standard existed among individuals of the same nation. Each man according to his taste and judgment would give the fruits of his labor, above what he could consume, for so much of the labor of another, as his necessities required. This method of exchange was found so inconvenient, that men were not only prevented from engaging in commercial enterprizes, but could with difficulty acquire so much of each other's labor, as permitted them to live in a state, different from that of mere disconnected individuals. Necessity however, the parent of invention, at last adopted a medium of exchange, by which the individuals of different nations as well, as those of the same, could easily measure the value of the productions of their various countries. This medium of the exchangeable value of all things is the precious metals, principally gold and silver. The use of them, as such a medium, has been established by universal consent, not because they possess an invariable value at different times, but because they are less: · Vol. II. No. 2.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »