Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

sand times when I was young, and now find at four-score that the three contraries have befallen me, being subject to the gout and the stone, and not being yet master of all my passions. Like the proud girl in my country, who wished and resolved not to marry a parson, nor a Presbyterian, nor an Irishman; and at length found herself married to an Irish Presbyterian parson. You see I have some reason to wish, that in a future state, I may not only be at mil as I was, but a little better. And 1 hope it: for I too, with your poet, trust in God. And when I observe that there is great frugality, as well as wisdom, in his works, since he has been evidently sparing both of labor and materials; for, by the various wonderful inventions of propagation, he has provided for the continual peopling his world with plants and animals, without being at the trouble of repeated new creations; and by the natural reduction of compound substances to their original elements, capable of being employed in new compositions, he has prevented the necessity of creating new matter; so that the earth, water, air, and perhaps fire, which being compounded from wood, do, when the wood is dissolved, return, and again become air, earth, fire, and water; I say, that when I see nothing annihilated, and not even a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe that he will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds ready made that now exist, and put himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. Thus finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other, always exist; and, with all the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine; hoping, however, that the errata of the last may be corrected.

I return your note of children received in the Foundling Hospital at Paris, from 1741 to 1755 inclusive; and I have added the years succeeding down to 1770. Those since that period I have not been able to obtain. 1 have noted in the margin the gradual increase, viz. from every tenth child so thrown upon the public, until it comes to every third. Fifteen years have passed since the last account, and probably it may now amount to one-half. Is it right to encourage this monstrous deficiency of natural affection? A surgeon I met with here, excused the women of Paris, by saying seriously,, that they could not give suck; " Car," said he, "elles n'ont point de tetons." He assured me it was a fact, and bade me look at them, and observe how flat they were on the breast; "they have nothing more there," said he, "than I have upon the back of my hand." I have since thought that there might be some truth in his observation, and that possibly nature, finding they made no use of bubbles, has left off giving them any. Yet, since Rousseau pleaded with admirable eloquence for the rights of children to their mothers' milk, the mode has changed a little; and some ladies of quality now suckle their infants and find milk enough. May the mode descend to the lower ranks, till k becomes no longer the custom to pack their infants away as soon as born, to the enfans trouvts, with the careless observation, that the king is better able to maintain them. I am credibly informed that nine-tenths of them die there pretty soon, which is said to be a great relief to the institution, whose funds would not otherwise be sufficient to bring up the remainder. Except the few persons of quality abovementioned, and the multitude who send to the hospital, tht practice is to hire nurses in the country to carry out the children, and take care of them there. Here is an office for examining the health of nurses, and giving them licences. They come to town on certain days of-the week in companies, to receive the children, and we often meet trains of

them on the road returning to the neighboring villages, with each a child in arms. But those who are good enough to try this way of raising their children, are often not able to pay the expense, so that the prisons of Paris are crowded with wretched fathers and mothers confined pour mois de nourricer though it is laudably a favorite charity to pay for them, and set such prisoners at liberty. I wish success to the new project of assisting the poor to keep their children at home, because 1 think there is no nurse like a mother, (or not many) and that if parents did net immediately send their infants out of their sight, they would in a few days begin to love them, and thence be spurred to greater industry for their maintenance. This is a subject you understand better than 1, and therefore having perhaps said too much, 1 drop it. I only add to the notes a remark from the History of the Academy of Sciences, much in favor of the Foundling Institution.

The Philadelphia bank goes on, as I hear, very well. What you call the Cincinnati Institution, is no institution of our government, but a private convention among the officers of our late army, and so universally disliked by the people, that it is supposed it will be dropped. It was considered as an attempt to establish something like an hereditary rank or nobility. I hold with you that it was wrong; may 1 add, that all descending honors are wrong and absurd; that the honors of virtuous actions appertain only to him that performs them, and is in its nature incommunicable. If it were communicable by descent, it must also be divisible among the descendants; and the more ancient the family, the less would be found existing in any one branch of it; to say nothing of the greater chance- of unlucky interruptions.'

1 See Letter to Mrs. Bache, Jan. 26,1784.

Our constitution seems not to be well understood with you. If the congress were a permanent body, there would be more reason in being jealous of giving it powers. But its members are chosen annually, cannot be chosen more than three years successively, nor more than three years in seven; and any of them may be recalled at any time, whenever their constituents shall be dissatisfied with their conduct. They are of the people, and return again to mix with the people, having no more durable pre-eminence than the different grains of sand in an hour-glass. Such an assembly cannot easily become dangerous to liberty. They are the servants of the people, sent together to do the people's business, and promote the public welfare; their powers must be sufficient, or their duties cannot be performed. They have no profitable appointments, but a mere payment of daily wages, such as are scarcely equivalent to their expenses; so that having no chance for great places, and enormous salaries or pensions, as in some countries, there is no canvassing or bribing for elections. 1 wish Old England were as happy in its government, but I do not see it. Your people, however, think their constitution the best in the world, and affect to despise ours. It is comfortable to have a good opinion of one-self, and of every thing that belongs to us; to think one's own religion, king, and wife, the best of all possible wives, kings, or religions. I remember three Greenlanders, who had travelled two years in Europe, under the care of some Moravian missionaries, and had visited Germany, Denmark, Holland, and England; when I asked them at Philadelphia (where they were in their way home) whether, now they had seen how much more commodiously the white people lived by the help of the arts, they would not choose to cemain among us? their answer was, that they were pleased with having had an opportunity of seeing so many fine things, but they chose to Live in their own country. Which country, by tlie way, consisted of rock only, for the Moravians were obliged to carry earth in their ship from New York, for the purpose of making a cabbage garden.

By Mr. Doliond's saying, that my double spectacles can only serve particular eyes, 1 doubt he has not been rightly informed of their construction. 1 imagine it will be found pretty generally true, that the same convexity of glass, through which a man sees clearest and best at the distance proper for reading, is not the best for greater distances. I therefore had formerly two pair of spectacles, which I shifted occasionally, as in travelling I sometimes read, and often wanted to regard the prospects. Finding this change troublesome, and not always sufficiently ready, I had the glasses cut, and half of each kind associated in the same circle, thus—

[graphic]

By this means, as I wear my spectacles constantly, I have only to move my eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or near, the proper glasses being always ready. This 1 find more particularly convenient since my being in France; the glasses that serve me best at table to see what I eat, not being the best to see the faces of those on the other side of the table who speak to me; and when one's ears are not well accustomed to the sounds of a language, a sight of the movements in the features of him that speaks, helps to

« ZurückWeiter »