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passage trees, &c. After the great shake, those people who escaped got on board ships in the harbour, where many continued above two months; the shakes all that time being so violent, and coming so thick, sometimes two or three in an hour, accompanied with frightful noises, like a ruffling wind, or a hollow, rumbling thunder, with brimstone blasts, that they durst not come ashore. The consequence of the earthquake was a general sickness, from the noisome vapors belched forth, which swept away above three thousand persons.
After the detail of these horrible convulsions, the reader will have but little curiosity left, for the less considerable phenomena of the earthquake at Lima, in 1687, described by Father Alvarez de Toledo, wherein above five thousand persons were destroyed; this being of the vibratory kind, so that the bells in the church rung of themselves; or that at Batavia in 1699, by Witsen; that in the north of England, in 1703, by Mr. Thoresby; or, lastly, those in New England, in 1663 and 1670, by Dr. Mather.
FOR PROMOTING USEFUL KNOWLEDGE AMONG THE BRITISH
PLANTATIONS IN AMERICA.*
Philadelphia, 14 May, 1743. The English are possessed of a long tract of continent, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, extending north and south through different climates, having different soils, producing different plants, mines, and minerals, and capable of different improvements, manufactures, &c.
The first drudgery of settling new colonies, which confines the attention of people to mere necessaries, is now pretty well over; and there are many in every province in circumstances, that set them at ease, and afford leisure to cultivate the finer arts, and improve the common stock of knowledge. To such of these who are men of speculation, many hints must from time to time arise, many observations occur, which if well examined, pursued, and improved, might produce discoveries to the advantage of some or all of the British plantations, or to the benefit of mankind in general. But as, from the extent of the country, such persons
* This paper appears to contain the first suggestion, in any public form, for an American Philosophical Society. It was originally printed on a separate sheet, as a circular letter, and sent by the author to his different correspondents. The copy, from which the above is printed, has been found among the papers of Cadwallader Colden, in New York. On the same sheet is a manuscript letter from John Bartram, the celebrated botanist, to Mr. Colden, dated at Philadelphia, March 27th, 1744, nearly a year after the above “Proposal” was issued. Mr. Bartram says in that letter; “I here send one of our Proposals for forming a Philosophical Society. We have already had three meetings, and several learned and curious persons from our neighbouring colonies have already joined membership with us, and we hope you will please to do us the honor to be enrolled in our number. I hope this undertaking may be of public benefit to our American colonies, if we act with diligent application.”. EDITOR.
are widely separated, and seldom can see and converse, or be acquainted, with each other, so that many useful particulars remain uncommunicated, die with the discoverers, and are lost to mankind; it is, to remedy this inconvenience for the future, proposed,
That one society be formed of virtuosi or ingenious men, residing in the several colonies, to be called The American Philosophical Society, who are to maintain a constant correspondence.
That Philadelphia, being the city nearest the centre of the continent colonies, communicating with all of them northward and southward by post, and with all the islands by sea, and having the advantage of a good growing library, be the centre of the Society.
That at Philadelphia there be always at least seven members, viz. a physician, a botanist, a mathematician, a chemist, a mechanician, a geographer, and a general natural philosopher, besides a president, treasurer, and secretary.
That these members meet once a month, or oftener, at their own expense, to communicate to each other their observations and experiments, to receive, read, and consider such letters, communications, or queries as shall be sent from distant members; to direct the dispersing of copies of such communications as are valuable, to other distant members, in order to procure their sentiments thereupon.
That the subjects of the correspondence be, all newdiscovered plants, herbs, trees, roots, their virtues, uses, &c.; methods of propagating them, and making such as are useful, but particular to some plantations, more general; improvements of vegetable juices, as ciders, wines, &c.; new methods of curing or preventing diseases; all new-discovered fossils in different countries, as mines, minerals, and quarries; new and useful
improvements in any branch of mathematics; new discoveries in chemistry, such as improvements in distillation, brewing, and assaying of ores; new mechanical inventions for saving labor, as mills and carriages, and for raising and conveying of water, draining of meadows, &c.; all new arts, trades, and manufactures, that may be proposed or thought of; surveys, maps, and charts of particular parts of the sea-coasts or inland countries; course and junction of rivers and great roads, situation of lakes and mountains, nature of the soil and productions; new methods of improving the breed of useful animals; introducing other sorts from foreign countries; new improvements in planting, gardening, and clearing land ; and all philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things, tend to increase the power of man over matter, and multiply the conveniences or pleasures of life..
That a correspondence, already begun by some intended members, shall be kept up by this Society with the Royal SOCIETY of London, and with the Dublin Society.
That every member shall have abstracts sent him quarterly, of every thing valuable communicated to the Society's Secretary at Philadelphia; free of all charge except the yearly payment hereafter mentioned.
That, by permission of the postmaster-general, such communications pass between the Secretary of the Society and the members, postage-free.
That, for defraying the expense of such experiments as the Society shall judge proper to cause to be made, and other contingent charges for the common good, every member send a piece of eight per annum to the treasurer, at Philadelphia, to form a common stock, to be disbursed by order of the President with the consent of the majority of the members that can conveniently
be consulted thereupon, to such persons and places where and by whom the experiments are to be made, and otherwise as there shall be occasion; of which disbursements an exact account shall be kept, and communicated yearly to every member.
That, at the first meetings of the members at Philadelphia, such rules be formed for regulating their meetings and transactions for the general benefit, as shall be convenient and necessary; to be afterwards changed and improved as there shall be occasion, wherein due regard is to be had to the advice of distant members.
That, at the end of every year, collections be made and printed, of such experiments, discoveries, and improvements, as may be thought of public advantage; and that every member have a copy sent him.
That the business and duty of the Secretary be, to receive all letters intended for the Society, and lay them before the President and members at their meetings; to abstract, correct, and methodize such papers as require it, and as, he shall be directed to do by the President, after they have been considered, debated, and digested in the Society; to enter copies thereof in the Society's books, and make out copies for distant members; to answer their letters by direction of the President, and keep records of all material transactions of the Society.
Benjamin Franklin, the writer of this Proposal, offers himself to serve the Society as their secretary, till they shall be provided with one more capable.*
This is doubtless the paper alluded to by Dr. Franklin in his autobiography, where he says; “I succeeded, in the year 1744, in proposing and establishing a Philosophical Society. The paper I wrote for that purpose will be found among my writings; if not lost with many others." -EDITOR.