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Whether Genius ought to be considered as a natural Gift. 9
the impossible, which men of sense shall hereafter demonstrate, in order
are ever confounding; because, not to prove the great superiority of the
being animated by strong passions, man of strong passions above any
these sensible persons never rife above other, and that in reality great paffi
mediocrity: a proposition which I ons only can produce great men.
Whether Genius ought to he considered as a natural Gift; or, as an EffeB of Education: an Essay.
1AM going to examine, in this This reasoning,'tis true, is founddiscourse, what the mind receives ed only on analogy. It is like that from nature and education: for which of the astronomers, who conclude purpose it is necessary, first, to de- that the moon is inhabited, because termine what is here meant by the it is composed of nearly the fame word Nature. matter as our earth.
This word may raise in our minds How weak soever this reasoning a confused idea of a being, or a force, may be, it must yet appear demonthat has endued us with all our strative; for, fay they, to what cause senses: now the senses are the four- can be attributed the great disproces of all our ideas. Being deprived portion of intellects, observable beof our senses, we are deprived of all tween people who appear to have the ideas relative to it: a man born had the fame education? blind has, for this reason, no idea of In order to reply to this objection, colours: it^Js then evident, that in • it is proper, first, to enquire, whether this signification, genius ought to be several men can, strictly speaking, considered as a gift of nature. have the fame education; and for
But if the word is taken in a dif- this purpose to fix the idea included ferent acceptation, and we suppose in the word Education, that among the men well formed, If by education, we merely underand endued with all their senses, stand, that received in the fame without any perceivable defect of places, and under the fame masters; their organization; nature has made in this fense the education is the such a remarkable difference, and fame with an infinite number of formed such an unequal distribution men. .
of the intellectual powers, that one But, if we give to this word a (hall be so organized as to be stupid, 'more true and extensive signification, and the other be a man of genius, and, in general, comprehend every the question will become more de» thing that relates to our instruction; licate. then, I fay, that nobody receives the
I confess, that at first we cannot fame education; because each indiconsider the great inequality in the vidual has, for his preceptors, if I minds of men, without admitting may be allowed to fay so, the form that there is the fame difference be- of government under which he lives, tween them as between bodies, some his friends, his mistresses, the people of which are weak and delicate, while about him, whatever he reads, and, others are strong and robust. What in short, chance; that is, an infinite can here occasion such variations number of events, with respect to from the uniform manner wherein which our ignorance will not permit nature operates? us to perceive their causes, and the
Vot. I. 3 chain
chain that connects them together. Now, this chance has a greater share in our education than is imagined. It is this that places certain objects before us, and in consequence of this occasions more happy ideas, and sometimes leads to the greateit discoveries. To give some examples: it was chance that conducted Galileo into the gardens of Florence, when the gardeners were working the pumps: it was that which inspired those gardeners, when not being able to raise the water above -the height of thirty-two feet, to alk him the cause, and by that question, piqued the vanity of the philosopher: it was at length his vanity, put in action by so casual a question, that obliged him to make this natural effect the subject of his thoughts, till at last, by discovering the weight of the air, he found the solution of the problem.
In the moment when the peaceful soul of Newton was employed by no business, and agitated by no passion, it was also chance that, drawing him under an apple-tree, loosened some of the fruit from the branches, and gave that philosopher the first idea of his system on gravitation: it was really this incident, that afterwards made him turn his thoughts to enquire, whether the moon does not gravitate towards the earth, with the fame force as that with which bodies fall on its surface? It is then to chance that great geniuses are frequently obliged for their most happy thoughts. How many great minds are confounded among the people of moderate capacities, for want of a certain tranquillity of foul, the question of a gardener, or the fall of an apple!
I am sensible, that we cannot at first, without some pain, attribute such great effects to causes so distant, and so small in appearance. We read, in the literary year, that Boi
leau, when a child, playing in a yard, fell down. In his fall, his coats turned up, when a turkey gave him several pecks on a very tender part. Boileau felt the injury during his whole life; and perhaps from thence arose that severity of manners, and that want of sensibility visible in all his works; from thence his satire against women, against Lulli, Quinaut, and all verses of gallantry.
Perhaps his antipathy against turkies, might occasion that secret aversion he always had to the Jesuits, who brought them into France. To the fame accident, perhaps, we owe his satire on double meanings, his admiration of Mr. Arnaud, and his epistle on the love of God; so true it is, that imperceptible causes often determine the whole conduct of life, and the whole series of our ideas. However, experience informs us, that in the physical, as in the mora} world, the greatest events are often produced by almost imperceptible causes. Who doubts that Alexander owed, in part, his conquest of Persia to the institutor of the Macedonian phalanx? That the adventures of Achilles, animating that prince with all the rage of glory, had a share in the destruction of the empire of Darius, as Quintius Curtius contributed to the victories of Charles XII? Who can doubt that the tears of Veturia, by disarming Coriolanus, confirmed the power of Rome, which was ready to sink under the efforts of the Volseii, and occasioned that long train of victories which changed the face of the world; and that, consequently, it was to the tears of Veturia, that Europe owes its present situation? What a number of facts of the like kind might here be mentioned? Gustavus, fays the abbe de Vertot, proceeded in vain through all the provinces of Sweden; he wandered above a year in die mountains of Delecarlia.' I I
A Speech lately made in the Court of King's Bench.
Delecarlia. Themountaineers, though prepossessed by his good mien, the tall ness of his stature, and the apparent strength of his body, were not however determined to join him, till on that very day when the prince harangued the Delecarlians, the old men of the country remarked, that the north wind had for some time constantly blowed. This wind appeared to them as a certain sign of the protection of Heaven, and as an
order to take up arms in favour of elude, that the inequality observable
can be certain that a difference in education does not produce the difference observable in minds? Who can assert, that men are not like those trees of the fame species, whose seed being absolutely the same, but never sown exactly in the same earth, nor exposed entirely to the same winds, the fame fun, or the fame rain, must, in unfolding themselves, necessarily produce an infinity of different forms. I may then con
the hero. It was then the north wind that placed the crown of Sweden on the head of Gustavus.
Most events spring from causes equally small: we are unacquainted with them, because molt historians have been themselves ignorant of them, or have not had eyes capable of perceiving them. 'Tis true, that, in this respect, the mind may repair their omissions; for the knowledge of certain principles easily supplies the knowledge of certain facts. Thus, without staying any longer to prove that chance plays a greater part in the theatre of the world than is imagined, I mail conclude what I have just said with observing, that if under the word Education, be comprehended every thing in general that contributes to our instruction, chance must necessarily have the greatest share in it; and that no person being placed in exactly the fame concourse of circumstances, no person can receive exactly the fame education.
This fact being well weighed, who
in the minds of men may be indifferently considered, either as the effect of nature, or of education. But whatever truth there may be in this conclusion, yet, as it is extremely vague, and may be reduced in a manner to a perhaps, I think I ought to consider this question in a new point of view, and return back to principles more certain and determinate. To this purpose, it will be proper to reduce the question to simple points; to ascend to the origin of our ideas, and to the opening of the mind; and to recollect that man can only make use of his senses, remember, and observe resemblances and differences; that is, the connection subsisting between the different objects that present themselves, either to him, or to his memory; that, therefore, nature can only give men more or fewer capacities of mind, by enduing some preferably to others, with a little more delicacy of the senses, extent of memory, and capacity of attention.
A Speech lately made in the Court of King's Bench.
IHave now gone through the several errors assigned by the defendant, and which have been ingeniously argued, and confidently relied on, by his council at the bar: I have given my sentiments upon them, and
if upon the whole, after the closest attention to what has been said, and with the strongest inclination in savour of the defendant, no arguments which have been urged, no cafes which have been cited, Do reasons that B s occur occur to me, are sufficient to satisfy me in my conscience and judgment, that this outlawry mould be reversed, I am bound to affirm it—and here let me make a pause.
Many arguments have been suggested, both in and out of court, upon the consequences of establishing this outlawry, either as they may affect the defendant as an individual, or the publick in general: as to the first, whatever they may be, the defendant has brought them upon himself; they are inevitable consequences of law arising from his own act; if the penalty, to which he is thereby subjected, is more than a puniihment adequate to the crime he has committed, he mould not have brought himself into this unfortunate predicament, by flying from the justice of his country; he thought proper to do so, and he must taste the fruits of his own conduct, however bitter and unpalatable they may be; and although we may be heartily sorry for any person who has brought himself into this situation, it is not in our power, God forbid it mould ever be in our power, to deliver him from it; we can't prevent the judgment of the law by creating irregularity in the proceedings; we can't prevent the consequences of that judgment by pardoning the crime; if the defendant has any pretensions to mercy, those pretensions must be urged, and that power exercised in another place, where the constitution has wisely and necessarily \ ested it: the crown will judge for itself; it does not belong to us to interfere with puniflimerit; we have only to declare the law; none of us had any concern in the prosecution-of this business, nor any wishes upon the event of it; it was not our fault that the defendant was prosecuted for the libels upon which he has been convidled; I took no share in another place, in the measures which were taken to prosecute
him for one of them; it was not OUT fault that he was convicted; it was not our fault that he fled; it was not our fault that he was outlawed; it was not our fault that he rendered himself up to justice; none of us revived the prosecution against him, nor could any one of us stop that prosecution when it was revived; it is not our fault if there are not any errors upon the record, nor is it in our power to create any if there are none; we are bound by our oath and in our consciences, to give such a judgment as the law will warrant, and as our reason can approve; such a judgment as we mull stand or fall by, in the opinion of the present times, and of posterity; in doing it, therefore, we must have a regard to our reputation as honest men, and men of skill and knowledge competent to the stations we hold; no considerations whatsoever should miflead us from this great object, to which we ever ought, and, I trust, ever shall direct our attentions. But'consequences of a public nature, reasons of state, political ones, have been strongly urged, (private anonymous letters sent to me I (hall pass over) open avowed publications which have been judicially noticed, and may therefore be mentioned, have endeavoured to influence or intimidate the court, and so prevail upon us to trifle and prevaricate with God, our consciences, and the public: it has been intimated that consequences of a frightful nature will flow from the establisliment of this outlawry; it is said the people expect the reversal, that the temper of the times demand it, that the multitude will have it so, that the continuation of the outlawry in full force will not be endured, that the execution of the law upon the defendant will be resisted; these are arguments which will not weigh a feather with me. If insurrection and rebellion are to follow our determination,
A Speech lately made in the Court of King's Bench. t j
nation, we have not to answer for the give a moment's satisfaction to a raticonsequences, though we ihould be onal being; that man's mind mult the innocent cause—we can only say, indeed be a weak one, and his amfiatjustitia mat cœlum; we shall dis- bition of a molt depraved sort, who charge'our duty without expectations can be captivated by such wretched of approbation, or the apprehensions allurements, or satisfied with such of censure; if we are subjected to the momentary gratifications. I fay with' latter unjustly, we mult submit to it; the Roman orator, and can fay it we can't prevent it; we will take care with as much truth as he did, "Ego not to deserve it. He must be a weak hoc animo semper fui, ut in<vidiam virman indeed who can be staggered by lute partam, gloriam non infamiam, such a consideration. putarem:" but the threats have been
The misapprehension, or the mis- carried further, personal violence has representation of the ignorant or the been denounced, unless publick 'huwicked, the mendax infamia, which mour be complied with; I do nor. is the consequence of both, are equal- fear such threats, I don't believe ly indifferent to, unworthy the atten- there is any reason to fear them: it's tion of, and incapable of making not the genius of the worst of inert any impression on men of firmness in the worst of times to proceed to and intrepidity.—Those who imagine such shocking extremities: but if judges are capable of being influ- such an event should happen, let it enced by such unworthy, indirect be so, even such an event might be means, most grossly deceive them- productive of wholesome effects; such selves; and for my own part, I trust a stroke might rouse the better part of that my temper, and the colour and the nation from their lethargic conconduct of my life, have cloathed dition to a state of activity, to assert me with a suit of armour to shield me and execute the law, and punish the from such arrows. If I have ever daring and impious hands which had supported the king's measures, if I violated it; and those who now suhave ever afforded any assistance to pinely behold the danger which government; if I have discharged threatens all liberty, from the most my duty as a public or private cha- abandoned licentiousness, might, by raster, by endeavouring to preserve such an event, be awakened to a pure and perfect the principles of the fense of their situation, as drunken constitution, maintain unsullied the men are sometimes stunn'd into sohonour of the courts of justice, and, briety. If the security of our persons by an upright administration of, to and our property, of all we hold dear
five a due effect to, the laws, I have and valuable, are to depend upon the itherto done it without any other caprice of a giddy multitude, or be gift or reward than that molt pleasing at the disposal of a giddy mob; if, and most honourable one, the con- in compliance with the humours, and scientious conviction of doing what to appease the clamours of those, all was right. I do not affect to scorn civil and political institutions are to the opinion of mankind; I wish be disregarded or overthrown, a life earnestly for popularity, I will seek somewhat more than sixty is not worth and will have popularity; but I will preserving at such a price, and he tell you how I will obtain it; I will can never die too soon, who lays down, have that popularity which follows, his life in support and vindication, of and not that which is run after. It's the policy, the government, and the not the applause of a day, it's not constitution of his country, the huzzas of thousands, that can
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