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till evening. I bore with him, and now you are to bear with me, for I shall probably bavarder in answering your letter.
I am not acquainted with the saying of Alphonsus, which you allude to as a sanctification of your rigidity in refusing to allow me the plea of old age as an excuse for my want of exactitude in correspondence. What was that saying?-You do not, it seems, feel any occasion for such an excuse, though you are, as you say, rising 75, but I am rising (perhaps more properly falling) 80-and I leave the excuse with you till you arrive at that age; perhaps you may then be more sensible of its validity, and see fit to use it for yourself.
1 must agree with you, that the gout is bad, and that the stone is worse, I am happy in not having them both together, and I join in your prayer, that you may live till you die without either. But I doubt the author of the epitaph you sent me is a little mistaken, when, speaking of the world, he says, that
He ne'er car'd a pin What they said or may say of the mortal within. It is so natural to wish to be well spoken of, whether alive or dead, that I imagine he could not be quite exempt from that desire, and that at least he wished to be thought a wit, or he would not have given himself the trouble of writing so good an epitaph to leave behind him. Was it not worthy of his care, that the world should say he was an honest and a good man? I like better the concluding sentiment in the old song, called the old man's wish, wherein, after wishing for a warm house in a country town, an easy horse, some good old authors, ingenious and cheerful companions, pudding on Sundays, with stout ale and a bottle of
burgundy, &c. &c. in separate stanzas, each ending with this burden,
May I govern my passions with absolute sway,
he adds for the last stanza,
may I face my last day,
What signifies our wishing ? Things happen after all as they will happen. I have sung that wishing song a thousand times when I was young, and now find at fourscore, 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 as well as I was, but a little better. And I 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 labour 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; for 2 N 2
that the earth, water, air, and perhaps fire, which being compounded, form 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 mak. ing 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 preceding, as far back as 1710, together with the general christenings of the city; and the years succeeding, down to 1770. Those since that period I have not been able to obtain. I have noted in the margin the gradual increase, viz. from every tenth child so thrown upon the public, till 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, dit-il, ils n'out 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, says 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 bubbies, has left off giving them any. Yet since Rousseau, with admirable eloquence pleaded for the rights of children to their mother's 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 it becomes no longer the custom to pack their infants away, as soon as born, to the Enfants Trouvés, with the careless observation, that the king is better able to maintain them. I am credibly informed, that nine-lepths 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 above-mentioned, and the multitude who send to the hospital, the practice is to bire nurses in the country, to carry about 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 neighbouring 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 expence, so that the prisons of Paris are crouded with wretched fathers and mothers confined pour mois de nourice; though it is laudably a favourite 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 I think there is no nurse like a mother (or not many) and that if parents did not immediately send their intants out of their sight, they wouid in a few days begin to 2 N 3
love them, and thence be spurred to greater industry for their maintenance. This is a subject you under, stand better than I, and therefore, having perhaps said too much, I drop it. I only add to the notes a remark from the history of the Academy of Sciences, much in favour of the foundling institution.
The Philadelphia bank goes on, as I hear, very well, What you call the Cincinnati institution is no instituțion 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 I add, that all descending ho
and absurd; that the honour of virtuous actions appertains 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.
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, and cannot be chosen more than three years successively, nor more than three
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 assem