« ZurückWeiter »
One would have thought that the appointment of men, who had distinguished themselves in procuring the liberty of their nation, and had hazarded their lives in openly opposing the will of a powerful monarch who would have retained that nation in slavery, might have been an appointment acceptable to a grateful people, and that a constitution framed for them by the Deity himself, might on that account have been secure of a universal welcome reception. Yet there were, in every one of the twelve tribes, some discontented, restless spirits, who were continually exciting them to reject the proposed new government, and this from various motives.
Many still retained an affection for Egypt, the land of their nativity; I these, whenever they felt any inconvenience or hardship, through the natural and unavoidable effect of their change of situation, exclaimed against their leaders as the authors of their trouble; and were not only for returning into Egypt, but for stoning their deliverers. Those inclined to idolatry were displeased that their golden calf was destroyed. Many of the chiefs thought the new constitution might be injurious to their particular interests: that the profitable places would be engrossed by the families and friends of Moses and Aaron, and others equally well born excluded.t-In Josephus, and the Talmud, we learn some particulars, not so fully narrated in the Scripture. We are there told, "that Korah was amhitious of the priesthood; and offended that it was conferred on Aaron; and this, as he said, by the authority of Moses only, without the consent of the people. He accused Moses of having, by various artifices, fraudulently obtained the government, and deprived the people of their liberties; and of conspiring with Aaron to perpetuate the tyranny in their family. Thus, though Korah's real motive was the supplanting of Aaron, he persuaded the people that he meant only the public good; and they, moved by his insinuations, began to cry out,- Let us maintain the common liberty of our respective tribes; we have freed ourselves from the slavery imposed upon us by the Egyptians, and shall we suffer ourselves to be made staves by Moses?
Numbers, ch. xiv.
Numbers, ch. xvi. ver. 3. "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregations are holy, every one of them,-wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation?"
If we must have a master, it were better to return to Pharaoh, who at least fed us with bread and onions, than to serve this new tyrant, who by his operations has brought us into danger of famine. They then called in question the reality of his conferences with God; and objected to the privacy of the meetings, and the preventing any of the people from being present at the colloquies, or even approaching the place, as grounds of great suspicion. They accused Moses also of peculation; as embezzling part of the golden spoons and the silver chargers, that the princes had offered at the dedication of the altar,* and the offerings of gold by the common people,† as well as most of the poll tax and Aaron they accused of pocketing much of the gold, of which he pretended to have made a molten calf. Besides peculation, they charged Moses with ambition; to gratify which passion, he had, they said, deceived the people by promising to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey: instead of doing which, he had brought them from such a land; and that he thought light of all this mischief, provided he could make himself an absolute prince. That, to support the new dignity with splendour in his family, the partial poll tax already levied and given to Aaron|| was to be followed by a general one, which would probably he augmented from time to time, if he were suffered to go on promulgating new laws, on pretence of new occasional revelations of the Divine will, till their whole fortunes were devoured by that aristocracy."
Moses denied the charge of peculation; and his accusers were destitute of proofs to support it; though facts, if real, are in their nature capable of proof. "I have not," said he, (with holy confidence in the presence of God,) I have not taken from this people the value of an ass, nor done them any other injury." But his enemies had made the charge, and with some success among the populace; for no kind of accusation is so readily made, or easily believed, by knaves, as the accusation of knavery.
In fine, no less than two hundred and fifty of the principal men, "famous in the congregation, men of renown, "** heading and exciting the mob, worked them
*Numbers, c. vii.
Exodus, c. xxxv. ver. 22. Numbers, ch. iii. and Exodus, ch. xxx. Numbers, ch. xvi. ver. 13. " Ís it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us!"
Ibid. ch. iii. ¶ Exodus, ch. xxx. ** Numbers, ch.xvi,
up to such a pitch of frenzy, that they called out, Stone 'em, stone 'em, and thereby secure our liberties; and let us choose other captains, that they may lead us back into Egypt, in case we do not succeed in reducing the Canaanites.
On the whole, it appears that the Israelites were a people jealous of their new-acquired liberty, which jealousy was in itself no fault: but that, when they suffered it to be worked upon by artful men, pretending public good, with nothing really in view but private interest, they were led to oppose the establishment of the new constitution, whereby they brought upon themselves much inconvenience and misfortune. It farther appears from the same inestimable history, that when, after many ages, the constitution had become old and much abused, and an amendment of it was proposed, the populace, as they had accused Moses of the ambition of making himself a prince, and cried out, Stone him, stone him; so excited by their high priests and scribes, they exclaimed against the Messiah, that he aimed at becoming King of the Jews, and cried, Crucify him, crucify him. From all which we may gather, that popular opposition to a public measure is no proof of its impropriety, even though the opposition be excited and headed by men of distinction.
To conclude, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our general convention was divinely inspired when it formed the new federal constitution, merely because that constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet, I must own, I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being.
THOUGH Britain bestows more attention to trade than any other nation, and though it be the general opinion that the safety of their state depends upon her navy alone; yet it seems not a little extraordinary, that most of the great improvements in ship-building have
originated abroad. The best sailing vessels in the royal navy have in general been French prizes. This, though it may, admit of exceptions, cannot be upon the whole disputed.
Nor is Britain entirely inattentive to naval architecture; though it is no where scientifically taught, and those who devise improvements, have seldom an opportunity of bringing them into practice. What a pity it is, that no contrivance should be adopted, for concentrating the knowledge that different individuals attain in this art, into one common focus, if the expression may be admitted. Our endeavours shall not be wanting to collect together, in the best way we can, the scattered hints that shall occur under this head, not doubting but the public will receive with favour this humble attempt to awaken the attention to a subject of such great national importance.
Dr. Franklin, among the other inquiries that had engaged his attention, during a long life spent in the uninterrupted pursuit of useful improvements, did not let this escape his notice; and many useful hints, tending to perfect the art of navigation, and to meliorate the condition of seafaring people, occur in his work.In France, the art of constructing ships has long been a favourite study, and many improvements in that branch have originated with them. Amongst the last of the Frenchmen, who have made any considerable improvement in this respect, is M. Le Roy, who has constructed a vessel well adapted to sail in rivers, where the depth of water is inconsiderable, and yet that was capable of being navigated at sea with great ease. This he effected in a great measure by the particular mode of rigging, which gave the mariners much greater power over the vessel than they could have when of the usual construction.
I do not hear that this instrument has in this case been adopted in Britain. But the advantages that would result from having a vessel of small draught of water to sail with the same steadiness, and to lie equally near the wind, as one may do that is sharper built, are so obvious, that many persons have been desirous of falling upon some way to effect it. About London, this has been attempted by means of lee boards (a contrivance now so generally known as not to require to be here particularly described) and not without effect. But these are subject to certain inconveniences, that render the use of them in many cases ineligible.
Others have attempted to effect the purpose by building vessels with more than one keel; and this contriv ance, when adopted upon proper principles, promises
to be attended with the happiest effects. But hitherto that seems to have been scarcely adverted to. Time will be necessary to eradicate common notions of very old standing, before this can be effectually done.
Mr. W. Brodie, shipmaster in Leith, has lately adopted a contrivance for this purpose, that seems to be at the same time very simple and extremely efficacious. Necessity in this case, as in many others, was the mother of invention. He had a small, flat, ill built boat, which was so ill constructed as scarcely to admit of carrying a bit of sail on any occasion, and which was at the same time so heavy to be rowed, that he found great difficulty in using it for his ordinary occasions: In reflecting on the means that might be adopted for giving this useless cable such a hold of the water as to admit of his employing a sail when he found it necessary, it readily occurred that a greater depth of keel would have this tendency. But a greater depth of keel, though it would have been useful for this purpose, he easily foresaw, would make his boat be extremely inconvenient on many other occasions. To effect both purposes, he thought of adopting a moveable keel, which would admit of being let down or taken up at pleasure. This idea he immediately carried into effect, by fixing a bar of iron of the depth he wanted, along each side of the keel, moving upon hinges that admitted of being moved in one direction, but which could not be bent back in the opposite direction. Thus, by means of a small chain fixed to each end, these moveable keels could be easily lifted up at pleasure; so that when he was entering into a harbour, or shoal water, he had only to lift up his keels, and the boat was as capable of being managed there, as if he had wanted them entirely; and when he went out to sea, where there was depth enough, by letting them down, the lee keel took a firm hold of the water, (while the other floated loose,) and gave such a steadiness to all its movements, as can scarcely be conceived by those who have not experienced it.
This gentleman one day carried me out with him in his boat to try it. We made two experiments. At first, with a moderate breeze, when the moveable keels were kept up, the boat, when laid as near the wind as it could go, made an angle with the wake of about thirty degrees; but when the keels were let down, the same angle did not exceed five or six degrees, being nearly parallel with the course.
At another time, the wind was right a head, a brisk breeze. When we began to beat up against it, a trading sloop was very near us, steering the same course,