Page images

the archiepiscopal buildings on Ninth street the Archbishop received in lieu of rent, and in the spring of 1858 they were installed in their permanent home; from which have gone forth, as had gone forth in lesser number from previous stations of the community, pupils who are or were the heads and ornaments of households, not only in every section of the Republic, but in many of the princely seats of Europe. It has been, as it is, a teeming hive of sound and elegant culture. In this home the community abides ; and with its stately grandeur are now associated, by inheritance or acquirement, all the respect and all the renown achieved, through harsh vicissitudes, in more than half a century of labor and of sacrifice, stretching away from this superb consummation in the great metropolis of the valley back to the humble beginnings at Kaskaskia, and studded throughout, not less thickly in the opening than elsewhere, with shining deeds and heroic sufferings. Yet the consummation alone, engrossing the honor of the whole career, fixes the public gaze. Nor is this unnatural. It is ever so. The triumphant present, filling the eyes of men, is everything; the militant past, unknown or forgotten, is nothing. Nevertheless, it is not just, even to the crowning state; for the present, sundered from the past, is shorn in part of its true glory; and it is the purpose of this paper, by recalling the past of a great Institute and linking it with the present, to do, in some imperfect measure, justice to both.

Here we take leave of the Visitation Convent of St. Louis, reminding the reader, however, that we do so at a period distant a quarter of a century, in which the house has enlarged and heightened its fame, and, despite the clouds, and hailstorms, and thunderbolts of civil war (part of which it saw and all of which it felt), has strengthened its firm hold on the esteem and admiration of the country. The chapter of the civil war forms, indeed, one of the most thrilling and not the least creditable in the history of the convent. But our task is done. Having traced the rise of the community from the first streaks of dawn in the cast, through gloom and tempest, to the unclouded zenith, we may fitly stand aside ; its noontide splendor proclaims itself. Yet we may linger to note an incident not less grateful than pathetic. Of the noble company of the founders, one alone survives-Sister Josephine Barber; who but very recently celebrated the completion of the fiftieth year of her profession-her golden jubilee. May the life of this devout and gifted woman long be spared to the community which for two generations she has served and adorned.



THIS question: "What are animals and plants ?" is a large

question. In order to be able to reply to it we must know both (1) what animals and plants are, as contrasted with substances which are neither the one nor the other; and (2) how animals and plants stand towards each other—their relations and their differ

Only by learning these two things can we possibly know what animals and plants are.

The common sense, however, of the overwhelming majority of men will make short work of the first question ; they will say : “ Animals and plants are living things, while all other visible substances are but composed of dead matter." Now, we have no quarrel with common sense, we fully accept its dictates, but the patient and admirable researches of generations of men of science, and the speculations of modern philosophers, have made known so many curious phenomena, and have brought forward so many objections, that it is no longer possible for him who would be able to give an account of the belief that is in him concerning the world and its inhabitants, to rest satisfied with such a rough and ready reply.

Similarly, with regard to the second question,—the relations between animals and plants,--most men would, perhaps, reply that "animals are living creatures, which move about, and get their living by the help of their senses, while plants are living creatures devoid of sense and, for the most part, rooted to the ground.”

Now, this is really a very good answer, as far as it goes, and truly expresses the distinction existing between the immense majority of the two groups of living things. Nevertheless, here again the discovery of fresh phenomena has brought us face to face with difficulties and puzzles, some of which seem, as yet, insoluble.

To put as shortly as possible what appears to be the outcome of modern scientific progress, it has, on the one hand, served to render more marked the distinction between living beings and creatures devoid of life; while, on the other hand, it has continually made more and more evident that (in spite of the distinctions between most of them) animals and plants form one great whole, and must be scientifically treated together, as well as separately.

Thus, to the two sciences of zoology and botany, which refer to animals and plants respectively, we have now added a fresh science, the science of BIOLOGY, which treats of animals and plants taken together, collectively, as forming one great group.

That the reader may have some faint notion how vast this great

group is, it may be well hastily to survey the main classes of creatures which together compose it. We think it desirable to do so, because very inadequate images are apt to rise before the minds of most persons unacquainted with natural science, when they use such words as “animals" and "plants," since they naturally think most of those with which they are the most familiar.

Thus, they are familiar with certain beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes, but know little of the number of them. Of birds, ten thousand distinct kinds are known, and upwards of four thousand kinds of lizards, and sixteen hundred kinds of snakes have been described; while fishes are so rich in species that they probably equal in the number of their kinds the whole mass of beasts, birds, and reptiles taken together!

But such creatures as these form but a very small proportion of all animals. Creatures such as snails and oysters form another vast group, known as “mollusks."

Worms, also, have been formed into a division, so varied in nature and so prodigious in number that their proper classification is amongst the most difficult of zoological problems,

The star fishes and their allies constitute another great group, rich both in species and diversities of form.

But the whole of the creatures we have yet referred to, taken together in one mass, are far exceeded in number of species by the class of insects alone, of which one or more are associated with the life of each and every land plant, and probably that of every higher animal also; while closely allied to the insects are the multitudinous tribes of lobsters, shrimps, crabs, spiders, and scorpions.

We have also to take into account those coral animals which have actually built up large tracts of the earth's habitable surface; and besides these, we have their humble followers, the sponges.

All the creatures yet referred to are cognizable by our ordinary senses, but there are, as is commonly known, myriads of kinds, either so small as to be altogether invisible to the naked eye, or else invisible as regards the main points of their structure without the aid of the microscope. All the lowest animals, the bodies of which are not made up of distinct organic substances, or tissues, are called PROTOZOA.

Then, as to plants: besides the families of flowering trees, shrubs, creepers, and herbs, with members of which we unconsciously become more or less familiar, there are a multitude of other families, specimens of which we only see in our occasional visits to the hot houses of our botanical gardens. To these follow the almost numberless kinds of plants which do not flower—the ferns, horsetails, grasses, lichens, seaweeds (with their fresh-water allies), and

fungi. Parallel with the microscopic creatures ordinarily classed as “animals," are the microscopic plants, some of which have been, till of late years, the despair of the surgeon, while others are now recognized as, or suspected to be, the cause and origin of the most painful and dangerous diseases.

Multitudinous, however, as is the animal and vegetable life which we have about us to-day, it is but a remnant of that of which this planet has been the theatre; and especially wonderful are the discoveries of fossil remains which have been made in North America, revealing to us the past existence of living forms such as had not been pictured even in the recorded musings of any naturalist. Apart from such wonderful scientific novelties, we have in the ancient chalk cliffs, and the far more ancient coal-fields, abundant evidence of the prodigality and duration of past vitality; the chalk as it were still in process of formation, as the ooze slowly forming in the bed of the Atlantic Ocean ; the coal affording evidence that rich vegetable life flourished at a period so remote that, during it, the first appearance of the chalk might have seemed as the dream of an infinitely distant future.

It is this immensely complex mass of living beings which we have to regard, in their totality, as one whole, as well as in their two component groups, if we would know what “animals” and "plants" really are.

But in order that we may learn what they are, it will be well first to advert briefly to one or two facts concerning things which are neither plants nor animals, certain facts, that is, about the " inorganic world," by which we mean the solid earth with its two envelopes-water and air. All the substances of which this inorganic world is composed are either (1) elements, such, e.g., as the gas oxygen or the metal iron; or (2) compounds of elements, such, 6. g., as rust, which consists of oxygen and iron united to form a third substance which is neither the one nor the other.

Very many substances can exist (as water can) in three states, solid (ice), fluid (water), aëriform (vapor).

A solid inorganic substance may be either in the form of crystal (as marble) or not crystalline (as chalk), while having all the time the same chemical composition. Thus both marble and chalk can be resolved into (1) lime and (2) a gas, commonly known as carbonic acid gas, and carbonic acid is again resolvable into (1) oxygen and (2) carbon, or pure charcoal.

The aëriform envelope of this planet, that is air, is a mixture of the two gases (1) oxygen and (2) nitrogen, with some carbonic acid

gas and a certain amount of ammonia and the vapor of water.

Oxygen, itself incombustible, is the great burner or aider of combustion.

Nitrogen is remarkable at once both for its own inertness and for its instability ; so that it is an ingredient in all the most explosive compounds, such as gunpowder, guncotton, nitroglycerine and the iodide, sulphide, and chloride of nitrogen.

Of carbonic acid there are ordinarily but four cubic feet in ten thousand cubic feet of air; yet so great is the quantity of it contained in the whole atmosphere that there are reckoned to be 371,475 tons of it in the column of atmosphere which extends above each square mile of the earth's surface.

WATER, the earth's fluid envelope, consists of oxygen, hydrogen, carbonic acid, ammonia, carbonate of lime, flint (in solution), and sundry salts. It is, as it were, the mother substance of life, both historically and physiologically, and has been a great agent in both the production and the destruction of fossil remains: the first, by its deposits; the second, by its eroding agency. The Mississippi has formed thirty thousand square miles of deposits, which are in places several hundred feet thick.

The Ganges carries down yearly to the sea as much mud as could be carried down by 730,000 ships, each of 1400 tons' burthen. The eroding and destructive agency of water is, on the other hand, notorious.

With these preliminary notices concerning the inorganic or nonliving world, we may next review such contrasts as may be drawn between it and the living world, of animals and plants, considered as one whole.

I. Now, in the first place, some inorganic substances are fluid and some solid, some moist and some dry; but every living creature, without exception, is more or less fluid, and composed to a greater or less degree of water, especially its more actively vital or growing parts.

Thus, in the human brain, seventy out of every hundred parts are composed of water, and in the jelly-fish no less than ninetynine parts out of a hundred are so composed.

II. Many inorganic substances, such as crystals, are bounded by flat surfaces and straight lines, but living creatures have bodies which are bounded by curved surfaces and lines.

III. The chemical composition of inorganic substances is most various; some, like gold, consist of but a single element; others, like water, of two elements; others of several and very different ones.

All living bodies, on the other hand, are of very uniform chemical composition, as they invariably consist of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, together with the element nitrogen—the unstable nature of which has already been referred to in speaking of the in

« PreviousContinue »