Page images
PDF
EPUB

I am

all the tortures which hunger can inflict, giving her last morsel for the sustenance of her child, and then fainting, sinking and actually dying of starvation! And the orphan? -no one can spare it food-it is put alive into the grave of the parent, which thus closes over the quick and the dead! And this not in a solitary instance only, but repeatedly and frequently. “The living child is often buried with the dead mother."

aware that their white neighbors desire the absence of the Indians; and if they can find safety and subsistence beyond the Mississippi, I should rejoice exceedingly at their removal, because it would relieve the States of their presence.

I would do much to effect a consummation so devoutly to be wished. But let it be by their own free choice, unawed by fear, unseduced by bribes. Let us not compel them, by withdrawing the protection which we have pledged. Theirs must be the pain of departure and the hazard of the change. They are men, and have the feelings and attachments of men; and if all the ties which bind them to their country and their homes are to be rent asunder, let it be by their own free hand. If they are to leave for ever the streams at which they drank, and the trees under which they reclined ; if the fires are never more to be lighted up in the council-house of their chiefs, and must be quenched for ever upon the domestic hearth by the tears of the inmates, who have there joined the nuptial feast and the funeral wail; if they are to look for the last time upon the land of their birth—which drank up the blood of their fathers, shed in its defencemand is mingled with the sacred dust of children and friends—to turn their aching vision to distant regions, enveloped in darkness and surrounded by dangers—let it be by their own free choice, not as a consequence of our withdrawing the protection of our plighted faith ;-an act which would operate as the most oppressive and irresistible coercion. They can best appreciate the dangers and difficulties which beset their path. It is their fate which is impend.

ing; and it is their right to judge; while we have no warrant to falsify our promise.

It is said that their existence cannot be preserved; that it is the doom of Providence, that they must perish. So, indeed, must we all; but let it be in the course of nature; not by the hand of violence.' If, in truth, they are now in the decrepitude of age, let us permit them to live out all their days, and die in peace; not bring down their gray hairs in blood to a foreign grave.

I know, sir, to what I expose myself. To feel any solicitude for the fate of the Indians may be ridiculed as false philanthropy and morbid sensibility. Others may boldly say, “ Their blood be upon us;" and sneer at scruples as a weakness unbecoming the stern character of a politician.

If, sir, in order to become a politician, it be necessary to divest the mind of the principles of good faith and moral obligation, and harden the heart against every touch of humanity, I confess that I am not--and, by the blessing of Heaven, will never be—a politician.

Sir, we cannot wholly silence the monitor within. It may not be heard amidst the clashings of the arena; in the tempest and convulsions of political contentions ;-but its “ still small voice” will speak to us— - when we meditate alone at eventide ; in the silent watches of the night; when we lie down and when we rise up from a solitary pillow; and in that dread hour when—"not what we have done for ourselves, but what we have done for others,” will be our joy and our strength; when, to have secured, even to the poor and despised Indian, a spot of earth upon which to rest his aching head,—to have given him but a cup of cold water in charity,—will be a greater treasure than to have been the conquerors of kingdoms, and lived in luxury upon their spoils.

LESSON LXXXVI.

Youth and Studies of Pascal.-Craig.

The attention of Stephen Pascal was, of course, chiefly occupied with his son, who gave promise, at a very early age, of superior genius, and readily received the elementary principles of language, and of the sciences in general; but one of the earliest features of those talents which were subsequently developed, was the eagerness, and the nice and accurate discernment with which, on all subjects, he sought for truth, and which would not allow him to feel satisfied till he had found it.

The circle of his father's acquaintance was of a superior order. He numbered among his friends, Mersenne, Roberval, Carcavi, and Le Pailleur. At their occasional meetings for the discussion of scientific subjects, Blaise Pascal was sometimes allowed to be present, at which times he listened with great attention to what passed, and thus gradually formed the habit of scientific research. To trace effects up to their causes was one of his chief pleasures; and it is stated, that, at eleven years of age, having heard a plate give forth, on its being struck, a musical vibration, which ceased on its being touched again, he applied his mind to the subject which it presented to him, and at length produced a short treatise upon the nature of sounds.

His father, however, fearful that this evidently strong predilection for scientific pursuits would delay his progress in the attainment of classical learning, agreed with his friends that they should refrain from speaking on such topics in his presence; and this opposition to his evidently ruling tendency was, on principle, carried so far, that, on his making an application to his father to be permitted to learn mathematics, the permission was positively withheld, till he should have mastered the Greek and Latin languages. In the mean time, he obtained no other informa

tion on the subject, but that geometry was a science which related to the extension of bodies—that it taught the mode of forming accurate figures, and pointed out the relations which existed between them. But beyond this general information, he was forbidden to inquire ; and all books on the subject were positively forbidden to him.

This vague definition, however, was the ray of light which guided him onward in mathematical study. It became the subject of continued thought. In his play hours, he would shut himself up in an empty room, and draw with chalk, on the floor, triangles, parallelograms and circles, without knowing their scientific names.

He would compare these several figures, and would examine the relations which their several lines bore to each other; and in this way he gradually arrived at the proof of the fact, that the sum of all the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles, which is the thirty-second proposition of the first book of Euclid. The young geometer had just attained this point, when his father surprised him, deeply occupied in the prohibited study. But he was himself no less astonished than his son, when, on examining into the nature of his occupation, he ascertained the conclusion to which he had come; and, on inquiring how he arrived at it, the child pointed out several other principles which he had previously ascertained, and at length stated the first principles which he had gathered for himself in the way of axioms and definitions.

To control, after this, such evident manifestations of superior mathematical genius, was quite out of the question. Every advantage was afforded to him, of which he eagerly availed himself. At twelve years of age, he read through the Elements of Euclid, without feeling the need of any explanation from teachers ; and at sixteen, he composed a treatise on conic sections, which was considered to possess very extraordinary merit. He attained rapidly to a very high degree of knowledge and of celebrity as a mathematician; and, before the age of nineteen, he invent

ed the famous arithmetical machine which bears his name, and by which, through the instrumentality of a mechanical movement, somewhat similar to a watch, any numerical calculation might be performed. The main difficulty in arithmetic lies in finding the mode of arriving at the desired result. This must ever be a purely mental operation; but the object of this instrument was, that in all those numerical operations where the course to be pursued was fixed and certain, a mechanical process might relieve the mind from the monotonous and wearisome labor of the mere detail of calculation. Pascal's invention succeeded; but it was found too cumbrous for general use.

LESSON LXXXVII.

Cruelty of confining Birds.-WILLIAM Howitt.

THERE are none of our customs which more mark our selfishness than that of keeping singing birds in perpetual confinement, making the pleasure of our ears their misfortune; and that sweet gift, which God has given them, wherewith to make themselves happy, and the country delightful, the curse of their lives. If we were contented, however, with taking and rearing young ones, which never knew the actual blessing of liberty, or of propagating them in cages or aviaries, the evil would not be so enormous. But the practice of seizing singing birds, which have always enjoyed the freedom of the earth and air, in summer, when they are busy with the pleasant cares of their nests, or young broods, and subjecting them to a close prison, is detestable-doubly detestable in the case of migratory birds. They have not merely the common love of liberty, but the instinct of migration to struggle with; and it may be safely asserted, that out of every ten nightingales so caught, nine pine away and die. Yet the capture of night

« PreviousContinue »