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ÁN

INTRODUCTORY DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED BEFORE

THE LITERARY

AND

PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

OF NEW-YORK,

. ON THE

FOURTH OF MAY, 1814,

BY

DE WITT CLINTON, LL. D.

PRESIDENT OF THE LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF NEW-YORK,

e.

NEW-YORK :
PUBLISHED BY DAVID LONGWORTH,

At the Shakspeare-Gallery.

N. Van Riper, Print.

1815.

LS0c4698.23

HA RUA RON BOLTESE LIBRARY

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In compliance with the solemnity expected on this occasion, I rise to address this respectable audience. For the first time has an association been established and incorporated in this state, devoted to literature and philosophy. Although I have always ardently cherished the love of letters, yet I am fully sensible that neither my attainments nor my talents entitle me to this place. On my zeal and my industry, however, the fullest reliance may be placed ; for although not a minister officiating at the holy altar of science, yet you shall always find me a sincere and humble worshipper at the vestibule of the temple. It is with societies as it is with individuals ; if the first impression be favourable, it gives a tone to character which is attended with the most auspicious effects in every future stage of existence : as somewhat of the colour of our social character may depend on this first appearance on the theatre of public observation, you may judge of my embarrassment on this occasion.

The solemn considerations which grow out of an establishment of this pature must press upon our sensibility, with redoubled force, when we reflect upon the accusations which are brought against our country by the literati of Europe. The celebrated Buffon has declared that, in America, animated nature is weaker, less active, and more circumscribed in the variety of its productions, than in the old world ; that there is some combination of elements and other physical causes ; something that opposes its amplification ; that there are obstacles to the developement, and perhaps to the formation of large germs; and that even those which, from the kindly influences of another climate, have acquired their complete form and expansion shrink and diminish under a niggardly air and in an unprolific land ! Dr. Robertson has also said, that “the principle of life seems to have been less active and vigorous here than in the allcient continent;' and that "nature was not only less prolific in the new world, but she appears likewise to have been less vigorons in her productions.” Need we add to this the obloquy which has been cast upon our country by the herd of tourists and travellers who have attempted to de scribe it. With some of them, our soil is destitute of prolific power, our atmosphere teems with disease and death, our lives are comparatively short, our institutions are tottering under debility and decay, our national

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