Графични страници
PDF файл

the following remarkable note in the handwriting of Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the secretaries, soon after to be one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence:

The act of the British Parliament for shutting up the port of Boston, for altering the charters and for the more impartial administration of justice in the province of Massachusetts Bay, together with a bill for establishing popery and arbitrary power in Quebec, having alarmed the whole of the American colony, the Members of the American Philosophical Society partaking with their countrymen in the distress and labours brought upon their country, were obliged to discontinue their meetings for some months until a mode of opposition to the said acts of parliament was established, which we hope may restore the former harmony and maintain a perpetual union between Great Britain and the Americas."

This entry is especially interesting, because it emphasizes the fact that among the members of this infant scientific society were many of the men who were most active in the organization of the Republic, and who, under the stress of the times, abandoned the quiet pursuits of science, and devoted themselves to the national interests which were just coming into being.

Franklin was President from its organization until his death in 1790. He was at the same time President of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Constitutional Convention, and the eminence of its leader probably secured for the body greater prestige than would otherwise have been attainable. The society, in fact, soon assumed national importance, for, during the last decade of the century and for many years after, Philadelphia was the metropolis of American science and literature.

Directly after the Revolution, a similar institution was established in Boston—The American Academy of Arts and Sciences,—which was incorporated by the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1780, and published its first Memoirs in 1785. This, like the Philadelphia society, owed its origin to the efforts of a great statesman. We find the whole history in the memoirs of John Adams, a man who believed, with Washington, that scientific institutions are the best lasting protection of a popular government.

In a memorandum written in 1809, Mr. Adams gave his recollections of the circumstances which led to his deep and lasting interest in scientific foundations.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“In travelling from Boston to Philadelphia, in 1774, 5, 6 and 7, I had several times amused myself at Norwalk in Connecticut, with the very curious collection of birds and insects of American production made by Mr. Arnold ; 1 a collection which he afterwards sold to Governor Tryon, who sold it to Sir Ashton Lever, in whose apartments in London I afterwards viewed it again. This collection was so singular a thing that it made a deep impression upon me, and I could not but consider it a reproach to my country, that so little was known, even to herself, of her natural history.

I was in Europe, in the years 1778 and 1779, in the commission to the King of France, with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Arthur Lee, I had opportunities to see the King's collection and many others, which increased my wishes that nature might be examined and studied in my own country, as it was in others.

“In France among the Academicians, and other men of science and letters, I was frequently entertained, with inquiries concerning the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, and with eulogiums on the wisdom of that institution, and encomiums on some publications in their Transactions. These conversations suggested to me the idea of such an establishment in Boston, where I knew there was as much love of science, and as many gentlemen who were capable of pursuing it, as in any other city of its size.

“In 1779, I returned to Boston on the French Frigate ‘La Sensible,' with the Chevalier de la Luzerne and M. Marbois.? The Corporation of Harvard College gave a public dinner in honor of the French Ambassador and his suite, and did me the honor of an invitation to dine with them. At table in the Philosophy Chamber, I chanced to sit next to Dr. Cooper. I entertained him during the whole of the time we were together, with an account of Arnold's collections, the collection I had seen in Europe, the compliments I had heard in France upon the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, and concluded with proposing that the future legislature of Massachusetts should institute an Academy of Arts and Sciences.

* Some local antiquary may make an interesting contribution to the literature of American museum-work by looking up the history of this collection.

* The Chevalier Anne César de la Luzerne [1741-1821] was French Minister to the United States from 1779 to 1783, afterwards Minister to England. M. François de Barbé Marbois (1745-1837] was his Secretary of Legation, and after the return of his chief to France, was chargé d'affaires until 1785. For many interesting facts, not elsewhere accessible, concerning the career of these men in the United States, and their acquaintance with Adams, see John Durand's admirable “ New Materials for a History of the American Revolution." New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1889. 12°, pp. i-vi, 1–310.

3 Rev. Samuel Cooper, D.D. (1725-83], an eminent patriot, long pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and a leading member of the corporation of Harvard. He was the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

[ocr errors]

“ The Doctor at first hesitated, thought it would be difficult to find members who would attend to it; but the principal objection was, that it would injure Harvard College, by setting up a rival to it, that might draw the attention and affections of the Public in some degree from it. To this I answered,- first, that there were certainly men of learning enough that might compose a society sufficiently numerous; and secondly, that instead of being a rival to the University, it would be an honor and an advantage to it. That the President and principal professors would, no doubt, be always members of it; and the meetings might be ordered, wholly or in part, at the College and in that room. The Doctor at length appeared better satisfied ; and I entreated him to propagate the idea and the plan, as far and as soon as his discretion would justify. The Doctor did accordingly diffuse the project so judiciously and effectually, that the first legislature under the new constitution adopted and established it by law. Afterwards when attending the convention for forming the constitution, I mentioned the subject to several of the members, and when I was appointed by the sub-committee to make a draught of a project of a constitution, to be laid before the convention, my mind and heart were so full of this subject, that I inserted the provision for the encouragement of literature in chapter fifth, section second. I was somewhat apprehensive that criticism and objections would be made to the section, and particularly that the 'Natural History' and the 'Good humor 'would be stricken out; but the whole was received very kindly, and passed the convention unanimously, without amendment.” 1

1 The provision in the State Constitution of which Mr. Adams speaks, was the following:

“THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF LITERATURE, ETC., Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of the commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them : especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns, to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and iminunities for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country : to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humour, and all social affections and generous sentiments among the people.”

“This feature of the constitution of Massachusetts," writes Mr. Adams's biographer, “is peculiar, and in one sense original with Mr. Adams. The recognition of the obligation of a State to promote a higher and more extended policy than is embraced in the protection of the temporal interests and political rights of the individual, however understood among enlightened minds, had not at that time been formally made a part of the organic law. Those clauses since inserted in other State constitutions which, with more or less of fullness, acknowledged the same principle, are all manifestly taken from this source."


[ocr errors]

The two societies are still institutions of national importance, not only because of a time-honored record of useful work, but on account of important general trusts under their control. Although all their meetings are held in the cities where they were founded, their membership is not localized, and to be a “Member of the American Philosophical Society” or a “ Fellow of the American Academy,” is an honor highly appreciated by every American scientific man.

The Philosophical Society (founded before the separation of the colonies) copied the Royal Society of Great Britain in its corporate name, as well as in that of its transactions, and in its ideals and methods of work took it for a model.

The American Academy, on the other hand, had its origin “at a time when Britain was regarded as an inveterate enemy, and France as a generous patron, and its founders have placed upon record the statement that it was their intention "to give it the air of France rather than that of England, and to follow the Royal Academy rather than the Royal Society.' And so in Boston, the Academy published

Memoirs," while conservative Philadelphia continued to issue “ Philosophical Transactions."

In time, however the prejudice against the motherland became less intense, and the Academy in Boston followed the general tendency of American scientific workers, which has always been more closely parallel with that of England than that of continental Europe, contrasting strongly with the disposition of modern educational administrators to build after German models.

It would have been strange indeed if the deep-seated sympathy with France which our forefathers cherished had not led to still other attempts to establish organizations after the model of the French Academy of Sciences. The most ambitious of these was in connection with the “Academy of Arts and Sciences of the United States of America," whose central seat was to have been in Richmond, Virginia, and whose plan was brought to America, in 1788,

1 Letter of Manasseh Cutler to Dr. Jonathan Stokes, August 17, 1785. • Cutler, 1. c.

by the Chevalier Quesnay de Beaurepaire. This project, we are told, had been submitted to the King of France and to the Royal Academy of Science, and had received an unqualified endorsement signed by many eminent men, among others by Lavoisier and Condorcet, as well as a similar paper from the Royal Academy of Paintings and Sculpture, signed by Vernet and others. A large sum was subscribed by the wealthy planters of Virginia and by the citizens of Richmond, a building was erected, and one professor, Dr. Jean Rouelle, was appointed, who was also commissioned " mineralogistin-chief” and instructed to make natural history collections in America and Europe. The population of Virginia was far too scattered and rural to give any chance of success for a project which in its nature was only practicable in a commercial and intellectual metropolis, and the Academy died almost before it was born.

Quesnay's scheme was not altogether chimerical," writes H. B. Adams, “ but in the year 1788 France was in no position, financial or social, to push her educational system in Virginia. The year Quesnay's suggestive little tract was published was the year before the French Revolution, in which political maelstrom every thing in France went down.

If circumstances had favored it, the Academy of the United States of America, established at Richmond, would have become the centre of higher education, not only for Virginia, but for the whole South, and possibly for a large part of the North, if the Academy had been extended, as proposed, to the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Supported by French capital, to which in large measure we owe the success of our Revolutionary War, strengthened by French prestige, by liberal scientific and artistic associations with Paris, then the intellectual capital of the world, the Academy at Richmond might have become an educational stronghold, comparable in some degree to the Jesuit influence in Canada, which has proved more lasting than French dominion, more impregnable than the fortress of Quebec.""

Copies of Quesnay's pamphlet are preserved in the Virginia State Library at Richmond, and in the Andrew D. White Historical Library of Cornell



« ПредишнаНапред »