Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the problem of the perturbations of the planets, that bad, several years before, been presented to the Academy.

In 1759, he published his Elements of Philosophy; a work remarkable for its precision and perspicuity; full of important truths, analyzed with such clearness and fimplicity, that they are intelligible to those who are the least accustomed to abstract notions, and therefore adapted to general use. Such is the subftance of our Panegyrist's opinion of this work; in which, however, we find some tenets, relative both to metaphysics and moe ral science, that are far from being admiffible.

We should be wanting in the justice due to the Marquis de CONDORCET, if we paffed over in silence the succinct view he gives us of the principles of M. D'ALEMBERT's philosophy, and his discussion of some censures, to which the opinions of this eminent man seem more or less liable. This view is presented with uncommon fagacity and judgment, and the discuffion is conducted with impartiality and candour; but the passage is too long for our insertion. We thall therefore confine ourselves to some lines of the philosophical picture, and refer our readers to the work before us for an idea of the whole of this excellent composition.

Our Eulogist observes, that, by a long and affiduous ftudy of mathematical science, M. D'ALEMBERT had contracted a ha, bit of being little affc&ted by any trucbs that were not susceptible of a rigorous proof. He saw certainty diminihing in proportion as acceffory ideas were added to the fimple ones, on which pure geometry and rational mechanics are employed; and his taste for the other sciences was much affected by this habit: he esteemed them only in proportion to their approach to ttrict demonftration, or entire and full evidence; and he was, on this account, accused by some of paying little regard even to natural philosophy. Our Panegyrist finds this accusation unjust; but he confeffes, that M. D'ALEMBERT carried coo far his rigorous demands of evidence, He might have added, that there was a kind of pedantry in submitting every thing to ftri&t calculation, because he was powerful in that line: he puts us in mind of an architea, who having heard that the face of a certain lady was expressive of fine moral feelings, pulled out his rule and compass, and begged leave to try the matter by taking its dimensions. In natural philosophy, as our Author confeites, it was a proceeding unfavourable to the advancement of knowledge to treat with contempi, hypotheses, conjectures, and probable explications; fiace chele tend to multiply experiments and observations, to exhibit objects under different alpes, and thus often lead to important discoveries.

lo metaphysics, morals, and political science, M, D'ALEMBERT has cramped genius and investigation wich the same fes

ters.

ters. He has reduced to a small number of general truths, or first principles, all that we can know with certainty in these important branches of human knowledge. Perhaps, says our Au, thor, he has reduced here the human mind within too narrow limits. There is, indeed, no perhaps in the case; and we dare to calculate his demerit, in this relpect, at a very considerable quantum; since he was led by his method, and would lead us, if we minded him, to partial views of evidence, and to treat with indifference, if not to reject, truths of a higher and more im. portant order than those that come under the jurisdiction of algebra; and that, forsooth, under the pretext that the terms, which express metaphysical and moral ideas, are borrowed from vulgar language, and have only a vague and indeterminate meaning. What then becomes of that moral evidence, that high and satisfactory probability, which is the only guide of man in the highest concerns of human life and moral conduct? What becomes of distinct, and even intuitive, notions, with the dea ductive evidence that flows from them? They are involved, by M. D'ALEMBERT's method of philosophising, in doubt and uncertainty : the most important questions relative to the happiness of mankind, according to his doctrine, depend for their solution upon vague and arbitrary principles; and corrupt men will reae dily avail themselves of this pernicious doctrine to decide these questions according to their caprice, or their personal views. M. CONDORCET fairly and candidly avows all this; and we mention it to his honour, that he has not been blinded by the partiality of friendship in this matter, though he softens the reproach as well as he can, consistently with truth; and comforts himself by some keen and violent strokes at the presumptuous dogmatists that fall into the contrary extreme. With all our hearts. We profess nearly an equal displeasure with those who put out our candle, and those who substitute a Will with a whil in its place.

We pass over our Panegyrist's account of the resentment that was kindled (and of the disputes that followed it) by the article Geneva, inserted in the Encyclopædie. The story is old and Itale; its subject is local; yet, in the course of the controversy, talents were displayed, and incidental objects were exhibited, which gave rise to discussions more generally interestiny. We shall only observe, that M. D'ALEMBERT did not leave this field of controversy with Aying colours. The contest certainly was neia ther fair nor successful on his fide, though our Panegyrift is at no small pains to disguise his defeat; a thing not unusual with his superiors in battles of another kind. Votaire was an auxiliary in this conteft; but as, in point of candour and decency, he had no reputation to lose; and as he weakened the blows of his enemies, by throwing both them and the spectators into fics of

laughter,

Jaughter, the issue of the war gave him little uneafiness. It fell more heavily on D'ALEMBERT, and exposed him, even at home, to much contradiction and oppofition,

It was on this occasion that the (late) King of Pruffia offered him an honourable afylum at his court, and the place of president of his Academy; and was not offended at his refusal of these distinctions, but cultivated an intimate friendship with him during the rest of his lile. He had refused, some time before this, a proposal made by the Empress of Russia, to entrust bim with the education of the Grand Duke ;--a proposal accompanied with all the Aattering offers that could tempt a man, ambitious of titles, or desirous of making an ample fortune: but the obje&s of his ambition were tranquillity and study.

In the year 1765, he published his Dissertation on the Deftruction of the Jesuits. This piece drew upon him a swarm of adver. faries, who confirmed the merit and credit of his work by their manner of atracking it. .

Beside the works of this eminent man already mentioned, he published nine volumes of memoirs and treatises, under the title of Opuscules; in which he has solved a multitude of problems relative to astronomiy, mathematics, and natural philosophy; of which our Panegyritt gives a particular account, more especially of those which exhibit new subjects, or new methods of invefti. gation,

He published also Elements of Music, and rendered, at length, the system of Rameau intelligible; but he did not think the mathematical theory of the sonorous body sufficient to account for the rules of that art. He was always fond of music; which, on the one hand, is connected with the most subtle and learned researches of rational mechanics; while, on the other, its power over the senses, and the soul, exhibits, to philosophers, phenomena no less fingular, and still more inexplicable.

In the year 1772, he was chosen secretary to the French Aca. demy. He formed, roon after this preferment, the design of writing the lives of all the deceased Academicians, from 1700 to 1772; and, in the space of three years, he executed this defign, by composing seventy eulogies.

M. D'ALEMBERT died on the 2gih of O&tober 1783. There were many amiable lines of candour, modesty, disinterestedness, and beneficence in his moral character; which are here described with a diffusive detail, whose length and uniformity (as these lines exhibit nothing very Itriking or extraordinary) make their inipreilion more faint than it would have been, if the description had been reduced within a narrower compass. M, CONDORCET concludes this moral portrait in the following manner:

" M. D'ALEMBERT palled the last days of his life in a numerous company, listening to their conversation, and animating it frequently by witty jokes and pleasant stories. He was the only person of the company who remained calm, and could occupy his mind about other objects than himself; the only one who had strength of mind sufficient to give himself up to merrie ment and frivolous amusements."-(This is something like DAVID and CHARON). This can only be accomplished by a reciprocal interchange of com. modities, which are either the natural growth of the several diftridis, or the artificial productions of industry, brought nearly to perfection there : any thing that tends to restrain this freedom of exchange, so far as it operates, counteracts the design of promoting the general cultivation of local advantages. He confirms this doctrine by a simple illustration. If every yard of cloth manufactured in York. shire, should be taxed a shilling as soon as it entered Lancashire, it would produce a double effect prejudicial to both countries; it would diminish the demand for cloth' in Lancashire, and therefore narrow the Yorkshire market, and so far as the remaining confumprion of cloch in Lancashire became necessary to subsistence, it would lay a charge upon every work carried on in that county.'

[The MEMOIRS will be reviewed in another Article. ]

MONTHLY CATALOGUE,

For MARCH, 1787.

UNION wi:h IRELAND.
Art. 13. An Union of England and Ireland proved to be pratticable and

equally beneficial to each Kingdom. With supplementary Observa-
tions relative to the Absentees of Ireland, pointing out the con-
ftitutional Means of removing Complaints, arising from that and
other Causes of Discontent. To which is added, a Reply to the
Dean of Gloucester's Advice to the Irish, to trade with Foreign in
preference to the Britith Colonies. By John Williams, Esq. late
of Merton College, Oxon. 8vo. 15. 6d. Kearsley. 1797.
THIS Writer is strenuous in favour of an union between Britain

T and Ireland, as a general proposition, without seeming to be aware of objections urged to its practicability; and he is equally zealous in diffuading the Irish from any efforts toward independence,

When a man evidently intends well, it is disagreeable to check his ardour, by telling him he had better leave the publication of senti. ments to those who possess more address in digesting and expresling them. Every honest well-meaning man is an honour to his country, and cannot fail of doing public service by inculcating good prin. ciples in his private capacity ; but before a fpeculator ventures to publish his thoughts, he ought to be well assured of having something to communicate sufficiently important to challenge public at. tention. When two acquaintances meet in the rain, it is very natu. ral for one of them to tell the other that it is a wet day; a imple assent to so evident.a position is given, without stopping to controvert it, and so the matter ends. But it is far otherwise when a man is charged eighteen pence, and required to read fifty pages, to be informed of matters that he knew before, Art. 14. Confiderations on the Political and Commercial Circumstances

of Great Britain and Ireland, as they are connected with each other; and on the most probable Means of effecting a Settlemens between them; tending to promote the Interests of both. 8vo. 25. Debrett. 1787.

This Writer enters largely into those obstacles that render a legirlative union with Ireland impracticable, and thew's the advantages of a commerciai union on such terms of liberal equality as, considering the two islands as one extended country, may produce from every part of is the most that its soil or situation is capable of affording.

[ocr errors]

But the fond idea of equality and independence, withstands a con. formity with our navigation-act, and a contributiou of revenue, up til some expedient can be invented, to secure those indispensable objects and at the same time cheat the devil; which we never scruple when we have a good end in view, to cover a fraud upon one whore part is taken by nobody. Our Author, under the influence of a • liberal policy,' would leave these grand points open to the discre. tion of the Irish legislaturc; in full confidence that their wisdom and generosity wonld operate with all the force of obligation. We honestly confess, we never saw cause to justify any reliance on political generofity, and least of all, to expect it from fluctuating bodies of men ; if, therefore, any hazards are to be incurred, we are cordially disposed to leave them to the share of the personage before mentioned.

COMMERCIAL TREATY with FRANCE. Art. 15. Obfervations on the Agricultural and Political Tendency of

the Commercial Treaty. 8vo. Is. Debrett. The subject of this treaty is said to present itself in a threefold point of view, its commercial, agricultural, and political tendency. This Author directs his attention to the two latter confiderations; premiling, “That if the treaty with France breaks in upon any approved principle of national policy, however great may be ics commercial advantages, it ought not to be adopted. That it has such a tendency is all that its opponents have to demonstrate, while those who defend it, muit, to entitle it to the public support, shew that it is conducive to the interests of commerce, without probable injury to our agriculture, and without violating any important principle of policy.' He soon after cxtends his condemnation of the treaty to all the three points without exception.

The result of his political examination is, that from the earliest ages there has subalted on the part of France toward this country and jes liberties, a difpofition neither to be subdued by force, nor conciliated by kindness:' and, that the empire fill exists, we owe to the defeated projects of her boundless ambition, by a tenacious ad. herence to the sound maxims of our ancettors.' These maxims chen dictating a perpetual deadly feud, when was it that we vainiy tried thole conciliatory acts of kindness he reproaches the French with Spurning i Our ancestors never tried themi, by his own statement;

and

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »