By William Wagner
Edited by Ethan Wolfe
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Permit me to welcome you at the opening of this new course on mineralogy. Some of you have listened to us before, and as such, we greet their return with the feelings with which men welcome tried friends. Others of you are here for the first time. It will be my earnest effort also to make friends of you. We shall make this effort not in a mercenary spirit, or for mercenary ends. It will be our aim and hope, rather to form with you, that better friendship which springs from common interests and common pursuits, especially when these pursuits are in the higher order of our intellectual being. We shall travel the paths of science together, we shall study together some of the greatest works of God, and shall we not be friends? In these walks however, we shall be expected to go before you as leaders and guides. It is not for me to make promises of what we shall do, or to herald our doings by any more preliminary flourish of trumpets. But this much we can promise: that whatever earnest industry, a genuine devotion to our Science, and a sincere wish for your success in study can accomplish, will be attempted by us. And on your part Ladies and Gentlemen, I shall look, and I am sure we shall not look in vain, for devotion and attention to your studies by taking notes, and for that willingness to work which is the only price at which you can purchase success. We shall point out to you the tree of knowledge and the glorious fruit it bears, but you must pluck and eat and digest it for yourselves. We shall mark out to you at least, the outline of that vast domain of human knowledge which passes by the name of Mineralogy. It will be for you not only to grasp that out-line, but to fill it up by your own independent labour with such dispositions on our part, and on yours, our journeyings together will be mutually pleasant and profitable.
It is true in the scientific world: the heights of Science are steep and rugged, and to ascend them, we must like the mountaineer be strong and steady. Already has science controlled the elements, overcome nature, and looked down upon Conquered improbabilities. In reviewing the parturient centuries that have borne these truths, we cannot but be struck with the fact that the divinity of the truths of Science is proven by the immortality of its triumphs. Through all time, all revolutions that have shaken the earth, the truth of Science lived on.
It flies with comets in eccentric flight,
and soars in air beyond the world’s dim light.
It disdains the path which common footsteps tread,
and breathes the Spirit of the mountains head;
It flies through scenes unvisited before
Exhausts this world, and then imagines more.
It gives the wings on which invention Soars,
and untried regions of the world explored.
Difficulty and hope are the pillars of light to ambition, to guide it through the desert to the haven where it would be. Affluence, prosperity, and praise have crushed thousands, where opposition has retarded one. Without a habit of patient application, no mind has ever attained decided greatness in any walk. Such has been the progress of knowledge: that no genius, however vigorous, can at once leap to the advance. Each step onward is more difficult than the last; to excell in any branch of science which has been and is trodden by so many Master Spirits--nay, to follow them even, at a long interval--requires not only boldness, but great indurance. That endurance cannot come except from a habit of labour early acquired, and steadily maintained. It was by beginning when a boy to carry a suckling heifer that Milo the Crotonian became strong enough to carry an ox. The Olympic Athlete was crowned not for that days victory, but for seven long years of determined constant training which enabled him to win it. Thus must the mind be disciplined. Physiologists have said that the brain should not be overwrought as it produces morbid insensitivity, but the true reason may be found in the want of this habit of labour. Shrink not then, my friends, from labour. Wrestle with the strong and you shall yourselves be strong. Be not dismayed at the hard names you find in science. Do not indulge such an idea that you can never acquire them. God has given us faculties to aspire; he has made excellence the reward, and attainment of education strength, which grows by exertions. The prejudice of the dark ages, when a false aristocracy condemned labour in any form as a dishonorable necessity, is passing away, and should have no place in Philosophical or Republican minds. We should own no superior but that of age, worth and wisdom. To win our trust and defference, we must prove ourselves mentally and morally worthy of it.
Next to the constitutional liberty which we enjoy as citizens is the great priviledge of having the freest access to every fountain of knowledge. From their earliest years, Knowledge is now presented to the young in their toys and amusements. To mature age it is offered in all its variety of forms. It is brought down to the capacity, and made practical for the use of the children of toil. And those who possess it in the greatest abundance and of the highest quality are proud of an opportunity of conveying it to those who are intellectually beneath them, and rejoice when they succeed in shedding upon a darker mind a ray of that blessed light which has guilded their own. No longer does the Christian philosopher dread as he once dreaded our alliance with knowledge. He now draws his most impenetrable armour from the once unfathomable depths of time and space, and he extracts his brightest lance from the bowels of the earth. He has no enemy but ignorance and vice, no false friend but superstition, no deceitful ally but he who ministers at the shrine of mammon, who swears by the gold of the temple and by the gifts upon the altar. If these views are well founded, they are pregnant with important lessons to all classes of society: to the statesman as well as the labourer, and especially to those who either are or may be engaged in extending the boundaries of knowledge, and who are exerting themselves as we all ought to do in diffusing its blessings amid the thick darkness which still invests the nations.
It is now an admitted axiom in the philosophy of our legislature that the first duty of the state is to provide education for the people, the physical and moral mana of our being. They supply to the student new motives for study, and indicate new courses of action to those who, as directors of philosophical Institutes, are destined to take an active part in advancing the great cause of truth and righteousness. While others are but the hewers of wood and the drawers of water—the physical agents as it were—in the intellectual movement, theirs are the higher functions of mental toil, to assist in adding new domains to knowledge, to popularize and diffuse it among those who perish for the lack of it to teach to persuade, and to warn to come in direct colission with error, and to grapple with vice and ignorance in their palaces and dens. Though the world may not appreciate our labours, they are doubtless noble functions, and doubly noble when gratuitously exercised. In order to assist in this great movement and prepare for the duties it requires, common and high schools have been endowed by our Government and those of Pennsylvania, but have not been the least successful in developing its genius and enlightening the people. Our universities were established when there were only three learned professions, and their modes of instruction were of course accommodated to the wants of an age but little advanced in civilization and knowledge. Attempts indeed have been occasionally made to adapt them to a change of circumstances, but they have been feeble and ineffectual, and while some of them possess chairs of but little importance, and lectures on subjects which can be better studied in books, others are destitute of the means of instruction on the most important sciences and the arts: Sciences which of all others are most intimately connected with the arts, which give employment to millions, which are the main-stay of our commercial greatness, which fill the national treasury and exalt the national character.
Happy is the man whose leisure is spent in intellectual converse, in reading this great volume of Nature, when he has learned to love and appreciate it. He carries with him wherever he goes wise reflections, and intellectual pleasures without alloy, and pure as the crystal Spring. Him, success will never make insane with pride, not adversity overtake without strong consolation. He can go forth from the ruin which is fatal to other men, knowing that he has a wealth in his soul the world gave not, and cannot take away. To reach the apex of a Pyramid, the traveller must begin at the bottom and go up step by step. Man was not made to fly, and he who trusts himself like another Icarus on the wings of an ill regulated imagination may chance to find a gratuitous grave as deep as the Aegean Sea. In the primative ages, the elders sat as magistrates, and counsellors in the gate. The Hebrews fixed the entrance upon public life at 30 years of age, and the Atheneans allowed none to speak in their assembly until the men of more than 50 had spoken. But with us, the man of 50 is looked upon a little better than an old fogy, and is thrust aside by the stripling whose chin is unconscious of a razor. He who delays his demonstrations until the gristle of his mind is hardened into bone will be the more valuable expounder of Nature’s Laws, and insure to himself a later, but a better fame. Surely they who explore and meditate upon the Laws Of Nature, may direct toil and labours to the most ready and profitable points, and contribute largely to our best Knowledge. Their harvests never fail, nor can the fire consume, nor the tempest destroy, the products of their industry. Such are men of Science.
A late political economist, God bless him, has rescued the man of Science out of the same category with jugglers and opera-dancers, where previous economists had placed us as unproductive consumers. How great is the contrast between the present state of the Sciences and their condition a few centuries ago, when knowledge was locked up in a few colleges and universities and only the priviledged classes could gain access to its treasures. Now we have philosophy and the sciences not only cleared of the mistecisms and superstitions of an ignorant age, and established upon a firm basis, but also diffused through the masses of society. Mankind, instead of exercising simply their muscular strength, are called upon to exercise their intellectual faculties and powers. Instead of wandering in the regions of darkness, error, and superstition, the light of Science shines upon their pathway and sheds its lustre upon all the employments and enterprises of life. Instead of being dependent upon the few who held a monopoly of the discoveries and principals of Science, all are free to enter this temple of knowledge and to enrich their minds with its choicest treasures. The greatest discoveries in Astronomy, the soundest maxims of Philosophy, the most valuable principals in chemistry, are the inheritance of all who will take the pains to secure them. They are the property of the multitude as much as the light of the Sun or the air that we breathe, or the food that nourishes the body, and these vast resources are accessable to the people not simply for mental culture and intellectual delight but also for the practical purposes of life. In the various mechanical acts, the workmen may associate Science with their labor, and may be studying our principals, and developing new powers, while he is earning his daily bread. The age enables him and stimulates him to use thought as well as strength, and to employ his skill instead of his physical force. And so rapidly are science and the arts advancing that they are enabling man to employ the great agencies of nature, to do the work that formerly required the force of millions of men.
Science gives the principal and art constructs the machinery, and by the union of the two, man obtains dominion over the elements of nature, over the air, the water, and the earth. He ploughs the ocean in his stately vessel, heedless of the winds, currents, and tides. With the propelling power within, with iron sinews and an unceasing activity and a fiery energy, the almost living ship pursues her course from port to port with the utmost regularity. The earth is belted with tracts, and the mighty engine subject to the will of one man carries with the swiftness of the wind thousands of human beings from city to city. Mountains are brought low, valleys are exalted, rough places are made plain and a highway prepared over which civilisation and Christianity are advancing to fulfill their great mission to the nations of the earth. Even the Lightening, so long the object of Superstitious dread, is enlisted in the service of man. It carries his thoughts over a continent with a promptness that literally annihilates time and space. It runs its expresses with no other demand than a small iron rod to travel upon, and with the dispatch that the cannon ball cannot compete with, nor even sound on its flight surpass. This and other mighty energies of nature are doing for this generation a work the benefits of which cannot be calculated. They are breaking into the Halls and castles of the priviledged classes, and constituting the whole Community, one priviledged class. Our age then demands that you be men of intellectual vigor as well as outward activity, that you employ your powers of thought as well as physical strength. For though the discoveries and inventions of the past are so numerous and valuable, though society has within the last century made such progress, yet we cannot but believe that even more important improvements yet are to be made, and that a higher form of civilization is yet to be reached. We cannot but believe that Science and art are to aid man in obtaining more complete victories over nature, and enjoy more splendid triumphs than any that have marked the past, and to contribute to the further advancement of civilization, to the greater progress of Science, and to a still wider diffusion of the Comforts of life.
The lovers of Science in this country have sensibly left the void, the absence of those resources which are found in Europe, and which are so indispensable for the attainment of knowledge. They have been mortified to perceive that the great advantages possessed by the old world have not been fostered here by Government or individuals, which, while they impart dignity and enjoyment to existence, lead to the most useful and practical results. It is now about 10 days since the opening or inauguration of this Institution took place with appropriate addresses from our worthy Governor, Mayor Conrad, Bishop Potter, and others. At which time a full statement of the collections, as well as the plans and designs of this Institution, were fully set forth and explained, and as I presume many of my hearers were present on that occasion and those who were not, had an opportunity of seeing a full statement in the papers, I do not deem it necessary to enlarge upon the subject, but merely to give you a short synopsis, in as few words as possible.
That there is a great deficiency in our schools and universities has long been acknowledged by all intelligent minds, but how to remedy this great evil, how to fill this vacuum, I believe has suggested itself to but few, some of those few had not the materials others not the leisure, and as I possessed a portion of both, I felt it incumbent on me to at least make the effort to arrouse the attention of the public to these deficiencies, and with such ends and feelings in view I applied to, and obtained from, our state Legislature on most liberal terms, a charter, and our Municipal Government with the generosity well worthy the object, has granted the free use of this splendid hall where with the cooperation of a number of talented and liberal minded men, we hope to see the seeds of our labour spring up and bear fruit abundantly. Public lectures have become one of the characteristics of the day, and next to the press perhaps, tend more than any other means of diffusing knowledge to impress the public mind. Popular lectures appear better adapted to present literary and historical facts, and to give information relative to subjects of art, and of morals, than to impart a knowledge of Scientific principals. Our lectures require more thought and attention. In selecting lecturers, the consideration of mere popular effect has not been regarded. The persons chosen for this Institution have been such as to give weight to the Lecture, and give credit to the Institution. The object has been to give instruction rather than amusement, to improve the public taste rather than to elicit popular applause. The Institution, to be respected, must maintain a dignified character and seek rather to direct public opinion than to obtain popularity by an opposite course.
During a long period, the sciences were independent of each other in their progress. It was essential that facts should be discovered, carefully studied, well considered, analyzed, and classed, in order to obtain a knowledge of their causes and first principals; and by that means advance each science to a certain degree, the mutual assistance they afford, and the influence they exercise, upon each other, could then by fully understood. It is especially since the end of the last century that the progress of the human mind in the study of the sciences has so wonderfully developed their reciprocal relations. Thus it is that chemistry and mineralogy have made such rapid strides, they cannot move forward one without the other, and they shed their light on physiology, on the arts, manufactures, and on every branch of Natural History. Not only do the sciences aid each other, but the arts and Sciences do so likewise. Some of the arts depend in their execution upon an intimate acquaintance with the higher branches of Science, if not in the workmen, at least, in the person who directs his operations. And there are important branches of Science which could make no progress if the Philosopher who studies them had not found the arts sufficiently advanced to supply him with the instruments and apparatus of which he stands in need. It is especially to those arts which are susceptable of great perfection and exactness in their execution that the sciences are most indebted. The brilliant discoveries of modern times in electricity, magnetism, Galvanism optics, and astronomy, in chemistry and mineralogy, would still have been in their infancy if the arts had not provided the different instruments and the thousand ingenious inventions which furnish the philosophical apparatus of the scientific investigator.
The rapid and extraordinary improvements which the world has experienced during the last half century in commercial intercourse, in manufactures, and to all that contributes to civilization and the comforts and conveniences of life, are due altogether to the application of Science to the useful purposes, and of the useful arts, to the progress of science. In the march of intelect so far as leads to practical results, our country has kept pace with the most enlightened nations of the world. An economist has said democratic institutions were fatal to original efforts in the arts and Sciences. Altho’ this change cannot be altogether denied, it is however incorrect to attribute this to democracy, which so far from being inimical to the Sciences, renders the mind independent in thought and action, invigorating and fitting it for any pursuit. The causes are to be found in the circumstances of the country which compels men to enter early on the theatre of life. There is little leisure in youth for the acquisition of the Sciences, and for men of more advanced age, the opportunities and means are too rarely presented for the successful prosecution of such studies. The disposition is not wanting among us, and if we are behind Europe in the practice and knowledge of the Sciences, it is owing to the condition of our country which requires all her sons to labour, and does not admit of a class of learned men of leisure; and in a degree to the want of such establishments as this, for the success of such pursuits, places where the student may resort to, provided for his use, by the munifence of individuals, or the patronage of government: where he will find instruments, collections, books, and instructions, in the higher branches of Science, who will give lectures, on these important subjects. Instance the Jarden des Plants at Paris, they are crowded with students from all parts of Europe, and where they acquire their professions gratis by the generosity of Government.
If my lectures on the important subject of Mineralogy be clear and simple, calculated by the intrinsic merit of the subject and the manner in which it will be discussed, to seize upon the thoughts and memory of my audience, and give them the great and leading facts and principals of the subject, which the studious of all times have laboured to investigate, we shall be amply repaid. Mineralogy possesses many advantages over most other sciences, that with discipline for the mind, it combines exercise for the body; it has power to preserve or to restore, the mens sana corpore sano anglicesed a strong mind, in a vigorous body. One at least of our most celebrated mineralogists applied himself to this pursuit as a remedy for disorders, brought on by too close an application to sedentary studies. Health appears to be a priviledge, almost peculiar to the Mineralogist, among all the sons of Science. The mathematician undermines his Constitution over his diagrams, and equations. The Chemist inhales poison, amidst the fumes of the Laboratory. The Anatomist risks his life amidst the horrors of the dissecting room. But the Mineralogist enjoys the robust health of the sportsman or the peasant. He breathes the purest air of heaven amidst the loveliest and sublimest scenery of nature, while exploring those mountain recesses where her mysteries are best revealed. Hardy, active, and enterprising, he ravages through the realms of the world: now on the summit of the Sierra Nevada, now in the mammoth cave of Kentucky, now in the wilds of the West, now in the valley of the Mississippi. He has examined the extinct creatures of Avergne, and the Gold fields of California. His hammer has been heard among the Rocky Mountains, and cried with the poet, “Creations heir; the world, the world is mine”. He sees man under various forms of government and religion. He holds intercourse with men whose sole bond of Union with him is their ardour in the cause of Science; by all other points their opinions may differ, hence he is trained to habits of moderation and forbearance, and learns to emancipate himself from the trammels of party.
The investigations of the Mineralogist are various, and the questions to be solved by him call to his aid the Chemist and Mathematician. Hence arise new sympathies, and those are many, who can enumerate among the advantages of Mineralogy the warm and enduring friendships to which it has given birth. In the roving life of a Mineralogist there are charms unconnected with those of Science; he mingles in his rambles with men of all ranks and of various characters, and thus gains an opportunity of studying human nature whilst he obtains fresh knowledge of his profession. The personal adventures of a Mineralogist would form an amusing narrative. He is trudging along dusty and weather-beaten with his wallet at his back and his hammer on his shoulder, he is taken for a mason in season of work. I have been taken for a pedler by the inmates of a country house, who dispatched a child to meet me on the way, to say they wanted nothing.
In mining countries he is supposed to be in guest of mines, and he receives many tempting offers of shares in the Golden Pasture. When his fame has spread among the more enlightened parts of the community, of a district, which he has been exploring, and enquiries are made of the farmers etc., as to the habits and pursuits of the great Philosopher who has been among them and with whom they have become familiar, it is found that the importance attached by him to minerals and stones, and such like trumpery, is looked upon as a species of derangement, but they speak with delight of his affability, sprightlyness, and good humour. They respect the weight of his hammer and the strength of his arm, as they point to marks which he inflicted on the rocks. And they recount with wonder his pedestrian performances and the voracious appetite, with which, at the close of a long days hard work, he would devour the Coarsest food that was set before him.
Stop passenger a wondrous tale to list,
Here lies a famous Mineralogist.
Famous indeed, such traces of his power
He’s left from Penmanbach to Penman manor,
Such cares, and chasms, and fissures in the rocks,
His works resemble those of earthquake shocks.
What mighty giant rent the hills asunder,
Or whether Lucifer himself, had ne’er
gone with his crew, to play at football there
His fossils, flints, and spoils of every hue,
With him good heavens, here he’s buried too!
Sweet specimens, which toiling to obtain
He split huge cliffs, like so much wood in twain
We knew, so great, the fuss he made about them
Alive or dead, he ne’er would rest without them
So to secure soft slumber to his loves,
He paved his grave with all his favorite stones,
His much loved hammers resting by his side.
each hand contains a shellfish, petrified,
His mouth a piece of pudding stone encloses.
And at his feet, a lump of coal exposes.
Sure, he was born beneath some lucky planet.
His very coffin plate is made of Granite.
Weep not good heavens, he is truly blest
Amidst chalcedony and quartz to rest.
Weep not for him, but envied be his doom
Whose torch tho’ small, for all he loved had room.
And Oh! Ye rocks, Shist, gneiss, whate’er ye be
Ye varied Stata names too hard for me
Sing O! be joyful, for your direst foe.
By deaths fell hammer, is at length laid low,
Ne’er on your spoils again shall our hero riot
Shut up your cloudy brows, and rest in quiet.
He sleeps no longer planning hostile actions
As cold as any of his Petrefactions.
Enshrined in Specimens of every hue,
Too tranquil even to dream, ye rocks, of you.
Mineralogy can only be studied fundamentally by those who are gifted with leisure and affluence, or by those who propose to follow it as a profession, but on a less extended scale it is available to the man of business and the man of humble income. The rich and the unemployed will find in it a substitute for those artificial excitements, those frivolous, and often vitiating, and ravenous pursuits, to which they are driven as a resource against annui, and he who is engaged in active labours may resort to it as a relaxation from toil and care. If a state of inactivity is unsuitable for man, so likewise is a state of unremitting labour; rest and recreation we all require.
Change of employment is often equeal to repose, and where can we find employment or recreation so refreshing and invigorating both to mind and body, as this? What could be more delightful than to exchange that conflict of passions and interests which beset the man of business in his intercourse with men, for that calm yet exciting interest, arising from converse with nature, and the acquirement or discovery of truth? Truth is indistructable: that he who has unveiled it may pass away, but the truth will never. Ages cannot tire out the foot of truth; error, calumny, and persecution, cannot quench her spirit, she can sleep, as she has slept, through the midnight of centuries, and arise as from a refreshing slumber, to go upon her way. Truth possesses a hierarchy higher than time, or chance, or change. The memorials of the intellect, in the cause of truth, are deposited in the archives of heaven, an imperishable inheritance for those who win it. Its head wears sunbeams, and its feet touch stars. Though Socrates perished, there was no hemlock could destroy the truths he taught.
Mineralogy has fields of research suited to every labourer, and to every capacity. On some of its investigations, the highest intellectual power and the greatest acquirements in abstract science may be brought to bear, while many of its problems may be solved by any one who has eyes, and will make use of them. Extensive travel is requisite to afford comprehensive views of our subject and to prevent our generalizing from too limited induction. But he whose travels are confined within his native country, or within a circle of 20 miles, may add much to our knowledge; if we visit the same cliff, or quarry, daily for years, we shall at every visit be rewarded with something new. And there are few districts barren in objects of mineralogical interest, however deficient they may be in the beauties of picturesque scenery. But what is the use of Mineralogy? This is a question which we have often heard asked, and to which the querists generally reply in the same breath by denouncing it as a visionary speculation, or at the best, laborious idleness productive of no practical results. On this point we are prepared to join issue with these objectors, and to vindicate the utility of our science. In enumerating the advantages to be derived from it, we shall begin with its economical importance, because the majority of mankind (and particularly we Yankees) are composed of those who refer all things to this standard. And here we must confess that, as regards utility, as well as the profound science of the subject, Mineralogists must be contented to yield the first place to Astronomy. We pretend not to guide the mariner across the watery deep, and to enable him by measuring the distance of the moon from some of the fixed stars, to ascertain within five miles his situation on the pathless ocean after he has been months without seeing land. But upon our own element, the land, we can confer upon mankind benefits of no mean order. We can assist the farmer to fertalize the earth so that two blades of grass will grow where one grew before, and we can impart a system to the miner so that, no longer trusting to dreams, to omens, and the divining rod, no longer groping his way in the dark, he may prosecute with confidence and with approach to certainty, those costly operations which are necessary in order to extract from the earth the treasures there stored up for our use. These treasures exist in sufficient abundance to afford a rich reward to our toils, and at the same time, they have wisely and beneficently been rendered sufficiently difficult to access to stimulate industry and call forth our energies.
The Chemist, the Mathematician and miner find our subject interwoven in their respective pursuits; the traveller by its aid gleans instruction and amusement in the loveliest solitudes. The equipment afforded by the study of Mineralogy, is exhibited in the zeal with which the Naturalist persues his investigations. Poverty presents no obstacles, and distance lets no bounds to his persuits, pestilential climates, and the savage wilderness; amid the glare of equatorial Sun, the gloom of polar nights, and the Sahara of arctic regeons, are eagerly sought and explored as fields of new discovery. Toil, exposure, and physical ills in every form are endured without a murmur when engaged in examining the riches of nature, and when each step leads to a new and higher enjoyment. The pure and intellectual gratification afforded by pursuits, which tend to the developement of the wonders and beauties of the physical world would seem to warrant the conclusion that it is one of the purposes for which our faculties were imparted to us. If you will examine the subject of mineralogy carefully, you will find it is the basis of domestic and public economy, and that it contributes essentially to the prosperity of families and the wealth of nations by the advantages which its resources offer to agriculture, commerce, the arts, to manufactures, and all the wants of life. That it is to the study of Natural History that civilized man is indebted, for the use, and enjoyment of the best races of animals, the abundance of his food, the variety of his drinks, the comfort and warmth of his clothing, the beauty and solidity of his furniture, the remidies that restore him to health, the metals which multiply his force and contribute to his defence, and for most of the luxuries and enjoyments of his existence. By holding forth to you the flowers of science, it will tempt you to satisfy yourselves with their perfume and beauty, and yield you energy and industry to cultivate and gather the maturest fruits of the harvest with the fondness of one of natures children. I have loved the wild woods, the forest skirted streams, the snow clad mountains with their secluded dells, the plains and meadows, where the plants and flowers spring up, without a name from the Botanist and without the permission or aid of man. I have ranged these haunts in my earlier day with untiring footsteps, satisfied to see, feel, and enjoy them without investigating the object of the luxuriance around me, but now every thing in life changes its aspect and I now hope to make usefull to those in the flowery spring of life, those objects which I collected from those haunts and persuits, which the habits of years have rendered dear, and find in them new and more elevated sources of enjoyment. I have perused the volume of nature, page by page, for the harmonies of this beautiful universe, for the traces of the finger of God. As I have beheld nature with these eyes, my heart has burned within me with desire that others may derive the same pleasure from the love and study of her works.
There is a delight in the acquisition of knowledge, there is joy in the expansion of the mind through the fields of Science, and after indulging in it you feel no regret, no pain of misspent time. It has no alloy, it is pure as the hand that made it. For such an application does the pale and retired Student trim his midnight lamp. For this, he voluntarily prefers to be poor than to grow rich by any other means, for this does he forgo the pleasure of the world around him. Yet it is not enough that in science there is an enabling and elevating quality, when the soul in the very acquisition of that which was before unknown experiences an expansion of its powers, and rises in a loftier state of being. Were these effects but transient, were these effects but of that duration which bounds the limit of man’s existence, the claims of science be as feeble as they are short lived, but in the exercise of those powers, the recipient records his learning, they are transmitted to future generations and becomes a rich legacy to posterity. Solomon says: “Happy is the man, that findeth wisdom, and the man that geteth understanding: for the Merchandize of it is better than the Merchandize of Silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” Instance the fame of the illustrious Franklin; it belongs to his country, the admiration of him, to the world. The record of his wisdom will inform future generations. He has bequeathed to posterity the richest fruits of the experience and judgement of a great mind, conversant with the greatest and most profound Philosophy. In this, his memory will endure as long as our country shall continue to be the home of the free, the land of the brave.
The Mineralogist, travelling amid the floral beauty that waves over those illimitable fields of our country, refreshed by the most delicious dews and breezes of heaven, far from all the associations of youth, the spirit seems quickened with new and more expansive powers and susceptibilities, while the sweetest melodies of Nature and her multiform beauties, boundless and picturesque displays, combine to enchant the ear and awaken in the bosom new energies, emotions, and enjoyments. A Mineralogist, acted on by such influences and strengthened by such peculiar and vigorous mental developments, must possess in an eminent degree deep thought, powerfull inate energies, stronger motions, and an irresistable activity, peculiarly its own, and he exclaims with the Poet: “These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good Almighty!” He who is engaged in the active business of life seeks his recreation in the study of this fascinating science, must be prepared to encounter the censure and the ridicule of the opposite classes: those who deem the persuit of riches, and those who deem the persuit of pleasure the great end of mans being. The one will accuse him of wasting every moment not employed with acquisition of wealth, of wealth which he who has spent his whole life in accumulating, finds too late, that he knows not how to enjoy it because the incessant persuit of gain has absorbed the whole of his faculties, and stinted all mental cultivation. The other class will charge him with mispending time, which they would not deem inapplied to spots of the field, or games of chance, to Bacchanalian revels, or party squabbles.
The study of the material world is an alluring study; it has the express sanction of many passages of Scripture. “Great,” says the Psalmist, “are the works of the Lord, sought out of all them, that have pleasure therein”, and he never breathers such rapturous devotion, nor uses to loftier strains of Poetry, than when expatiating on the beauties and wonders of creation. It will be my study in the following lectures to guide my class into the plain and strait forward road to Mineralogical truth, by setting before you the real discoveries of the Science. And surely that object is not likely to be advanced, by first leading you aside into every by-path of error, in which you can possibly loose your way, recounting all the absurdities into which men fell when giving rein to the imagination. They constructed systems and theories upon the foundation of a few ill observed facts, and often without the observation of any facts at all. My object is to exhibit the amount of light at present possessed by Mineralogists, and it would be but a waste of time to show, and how long, they groped about in darkness before they found that light.
The mineral wealth of the earth has not been distributed through it at random, but each formation, as Geologists call a group of strata, is over extensive areas, at least, the peculiar receptacle of certain minerals. Thus, Tin is found only in Granite districts. And Copper is most abundant in those, and the adjoining Shistose rocks. The thick formation of limestone, to which the name of Carboniferous has been given, because the great body of the Coal measures rest upon it, is the chief depository of Lead. These metals, with Silver and some others, occur in veins traversing the strata. Gold on the contrary is rarely met with in veins, but is deseminated in small quantities through the rocks in which it occurs, and the principal supplies of it are desired from alluvial gravel, which has resulted from the destruction of those rocks. Platinum and Diamonds are likewise found in alluvial gravel. Iron, to which the name of precious might with more propriety be applied than to Gold or Silver, occurs in the greatest abundance interstratified with coal, so that by an admirable arrangement of Providence, the bulky ore of this most useful of all metal is found in juxtaposition with the fuel and the limestone necessary for its reduction to the metallic state. While Gold and Silver are but the measures of wealth, Iron is the instrument by which it is produced. It is therefore the material basis of the world’s prosperity, and all other substances are secondary in value and importance. It is the plough share, the axe, the loom, the anvil, the anchor, the rail road and the electric Telegraph. All knowledge is derived from its use, and in proportion will civilization, advance, and the arts and sciences increase.
The advantages to be derived by the Mineralogist and practical miner, from a Knowledge of these facts, are obvious. On the one hand, the general rule will prevent a waste of capital, in fruitless researches for certain minerals where they rarely occur, and on the other hand, the exceptions will prevent that slavish adherence to that general rule, which would prevent all attempts, to work them in those strata, when the indications are in other respects favorable, and Geology furnishes us with means, for discriminating the different strata, and teaches their order of Succession. So that having ascertained to what part of the series a given rock belongs, we know what other rocks we may expect to find above and below it. The benefits which Mineralogy & Geology confer on agriculture are neither few nor trifling. In our introductory, it is not the place to point out in detail, how the nature of a soil depends on that of the rocks, from the disintegration of which it was derived, nor to show how particular plants effect particular Soils, in which in a state of nature, they exclusively flourish, and in which, they flourish most, in a state of cultivation. Every architect and civil engineer ought to be a Mineralogist, for the study of the structure of rocks, and of the situations in which they occur, would frequently enable them to select more durable stones for buildings, roads, &c than those usually employed. Granite is reduced to powder under the crushing action of wheels much sooner than Greenstone, owing to the superior toughness of the latter, which arises from the presence of the mineral called hornblende: an improvement in architecture has latterly taken place, in the substitution of granite for many other minerals. The weathered surface of a rock will often give a better insight into its mineral structure than can be obtained from a fresh fracture, and in general the capability of a stone to resist atmospheric agency may be learned by studying the manner in which it resists such action in its original situation, and by observing which of the ingredients of a compound rock is first to decompose.
Mineralogy by the aid of Chemistry teaches that the solids, liquids, and ariform fluids of our globe are all reducible into 62 or 63 substances, hitherto called elementary. 6 are gases, 43 are metals of which 11 are remarkable as composing in combination with oxygen, contain earths, as magnesia, [...], alumin. The Gas oxygen is considered as by far the most abundant substance in our globe. It constitutes the fifths part of our atmosphere, a third part of water, and a large proportion of every kind of rock in the crust of the earth. Hydrogen, which forms 2/3 of water and enters into some mineral substances, is perhaps next. Nitrogen, of which the atmosphere is 4/5 composed, must be considered as an abundant substance. The metal silicum, which unites with oxygen in nearly equal parts to form silica, the basis of nearly ½ the rocks in the earths crust, is of course an important ingredient. Aluminum, the metalic basis of alumin, a large material in many rocks, is another abundant elementary substance. So also is carbon a small ingredient in the atmosphere, but the chief constituent of mineral and vegetable substances. The familiarly known metals, as Iron, tin, lead, silver, gold, are elements of comparatively small magnitude, in that exterior part of the earth’s body which we are able to investigate. It is remarkable, of the simple substances, that they are generally in some compound form. Thus oxygen and nitrogen, though in union, form the aerieal envelope of the globe, are never found separate in nature. Carbon is pure only in the Diamond. Combinations and recombinations are principals largely pervading nature. There are few rocks, for example, that are not composed of at least two varieties of matter, each of which is again a compound of elementary substances.
In a former paragraph, I held out to you the flowers of Science, now let me present to your view some of the peculiarities attendant on the Migratory character of the young mineralogist, in prospecting as they say in California, he travels over extended regions of Country at the approach of each successive night, weary and hungry, he seeks the most comfortable house in sight, advancing to the door he asks their hospitalities. I was acquainted with a Gentleman who on such an occasion, when in pursuit of his Geological studies, found a wife in the Tertiary deposits of the South. In asking the hospitalities of the house for a night he staid a week. Another friend leaving hence with Scientific views, quiting the comfortable fireside of an affectionate mother for the far west, received the following parting admonition, from her aged lips. “My son,” said she, on the eve of his leaving, “have great care of your health, and be carefull not to sleep in damp sheets,” his promise that he would not was responded, and he departed. One week afterwards, fatigued and jaded by the roughness of his journey; he and his companions lay down at the foot of a pine tree with their saddles for a pillar, and were soon wrapt in the arms of sleep. At the dawn of day, he awoke, and found himself drenched to the skin by the heavy rain which had fallen during the night. In comforting himself for such a gratuitous bath, to the select party he thought of the parting admonition of his affectionate mother, “don’t sleep in damp sheets”.
It only remains for me to bid the young Mineralogist, good speed, in the career to which he is invited. Napoleon put muskets in the hands of his conscripts, and sent them to the field of battle to learn the act of war. I would bid those recruits, which it is the object of this lecture to levy for the service of Mineralogy, shoulder their hammer, and march on to victory. And in conclusion, I would beg leave to introduce to you as Fathers, Mothers, and guardians, that if intelligence and virtue be of more value than ignorance and vice, if the wise Philosopher be a better man than the rude barbarian, if the refined and polished Gentleman be of more worth than the untutored savage, if all that refines embellishes and renders life delightful be worth preserving and improveing, then is education the most important business that human beings can be engaged in. Then is the education of children the chief duty imposed upon parents. Education is the only imperishable benefit that a parent can bestow upon his children. All that is good of earthly mould may pass away, but the culture of the undying mind endures forever. Education is the embelishment of the soul, and while the soul exists, it cannot be lost. Even this solid earth shall fade away, and nature sink all years immortal, as the ever living essence which it adorns, it will Flourish in immortal youth, Unhurt, amid the war of Elements, the wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.