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vances, to the production of which the degree of knowledge possessed by the ancients would appear to us to have been adequate, and which seem quite obvious, are yet of late origin. The application of water, for example, to turn a mill, is a thing not known to have been accomplished at all in Greece, and is not supposed to have been attempted at Rome till in or near the age of Augustus. The production of the same effect by wind is a still later invention. It dates only in the seventh century of our era. The propulsion of the saw by any other power than that of the arm is treated as a novelty in England, so late as in the middle of the sixteenth century. The Bishop of Ely, at that time ambassador from the queen of England to the Pope, says, “he saw, at Lyons, a sawmill driven with an upright wheel, and the water that maketh it go is gathered whole into a narrow trough, which delivereth the same water to the wheels. This wheel hath a piece of timber put to the axletree end, like the handle of a broch (a hand-organ), and fastened to the end of the saw, which being turned with the force of water, hoisteth up and down the saw, that it continually eateth in, and the handle of the same is kept in a rigall of wood, from swerving. Also the timber lieth, as it were, upon a ladder, which is brought by little and little to the saw with another vice.”" From this description of the primitive power-saw, it would seem that it was probably fast only at one end, and that the broch and rigall performed the part of the arm in the common use of the handsaw. It must always have been a very considerable object for men to possess or obtain the power of raising water otherwise than by mere manual labor. Yet nothing like the common suctionpump has been found among rude nations. It has arrived at its present state only by slow and cautious steps of improvement; and, indeed, in that present state, however obvious and unattractive, it is something of an abstruse and refined invention. It was unknown in China, until Europeans visited the “Celestial Empire”; and is still unknown in other parts of Asia, beyond the pale of European settlements or the reach of European communication. The Greeks and Romans are supposed to have been ignorant of it, in the early times of their history; and it is usually said to have come from Alexandria, where physical science was much cultivated by the Greek philosophers, under the patronage of the Ptolemies. .
* See Beckmann's Inventions, Vol. I. p. 373, where the passage is quoted from the Miscellaneous State Papers. .
These few and scattered historical notices, Gentlemen, of important inventions, have been introduced only for the purpose of suggesting that there is much which is both curious and instructive in the history of mechanics; and that many things which to us, in our state of knowledge, seem so obvious as that we should think they would at once force themselves on men's adoption, have, nevertheless, been accomplished slowly and by painful efforts.
But if the history of the progress of the mechanical arts be interesting, still more so, doubtless, would be the exhibition of their present state, and a full display of the extent to which they are now carried. This field is much too wide to be entered on this occasion. The briefest outline even would exceed its limits; and the whole subject will regularly fall to hands much more able to sustain it. The slightest glance, however, must convince us that mechanical power and mechanical skill, as they are now exhibited in Europe and America, mark an epoch in human history worthy of all admiration. Machinery is made to perform what has formerly been the toil of human hands, to an extent that astonishes the most sanguine, with a degree of power to which no number of human arms is equal, and with such precision and exactness as almost to suggest the notion of reason and intelligence in the machines themselves. Every natural agent is put unrelentingly to the task. The winds work, the waters work, the elasticity of metals works; gravity is solicited into a thousand new forms of action; levers are multiplied upon levers; wheels revolve on the peripheries of other wheels; the saw and the plane are tortured into an accommodation to new uses, and, last of all, with inimitable power, and “with whirlwind sound,” comes the potent agency of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised, in the short compass of fifty years! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many hands as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found in triumphant operation on the seas; and under the influence of its strong propulsion, the gallant ship,
“Against the wind, against the tide,
It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is on highways, and begins to exert itself along the courses of land conveyance; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans, “Leave off your manual labor, give over your bodily toil; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil, - with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness.” What further improvements may still be made in the use of this astonishing power, it is impossible to know, and it were vain to conjecture. What we do know is, that it has most essentially altered the face of affairs, and that no visible limit yet appears, beyond which its progress is seen to be impossible. If its power were now to be annihilated, if we were to miss it on the water and in the mills, it would seem as if we were going back to rude ages.
This society, then, Gentlemen, is instituted for the purpose of further and further applying science to the arts, at a time when there is much of science to be applied. Philosophy and the mathematics have attained to high degrees, and still stretch their wings like the eagle. Chemistry, at the same time, acting in another direction, has made equally important discoveries, capable of a direct application to the purposes of life. Here, again, within so short a period as the lives of some of us, almost all that is known has been learned. And while there is this aggregate of science, already vast, but still rapidly increasing, offering itself to the ingenuity of mechanical contrivance, there is a corresponding demand for every work and invention of art, produced by the wants of a rich, an enterprising, and an elegant age. Associations like this, therefore, have materials to work upon, ends to work for, and encouragement to work.
It may not be improper to suggest, that not only are the general circumstances of the age favorable to such institutions as this, but that there seems a high degree of propriety that one or more should be established here, in the metropolis of New England. In no other part of the country is there so great a concentration of mechanical operations. Events have given to New England the lead in the great business of domestic manufactures. Her thickened population, her energetic free labor, her abundant falls of water, and various other causes, have led her citizens to engage, with great boldness, in extensive manufactures. The success of their establishments depends, of course, in no small degree, upon the perfection to which machinery may be carried. Improvement in this, therefore, instead of being left to chance or accident, is justly regarded as a fit subject of assiduous study. The attention of our community is also, at the present moment, strongly attracted towards the construction of canals, railways, dry docks, and other important public works. Civil engineering is becoming a profession, offering honorable support and creditable distinction to such as may qualify themselves to discharge its duties. Another interesting fact is before us. New taste and a new excitement are evidently springing up in our vicinity in regard to an art, which, as it unites in a singular degree utility and beauty, affords inviting encotragements to genius and skill. I mean Architecture. Architecture is military, naval, sacred, civil, or domestic. Naval . architecture, certainly, is of the highest importance to a commercial and navigating people to say nothing of its intimate and essential connection with the means of national defence. This science should not be regarded as having already reached its utmost perfection. It seems to have been for some time in a course of rapid advancement. The building, the rigging, the navigating of ships, have, within the knowledge of every one, been subjects of great improvement within the last fifteen years. And where, rather than in New England, may still further improvements be looked for? Where is ship-building either a greater business, or pursued with more skill and eagerness? In civil, sacred, and domestic architecture, present appearances authorize the strongest hopes of improvement. These hopes rest, among other things, on unambiguous indications of the growing prevalence of a just taste. The principles of architecture are founded in nature, or good sense, as much as the principles of epic poetry. This art constitutes a beautiful medium between what belongs to mere fancy and what belongs entirely to the exact sciences. In its forms and modifications it admits of infinite variation, giving broad room for invention and ge
nius; while, in its general principles, it is founded on that which long experience and the concurrent judgment of ages have ascertained to be generally pleasing. Certain relations of parts to parts have been satisfactory to all the cultivated generations of men. These relations constitute what is called proportion, and this is the great basis of architectural art. This established proportion is not to be followed merely because it is ancient, but because its use, and the pleasure which it has been found capable of giving to the mind, through the eye, in ancient times, and modern times, and all civilized times, prove that its principles are well founded and just; in the same manner that the Iliad is proved, by the consent of all ages, to be a good poem. Architecture, I have said, is an art that unites in a singular manner the useful and the beautiful. It is not to be inferred from this that every thing in architecture is beautiful, or is to be so esteemed, in exact proportion to its apparent utility. No more is meant, than that nothing which evidently thwarts utility can or ought to be accounted beautiful; because, in every work of art, the design is to be regarded, and what defeats that design cannot be considered as well done. The French rhetoricians have a maxim, that, in literary composition, “nothing is beautiful which is not true.” They do not intend to say, that strict and literal truth is alone beautiful in poetry or oratory; but they mean, that that which grossly offends against probability is not in good taste in either. The same relation subsists between beauty and utility in architecture as between truth and imagination in poetry. Utility is not to be obviously sacrificed to beauty, in the one case; truth and probability are not to be outraged for the cause of fiction and fancy, in the other. In the severer styles of architecture, beauty and utility approach so as to be almost identical. Where utility is more especially the main design, the proportions which produce it raise the sense or feeling of beauty, by a sort of reflection or deduction of the mind. It is said that ancient Rome had perhaps no finer specimens of the classic Doric than the sewers which ran under her
streets, and which were of course always to be covered from
human observation: so true is it, that cultivated taste is always pleased with justness of proportion; and that design, seen to be accomplished, gives pleasure. The discovery and fast-increasing use of a noble material, found in vast abundance nearer to our