Зображення сторінки

the vital principle is accelerated--the body is said to live too fast.

Life, therefore, is dependent on a prevention of excess. Both in animal and vegetable life, care is to be taken not to overcharge the system

with alimentary stimulus, for if the vessels are too much excited, life, or the vital principle, cannot traverse the system with ease. A certain portion of this vital essence is necessary to the healthy operations of an organized being, but if the circulation is quickened, then it follows that, as life traverses every particle, and these particles are propelled more rapidly, the vivifying principle must accumulate to a greater degree than the economy of the system can bear; there is not only a superabundance of mere life, but of alimentary stimulus likewise, and in the end this stimulus must clog up the fine vessels of the brain; when this is the case, congestion and apoplexy, by putting a stop to the circulation, drive life from the system altogether. Too much stimulus at the roots of plants operates in the same manner on their system as on ours, and the greatest care should be taken to apply nutriment judiciously.

Life leaves the system also when the circulation is too slow, for then aliment is too sparingly diffused—there are fewer particles around which this vital principle can traverse, and as they continue to decrease, so will there be less animation. In vegetable life the centripetal and centrifugal power both operate from without at the extremities, but in animal locomotive life, the latter power emanates from the centre, the heart, and the centripetal, or gravitating principle, presses on every part of the body externally, so that the equilibrium is kept up when there is no preternatural or morbid action to intervene.

Life therefore, does not attach itself, solely to the elaborated particles in the tubular vessels, but also to every portion of the germ or organic structure of a plant and animal ; but only as long as these organs or parts are capable of being acted upon by the joint and equal efforts of the two repelling powersgravity and levity. Life, or the vital principle, can exist in a paralysed limb when the contractile ligature on which the mind operated to produce motion, is either relaxed or broken asunder. Life--therefore-does not of itself produce sensation or motion -it is when all things accord, when there is a fitness and adaptation throughout, that life pervades every atom of an organized being.

When the contractile or elastic organs of an arm that is paralysed are only relaxed, the arm may be restored to motion; but if they are snapt asunder, and when complete paralysis occurs suddenly this snapping is both felt and heard by the sufferer, then the art of man can never restore the motion or use of the arm.

We are not aware of any sudden stroke of paralysis in plants, but that of death by apoplexy is common to many that are too much stimulated. Rapidly growing pear trees, particularly those from abroad, often have their vessels ruptured by a too sudden distension; as plants are endowed with a principle of divisibility, if the injured part be immediately cut off, the remaining branches do not receive any material injury. But of that disease, called. paralysis, there is nothing that is strictly analogous, if we except the loss of action in a limb after a rupture of the vessels by frost during a hard winter.

Therefore, the vital principle is accelerated or retarded, according to the amount of force in the disturbing powers, both as it regards plants and animals, and as this force is continued unequally, so will life decline or be unable to traverse the body. The blood, or sap, shows no livelier sense of its presence than does the human skin and bone, or the bark and wood of a tree. Like every other law or principle that sustains matter, life depends on the assistance of gaseous fluids for its capacity to animate an animal or a plant, yet life is not matter, although like gases it exerts its influence on gaseous matter. The particles held in solution by the tubular and porous vessels do not possess any more of its vivifying powers than does the material of which these vessels are made.

Mind, is the highest power bestowed by God on an organized being; it is a divine essence, and can never perish. Life must, of necessity, accompany all the different processes which go to sustain both the plant and animal, but mind is not compelled to follow all these different operations. A man may be so completely an idiot as to have no consciousness, and yet may have the power of motion. It is to life that an organized being is indebted for the movements of its body and limbs, but it is by mind that these movements are directed to some definite purpose. Plants have the power of motion-instinctive motionbut no consciousness. It is in a well organized brain that mind exists in perfection; man alone has this perfect organization, for the brain of animals is differently constructed.

Instinct belongs to animate and inanimate life. By the wise and benevolent order of the Almighty, all the particles of matter are endowed with a principle which make them subordinate to organization. Where there is no mind given, this instinctive faculty is abundantly supplied, and it extends itself to bodies possessing no life. The particles of crystals dispose themselves in a regular form according to the divine law-birds of the same kind always sing the same notes and show the same plumage. The bee exudes wax from the pores of its body, and for ever makes hexagonal cells. Animals without teeth imbibe their first nutriment always by suction, but where there

is mind there is entire freedom of action. Man possesses life, mind and instinct ; his reasoning powers, or mind, enable him to guide this instinct to a definite purpose to suit his own convenience, altering and varying his position as often as he feels inclined. Animals having this instinct can avoid evil and provide for their necessities, but plants, being permanently fixed in the earth are therefore more helpless and more dependent on our care. Having no consciousness, they possess nothing more than an inferior instinct, which guides them, blindfold, as it were, to their limited course. They are passive, and make no resistance, but their instinct impels them to repair waste, and to spread a wider and a wider surface to gaseous influence under ground, and to the action of the atmosphere above.

It is to this point, therefore, that we have arrived--plants taken from their native beds, where they grow wild, are thrown altogether on the benevolence and care of man. That precious gift-mind—is bestowed on him to assist the Creator of all things in protecting this helpless part of his works. We are his agents here to accomplish some great design which, in the end, is to exalt our own nature. Let every one, therefore, having a brute or a plant under his care, look that he discharges his duty towards it well.

We shall close our remarks by observing, that although we believe that life traverses, and, in popular terms, animates every particle of an organized body, whether of plant or animal, yet that the particles themselves are not organized beings. We do not find, from the experiments we have made, that either detached or annexed congeries of matter have a procreative, regenerating power. Neither the particles of a fluid or a solid body-gases, light, heat, isolated or concrete masses of earths or minerals—have organic bodies. The endless, minute divisibility of which they are capable, and the changes which take place in their nature and character in

consequence of pressure and chemical disintegrations, do not lead to the conclusion that they possess the same principle of vitality which animates vegetable and animal life.

Natural science, particularly that branch of it called vegetable physiology, is a beautiful study; but few have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with it, and, therefore, are not sufficiently impressed with its important bearing on science generally. To understand it to advantage, it must be studied in the fields and gardens with the aid of an untiring, inquisitive spirit—with the assistance of good glasses and skill in using them. Books or lectures can avail us but little, as they are chiefly written in the closet, and too frequently in slovenly haste, either to complete a lecture or to make a book. Our own

knowledge has been gleaned principally from our walks amongst orchards and gardens, where all the phenomena were observed with our own eyes, and the experiments made with our own hands.

“Science," says an anonymous writer, "in its broad and comprehensive term, has flourished, and might continue to flourish, amongst the learned, whilst the rest of the world is in comparative ignorance. But a thorough knowledge of that branch of it which comprehends vegetable physiology must be the result of education widely spread, and of peculiar refinement of tastes, habits, and occupations."

ART. VII.- Defence of Usury; showing the impolicy of the

present legal restraints on the terms of pecuniary bargains; in letters to a friend. To which is added, a Letter to Adam Smith, Esq. LL. D., on the discouragements opposed by the above restraints to the progress of inventive industry. By JEREMY BENTHAM, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn. New York: 1837.

The expediency of repealing the usury laws of Pennsylvania, so that there shall exist no legal restraint upon the rates of interest for money, has been discussed in the public prints and elsewhere, of late, with great zeal; and the subject still continues to excite much interest in the trading community. Petitions and remonstrances have been forwarded to Harrisburg, and before the present session shall close it is probable they will be subjected to legislative action,

We propose in this paper to urge a few arguments in favour of this measure.

In doing so we shall endeavour to be as brief as the nature of the subject will admit.

According to a learned jurist, usury is a contract upon a loan of money, or giving days for forbearing of money, debt, or duty, by way of loan, chevisance, shifts, sales of wares, or other doings whatsoever. Usura dicitur ab usu et ære, quia datur pro usu æris." It will be seen, therefore, that the taking of interest for the use of money, whether it be merely to the amount legalized by statute, or in an excess over that amount, is in a literal sense, and according to the ancient acceptation, usury. The Mosaical precept, which prohibited the Jews from taking usury from their brethren, has excited many VOL. XXI.-NO. 41.


doubts in the minds of conscientious men as to its propriety in foro conscientie. These doubts continue to exist to a great extent even at the present day, upon the ground that the receiving a compensation for the hire of money is contrary to the revealed law of God. A reference, however, to the twentythird chapter of Deuteronomy, in which this prohibition is contained, will conclusively show, that so far from its being intended as a moral precept, the restraint was explicitly imposed upon the Jews only as regarded their dealings with each other, and did not extend to their commercial operations with the people of other nations. Thus in the twentieth verse“Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thy hand to, in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”

It can hardly be supposed, under these circumstances, that this precept was designed to have any other than a political operation--for if the taking a reward for loans of money were malum in se-if a moral turpitude attached to such transactions, the restriction certainly would not have been limited to the Jews alone.

Be this as it may, however, the practice of usury during the early ages was viewed with unmingled detestation, and was the object of legal prohibition. So far back, in England, as the time of Alfred, the commission of this crime was visited by the vengeance of church and state : the estates of the delinquents were confiscated, and themselves punished by the severest penalties. They were considered as violators of the divine law, and subverters of the law of nature, in attempting to propagate from that which was naturally sterile and unfruitful.

So far down as the reign of James I., the intolerance with which this “vice” was regarded, was still very great; but, before that period, by the enactment of the statute 37 Hen. VIII. c. 9, the taking of interest was sanctioned and allowed. By that act, ten per cent. for the forbearance of a year was the authorized rate, and excessive usurious transactions were punishable by forfeiture and imprisonment. This law continued in effect until the succeeding reign, when by the statute 5 and 6 Edward VI., c. 20, it was repealed. The statute 13 Elizabeth, c. 8, after declaring that the former act had not been effectual, but that “the vice of usury had much more exceedingly abounded,” repeals the statute of Edward and restores that of Henry VIII. again, fixing ten per cent. as the legal interest. Since that period, owing to fluctuations in the amount and value of money, several statutes have been enacted, by which the rates of interest were altered. The 21 James I., C. 17, reduced it to eight per cent. Subsequently, the 12 Charles

« НазадПродовжити »