A Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury/Chapter 12

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Maury's letter on the harmony between science and revealed religion—The work of Colonel Smith of the Virginia Military Institute—Letters to his daughters after marriage—Correspondence during his lecturing tour, and extracts—Letters to Bishop Otey—Maury's address on the study of physical geography.

In the years immediately preceding the breaking out of the war between North and South, Maury delivered a number of popular lectures in various cities of the North and West, and his correspondence during that period, both private and official, is full of interest. In making a selection from numerous letters, it is with intent to illustrate his character and the direction his thoughts and opinions took, from more than one point of view. In the present chapter we introduce a letter on the harmony between science and revealed religion, another on the labours of General Smith of the Virginia Military Academy, and two letters of advice to his young married daughters. Then follow some letters and notices relating to his course of lectures. The letters to Bishop Otey are memorials of a warm and lifelong friendship; while Maury's address on the study of physical geography, when he laid the corner-stone of the University of the South in East Tennessee, is a fitting conclusion to the period of peaceful work. From the Southern Churchman:

Letter by M. F. Maury.


Observatory, Washington, Jan. 22, 1855.

Your letter revived pleasant remembrances. Your questions are themes. It would require volumes to contain the answers to them.

You ask about the "harmony of science and revelation," and wish to know if I find distinct traces in the Old Testament of scientific knowledge, and in the Bible any knowledge of the winds and ocean currents. Yes, knowledge the most correct and reliable.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? It is a curious fact, that the revelations of science have led astronomers of our own day to the discovery, that the sun is not the dead centre of motion around which comets sweep and planets whirl, but that it, with its splendid retinue of worlds and satellites, is revolving through space at the rate of millions of miles in a year, and in obedience to some influence situated precisely in the direction of the star Alcyon, one of the Pleiades. We do not know how far off in the immensities of space that centre of revolving cycles and epicycles may be, nor have our oldest observers or nicest instruments been able to tell us how far off in the skies that beautiful cluster of stars is hung "whose influences man can never bind." In this question alone, and the answer to it, are involved both the recognition and the exposition of the whole theory of gravitation.

Science taught that the world was round; but potentates pronounced the belief heretical, notwithstanding the Psalmist, while apostrophizing the works of creation in one of his sublime moods of inspiration, "when prophets spake as they were moved," had called the world "the round world," and "bade it rejoice."

You remember when Galileo was in prison a pump-maker came to him with his difficulties, because his pump would not lift water higher than thirty-two feet. The old philosopher thought it was because the atmosphere would not press the water up any higher; but the hand of persecution was upon him, and he was afraid to say the air had weight. Now, had he looked to the science of the Bible, he would have discovered that the "perfect man of Uz," moved by inspiration, had proclaimed the fact thousands of years before—"He maketh weight for the wind," Job is very learned, and his speeches abound in scientific lore. The persecutors of the old astronomers would also have been wiser and far more just had they paid more attention to this wonderful book, for there they would have learned that He "stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing."

Here is another proof that Job was familiar with the laws of gravitation, for he knew how the world was held in its place; and as for "the empty place" in the sky. Sir John Herschel has been sounding the heavens with his powerful telescope, and gauging the stars; and where do you think he found the most barren part—"the empty places" of the sky? In the north, precisely where Job told Bildad, the Shuhite, the empty place was stretched out. It is there where comets most delight to roam and hide themselves in emptiness.

I pass by the history of creation as it is written on the tablets of the rocks and in the Book of Revelation, because the question has been discussed so much and so often, that you, no doubt, are familiar with the whole subject. In both the order of creation is the same. First, the plants to afford subsistence, and then the animals, the chief point of apparent difference being as to the duration of the period between "the evening and the morning." "A thousand years are in His sight as one day," and the Mosaic account affords evidence itself that the term "day," as there used, is not that which comprehends our twenty-four hours. It was a day that had its "evening and morning" before the sun was made.

I will, however, before proceeding further, ask pardon for mentioning a rule of conduct which I have adopted in order to make progress with these physical researches, which have occupied so much of my time and so many of my thoughts. The rule is, never to forget who is the^ Author of the great volume which Nature spreads out before us, and always to remember that the same Being is the Author of the book which revelation holds up to us, and though the two works are entirely different, their records are equally true, and when they bear upon the same point, as now and then they do, it is as impossible that they should contradict each other as it is that either should contradict itself. If the two cannot be reconciled, the fault is ours, and is because, in our blindness and weakness, we have not been able to interpret aright either the one or the other, or both.

Solomon, in a single verse, describes the circulation of the atmosphere as actual observation is now showing it to be. That it has its laws, and is obedient to order as the heavenly host in their movements, we infer from the facts announced by him, and which contain the essence of volumes by other men. "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full;" "Into the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again."

To investigate the laws which govern the winds and rule the sea is one of the most profitable and beautiful occupations that a man—an improving, progressive man—can have. Decked with stars as the sky is, the field of astronomy affords no subjects of contemplation more ennobling, more sublime, or more profitable than those which we may find in the air and the sea. When we regard these from certain points of view, they present the appearance of wayward things, obedient to no law, but fickle in their movements, and subject only to chance.

Yet, when we go as truth-loving, knowledge-seeking explorers, and knock at their secret chambers, and devoutly ask what are the laws which govern them, we are taught, in terms the most impressive, that "when the morning stars sang together, the waves also lifted up their voice," and the winds, too, "joined in the mighty anthem."

And as the discovery advances, we find the mark of order in the sea and in the air that is in tune with the "music of the spheres," and the conviction is forced upon us that the laws of all are nothing else but perfect harmony.

Yours respectfully,

M. F. Maury, Lieut. U.S. Navy.

To B. F. Minor, of Ridgway, Albemarle Co.

Dear Frank, Observatory, July 26th.

The chills have been treating me so badly, in spite of the sun-flowers, that I declined, yesterday, a most inviting invitation to accompany the directors of the Atlantic Submarine Telegraph Company in a nice steamer, on a tour of inspection as far as Newfoundland, to select the terminus there, and other matters. They are to set off on the 1st of August.

What you say about Colonel Smith[1] illustrates my doctrine about great men, for all useful men are great; it's the talent of industry that makes a man. I don't think that so much depends upon intellect as is generally supposed; but industry and steadiness of purpose, they are the things.... By the way, Smith invites Major Mordecai and myself, in the name of the State, to visit Lexington next June as a Board of Examiners. Before answering, I wanted to know what would be expected of us—to examine the boys, and show ourselves off at their expense? If so, then I can't go; on the contrary, if it be to look on and form our own judgment of teachers, instruction, and pupils, then the case will be different.


To his eldest Daughter.

My dear Daughter, Buffalo, Nov. 26th, 1866.

My thoughts dwell with you, and my heart, brimful of the most tender and affectionate solicitude, clings to you. Alone in my room, there is something which keeps you ever present. The step you are about to take is the step of life—with a woman it certainly is such.

You have given your hand to a young man of irreproachable character, of an amiable disposition, and a cultivated mind, and were it not that he is of kin, the match would be as free from objection and quite as promising as need be.

That you are both poor is no ground of solicitude; happiness is above riches, and if you are not happy, being poor, wealth would not, I apprehend, make you happy. Poverty has its virtues, and my struggles with it are full of pleasant remembrances. I hope your experience will tally with mine. I do not say, strive to be content, for in that there is no progression; but be content to strive.

I told Will you ought to live to yourselves. It would be a high gratification to have him make my house his home; but I think, on your account, it would be better for you to betake yourselves to housekeeping. True, if you do, it must be in a very plain way. Your Mother and I commenced housekeeping when my pay was $40 a month, and we lived as happily then as we do now.

I attach great consequence to the manner and place of life for the first year or two after marriage: ft is then that the mould for domestic happiness is cast; it is then that true character and disposition develop themselves on both sides, and that is the time for assimilation to take place, each accommodating and moulding oneself to the other.

If you go to yourselves you will have time to familiarise yourself with your husband's affairs, which you will not do if you live in a crowd; and that, my daughter, should be your first duty; for thereby you fit yourself to become his counsellor, companion, and friend in the broadest sense of the term.

I found, when I arrived here this morning, a letter from your Mother. She tells me there is a talk of your being married before Lent. I am sure she is, as I am, entirely disposed to consult your own wishes in this matter.


27th, morning.—I was dreaming of you, the sweetest of the dreams of sweet sleep last night; I waked again and again to a consciousness of the pleasant visions, enjoyed them waking, and dozed off to enjoy them over again in sleep, bless your heart!

There was a great jam at the lecture last night. Before the doors were opened, the side-walks for three squares were blocked up by people going an hour before the time to make sure of a good seat. They tell me that 2 or 3000 were turned away. I have lectured two nights in the rain to well-filled halls; I am as bright as a lark this morning; they have procured the largest church in the city for this evening.

My love and a kiss for Nannie. . . . Love to all hands. God bless you, my child, is daily the prayer of

Your affectionate father,

M. F. Maury.


How does Dick come on with the drawing? I am so afraid he is becoming too reserved. Perhaps the wish may be unreasonable, but it is a very earnest one! that my children should treat me not only as their father and as their friend, but as their companion too, in so far as companionship may not be inconsistent with difference of age. . . .

Good-bye, and may God bless you and make you happy, my child!

M. F. Maury.


First letter to his daughter Diana after her marriage to Mr. S. W. Corbin, of Farleyvale (Virginia),

My dear Nannie, Observatory, May 9th, 1858.

Yours was a sweet letter; it and Mr. Corbin's did our hearts much good. We miss you so much; the flowers look lonesome, and the songs of the birds sound loud.

This is little Lucy's birthday—seven years old. It will be ten years, I reckon, before she will be coming out. Her Mamma pitched into her and the boy (M. F., Jr.) last evening. She found a moss-rose in flower this morning. Davy Jones and the boy went in the waggon to fish at the Little Falls yesterday; they were gone all day, but didn't get a nibble.

As near as I can guess, it's just about seven years since you went away. I have not seen Betty since, and we have heard from Dick but once, and Glum twice. I went to the Capitol with cousin Ann and Mary yesterday. Mit and Ellen are with us.

Our hearts were touched by the conduct of those excellent people, who greeted you with so much kindness and affection on your arrival at Moss Neck. Such a welcome must have gone far towards making you feel completely at home right off the reel. Life is made up of trifles, and our greatest happiness often depends upon a word, the glance of an eye, the tone of the voice, or what is more expressive, but more indescribable still, the manner. What a boon, a pleasure, and a blessing are pleasant manners! They give grace and confer happiness, far more than pearls or precious stones. Cultivate day by day pleasantness of manner. Let us analyse it Of what, or in what does pleasantness of manner consist? That trait which gives elegance and grace to woman, comeliness, and the power of doing good.

After church "Davy Jones" (John), your Mamma, and I dined alone. The children staid down town to the Sunday School celebration. But I was speaking of the Christian graces and human virtues and those traits which you should cultivate, and which embellish and adorn the character. The one great point which, after duty to God, you are to keep constantly in view is, to identify yourself with your husband, and strive mutually each to make yourselves the companion of the other.

There is but one way to do this, and that is by teaching yourself, my dear, to take an intelligent interest in those affairs and occupations which are from time to time employing your husband's thoughts and life. The husband's affairs are, in the married life, the affairs of the State. He provides; and, to say the least, the wife who seeks to be posted up in everything that concerns him, especially in the ever}'-day affairs of life, does nothing more than render a grateful homage. Do you, my love, first set the example, and if you do not win tenfold, I have much mistaken the character of the man who has won your affections.

You must learn the servants on the plantation by name, the cattle and the fields too; you must learn of Wellford, in the morning, what he is going to do during the day, and take the same lively interest in his occupations as you would do were they your own. The Farm Book[2] will help you to do this, and if its dry details be mastered for the first year they will be dry no longer, for then you can tell him when to sow and when to reap, how the signs and seasons are. Then hospitalities and good-neighbourhood, a smile of welcome from mine hostess and a gentle voice make a sauce that is savoury for anything; and the poor—I do not mean more especially objects of charity, but those who are in a more humble sphere of life than it has pleased God to place you—never lack, as in your sweet little heart I am sure you never do, in consideration for them. I must not caution you against the bad taste of patronizing, for your manner of life and good-breeding secure you against that. What I meant was merely to caution you against the foolish habit of waiting to be spoken to; speak to everybody without waiting.

There is no trait perhaps more winning than that of a generous confidence. Self-examination—constant, close self-examinations—are indispensable; there are some that may be made all the better with the assistance of your husband—make them. Confidence begets confidence.

I would have you both bear in mind that this is the time for you to accommodate and adjust yourselves to each other, and with two such comely dispositions to work upon, this may be soon accomplished, and that so thoroughly that all your future life will abound in the good results.

Then, too, my dear, you must not forget to treat with affection all Mr. Corbin's friends and relations. They are disposed to be kind and good to you—meet them a little more than half-way. As for reading, with your good taste you cannot go well amiss; only, in selecting authors, do not select merely for amusement—select for profit also.

I am writing you a very disjointed letter, my love, but I have been thinking so much of you, and missing you so sorely, and loving you so tenderly, since you went away, and my heart was so full, and my head so empty, that I hardly know what I have said. Did you plant the yellow jasmine at Farleyvale? 'Tis the grand scion of the one I courted your Mother under, and I wish it, or a slip from it, to be planted over my grave.

The boy will go down to see you on his own hook next Tuesday—great boy that! You and Wellford should write by every mail to us. Good-bye, and God bless you both!

Your affectionate Dad,
M. F. Maury.

To the same.

Observatory, April 12th, 1858.

. . . . I am to go lecturing in Ohio from Nov. 22nd to Dec. 3rd. I want to deliver six lectures a week, and raise money enough to keep Dick at the University, pay off bills, and have some shots in the locker. . . .

M. F.

Of these lectures the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, on Nov. 22nd, 1858:—

"They have all the thrilling interest of romance, all the charming simplicity of narrative, and yet the grandest and most sublime principles of science are grappled with, and discussed with the erudition and ability of a master mind. In securing this truly distinguished scholar, the Cleveland Library Association has reflected credit, not only upon their organization, but upon the taste and culture of our citizens.

"Lieutenant Maury's opening lecture was on the * Atlantic Telegraph,' with which great achievement his name is so honourably connected. His other three lectures will be 'On the Highways and Byways of the Sea,' on extending to the lakes ' A System of Meteorological Observations,' and 'The Workshops and Harmonies of the Sea.'

"Lieutenant Maury is particularly anxious that our business men should listen to his third lecture, as he is most desirous of carrying out for our lake commerce the system that has proved so valuable to the ocean marine."


To Mrs. Maury.

My dear Wife, Chicago, Nov. 20th, 1858.

Here I am in the midst of a great snowstorm. This is my lecture evening; I am afraid of empty benches. I am to sleep at Colonel Graham's; but, as I have things to attend to, I shall not go there until after the lecture.

There was a great crowd at the Lecture Hall in Rochester. I got through, and left on the cars at 3.45 a.m. Travelled all day; reached Ann Arbor at 8 p.m., found an audience waiting for me; hopped out, went straight to lecturing, delighted the audience, rode a mile to a party, took a hot supper, and so back to the cars at 10; travelled all night in a sleeping-car, and reached this place at 9 this morning; so here I am. Have just had dinner, and am going to try for a nap presently. I told M., of the Rural New Yorker, to send you a cheque; write your name across the back of it, send it to the General, and ask him to get the money for you.

Where's my Betty, and where's my Nannie? I hope, if the latter went, the former came. On the 22nd I lecture here; 23rd in Kalamaso; 24th, no place fixed—perhaps Indianapolis; 25th, Cleveland; 26th, Laporte, Indiana, I reckon; 27th, here; 29th, Cincinnati. The weather is very cold. Kiss all my children, and tell me you are all well and happy. I want to astonish you with a present: tell Tots and Glum and Lucy and the boy to put their heads together and tell me what to bring. This is a furious storm! Give my love to Mary and sister E.; I hope the latter continues to mend. God bless us every one! I am mighty tired of staying away from home.

M. F.

My dear Wife, Kalamaso, Mich., Nov. 23rd, 1858.

I had a time of it in Chicago. Last night it rained worse than it rained Saturday night, and the attendance was slim. I stopped at Colonel Graham's, you know; he gave me a nice party last night. He was a soldier; he would have me waked up in time for the cars at 6; he never got left behind. He would have breakfast for me—at least, the cook would; but, bless your heart, honey! not a soul waked up till the cook came; so I was up and dressed and off in about ten minutes. When I arrived here, Senator Stuart, with a committee, was at the cars to escort me to the hotel. He and his wife leave for Washington Saturday; they will stop at the St. Charles. I wish you and Betty would call on her: I want to invite them up to spend the day when I get back. You must make a heap of calls, and leave my cards everywhere. Get a nice hack, and don't overdo the thing by breaking yourself down. Take several days....

My dear Wife, Chicago, Nov. 27th, 1858.

Since last I wrote, I have lectured in Kalamaso, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Laporte; make the children find the places on the map. To-night I lecture here. It is now 10 a.m., and raining. I go to Colonel Graham's directly; hope to find there a letter from you. I am very well except a cold. I do long to get over this task; it has been gloomy weather ever since I've been in the lake country—for more than a week. It is now snowing and storming furiously; but I don't lecture on my own hook, that's a comfort!

I had a packed house in Cleveland: they had to stop selling tickets and turn off the people—house full.

I have travelled since I left home 1844 miles, have been from home 12 days—10 days on my lecture ground—and have lectured nine times. I am dying to be with you all!

Your affectionate
M. F.

The following account of the lectures is from the Chicago Press and Tribune of November 23rd, 1858:—

"The subject of Lieutenant Maury's lecture was the importance of a 'Careful Meteorological Survey' of the great North-American Lakes. It was delivered before the Chicago Mechanics' Institute.

"The subject is one of the highest interest and importance. In Chicago, the great metropolis of the lakes, this distinguished savant and lecturer had a crowded house on the occasion of his treating of a theme so important as the navigation and commerce of these great inland seas, and the benefits accruing to all from their complete and perfect meteorological survey.

"The lecturer commenced by referring to the magnitude of this chain of lakes, containing as they do one-third of the fresh water on the surface of the globe.... 'This great chain of lakes has been estimated to contain 11,000 cubic miles of fresh water.' To give an idea of the amount of this vast body of water, after explaining his mode of careful measurement of the Mississippi river at Memphis, the lecturer said, 'that the lakes contained more water than the Mississippi discharges into the Gulf of Mexico in one hundred years.' In other words, were all the waste from the lakes by evaporation and other causes to be cut off, and a sluice to be opened, the size of the Mississippi channel, it would flow a century in draining these vast inland seas.

"The lakes themselves contain a surface of 2000 square miles, and they drain a territory, or their water-shed, of 50,000 square miles.

"From the above figures it may well be imagined that this vast extent of fresh water maintains and subserves most important influences and purposes, as pertaining to the climate, temperature, and hygiene of their vast surrounding or tributary region.

"There is a difference, not universally well understood, between the effects on climate incident to their being fresh or salt. Were the lakes salt, like the Caspian, they would give to their region a warmer temperature; the winters, latitude remaining the same, would be milder, the summers more sultry. This arises simply from the effects of evaporation: fresh water, according to the observations of Professor Chapman at Montreal, evaporates fester than salt, carrying off more heat.

"The amount of the evaporation of the lakes was illustrated as follows. The Cataract of Niagara represents the excess of the precipitation, by rains upon the lakes and their watershed, over the evaporation.

"Thus in the lakes the evaporation may be represented as five or six times the water at Niagara, and to produce this evaporation requires the same amount of heat that would suffice to raise Niagara to boiling-point, if such a thing may be imagined; and imagining this, we may conceive of what is actually going on. The loss of this amount of heat, parted with by the lakes, leaves them and their region colder in the winter and summer.

"In salt lakes the water enters warmer than does fresh water, from this loss of heat to the latter, and in winter there is a further difference. When fresh water is exposed to a change of temperature, it grows denser until it reaches 30 degrees, or near freezing, when it expands, thus rising to the surface. These lakes in winter have their coldest water at the surface; with salt water the reverse is true, and the water, continuing to grow denser with a lower temperature, sinks and leaves the surface-water the warmest; were the lakes salt water, navigation would continue the entire year round.

"These preliminaries passed, the speaker connected them with the interests of the lake region, of which he proceeded to speak. Quoting fully, and with honourable mention of their author, the full and clear reports of Colonel Graham of this city, he reviewed fully the perils to which lake fleets are exposed.

"According to Colonel Graham's report for 1855 to the department at Washington, the value of the shipping and commerce interested in the construction of a single breakwater at Michigan city was $218,000,000.

"According to observations taken, the value of shipping and commerce passing the flats of the St. Clair, on an average of 230 days for the busy season, reached the daily average of $1,029,223. The entire value of the lake commerce was $200,000,000 to each lake, ranging more to Lakes Michigan and Huron, less to Lake Superior; and, as Erie is an outlet to the others, the amount on that lake was $300,000,000. "And it is not the shipper, the vessel-owner, and the mariner who are alone interested, but it is the producer, the farmers of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and their sister States, and the consumers of the Eastern States.

"The effect of the commerce of the lakes and their improvement even thus far has turned the Mississippi upside down. It has actually placed one of its mouths at Sandy Hook, so that the people along the Mississippi Valley have no slight interest in the lake improvements.

"Study the rates of lake insurance: their figures should have spoken in tones that should command attention—the losses have been in millions of money. The shrieks of victims by disaster should have been heard, and should have produced the required system of improvements to the lake navigation long ago.

"This nation is enlightened, our rulers never object to appropriations for scientific purposes on scientific grounds solely. . . . He then said the Government employés, the lighthouse-keepers, &c., stationed throughout the entire chains should be instructed to take observations and report them to Colonel Graham of this city; the Lake Board of Underwriters can instruct their agents in lake towns and cities to do the same.

"He then eloquently referred to the aid to science furnished by the electric telegraph, which had well-nigh given to the meteorologist omnipresence. It will tell of the barometric changes at distant points, foretell the coming storm. Then the associated press is another agent: it will take up and bear the news to the bulletin boards in distant cities, and to the press, which with steam press and steam-driven car will strike off and diffuse the intelligence to all quarters with a speed 'Rhoderic Dhu' and Malise never dreamed of; and thus all will know of the coming storm while yet a thousand miles away. "He insisted on the importance to the lake region of telegraphic interchange of information as to barometric changes, instancing interesting and striking examples.

"This part of the lecture was full of illustration and value, but our space forbids us to do it justice. He said the lake commerce has reached a figure we should have deemed chimerical a few years since for our ocean commerce.

"He would leave out of the question the value of such intelligence to all other departments save commerce. In four years, ending 1858, $10,000,000 and 866 lives were lost on these lakes.

"Suppose but a quarter of this loss might be due to a lack of meteorological foreknowledge shown to be attainable. The same power exists to provide for the lakes, as for the salt water. Government has held back because the lake region has not come forward to ask it"

The following letter, from Maury to his wife, was written after delivering another lecture at Cleveland on Dec. 1st, 1858:—


My dear Wife,

. . . . I arrived here yesterday at noon, and seem to have bewitched the people last night, as I did those of Cincinnati the evening before. Nannie's is a charming letter. I am so glad she is coming home on the 15th. I shall be turning my face homeward about that time.

Last Monday there was a change of R. R. time, which had played sad havoc with me. I left Chicago at 8 p.m. Sunday for Cincinnati, where I was due at noon Monday. But bridges had been washed away. I did not get to Indianapolis till 1 p.m., 112 miles from Cincinnati. I was to lecture there at 7.30, and all the trains had gone, so I thought I would see if I couldn't charter an engine and go down on it express. I found the President of the road, told him who I was and what I wanted, and he fitted up an elegant car, sent me down in it alone, and would not let me pay a cent. I arrived at 7, and found an immense audience, lectured, got on the cars directly after, came here, and had an elegant night's rest Lecture in Chicago again Saturday, and Monday in St. Louis, on the 11th here, and in Buffalo the 10th and 13th, I think. Don't go in that waggon any more. When you feel well enough to make calls, get a hack, take Nannie with you, and leave my cards everywhere.

Your affectionate
M. F. Maury.


The exposure and fatigue of this lecturing tour brought on his first attack of rheumatic gout, from which he continued to suffer, at intervals, until his death fifteen years afterwards.

The following letters, to his old friend the Bishop of Tennessee, contain the first allusion to the threatened civil war:—


To Bishop Otey, of Tennessee.

My dear old Bishop, Observatory, March 13th, 1860.

As for the Union, I see that it will have to drift. The dissolution of it will, I fear, come before you or I would be willing to see it. With statesmanship among our rulers, patriotism among our politicians, and virtue among the people, it need never come.

I have laid by the sermon to read it aloud to all hands on Sunday.

You recollect Mr. Malory, of Florida, was an active Navy Board man, and that he was very unfair, to say the least, in the Senate towards me. He has brought in a Bill to increase the pay of all the officers "except the Superintendent of the Observatory," and two other officers. Now, what is to be done with such an uncivil disposition? I do not wish to embarrass the Bill by any opposition to it, for the officers stand greatly in need of more pay; but I think 1*11 have to suggest an amendment making the pay of the "Superintendent of the ^Observatory" that of a Captain in command. Tell me what you think of it. I send you the Bill....

God bless you, my dear old friend, prays your

M. F. Maury.

To the same.

My excellent Friend, Fredericksburg, Aug. 20th, 1860.

I saw by the papers yesterday that you had had to give up certain engagements on account of sickness. Immediately my heart yearned towards you, and I said, "I'll write him a letter to-morrow;" so here I am, the first thing after breakfast, seated to carry out the resolve this beautiful Monday morning.

I hope, my friend, your sickness is not grievous. Still, the hope does not keep down my solicitude.

I am here on leave for a month, seeking such rest as within that time will afford most relaxation. I noticed a few weeks ago your advertisement from "University Place." From that I infer that all goes on well with the grand undertaking. You know my heart is always with you in that undertaking. I begin to fear you will have it up not a whit too soon, for I very much fear the Union is in danger. Causes seem to be at work which are destined to destroy the Union....

I have been occupied, during the winter and spring, among other things, with a new edition of the 'Physical Geography of the Sea.' It is greatly, enlarged, and, I hope, improved. It certainly presents many fine subjects for thought and contemplation. I know of nothing more profitable or ennobling than the discovery of new relations in the physical economy. To tell of these would require space beyond the limits of a letter....

I have reason to believe that there is, about the South Pole, a comparatively mild climate. The unexplored regions there embrace an area equal in extent to about one-sixth of all the known land on the surface of the earth. I am quietly seeking to create in the minds of some an interest upon the subject, hoping thereby to foster a desire in right quarters for an Antarctic expedition.

We have in contemplation—Mrs. Maury, Nannie, Molly, and I—a visit to Niagara, intending to tarry at Newburgh a few days with Hasbrouck.

When you get well and are in the vein, let me hear from you; tell me how you are, and how about the prospects and everything connected with the University of the South. God bless you, my friend!

M. F. Maury.


To the same.

My dear Bishop, Observatory, Sept. 15th, 1860.

Last Thursday Mrs. Maury and myself, with two of the children, returned from a visit to Hasbrouck and Niagara Falls, where we found your letter of the 3rd to help make our hearts glad. It was Mrs. M.'s first sight of the great cataract.

Take care of your health, my dear friend, for you are one of the men that your fellow-citizens cannot spare just now. I am glad to see you giving signs of returning health, but am sorry to recognise in these the marks of a health by no means completely restored.

I had fixed upon the 15th October for England, but your Corner-stone will put it off, I reckon, till the 20th. I feel as though I must be present when the foundations of this great University are to be laid. It is an institution in the success of which I feel the most lively interest. If I possess influence or weight with the public, it is a talent loaned, and this is precisely one of the occasions on which I ought to put it out.

So if you think my coming and my speech will help you on in your good and noble work, here I am—count on me, my friend.

If I leave here on Monday morning; can I be with you in time on Wednesday?

Yours truly,
M. F. Maury.


Maury's address at the laying of the corner-stone of the University of the South, on the Sewanee Mountains in East Tennessee, was delivered at the request of Bishop Otey on Nov. 30th. 1860. "Physical geography," he said, "makes the whole world kin. Of all the departments in the domains of physical science, it is the most Christianising. Astronomy is grand and sublime; but astronomy overpowers with its infinities, overwhelms with its immensities. Physical geography charms with its wonders, and delights with the benignity of its economy. Astronomy ignores the existence of man; physical geography confesses that existence, and is based on the Biblical doctrine 'that the earth was made for man.' Upon no other theory can it be studied—upon no other theory can its phenomena be reconciled. . . .

"The astronomer regards the light and heat of the sun as emanations; as forces to guide the planets in their orbits and light comets in their flight—nothing more. But the physical geographer, when he warms himself by the coal fire in winter, or studies by the light of the gas-burner at night, recognises in the light and heat which he then enjoys the identical light and heat which came from the sun ages ago, and which, with provident care, have been bottled away in the shape of a mineral, and stored away in the bowels of the earth for man's use, thence to be taken at his convenience and liberated at will for his manifold purposes.

"Here, in the schools which are soon to be opened, within the walls of this institution which we are preparing to establish in this wood, and the corner-stone of which has just been laid, the masters of this newly-ordained science will teach our sons to regard some of the commonest things as the most important agents in the physical economy of our planet. They are also mighty ministers of the Creator.

"Take this water" (holding up a glassful) "and ask the student of physical geography to explain a portion only of its multitudinous offices in helping to make the earth fit for man's habitation. There may be in it a drop of the very same (for in the economy of nature nothing is ever lost or wasted) which watered the Garden of Eden when Adam was there; escaping thence, through the veins of the earth into the rivers, it reached the sea. Passing along its channels of circulation, it was conveyed far away by its currents to those springs in the ocean which feed the winds with vapour for rains among these mountains; taking up the heat in these southern climes, where otherwise it would become excessive, it bottles it away in its own little vesicles. These are invisible; but, rendering the heat latent and innocuous, they pass like sightless couriers of the air through their appointed channels, and arrive in the upper sky. This mountain draws the heat from them; they are formed into clouds and condensed into rain, which, falling to the earth, make it soft with showers, causing the trees of the fields to clap their hands, the valleys to shout, and the mountains to sing. Thus the earth is made to yield her increase, and the heart of man is glad.

"Nor does the office of this cup of water in the physical economy end here. It has brought heat from the sea in the southern hemisphere to be set free here for the regulation of our climates; it has ministered to the green plants, and given meat and drink to man and beast. It has now to cater among the rocks for the fish and insects of the sea. Eating away your mountains, it fills up the valleys, and then, loaded with lime and salts of various minerals, it goes singing and dancing and leaping back to the sea, owning man, by the way, as a taskmaster—turning mills, driving machinery, transporting merchandise for him—and finally reaching the ocean. It there joins the currents to be conveyed to its appointed place, which it never fails to reach in due time, with food in due quantities for the inhabitants of the deep, and with materials of the right kind to be elaborated, in the workshops of the sea, into pearls, corals, and islands—all for man's use.

"Thus the right-minded student of this science is brought to recognise in the dewdrop the materials of which 'He who walketh upon the wings of the wind maketh His chariot.' He also discovers in the raindrop a clue by which the Christian philosopher may be conducted into the very chambers from which the hills are watered.

"I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon! The Bible is authority for everything it touches. What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible, because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history? The Bible is true and science is true, and therefore each, if truly read, but proves the truth of the other. The agents in the physical economy of our planet are ministers of Him who made both it and the Bible. The records which He has chosen to make through the agency of these ministers of His upon the crust of the earth are as true as the records which, by the hands of His prophets and servants. He has been pleased to make in the Book of Life.

"They are both true; and when your men of science, with vain and hasty conceit, announce the discovery of disagreement between them, rely upon it, the fault is not with the witness of His records, but with the worm who essays to interpret evidence which he does not understand.

"When I, a pioneer in one department of this beautiful science, discover the truths of Revelation and the truths of science reflecting light the one upon the other, how can I, as a truth-loving, knowledge-seeking man, fail to point out the beauty and rejoice in its discovery? Reticence on such an occasion would be sin, and were I to suppress the emotion with which such discoveries ought to stir the soul, the 'waves of the sea would lift up their voice' and the very stones of the earth cry out against me.

"As a student of physical geography, I regard earth, sea, air, and water as parts of a machine, pieces of mechanism, not made with hands, but to which, nevertheless, certain offices have been assigned in the terrestrial economy; and when, after patient research, I am led to the discovery of one of these offices, I feel, with the astronomer of old, 'as though I had thought one of God's thoughts,' and tremble. Thus, as we progress with our science, we are permitted now and then to point out here and there in the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great Architect when He planned it all.

"Take the little Nautili. Where do the fragile creatures go? What directing hand guides them from sea to sea? What breeze fills the violet sails of their tiny craft? And by whose skill is it enabled to brave the sea, and defy the fury of the gale? What mysterious compass directs the flotilla of the graceful Argonauts? Coming down from the Indian Ocean, and arriving off the stormy Cape, they separate, the one part steering for the Pacific, the other standing for the Atlantic Ocean. Soon the ephemeral life that animates these little navigators will be extinct; but the same power that cared for them in life, now guides them after death; for though dead, their task in the physical economy of our planet is not yet finished, nor have they ceased to afford instruction in philosophy.

"The frail shell is now to be drawn to distant seas by the lower currents. like the leaf carried through the air by the wind, the lifeless remains descend from depth to depth by an insensible fall, even to the appointed burial-place on the bottom of the deep, there to be collected into heaps and gathered into beds, which at some day are to appear above the surface, a storehouse rich with fertilizing ingredients for man's use. Some day science will sound the depths to which this deadshell has fallen, and the little creature will perhaps afford solution for a problem as yet unsolved; for it may be the means of revealing the existence of the submarine currents that have carried it off, and of enabling the physical geographer to trace out the secret paths of the sea.

"Had I time I might show how mountains, deserts, winds, and water, when treated by the light of this beautiful science, all join in one universal harmony, for each one has its part to perform in the great concert of nature....

"The Church, ere yet physical geography had attained to the dignity of a science in our schools, and even before man had endowed it with a name, saw and appreciated its dignity, the virtue of its chief agents. What have we heard here in this grove by a thousand voices this morning? A song of praise, such as these hills have not heard since the morning stars sang together the 'Benedicite' of our mother Church, invoking the very agents whose workings and offices it is the business of the physical geographer to study and point out. In her services she teaches her children in their songs of praise to call upon certain physical agents, principals in this newly-established department of human knowledge; upon the waters above the firmament, upon the showers, dew, wind, fire and heat, winter and summer, frost and cold, ice and snow, night and day, light and darkness, lightning and clouds, mountains and hills, green things, tree and plants, whales, and all things that move in the waters, fowls of the air, with beasts and cattle, to bless, praise, and magnify the Lord!"

In the end of 1860, Maury had occasion to visit England on business connected with the publication of his book. While he was in London, he was the guest of the Royal Geographical Society at the anniversary dinner of 1861, when the late Lord Ashburton was in the chair. On that occasion Maury advocated the exploration of the Antarctic Regions, with a view to selecting a proper place for the observation of the next transit of Venus. He received the most sympathetic applause from a large audience. When he returned to America, the gloomy prospect of a great calamity was already darkening the land.

  1. Afterwards General Smith of the Va. Military Institute.
  2. Alluding to a large blank book be had given her for the purpose.