The History of the Royal Society of London/Chapter 6
The Second Part.
The Division of the Narration. HUS I am, at length, arrived at the second Part of my Method, the Narration itself. This I shall divide into periods of Time, according to the several Degrees of the Preparation, Growth, and complete Constitution of the Royal Society.
The first shall consist of the first Occasions of this Model, and the Men, who first devised to put it in Execution; and shall end where they began to make it a formed and regular Assembly.
The second shall trace out their first Attempts, till they receiv'd the public Assistance of Royal Authority.
The third shall deliver what they have done since they were made a Royal Corporation.
It may seem perhaps, that in passing through the first of these, I go too far back, and treat of Things, that may appear to be of too private and domestick Concernment, to be spoken in this publick Way. But if this Enterprize, which is now so well established, shall be hereafter advantageous to Mankind (as I make no scruple to foretel that it will) it is but just, that future Times should hear the Names of its first Promoters: That they may be able to render particular Thanks to them, who first conceived it in their Minds, and practis'd some little Draught of it long ago. And besides, I never yet saw an Historian that was clear from all Affections; that, it may be, were not so much to be called Integrity, as a stoical Insensibility: Nor can I, more than others, resist my Inclinations, which strongly force me to mention that, which will be for the Honour of that Place, where I received a great Part of my Education. It was therefore some Space after the End of the Civil Wars at Oxford, in Doctor Wilkins his Lodgings, in Wadham College, which was then the Place of Resort for virtuous and learned Men, that the first Meetings were made, which laid the Foundation of all this that followed. The University had at that time many Members of its own, who had begun a free way of Reasoning; and was also frequented by some Gentlemen of Philosophical Minds, whom the Misfortunes of the Kingdom, and the Security and Ease of a Retirement amongst Gown-men, had drawn thither.
The Meetings at OxfordTheir first Purpose was no more than only the Satisfaction of breathing a freer Air, and of conversing in Quiet one with another, without being ingag'd in the Passions and Madness of that dismal Age. And from the Institution of that Assembly, it had been enough if no other Advantage had come but this: That by this means there was a Race of young Men provided against the next Age, whose Minds receiving from them their first Impressions of sober and generous Knowledge, were invincibly arm'd against all the Inchantments of Enthusiasm. But what is more, I may venture to affirm, that it was in good Measure by the Influence which these Gentlemen had over the rest, that the University itself, or at least, any Part of its Discipline and Order, was saved from Ruin. And from hence we may conclude, that the same Men have now no Intention of sweeping away all the Honour of Antiquity in this their new Design; seeing they employed so much of their Labour and Prudence in preserving that most venerable Seat of ancient Learning, when their shrinking from its Defence would have been the speediest Way to have destroyed it. For the Truth of this, I dare appeal to all uninterested Men, who knew the Temper of that Place; and especially to those who were my own Cotemporaries there; of whom l can name very many, whom the happy Restoration of the Kingdom's Peace found as well inclined to serve their Prince and the Church, as if they had been bred up in the most prosperous Condition of their Country. This was undoubtedly so: Nor indeed could it be otherwise; for such spiritual Frensies, which did then bear Rule, can never stand long, before a clear and a deep Skill in Nature. It is almost impossible, that they, who converse much with the Subtilty of Things, should be deluded by such thick Deceits. There is but one better Charm in the World, than real Philosophy, to allay the Impulses of the false Spirit; and that is, the blessed Presence and Assistance of the true.
Nor were the good Effects of this Conversation only confined to Oxford: But they have made themselves known in their printed Works, both in our own, and in the learned Language, which have much conduc'd to the Fame of our Nation abroad, and to the spreading of profitable Light at home. This, I trust, will be universally acknowledg'd, when I shall have nam'd the Men. The principal and most constant of them were Doctor Seth Ward, then Lord Bishop of Exeter, Mr. Boyle, Dr. Wilkins, Sir William Petty, Mr. Matthew Wren, Dr. Wallis, Dr. Goddard, Dr. Willis, Dr. Bathurst, Dr. Christopher Wren, Mr. Rook, besides several others who join'd themselves to them, upon Occasions. Now I have produc'd their Names, l am a little at a stand how to deal with them. For, if I should say what they deserve; I fear it would be interpreted Flattery, instead of Justice: And yet I have now lying in my Sight, the Example of an Elegant Book, which I have profess'd to admire, whose Author sticks not to make large Panegyricks on the Members of that Assembly, whose Relation he writes. But this Precedent is not to be followed by a young Man, who ought to be more jealous of publick Censure, and is not enough confirm'd in the good Liking of the World, to think, that he has such a weighty and difficult Work, as the making of Characters, committed to him. I will therefore pass by their Praises in Silence; though I believe, that what I might say of them, would be generally confess'd; and that if any ingenuous Man, who knows them, or their Writings, should contradict me, he would also go near to gainsay himself, and to retract the Applauses, which he had some Time or other bestow'd upon them.
For such a candid and unpassionate Company, as that was, and for such a gloomy Season, what could have been a fitter Subject to pitch upon than Natural Philosophy? To have been always tossing about some Theological Question, would have been, to have made that their private Diversion, the Excess of Which they themselves dislik'd in the publick: To have been eternally musing on Civil Business, and the Distresses of their Country, was too melancholy a Reflexion: It was Nature alone, which could pleasantly entertain them in that Estate. The Contemplation of that, draws our Minds off from past, or present Misfortunes, and makes them Conquerors over Things, in the greatest publick Unhappiness: while the Consideration of Men, and human Affairs, may affect us with a thousand various Disquiets; that never separates us into moral Factions; that gives us room to differ, without Animosity; and permits us to raise contrary Imaginations upon it, without any Danger of a Civil War.
Their Meetings were as frequent, as their Affairs permitted: their Proceedings rather by Action, than Discourse; chiefly attending some particular Trials, in Chymistry or Mechanicks: they had no Rules nor Method fix'd: their Intention was more to communicate to each other their Discoveries, which they could make in so narrow a Compass, than an united, constant, or regular Inquisition. And methinks, their Constitution did bear some resemblance to the Academy lately begun at Paris: where they have at last turn'd their Thoughts from Words to experimental Philosophy, and perhaps in Imitation of the Royal Society. Their Manner likewise, is to assemble in a private House, to reason freely upon the Works of Nature, to pass Conjectures, and propose Problems, on any Mathematical, or Philosophical Matter, which comes in their Way. And this is an Omen, on which I will build some Hope, that as they agree with us in what was done at Oxford, so they will go on farther, and come by the same Degrees, to erect another Royal Society in France. I promise for these Gentlemen here (so well I know the Generosity of their Design ) they will be most ready to accept their Assistance. To them, and to all the Learned World besides, they call for Aid. No difference of Country, Interest, or Profession of Religion, will make them backward from taking or affording Help in this Enterprize. And indeed all Europe at this time, have two general Wars, which they ought in Honour to make; the one a holy, the other philosophical: The one against the common Enemy of Christendom, the other also against powerful and barbarous Foes, that have not been fully subdued almost these six thousand Years, Ignorance, and false Opinions. Against these, it becomes us, to go forth in one common Expedition: All civil Nations joining their Armies against the one, and their Reason against the other; without any petty Contentions about Privileges, or Prudence.
Their first Meetings at London.Thus they continued without any great Intermissions, till about the Year 1638. But then being call'd away to several Parts of the Nation, and the greatest Number of them coming to London, they usually met at Gresham College, at the Wednesday's, and Thursday's Lectures of Dr. Wren, and Mr. Rook; where there join'd with them several eminent Persons of their common Acquaintance: The Lord Viscount Brouncker, the now Lord Brereton, Sir Paul Neil, Mr. John Evelyn, Mr. Henshaw, Mr. Slingsby, Dr. Timothy Clarke, Dr. Ent, Mr. Ball, Mr. Hill, Dr. Crone, and diverse other Gentlemen, whose Inclinations lay the same way. This Custom was observ'd once, if not twice a week, in Term-time, till they were scatter'd by the the miserable Distractions of that fatal Year; till the Continuance of their Meetings there might have made them run the Hazard of the Fate of Archimedes: For then the place of their Meeting was made a Quarter for Soldiers. But, to make haste through those dreadful Revolutions, which cannot be beheld upon Paper without Horror, unless we remember, that they had this one happy Effect, to open Men's Eyes to lookout for the true Remedy; upon this follow'd the King's Return; and that wrought by such an admirable Chain of Events, that if we either regard the Easiness, or Speed, or blessed Issue of the Work, it seems of itself to contain Variety and Pleasure enough, to make Recompence for the whole twenty Years Melancholy that had gone before. This I leave to another kind of History to be describ'd. It shall suffice my purpose, that Philosophy had its Share in the Benefits of that glorious Action: For the Royal Society had its beginning in the wonderful pacifick Year, 1660. So that if any Conjectures of good Fortune, from extraordinary Nativities, hold true, we may presage all Happiness to this Undertaking. And I shall here join my solemn Wishes, that as it began in that Time, when our Country was freed from Confusion and Slavery; so it may, in its Progress, redeem the Minds of Men from Obscurity, Uncertainty, and Bondage.
The Beginning of the Royal SocietyThese Gentlemen therefore finding the Hearts of their Countrymen inlarg'd by their Joys, and fitted for any noble Proposition; and meeting with the Concurrence of many worthy Men, who, to their immortal Honour, had follow'd the King in his Banishment, Mr. Erskin, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Gilbert Talbot, &c. began now to imagine some greater Thing, and to bring out experimental Knowledge from the Retreats, in which it had long hid itself, to take its Part in the Triumphs of that universal Jubilee. And indeed Philosophy did very well deserve that Reward, having been always Loyal in the worst of Times: For though the King's Enemies had gain'd all other Advantages; though they had all the Garrisons, and Fleets, and Ammunitions, and Treasures, and Armies on their side; yet they could never, by all their Victories, bring over the Reason of Men to their Party.
While they were thus ordering their Platform, there came forth a Treatise, which very much hasten'd its Contrivance; and that was a Proposal by Master Cowley; of erecting a Philosophical College. The Intent of it was, that in some places near London, there should liberal Salaries be bestowed on a competent Number of Learned Men, to whom should be committed the Operations of Natural Experiments. This Model was every way practicable; unless perhaps, in two Things, he did more consult the Generosity of his own Mind, than of other Men's: the one was the Largeness of the Revenue, with which he would have his College at first indowed; the other, that he imposed on his Operators a second Task of great Pains, the Education of Youth.
The last of these is indeed a matter of great Weight; the Reformation of which ought to be seriously examined by prudent Men. For it is an undeniable Truth, which is commonly said, that there would be Need of fewer Laws, and less Force to govern Men, if their Minds were rightly informed, and set strait, while they were young, and pliable. But perhaps this Labour is not so proper for Experimenters to undergo; for it would not only devour too much of their Time, but it would go near to make them a little more magisterial in Philosophy, than became them; by being long accustomed to command the Opinions, and direct the Manners, of their Scholars. And as to the other Particular, the large Estate which he required to the Maintenance of his College; it is evident, that it is so difficult a Thing to draw Men in to be willing to divert an antient Revenue, which has long run in another Stream, or to contribute out of their own Furies, to the supporting of any new Design, while it shews nothing but Promises, and Hopes; that, in such cases, it were (it may be) more adviseable to begin upon a small Stock, and so to rise by degrees, than to profess great Things at first, and to exact too much Benevolence all in one Lump together. However, it was not the excellent Author's Fault, that he thought better of the Age than it did deserve. His Purpose in it was like himself, full of Honour and Goodness: Most of the other Particulars of his Draught the Royal Society is now putting in Practice.
I come now to the second Period of my Narration; wherein I promised to give an Account of what they did, till they were publickly owned, encouraged, and confirmed by Royal Favour. And I trust, that I shall here produce many Things, which will prove their Attempts to be worthy of all Men's Incouragement: though what was performed in this Interval may be rather styl'd the Temporary Scaffold about the Building, than the Frame itself. But in my Entrance upon this Part, being come to the Top of the Hill, I begin to tremble, and to apprehend the Greatness of my Subject. For I perceive, that I have led my Readers Minds on, by so long and so confident a Speech, to expect some wonderful Model, which shall far exceed all the former, that I have acknowledged to have been imperfect. Now, though this were really so, as I believe it is; yet I question, how it will look, after it has been disfigured by my unskilful Hands. But the Danger of this ought to have deterred me in the Beginning: It is now too late to look back; and I can only apply my self to that good Nature, which a great Man has observed to be so peculiar to our Nation, that there is scarce an Expression to signify it, in any other Language. To this I must fly for Succour, and most affectionately intreat my Countrymen, that they would interpret my Failings to be only Errors of Obedience to some, whose Commands, or Desires, I could not resist; and that they would take the Measure of the Royal Society, not so much from my lame Description of it, as from the Honour and Reputation of many of those Men, of whom it is composed.
A Model of their Whole Design.I will here, in the first place, contract, into few Words, the whole Sum of their Resolutions; which I shall often have occasion to touch upon in Parcels. Their Purpose is, in short, to make faithful Records of all the Works of Nature, or Art, which can come within their Reach; that so the present Age, and Posterity, may be able to put a Mark on the Errors, which have been strengthned by long Prescription; to restore the Truths, that have lain neglected; to push on those, which are already known, to more various Uses; and to make the way more passable, to what remains unrevealed. This is the Compass of their Design. And to accomplish this, they have endeavoured, to separate the Knowledge of Nature, from the Colours of Rhetorick, the Devices of Fancy, or the delightful Deceit of Fables. They have labour'd to enlarge it, from being confined to the Custody of a few, or from Servitude to private Interests. They have driven to preserve it from being over-press'd by a confus'd Heap of vain and useless Particulars; or from being streightned and bound too much up by general Doctrines. They have tried to put it into a Condition of perpetual Increasing; by settling an inviolable Correspondence between the Hand and the Brain. They have studied to make it not only an Enterprise of one Season, or of some lucky Opportunity; but a Business of Time; a steady, a lasting, a popular, an uninterrupted Work. They have attempted, to free it from the Artifice, and Humours, and Passions of Sects: to render it an Instrument, whereby Mankind may obtain a Dominion over Things, and not only over one another's Judgments: And lastly, they have begun to establish these Reformations in Philosophy, not so much, by any solemnity of Laws, or Ostentation of Ceremonies, as by solid Practice and Examples; not by a glorious Pomp of Words; but by the silent, effectual, and unanswerable Arguments of real Productions.
This will more fully appear, by what I am to say on these four Particulars, which shall make up this Part of my Relation, the Qualifications of their Members; the Manner of their Inquiry; their Weekly Assemblies and their Way of Registring.
The Qualifications of the Members of the Royal Society.As for what belongs to the Members themselves that are to constitute the Society: It is to be noted, that they have freely admitted Men of different Religions, Countries, and Professions of Life. This they were obliged to do, or else they would come far short of the Largeness of their own Declarations. For they openly profess, not to lay the Foundation of an English, Scotch, Irish, Popish, or Protestant Philosophy; but a Philosophy of Mankind.
They admit Men of all Religions.That the Church of England ought not to be apprehensive of this free Converse of various Judgments, I shall afterwards manifest at large. For the present, I shall frankly assert, that our Doctrine, and Discipline, will be so far from receiving Damage by it; that it were the best Way to make them universally embraced, if they were oftner brought to be canvass'd amidst all Sorts of Dissenters. It is dimonourable, to pass a hard Censure on the Religions of all other Countries: It concerns them, to look to the Reasonableness of their Faith; and it is sufficient for us, to be established in the Truth of our own. But yet this Comparison I may modestly make; that there is no one Profession, amidst the several Denominations of Christians, that can be exposed to the Search and Scrutiny of its Adversaries, with so much safety as ours. So equal it is, above all others, to the general Reason of Mankind; such honourable Security it provides, both for the Liberty of Men's Minds, and for the Peace of Government; that if some Men's Conceptions were put in Practice, that all wise Men fhould have two Religions; the one, publick, for their Conformity with the People, the other, a private, to be kept to their own Breasts; I am confident, that most considering Men, whatever their first were, would make ours their second, if they were well acquainted with it. Seeing therefore our Church would be in so fair a Probability of gaining very much, by a frequent Contention and Encounter with other Sects: It cannot be indangered by this Assembly; which proceeds no farther, than to an unprejudiced Mixture with them.
Of all Countries.By their naturalizing Men of all Countries, they have laid the Beginnings of many great Advantages for the future. For by this Means, they will be able, to settle a constant Intelligence, throughout all civil Nations, and make the Royal Society the general Bank and Free-port of the World: A Policy, which whether it would hold good in the Trade of England, I know not; but sure it will in the Philosophy. We are to overcome the Mysteries of all the Works of Nature; and not only to prosecute such as are confin'd to one Kingdom, or beat upon one Shore: We should then refuse to lift all the Aids, that will come in, how remote soever. If I could fetch my Materials whence I pleas'd, to fashion the Idea of a perfect Philosopher; he should not be all of one Clime, but have the different Excellencies of several Countries. First, he should have the Industry, Activity, and inquisitive Humor of the Dutch, French, Scotch, and English, in laying the ground Work, the Heap of Experiments: And then he should have added the cold, and circumspect, and wary Disposition of the Italians and Spaniards, in meditating upon them, before he fully brings them into Speculation. All this is scarce ever to be found in one single Man; seldom in the same Countrymen: It must then be supplied, as well as it may, by a publick Council, wherein the various Dispositions of all these Nations may be blended together. To this purpose, the Royal Society has made no Scruple to receive all inquisitive Strangers of all Countries into its Number And this they have constantly done, with such peculiar Respect, that they have not obliged them to the Charge of Contributions; they have always taken Care, that some of their Members should assist them in interpreting all that pass'd, in their publick Assemblies; and they have freely open'd their Registers to them; thereby inviting them to communicate foreign Rarities, by imparting their own Discoveries. This has been often acknowledged by many learned Men, who have travel'd hither; who have been introduc'd to their Meetings, and have admir'd the Decency, the Gravity, the Plainness, and the Calmness of their Debates. This they have publish'd to the World; and this has rous'd all our Neighbours to fix their Eyes upon England. From hence they expect the great Improvements of Knowledge will flow; and though, perhaps, they send their Youth into other Parts to learn Fashion, and Breeding; yet their Men come hither for nobler Ends, to be instructed in the Masculine, and the solid Arts of Life; which is a Matter of as much greater Reputation, as it is more honourable to teach Philosophers, than Children.
Of all Professions.By their Admission of Men of all Professions, these two Benefits arise: The one, that every Art, and every Way of Life already establish'd, may be secure of receiving no Damage by their Counsels. A Thing which all new Inventions ought carefully to consult. It is in vain to declare against the Profit of the most, in any Change that we would make. We must not always deal with the violent Current of popular Passions, as they do with the furious Eager in the Severn; where the safest Way is to set the Head of the Boat directly against its Force. But here Men must follow the Shore; wind about leisurably; and insinuate their useful Alterations by soft and unperceivable Degrees. From the Neglect of this Prudence, we often see Men of great Wit, to have been overborn by the Multitude of their Opposers; and to have found all their subtile Projects too weak for Custom and Interest: While being a little too much heated with a Love of their own Fancies, they have raised to themselves more Enemies than they needed to have done, by defying at once too many Things in Use. But here this Danger is very well prevented. For what Suspicion can Divinity, Law, or Physick, or any other Course of Life have, that they shall be impair'd by these Men's Labours; when they themselves are as capable of fitting amongst them as any others? Have they not the same Security that the whole Nation has for its Lives and Fortunes? Of which this is esteemed the Establishment, that Men of all Sorts and Qualities, give their Voice in every Law that is made in Parliament. But the other Benefit is, that by this equal Balance of all Professions, there will no one Particular of them overweigh the other, or make the Oracle only speak their private Sense; which else it were impossible to avoid. It is natural to all Ranks of Men, to have some one Darling, upon which their Care is chiefly fixed. If Mechanicks alone were to make a Philosophy, they would bring it all into their Shops, and force it wholly to consist of Springs, and Wheels, and Weights; if Physicians, they would not depart far from their Art; scarce any Thing would be considered, besides the Body of Man, the Causes, Signs, and Cures of Diseases. So much is to be found in Men of all Conditions, of that which is called Pedantry in Scholars; which is thing else but an obstinate Addition to the Forms of some private Life, and not regarding general Things enough. This Freedom therefore, which they use, in Embracing all Assistance, is most advantageous to them; which is the more remarkable, in that they diligently search out and join to them, all extraordinary Men, though but of ordinary Trades. And that they are likely to continue this comprehensive Temper hereafter, I will shew by one instance; and it is the Recommendation which the King himself was pleased to make, of the judicious Author of the Observations on the Bills of Mortality: In whose Election, it was so far from being a Prejudice, that he was a Shop-keeper of London; that his Majesty gave this particular Charge to his Society, that if they found any more such Tradesmen, they should be sure to admit them all, without any more ado. From hence it may be concluded, what is their Inclination towards the manual Arts; by the careful Regard which their Founder and Patron, has engag'd them to have for all Sorts of Mechanick Artists.
It consists chiefly of Gentlemen.But, though the Society entertains very many Men of particular Professions, yet the far greater Number are Gentlemen, free and unconfin'd. By the Help of this there was hopeful Provision made against two Corruptions of Learning, which have been long complain'd of, but never remov'd: The one, that Knowledge still degenerates to consult present Profit too soon; the other, that Philosophers have been always Masters and Scholars; some imposing, and all the other submitting; and not as equal Observers without Dependence.
The Advantages of this.The first of these may be call'd, the marrying of Arts too soon; and putting them to Generation before they come to be of Age; and has been the Cause of much Inconvenience. It weakens their Strength; it makes an unhappy Disproportion in their Increase; while not the best, but the most gainful of them flourish: But above all, it diminishes that very Profit for which Men drive. It busies them about possessing some petty Prize; while Nature itself, with all its mighty Treasures, slips from them; and so they are serv'd like some foolish Guards; who, while they were earnest in picking up some small Money, that the Prisoner drop'd out of his Pocket, let the Prisoner himself escape, from whom they might have got a great Ransom. This is easily declaimed against, but most difficult to be hindred. If any Caution will serve, it must be this; to commit the Work to the Care of such Men, who, by the Freedom of their Education, the Plenty of their Estates, and the usual Generosity, of noble Blood, may be well suppos'd to be most averse from such sordid Confederations.
The second Error, which is hereby endeavoured to be remedied, is, that the Seats of Knowledge have been for the most part heretofore, not Laboratories, as they ought to be; but only Schools, where some have taught, and all the rest subscrib'd. The Consequences of this are very mischievous. For first, as many Learners as there are, so many Hands and Brains may still be reckon'd upon as useless. It being only the Master's part to examine, and observe; and the Disciples, to submit with Silence to what they conclude. But besides this, the very Inequality of the Titles of Teachers and Scholars, does very much suppress and tame Men's Spirits; which though it should be proper for Discipline and Education; yet is by no means consistent with a free philosophical Consultation. It is undoubtedly true; that scarce any Man's Mind is so capable of thinking strongly, in the Presence of one whom he fears and reverences, as he is when that Restraint is taken off. And this is to be found, not only in these weightier Matters; but also to give a lighter instance in the Arts of Discourse and Raillery themselves. For we have often seen Men of bold Tempers, that have over-aw'd and govern'd the Wit of most Companies; to have been disturb'd, and dumb, and bashful as Children, when some other Man has been near, who us'd to out-talk them. Such a kind of natural Sovereignty there is in some Men's Minds over others; which must needs be far greater, when it is advanc'd by long Use, and the venerable Name of a Master. I shall only mention one Prejudice more, and that is this; that from this only Teaching, and Learning, there does not only follow a Continuance, but an Increase of the Yoak upon our Reasons: For those who take their Opinions from others Rules, are commonly stricter Imposers upon their Scholars, than their own Authors were on them, or than the first Inventors of Things themselves are upon others. Whatever the Cause of this be: whether the first Men are made meek and gentle by their long Search, and by better understanding all the Difficulties of Knowledge; while those that learn afterwards, only hastily catching Things in small Systems, are soon satisfy'd, before they have broken their Pride, and so become more imperious; or whether it arises from hence, that the same Meanness of Soul, which made them bound their Thoughts by other Precepts, makes them also insolent to their Inferiors; as we always find Cowards the most cruel; or whatever other Cause may be alledg'd, the Observation is certain, that the Successors are usually more positive and tyrannical, than the Beginners of Sects.
If then there can be any Cure devis'd for this, it must be no other than to form an Assembly at one Time, whose Privileges shall be the same; whose Gain shall be in common; whose Members were not brought up at the Feet of each other. But after all, even this cannot be free from Prevarication in all future Ages. So apt are some to distrust, and others to confide too much in themselves; so much Sweetness there is, in leading Parties; so much Pride in following a Faction; such various Artifices there are to ensnare Men's Passions, and soon after their Understandings. All these Hazards, and many more, are to be suppos'd; which it is impossible for mortal Wit wholly to foresee, much less to avoid. But yet we have less Ground of Jealousy from this Institution than any other, not only because they only deal in Matters of Fact, which are not so easily perverted; but also upon Security of the Inclinations of the greatest Part of the Members of the Society itself. This, 1 hope, most Men will acknowledge; and I will take the Permission to say in general of them, that in all past and present Times, I am confident there can never be shewn so great a Number of Cotemporaries in so narrow a Space of the World, that lov'd Truth so zealously sought it so constantly; and upon whose Labours Mankind might so freely rely. This I speak, not out of Bravery to Foreigners (before whose Eyes, I believe, this negligent Discourse will never appear) but to the learned Men of this Nation, who are better Judges of what I say. And this too, I dare affirm, in an Age, wherein I expect to be condemn'd of Falshood or Partiality for this Character, which I have given. For so it happens, that we are now arriv'd at that excessive censuring Humour, that he who takes upon him to commend any thing, though ever so worthy, will raise to himself far more Enemies than Friends. And indeed this Sourness of Criticism, which now bears down all before it, is very injurious to the Honour of our Country. For by despising Men for not being absolutely excellent, we keep them from being so; while Admonitions joined with Praises, and Reproofs with Directions, would quickly bring all Things to a higher Perfection. But the Rudeness of such Criticks I do not so much regard, as the Objections of soberer Men, who have a real good Will to the Promotion of this Design, and yet may be a little dissatisfied in this Place. For here especially they may doubt of two Things; the first, whether the Royal Society being so numerous as it is, will not in short Time be diverted from its primitive Purpose; seeing there will be scarce enough Men of philosophical Temper always found to fill it up; and then others will croud in, who have not the same Bent of Mind; and so the whole Business will insensibly be made rather a Matter of Noise and Pomp, than of real Benefit! The second, whether their Number being so large, will not affright private Men from imparting many profitable Secrets to them; left they should thereby become common, and so they be deprived of the Gain, which else they might be sure of, if they kept them to themselves.
A Defence of the Largeness of their Number.To the first I shall reply, That this Scruple is of no Force, in respect of the Age wherein we live. For now the Genius of Experimenting is so much dispers'd, that even in this Nation, if there were one or two more such Assemblies settled, there could not be wanting able Men enough to carry them on. All Places and Corners are now busy and warm about this Work: and we find many noble Rarities to be every Day given in not only by the Hands of learned and profiled Philosophers; but from the Shops of Mechanicks; from the Voyages of Merchants; from the Ploughs of Husbandmen; from the Sports, the Fishponds, the Parks, the Gardens of Gentlemen; the Doubt therefore will only touch future Ages. And even for them too, we may securely promise, that they will not, for a long Time, be barren of a Race of inquisitive Minds, when the Way is now so plainly trac'd out before them; when they should have tasted of these first Fruits, and have been excited by this Example. There was scarce ever yet, any the meanest Sect, or the most contemptible Opinion, that was utterly extinguish'd in its Cradle. Whether they deserv'd to live, or not, they all had their Course; some longer, some shorter, according as they could combine with the Interests or Affections of the Countries where they began. What Reason then have we to bode ill alone to this Institution, which is now so earnestly embraced; and which, the older it grows, cannot but still appear more inoffensive? If we only required perfect Philosophers to manage this Employment, it were another Case. For then I grant it were improbable, that threescore, or an hundred such should meet in one Time. But here it is far otherwise; if we cannot have a sufficient Choice of those that are skill'd in all Divine and Human Things (which was the ancient Definition of a Philosopher) it suffices, if many of them be plain, diligent, and laborious Observers: such, who though they bring not much Knowledge, yet bring their Hand, and their Eyes uncorrupted: such as have not their Brains infected by false Images, and can honestly assist in the examining and registering what the others represent to their View. It seems strange to me, that Men should conspire to believe all things more perplexed, and difficult, than indeed they are. This may be shewn in most other Matters; but in this particular in hand, it is most evident, Men did generally think, that no Man was fit to meddle in Matters of this Consequence, but he that had bred himself up in a long Course of Discipline for that Purpose; that had the Habit, the Gesture, the Look of a Philosopher: Whereas Experience, on the contrary, tells us, that greater Things are produc'd by the free way, than the formal. This Mistake may well be compar'd to the Conceit we had of Soldiers, in the beginning of the civil Wars. None was thought worthy of that Name, but he that could shew his Wounds, and talk aloud of his Exploits in the Low Countries: Whereas the whole Business of fighting, was afterwards chiefly perform'd by untravel'd Gentlemen, raw Citizens, and Generals that had scarce ever before seen a Battle. But to say no more, it is so far from being a Blemish, that it is rather the Excellency of this Institution, that Men of various Studies are introduced. For so there will be always many sincere Witnesses standing by, whom Self-love will not persuade to report falsly, nor Heat of Invention carry to swallow a Deceit too soon; as having themselves no Hand in the making of the Experiment, but only in the Inspection. So cautious ought Men to be, in pronouncing even upon Matters of Fact. The whole Care is not to be trusted to single Men; not to a Company all of one Mind; not to Philosophers; not to devout and religious Men alone: By all these we have been already deluded; even by those whom I last named, who ought most of all to abhor Falshood; of whom yet many have multiplied upon us infinite Stories and false Miracles, without any regard to Conscience or Truth.
To the second Objection I shall briefly answer; that if all the Authors, or Possessors of extraordinary Inventions, should conspire to conceal all that was in their Power from them; yet the Method which they take will quickly make abundant Reparation for that Defect. If they cannot come at Nature in its particular Streams, they will have it in the Fountain. If they could be shut out from the Closets of Physicians, or the Work-houses of Mechanicks; yet with the same, or with better Sorts of Instruments, on more Materials, by more Hands, with a more rational Light, they would not only restore again the old Arts, but find out perhaps many more of far greater Importance. But I need not lay much Stress upon that Hope; when there is no Question at all, but all, or the greatest part of such domestick Receipts and Curiosities, will soon flow into this publick Treasury. How few Secrets have there been, though ever so gainful, that have been long conceal'd from the whole World by their Authors? Were not all the least Arts of Life at first private? Were not Watches, or Locks, or Guns, or Printing, or lately the Bow-dye, devis'd by particular Men, but soon made common? If neither Chance, nor Friendship, nor Treachery of Servants, have brought such Things out; yet we see Ostentation alone to be every Day powerful enough to do it. This Desire of Glory, and to be counted Authors, prevails on all, even on many of the dark and reserv'd Chymists themselves; who are ever printing their greatest Mysteries, though indeed they seem to do it with so much Reluctancy, and with a Willingness to hide still; which makes their Style to resemble the Smoke, in which they deal. Well then, if this Disposition be so universal, why should we think, that the Inventors will be only tender and backward to the Royal Society; from which they will not only reap the most solid Honour, but will also receive the strongest Assurances of still retaining the greatest part of the Profit? But if all this should fail, there still remains a Refuge, which will put this whole Matter out of Dispute: and that is, that the Royal Society will be able by Degrees to purchase such extraordinary Inventions, which are now close lock'd up in Cabinets; and then to bring them into one common Stock, which shall be upon all occasions expos'd to all Men's Use. This is a most heroick Intention: For by such Concealments, there may come very much Hurt to Mankind. If any certain Remedy should be found out against an Epidemical Disease; if it were suffer'd to be ingross'd by one Man, there would be great Swarms swept away, which otherwise might be easily sav'd. I shall instance in the Sweating-Sickness. The Medicine for it was almost infallible: But, before that could be generally publish'd, it had almost dispeopled whole Towns. If the same Disease should have return'd, it might have been again as destructive, had not the Lord Bacon taken Care, to set down the particular Course of Physick for it, in his History of Henry the Seventh, and so put it beyond the Possibility of any private Man's invading it. This ought to be imitated in all other sovereign Cures of the like Nature, to avoid such dreadful Casualties. The Artificers should reap the common Crop of their Arts; but the Publick should still have Title to the miraculous Productions. It should be so appointed, as it is in the Profits of Men's Lands; where the Corn, and Grass, and Timber, and some coarser Metals belong to the Owner: But the Royal Mines, in whose Ground soever they are discovered, are no Man's Propriety, but still fall to the Crown.
These therefore are the Qualities which they have principally required in those whom they admitted; still reserving to themselves a Power of increasing, or keeping to their Number, as they saw Occasion. By this means, they have given Assurance of an eternal Quietness and Moderation, in their experimental Progress; because they allow themselves to differ in the weightiest Matter, even in the Way of Salvation itself. By this they have taken Care, that nothing shall be so remote as to escape their Reach; because some of their Members are still scattered abroad, in most of the habitable Parts of the Earth. By this they have provided, that no profitable Thing shall seem too mean for their Consideration, seeing they have some amongst them, whose Life is employed about little Things, as well as great. By this they have broken down the Partition-wall, and made a fair Entrance, for all Conditions of Men to engage in these Studies: which were heretofore affrighted from them, by a groundless Apprehension of their Chargeableness and Difficulty. Thus they have formed that Society, which intends a Philosophy, for the Use of Cities, and not for the Retirements of Schools, to resemble the Cities themselves; which are compounded of all Sorts of Men, of the Gown, of the Sword, of the Shop, of the Field, of the Court, of the Sea; all mutually assisting each other.
Their Course of Inquiry.Let us next consider what Course of Inquiry they take, to make all their Labours unite for the Service of Mankind: And here I shall insist on their Expence, their Instruments, their Matter, and their Method.
Their Expence.Of the Stock, upon which their Expence has been hitherto defrayed, I can say nothing that is very magnificent; seeing they have relied upon no more than some small Admission-money, and weekly Contributions amongst themselves. Such a Revenue as this can make no great Sound, nor amount to any vast Sum. But yet I shall say this for it, that it was the only way which could have been begun, with a Security of Success, in that Condition of Things. The publick Faith of experimental Philosophy, was not then strong enough, to move Men and Women of all Conditions, to bring in their Bracelets and Jewels, towards the carrying of it on. Such Affections as those may be raised by a misguided Zeal; but seldom, or never, by calm and unpassionate Reason. It was therefore well ordained, that the first Benevolence should come from the Experimenters themselves. If they had speedily at first called for mighty Treasures; and said aloud, that their Enterprize required the Exchequer of a Kingdom; they would only have been contemn'd as vain Projectors. So ready is Mankind to suspect all new Undertakings to be Cheats, and Chimæras; especially, when they seem chargeable; that it may be, many excellent Things have been lost by that Jealousy. Of this we have a fatal Instance amongst our selves. For it was this fear of being circumvented, that made one of our wisest Kings delay Columbus too long, when he came with the Promise of a new World; whereas a little more Confidence in his Art, and a small Charge in furnishing out some few Ships, would have yearly brought all the Silver of the West-Indies to London, which now arrives at Sevil.
This Suspicion, which is so natural to Men's Breasts, could not any way harm the Royal Society's Establishment; seeing its first Claims and Pretensions were so modest. And yet I shall presume to assure the World; that what they shall raise on these mean Foundations, will be more answerable to the Largeness of their Intentions, than to the Narrowness of their Beginnings. This I speak so boldly, not only because it is almost generally found true; that those Things, which have been small at first, have oftner grown greater, than those which have begun upon a wider Bottom, which have common stood at a Stay: But also in respect of the present prevailing Genius of the English Nation. It is most usually found, that every People has some one Study or other in their View, about which their Minds are most intent, and their Purses readier to open. This is sometimes a Profusion in Habit and Diet; sometimes religious Buildings; and sometimes the civil Ornaments of their Cities and Country. The first of these will shortly vanish from amongst us, by the irresistible Correction of the King's own Example; the next is of late Years very sensibly abated: and it is the last of the three towards which Men's Desires are most propense. To evidence this; I think it may be calculated, that since the King's return, there have been more Acts of Parliament, for the clearing and beautifying of Streets, for the repairing of Highways, for the cutting of Rivers, for the increase of Manufactures, for the setting on foot the Trade of Fishing, and many other such publick Works, to adorn the State, than in diverse Ages before. This general Temper being well weigh'd, it cannot be imagined, that the Nation will withdraw its Assistance from the Royal Society alone; which docs not intend to stop at some particular Benefit, but goes to the Root of all noble Inventions, and proposes an infallible Course to make England the Glory of the Western World.
This my Love and my Hopes prompt me to say. But besides this, there is one Thing more, that persuades me, that the Royal Society will be immortal, and that is, that if their Stock should still continue narrow, yet even upon that, they will be able to free themselves from all Difficulties, and to make a constant Increase of it, by their managing. There is scarce any thing has more hindred the true Philosophy, than a vain Opinion, that Men have taken up, that Nothing could be done in it, to any purpose, but upon a vast Charge, and by a mighty Revenue. Men commonly think, that the Pit, in which (according to Democritus) Truth lyes hid, is bottomless; and that it will devour, whatever is thrown into it, without being the fuller. This false Conception had got so much Ground, that as soon as a Man began to put his Hands to Experiments, he was presently given over, as impoverished and undone. And indeed the Enemies of real Knowledge, had some Appearance of Reason to conclude this heretofore; because they had seen the great Estates of some Chymists melted away, without any Thing left behind, to make Recompence. But this Imagination can now no longer prevail: Men now understand, that Philosophy needs not so great a Prodigality to maintain it; that the most profitable Trials are not always the most costly; that the best Inventions have not been found out by the richest, but by the most prudent and industrious Observers; that the right Art of Experimenting, when it is once set forward, will go near to sustain itself. This I speak, not to stop Men's future Bounty, by a philosophical Boast, that the Royal Society has enough already: But rather to encourage them to cast in more Help; by shewing them, what Return may be made from a little, by a wise Administration.
Their Instruments.Of the Variety and Excellence of the Instruments, which it lyes in their Power to use, I will give no other Proof, than the wonderful Perfection to which all manual Arts have of late Years arrived. Men now generally understand, to employ those very Tools which the Antients lent us, to infinite more Works than formerly; they have also of late devis'd a great Multitude of all Sorts, which were before unknown; and besides we may very well expect, that Time will every Day bring forth more. For according as the Matter to work upon does abound, the greater Plenty of Instruments must by Consequence follow; such a Connexion there is between Inventions, and the Means of inventing, that they mutually increase each other.
I might be as large, as I pleased, in this Particular; in running through some Part of all the innumerable Arts of the western World; and it were not difficult to shew, that the ordinary Shops of Mechanicks are now as full of Rarities, as the Cabinets of the former noblest Mathematicians. But I will leave that Subject, which is so familiar to all, and choose rather to fetch a Confirmation of this, even from those Countries, which (after the Manner of the Antients} we call barbarous. And in going thither for an Example, I have a farther End. In my foregoing Discourse, I tried to make out the Advantages of the modern Times above the antient; by following the Progress of Learning, down through their Tracts, to which Scholars usually confine it; I will now also strengthen that Argument, by briefly comparing the Skill and the Works of the unlearned Parts of the present World with those that are past. The antient Barbarians then, those Nations I mean, who lay without the Circle of those Arts which we admire; the Gauls, the Britains, the Germans, the Scythians, have scarce left any Footsteps behind them, to shew that they were rational Men. Most of them were savage in their Practices; gross in their Contrivances; ignorant of all, that might make Life either safe, or pleasant. Thus it was with them, and this all History speaks with one Voice; whereas Barbarians of our Times (if I may take the Liberty still to use that Word, which the Pride of Greece first brought into Fashion) the Turks, the Moors, the East Indians, and even the Americans, though they too are utterly unacquainted with all our Sciences; yet by the Help of an universal Light, which seems to overspread this Age, are in several Handicrafts most ready, and dextrous; in so much that in some, they can scarce be imitated by the Europeans themselves. I shall leave it to any Man to conjecture from hence, which of these two Times has the prerogative; and how much better Helps are probably to be found at this Day, in the most civil Countries; when we now find so much Artifice, amongst those our Cotemporaries, who only follow rude, and untaught Nature.
Their Matter.Of the Extent of the Matter, about which they have been already conversant, and intend to be hereafter; there can be no better Measure taken, than by giving a general Prospect of all the Objects of Men's Thoughts; which can be nothing elfe but either God, or Men, or Nature.
As for the first, they meddle no otherwise with divine Things, than only as the Power, and Wisdom, and Goodness of the Creator is display'd in the admirable Order and Workmanship of the Creatures. It cannot be deny'd, but it lies in the natural Philosopher's Hands, best to advance that Part of Divinity; which, though it fills not the Mind with such tender and powerful Contemplations, as that which shews us Man's Redemption by a Mediator; yet it is by no means to be pass'd by unregarded, but is an excellent Ground to establish the other. This is a Religion which is confirm'd by the unanimous Agreement of all Sorts of Worships, and may serve in respect to Christianity, as Solomon's Porch to the Temple; into the one the Heathens themselves did also enter, but into the other, only God's peculiar People.
In Men, may be consider'd the Faculties and Operations of their Souls, the Constitution of their Bodies, and the Works of their Hands. Of these, the first they omit; both because the Knowledge and Direction of them have been before undertaken, by some Arts, on which they have no mind to intrench, as the Politicks, Morality, and Oratory; and also because the Reason, the Understanding, the Tempers, the Will, the Passions of Men, are so hard to be reduc'd to any certain Observation of the Senses, and afford so much Room to the Observers to falsify or counterfeit; that if such Discourses should be once entertain'd, they would be in Danger of falling into talking, instead of working, which they carefully avoid. Such Subjects therefore as these they have hitherto kept out. But yet, when they shall have made more Progress in material Things, they will be in a Condition of pronouncing more boldly on them too. For though Man's Soul and Body are not only one natural Engine (as some have thought) of whose Motions of all Sorts, there may be as certain an Account given, as of those of a Watch or Clock; yet by long studying of the Spirits, of the Blood, of the Nourishment, of the Parts, of the Diseases, of the Advantages, of the Accidents which belong to human Bodies (all which will come within their Province) there may, without Question, be very near Guesses made, even at the more exalted and immediate Actions of the Soul; and that too, without destroying its spiritual and immortal Being.
These two Subjects, God, and the Soul, being only forborn, in all the rest they wander at their Pleasure: In the Frame of Men's Bodies, the Ways for strong, healthful, and long Life; in the Arts of Men's Hands, those that either Necessity, Convenience, or Delight have produced; in the Works of Nature, their Helps, their Varieties, Redundancies, and Defects; and in bringing all these to the Uses of human Society.
Sect. XII. Their Method of Inquiry.In their Method of inquiring, I will observe how they have behav'd themselves in Things that might be brought within their own Touch and Sight; and how in those, which are so remote, and hard to be come by, that about them they were forc'd to trust the Reports of others.
In the first Kind, I shall lay it down as their fundamental Law, that whenever they could possibly get to handle the Subject, the Experiment was still perform'd by some of the Members themselves. The want of this Exactness has very much diminish'd the Credit of former Naturalists; it might else have seem'd strange, that so many Men of Wit, setting so many Hands on work, being so watchful to catch up all Relations, from Woods, Fields, Mountains, Rivers, Seas, and Lands; and scattering their Pensions so liberally; should yet be able to collect so few Observations, that have been judicious or useful. But the Reason is plain; for while they thought it enough, to be only Receivers of others Intelligence; they have either employ'd ignorant Searchers, who knew not how to digest or distinguish what they found; or frivolous, who always lov'd to come home laden, though it were but with Trifles; or (which is worst of all) crafty, who having perceiv'd the Humours of those that paid them so well, would always take care to bring in such Collections as might seem to agree with the Opinions and Principles of their Masters, however they did with Nature itself.
This Inconvenience the Royal Society has escap'd, by making the whole Process pass under its own Eyes. And the Task was divided amongst them, by one of these two Ways. First, it was sometimes referred to some particular Men, to make Choice of what Subject they pleased, and to follow their own Humour in the Trial; the Expence being still allow 'd from the general Stock. By which Liberty, that they afforded, they had a very necessary regard to the Power of particular Inclinations, which in all Sorts of Knowledge is so strong; that there may be numberless Instances given of Men, who in some Things have been altogether useless, and yet in others have had such a vigorous and successful Faculty, as if they had been born and form'd for them alone.
Or else secondly, the Society itself made the Distribution, and deputed whom it thought fit for the Prosecution of such or such Experiments. And this they did, either by allotting the same Work to several Men, separated from one another; or else by joining them into Committees, (if we may use that Word in a philosophical Sense, and so in some Measure purge it from the ill Sound which it formerly had.) By this Union of Eyes and Hands there do these Advantages arise. Thereby there will be a full Comprehension of the Object in all its Appearances; and so there will be a mutual Communication of the Light of one Science to another; whereas single Labours can be but as a Prospect taken upon one side. And also by this fixing of several Men's Thoughts upon one Thing, there will be an excellent Cure for that Defect, which is almost unavoidable in great Inventors. It is the Custom of such earnest and powerful Minds, to do wonderful Things in the Beginning; but shortly after, to be overborn by the Multitude and Weight of their own Thoughts; then to yield, and cool by little and little; and at last grow weary, and even to loath that, upon which they were at first the most eager. This is the wonted Constitution of great Wits; such tender things are those exalted Actions of the Mind; and so hard it is, for those Imaginations, that can run swift and mighty Races, to be able to travel a long and a constant Journey. The Effects of this Infirmity have been so remarkable, that we have certainly lost very many Inventions, after they have been in part fashion'd, by the meer languishing and negligence of their Authors. For this, the best Provision must be, to join many Men together; for it cannot be imagin'd, that they should be all so violent and fiery; and so by this mingling of Tempers, the impetuous Men not having the whole Burthen on them, may have Leisure for Intervals to recruit their first Heat; and the more judicious, who are not so soon possess'd with such Raptures, may carry on the others strong Conceptions, by soberer Degrees, to a full Accomplishment.
Their way of Inquiry into remote Matters. This they have practis'd in such Things whereof the Matter is common, and wherein they may repeat their Labours as they please. But in foreign and remote Affairs, their Intentions and their Advantages do far exceed all others. For these they have begun to settle a Correspondence through all Countries; and have taken such Order, that in short Time there will scarce a Ship come up the Thames, that does not make some return Experiments, as well as of Merchandize.
This their Care of an universal Intelligence is befriended by Nature itself, in the Situation of England: For, lying so as it does, in the Passage between the Northern Parts of the World and the Southern; its Ports being open to all Coasts, and its Ships spreading their Sails in all Seas; it is thereby necessarily made, not only Mistress of the Ocean, but the most proper Seat for the Advancement of Knowledge. From the Positions of Countries arise not only their sevcral Shapes, Manners, Customs, Colours, but also their different Arts and Studies. The Inland and Continent we see do give Laws to Discourse, to Habits, to Behaviour; but those that border upon the Seas, are most properly seated to bring home Matter for new Sciences, and to make the same Proportion of Discoveries above others in the intellectual Globe, as they have done in the Material.
Upon this Advantage of our Island, there is so much Stress to be laid towards the Prosperity of this Design, that if we should search through all the World for a perpetual Habitation, wherein the universal Philosophy might settle itself, there can none be found, which is comparable to London, of all the former, or present Seats of Empire. Babylon, that was the Capital City of the first Monarchy, was situated in a Champion Country, had a clear and uncloudy Air; and was therefore fit enough to promote one part of natural Knowledge, the Observations of the Heavens: But it was a Mid-land Town, and regarded not the Traffick of Foreigners, abounding with its own Luxury and Riches. Memphis was improper, upon the same account; for Egypt was a Land content with its own Plenty, admitting Strangers, rather to instruct them, than to learn any thing from them. Carthage stood not so well for a Resort for Philosophers, as for Pirates; as all the African Shore continues at this Day. As for Rome, its Fortune was read by Virgil; when he said, that it only ought to excel in the Arts of Ruling. Constantinople, though its present Masters were not barbarous, yet is too much shut up by the Straits of the Hellespont. Vienna is a Frontier Town, and has no Communication with the Ocean, but by a long Compass about. Amsterdam is a place of Trade, without the Mixture of Men of freer Thoughts. And, even Paris itself, though it is far to be preferred before all the others for the Resort of learned and inquisitive Men to it, yet is less capable, for the same Reasons for which Athens was, by being the Seat of Gallantry, the Arts of Speech, and Education. But it is London alone, that enjoys most of the other's Advantages without their Inconveniences. It is the Head of a mighty Empire, the greatest that ever commanded the Ocean: It is composed of Gentlemen, as well as Traders: It has a large Intercourse with all the Earth: It is, as the Poets describe their House of Fame, a City, where all the Noises and Business in the World do meet; and therefore this Honour is justly due to it, to be the constant place of Residence for that Knowledge, which is to be made up of the Reports and Intelligence of all Countries.
To this I will add; That we have another Help in our Hands, which almost forces this Crown on the Head of the English Nation: and that is, the noble and inquisitive Genius of our Merchants. This cannot be better shewn, than by comparing them with those of that one Country, which only stands in Competition with us for Trade. The Merchants of England live honourably in foreign Parts; those of Holland meanly, minding their Gain alone: ours converse freely, and learn from all; having in their Behaviour very much of the Gentility of the Families, from which so many of them are descended: The others when they are abroad, shew, that they are only a Race of plain Citizens, keeping themselves most within their own Cells, and Ware-houses; scarce regarding the Acquaintance of any, but those with whom they traffick. This Largeness of ours, and Narrowness of their living, does, no doubt, conduce very much to enrich them; and is, perhaps, one of the Reasons that they can so easily under-sell us: But withal it makes ours the most capable, as theirs unfit, to promote such an Enterprise, as this of which I am now speaking. For indeed, the Effects of their several Ways of Life are as different: Of the Hollanders, I need say no more, but of the English Merchants I will affirm, that in all sorts of Politeness, and Skill in the World and human Affairs, they do not only excell them, but are equal to any other sort of Men amongst us.
This I have spoken, not to lessen the Reputation of that industrious People: But, that I might (if it were possible) inflame their Minds to an Emulation of this Design. They have all things imaginable to stir them up; they have the Examples of the greatest Wits of other Countries, who have left their own Homes, to retire thither, for the Freedom of their Philosophical Studies: They have one Place (I mean the Hague) which may be soon made the very Copy of a Town in the New Atlantis; which for its Pleasantness, and for the Concourse of Men of all Conditions to it, may be counted, above all others, (except London) the most advantageously seated for this Service.
These have been the Privileges and Practices of the Royal Society, in Things foreign and native. It would now be needless to set down all the Steps of their Progress about them; how they observ'd all the Varieties of Generations and Corruptions, natural and artificial; all the Increasing and Lessenings, Agreements and Oppositions of Things; how, having found out a Cause, they have applied it to many other Effects, and the Effects to different Causes; how they are wont to change the Instruments, and Places, and Quantities of Matter, according to Occasions: and all the other Subtilties and Windings of Trial, which are almost infinite to express. I shall only, in passing, touch on these two Things, which they have most carefully consulted.
The one is, not to prescribe to themselves any certain Art of Experimenting, within which to circumscribe their Thoughts; but rather to keep themselves free, and change their Course, according to the different Circumstances that occur to them in their Operations, and the several Alterations of the Bodies on which they work. The true Experimenting has this one thing inseparable from it, never to be a fixed and settled Art, and never to be limited by constant Rules. This, perhaps, may be shewn too in other Arts; as in that of Invention, of which, though in Logick and Rhetorick so many Bounds and Helps are given, yet I believe very few have argued or discoursed by those Topicks. But whether that be unconfin'd, or no, it is certain that Experimenting is, like that which is called Decence in human Life: which, though it be that, by which all our Actions are to be fashioned, and though many things may be plausibly laid upon it; yet it is never wholly to be reduced to standing. Precepts, and may almost as easily be obtain'd, as defin'd.
Their other Care has been, to regard the least and the plainest Things, and those that may appear at first the most inconsiderable, as well as the greatest Curiosities. This was visibly neglected by the Antients. The Histories of Pliny, Aristotle, Solinus, Ælian, abounding more with pretty Tales, and fine monstrous Stories, than sober and fruitful Relations. If they could gather together some extraordinary Qualities of Stones or Minerals, some Rarities of the Age, the Food, the Colour, the Shapes of Beasts, or some Virtues of Fountains, or Rivers, they thought they had performed the chiefest Part of Natural Historians. But this Course is subject to much Corruption: It is not the true following of Nature; for that still goes on in a steady Road, nor is it so extravagant, and so artificial in its Contrivances, as our Admiration, proceeding from our Ignorance, makes it. It is also a Way that, of all others, is most subject to be deceived; for it will make Men inclinable to bend the Truth much awry, to raise a specious Observation out of it. It stops the severe Progress of Inquiry, infecting the Mind, and making it averse from the true Natural Philosophy: It is like Romances, in respect of True History; which, by multiplying Varities of extraordinary Events and surprising Circumstances, makes that seem dull and tasteless. And, to say no more, the very Delight which it raises, is nothing so solid; but, as the Satisfaction of Fancy, it affects us a little in the beginning, but soon wearies and surfeits: Whereas a just History of Nature, like the Pleasure of Reason, would not be, perhaps, so quick and violent, but of far longer Continuance in its Contentment.
Sect. XIV. Their weekly Assemblies.Their Matter being thus collected, has been brought before their weekly Meetings, to undergo a just and a full Examination. In them their principal Endeavours have been, that they might enjoy the Benefits of a mix'd Assembly, which are Largeness of Observation, and Diversity of Judgments, without the Mischiefs that usually accompany it; such as Confusion, Unsteadiness, and the little Animosities of divided Parties. That they have avoided these Dangers for the time past, there can be no better Proof than their constant Practice; wherein they have perpetually preserved a singular Sobriety of debating, Slowness of consenting, and Moderation of dissenting. Nor have they been only free from Faction, but from the very Causes and Beginnings of it. It was in vain for any Man amongst them, to strive to prefer himself before another; or to seek for any great Glory from the Subtilty of his Wit; feeing it was the inartificial Process of the Experiment, and not the Acuteness of any Commentary upon it, which they have had in Veneration. There was no Room left, for any to attempt to heat their own, or other's Minds, beyond a due Temper; where they were not allowed to expatiate, or amplify, or connect specious Arguments together. They could not be much exasperated one against another in their Disagreements, because they acknowledge, that there may be several Methods of Nature, in producing the same Thing, and all equally good; whereas they that contend for Truth by talking, do commonly suppose that there is but one Way of finding it out. The Differences which should chance to happen, might soon be compos'd; because they could not be grounded on Matters of Speculation, or Opinion, but only of Sense; which are never wont to administer so powerful Occasions of Disturbance and Contention, as the other. In brief, they have escaped the Prejudices that use to arise from Authority, from Inequality of Persons, from Insinuations, from Friendships; but above all, they have guarded themselves against themselves, left the Strength of their own Thoughts should lead them into Error; left their good Fortune in one Discovery should presently confine them only to one way of Trial; lest their Failings should discourage, or their Success abate their Diligence. All these excellent philosophical Qualities they have by long Custom made to become the peculiar Genius of this Society; and to descend down to their Successors, not only as circumstantial Laws, which may be neglected, or altered, in the Course of Time, but as the very Life of their Constitution; to remain on their Minds, as the Laws of Nature do in the Hearts of Men; which are so near to us, that we can hardly distinguish, whether they were taught us by Degrees, or rooted in the very Foundation of our Being.
The Ceremonies of their Meetings.It will not be here reasonable, to speak much of the Ceremonies which they have hitherto observed in these Meetings; because they are aimed the same, which have been since establish'd by their Council, which we shall have a more proper Occasion to produce hereafter. Let this only be laid in brief, to satisfy the curious.
The Place where they hitherto assembled, is Gresham College; where, by the Munificence of a Citizen, there have been Lectures for several Arts indowed so liberally, that if it were beyond Sea, it might well pass for an University. And indeed, by a rare Happiness in the Constitution (of which I know not where to find the like Example) the Professors have been from the Beginning, and chiefly of late Years, of the most learned Men of the Nation; though the Choice has been wholly in the disposal of Citizens. Here the Royal Society has one publick Room to meet in, another for a Repository to keep their Instruments, Books, Rarities, Papers, and whatever else belongs to them; making use besides, by Permission, of several of the other Lodgings, as their Occasions do require. And, when I consider the Place itself, methinks it bears some Likeness to their Design. It is now a College, but was once the Mansion-house of one of the greatest Merchants that ever was in England: And such a Philosophy they would build; which should first wholly consist of Action and Intelligence, before it be brought into Teaching and Contemplation.
Their Time is every Wednesday, after the Lecture of the Astronomy Professor; perhaps, in Memory of the first Occasions of the Rendezvouses.
Their Elections, performed by Balloting; every Member having a Vote; the Candidates being named at one Meeting, and put to the Scrutiny at another.
Their chief Officer is the President; to whom it belongs to call, and dissolve their Meetings to propose the Subject; to regulate the Proceedings; to change the Inquiry from one thing to another; to admit the Members who are elected.
Besides him, they had at first a Register, who was to take Notes of all that passed; which were afterwards to be reduced into their Journals and Register Books. This Task was first perform'd by Dr. Croone. But they since thought it more necessary, to appoint two Secretaries, who are to reply to all Addresses from Abroad, and at Home; and to publish whatever shall be agreed upon by the Society. These are at present, Dr. Wilkins, and Mr. Oldenburgh, from whom I have not usurp'd this first Imploymcnt of that Kind; for it is only my Hand that goes, the Substance and Direction came from one of them.
This is all that I have to say concerning their ceremonial Part. In most other Things, they bounded themselves to no standing Orders, there being nothing more intended in such Circumstances, than Convenience and Order. If any shall imagine, they have not limited themselves to Forms enough, to keep up the Gravity, and Solemnity of such an Enterprize, they are to consider, that so much Exactness and Curiosity of Observances, does not so well befit Inquirers, as Sects of Philosophy, or Places appointed for Education, or those who submit themselves to the Severity of some religious Order. The Work which the Society proposes to itself, being not so fine, and easy, as that of Teaching is: but rather a painful digging, and toiling in Nature; it would be a great Incumbrance to them, to be streightned to many strict Punctilios; as much as it would be to an Artificer, to be loaded with many Clothes, while he is labouring in his Shop.
But having made so much Haste thro' the formal Part of these their Meetings, I shall not so soon dispatch the substantial; which consists in directing, judging, conjecturing, improving, discoursing, upon Experiments.
Their directing Experiments.Towards the first of these Ends, it has been their usual Course, when they themselves appointed Trial, to propose one Week some particular Experiments, to be prosecuted the next; and to debate before Hand, concerning all Things that might conduce to the better carrying them on. In this preliminary Collection, it has been the Custom, for any of the Society, to urge what came into their Thoughts, or Memories concerning them; either from the Observations of others, or from Books, or from their own Experience, or even from common Fame itself. And in performing this, they did not exercise any great Rigour of choosing and distinguishing between Truths and Falshoods: but amass all together as they came, the certain Works, the Opinions, the Guesses, the Inventions, with their different Degrees and Accidents, the Probabilities, the Problems, the general Conceptions, the miraculous Stories, the ordinary Productions, the Changes incident to the same Matter in several Places, the Hindrances, the Benefits, of Airs, or Seasons, or Instruments; and whatever they found to have been begun, to have failed, to have succeeded, in the Matter which was then under their Disquisition.
This is a most necessary Preparation, to any that resolve to make a perfect Search. For they cannot but go blindly, and lamely, and confusedly about the Business, unless they have first laid before them a full Account of it. I confess the excellent Monsieur des Cartes recommends to us another Way in his philosophical Method, where he gives this Relation of his own Progress; that after he had run through the usual Studies of Youth, and spent his first Years in an active Life; when he retired to search into Truth, he at once rejected all the Impressions, which he had before received, from what he had heard and read, and wholly gave himself over to a Reflection on the naked Ideas of his own Mind. This he profess'd to do, that he might lay aside all his old Imaginations, and begin anew to write on a white and unblotted Soul. This, perhaps, is more allowable in Matters of Contemplation, and in a Gentleman, whose chief Aim was his own Delight; and To it was in his own Choice, whether or no he would go farther to seek it, than his own Mind: But it can by no means stand with a practical and universal Inquiry. It is impossible, but they, who will only transcribe their own Thoughts, and disdain to measure or strengthen them by the Assistance of others, should be in most of their Apprehensions too narrow, and obscure; by setting down Things for general, which are only peculiar to themselves. It cannot be avoided, but they will commit many gross Mistakes, and bestow much useless Pains by making themselves wilfully ignorant of what is already known, and what concealed. It was tried among the Antients, to find out the pure and primitive Language of the World, by breeding up a Child so, that he might never hear any Man speak. But what was the Event of that Trial? Instead of obtaining that End, the Child was made absolutely dumb thereby. And the like Success will that Philosopher find, who shall expect, that, by the keeping his Mind free from the Tincture of all other Opinions, it will give him the original and uninfected Truths of Things. All Knowledge is to be got the same way that a Language is, by Industry, Use, and Observation. It must be received, before it can be drawn forth. 'Tis true, the Mind of Man is a Glass, which is able to represent to itself, all the Works of Nature: But it can only shew those Figures, which have been brought before it: It is no magical Glass, like that with which Astrologers life to deceive the ignorant; by making them believe, that therein they may behold the Image of any Place, or Person in the World, though ever so far remov'd from it. I know it may be here suggested; that they, who busie themselves much abroad about learning the Judgments of others, cannot be unprejudic'd in what they think. But it is not the knowing, but the peremptory Addiction to others Tenets, that sours and perverts the Understanding. Nay, to go farther; that Man, who is throughly acquainted with all Sorts of Opinions, is very much more unlikely, to adhere obstinately to any one particular, than he whose Head is only fill'd with Thoughts, that are all of one Colour.
It being now so requisite, to premise this general Collection, it could not be better made, than by the joint Labours of the whole Society. It were an intolerable Burthen, if it were wholly cast on the Experimenters themselves. For, it is not only true, that those who have the best Faculty of experimenting, are commonly most averse from reading Books; and so it is fit, that this Defect should be supplied by other Pains: But also it would too much tire, and waste, or at least divert their Spirits, before they came to the main Work: Whereas the Task being shar'd amongst so great a Number, will become not much more than a Business of Delight. Well then, by this first Comment and Discourse upon Experiment; he that is to try it, being present, and having so good an Opportunity, of comparing so many other Men's Conceptions with his own, and with the Thing itself, must needs have his Thoughts more enlarg'd, his Judgment confirm'd, his Eyes open'd to discern, what most compendious Helps may be provided; what part of it is more or less useful, and upon what side is may be best attempted: The Truths, which he learns this way, will be his Pattern; the Errors will be his Sea-marks, to teach to avoid the same Dangers; the very Falshoods themselves will serve to enlarge, though they do not inform his Understanding. And, indeed, a thousand more Advantages will hereby come into the Minds of the most sagacious and acute Inquirers, which they would never have compass'd, if they had been only left to themselves. I remember my Lord Bacon somewhere says; That it is one of the greatest Secrets of Nature, that Men's Passions are more capable of being rais'd to higher Degrees in Company, than in Solitude; and that we sooner grieve, fear, rejoice, love, admire, when we behold many others so mov'd, than when we are alone. This is true; and the same may be as well affirm'd of most other Actions of the Mind. In Assemblies, the Wits of most Men are sharper, their Apprehensions readier, their Thoughts fuller, than in their Closets. Of this there is an undoubted Proof in the Art of speaking. For, let the wittiest and most eloquent Men think as largely as they can, on any Subject in private; yet, when they come into the publick, and especially, when they have heard others speak before them, their Argument appears quite another thing to them; their former Expressions seem too flat and cold for their present Thoughts; their Minds swell, and are enlightned, as if at that time they were possess'd with the Souls of the whole Multitude, before whom they stand.
Their judging of the Matter of Fact.Those, to whom the Conduct of the Experiment is committed, being dismiss'd with these Advantages, do, as it were, carry the Eyes and the Imaginations of the whole Company into the Laboratory with them. And after they have performed the Trial, they bring all the History of its Process back again to the Test. Then comes in the second great Work of the Assembly; which is to judge and resolve upon the Matter of Fact. In this Part of their Imployment, they us'd to take an exact View of the Repetition of the whole Course of the Experiment; here they observ'd all the Chances, and the Regularities of the Proceedings what Nature does willingly, what constrain'd; what with its own Power, what by the Succours of Art; what in a constant Road, and what with some kind of Sport and Extravagance; industriously marking all the various Shapes into which it turns itself, when it is pursued, and by how many secret Passages it at last obtains its End; never giving it over till the whole Company has been fully satisfied of the Certainty and Constancy; or, on the other side, of the absolute Impossibility of the Effect. This critical and reiterated Scrutiny of those Things, which are the plain Objects of their Eyes, must needs put out of all reasonable Dispute the Reality of those Operations, which the Society shall positively determine to have succeeded. If any shall still think it a just philosophical Liberty, to be jealous of resting on their Credit, they are in the right; and their Dissentings will be most thankfully receiv'd, if they be establish'd on solid Works, and not only on Prejudices, or Suspicions. To the Royal Society it will beat any time almost as acceptable, to be confuted, as to discover; seeing, by this means, they will accomplish their main Design: others will be inflam'd; many more will labour; and so the Truth will be obtain'd between them; which may be as much promoted by the Contentions of Hands, and Eyes; as it is commonly injur'd by those of Tongues. However, that Men may not hence undervalue their Authority, because they themselves are not willing to impose, and to usurp a Dominion over their Reason; I will tell them, that there is not any one Thing, which is now approv'd and practis'd in the World, that is confirm'd by stronger Evidence, than this which the Society requires; except only the Holy Mysteries of our Religion. In almost all other Matters of Belief, of Opinion, or of Science; the Assurance, whereby Men are guided, is nothing near so firm, as this. And I dare appeal to all sober Men; whether, seeing in all Countries, that are govern'd by Laws, they expect no more, than the Consent of two or three Witnesses in Matters of Life and Estate; they will not think, they are fairly dealt withal in what concerns their Knowledge, if they have the concurring Testimonies of Threescore or an Hundred.
Their conjecturing on the Causes.The History of the Trial perform'd being thus secur'd, I will next declare, what Room they allow'd for conjecturing upon the Causes; about which they also took some Pains, though in a far different Way from the antient Philosophers; amongst whom, scarce any thing else was regarded, but such general Contemplations. This indeed is the fatal Point, about which so many of the greatest Wits of all Ages have miscarried; and commonly, the greater the Wit, the more has been the Danger: So many wary Steps ought to be trodden in this uncertain Path; such a Multitude of pleasing Errors, false Lights, disguised Lies, deceitful Fancies must be escap'd; so much Care must be taken to get into the right Way at first; so much, to continue in it; and at last, the greatest Caution still remaining to be us'd; left when the Treasure is in our View, we undo all, by catching at it too soon, with too greedy and rash a Hand. These and many more are the Difficulties to be pass'd; which I have here with less Apprehension reckon'd up, because the Remedy is so nigh. To this Work therefore the Society approaches, with as much Circumspection and Modesty, as human Counsels are capable of: They have been cautious, to shun the overweening Dogmatizing on Causes on the one Hand; and not to fall into a speculative Scepticism on the other; and whatever Causes they have with just Deliberation found to hold good they still make them increase their Benefits, by farther experimenting upon them; and will not permit them to rust or corrupt, for want of Use. If after all this, they shall not seem wholly to have removed the Mischiefs, that attend this hazardous Matter; they ought rather to be judg'd, by what they have done towards it above others, than by what they have not provided against; seeing the Thing itself is of that Nature, that it is impossible to place the Minds of Men beyond all Condition of erring about it.
The first Danger that I shall observe in this kind, is an over-hasty, and precipitant concluding upon the Causes before-the Effects have been enough search'd into; a finishing the Roof before the Foundation has been well laid. For this, I shall first alledge this Cure; that though the Experiment was but the private Task of one or two, or some such small number; yet the conjecturing, and debating on its Consequences, was still the Imployment of their full and solemn Assemblies. I have already, upon several Occasions, preferr'd Companies before single Endeavours in philosophical Matters; and yet I am not asham'd here to repeat it again; especially, seeing in this place it is most apparent, to which of them the Prerogative of Freedom, and Clearness of Judging belongs. To this Purpose I shall affirm, that there can never be found, in the Breast of any particular Philosopher, as much Wariness, and Coldness of Thinking, and rigorous Examination, as is needful, to a solid Assent, and to a lasting Conclusion, on the whole Frame of Nature. How can it be imagin'd, that any single Mind can comprehend and sustain long enough the Weight of so many different Opinions, and infinite Observations; when even the best Mathematicians are soon tir'd with a long Train of the most delightful Propositions, which were before made to their Hands? Or, if there could be a Man of that Vastness of Soul; yet, how can we be assur'd, that he would hold the Scale even? Where have we ever had an Example of so much Streightness and Impartiality of Judgment, to persuade us, that the calmest Philosopher will not be insensibly inclin'd to prefer his own Doctrines, before those of a Stranger? We see all the World flatter themselves in their Strength, Beauty, nay, even (as some have noted) in their very Statures; the lowest Men scarce believing, but that they are tail enough. Why then should they be singly trusted in their Votes about their own Thoughts; where the Comparison of Wit makes them more eagerly concern'd? If we follow the Philosopher home into his Study, we shall quickly discover, by how many plausible Degrees, the wisest Men are apt to deceive themselves into sudden Confidence of the Certainty of their Knowledge. We will suppose him to begin his Inquiry with all the Sincerity imaginable: resolving to pass by no small Mistake, and to forgive to himself no slight Error in the Account; with these fair Purposes, he pitches on some particular Subject; this he turns and tortures every way, till, after much Labour, he can make some Guesses at its Causes: upon this his Industry increases; he applies the same Matter to several other Operations; he still finds the Effects answer his Expectations: Now he begins to mould some general Proposition upon it; he meets with more and more Proofs to confirm his Judgment: thus he grows, by little and little, warmer in his Imaginations; the Delight of his Success swells him; he triumphs and applauds himself for having found out some important Truth: But now his Trial begins to slacken; now Impatience and Security creep upon him; now he carelesly admits whole Crowds of Testimonies, that seem any way to confirm that Opinion, which he had before establish'd; now he stops his Survey, which ought to have gone forward to many more Particulars; and so at last this sincere, this invincible Observer, out of Weariness, or Presumption, becomes the most negligent in the latter part of his Work, in which he ought to have been the most exact. Such is the universal Inclination of Mankind, to be misled by themselves; which I have mention'd, not to beat down the Credit of any particular Philosophers, whose Superstructures have not been answerable to the Strength of their first Assertions; but I have only complain'd of it in general, as we use to do of Man's Mortality, and being subject to Diseases; the aggravating of which common Infirmities can never be esteem'd by any private Man, as an effect of Malice or ill Nature.
But now, on the other side, this Doubtfulness of Thoughts, this Fluctuation, this Slowness of concluding, which is so useful in this Case, is so natural to a Multitude of Counsellors, that is frequently urg'd against them, as their inseparable Imperfection. Every Man has this Argument in his Mouth, wherewith to condemn a great and mixt Number of Advisers; that their Deliberations are so tedious, that commonly the Seasons of Action are lost, before they can come to any Result. 'Tis true, this Unweildiness, and want of Dispatch, is most destructive in Matters of State and Government; as Christendom lately felt: But it has a quite contrary influence on Philosophy. It is not here the most speedy, or the swiftest Determination of Thoughts, that will do the Business: here many Delays are requir'd: here he that can make a solid Objection, or ask a seasonable Question, will do more Good, than he who shall boldly fix on a hundred ill-grounded Resolutions. Every Rub is here to be smooth'd; every Scruple to be plan'd; every thing to be foreseen; the Satisfaction of the Reason of all past, present, and future Times to be design'd: so that here, that which is so much cried down in Policy, a striving still to do better, can never be too much regarded.
Nor is the Society only fore-arm'd against this great Inconvenience, this Rashness of settling upon Causes, by the Multitude of Judges that are to be satisfied; but also by their indifferent hearing of all Conjectures, that may be made from the Tenets of any Sect of Philosophy; and by touching every Effect that comes before them, upon all the Varieties of Opinions, that have been either of late found out, or reviv'd. By this Equality of Respect to all Parties, it has allowed a sufficient Time to ripen whatever it debated: By this too it has made itself the common Cherisher and Umpire of them all; and has taken the right Way of finding out, what is good in any one of them. A Course, which if the Antients had more followed, their Sects would not so soon have destroy'd each other. It was a most perverse Custom amongst their Disciples, not to make any strict Choice, to leave some, and embrace others of their Masters Doctrines, but to swallow all at once. He that became a Stoick, an Epicurean, a Peripatetick, in Logick, or Moral Philosophy, or Physicks, never stuck presently to assent to whatever his Founder had said in all the other Sciences; tho' there was no Kind of Connexion between his Doctrines in the one, and the other. Thus was the whole Image of Philosophy formed in their Minds all together: and what they received so carelesly, they defended the same way; not in Parcels, but in Gross. Of this the Errors are apparent; for by so partially believing all sorts of Tenets, they had no Time to be fully convinc'd; and so became rather formal Asserters of them, than judicious. And by thus adhering to all, without making any Distinction between the Truths and Falshoods, Weaknesses and Strengths of their Sects; they denied to themselves a far more calm and safe Knowledge, which might have been compounded out of them all, by fetching something from one, and something from another.
This the Royal Society did well foresee; and therefore did not regard the Credit of Names, but Things: rejecting or approving nothing, because of the Title which it bears; preserving to itself the Liberty of refusing or liking, as it found; and so advancing its Stock, by a sure and a double Increase; by adding new Discoveries, and retaining antient Truths. A Largeness and Generosity, which certainly is an excellent Omen of its Establishment. In this, methinks, it excels any other Sect; as the Roman Commonwealth did that of Venice. The latter began upon a small Stock, and has been careful to preserve itself unmingled, bestowing the Freedom of its City very sparingly: And we see, it has been still on the defensive, making no great Progress in the World; whereas the Romans, by afar more frank and honourable Counsel, admitted all, that desired to be their Confederates; gave the Liberty of Roman Citizens to whole Towns and Countries; excluded none, but those that would obstinately stand out; and so deservedly extended their Empire, as far as the Bounds of the civil World did reach.
The second Mischief in this great matter of Causes is an eternal Instability and Aversion from assigning of any. This arises from a violent and imprudent Haste to avoid the first. So easy is the Passage from one Extreme to another; and so hard it is to stop in that little Point, wherein the Right does consist. The Truth is, they are both almost equally pernicious; nothing sound is to be expected from those, who will fix blindly on whatever they can lay hold on; and nothing great from them, who will always wander; who will never leave disputing, whether they dream, or wake, whether there is any Motion, whether they have any Being, or no; the one can produce nothing but unwholsome and rotten fruits; and the other, for Fear of that, will endeavour to have no Harvest, nor Autumn at all.
To this Fault of Sceptical Doubting, the Royal Society may perhaps be suspected to be a little too much inclined; because they always professed to be so backward from settling of Principles, or fixing upon Doctrines. But if we fairly consider their Intentions, we shall soon acquit them. Though they are not yet very daring, in establishing Conclusions, yet they lay no Injunctions upon their Successors not to do the same, when they shall have got a sufficient Store for such a Work. It is their Study, that the way to attain a solid Speculation should every Day be more and more pursued; which is to be done by a long forbearing of Speculation at first, till the Matters be ripe for it; and not by madly rushing upon it in the very beginning. Though they do not contemplate much on the general Agreements of Things, yet they do on the particular; from whence the others also will in time be deduced. They are therefore as far from being Scepticks, as the greatest Dogmatists themselves. The Scepticks deny all, both Doctrines and Works. The Dogmatists determine on Doctrines, without a sufficient respect to Works: and this Assembly, though we should grant that they have wholly omitted Doctrines, yet they have been very positive and affirmative in their Works. But more than this, it must also be confess'd, that sometimes after a full Inspection, they have ventured to give the Advantage of Probability to one Opinion, or Cause, above another: Nor have they run any manner of Hazard by thus concluding. For first, it is likely, they did hit the right, after so long, so punctual, and so gradual an Examination: or if we suppose the worst, that they should sometimes judge amiss (as we cannot but allow they may, seeing it will not be just to bestow Infallibility on them alone, while we deny it to all others) yet they have taken Care, that their weaker Reasonings, and even their Errors, cannot be very prejudicial to Posterity. The Causes upon which they have agreed, they did not presently extend beyond their due Strength to all other Things, that seem to bear some resemblance to what they tried. Whatever they have resolved upon, they have not reported as unalterable Demonstrations, but as present Appearances; delivering down to future Ages, with the good Success of the Experiment, the Manner of their Progress, the Instruments, and the several Differences of the Matter, which they have applied; so that with their Mistake, they give them also the Means of finding it out. To this I shall add, that they have never affirmed any thing concerning the Cause, till the Trial was past: whereas, to do it before, is a most venomous thing in the making of Sciences; for whoever has fixed on his Cause before he has experimented, can hardly avoid fitting his Experiment, and his Observations, to his own Cause, which he had before imagin'd, rather than the Cause to the Truth of the Experiment itself. But, in a word, they have hitherto made little other Benefit of the Causes, to which they have consented, than that thereby they might have a firm footing, whereon new Operations may proceed. And for this Work, I mean a Continuation and Variation of the Inquiry, the tracing of a false Cause doth very often so much conduce, that, in the Progress, the right has been discover'd by it. It is not to be question'd, but many Inventions of great Moment have been brought forth by Authors, who began upon Suppositions, which afterwards they found to be untrue. And it frequently happens to Philosophers, as it did to Columbus; who first believ'd the Clouds, that hover'd about the Continent, to be the firm Land: But this Mistake was happy; for, by sailing towards them, he was led to what he sought; so by prosecuting of mistaken Causes, with a Resolution of not giving over the Pursuit, they have been guided to the Truth itself.
The last Defect is the rendring of Causes barren; that when they have been found out, they have been suffered to lye idle; and have been only us'd to increase Thoughts, and not Works. This Negligence is of all others the most dangerous; it is a Shipwrack in the end of the Voyage, and thence the more to be pitied: It is a Corruption, that both hinders Additions, and eats out the Knowledge that has been already obtained: It is the Fault of Philosophers, and not of meer Inquirers; of those that have been successful, and not of the unfortunate in their Search; and therefore it is as the Miscarriages of those, that are prosperous in human Actions; which are always observ'd to be more destructive, and harder to be cured, than the Failings of the Afflicted, or those that are still in Pursuit.
Their way of Improving.To this the Royal Society has applied a double Prevention, both by endeavouring to strike out new Arts, as they go along; and also, by still improving all to new Experiments.
Of the Possibility of their performing the first, and the Method, which is to be taken about it, I shall shortly speak in another Place: It is enough here, to say, that by this, they have taken Care to satisfy the Hopes of the present Times; which else might justly languish, and grow cold about this Enterprise; if they once saw, that nothing would be ripe in their Days; but that all was to come up hereafter, for the Advantage of those that are yet unborn. They consulted the Good of future Times, but have not neglected their own; they have practis'd both the Parts of good Husbandry, planting Trees, and sowing Corn. This latter, for their own speedy Benefit and Support; and the other for the Profit, and Ornament of after-Ages.
Nor have they suffer'd their Diligence to be swallowed up, by the Pleasures and Enjoyments of present Discoveries; but have still submitted their noblest Inventions, to be made Instruments and Means for the finding out of others. This certainly is the most comprehensive and unerring Method; at once to make use of that Assistance they give, and to force them to be farther helpful to greater Ends. There is nothing of all the Works of Nature so inconsiderable, so remote, or so fully known; but, by being made to reflect on other Things, it will at once enlighten them, and show itself the clearer. Such is the Dependence amongst all the Orders of Creatures; the inanimate, the sensitive, the rational, the natural, the artificial; that the Apprehension of one of them is a good Step towards the understanding of the rest: And this is the highest Pitch of human Reason; to follow all the Links of this Chain, till all their Secrets are open to our Minds, and their Works advanced, or imitated by our Hands. This is truly to command the World; to rank all the Varieties, and Degrees of Things, so orderly one upon another, that standing on the Top of them, we may perfectly behold all that are below, and make them all serviceable to the Quiet, and Peace, and Plenty of Man's Life. And to this Happiness, there can be nothing else added; but that we make a second Advantage of this rising Ground, thereby to look the nearer into Heaven: An Ambition, which though it was punished in the old World by an universal Confusion, when it was managed with Impiety and Insolence; yet, when it is carried on by that Humility and Innocence, which can never be separated from true Knowledge; when it is designed, not to brave the Creator of all Things, but to admire him the more; it must needs be the utmost Perfection of human Nature.
Their manner of Discourse.Thus they have directed, judged, conjectur'd upon, and improved Experiments. But lastly, in these, and all other Businesses, that have come under their Care; there is one thing more, about which the Society has been most solicitous; and that is, the manner of their Discourse; which, unless they had been very watchful to keep in due Temper, the whole Spirit and Vigour of their Design had been soon eaten out, by the luxury and Redundance of Speech. The ill Effects of this Superfluity of Talking, have already overwhelm'd most other Arts and Professions; insomuch, that when I consider the Means of happy Living, and the Causes of their Corruption, I can hardly forbear recanting what I said before; and concluding, that Eloquence ought to be banished cut of all civil Societies, as a thing fatal to Peace and good Manners. To this Opinion I should wholly incline, if I did not find, that it is a Weapon, which may be as easily procur'd by bad Men, as good; and that, if these should only cast it away, and those retain it; the naked Innocence of Virtue would be, upon all Occasions, expos'd to the armed Malice of the Wicked. This is the chief Reason, that should now keep up the Ornament of Speaking in any Request, since they are so much degenerated from their original Usefulness. They were at first, no doubt, an admirable Instrument in the Hands of wise Men; when they were only employ'd to describe Goodness, Honesty, Obedience, in larger, fairer, and more moving Images, to represent Truth cloath'd with Bodies, and to bring Knowledge back again to our very Senses, from whence it was at first deriv'd to our Understandings. But now they are generally chang'd to worst Uses; they make the Fancy disgust the best Things, if they come sound and unadorn'd; they are in open Defiance against Reason; professing not to hold much Correspondence with that; but with its Slaves, the Passions; they give the Mind a Motion too changeable and bewitching, to consist with right Practice. Who can behold, without Indignation, how many Mists and Uncertainties, these specious Tropes and Figures have brought on our Knowledge? How many Rewards, which are due to more profitable and difficult Arts, have been still snatch'd away by the easy Vanity of fine Speaking! For now I am warm'd with this just Anger, I cannot with-hold my self, from betraying the Shallowness of all these seeming Mysteries; upon which, we Writers, and Speakers, look so big. And in few Words, I dare say, that of all the Studies of Men, nothing may be sooner obtain'd, than this vicious Abundance of Phrase, this Trick of Metaphors, this Volubility of Tongue, which makes so great a Noise in the World. But I spend Words in Vain; for the Evil is now so inveterate, that it is hard to know whom to blame, or where to begin to reform. We all value one another so much, upon this beautiful Deceit; and labour so long after it, in the Years of our Education; that we cannot but ever after think kinder of it, than it deserves. And indeed, in most other Parts of Learning, I look on it to be a Thing almost utterly desperate in its Cure; and I think it may be plac'd amongst those general Mischiefs; such as the Dissention of Christian Princes, the Want of Practice in Religion, and the like; which have been so long spoken against, that Men are become insensible about them; every one shifting off the Fault from himself to others; and so they are only made bare Common Places of Complaint. It will suffice my present Purpose, to point out, what has been done by the Royal Society, towards the correcting of its Excesses in natural Philosophy; to which it is, of all others, a most profest Enemy.
They have therefore been more rigorous in putting in Execution the only Remedy, that can be found for this Extravagance; and that has been a constant Resolution, to reject all the Amplifications, Digressions, and Swellings of Style; to return back to the primitive Purity and Shortness, when Men deliver'd so many Things, almost in an equal Number of Words. They have exacted from all their Members, a close, naked, natural way of Speaking; positive Expressions, clear Senses; a native Easiness; bringing all Things as near the mathematical Plainness as they can; and preferring the Language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that of Wits, or Scholars.
And here, there is one Thing not to be pass'd by; which will render this establish'd Custom of the Society well nigh everlasting; and that is the general Constitution of the Minds of the English. I have already often insisted on some of the Prerogatives of England; whereby it may justly lay Claim, to be the Head of a philosophical League, above all other Countries in Europe: I have urg'd its Situation, its present Genius, and the Disposition of its Merchants; and many more such Arguments to encourage us, still remain to be us'd: But of all others, this which I am now alledging, is of the most weighty and important Consideration. If there can be a true Character given of the universal Temper of any Nation under Heaven; then certainly this must be ascrib'd to our Countrymen; that they have commonly an unaffected Sincerity; that they love to deliver their Minds with a sound Simplicity; that they have the middle Qualities, between the reserv'd subtile Southern, and the rough unhewn Northern People; that they are not extremely prone to speak; that they are more concern'd what others will think of the Strength, than of the Fineness of what they say; and that an universal Modesty possesses them. These Qualities are so conspicuous, and proper to our Soil; that we often hear them objected to us, by some of our Neighbour Satirists, in more disgraceful Expressions. For they are wont to revile the English, with a want of Familiarity; with a melancholy Dumpishness; with Slowness, Silence, and with the unrefin'd Sullenness of their Behaviour. But these are only the Reproaches of Partiality, or Ignorance; for they ought rather to be commended for an honourable Integrity; for a Neglect of Circumstances and Flourishes; for regarding Things of greater Moment, more than less; for a Scorn to deceive as well as to be deceived; which are all the best Indowments, that can enter into a philosophical Mind. So that even the Position of our Climate, the Air, the Influence of the Heaven, the Composition of the English Blood; as wel1 as the Embraces of the Ocean, seem to join with the Labours of the Royal Society, to render our Country a Land of experimental Knowledge. And it is a good Sign, that Nature will reveal more of its Secrets to the English, than to others; because it has already furnish'd them with a Genius so well proportioned, for the receiving and retaining its Mysteries.
Their way of Registring.And now, to come to a Close of the second Part of the Narration: The Society has reduc'd its principal Observations, into one common Stock; and laid them up in publick Registers, to be nakedly transmitted to the next Generation of Men; and so from them, to their Successors. And as their Purpose was, to heap up a mixt Mass of Experiments, without digesting them into any perfect Model; so to this End, they confin'd themselves to no order of Subjects; and whatever they have recorded, they have done it, not as complete Schemes of Opinions, but as bare unfinish'd Histories.
In the Order of their Inquisitions, they have been so free, that they have sometimes committed themselves to be guided, according to the Seasons of the Year; sometimes, according to what any Foreigner, or English Artificer, being present, has suggefted; sometimes, according to any extraordinary Accident in the Nation, or any other Casualty, which has hapned in their Way. By which roving and unsettled Course, there being seldom any Reference of one Matter to the next; they have prevented others, nay even their own Hands, from corrupting or contracting the Work; they have made the raising of Rules and Propositions, to be a far more difficult Task, than it would have been, if their Registers had been more Methodical. Nor ought this Neglect of Consequence and Order, to be only thought to proceed from their Carelessness; but from a mature and well grounded Premeditation. For it is certain, that a too sudden Striving to reduce the Sciences, in their Beginnings, into Method, and Shape, and Beauty, has very much retarded their Increase. And it happens to the Invention of Arts, as to Children in their younger Years; in whose Bodies, the same Applications, that serve to make them strait, slender, and comely, are often found very mischievous, to their Ease, their Strength, and their Growth.
By their fair, and equal, and submissive way of Registring nothing but Histories, and Relations; they have left room for others, that shall succeed, to change, to augment, to approve,, to contradict them at their Discretion. By this, they have given Posterity a far greater Power of judging them, than ever they took over those that went before them. By this, they have made a firm Confederacy, between their own present Labours, and the Industry of future Ages; which how beneficial it will prove hereafter, we cannot better guess, than by recollecting, what Wonders it would in all Likelihood have produc'd e'er this, if it had been begun in the Times of the Greeks, or Romans, or Schoolmen; nay even in the last Resurrection of Learning. What Depth of Nature could by this Time have been hid from our View? What Faculty of the Soul would have been in the dark? What Part of human Infirmities not provided against? If our Predecessors, a thousand, nay even a hundred Years ago, had begun to add by little and little to the Store, if they would have endeavour'd to be Benefactors, and not Tyrants over our Reasons; if they would have communicated to us, more of their Works, and less of their Wit.
This Complaint, which I here take up, will appear the juster, if we consider, that the first learned Times or the Antients, and all those, that followed after them, down to this Day, would have received no Prejudice at all; if their Philosophers had chiefly bestow'd their Pains, in making Histories of Nature, and not in forming of Sciences. Perhaps indeed the Names of some particular Men, who had the Luck to compile those Systems and Epitomes which they gave us, would have been less glorious than they are: Though that too might be doubted; and (if we may conclude any Thing surely, upon a Matter so changeable as Fame is) we have reason enough to believe, that these latter Ages would have honour'd Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus, as much, if not more, than now they do; if they had only set Things in a way of propagating Experiences down to us, and not impos'd their Imaginations on us, as the only Truths. This may be well enough suppos'd, seeing it is common to all Mankind, still to esteem dearer the Memories of their Friends, than of those that pretend to be their Masters.
But this Matter of Reputation, was only the private Concernment of five, or fix. As for the Interest of those Times in general, I will venture to make good, that in all Effects of true Knowledge, they might have been as happy, without those Bodies of Arts, as they were with them; Logick, and the Mathematicks only excepted. To instance in their Physicks; they were utterly useless, in respect of the good of Mankind; they themselves did almost confess so much, by reserving their natural Philosophy, for the Retirements of their wise Men. What Help did it ever bring to the Vulgar? What visible Benefit to any City or Country in the World? Their Mechanicks, and Artificers (for whom the true natural Philosophy should be principally intended, were so far from being assisted by those abstruse Doctrines; that perhaps scarce any one of those Professions, and Trades, has well understood Aristotle's Principles of Bodies, from his own Time down to ours. Hence then we may conclude, that those first Times, wherein these Arts were made, had been nothing damag'd; if, instead of raising so many speculative Opinions, they had only minded the laying of a solid Ground-work, for a vast Pile of Experiments, to be continually augmenting through all Ages.
And I will also add; that, if such a Course had been at first set on Foot, Philosophy would by this means have been kept closer to material Things; and so, in Probability, would not have undergone so many Eclipses, as it has done ever since. If we reckon from its first setting forth in the East; we shall find, that in so long a Tract of Time, there have not been above four or five hundred Years, at several Intervals, wherein it has been in any Request in the World. And if we look back on all the Alterations and Subversions of States, that have hapned in civil Nations, these three thousand Years; we may still behold, that the Sciences of Men's Brains, have been always subject to be far more injur'd by such Vicissitudes, than the Arts of their Hands. What Cause can be assign'd for this? Why was Learning the first thing, that was constantly swept away, in all Destructions of Empire, and foreign Inundations? Why could not that have weather'd out the Storm, as well as most Sorts of Manufactures; which, though they began as soon, or before the other, yet they have remain'd, through all such Changes, unalter'd; except for the better? The Reason of this is evident. It is, because Philosophy had been spun out to so fine a Thread, that it could be known but only to those who would throw away all their whole Lives upon it. It was made too subtile for the common and gross Conceptions of Men of Business. It had before in a measure been banish'd by the Philosophers themselves, out of the World, and shut up in the Shades of their Walks. And by this means, it was first look'd upon as most useless, and so fit soonest to be neglected. Whereas if at first, it had been made to converse more with the Senses, and to assist familiarly in all Occasions of human Life; it would, no doubt, have been thought needful to be preserv'd, in the most active and ignorant Time. It would have escap'd the Fury of the barbarous People, as well as the Arts of Ploughing, Gardening, Cookery, Making Iron and Steel, Fishing, Sailing, and many more such necessary Handicrafts have done.
And it is too late to lament this Error of the Antients, seeing it is not now to be repair'd. It is enough, that we gather from hence, that by bringing Philosophy down again to Men's Sight and Practice, from whence it was flown away so high, the Royal Society has put it into a Condition of standing out against the Invasions of Time, or even Barbarism itself; that by establishing it on a firmer Foundation than the airy Notions of Men alone, upon all the Works of Nature; by turning it into one of the Arts of Life, of which Men may see there is daily need; they have provided, that it cannot hereafter be extinguish'd, at the Loss of a Library, at the Overthrowing of a Language, or at the Death of some few Philosophers; but that Men must lose their Eyes and Hands, and must leave off desiring to make their Lives convenient or pleasant before they can be willing to destroy it.
The Occasion of the Hindrance of the publishing this History.Thus far I was come in my intended Work, when my Hand was stop'd, and my Mind disturb'd from writing, by the two greatest Disasters that ever befel our Nation, the fatal Infection, which overspread the City of London in sixty five, and the dreadful firing of the City itself in the Year ensuing. These two Calamities may well be sufficient to excuse the Delay of publishing this Book; when the one of them devour'd as many Men, and the other as many Books, as the cruellest Incursion of the Goths and Vandals had ever done.
The Plague was indeed an irreparable Damage to the whole Kingdom; but that which chiefly added to the Misery, was the Time wherein it happened. For what could be a more deplorable Accident, than that so many brave Men should be cut off by the Arrow that flies in the dark, when our Country was ingag'd in foreign War, and when their Lives might have been honourably ventur'd on a glorious Theatre in its Defence? And we had scarce recover'd this first Misfortune, when we received a second and a deeper Wound; which cannot be equall'd in all History, if either we consider the Obscurity of its Beginning, the irresistible Violence of its Progress, the Horror of its Appearance, or the Wideness of the Ruin it made, in one of the most renown'd Cities of the World.
Yet when, on the one side, I remember what Desolation these Scourges of Mankind have left behind them; and on the other, when I reflect on the Magnanimity wherewith the English Nation did support the Mischiefs; I find, that I have not more Reason to bewail the one, than to admire the other.
Upon our Return after the abating of the Plague, what else could we expect, but to see the Streets unfrequented, the River forsaken, the Fields deform'd with the Graves of the dead, and the Terrors of Death still abiding on the Faces of the living? But instead of such dismal Sights, there appeared almost the same Throngs in all publick Places, the same Noise of Business, the same Freedom of Converse, and, with the Return of the King, the same Chearfulness returning on the Minds of the People as before.
Nor was their Courage less, in sustaining the second Calamity, which destroyed their Houses and Estates. This the greatest Losers indur'd with such undaunted Firmness of Mind, that their Example may incline us to believe, that not only the best natural, but the best moral Philosophy too, may be learn'd from the Shops of Mechanicks. It was indeed an admirable Thing to behold, with what Constancy the meanest Artificers saw all the Labours of their Lives, and the Support of their Families devoured in an instant. The Affliction, it is true, was widely spread over the whole Nation; every Place was fill'd with Signs of Pity and Commiseration but those who had suffered most, seem'd the least affected with the Loss: No unmanly Bewailings were heard in the few Streets that were preserved; they beheld the Ashes of their Houses, and Gates, and Temples, without the least Expression of Pusillanimity. If Philosophers had done this, it had well become their Profession of Wisdom; if Gentlemen, the Nobleness of their Breeding and Blood would have required it: But that such Greatness of Heart should be found amongst the poor Artizans, and the obscure Multitude, is no doubt one of the most honourable Events that ever happened. Yet still there is one Circumstance behind, which may raise our Wonder higher; and that is, that amidst such horrible Ruins, they still prosecuted the War with the same Vigour and Courage, against three of the most powerful States of all Europe. What Records of Time, or Memory of past Ages, can shew us a greater Testimony of an invincible and heroick Genius than this, of which I now speak? that the Sound of the Heralds proclaiming new Wars should be pleasant to the People, when the sad Voice of the Bell-man was scarce yet gone out of their Ears? That the Increase of their Adversaries Confederates, and of their own Calamities, should be so far from affrighting them; that they rather seem'd to receive from thence a new Vigour and Resolution? and that they should still be eager upon Victories and Triumphs, when they were thought almost quite exhausted, by so great Destructions?
The third Part of the Narration.From this Observation my Mind begins to take Comfort, and to presage, that as this terrible Disease and Conflagration, were not able to darken the Honour of our Prince's Arms; so they will not hinder the many noble Arts, which the English have begun under his Reign, on the Strength of these Hopes and Incouragements. I will now return to my former Thoughts, and to the finishing of my interrupted Design. And I come with the more Earnestness to perfect it, because it seems to me, that from the sad Effects of these Disasters, there may a new and a powerful Argument be raised, to move us to double our Labours about the Secrets of Nature.
A new City is to be built, on the most advantageous Seat of all Europe for Trade and Command. This therefore is the fittest Season for Men to apply their Thoughts to the improving of the Materials of Building, and to the inventing of better Models for Houses, Roofs, Chimnies, Conduits, Wharfs, and Streets: all which have been already under the Consideration of the Royal Society; and that too, before they had such a sad Occasion of bringing their Observations into Practice. The Mortality of this Pestilence exceeded all others of later Ages; but the Remembrance of it should rather enliven than damp our Industry. When Mankind is over-run with such horrible Invasions of Death, they should from thence be universally alarm'd, to use more Diligence about preventing them for the future.
It is true, that terrible Evil has hitherto, in all Countries, been generally too strong for the former Remedies of Art. But why should we think, that it will continue so for ever? Why may we not believe, that in all the vast Compass of natural Virtues of Things yet conceal'd, there is still reserv'd an Antidote, that shall be equal to this Poison? If in such Cases we only accuse the Anger of Providence, or the Cruelty of Nature, we lay the Blame where it is not justly to be laid. It ought rather to be attributed to the Negligence of Men themselves, that such difficult Cures are without the Bounds of their Reason's Power.
If all Men had desponded at first, and sunk under the Burden of their own Infirmities, almost every little Wound, or Pain of the least Member, had been as deadly, as the Plague at this time. It was by much Inquiry, and Use, that most of the mildest Diseases became curable. And every first Success of this kind, should always strengthen our Assurance of farther Conquests, even over this greatest Terror of Mankind. Distrust, and Despair of our own Endeavours, is as great Hindrance in the Progress of the true Philosophy, as it is wont to be in the Rise of Men's private Fortunes. Whoever aims not at the greatest Things, will seldom proceed much farther than the least. Whoever will make a right and a fortunate Courtship to Nature, he cannot enterprise or attempt too much: for She (as it is said of other Mistresses) is also a Mistress, that soonest yields to the forward and the bold.
I have hitherto described the first Elements, on which the Royal Society arose, and supported its Beginnings: I have trac'd its Progress from the first private Endeavours of some of its Members, till it became united into a regular Constitution; and from thence I have related their first Conceptions and Practices, towards the settling of an universal, constant, and impartial Survey of the whole Creation. There now remains to be added in this third Part of my Narration, an Account of the Incouragements they have received from abroad, and at home, and a particular Enumeration of the principal Subjects, about which they have been employed, since they obtain'd the Royal Confirmation.
The Reputation and Correspondence of the R. S. abroad.I will first begin with the Esteem, which all the civil World abroad has conceived of their Enterprise: And I mention this with the more Willingness, because I believe that our Nation ought justly to be reprov'd, for their Excess of natural Bashfulness, and for their want of Care, to have their most excellent Things represented to Strangers with the best Advantage. This silent and reserv'd Humour has no doubt been very prejudicial to us, in the Judgment that our Neighbours have often made, not only concerning the Condition of our Learning, but also of our political Affairs. I will therefore trespass a little on this Disposition of my Countrymen, and affirm, that as the English Name does manifestly get Ground, by the Bravery of their Arms, the Glory of their Naval Strength, and the spreading of their Commerce, so there has been a remarkable Addition to its Renown, by the Success, which all our Neighbours expect from this Assembly.
It is evident, that this searching Spirit, and this Affection to sensible Knowledge, does prevail in most Countries round about us. 'Tis true, the Conveniences for such Labours are not equal in all Places. Some want the Assistance of others Hands; some the Contribution of others Purses; some the Benefit of excellent Instruments, some the Patronage of the Civil Magistrates: But yet according to their several Powers, they are every where intent on such practical Studies. And the most considerable Effects of such Attempts throughout Europe have been still recommended to this Society, by their Authors, to be examined, approved, or corrected.
In France.The Country, that lyes next to England in its Situation is France; and that is also the nearest to it, in its Zeal for the Promotion of Experiments. In that Kingdom, the Royal Society has maintained a perpetual Intercourse, with the most eminent Men of Art of all Conditions; and has obtained from them, all the Help which might justly be hoped for, from the Vigour, and Activity, and Readiness of Mind, which is natural to that People. From their Physicians, Chirurgeons, and Anatomists, it has receiv'd many faithful Relations of extraordinary Cures; from their most judicious Travellers the Fruits of their Voyages; from their most famous Mathematicians, diverse Problems, which have been solved many different Ways; from their Chymists the effects of their Fires; and from others of their best Observers, many Rarities, and Discourses of their Fruits, Silk, Wine, Bread, Plants, Salt, and such natural Productions of their Soil. And to instance once for all, it has been affectionately invited to a mutual Correspondence by the French Academy of Paris: In which Invitation, there is one Expression, that ought not to be pass'd over in Silence; that they acknowledge the English Nation, to have many Advantages for the propagating of real Philosophy, which are wanting to all others. This Confession is true: Yet these Advantages, unless they had been improved by this Institution, had been only as those, that we have for Fishing, Objections and Arguments of our Sloth.
In Italy.In Italy the Royal Society has an excellent Privilege of receiving and imparting Experiments, by the Help of one of their own Fellows, who has the Opportunity of being Resident there for them, as well as for the King. From thence they have been earnestly invited to a mutual Intelligence, by many of their most noble Wits, but chiefly by the Prince Leopoldo, Brother to the Great Duke of Tuscany; who is the Patron of all the inquisitive Philosophers of Florence; from whom there is coming out under his Name an Account of their Proceedings called Ducal Experiments. This Application to the Royal Society I have mention'd, because it comes from that Country, which is seldom wont to have any great Regard to the Arts of these Nations, that lye on this side of their Mountains.
In Germany.In Germany, and its neighbouring Kingdoms, the Royal Society has met with great Veneration; as appears by several Testimonies in their late printed Books, which have been submitted to its Censure; by many Curiosities of Mechanick Instruments, that have been transmitted to it; and by the Addresses which have been sent from their Philosophical Inquirers. For which Kinds of Enterprizes the Temper of the German Nation is admirably fit, both in respect of their peculiar Dexterity in all Sorts of manual Arts, and also in Regard of the plain and unaffected Sincerity of their Manners; wherein they so much resemble the English, that we seem to have deriv'd from them the Composition of our Minds, as well as to have descended from their Race.
In the Low-Countries.In the Low-Countries, their Interest, and Reputation has been established, by the Friendship of some of their chief learned Men, and principally of Hugenius. This Gentleman has bestowed his Pains, on many Parts of the speculative and practical Mathematicks, with wonderful Successes. And particularly his applying the Motion of Pendulums to Clocks, and Watches, was an excellent Invention. For thereby there may be a Means found out of bringing the Measures of Time, to an exact Regulation; of which the Benefits are infinite. In the Prosecution of such Discoveries, he has often required the Aid of this Society; he has receiv'd the Light of their Trials, and a Confirmation of his own, and has freely admitted their Alterations or Amendments. And this learned Correspondence with him, and many others, is still continued, even at this present Time, in the Breach between our Countries: Their great Founder, and Patron still permitting them to maintain the Traffick of Sciences, when all other Commerce is intercepted. Whence we may guess, what may be expected from the peaceful Part of our King's Reign, when his very Wars are managed without Injury to the Arts of Civil Knowledge.
Visits of Foreigners.But not to wander any farther in Particulars, it may perhaps in general be lately computed, that there has been as large a Communication of Foreign Arts, and Inventions to the Royal Society, within this small Compass of Time, as ever before did pass over the English Channel, since the very first Transportation of Arts into our Island. And that this Benefit will still increase by the Length of Time is indubitable, from the Reception which has been given to the Scholars, Nobility, Embassadors, and Foreign Princes. who of late Years have travell'd hither, to behold a Country, which had been the Stage of so famous a War, and so miraculous a Peace. All these have still visited the Royal Society, as one of the first and noblest Fruits of our Restoration. From hence they have return'd Home, with a free Engagement of their Assistance; the Men of Learning assuring it of a Contribution of their Labours, and the Statesmen and Princes of their Authority and Endeavours, in satisfying all philosophical Queries, with which they have been plentifully furnished.
It would be a useless Pomp to reckon up a Catalogue of their Names; especially seeing they are already recorded with Gratitude, in a more lasting Monument, the Register of the Society. Only it will not, I think, be amiss, if I mention the Visit of one Prince, because it may afford us a profitable Observation, When the Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh was introduced into their weekly Assembly, and had subscribed his Name to their Statutes; there was according to the Custom, one of the Fellows appointed, to interpret to him, what Experiments were produc'd, and examin'd at that Meeting. But his Highness told them, that it was not necessary they should put themselves to that Trouble; for he well understood our Language, having been drawn to the Study of it, out of a desire of reading our Philosophical Books. From whence there may this Conclusion be made, that if ever our Native Tongue shall get any Ground in Europe, it must be by augmenting its experimental Treasure. Nor is it impossible, but as the Feminine Arts of Pleasure and Gallantry have spread some of our Languages to such a vast Extent; so the English Tongue may also in Time be more enlarg'd, by being the Instrument of conveying to the World the Masculine Arts of Knowledge.
The Incouragements the R.S. has receiv'd at home.I now come to relate, what Incouragements this Design has receiv'd at home in its native Soil. And I will assure my Reader, that the Original of the Royal Society has found a general Approbation within our selves, and that the most prudent Men of all Professions and Interests, have shewn by their Respects to these hopeful Beginnings, that there is a Reverence due to the first Trials and Intentions, as well as to the last Accomplishment of generous Attempts.
From our Citizens.Of our chief and most wealthy Merchants and Citizens, very many have assisted it with their Presence; and thereby have added the industrious, punctual, and active Genius of Men of Traffick,, to the quiet, sedentary, and reserv'd Temper of Men of Learning. They have contributed their Labours; they have help'd their Correspondence; they have employ'd their Factors abroad to answer their Inquiries; they have laid out in all Countries for Observations; they have bestow'd many considerable Gifts on their Treasury and Repository. And chiefly there is one Bounty to be here inserted, which for the singular Benefit that may be expected from it, deserves the Applause and Imitation of this and future Times. It is the Establishment made by Sir John Cutler, for the reading on Mechanicks, in the Place where the Royal Society shall meet. This is the first Lecture that has been founded of this Kind, amidst all the vast Munificence of so many Benefactors to Learning in this latter Age. And yet this was the most necessary of all others. For this has chiefly caus'd the slow Progress of manual Arts; that the Trades themselves have never serv'd Apprenticeships, as well as the Tradesmen; that they have never had any Masters set over them, to direct and guide their Works, or to vary and enlarge their Operations.
From our Physicians.of our Physicians, many of the most judicious have contributed their Purses, their Hands, their Judgments, their Writings. This they have done, though they have also in London a College peculiar to their Profession; which ever since its first Foundation, for the Space of a hundred and fifty Years, has given the World a Succession of the most eminent Physicians of Europe. In that they confine themselves to the Advancement of Physick: But in this, they have also with great Zeal and Ability promoted this universal Inspection, into all natural Knowledge. For without Danger of Flattery, I will declare of the English Physicians, that no Part of the World exceeds them, not only in the Skill of their own Art, but in general Learning; and of very many of that Profession I will affirm, that all Apollo is their own, as it was said by the best Poet of this Age, of one of the most excellent of their Number.
From our Nobility.Of our Nobility and Gentry,the most noble and illustrious have condescended to labour here with their Hands, to impart their Discoveries, to propose their Doubts, to assist and defray the Charge of their Trials. And this they have done with such a universal Agreement, that it is almost the only thing, wherein the Nobility of all the three Kingdoms are united. In their Assemblies for making Laws they are separated; in their Customs and Manners of Life they differ; in their Humouas too, they are thought not much of kin to each other. But in the Royal Society the Scotch, the Irish, the English Gentry do meet, and communicate, without any Distinction of Countries or Affections. From hence no doubt very much political, as well as philosophical Benefit will arise. By this means, there is a good Foundation laid for removing of that Aversion, which the English are sometimes observ'd to express to the Natives of those Kingdoms; which though perhaps it arises from the Knowledge of their own Advantages above the other, yet it is a great Hindrance to the Growth of the British Power. For as a Kingdom divided against itself, cannot stand; so three Kingdoms divided from each other, in Tempers, Studies, and Inclinations, can never be great, upon one common Interest.
From our Statesman.Of our Ministers of State at home, and our Embassadors abroad, there have been very few employ'd, who are not Fellows of the Royal Society: and especially these latter have bestow'd their Pains in foreign Courts, to collect Relations and Secrets of Nature, as well as of State: For which Service their Way of Life is most convenient, by the Generality of their Converse, the Privileges and Freedom of their Dispatches, and the usual Resort of the most knowing and inquisitive Men to their Company.
From our Soldiers.Our greatest Captains and Commanders have inroll'd their Names in this Number, and have regarded these Studies: which are not, as other Parts of Learning, to be call'd the Studies of the Gown; for they do as well become the Profession of a Soldier, or any other Way of Life. Nor have our most renown'd Generals neglected the Opportunities of philosophical Inquiries, even in the midst of their greatest Enterprises, on which the Fate of Kingdoms has depended. They have been furnish'd with Instruments and Directions by the Royal Society, and amidst the Tumult of Wars, and Government of Fleets, they have found Leisure to make some Trials of Experiments: which Works as much excell that of Declaiming, which some of the Roman Generals us'd in their Camps, as it is better to do, than to talk well.
From our Churchmen.Of our Churchmen the greatest and the most Reverend, by their Care and Passion, and Endeavours in advancing this Institution; have taken off the unjust Scandal from Natural Knowledge, that it is an Enemy to Divinity. By the perpetual Patronage and Assistance they have afforded the Royal Society, they have confuted the false Opinions of those Men, who believe that Philosophers must needs be irreligious: they have shewn, that in our Veneration of God's almighty Power, we ought to imitate the manner of our Respect to earthly Kings. For as the greater their Dominion is, the more Observance is wont to be given to their nearest Servants and Officers; so the Greatness of the Divine Majesty is best to be worshipped, by the due honouring and observing of Nature, which is his immediate Servant, and the universal Minister of his Pleasure.
From the Royal Family.But I make haste to that, which ought to be esteem'd the very Life and Soul of this Undertaking, the Protection and Favour of the King and the Royal Family. When the Society first address'd themselves to his Majesty, he was pleased to express much Satisfaction, that this Enterprise was begun in his Reign: he then represented to them the Gravity and Difficulty of their Work, and assured them of all the kind Influence of his Power and Prerogative. Since that he has frequently committed many Things to their Search: he has refer'd many foreign Rarities to their Inspection: he has recommended many domestick Improvements to their Care: he has demanded the Result of their Trials, in many Appearances of Nature: he has been present, and assisted with his own Hands, at the performing of many of their Experiments, in his Gardens, his Parks, and on the River. And besides I will not conceal, that he has sometimes reprov'd them for the Slowness of their Proceedings: at which Reproofs they have not so much Cause to be afflicted, that they are the Reprehensions of a King, as to be comforted, that they are the Reprehensions of his Love, and Affection to their Progress. For a Testimony of which Royal Benignity, and to free them from all Hindrances and Occasions of Delay, he has given them the Establishment of his Letters Patents, of which I will here produce an Epitome.
CHarles the Second, by the Grace of God, of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, &c. To all unto whom these Presents shall come, Greeting. Having long resolved within our self to promote the Welfare of Arts and Sciences, as well as that of our Territories and Dominions, out of our princely Affection to all kind of Learning, and more particular Favour to philosophical Studies: Especially those which endeavour by solid Experiments, either to reform or improve Philosophy. To the intent therefore that these Kinds of Study, which are no where yet sufficiently cultivated, may flourish in our Dominions; and that the learned World may acknowledge us to be, not only the Defender of the Faith, but the Patron and Encourager of all Sorts of useful Knowledge;
Know ye, that we out of our special Grace, certain Knowledge, and meer Motion, have given and granted, and do by these Presents give and grant for us, our Heirs, and Successors, That there shall be for ever a Society, consisting of a President, Council, and Fellows, which shall be called by the Name of the President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London, for and improving of natural Knowledge, of which Society we do by these Presents declare our self to be Founder and Patron. And we do hereby make and constitute the said Society by the Name, &c. to be a Body corporate, to be continued under the same Name in a perpetual Succession; and that they and their Successors, (whose Studies are to be imployed for the promoting of the Knowledge of natural Things, and useful Arts by Experiments. To the Glory of God, and the good of Mankind,) shall by the aforesaid Name of President, Council, &c. be enabled and made capable in Law, to levy, hold, possess, and enjoy, Lands, Tenements, &c. Liberties, Franchises, Jurisdictions, for Perpetuity, or Terms of Lives, or Years, or any other Way: as also Goods, Chattels, and all other Things of what Nature or Kind soever. And also by the Name aforesaid to give, grant, demise, or assign the said Lands, Goods, &c. and to do all Things necessary thereabout. And the said Persons by the Name aforesaid are enabled to implead, be impleaded, sue, defend, &c. in any Courts, and before any Judges, Officers, &c. whatsoever of the King, his Heirs, and Successors, in all and singular Actions real and personal: Pleas, Causes, &c. of what kind soever, as any of his Subjects within his Kingdom of England, or Corporations, are by Law capable and enabled to do.
And the said President, Council, and Fellows are impower'd to have a Common Seal for their Use in their Affairs; and from time to time to break, change, and make anew the same, as shall seem expedient unto them.
And his Majesty, in Testimony of his Royal Favour towards the said President, Council, and Fellows, and of his especial Esteem of them, doth grant a Coat of Arms to them and their Successors, viz. On a Field Argent a Canton of the three Lions of England: For a Crest, an Eagle proper on a Ducal Coronet supporting a Shield charged with the Lions aforesaid; and for Supporters, two Talbots with Coronets on their Necks. The said Arms to be born, &c. by the said Society upon all Occasions.
And that his Majesty's Royal Intention may take the better Effect far the good Government of the said Society from time to time. it is establish'd, that the Council aforesaid shall consist of twenty one Persons; (whereof the President for the time being always to be one.) And that all Persons, which within two Months next ensuing the Date of the said Charter shall be chosen by the said President and Council; and in all times after the said two Months, by the President, Council, and Fellows [and noted in a Register to be kept for that purpose] shall be Fellows of the said Society, and so accounted, and called during Life, except by the Statutes of the said Society to be made, any of them shall happen to be amoved. And by how much any Persons are more excelling in all kinds of Learning, by how much the more ardently they desire to promote the Honour, Business, and Emolument of the said Society, by how much the more eminent they are for Integrity, Honesty, Piety, Loyalty, and good Affection toward his Majesty, his Crown and Dignity; by so much the more fit and worthy such Persons are to be judged, for Reception into the Society.
And for the better Execution of his Royal Grant, his Majesty hath nominated, &c. his trusty and well-beloved William, Viscount Brouncker, Chancellor to his dearest Consort Queen Catherine, to be the first and modern President to continue in the said Office from the Date of the Patent to the Feast of St. Andrew next ensuing, and until another Person of the said Council be duly chosen into the said Office. The said Lord Brouncker being sworn in all things belonging thereto well and faithfully to execute the said Office, before his right well-beloved and right trusty Cousin and Counsellor, Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England, in the Words following.
I William, Viscount Brouncker, do promise to deal faithfully and honestly in all things belonging to that Trust committed to me, as President of the Royal Society of London, for improving Natural Knowledge. So help me God.
And his Majesty hath nominated, &c. the Persons following, His trusty and well-beloved Sir Robert Moray Knight, one of his Privy Council in his Kingdom of Scotland, Robert Boyle Esquire, William Brereton Esquire, eldest Son to the Lord Brereton, Sir Kenelme Digby Knight, Chancellor to his dearest Mother Queen Mary, Sir Gilbert Talbot Knight, Master of his Jewelhouse, Sir Paul Neile Knight, one of the Ushers of his Privy Chamber, Henry Slingsby Esquire, one of the Gentlemen of His said Privy Chamber, Sir William Petty Knight, Timothy Clark, Doctor of Physick, and one of his Physicians, John Wilkins Doctor of Divinity, George Ent Doctor of Physick, William Erskyne Esquire, one of his Cupbearers, Jonathan Goddard Doctor of Physick, William Ball Esquire, Matthew Wren Esquire, John Evelyn Esq. Thomas Henshaw Esquire, Dudley Palmer of Grays-Inn Esquire, Abraham Hill of London Esquire, and Henry Oldenburg Esquire, together with the President aforesaid, to be the first and Modern 21. of the Council and Fellows of the Royal Society aforesaid, to be continued in the Offices of the Council aforesaid, from the Date of the Patent to the Feast of St. Andrew next following, and from thence till other fit Persons be chosen into the said Offices. The said Persons to be sworn before the President of the Society, for the time being, well and truly to execute the said Offices, according to the Form and Effect of the aforesaid Oath to be administered to the President by the Lord Chancellor as aforesaid, For the administring which Oath to the said Persons, and all others hereafter from time to time to be chosen into the said Council, full Power and Authority 1s granted to the President for the time being: And the said Persons duly sworn, and all other from time to time duly chosen into the said Council and sworn, are to aid, advise and assist in all Affairs, Businesses, and Things concerning the better Regulation, Government and Direction of the Royal Society, and every Member thereof.
Furthermore, Liberty 1s granted to the said Society, lawfully to make and hold Meetings of themselves, for the searching out and Discovery of natural Things, and Transaction of other Businesses relating to the said Society, when and as often as shall be requisite, in any College, Hall, or other convenient Place in London, or within ten Miles thereof.
And Power is granted to the said Society, from time to time to nominate and chuse yearly, on St. Andrew's Day, one of the Council aforesaid, for the time being, to be President of the Society, until St. Andrew's Day next ensuing (if he shall so long live, or not be removed for some just and reasonable Cause) and from thence until another be chosen and put into the said Office, the said President so elected, before Admission to that Office, to be sworn before the Council, according to the Form before expressed, who are impower'd to administer the said Oath from time to time, as often as there shall be cause to chufe a President.
And in case that the said President, during his Office, shall die, recede, or be removed; then, and so often, it shall be lawful for the Council of the Royal Society, to meet together to chuse one of their Number for President of the said Society, and the Person so chosen and duly sworn, shall have and exercise the Office of President for the remainder of the Year, and until another be duly chosen into the said Office.
And in case that any one or more of the Council aforesaid shall die, recede, or be removed (which Persons or any of them, for Misdemeanour, or other reasonable Cause, are declared to be amoveable by the President and the rest of the Council) then and so often it shall be lawful for the President, Council, and Fellows, to chuse one or more of the Fellows of the Royal Society in the room of him or them so deceasing, receding, or remov'd, to compleat the aforesaid Number of twenty one of the Council, which Person or Persons so chosen, are to continue in Office until St. Andrew's Day then next ensuing, and until others be duly chosen the said Persons being sworn faithfully to execute their Offices, according to the true Intention of the Patent.
And his Majesty doth will and grant unto the said President, Council, and Fellows, full Power and Authority, on St. Andrew's Day yearly, to elect, nominate, and change ten of the Fellows of the Royal Society, to supply the Places and Offices of ten of the aforesaid Number of twenty one of the Council, declaring it to be his Royal Will and Pleasure, that ten and no more of the Council aforesaid be annually changed and removed by the President, Council and Fellows aforesaid.
And it is granted on the behalf of the said Society, that if it shall happen, that the President be sick, infirm, detain'd in his Majesty's Service, or otherwise occupied, so as he cannot attend the necessary Affairs of the Society, then and so often it shall be lawful for him to appoint one of the Council for his Deputy, who shall supply his Place from time to time, as often as he shall happen to be absent, during the whole time of the said President's Continuance in his Office, unless he shall in the mean time constitute some other of the Council for his Deputy: And the Deputy so constituted is Empowered to do all and singular Things which belong to the Office of the President of the Royal Society, and in as ample Manner and Form as the said President may do by virtue of his Majesty's Letters Patents, be the said Deputy being duly sworn before the Council in Form before specified, who are impower'd to administer the Oath as often as the Case shall require.
It is farther granted to the Society, to have one Treasurer, two Secretaries, two or more Curators of Experiments, one or more Clerk or Clerks, and also two Serjeants at Mace, who may from time to time attend on the President; all the said Officers to be chosen by the President, Council and Fellows, and to be sworn in Form and Effect before specified, well and faithfully to execute their Offices, which Oath the Council are impowered to administer: And his Majesty nominates and appoints his well beloved Subjects, the aforesaid William Ball Esquire, to be the first and modern Treasurer; and the aforesaid John Wilkins and Henry Oldenburgh, to be the first and modern Secretaries of the Royal Society, to be continued in the said Offices to the Feast of St. Andrew next following the Date of the Patent. And that from time to time and ever hereafter, on the said Feast of St. Andrew (if it be not Lord's Day, and if it be Lord's Day, on the next Day after) the President, Council, and Fellows aforesaid, are impower'd to nominate and chuse honest and discreet Men for Treasurer and Secretaries, which are to be of the Number of the Council of the Royal Society, which Persons elected and sworn, in Form before specified, are to exercise and enjoy the said Offices until the Feast of St. Andrew next then following.
And if it shall happen, that the aforesaid Election of the President, Council, Treasurer, and Secretaries, or any of them, cannot be made or perfected on the Feast of St. Andrew aforesaid; it is granted to the aforesaid President, Council, and Fellows, that they may lawfully nominate and assign another Day, as near to the said Feast of St. Andrew as conveniently may be, for making or perfecting the said Elections, and so from Day to Day till the said Elections be perfected.
And in case that any of the aforesaid Officers of the Royal Society shall die, recede, or be remov'd from their respective Offices, then and so often it shall be lawful for the said President, Council and Fellows, to choose one or more into the Office or Offices vacant, to hold the same during the Residue of that Year, and until others be duly chosen and sworn in their Places.
Moreover, on the behalf of the Society, it is granted unto the President and Council, that they may assemble and meet together in any College, Hall, or other convenient place in London, or within ten Miles thereof (due and lawful Summons of all the Members of the Council to extraordinary Meetings being always premised) and that they being so met together, have full Power and Authority from time to time, to make, constitute, and establish such Laws, Statutes, Orders, and Constitutions, which shall appear to them to be good, useful, honest, and necessary, according to their Judgments and Discretions, for the Government, Regulation and Direction of the Royal Society, and every Member thereof: And to do all things concerning the Government, Estate, Goods, Lands, Revenues, as also the Businesses and Affairs of the said Society: All which Laws, Statutes, Orders, &c. so made, His Majesty wills and commands, that they be from time to time inviolably observed, according to the Tenor and Effect of them: Provided that they be reasonable, and, not repugnant or contrary to the Laws, Customs, &c. of his Kingdom of England.
And furthermore, full Power and Authority is given and granted unto the said Society, from time to time to choose one or more Printers and Gravers, and by writing sealed with the common Seal of the Society, and signed by the President for the time being, to grant them Power to print such Things, Matters and Businesses concerning the said Society, as shall be committed to them by the Council from time to time: The said Printers and Gravers, being sworn before the President and Council in Form before specified, which President and Council are impowered to give the said Oath.
And for the greater Advantage and Success of the Society in their philosophical Studies and Endeavours, full Power and Authority is granted unto them, to require, take, and receive from time to time, dead Bodies of Persons executed, and the same to anatomise, to all Intents and Purposes, and in as ample Manner and Form as the College of Physicians, and Company of Chirurgeons of London (by 'what Names soever the said two Corporations are or may be called) have had and made use of, or may have and use the said Bodies.
And for the Improvement of such Experiments, Arts, and Sciences, as the Society may be imployed in, full Power and Authority is granted unto them from time to time by Letters under the Hand of the President, in the Presence of the Council, to hold Correspondence and Intelligence with any Strangers, whether private Persons, or Collegiate Societies, or Corporations, without any Interruption or Molestation whatsoever: Provided that this Indulgence or Grant be extended to no farther Use than the particular Benefit and Interest of the Society, in Matters Philosophical, Mathematical, and Mechanical.
Full Power and Authority is also granted on the behalf of the Society to the Council, to erect and build one or more Colleges within London, or ten Miles thereof, of what Form or Quality soever, for Habitation, Assembling, or Meeting of the President, Council and Fellows, about any Affairs and Businesses of the Society.
And if any Abuses or Differences shall ever hereafter arise and happen about the Government or Affairs of the Society, whence the Constitution, Progress, and Improvement, or Businesses thereof may suffer or be hindred: In such Cases his Majesty assigns and authorises his right trusty and right well beloved Cousin and Counsellor, Edward Earl of Clarendon Lord High Chancellor of England, by himself during his Life, and after his Decease the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, the Lord High Treasurer of England, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Lord Bishop of London, and the two principal Secretaries of State for the Time being, or any four or more of them, to compose and redress any such Differences or Abuses.
And lastly, his Majesty strictly charges and commands all Justices, Mayors, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Bailiffs, Constables, and all other Officers, Ministers, and Subjects whatsoever, from time to time to be aiding and assisting unto the said President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society, in and about all Things, according to the true Intention of his Letters Patent.
This is the Legal Ratification which the Royal Society has received. And in this Place I am to render their publick Thanks to the Right Honourable the Earl of Clarendon Lord Chancellor of England, to Sir Jeffery Palmer Attorney General, and to Sir Heneage Finch Sollicitor General; who by their chearful Concurrence, and free Promotion of this Confirmation, have wiped away the Aspersion, that has been scandalously cast on the Profession of the Law, that it is an Enemy to Learning and the civil Arts. To sew the Falshood of this Reproach, I might instance in many Judges and Councilors of all Ages, who have been the Ornaments of the Sciences, as well as of the Bar, and Courts of Justice. But it is enough to declare, that my Lord Bacon was a Lawyer, and that these eminent Officers of the Law, have completed this Foundation of the Royal Society, which was a Work well becoming the Largeness of his Wit to devise, and the Greatness of their Prudence to establish.
Their Councils and Statutes.According to the Intention of these Letters Patents, their Council has ever since been annually renewed; their President, their Treasurer, their Secretaries chosen: The chief Employments of the Council have been to manage their political Affairs, to regulate Disorders, to make Addresses, and Applications in their Behalf: to regard their Privileges, to disperse Correspondents, but principally to form the Body of their Statutes, which I will here insert.
An Abstract of the Statutes of the Royal Society.
WHatever Statute shall be made, or repealed, the making or repealing of it shall be voted twice, and at two several Meetings of the Council.
This Obligation shall be subscribed by every Fellow; or his Election shall be void.
WE who have hereto subscrib'd, do promise each for himself, that we will endeavour to promote the good of the Royal Society of London, for the Improvement of natural Knowledge, and to pursue the Ends, for which the same was founded; that we will be present at the Meetings of the Society, as often as conveniently we can; especially at the anniversary Elections, and upon extraordinary Occasions; and that we will observe the Statutes and Orders of the said Society: Provided, that whenever any of us shall signify to the President under his Hand, that he desires to withdraw from the Society, he shall be free from this Obligation for the future.
Every Fellow shall pay his Admission-Money, and afterwards Contribution, towards the defraying of the Charges of Observations and Experiments, &c.
The ordinary Meetings of the Royal Society shall be held once a Week, where none shall be present, besides the Fellows, without the leave of the Society, under the Degree of a Baron in one of his Majesty's three Kingdoms, or of his Majesty's Privy Council; or unless he be an eminent Foreigner, and these only without the leave of the President.
The Business of their weekly Meetings shall be, To order, take account, consider, and discourse of, philosophical Experiments and Observations; to read, hear, and discourse upon, Letters, Reports, and other Papers, containing philosophical Matters; as also to view, and discourse upon the Productions and Rarities of Nature, and Art; and to consider what to reduce from them, or how they may be improved for Use or Discovery.
The Experiments that be made at the Charge of the Society; two Curators at least shall be appointed for the Inspection of those which cannot be performed before the Society; by them the bare Report of Matter of Fact shall be stated and returned.
The Election of Fellows shall be made by way of Ballot; and their Admission by a solemn Declaration made by the President of their Election. The Election of the Council and Officers shall be made once a Year: Eleven of the present Council shall be continued by Lot, for the next Year, and ten new ones chosen in like Manner. Out of this new Council shall be elected a President, Treasurer, and two Secretaries in the same way.
The President shall preside in all Meetings, regulate all Debates of the Society and Council; State, and put Questions; call for Reports and Accounts from Committees, Curators, and others;, summon all extraordinary Meetings upon urgent Occasions, and see to the Execution of the Statutes. The Vice-President shall have the same Power in the Absence of the President.
The Treasurer, or his Deputy, shall receive and keep Accounts of all Money due to the Society, and disburse all Money payable by the Society. He shall pay small Sums by Order of the President under his Hand, but those that exceed five Pounds by Order of the Council. All Bills of Charges for Experiments shall first be signed by the Curators. The Accounts of the Treasurer shall be audited four times a Year, by a Committee of the Council, and once a Year by a Committee of the Society.
The Secretaries are to take Notes of the Orders, and material Passages of the Meetings; to take care of the Books, Papers, and Writings of the Society; to order and direct the Clerks in making Entries of all Matters in the Register and Journal Books of the Society or Council; to draw up such Letters as shall be written in their Name, which shall be approved at one of their Meetings; to give notice of the Candidates propounded in order to Election.
The Curators by Office shall have a sufficient Allowance for their Encouragement, which shall increase proportionably with the Revenue of the Society, provided that it exceed not two hundred Pounds a Year. They shall be well skilled in philosophical and mathematical Learning, well vers'd in Observations, Inquiries, and Experiments of Nature and Art. They shall take care of the managing of all Experiments and Observations appointed by the Society or Council, and report the same, and perform such other Tasks, as the Society or Council shall appoint; such as the examining of Sciences, Arts, and Inventions now in use, and the bringing in Histories of natural and artificial things, &c. They shall be propounded at least a Month before they are chosen. They shall be examined by the Council before the Election: To their Election every Member of the Society shall be summoned: They shall at first be only elected for a Year of Probation, except they be of known Merits; at the end of the Year, they shall be either elected for Perpetuity, or for a longer Time of Probation, or wholly rejected. The Causes of ejecting a Curator shall be the same with ejecting a Fellow, or for fraudulent Dealing and Negligence in the Affairs of the Society, provided that he shall first receive three respective Admonitions. If any Curator shall be disabled by Age, Infirmity, or any Casualty, in the Service of the Society, some Provision shall be made for him during Life, if his Condition requires, according as the Council shall think fit.
The Clerk shall constantly attend at all Meetings; he shall follow the Directions of the Secretaries, in registering and entring all Matters that shall be appointed: he shall not communicate any thing contained in their Books, to any that is not a Fellow. He shall have a certain Rate for what he copies, and a yearly Stipend for his Attendance.
The Printer shall take care for the printing of such Books as shall be committed to him by Order of the Society, or Council; and therein he shall observe their Directions, as to the Correction of the Edition, the Number of Copies, the Form, or Volume, &c.
The Operators of the Society, when they have any of their Work under their Hands, shall not undertake the Work of any other Persons, which may hinder the Business of the Society. They shall have Salaries for their Attendance.
The common Seal of the Society shall be kept in a Chestl with three Locks, and three different Keys, by the President, Treasurer, and one of the Secretaries, The Deeds of the Society shall be pass'd in Council, and seal'd by them and the President.
The Books that concern the Affairs of the Society, shall be the Charter Book, Statute Book, Journal Books, Letter Books, and Register Books, for the entring of philosophical Observations, Histories, Discourses, Experiments, Inventions.
The Names of Benefactors shall be honourably mentioned in a Book provided for that purpose.
In case of Death, or Recess of any Fellow, the Secretaries are to note it in the Margin of the Register, over against their Names.
The Causes of Ejection shall be contemptuous Disobedience to the Statutes and Orders of the Society; defaming or malicious damnifying the same. This shall be declared by the President at one of the Meetings; and the Ejection recorded.
When these Statutes were presented to his Majesty, he was pleas'd to superscribe himself their Founder and Patron; his Royal Highness, and his Highness Prince Rupert, at the same time, declaring themselves Fellows. Sect. XXVII.
The King's Example in promoting Experiments.Nor has the King only incourag'd them, by Kindness and Words, and by Acts of State; but he has also provok'd them to unwearied Activity in their Experiments, by the most effectual Means of his Royal Example. There is scarce any one sort of Work, whose Advancement they regard; but from his Majesty's own Labours they have receiv'd a Pattern for their Indeavours about it. They design the multiplying and beautifying of Mechanick Arts: And the Noise of Mechanick Instruments is heard in Whitehall itself, They intend the Perfection of Graving, Statuary, Limning, Coining, and all the Works of Smiths, in Iron, or Steel, or Silver: And the most excellent Artists of these kinds have Provision made for their Practice, even in the Chambers and Galleries of his Court. They purpose the Trial of all manner of Operations by Fire; And the King has under his own Roof found, place for Chymical Operators. They resolve to restore, to enlarge, to examine Physick; and the King has indow'd the College of London with new Privileges, and has planted a Physick Garden under his own Eye. They have bestow'd much Consideration on the propagating of Fruits and Trees: And the King has made Plantations enough, even almost to repair the Ruins of a Civil War. They have begun an exact Survey of the Heavens; and St. James's Park may witness, that Ptolomy and Alphonso were not the only Monarchs, who observ'd the Motions and Appearances of the Stars. They have studied the promoting of Architetture in our Island; and the Beauty of our late Buildings, and the Reformation of his own Houses, do sufficiently manifest his Skill and Inclination to that Art: of which Magnificence, we had seen more Effects e'er this, if they had not been call'd off by this War, from Houses of Convenience, to those of Strength. They have principally consulted the Advancement of Navigation, and the King has been most ready to reward those, that shall discover the Meridian. They have employ'd much Time in examining the Fabrick of Ships, the Forms of their Sails, the Shapes of their Keels, the Sorts of Timber, the planting of Fir, the bettering of Pitch, and Tar, and Tackling. And in all maritime Affairs of this Nature, his Majesty is acknowledg'd to be the best Judge amongst Seamen and Shipwrights, as well as the most powerful amongst Princes.
And the present Genius of our Nation..By these and many other Instances it appears, that the King has not only given Succour to the Royal Society, in the prosecution of their Labours; but has also led them on their Way, and trac'd out to them the Paths, in which they ought to tread. And with this propitious Inclination of his Majesty, and the highest Degrees of Men, the Genius of the Nation itself irresistibly conspires. If we reflect on all the past Times of Learning in our Island; we may still observe some remarkable Accidents, that retarded these Studies, which were still ready to break forth, in spight of all Opposition.
Till the Union of the two Houses of York and Lancaster, the whole Force of our Country was ingag'd in Domestick Wars, between the King and the Nobility, or in the furious Contentions between the divided Families: unless sometimes some magnanimous Prince was able to turn their Strength to foreign Conquests. In King Henry the Seventh the two Roses were join'd: His Government was like his own Temper, close, severe, jealous, avaritious, and withal victorious, and prudent: but how unprepar'd his Time was for new Discoveries, is evident by the slender Account that he made of the Proposition of Columbus. The Reign of King Henry the Eighth was vigorous, haughty, magnificent, expensive, learned: But then the Alteration of Religion began, and that alone was then sufficient to possess the Minds of Men.
The Government of King Edward the Sixth was contentious, by reason of the Factions of those who manag'd his Childhood; and the Shortness of his Life deprived us of the Fruits, that might have been expected from the prodigious Beginnings of the King himself. That of Queen Mary was weak, melancholy, bloody against the Protestants, obscur'd by a foreign Marriage, and unfortunate by the Loss of Calais. That of Queen Elizabeth was long, triumphant, peaceable at home, and glorious abroad. Then it was shewn, to what height the English may rise, when they are commanded by a Prince, who knows how to govern their Hearts as well as Hands. In her Days the Reformation was settled, Commerce was establish'd, and Navigation advanc'd, But though Knowledge began abundantly to spring forth, yet it was not then seasonable for Experiments to receive a publick Incouragement: while the Writings of Antiquity, and the Controversies between us and the Church of Rome, were not fully study'd and dispatch'd.
The Reign of King James was happy in all the Benefits of Peace, and plentfully furnish'd with Men of profound Learning: But in Imitation of the King, they chiefly regarded the Matters of Religion and Disputation; so that even my Lord Bacon, with all his Authority in the State, could never raise any College of Salomon; but in a Romance. That of King Charles the first began indeed to be ripe for such Undertakings, by reason of the Plenty and Felicity of the first Years of his Government, and the Abilities of the King himself; who was not only an inimitable Master, in Reason and Eloquence, but excell'd in very many practical Arts, beyond the usual Custom of Kings, nay even beyond the Skill of the best Artists themselves. But he, alas! was call'd away from the Studies of Quiet and Peace, to a more dangerous and a more honourable Reputation. The chief Triumphs that Heav'n reserv'd for him, were to be gather'd from his suffering Virtues: In them he was only exceeded by the Divine Example of our Saviour; in Imitation of whose Passion, those Afflictions, and those Thorns which the rude Soldiers design'd for his Disgrace and Torment, became his Glory and his Crown.
The late Times of Civil War and Confusion, make Recompence for their infinite Calamities, brought this Advantage with them, that they stir'd up Men's Minds from long Ease, and a lazy Rest, and made them active, industrious and inquisitive: it being the usual Benefit that follows upon Tempests and Thunders in the State, as well as in the Sky, that they purifie and clear the Air, which they disturb. But now since the King's Return, the Blindness of the former Ages, and the Miseries of this last, are vanish'd away: now Men are generally weary of the Relicks of Antiquity, and satiated with Religious Disputes: now not only the Eyes of Men, but their Hands are open and prepar'd to labour: Now there is an universal Desire and Appetite after Knowledge, after the peaceable, the fruitful, the nourishing Knowledge, and not after that of antient Sects, which only yielded hard indigestible Arguments, or sharp Contentions instead of Food; which when the Minds of Men required Bread, gave them only a Stone, and for a Fish a Serpent.
The Subjects about which they have been employ'd.Whatever they have hitherto attempted, on these Principles and Incouragements, it has been carry'd on with a vigorous Spirit, and Wonderful good Fortune, from their first Constitution down to this Day. Yet I overhear the Whispers and Doubts of many, who demand, what they have done all this while? And what they have produc'd, that is answerable to these mighty Hopes, which we indeavour to make the World conceive of their Undertaking?
If those who require this Account, have themselves perform'd any worthy Things, in this Space of Time; it is fit, that we should give them Satisfaction. But they who have done nothing at all, have no reason to upbraid the Royal Society, for not having done as much as they fancy it might. To those therefore who excite it to work by their Examples, as well as Words and Reproofs, methinks it were a sufficient Answer, if I should only repeat the particulars I have already mention'd, wherein the King has set on foot a Reformation, in the Ornaments, and Advantages of our Country. For though the original Praise of all this is to be ascrib'd to the Genius of the King himself; yet it is but just, that some Honour should thence descend to this Assembly, whose Purposes are conformable to his Majesty's Performance of that Nature: Seeing all the little Scandals, that captious Humours have taken against the Royal Society, have not risen from their general Proceedings, but from a few pretended Offences of some of their private Members; it is but reason, that we should alledge in their Commendation, all the excellent Designs, which are begun by the King, who has not only styl'd himself their Founder, but acted as a particular Member of their Company.
To this I will also add, that in this Time, they have pass'd through the first Difficulties of their Charter and Model; and have overcome all Oppositions, which are wont to arise, against the Beginnings of great Things. This certainly alone were enough to free them from all Imputation of Idleness, that they have fram'd such an Assembly in six Years, which was never yet brought about in six thousand. Besides this the World is to consider, that if any shall think, the whole Compass of their Work might have come to a sudden Issue; they seem neither to understand the Intentions of the Royal Society, nor the Extent of their Task. It was never their Aim, to make a violent Dispatch. They know, that Precipitancy in such Matters was the Fault of the Antients: And they have no Mind, to fall into the same Error, which they indeavour to correct. They began at first on so large a Bottom, that it is impossible, the whole Frame should be suddenly compleated. 'Tis true, they that have nothing else to do, but to express, and adorn Conclusions of Knowledge already made, may bring their Arts to an End, as soon as they please: But they who follow the slow and intricate Method of Nature, cannot have the Seasons of their Productions, so much in their own Power, If we would always exact from them daily or weekly Harvests; we should wholly cut off the Occasions of very many excellent Inventions, whose Subjects are remote, and come but seldom under their Consideration. If we would require them, immediately to reduce all their Labours, to publick and conspicuous Use; by this dangerous Speed, we should draw them off from many of the best Foundations of Knowledge. Many of their noblest Discoveries, and such as will hereafter prove most serviceable, cannot instantly be made to turn to Profit. Many of their weightiest and most precious Observations, are not always fit to be exposed to open View: For it is with the greatest Philosophers, as with the richest Merchants, whose Wares of greatest Bulk and Price, lye commonly out of Sight, in their Warehouses, and not in their Shops.
This being premis'd, I will however venture to lay down a brief Draught of their most remarkable Particulars, which may be reduced to these following Heads: The Queries and Directions they have given abroad; the Proposals and Recommendations they have made; the Relations they have received; the Experiments they have tried; the Observations they have taken; the Instruments they have invented; the Theories that have been proposed; the Discourses they have written, or published; the Repository and Library; and the Histories of Nature, and Arts, and Works they have collected.
Their Manner of gathering, and dispersing Queries, is this. First, they require some of their particular Fellows, to examine all Treatises and Descriptions of the Natural and Artificial Productions of those Countries, in which they would be informed. At the same Time, they employ others to discourse with the Seamen, Travellers, Tradesmen, and Merchants, who are likely to give them the best Light. Out of this united Intelligence from Men and Books, they compose a Body of Questions, concerning all of the observable Things of those Places. These Papers being produced in their weekly Assemblies, are augmented, or contracted, as they see Occasion. And then the Fellows themselves are wont to undertake their Distribution into all Quarters, according as they have the Convenience of Correspondence: Of this Kind I will here reckon up some of the principal, whose particular Heads are free to all that shall desire Copies of them for their Direction.
They have composed Queries, and Directions, what Things are needful to be observed, in order to the making of a natural History in general; what are to be taken Notice of towards a perfect History of the Air, and Atmosphere, and Weather; what is to be observed in the Production, Growth, Advancing or Transforming of Vegetables; what Particulars are requisite, for collecting a compleat History of the Agriculture, which is used in several Parts of this Nation.
They have prescribed exact Inquiries, and given punctual Advice for the Trial of Experiments of Rarefaction, Refraction, and Condensation; concerning the Cause and Manner of the Petrifaction of Wood; of the Loadstone; of the Parts of Anatomy, that are yet imperfect; of Injections into the Blood of Animals; and transfusing the Blood of one Animal into another; of Currents; of the ebbing and flowing of the Sea; of the Kinds, and Manner of the feeding of Oysters; of the Wonders, and Curiosities observable in deep Mines.
They have collected, and sent abroad Inquiries for the East-Indies, for China, for St. Helena, for Teneriff, or any high Mountain, for Guinea, for Barbary, and Morocco, for Spain, and Portugal, for Turky, for France, for Italy, for Germany, for Hungary, for Transylvania, for Poland, and Sweden, for Iceland, and Greenland, they have given Directions for Seamen in general, and for observing the Eclipses of the Moon; for observing the Eclipses of the Sun by Mercury, in several Parts of the World, and for observing the Satellites of Jupiter.
Of this their Way of Inquiry, and giving Rules for Direction, I will here produce a few Instances; from whose Exactness it may be guessed, how all the rest are performed.