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chick; though there are many other birds that show an infinitely greater sagacity in all the forementioned particulars.
"But at the same time, the hen, that has all this seeming ingenuity, which is indeed absolutely necessary for the propagation of the species, considered in other respects, is without the least glimmerings of thought or common sense. She mistakes a piece of chalk for an egg, and sits upon it in the same manner; she is insensible of any increase or diminution in the number of those she lays; she does not distinguish between her own and those of another species; and when the birth appears of never so different a bird, will cherish it for her own. In all these circumstances, which do not carry an immediate regard to the subsistence of herself or species, she is a very idiot,"
With reference to such examples of pure instinct, Addison says, that there is not, in his opinion, "any thing more mysterious in nature than this instinct in animals, which thus rises above reason, and falls infinitely short of it." And he seems to consider it "the immediate direction of Providence, and such an operation of the Supreme Being, as that which determines all the portions of matter to their proper centre." A modern philosopher, quoted by Bayle in his learned Dissertation on the souls of Brutes, delivers the same opinion, though in a bolder form of words, where he says, Deus est anima brutorum,' God himself is the soul of brutes.”
"For my own part," he concludes, “I look upon Instinct as upon the principle of gravitation in bodies, which is not to be explained by any known qualities, inherent in the bodies themselves, nor from any laws of mechanism, but, according to the best notions of the greatest philosophers, is an immediate impression from the first Mover, and the divine energy acting in the creatures."
Of Instinct in Animals in their choice of Food.
In a sketch like the present, it cannot but be interesting to the lover of truth, to see and compare together the opinions of different eminent writers, espe cially when they coincide. I shall therefore have recourse to them as often and use them as freely, as may appear necessary; because they will afford me, if not more solid, at least more satisfactory grounds, than my own limited observations could do, for the subsequent reasonings which I shall build upon them. Hence I shall consider them as facts not only well attested, but as grave authorities to which I shall ap peal, in drawing some conclusions that do not appear to have suggested themselves to the writers in question.
* Spectator, vol. ii. No. 120.
If we would take another view of the wonderful manner in which pure instinct operates, we may turn our attention to the choice which different animals make of plants for food, prior to all experience,— plants which are poisonous to other animals; avoiding whatever is noxious or unwholesome to themselves.
Smellie remarks that there is hardly a plant that is not rejected as food by some animals, and ardently desired by others. The horse yields the common water hemlock to the goat, and the cow the longleafed water hemlock to the sheep. The goat, again, leaves the aconite, or wolf's bane, to the horse. The euphorbia, or spurge, so noxious to man, is greedily devoured by some of the insect tribes.* The Indian buceros feeds to excess on the colubrina, or nux vomica, used in this country as a poison for rats; and the land crab on the berries of the hippomane, or manchineel tree. The leaves of the broad-leafed kalmia are feasted upon by the deer, and the roundhorned elk, but are mortally poisonous to sheep, to horned cattle, to horses, and to man. The bee extracts honey without injury from the flower of this plant, but the man who partakes of that honey, after it is deposited in the hive-cells, falls a victim to his repast. In the autumn and winter of the year 1790, at Philadelphia, extensive mortality was occasioned among those who had eaten of the honey collected in the neighbourhood of that city, or had feasted on the common American pheasant, or pinnated grous, as
* Smellie, vol. i, p. 350.
we call it. The attention of the American government was excited by the general distress; a minute examination into the cause of the mortality ensued ; and it was satisfactorily shewn that the honey had been chiefly extracted from the flowers of the kalmia latifolia, and that the pheasants which had proved thus poisonous, had fed harmlessly on its leaves. The consequence was, that a public proclamation was issued, prohibiting the use of the pheasant as a food for that season.*
Dampier, in his travels, tells us, that when seamen are thrown upon any of the unknown coasts of America, they never venture upon the fruit of any tree, how tempting soever it may appear, unless they observe that it is marked with the pecking of birds; but fall on without any fear or apprehension where the birds have been before them.t
But as what nourishes birds may be injurious to man, this cannot always be a safe guide.
The following passage from St. Pierre conveys an interesting illustration of the same subject in his own animated style, and concludes with a simple and happy allusion to the varied working of that power, which is ever performing its wonders in the creation.
"The sluggish cow pastures in the cavity of the valley; the bounding sheep on the declivity of the hill; the scrambling goat browses among the shrubs of the rock; the duck feeds on the water plants of the river; the hen, with attentive eye, picks up every
Oration by Dr. Mason Good, p. 24. + Spectator, vol. ii,
grain that is lost in the field: the pigeon, on rapid wing, collects a similar tribute from the refuse of the grove; and the frugal bee turns to account even the small dust on the flower; there is no part of the earth where the whole vegetable crop may not be reaped. Those plants which are rejected by one, are a delicacy to another; and even among the finny tribes contribute to their fatness. The hog devours the horse-tail and henbane; the goat the thistle and the hemlock. All return in the evening to the habitation of man, with murmurs, with bleatings, with cries of joy, bringing back to him the delicious tribute of innumerable plants, transformed by a process the most inconceivable, into honey, milk, butter, eggs, and
Of the adaptation of Structure to Climate, &c.
The nice adaptation of their instincts to the situation in which different animals are placed, is itself a sign of superior wisdom and power, operating in them for their well-being.
Thus the animals of the torrid zone, as the monkey, the elephant, and the rhinoceros, feed upon vegetables that grow in hot countries, and therefore in these they have their allotted, bounds. The rein-deer is fixed in the coldest part of Lapland, because its