Page images
PDF
EPUB

replaced by the borrowed beam from human intelligence. * Now, it is easy to perceive, that something of the same kind may be traced in our own species, so wonderfully does the analogy run between man ard the brute, in this case as in many others. For we observe a similar effect to that above stated on comparing the lofty independence of the native Indian, exulting in a life of freedom, and enjoying his natural powers in full perfection, with the opposite extreme, in which a high state of civilization and of civil liberty call forth the exercise of the rational powers in the improvement of art and science: while in that intermediate state,-the deplorable condition of slavery and oppression, under which so many thousands of our fellow creatures groan,-a listless torpor is manifest, which affords neither exercise to the natural senses or instincts, nor scope for the developement of reason, And it cannot but be interesting to notice, how mankind and the brutes, respectively, afford striking examples, according to the situations in which they are accidentally thrown, either of the rude and hardy instructions of nature on the one hand, or of the higher but enfeebling cultivation of art on the other; participating as it were in the advantages and disadvantages of each state, as if to a certain extent they were compounded of the same elements. But we need not be alarmed at this partial resemblance, while we consider that in one important

See a similar remark in "Instinct Displayed," by P. Wakefield, Letter 34,

light they will bear no comparison. For, so long as man is conscious of his Maker, and the brute unconscious, so long in point of abstract relation to the eternal source of Wisdom and Goodness, must the most intelligent brute be placed on equality with the plant or stone. And when we trace the relations of man in some striking analogies with the lower animals, we only trace his affinity to the earth out of which he was formed, in earthly affections and desires. But when we contemplate his mind, soaring into infinity, seeking to comprehend what is at present incomprehensible, taking a glimpse into the world of spirits, and looking forward into futurity with a curiosity unceasing and unsatisfied, we trace at once his relation to another state of being, and discover that he is animated by a spark of divine intelligence.

To return to the train of reasoning, we may observe the degradation of the natural instincts to which I have alluded, in kine, sheep, goats, fowls, &c. when domesticated. In horses and dogs, too, these original instincts are much diminished; but in the latter, a compensation, as I before remarked, is provided in the borrowed light of reason. It is not to feed upon them, but to make their strength, their diligence, their sagacity and attachment subservient to our own wants, that we tame and teach these faithful animals. But this is not the case with the other class, which we merely protect and fatten without expecting from them any services like those of the dog or horse; services that require a recollection of the past, antici

pation of the future, and the exercise of those powers which do not, like instinct, operate uniformly, and therefore are allied to human reason, or as an able writer expresses it, "are a kind of borrowed light from the rational powers of the thinking and governing nature."

In a wild state, kine for instance, possess an acuteness, both of sight and smell, and a spirit and fierceness in defending their young, which disappear when, by domestication, we have reduced them to a condition in which the former of these qualities would be of no value, and the latter dangerous to themselves and others. In their wild state, they distinguish by the smell, the grass where the footsteps of man are to be traced, with symptoms of peculiar agitation, as of rage and horror.

The beaver in his native state is superior to most other animals in forethought and something like intelligence. He is politic, vigilant, and social, labouring incessantly for the public good. He is not only most industrious, but most versatile in the modes of his industry. He is neither discouraged by difficulties, nor exhausted by toil. He sees the labour of years swept away by the floods, and instantly begins, with renewed activity, to repeat the same labours.

But in a state of captivity what a change! No creature can then appear more awkward and less adapted to serve or please. His fine instinct is degraded or perverted. The only distinction it shows its master, is not biting him. From its habits of

ceaseless industry, it works, except in the depth of winter, the whole night long. For when wild, it collects food in the day; and cuts and drags wood in the night; but, when tamed, which can only be done by taking it when very young, it is necessary on account of its restlessness to leave it out in the yard. There it employs itself the whole night, in carrying fire-wood from the pile, and blocking up the door with it so that when the family rise in the morning, they find themselves barricadoed with a quantity of wood, that takes no small time to remove.*

:

But although the beaver is so useless in a state of captivity, yet we know not if the necessities of man required his education, to what important purposes his industry might be made subservient. It is clear, however, that he loses, or omits to exercise, his original instincts, because they are not needed; and he is not trained to useful habits, because man does not know how to employ them to advantage. If, however we take an individual of our own species, who may have advanced to superior skill in any art, from 'the field of his labour, and place him in a new situation where he cannot exercise it, how ignorant do we often find him, and how awkward in the concerns of life! This is the case even in men whose minds are well imbued with speculative knowledge; that they are as ignorant of many things obvious to the unlettered, as if they had had no experience of the

* See the letter above quoted, from which some of the preceding observations are taken,

world: so that, proficiency in one department does not render a person equally qualified to succeed in another; and the necessities of brutes oblige them, more than those of man, to concentrate their powers on a particular object.

We have spoken of the degradation of kine when domesticated; but we find that a surprising sagacity is developed by education in some countries, highly useful to their possessors. Thus, the bunched oxen of the Hottentots, not only submit to all kinds of domestic labour, but they become favourite domestics, and companions in amusements; and they participate in the habitation and table of their masters. As their nature is improved by the gentleness of their education, and the kind treatment they receive, they acquire sensibility and intelligence, and perform actions which we would not expect from them. The Hottentots train their oxen to war. In all their armies there are considerable troops of these oxen, which are easily governed, and are let loose by the chief when a proper opportunity occurs. They instantly dart with impetuosity upon the enemy. They strike with their horns, kick, overturn and trample under their feet every thing that opposes their fury. They run ferociously into the ranks, which they soon put into disorder, and thus pave the way for an easy victory to their masters.

They are also instructed to guard the flocks; which they conduct with dexterity, and defend them from the attacks of strangers and of rapacious animals.

« PreviousContinue »