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is sometimes made at the same time, by those who could have had no possible communication with each other. But after every explanation that can be made, we fear there is no denying the charge, that he was quite willing to “gather where he had not strewed”; a strange and suicidal propensity, unaccountable in one whose own merits were so distinguished, and which, after a moment's poor gratification of vanity, must evidently lead to a most unenviable fame.
Such was his activity of mind, that he was constantly turning aside from his chosen path of science, 10 engage in what is now the province of the civil engineer. After writing on the best means of supplying Paris with water, he entered into an examination of Stahl's theory, which was, that the union of phlogiston with the bases of the metals was the cause of their ductility and lustre, and that the evolution of that substance was the cause of their becoming earths or calces. From various experiments, he came to the conclusion, that the union of air with the metal was the cause of calcination, a valuable discovery, and fatal, of course, to Stahl's theory, though it did not proceed so far as to ascertain what gas was thus absorbed, which ought to have led him to a knowledge of the composition of atmospheric air. This and the discovery of oxygen, two years after, laid the foundation of Priestley's fame. But Lavoisier did claim to have been acquainted with oxygen ; if so, he kept it to himself in a manner not common in the scientific world; for Priestley's discovery must have been known to him in 1774, and in the many papers which he published between 1772 and 1780, no allusion is made to any similar claim of his own. But in 1782, somewhat late in the day, it suddenly dawned upon his memory that he had made the same discovery about the same time with Priestley ; not stating that the way in which he discovered it was by communication from Priestley himself, who was very indifferent as to this kind of credit, and, contenting himself with his successes, did not care who appropriated the fame.
The discovery of the composition of water afforded another temptation to Lavoisier to claim a share of the renown which belonged to others. Mr. Watt had arrived at the suggestion that water was not a simple element ; Mr. Cavendish had performed those experiments by which the fact was clearly established. In 1783, Sir Charles Blagden visited Paris, and, as he himself declares, gave an account of Cavendish's experiments to a company where Lavoisier was present, and evidently very much to the surprise of the French chemist, who could not be convinced, except by a trial, that two gases could be converted into water. But afterwards it seems that he had forgotten his surprise on that occasion, and believed himself to have been all the while familiar with the great fact which was so new to all the rest of the world. So, too, in his papers on the subject of the gases and the nature of heat, Lavoisier contrives to avoid all mention of Black, the unquestionable discoverer of latent heat, who had lectured on the subject for years ; and he leaves on the minds of readers who did not know better the impression that all these triumphs of science were his own. At the same time that he was carefully suppressing all mention of Dr. Black's name, he wrote some flattering letters to the great Scotch chemist, in which he professed great admiration for his talents, and a desire to be an humble disciple of such a master. Dr. Black was surprised at this course of conduct, and treated the verbal homage that was thus paid him with very little regard; but in his lectures, as Lord Brougham, who was one of his audience, testifies, he spoke with the greatest respect of the scientific character of Lavoisier, and of his
his powers of generalization with particular admiration, cheerfully admitting him to a share in the great discovery of the composition of water, and never intimating a complaint of the injurious course of conduct toward him which there was no denying that Lavoisier had pursued.
It is a relief to turn from these defacing stains on so great a name to other passages of his history, which can be remembered with entire satisfaction. Besides bis geological attempts already mentioned, which have lost all their interest in the wonderful disclosures afterwards made in that branch of science, he took some part, as has been usual in France, in public affairs ; not, however, as a politician, but simply to aid the government in any department where his service was required. At the instance of Turgot, he made great improvements in the manufacture of gunpowder, which, to be sure, is but a doubtful blessing to the human race ; in order to amend the system of taxation, he made a most valuable report on the wealth and productions of the country ; being appointed a commissioner of the treasury, he introduced clear daylight into a dark and complicated system ; in fact, there was no reform or improvement which the government attempted to make, without asking the aid and feeling the value of his great and various ability. In private life, he engaged in experimental farming, extending to the peasantry on his estate a kind and generous care ; while his rich house in Paris was always open to strangers, and young men of straitened means were sure of finding a liberal and courteous friend. But when the Revolution came, with its wild excesses, the eminence which his talents and virtues gave him exposed him to the jealousy and hatred of the wretches who were thrown up into power. That strange frenzy swept away the boundary which had formerly seemed to separate the races of man and devil, and for a time seemed to establish the identity of the two. The charge against him was that of having used pernicious articles in the adulteration of tobacco; but as his wealth was his real crime, it was evident that his doom was sealed. Hearing of the order for his arrest, he succeeded in escaping ; but searing lest bis escape might be injurious to some of his friends, with singular generosity he returned to prison with the rest. By a retrospective law, he was condemned for treason. M. Hallé had the courage to read a defence before that villanous Revolutionay Tribunal, in which he recounted Lavoisier's discoveries and services; but though Carnot and Fourcroy, who knew how to appreciate his worth better than the brutes with whom they were associated, were members of the Tribunal, and might have interposed without danger to themselves, not another voice rose up in his favor in all that wilderness of sin.
Thus Lavoisier perished, in the fifty-first year of his age, bis miserable fate covering his country with disgrace, as bis talents had thrown more glory upon it than a million of successful wars.
When sentenced to die, he requested a short reprieve to finish some experiments which he was then conducting in the prison ; but his request was refused, as might have been expected from those with whom he had to do. His widow, a woman of unusual talent and information, survived him, and afterwards married Count Rumford, whom she also oullived. Such was the recompense of one who greatly extended the bounds of his favorite science, and to whom it owes some of its most important discoveries. He relieved it from the bondage of prejudice and error that weighed it
down for a long time; he stood almost alone in his country, maintaining those truths which few beside him had sagacity to understand, but which are now universally received and acknowledged by all the civilized world.
With one of those tremendous strides, which remind us of the expression "sic itur ad astra," Lord Brougham passes to the Englishman Gibbon, if English he may be called, who prided himself on writing French like a native, and whose joy it was to spend so many of his days at a distance from his own land. Gibbon was one of those who have lightened the labor of biographers by giving some sketch of his own life and mind. There is some danger of partiality in these accounts, and they cannot always be implicitly trusted; not from any disposition to mislead on the part of the writers, but from that over-exaltation with which poor human nature contemplates its own perfections, and the Christian tenderness which it extends to its own sins. Still, it is interesting to see how such men stood with themselves, and their self-estimation, whether high or low, is always one of the chief elements from which an estimate of character is made up. In the case of Gibbon, there was no struggle with difficult circumstances, no various adventure, nothing of that incident which gives life to the story. Though not rich, he was well provided for; he had the full command of his time and motions; he had the most desirable social resources at all times within his reach. But with that spirit which seems inseparable from the human heart, we find him lamenting that he had not embraced the lucrative profession of law or trade, or even "the fat slumbers of the church," though it is not probable that he would have succeeded in either of the former; and as to "fat slumbers," we imagine it would have been difficult to find the happy individual who enjoyed more of them in life than he. The health of the great historian was very delicate in his childhood, and he therefore did not enjoy the advantage of much discipline or instruction. Fortunately for him, he was under the care of an aunt, a woman of good taste and judgment, who directed his inclination for reading, which was very strong, and which turned itself most passionately to history, the natural resource of the young reader in that day, when a swarm of novels as worthless as the writers of them had not yet come up into every corner of people's houses, forming one of the chief pests of the age. He
read such works, however, more thoroughly than is common with the young. For example, when engaged with Howell's History of the World, he studied the geography of the Byzantine period, which was contained in the volume that fell into his hands, examining also the chronological systems which had reference to the subject ; thus unconsciously preparing for the work which he was afterwards to do. He was hardly fifteen when he entered the University of Oxford, place which has a great and venerable name, but which, according to Gibbon and Adam Smith, offered greater advantages to winebibbers and sinners than to those who wanted education without maturity of mind or force of character to work it out for themselves. The result with him was, that he had read three or four plays of Terence after fourteen months' instruction ; his habits were irregular and expensive; no care was given to his religious and moral instruction. Under the influence of a friend who had become a Catholic, he was converted to that form of Christianity, much to the annoyance of his father, whose notions on the subject were not the most enlarged, and who could devise no better way to reclaim him than to put him under the influence of Mallet, the poet, whose chief accomplishment for the trust appears to have been, that he had no regard for Christianity whatever, as if a person could be reclaimed from what was thought excess on one side, by the winning exhibition of far coarser excess on the other.
Finding that this beautiful experiment did not succeed, his father sent him to Lausanne, where he was put under the care of a pious and sensible Protestant divine, who soon gained an influence with him and brought him back from the Roman fold, which was not then beset with converts, as it is in the present day. The probability is, that there was no depth in his feeling on either side ; and it may have been because he found himself so cheered and welcomed on these several occasions, and was so complimented for his religious principles and feelings when he was not conscious of having any, that he afterwards held Christianity in so very light esteem. Meantime, he was faithfully and diligently employed in study, paying attention not only to French literature, with which he was familiar, but securing those treasures of classical learning which he afterwards used to so great advantage. The monotony of his retired life was varied by an aflair of the