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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1833,
By SAMUEL WHITCOMB, JR. in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
The advancement of civilization, by the cultivation of letters, science, and the arts, is held to be among the noblest objects of human exertion. To improve the moral character, develope the faculties, and cultivate the mental and physical powers, is justly deemed the best method of fitting mankind for usefulness and happiness.
But it has been maintained that high attainments in scientific and mechanical culture require a monopoly of wealth, and of leisure, by a class of individuals, enabling them to direct their thoughts and efforts exclusively to these objects. That a few, who have a superabundance of wealth, are better able, and
generally more willing to encourage the arts, than numbers who have only a competency. And, that the development of genius, taste and talent, the cultivation of letters and refinement, is better secured in those communities where society is divided into widely differing castes and classes, and where property is so unequally distributed, as to insure to the few a control over the labors and earnings of the multitude. This hypothesis is urged in support of monarchical and aristocratical systems of government; in defence of the institution and perpetuation of slavery; and in behalf of that unequal classification of society which still prevails in the most of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and which is becoming extended and established in these United States of America.
In examining this hypothesis, and attempting to ascertain whether a condition of society which is based on principles of equality and republicanism, be not equally conducive to the highest possible attainments in every species of human improvement, I shall subject this theory to the test of reason and of history; and shall have occasion to refer to the origin of some of the arts and sciences, at a period of remote antiquity ; to contemplate their progress under the influence of various institutions; and to contrast the extravagance and uselessness of the works of pagan despotism, with the simplicity, good taste, and utility of the productions of communities whose institutions have been founded in a humane moral code, and administered in a spirit of equity and benevolence.
Several of the sciences, and many of the arts, appear to have been originated at a period beyond the reach of history. The first principles of astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic; picturewriting, hieroglyphics, or letters ; architecture, sculpture, and the manufacture of the metals; were understood and cultivated, in parts of Asia and in Egypt, at the remotest period of which we have any account. The earliest records of human invention, though scanty and imperfect, are contained in the historical books of the Old Testament. From these it would appear, that many of the most essential, and some of the ornamental arts, were invented before the organization of regular governments.
The Mosaic history of Adam and his immediate descendants, not only implies this, by referring to their respective employments, before civil governments of any kind are alluded to, in a manner that supposes the existence and use of tools — but distinctly specifies the mechanical genius of several of the progenitors of the antediluvian nations. Thus the sons of Lamech are signalized in the 4th of Genesis one, as the father of all such as have cattle ; ' another, as the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ.' And yet another is designated as an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.'
And, after the deluge, long before the world had trembled at the power, or admired the grandeur of Greece and Rome, the inhabitants of Egypt and Phenecia had attained a knowledge and skill in various mechanical pursuits of the highest importance to human existence. The land of Canaan, before its conquest by