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study the laws of nature, and begin to understand about our own ignorance, we find light breaking through, the horizon expanding, and self getting smaller and smaller.
It is like climbing a mountain: every fact or fresh discovery is a step upward with an enlargement of the view, until the unknown and the mysterious become boundless-self infinitely small; and then the conviction comes upon us with a mighty force, that we know nothing-that human knowledge is only a longing desire.
The impression is very common, that when a young man leaves college he has finished his education; but do not, when you return home, crowned with the honours of these schools though you be, give in to this notion even for a moment; it is another of those mischievous popular fallacies that you should guard against. Here you have been disciplining the mind, training the thoughts, and laying off the fields in which they may be usefully employed. You have finished nothing here; you have only been clearing away rubbish and preparing the foundations; and notwithstanding that you have been under the eyes of the best masters, and have laid your foundations of the best materials and in the most scholarly manner, yet, like the foundations for any other superstructure, unless built upon, they will soon grow weak and be frittered away.
If you cease to study now, you will soon forget all you have learned here.
Movement, progress, is a law of the physical world; here rest and decay are correlative terms. The stars cannot stand still and keep their places; a planet by going back would be hurled into destruction, and even the plant of the earth that ceases to grow straightway withers and dies. And so it is in the moral world: the progress of man must be upward and onward, or downward and backward. His mind cannot stand still. There is no such thing as a stationary condition for the human understanding. To stand still is death; to go backwards is worse.
With the advantages of the good training which you have received here, you cannot go amiss for subjects of study and improvement. The rock at your feet, the plant in every walk you tread, the air that surrounds you, the insect that flits across your path, the stars that look down upon you, are all
suggestive of knowledge. They abound in subjects which it is good for clear heads and sound minds to study and investigate.
When the Spirit of God first moved on the face of the waters, the physical forces that produce the works of nature were brought into play. The wonders, the harmonies, and the beauties of creation are but the display of these forces. As exhibited in the aspects of nature, they are never-ceasingly instructive. In the silent hours of the night you may learn excellent lessons from them by watching the "hosts of heaven." I sometimes do this through the telescope; and of all the wonders and beauties that are revealed by this instrument, the simple passage of a star across the meridian is to me the most grand and imposing; it is exquisite-it is sublime! At the dead of night, when the noise of the city is hushed in sleep, and all is still, I sometimes go over alone to the Observatory to revel in this glorious spectacle. The assistants, wearied with watching, have retired to rest, and there is not a sound to be heard in the building save the dead-beat escapement of the clock, telling the footsteps of time in his ceaseless round. I take up the ephemeris, and find, by calculation made years ago, that a star which I have never seen will, when the hand of that clock points to a certain instant of time, enter the field of the telescope, flit across the meridian, and disappear. The instrument is set, and as the moment draws near, the stillness becomes more and more impressive. At last I look-it is glorious! A pure bright star is marching through the field to the music of the spheres; and at the very instant predicted, even to the fraction of a second, it stalks across the wire and is gone. The song that was sung by the morning stars has been felt, and the heart, swelling with emotions too deep for the organs of speech, almost bursts with the unutterable anthem.
The machinery by which the forces of the universe are regulated and controlled is exquisite; and if it be instructive to study the mechanism of a watch, or profitable to understand the principles of the steam-engine, the contrivances of man's puny intellect, how much more profitable and instructive must it be to look upon the broad face of nature and study that machinery which was planned and arranged in the perfection. of wisdom.
If you be at first a little sceptical as to this order and arrangement, taking the harmonies of nature for discord, you will soon feel satisfied that the machinery of the universe -that mechanism which gives nature her powers to act-is, in all its parts, the expression of one thought, as much so as the works of a watch are of one design; that the same hand which weighed the earth and gave gravitation its force, adjusted the fibres of the little snow-drop and proportioned their strength.
The forces displayed in the blade of grass, in the wing of the bird, and in the flaming path of the comet as it whirls around the sun, are all adjusted with equal nicety and care. Chance has nothing to do with the works of nature; yet there are many of her operations which, upon partial study only, do look like the results of accident. Botanists tell us of some: they say that certain plants have not the power of scattering their pollen-it is glutinous, and will not fly with the windbut as the insects come to suck the flower it adheres to them; they, lighting on other blossoms, deposit it there in the right place for germination; nay, students of these things go so far as to say that the fig-crop of Smyrna, which alone supports thousands of human beings, could not be brought forth if a certain little insect were to fail, regularly and at the right time, to perform certain offices for this plant. But are not insects. as well as plants agents and instruments of the Creator? Have they not their appointed offices to perform in the economy of the universe? And has the insect any more ability to resist the power of instinct than a good seed in good ground has to resist the forces of germination?
In studying the works of nature, therefore, discard the idea that they are the results of chance or accident. In the mind of the truth-loving, knowledge-seeking student, the coming of the gall-fly in due season to minister to the fig-tree of Smyrna and make it bear fruit for hungry thousands, is no more the work of chance than it was by chance that the raven carried "bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, to the prophet at the brook."
REPLY TO THE RUSSIAN OFFER
RICHMOND, VA., October 29th, 1861.
ADMIRAL:-Your letter reached me only a few days ago; it filled me with emotion. In it I am offered the hospitalities of a great and powerful Empire, with the Grand Admiral of its fleets for patron and friend. Inducements are held out such as none but the most magnanimous of princes could offer, and such as nothing but a stern sense of duty may withstand.
A home in the bosom of my family on the banks of the Neva, where, in the midst of books and surrounded by friends, I am without care for the morrow, to have the most princely means and facilities for prosecuting those studies, and continuing those philosophical labours in which I take most delight: all the advantages that I enjoyed in Washington are, with a larger discretion, to be offered me in Russia.
Surely a more flattering invitation could not be uttered! Certainly it could not reach a more grateful heart. I have slept upon it. It is becoming that I should be candid, and in a few words frankly state the circumstances by which I find myself surrounded.
The State of Virginia gave me birth; within her borders, among many kind friends, the nearest of kin, and troops of excellent neighbours, my children are planting their vine and fig-tree. In her green bosom are the graves of my fathers; the political whirlpool from which your kind forethought sought to rescue me has already plunged her into a fierce and bloody
In 1788, when this State accepted the Federal Constitution and entered the American Union, she did so with the formal declaration that she reserved to herself the right to withdraw from it for cause, and resume those powers and attributes of sovereignty which she had never ceded away, but only delegated for certain definite and specified purposes.
When the President-elect commenced to set at naught the very objects of the Constitution, and without authority
of law proceeded to issue his proclamation of 15th April last,* Virginia, in the exercise of that reserved right, decided that the time had come when her safety, her dignity, and honour required her to resume those "delegated" powers and withdraw from the Union. She did so; she then straightway called upon her sons in the Federal Service to retire therefrom and come to her aid.
This call found me in the midst of those quiet physical researches at the Observatory in Washington which I am now, with so much delicacy of thought and goodness of heart, invited to resume in Russia. Having been brought up in the School of States-rights, where we had for masters the greatest statesmen of America, and among them Mr. Madison, the wisest of them all, I could not, and did not hesitate; I recognised this call, considered it mandatory, and, formally renouncing all allegiance to the broken Union, hastened over to the South side of the Potomac, there to renew to Fatherland those vows of fealty, service, and devotion which the State of Virginia had permitted me to pledge to the Federal Union so long only as by serving it, I might serve her.
Thus my sword has been tendered to her cause, and the tender has been accepted. Her soil is invaded, the enemy is actually at her gates; and here I am contending, as the fathers of the Republic did, for the right of self-government, and those very principles for the maintenance of which Washington fought when this, his native State, was a colony of Great Britain. The path of duty and of honour is therefore plain.
By following it with the devotion and loyalty of a true sailor, I shall, I am persuaded, have the glorious and proud recompense that is contained in the "well done" of the Grand Admiral of Russia and his noble companions-in-arms.
When the invader is expelled, and as soon thereafter as the State will grant me leave, I promise myself the pleasure of a trip across the Atlantic, and shall hasten to Russia, that I may there in person, on the banks of the Neva, have the honour and the pleasure of expressing to her Grand Admiral the sentiments of respect and esteem with which his oft-re
*Calling on Virginia to furnish 75,000 troops to force South Carolina back into the Union.