cause of the success of a manufacture is doubtless to be found in the good quality of the articles, and the economy of their fabrication: but the most intelligent man will feel the germs of his industry languish under his hands, if other protecting causes do not facilitate their expansion. If the consumer were to order none but perfect commodities, the workman would soon turn no other out of his hands. If on the contrary the consumer cannot distinguish a faulty from a faultless production, the artist having no interest to study perfection, will, all his life, be satisfied with turning out crude performances. The consumer, therefore, forms the artist by the purity of his taste, and the correctness of his choice but institutions form the consumer,—and not till a good education, the study of the arts, and the sight of good models have prepared a generation, can we hope to find enlightened consumers.”

If instead of decrying every thing domestic, and praising every thing“ far-fetched and dear-bought,” our fastidious consumers, would profit by the hint of the enlightened Chaptal, and be sedulous to improve their own tastes, and that of the manufacturer, they would soon see the good effects resulting from such a course, in the superiority of American productions.

The foregoing remarks are intended to apply to manufactures; and the correctness of them, as regards a manufacturing nation, will be readily perceived.

But they may with equal propriety be applied to any art. The art of building for instance. Were those who build, to employ none but able and experienced architects and skilful mechanics, we should not have to regret so frequently, as we now do, the instances of bad taste and defective execution, in many of our public and private edifices.

The science of Architecture, although sometimes reckoned as one of the fine arts, and in its higher

and decorative branches, it may perhaps be considered as one of them, is so intimately connected with the useful arts, and employs in the executive department so large a portion of operative mechanics, that I deem it not improper in this connexion, to enlarge upon it.

This science, in our own country, is yet in its infancy; I mean, so far as taste in design is concerned. It has not yet arrived at that degree of perfection to which it has attained in the older nations of Europe.

Having as yet no regular schools of art, our architects, on whom much depends, have with few exceptions never received a professional education : they have not acquired that thorough knowledge of the exact sciences, and that cultivated taste which is thought necessary to qualify a man for an architect in Europe. They have been mostly those who, in early life, were devoted to a mechanical profession. Their youth, the season for intellectual improvement, has been spent in manual labour; and for the want of scientific institutions in our country, and books of instruction, they have never been able in after life to obtain that accurate knowledge of the principles of design and construction, so necessary to be acquired by those who are employed to furnish plans for, and to superintend the erection of important public edifices.

How often do we in travelling our country, witness, instead of that beauty which is caused in part by fitness,* a strange mixture of styles ;—a profuseness of ornament, without meaning or application :mere cuttings of the chisel and the gouge.

The authors of some of the uncouth designs which our country presents, remind one of the painter mentioned by Pope,t

[blocks in formation]

the meridian of London, are so pertinent to this part of my subject, that I veuture to repeat them.

“ The moral good, which results from the acquisition of knowledge, is chiefly this,—that by multiplying the mental resources, it has a tendency to exalt the character,—and, in some measure, to correct and subdue the taste for gross sensuality. It enables the possessor to beguile his leisure moments (and every man has such) in an innocent, at least, if not in a useful manner. The poor man who can read, and who possesses a taste for reading, can find entertainment at home; without being tempted to repair to the ale-house for that purpose.

“His mind can find employment when his body is at rest; he does not lie prostrate and afloat on the current of incidents, liable to be carried whithersoever the impulse of appetite may direct. In the mind of such a man there is an intellectual spring, urging him to the pursuit of mental good; and if the minds of his family are also a little cultivated, his conversation becomes the more interesting, and the sphere of his domestic enjoyment is enlarged ; the pleasures which lie open to him at the gates of knowledge, put him in a disposition to relish more exquisitely, the tranquil delights inseparable from the indulgence of conjugal and parental affection : thus he becomes more respectable in the eyes of his family, than he who can teach them nothing : he will be naturally induced to cultivate whatever may preserve, and to shun whatever may impair that respect. Inured to reflection, he will thus carry his views beyond the present hour; he will extend his prospects a little into futurity, and be disposed to make some provision for his approaching wants, whence will result an increased motive to industry, together with a care to husband his earnings and to avoid unnecessary expense. The poor man, who has gained a taste for good books, will, in all likelihood, become

While so much depends upon the talent and skill of the architect, it is obvious that no considerations of a pecuniary nature, should deprive the man of genius of a liberal compensation for his services. While our rich capitalists are on their guard against the visionary projects of greedy speculators, and architectural quacks,-let them patronize the man of science, and the skilful workman.

Not only may the rich capitalist show his regard for the arts by rewarding talent; but the mechanic, who labours in the subordinate departments of the arts, has it in his power, by supporting with zeal and fidelity the man of genius whose designs he carries into effect, to render an important service to the community and the arts. The operative mechanic is to the architect, what soldiers are to the commander of an army : without able and faithful workmen, the best devised plans may fail of success, or be imperfectly executed.

It may be thought that the study of architecture is of little use to any but those who are immediately coneerned in building; but this is an erroneous idea ; there is scarcely a profession, in which it is not directly or indirectly of importance. The knowledge of its proportions and ornaments has given to many articles, manufactured in Great Britain, a decided superiority over those of other nations less conversant with the science. The proper application of its ornaments, aided by the science of chemistry, enabled Mr. Wedgewood to carry on the porcelain manufacture, to a degree of perfection and elegance, till then unknown in Europe, affording sufficient proof of the utility of this art, in professions apparently unconnected with it. The smith, the cabinet maker, the turner, the founder, and in short every workman whose business it is to give form to rude materials, will find it highly advantageous to devote a portion of his time to the study of this sublime and useful art.

free schools established among us, are undoubtedly superior to those generally enjoyed by the European mechanic. But for obtaining a knowledge of scientific principles, the more advanced state of the arts, the greater number of scientific teachers, and the facility and cheapness with which scientific books and apparatus can be procured, must give to the European, advantages greater than we can, at present, be presumed to possess.

In the principal cities of Great Britain, the Mechanics have recently directed their attention towards the instruction of the working classes in the principles of mechanical science by means of “ Mechanical institutions," at which lectures have been given on all subjects connected with the mechanic arts. These lectures have been delivered by professors of ability, selected and paid by the mechanics themselves; and have been numerously attended. Some notice of the rise and progress of these institutions, may not be improper on this occasion.

The first scientific institution established in Great Britain, by the mechanics themselves, was in the city of Glasgow. An institution had been founded, many years previously, by the will of Professor Anderson, and bearing his name, for the purpose of instructing the middle and lower classes of the people on scientific subjects. By paying a small fee, persons were admitted to hear lectures ; illustrated when necessary, by experiments on most branches of science. There was a library, several models, a variety of apparatus, and a museum connected with the establishment. No branch of the “ Andersonian Institution, however, was exclusively devoted to the instruction of mechanics, in those branches of knowledge, which are of especial use to their professional pursuits, till the year 1800, when Dr. George Birkbeck, a respectable physician, and man of science, commenced gratuitously a series of lectures on mechanical philosophy and chemistry.

« ElőzőTovább »