which open new views of this curious subject, and are adapted to carry our knowledge of it several steps farther toward the true theory of this remarkable phenomenon.

M. VÁN SWINDEN, during the space of eight years, has observed above 200 of these meteors, composed accurate and circumstantial descriptions of each, compared them with the motions of the magnetic needle, the different states and modifications of the atmosphere, and with the observations of the same phenomenon, made, during the same period, in other places, by learned men, whose accounts he has collected with care. This colletion of his own observations and reasonings, and those of other eminent men, relative to the Aurora Borealis, he has resolved to communicate to the Public; and as the treatise of M. de MAIRAN contains the theory, the principles, the combinations, and details, that must be the basis of all welldirected researches on the subject in question, our ingenious Profeffor proposes to employ his materials in such a manner, that they will serve as a Supplement to the excellent work of the French Philofopher.

M. DE MAIRAN's work contains two parts. ift, The Historical and Physical—and 2dly, The Systematic. The former is the principal object of M. VAN SWINDEN's illustrations and researches :—the latter he means only to treat occasionally, as M. de MAIRAN has pretty nearly said all that can possibly be offered for the illustration and support of his system. The Zodiacal Light, and the Aurora Borealis, are the two important objects that compose the physical part of his work; the first of these he treats mathematically, astronomically, and physically; and as it is a part of M. VAN SWINDEN's plan, to complete the list of observations that have been made on the Zodiacal Light, he entreats the learned, in all countries, to communicate to him any observations they may have made upon that fubject. It is well known, that M. D'ALEMBERT + has proposed objections against the Zodiacal Light, considered as the solar atmosphere, to which it is difficult to give a solid and satisfactory answer: nevertheless, as this light follows invariably the courle of the sun, M. VAN SWINDEN thinks, that it must depend, in fome way or other, on that luminous body; and this consideration is sufficient to justify those who adopt the system of M. DE MAIRAN.

In order to Mew our readers the extent and importance of the learned labours of M. VAN SWINDEN, on this curious subject, it will be necessary to inention (as he has done in the plan before us the effential parts that compofe M. DE MAIRAN's treatise on the Aurora Borealis : These are, 1. An explanation

+ Opuscules, vol. vi. p. 333.


of the phenomena.-2. A chronological list of these meteors. 3. The immediate consequences deduced from facts, and the relations which the different phenomena bear to each other. 4. The influence of the Aurora Borealis upon certain phenomena, and that also which certain agents may have upon it.5. An examination of the causes which have been alligned to this meteor.–6. The doubts and conjectures to which the discuffion of what relates to the Aurora Borealis may give rise.

New observations and discoveries have enabled M. VAN SWINDEN to make interesting additions to each of these articles, and the observations and discoveries he has found in the later works of learned men in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Holland, have been carefully attended to in the execution of his plan. He does not give us here a summary of his additions. He, however, tells us, that the most important observations, among those which he has made or collected, relate to the phenomena of the Aurora Borealis,--to the filence, which, according to M. de MAIRAN, reigns in all the parts and periods of this phenomenon,- or to the noise, which other observers have heard during its appearance,-and, finally, to the Aurore Boreales, (or rather Auftrales) which are formed near the antarctic pole, whose existence M. VAN SWINDEN proposes to demonstrate by new observations.

2. With respect to the chronological list of these meteors, our Author's additions to, and improvement of, M. DE Mairan's excellent table (which goes as far as the year 1751, and contains 1441 of the phenomena in question) will be very considerable. He proposes, first, to continue the table down to the year 1778, or still farther,-to complete it by an account of several of these meteors that appeared before the year 1752, but are not mentioned by M. DE MAIRAN, -to rectify the errors that this celebrated philosopher has fallen into by imagining, that the dates in Frobes's table (which he follows) were formed on the old stile, and reducing them to the new,--and to give the chronological table, a more exact, instructive, and cons venient form, than it has in DE MAIRAN's work.

3. The third article of that learned work, which contains consequences deduced from facts, and the relations which the different phenomena bear to each other, will also be enriched with many improvements from the observations and additions of Profeflor VAN SWINDEN. These will be relative to the great height of the Aurora Borealis (which we shall henceforth call the Northern Light) in the atmolphere,-to the interruptions and returns that prevent its permanent appearance, even in the places that lie nearest to the pole,-and to the correspondence that there is between its appearances and that of the Zodiacal Light. Under these articles, our learned Professor proposes,



among other things, to determine, whether the Northern Lights, seen at the same time, in different places, are in reality, the same meteors placed at a great height, or different phenomena, merely local, and not much elevated, as is the opinion of some modern authors who have treated this fubject since M. DE MAIRAN. In this discussion, our Author will draw considerable affistance from the comparison of phenomena perceived, at the same time, in different places, and also from three learned differtations, published by M. BERGMAN, in the Memoirs of the Academy of Sweden.

4. As to the influences of the Northern Light upon certain phenomena, such as magnetism, the electricity of the atmosphere, and the temperature of the atmosphere, M. Van SWINDEN propples to treat largely on these interesting subjects. The article of magnetism has attracted, particularly, his attention, and the observations he has made, during eight years past, on that phenomenon, will be employed with advantage in the present investigation. Under the article of clectricity, he will have occafion to discuss the following question, Whether the air is more charged with the electrical fluid, during the appearance or the approach of the Northern Light, than at other times? And as to the influence of this meteor on the temperature of the atmoSphere, he means to inquire, whether it be true, as some obfervers bave affirmed, that the appearance of the Northern Light is ordinarily followed by high winds; an observation that has been made by fome navigators, and which Dr. Franklin * has endeavoured to explain.

5. The causes that have been supposed to produce the northern light may be reduced to five :--the vapours and exhalations of the earth, which hypothesis is now almost entirely rejected the ice and snow of the polar zone, which opinion has been revived by the learned Abbé Hell, in his Ephemerides of 1777– the effluvia of magnetic particles, which was Halley's system the zodiacal light, which is the system of DE MAIRAN-and the ele&trical fluid, which has, fince his time, put in bold pretenfions to the honour of producing the aurora borealis. All these causes our learned Professor proposes to discuss with attention, as also to consider the doubts and conjectures which may arise from these discussions.

We cannot here insert, for want of room, a specimen of the table, or chronological lift of the northern lights, which we find at the end of M. VAN SWINDEN's plan; but we have seen nothing of the kind so accurate, lo circumstantial, and so com

• For the Doctor's hypothesis, relative to the Aurora Borealis, fee his miscellaneous and philosophical pieces, lately published; or our account of it, in the Review for laft month, p. 207.


plete. It is, beyond all comparison, superior to that of M. De MAIRAN in every respect.

Before we close this Article, we should observe that the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris have applauded the undertaking of Professor Van Swinden, and expressed their defire of seeing it fpeedily executed, as they think it must contribute, in such judicious hands, to encrease our knowledge of the curious phenomenon in question, and of the effects which result from and depend upon it.

M. VAN SWINDEN has lately published an academical difcourse concerning the Newtonian philosophy, of which we shall give an account in a subsequent Review. We feel a peculiar pleasure in embracing every occasion that offers of doing justice to the eminent merit of this excellent philosopher.

M. M1 O N T H LY C A T A L O G U E,

For APRIL, 1780.

L A w.
Art. II. Confiderations on the Laws between Debtors and Creditors;

and an Abitract of the Insolvent Acts. With Thoughts on a Bill
to enable Creditors to recover the Effects of their Debtors, and to
abolith Imprisonment for Debt. 8vo. I s. 6 d. Bew.

1779. "HIS Writer is not sufficiently master of his own opinion, to be

able to inform or regulate that of the public. He appears indeed convinced himself, and takes some pains to convince others, that great abuses flow from the laws between debtors and creditors; but will be can point out in human society, any inftitution which fraud and villany cannot pervert against the ends for which it was designed, he muit content himself with pathetically lamenting the evils which he cannot remedy. Laws are in their nature general. We see the mischiefs that their promiscuous operation produces in particular instances. We forget, or do not perceive, che good effe&ts with which they are attended upon the whole.

This pamphlet embraces a twofold object, and each is dictated by humanity. The Author (whose humanity, though it be greater than his judgment, certainly merits praise) first takes the ide of the creditor against the arts of the dishonest and fraudulent debtor: and afterwards, that of the debtor against the cruel and unrelenting creditor. In one case, the laws, it seems, are too severe against the debtor. In the former case, they are too mild, and too easily evaded. To correct these opposite defects (if the charge do not deftroy itself by its inconsistency), and to find a middle path between them, requires the maturest political wisdom. We are afraid that no human laws can reach the human heart; and when an ariful head ard a cor. rupt heart meet, they muit always prove an over-match for undefigning himplicity, though guarded by all the legislative cautions and provisos that ever were suggested. The Laws between Debtors and Creditors will be found like others, “ Still for the strong too weak, the weak too strong."



[ocr errors]

We have a better opinion of this Writer's powers of description, than of his talents for legislation. However, as he recommends a ftanding legislative provision on the principles of the late insolvent acts, we may here safely trust him less on his own credit than on the wisdom of Parliament, which, by pafung these acts so frequently, has, in effect, hewn the necesúry of a perpetual insolvent act. The chicf impediment to this great object, this Writer imagines to be the prof-fors (we suppose, he means the law pra&ifers) of the law; whose gains, he tells us, rise in proportion to the losses of others, and to whom the legislature leaves the subjects of the state, “ as sheep to the dogs of their drivers: they are fleeced of all that can be got, and then barked into prison, that gaolers and their followers may take

what lawyers and their subordinates have left behind. 7. “ There are a part of his Majesty's subjects, forty thousand or so,

whose revenues rise in part from the law that arrelts the person, and leaves the property of the debtor in his hands, to contend with the creditor. Every man that is arrested, if he is not under a neceslicy, is generally in a humour, to go to law with his creditor. Every writ is a dividend to the profession of the law; and an act to give liberty to debtors, and their property to their creditors, would be a law, though neither offensive to juitice, mercy, or the good of his Majesty's induftrious subjects, yet it would prejudice the interest of a numerous learned profession, who live with great, good management on the labours of their fellow-subjects. This is the great objection against the Bill proposed; and if the learned profeffion unite together in one scale, they will probably be found to outweigh the molt evident interests of the whole community in the other."

To take off the edge from these harh and illiberal reflections, we fhall just observe, that the present Bill, now depending before Parliament (called Lord Beauchamp’s Bili), was not only penned by a great lawyer * of the present day, but has been allo warmly supported by him in the House of Commons; the truth is, the most formidable opposition to it has arisen not from the tribe of men above alluded to (whom the Author wildly reckons at forty thousand or fo"), but from the trading part of the community, who were apprehensive that such a mealure would clip the wings of credit.

We hope, however, the experiment will be tried; and that the call of bumanity, now so powerfully made on the legislature, will not be deadened by the clamours of miltaken selfishness in some creditors, and the vindi&tive tyranny of others.

T. Art. 12. A Brief Inquiry into the Justice and Policy of Long Confinement for Debt. With a View of all the Insolvent Acts. 8vo.

Is, Bew. Exhibits in a clear manner the ill policy, inutility, and cruelty, of vesting creditors with a power of confining insolvent debtors, to she utter ruin of individuals and their families, and the injury of the community in general.

N. • Mr. Wallace, Solicitor General.


« ElőzőTovább »