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of Porcida, that it occasioned the king of Naples to forbid the use of cats to the inhabitants. At the end of a few years the rats and mice increased so much, and did such mischief, that this order was abolished. Then, why should we wish to deprive them of the small part of our provisions, which they require for food? Could we possibly consume all that nature produces ? Shall we want any thing for our support or pleasure, because the birds, the mice, and the insects, help us to make use of the bleşsings which God grants in such profusion, and part of which would be wasted, were not the animals to feed on it. Instead of giving way to unjust complaints, let us rather in this acknowledge the wisdom of our Creator. Every thing in nature is connected together; and we may be certain that it is for the wisest purposes that they exist.
The Buildings of the Bearers.
If a man, who had never heard of the beavers' manner of building, had been shown some of their edifices, he would certainly have supposed them the work of skilful architects. The whole performance of these amphibious creatures is wonderful, and must fill every attentive observer with astonishment. The beavers choose a place to build on where they can have plenty of provisions, and near a rivulet, in order to have a reservoir of water to bathe in. They begin by making a dike or bank, which keeps the water on a level with the first floor of their house. This bank is about ten or twelve feet thick at bottom. It goes sloping, and insensibly diminishing towards
the top, till it becomes no more than two feet. The only materials are wood and clay. The beavers cut through pieces of wood as thick as an arm, with wonderful ease. They fix these into the ground, very close to each other, and interweave smaller and more supple pieces of wood. But as the water would get through, and their watering-place be emptied, they have recourse to clay, with which they fill all the spaces within and without, so that the water cannot run through. In proportion as the water rises, they continue to raise the dike. The bank of the watering-place being finished, they labour at their houses, which are round or oval buildings, divided into three stories, raised one above another: one of them is below the dike, and generally full of water; the other two are above it. They fix these little buildings in a very strong and firm manner on the edge of the watering-place, and always by stories, in order to mount higher, in case the water should rise. If they find a little island near the wateringplace, they build their houses upon it, which are then more solid, and they are less incommoded by water, in which they cannot long remain. They make two doors at the bottom, to go into the water. One leads them to their bathing-place: the other is a passage to the place where they carry all the dirt, &c. from their upper apartments. They have a third door higher up, for fear of being taken when the ice stops up the lower doors. They sometimes build their houses entirely on dry ground, and make ditches five or six feet deep, to get to the water. They use the same industry, and the same materials, for the buildings as for the dikes. The walls are perpendicular, and two feet thick. They cut off with their teeth the ends of wood which go below the level of the wall, then, mixing clay with dry herbs, they make a composition of it, with which they plaster both inside and outside of the work, by the help of their tail. The inside of the house is arched,
and the size is in proportion to the number of inhabitants. With their teeth they cut all the wood they require for building; they make use of their fore feet to dig the ground, and to soften and mix the clay; their tail supplies the place of a wheel-barrow to carry their mortar or clay, and afterwards serves as a trowel to plaster it on.
The works of the beaver have, then, the greatest resemblance to those of man: of all animals we know, they come the nearest to human reason. We need only observe them, to be convinced that beasts are not mere machines, but that all their actions and motions are directed by a higher principle.
Animals considered as Examples to Mankind of
Vices and Virtues, i
The study of animated nature furnishes us with many pleasing ideas; especially as it gives us every where proofs of the Divine Wisdom and Goodness; but I do not know whether we attend as much as we ought to the lessons of morality it seems intended to convey. It is remarkable that compassion belongs to man alone. In God is mercy: in man, compassion for all created beings. In the brute creation some few instances of affection are found; no compassion, properly so called ; no free, disinterested pity. Some virtues the brute creatures, especially the domestic animals, may teach us; and doubtless they were intended to do so. The innocent lamb, in a language more powerful than words, instructs us to practise the gentle, meek arts of persuasion. The obedient ox and cow inculcate mild submission. The ass is an
example of patience; the generous horse of activity, and aptness to receive instruction. The dog is an example of fidelity and kind attention; the cat of various domestic virtues. Friendship seems unknown, or but faintly expressed amongst animals, excepting dogs and horses; and in them it is chiefly towards man. The vices which the dumb animals teach us to avoid are much greater, and more in number, than their virtues. The gluttony and sloth of the hog we detest. The pride and ill-nature of the peacock we dislike as much as his voice. The turkey is a pattern of all the vices in man; and is an exception, as well as the hog, to the moral character of the domestic beasts and birds.
Though what is here mentioned may be styled common place, yet so long as mankind are inattentive, such things may properly be pointed out, and much more might be said. The beaver, if contrasted with the glutton, the bee with the wasp, the ant with the flesh-fly, would teach us, as well as the domestic animals, to do good, and avoid evil. But the subject is almost inexhaustible. I will therefore conclude with a part of the creation more numerous, perhaps, than all the rest put together; I mean the fish, both those with scales, and those which have shells: they seem to travel in vast bodies, not from any love of society, but merely because they are born in the same or in neighbouring situations, and live on the same food, which they find near the coasts, where they themselves feed us.
We observe certain motions in plants, which make it doubtful whether they have sensibility or not. There are vegetables, the flowers and leaves of which contract and shrink from the touch. We see others, which open and close their flowers at certain fixed hours of the day, so regularly as to mark the time very exactly. Others take a singular form in the night, and fold themselves up. These motions in the plants are the same, whether they are in the open air, or in a close room. Those which always live under water, raise their heads above it in the time of feeding. The movements of a marshy plant discovered lately in Carolina are still more singular: the upper side and edge of its round leaves are covered with a number of potches, which are extremely irritable; when an insect chances to creep on this upper side, the leaf folds it up close, and presses it to death, and then opens itself again! We may every day observe certain regular motions in some of the plants in our gardens. The tulips blow in fine weather, but they close again when it rains, or at sun-set; peas and beans open their husks when they grow dry, and roll up like chips. Wild oats, when put on a table, often move of themselves, particularly if they have been made warm in the hand. Do, we not also observe that the flowers of several plants are always turned towards the sun ? These are undeniable facts, which any body may easily experience. From thence it was wished to draw a conclusion, that there was some sensibility in plants; and it is true, that the above-mentioned facts give a degree of probability to that opinion. But, on the contrary, there has not been any other mark of