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sensibility discovered in plants; every thing appears absolutely mechanical in them. We plant a shrub, and destroy it, without observing any analogy between the animal and it. We observe a plant shoot, grow, blossom, and turn to seed, as we observe the hand of a watch run over all the points of the dial. The most exact anatomy of a plant does not discover any organ, the least resembling the seat of animal sensibility. When we oppose these observations to those from whence the sensibility of plants may be inferred, we remain in doubt, and know not how to explain the above-mentioned phenomena. Perhaps, all we observe in regard to the motions of plants may only proceed from the construction of some of their fibres, which sometimes contract and sometimes expand. Perhaps the subtile exhalations of our bodies cause the sensitive plants to shrink when we touch them. But it may also possibly be, that all nature being linked, the first degree of sensation may subsist in certain plants; as indeed the step is very narrow between the plant and the muscle shell-fish. Therefore, sensibility may perhaps extend even to plants, at least to those nearest to the animal.
Behold, how very imperfect our knowledge is on these subjects! A great deal is mere conjecture: yet we know enough to satisfy a reasonable curiosity. Let us endeavour to apply the knowledge 'we have, without losing time in speculations more curious than useful; and without aiming at understanding what may perhaps be reserved for those who come after us, or even to eternity itself.
Variety of Plants.
One of the things most worthy our admiration in the vegetable kingdom, is the great variety of plants. They are varied in respect to their parts, their production, their properties, and qualities. The manner in which some plants become fruitful is still very obscure. It is but little known how it operates in mosses, mushrooms, and ferns. There are plants which show us singular monstrosities; there are flowers which have no heads; there are some, from the middle of which spring out other flowers. Certain plants, called soporiferous, which turn at night differently from what they do in the day. Others turn towards the sun; others shrink and contract when we touch them. There are flowers which open and shut at certain regular hours. Some shoot up, blossom, bear fruit, and drop their leaves, sooner than others. All plants are originally wild; that is, they grow without culture. The Creator assigned for plants a climate adapted to their nature and purposes, and where they should arrive at the greatest perfection. But those which are exotic may be naturalized with us, and made to succeed very well, provided care be taken to procure for them the degree of heat their nature requires.
What particularly charms the eye is the variety of forms and colours in plants. Let even the different sorts of the same species be compared, and we cannot but admire the astonishing variety of models in the vegetable world. We step with wonder from the truffle to the sensitive plant, from the mushroom to the carnation, from the acorn to the lilac, from the nostoch to the rose tree, from moss to the cherry-tree, from the morel to the oak, from the misletoe to the
orange-tree, from the ivy to the fir. If we consider the numerous sorts of mushrooms, or the kind of plants which we call imperfect, we cannot but admire the fertility of nature in the production of those vegetables, which are so different in form from the others, that we can scarcely rank them among plants. If we afterwards rise some steps above the chain of plants, we behold with pleasure the degrees of those with stalks, from the grass which grows between the stones, to that inestimable plant to which we owe our principal food. We, in the next place, observe the variety of creeping plants, from the tender bindweed to the vine. We cannot too much admire the perfect harmony, as well as the variety, of the works of nature. Every plant, from the hyssop, which grows on walls, to the cedar of Lebanon, has the same essential parts. A little herb is as complete a plant as the most beautiful rose, and the rose is 'not less so than the finest oak. Though each species is distinct from the other, all belong to the same source; all observe the same general laws of growth. Let us acknowledge the greatness of that Power who produced and supports so great a variety in the vegetable kingdom.
Division of the Earth. si
All the known countries of the earth are divided into four principal parts, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Europe is the smallest. The Europeans, however, possess some countries in the three other parts of the world, and have subdued nearly one half of the earth. They travel into the four quarters of the globe, and trade with all the different countries; nor do we know of people so well informed, or who cultivate the arts and sciences with more success.
Europe is the only part of the earth which is every where cultivated, and covered with towns and villages; the only place where the inhabitants keep up a constant intercourse, and profess nearly the same religion. The three other parts are inhabited by a multitude of different nations, which have no connexion with one another; who are scarcelyacquainted; and who differ greatly in their manners, way of living, and in their religion.
Asia is the largest known continent: as the countries that are in the interior of this part of the world do not enjoy the cool sea breezes, as they are not watered by many rivers, as they have vast plains and barren mountains the heat and cold are in the extreme. Some parts of Asia are inhabited by people, who in the morning pull down their towns and villages (being composed of tents) to carry them some miles - further, and build them up again at night in an hour. It seems as if nature had made this wandering and unsettled life necessary; and intended, that the establishment, laws, and government of these people should be less durable, and more subject to change than elsewhere. The other people of Asia often suffer greatly from the restless' and unquiet character of these wandering nations. The northern parts, which are full of lakes, marshes, and forests, have never been regularly inhabited : but the southern, eastern, and western countries, are the finest in the world, and are wonderfully fertile, producing the necessaries of life in great abundance.
Next to Asia, Africa is the largest part of our hemisphere, computed to be a thousand leagues square. As it is under the torrid zone, there are immense sandy deserts, mountains of prodigious height, forests inhabited by monsters of various
sorts. The oppressive heat enervates and weakens every faculty of Europeans, to whom the innermost parts of Africa are still unknown.
America was not discovered by the Europeans till within some centuries. It is divided into two continents, separated only by a very narrow isthmus, or neck of land, and surrounded by a great many islands. The cold climate of the northern part, its few.productions, and its distance from inhabited countries, prevent its being entirely known as yet; but we have every reason to believe that the natives are uncivilized. The earth there is still covered with forests and marshes, and hitherto the Europeans have only cultivated the eastern coasts. In the south of America there were formerly some great nations. The remainder was inhabited by savages. It is, as well as in the East Indies, the country for serpents, reptiles, and insects, which are much larger than in Europe. It may be said, on the whole, that America is the country of greatest extent, but with the fewest inhabitants.
If we reckon the number of leagues these four parts of the globe occupy, their size will appear very considerable; and yet all the known countries make but a fourth part of this earth. And as we know but little of the worlds above us, let us at least endeavour to know that which we inhabit, and to turn that knowledge to the glory of the Almighty. . .