« VorigeDoorgaan »
or to the protracted wretchedness of a life slowly wasted by scarcity of food. Is it then to see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half starved, helpless and unhelped animals, that you would alter the present system of pursuit and prey?
2. Which system is also to them the spring of motion and activity on both sides. The pursuit of its prey, forms the employment, and appears to constitute the pleasure, of a considerable part of the animal creation. The using of the means of desence, or flight, or precaution, forms also the business of another part. And even of this latter tribe, we have no reason to suppose, that their happiness is much molested by their sears. Their danger exists continually; and in some cases they seem to be so far sensible of it, as to provide, in the best manner they can, against it; but it is only when the attack is actually made upon them, that they appear to suffer from it. To contemplate the insecurity of their condition with anxiety and dread, requires a degree of reflection, which (happily for themselves) they do not possess. A hare, notwithstanding the number of its dangers and its enemies, is as playful an animal as any other.
3. But, to do justice to the question, the system of animal definition ought always to be considered in strict connection with another property of animal nature, viz. supersecundity. They are countervailing qualities One subsists by the correction of the other. In treating, therefore, of the subject under this view, (which is, I believe, the true one,) our business will be, first, to point out the advantages which are gained by the powers in nature of a superabundant multiplication; and, then, to shew, that these advantages are so many reasons for appointing that system of animal hos.^ tilities, which we are endeavouring to account for.
In almost all cases, nature produces her supplies with profusion. A single cod fish spawns, in one season, a greater number of eggs, than all the inhabitants of England amount to. A thoufand other instances of prolific generation might be stated, which, though not equal to this, would carry on the increase of the species with a rapidity which outruns calculation, and to an immeasurable extent. The advantages 'of such a constitution are two: first, that it tends to keep the world always full,; while, secondly, it allows the proportion between the
several several species of animals to be differently modified, as different purposes require, or as difserent situations may afford for them room and food. Where this vast secundity meets with a vacancy fitted to receive the species, there it operates with its whole effect; there it pours in its numbers, and replenishes the waste. We complain of what we call the exorbitant multiplication of some troublesome insects, not reflecting that large portions of nature might be left void without it. If the accounts of travellers may be depended upon, immense tracts of forest in North America would be nearly lost to sensitive existence if it were not for gnats. "In the thinly inhabited regions of America, in which the waters stagnate and the climate is warm, the whole air is filled with crowds of these insects." Thus it is, that, where we looked for solitude and deathlike silence, we meet with animation, activity, enjoyment; with a busy, a happy, and a peopled world. Again; hosts of mice are reckoned amongst the plagues of the north-east part of Europe; whereas vast plains in Siberia, as we learn from good authority, would be useless without them. The Caspian defarts are converted by their presence into crowded 3 "warrens. warrens. Between the Volga and the Yaik, and in the country of Hyrcania, the ground, fays Pallas, is in many places covered with little hills, raised by the earth cast out in forming the burrows. Do we then so envy these blissful abodes, as to pronounce the fecundity by which they are supplied with inhabitants, to be an evil; a subject of complaint, and not of praise? Further; by virtue of this fame fupersecundity, what we term destruction, becomes almost instantly the parent of life. What we call blights, are, oftentimes, legions of animated beings claiming their portion in the bounty of nature. What corrupts the produce of the earth to us, prepares it for them. And it is by means of their rapid multiplication, that they take possession of their pasture: a slow propagation would not meet the opportunity.
But in conjunction with the occasional use of this fruitfulnefs, we observe, also, that it allows the proportion between the several species of animals to be differently modified, as different purposes of utility may require. When the forests of America come to be cleared, and the swamps drained, our gnats will give place to other inhabitants. If the population of Europe should spread to the 6 north north and the east, the mice will retire before the husbandman and the shepherd, and yield their station to , herds and flocks. In what concerns the human species, it may be a part of the scheme of Providence that the earth should be inhabited by a shifting, or perhaps a circulating population. In this economy it is possible that there may be the following ad* vantages. When old countries are become exceedingly corrupt, simpler modes of life, purer morals, and better institutions may rife up in new ones, whilst fresh soils reward the cultivator with more plentiful returns. Thus • the different portions of the globe come into use in succession as the residence of man; and, in his absence, emenain oih r guests, which, by their rapid multiplication foost fill the chasm. In domesticated animals we find the effect of their fecundity to be, that we can always command numbers: we can always have as many of any particular species as we please, or as we can support. Nor do we complain of its excess; it being much more easy to regulate abundance, than to supply scarcity. 'But then this supersecundity, though'; cif great occasional use and importance, exceeds the ordinary'cttpacity of nature to receive or