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and property of each substance must be ascertained and compared. In each division, each group, however it may be denominated, no individual should be admitted in which all the essential characters of the family are not combined. The genera and species into which they are distributed, should all possess the same essential features, with only such modifications as shall not destroy the integrity of the character. Whenever these features begin to vary in a marked degree, the functions to increase or diminish, new groups must be formed, and this series or succession of new tribes must be continued through the whole domain of nature. These groups can afterwards be thrown into separate and larger associations connected together by fewer elements, and by a smaller number of the most important characters, and this process can be repeated and continued, until they are all resolved, or rather traced upwards by fundamental characters, to one or other of the three primitive forms of sensitive, vegetative or inorganic existence. It is obvious therefore, that such an arrangement requires a profound investigation of the composition and structure of every form and substance, which nature has produced. It must as a consequence very slowly acquire perfection. It calls for the co-operation of every student of natural science. Even if surrounded with difficulties, it should constantly be considered as the chief object of our inquiries, as the final limit of our researches. Linnæus, to whom more than to any individual, natural history has been indebted for its arrangements, almost for its creation as a science, while he constructed and used artiticial systems, because knowledge in his day admitted of no other, yet looked to natural arrangements as the ultimate aim of all our studies. “Methodus naturalis ultimus finis botanices est et erit,” is his strong and pointed expression, and in another place he adds, “ Primum et ultimum hoc in botanicis desideratum est."
Artificial arrangements are generally established upon a few important and permanent features, in which a great number of individuals have been found to agree. They facilitate in the first instance the determination of species, because a smaller number of characters, frequently a single one, is sufficient for this purpose. Their chief value, therefore, is the readiness with which they enable us to arrange any newly discovered objects among the groups or sections already established, or to recognize any object which has already been described. But they tell us nothing more than the position of any individual in an arrangement in which his essential qualities have not been considered. Their great defect is that they direct the attention too exclusively to those characters which, in the formation of each method, are employed as the governing or guiding principle. Frequently these become the only object of research. Sometimes organs or functions, far more important in the scale of existence than those which have been assumed as essential in an artificial classification, are overlooked or disregarded, and we are thus frequently presented not only with an imperfect, but a distorted view of nature. It must, therefore, happen occasionally if not constantly, that these systems connect together forms which are not truly allied, and that their principles are technical and hypothetical, not comprehensive and profound. When in a natural arrangement, the real place of any individual is determined, his nature, his composition, his structure, his habits, his qualities, are at once announced-his form may indeed vary from that of his associates, but his essential attributes must all correspond. When, on the contrary, the place of an individual is assigned in an artificial arrangement, nothing is determined but the fact of his possessing a limited number of peculiar features. While the study of the one then is calculated to convey only a partial and incomplete view of the arrangements and operations of nature, the knowledge of the other requires the investigation of the structure, the functions, the properties, the powers of all created beings; their mutual relations and dependencies; the great principles that connect together the organized and unorganized occupants of the material world; the wisdom that maintains in harmony, and blends into one mighty and glorious plan, so many jarring and discordant elements.
While we make these acknowledgments, however, and admit the inferiority of artificial systems, let us not deny them their due merit. It is of great moment to those engaged in the active pursuits of natural history, that the objects once described, should be readily recognized, and the new species which they themselves may discover, may be placed in some position where they may be easily remembered, and made known to others. Artificial methods afford this convenience at present, in a greater degree than some of those which are now termed natural, because the latter are by no means perfect, and leave great scope for hesitation and uncertainty. Neither should we forget in this discussion the important services which they have rendered to science. It is from the publication and general adoption of good artificial systems, that may be dated the strong impulse given in the middle of the last century to the pursuit of natural history. It was then only that the discoveries of the enterprizing naturalist could be rendered intelligible; that his researches could pervade all nature; that the discrepancies between objects nearly allied and strongly resembling each other, could be clearly pointed out, that the connexion between those widely separated, could be traced and determined. The world then, indeed, began to be astonished at the unknown and unexpected richness of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Year after year added to the multitudes already seen and distinguished; every country poured forth its peculiar productions in almost inexbaustible abundance. And after a century distinguished by the most unremitted exertions, by the most adventurous, toilsome, persevering, and even hazardous enterprizes, the tide of discovery still rolls on with an unabated momentum, the labourers multiply in the vineyard, all find employment and share in the triumphs of success, and the liinits of the great kingdoms of nature are still as undeterminate as on the proud day when the Systema Naturæ was first offered as a guide and a companion to the lovers of natural history.
There is also another important service which artificial systems rendered, perhaps, incidentally to the cause of science, which ought not to pass unnoticed. Besides bringing to view, as we have just stated, the materials for the construction of natural systems, without which the knowledge necessary for their formation, could, perhaps, never have been obtained, they aided in ascertaining the use and comparative value of many organs in the animal and vegetable economy. All, in truth, that have had any claim to notice, have been founded on some affinities which it was important to understand. Some bave been fortunately established on features or principles, intimately and essentially identified with the foundation of science itself. And in the discussions to which each system successively gave rise, as we have already had occasion to remark, the comparative value of the character upon which each was based, became better understood. Indeed, it was in these discussions that the value of every feature and every function that constitute, by their union, the physical whole of each individual, began to be studied, and the true principles of all classification to be clearly unfolded.
But, however we may discuss or compare the particular methods which have been devised for the systematic arrangement of all material substances, on the great importance of classification itself, there can be little doubt. It seems, indeed, extraordinary, that enlightened minds should bave questioned its value; that Buffon, and some distinguished naturalists, who, even at the present day adopt his prejudices, should disclaim all assistance from the labours of even the most enlightened writers who have devoted their talents to this subject. For if it is almost necessary to our welfare to investigate the composition and structure of all natural bodies, the progress and duration of existence in every department of nature. If our comfort, our safety, our power, are affected by the results of these researches--if it is beneficial to study the different organs, by which their various habits, and faculties and modifications of existence are produced and supported, in order to compare them intelligently and usefully with the functions and powers bestowed on man, it is obvious that we should know the nature of the object we propose to examine, and be able to indicate to others the identical individual or substance we have investigated. Without the means of communicating this information, error and confusion would soon become inextricable; the discoveries of each individual would perish with him, unless, like the esoteric doctrines of the ancient philosophers, they were communicated orally to the scholars whom he should personally instruct, and who would preserve by memory or by symbols, the truths and mysteries which had been intrusted to their care. By what accident, by what investigation, without this technical aid, could a second inquirer discover and identify an object that had already been described, and which he might wish to examine or to employ. The thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals who compose an army, if thrown into disarray, would form only one tumultuous and confused crowd, in which no one member could readily be found, nor would there be any index to guide an inquirer; but let this disordered mass be once skilfully arranged, let this collected multitude be distributed into proper and well-ordered ranks, into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, companies, platoons, then let army be added to army, let multitudes be heaped on multitudes, let the garb, the arms, the standards, be diversified as far as imagination can devise, yet each individual could then be immediately traced, each would have at all times his appropriate position.
So it is in nature. The fields over which we roam, are covered with vast multitudes of differing plants; these nourish myriads of animated beings, diversified in their forms, variegated in their colours, distinct in their habits; the sea itself supports its own vegetable tribes, and its sentient forms in an almost interminable series ; even the solid crust of the earth is furnished with its inorganic productions in wonderful profusion. In this labyrinth, where the unpractised eye is dazzled, the untutored mind bewildered; where, to our first impressions, the harmony of the universe seems discord, its simplicity wildness, and its order inextricable confusion, it is science only that can guide our steps and illuminate the intricate mazes we are invited to explore. It is her task to disclose the mysterious arrangements of nature, to designate the tribes and families her parental care has formed, and to mark the tie by which each is connected with, and the limit by which each is separated from every surrounding family.
In this effort many are now seriously and sedulously engaged, and the progress of their discoveries has been rapid and important. Until, however, natural arrangements shall be so far completed that their truth shall be rendered obvious and unquestionable, and their application familiar, it will be necessary to avail ourselves partially of artificial systems, in which every object is arranged upon some principle, permanent, invariable, easily known, as the words in a dictionary, which are placed, not according to any natural connexion, nor to any philosophical deduction from origin, structure or meaning, but to the accidental position of the letters of an alphabet, in itself artificial.
In the progress of discovery, new substances, new forms, new relations are brought to light. It becomes necessary to determine under what names they shall be made known, and in what terms they shall be described. It has been the boast of modern science that it has created a language for its discoveries, and been enabled to explain them in phrases not vagne or ambiguous, but definite and appropriate. Yet objections have been made and continue still to be made to this very language and to the terms of science. Many have considered them as tending to obscure what they profess to explain, others view them as opposing obstacles to the study and progress of science itself. They have been reproached for rendering difficult what might have been made familiar, and for clouding under the veil of a mysterious nomenclature, that which, in common language, might have become perspicuous. These objections merit some consideration, at least some reply.
Among the evils most lamented in modern times by critics, by metaphysicians, by men of science generally, no one has been more frequently mentioned than the defects and obscurities of language-no one more complained of, than the necessity of using terms, which, having different significations, when applied to different objects, which being employed in different senses by men having different views and capacities, create constant ambiguity and error, and frequently confuse even those who seek to investigate, not to embroil truth. It has been the constant effort of science to remove this evil, to establish as it advanced, terms at once new and explicit, which being employed only in a prescribed manner and in a restricted sense, should enable those who use them to avoid all equivocal phraseology.