페이지 이미지

ceived, notwithstanding there might, in some time past, have been better evidence, which has long since perished.

We have now particularly called attention to the portion of the code relating to the law of evidence, because the reforms there proposed are of the highest moment. No branch of the law can compare with this in importance. Without evidence, or with bad rules, there can be no

, effectual administration of the law; without it, the judge of fact is like the Israelite deprived of straw; rights of person and property are unprotected, and crime is unpunished.

We had intended to have called attention to other portions of this important head, to the different rules of extraction, hardly inferior in importance to those of admission, to that perjurious mass of affidavit evidence pervading the whole texture of the law, infesting a cause during its whole progress, where, provided only the ordinary securities for truth are abandoned, the court receive and act upon testimony, which, at the next step in the progress of the cause, they will not listen to for a moment. To the equity mode of extracting proof, by firing off written interrogatories and cross-interrogatories to a witness, closeted in some examiner's office ; each question proposed without the slightest knowledge of any previous answer, without means of elucidating what may be doubtful, or rendering certain what may be equivocal, which the commissioners have for ever terminated by allowing, in all cases, viva voce testimony; and, to have compared these miserably inefficient modes with that adopted before a jury; a mode which, more than anything else, protects the rights of parties, and is the true reason why the trial by jury has so strong a hold on the affections of the people. But we fear we have already exhausted the patience of our readers.

As a whole, the code will commend itself to the public, as one of those great works which have conferred so much honor on the Empire state. The great canal of Clinton developed the material interests of the state; but important as are those material interests, there is nothing that can compare in importance with a wise and liberal code of laws, ably and impartially administered. Such a code, after great labor and research, the commissioners have prepared ; and it will ever remain a lasting monument of their sagacity, their learning, and their ability.


TIME AND ITS ADMEASUREMENT.* For the last half century the world has laughed at the Bourjeois Gentil. homme. Aprés, vous m'apprendrez l'almanach pour savoir quand il y a

y de la lune et quand il n'y a point." The idea of Moliere in putting such a remark into the mouth of Mr. Jourdain, was very different to the opinions we must entertain on reading it. The French dramatist, master as he was of his art, and deeply skilled in humanity, for once overshot his mark. Instead of finding folly in the request, we trace strong good sense in it; and we think that we may with tolerable safety assert, that not one man in a hundred, possessing a general stock of information, will assert that on this point he is quite at home. To many, saving and except the date of the day of the week on some occasion, an almanac has little interest. There are a great many unknown symbols and long columns of figures, which appear to have little connection with every-day life. Thus, we contend, that there is much to learn in an almanac, and an hour bestowed upon what is to be taught, may prove neither uninstructive nor without interest.

The book before us is the twenty-second volume of the series, and we are told in the preface, that great pains have been taken to make it a manual of reference. We believe this to be the case ; and those who write much, would do well to have the volume on their office table. We do not intend, however, offering any remarks on its multifarious contents. The index, extending over four columns, embraces a great many subjects, from the absorption of heat to the signs of the Zodiac, far too many for us to allude to, further than to say that they appear to be compiled with care. Our business is with one great fact-time.

It needs no repetition, for it is a word in every body's mouth, how fast time flies; but how few are there, in spite of the daily warnings we have of life's rapid progress, ever yet thought what time is. All of us must remember our copy-book maxims, which, beginning with half the letters of the alphabet, sententiously pointed out the passage of the old tyrant ; hut these seem to be forgotten with the canings they generated. Člocks, too, furnish their moral. Sun-dials are not deficient in warning; and uncles and aunts gave us, with their periodical half-dollars, the best of advice to improve the present hour. But little heed have young heads how moments pass by. Thus run quickly on the sands of existence; and chronicle is added to chronicle. We have our bright moments and our dark years, as Dumas says:

La vie, en a point de duree, elle ne consiste que de malheurs et de bonheursLes bonheurs font nos moments, les malheurs nos siecles.Still we grow old and older, till some fine morning, we find the hand of time has not been laid lightly upon us. We feel we have lived, and that the best of us is in the past. We conjure up again what has been-to think of the brightness of happy hours, and the darkness of melancholy ones; and in the true Mahomedan spirit, we range our dates

[ocr errors]

* The American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge, for the year 1851.Boston: Charles Little and James Browne.

from some epoch—some event, perhaps one of suffering, which made us better and wiser.

As has been intimated, the object of the writer is to group together a few facts and figures, in the endeavor to show the economy of time-how its notation and measurement have been conducted. Perfect as it now inay be said to be, the calendar is one of the greatest wonders of the human intellect; but it has taken centuries to be raised to this standard. The improvement was slow. It came neither intact from one country, nor from one individual. Nearly every land has added its mite to the common stock, and men of the highest genius have left their impress on the work. Alike, they had one book to study from-nature--the heavens —the earth—and their research was observation. Few who have not looked into the subject, are aware of the various attempts to mark the civil year correctly, and their surprise will indeed be great, when we add, that it was only in 1752 that the cycle was definitely determined ; it having taken, according to the calendar of the Jews, upwards of five thousand years to determine what one year is.

The speculation on the period when time began, is foreign to our subject. Our object is to allay doubts, not to excite them—to show the harmony reigning throughout creation-how day and night, and light and darkness, are equally apportioned to the habitable parts of the globe; and not to submit knotted questions, the very form of which suggest difficulties. Whether time, as the component of eternity, dates from an epoch antecedent to the law, which called the myriads of systems into existence, or whether it came forth from chaos, with the Zeus, or Jupiter, or First Cause—or, to speak with the reverence of belief with our Almighty Maker-matters little to our subject. Common sense rejects the consideration of these points. For great as may be the lever of human intellect, it needs a fulcrum, as a centre, to revolve upon, which we must find not in speculation, but in fact; and for us, poor mortals, to seek for facts before even the amorphous matter, out of which our earth was formed, floated in infinite space, is idle and unprofitable.

But when we turn to the record of the creation, we have at least some guide to our research. The inspired historian of the event tells us, that in the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was without form and void. Then the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and, at the divine command, light gleamed from heaven. Experience and astronomy teach us, that the light which we enjoy on this earth is the rays of the sun. This light we read in the holy writ, was the first of the blessings sent into being. It seems to us that the fact is one of importance, speaking astronomically-for the mandate, let there be light, created the sun round which we move. It is true that, in the 16th verse, Moses tells us that the sun was made; but this does not destroy the fact, that light had been previously called forth. Indeed, it would seem, rather that a regulation of the system of that sun can be traced by a paraphrase of the words, to the effect" that the sun was made to rule by day.” For there is no obvious cause of belief that light was ever different to what it is now: and if light were first elicited, the sun naturally came into being—for the rays of the centre of our system, then as now, generated that light. The economy of time-its laws—and its equable variations, were all preordained, but it was not until the fourth day that its motions were established. Then God said, “Let there be light in the firmament,” we

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


read in the 14th verse, " to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years."

Six days passed, and the work was complete; and “it was good.” It naturally comes within our province to inquire what these days were. It is customary with many to suppose that they were ordinary days--an astronomical passage of the earth. But Moses evidently had no such idea. He says, in the 4th verse of the 2d chapter, " These are the generations of the earth,” showing, as it were, that the term day is used in a figurative sense—similar as we speak of our day”—a man's days are ended ; his day was a prosperous one. And we must be careful in taking, in a literal sense, all that is said about the creation, for the Book of Genesis is not a treatise on astronomy. It assumes to give no history of the heavens. It is a record of the earth, and we must not wonder at the deficiency of astronomical allusions, although there can be little doubt but that the Jews were versed in the most ancient and venerable of the sciences. In the Book of Job we find mention of Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades, names by which, at this day, we distinguish the star and the constellations in question. By many, Moses is supposed to be the writer of the history or poem; and we have the authority of Saint Stephen for saying, that “ Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds."* Hence it is evident, that the studious simplicity with which the heavens are alluded to in the first chapter of Genesis, is not the result of ignorance. No better proof of this can be adduced than the Book of Job, which, if not the work of Moses, was written by a contemporary. At this period Egypt was famous for its astrologya science, it is almost needless to say, having its basis on astronomy-on direct observation. Prior to the day of Moses, Abraham had taught astronomy in Egypt with success; and in the 5th verse of xv. Genesis, we find the record, that God himself directed the attention of the patriarch to the heavens. Indeed, tradition assigns to the Jews an early knowledge of science, and relates how Seth, the son of Adam, who had been foretold by his father of the destruction of the world, erected two pillars, one in stone and one in brick, on which he marked his discoveries—thus to be proof against fire and water, so that his knowledge should not be lost to the world; and Josephus adds, that they were standing at his day. Moses, therefore, could not have been ignorant of astronomy; the probability is, that he first learned it in Judea, and subsequently obtained pre-eminence in Egypt, as did Thales, the father of Greek science. The term “day” has the greater reason to be taken in a figurative sense. Nor is the opinion of the early creation of the sun by any means a modern one. It was entertained by one of the fathers of the church-no less a person

than Origen“No one of a sound mind,” says that good man in his nepe Apxov, gine there was an evening and a morning, during the first three days, without a sun."

Proof could be given of numerous passages in scripture, where the term day is used in the sense we claim for it. We will adduce but a wellknown one, to which it may have been the lot of many of our readers to listen, with sad hearts.

"For when thou art angry, all our days are gone. We bring our years to an end, as a tale that is told."

can iman

[ocr errors]

Acts, vii., 22.

Oriental scholars agree in the opinion that, both in the original Hebrew and the Arabic, the word admits of a very wide interpretation. It is, however, a question not to be decided by an incidental mention in a paper of this character; and it boots little whether it was in 6,000 years, or in 600 days, that the Great Author of our being perfected this beautiful earth, forming it from an unshapely chaos, to teem with loveliness, and to bring forth the fruits of the earth. On one point all are agreed, and that is, the number six. However much we may speculate, and, we trust, without irreverence, on the length of the day of which the six were composed—the number of those days which led to the institution of the week, the oldest division of time on record, which God hallowed. With the exception of the Romans—whose calender was, in every respect, an unskilful one-it was universal with all nations, which pretended to the least civilization—with the Egyptians, the Arabians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, and even among the Brahmans of India. Laplace has well termed it the most ancient monument of astronomical knowledge.

Day and night were thus manifest from the beginning, and the week became one of the earliest divisions of time; and excepting for the few years that the madness of the French Revolution swept it away, it has remained unchanged where it has been once known. But it was insufficient to mark the passage of time. Men required further computation. The succession of season after season in regular undeviating rotation, must have first suggested that time went to a certain limit, and then recommenced its operations; a fact which, reasoning from analogy, the mutations of the moon must have taught. The difficulty lay in dating a commencement and a close, so as to calculate with certainty the arrival of the seasons. To the savage, day and night must be evident, as an epoch; and even the changes of the moon might bring with them certain stamps on the memory. Beyond this there was little impression; two years and five years would be indefinite periods, unless, like the Arabs, they computed by months. And here would arise the greatest difficulty—computation needs figures, and uncivilized people can barely understand a number which would exceed their fingers and toes. It is true, that a patriarchal tribe wandering in the woods, and deriving support from hunting and fishing, would soon obtain certain indices by which they could predict the approach of certain weathers; and much as we sneer at old wives' saws, we ought to recollect, that in them we can trace some of the first advances in science, and some of the first deductions which led men to reflect and grapple with the difficulties of the laws of nature. The Indian is ignorant of the four cardinal points, and the mariner’s compass ; yet he passes safely through the woods, and makes his way with undeviating sagacity by the aid of a little moss on the bark of trees; and men soon began to discern, that snow fell at certain times, and the rivers were flooded periodically, and flowers bloomed and faded, and birds came to sing their short melody and disappeared, and all this happened after certain intervals at certain times. The very term year bears this meaning; hence the Greek word éviavròs, implies something which returns into itself, while the Latin annus signifies a ring, as we learn from its derivative annulus; and our own word year bears immediate connection with yra, which means a ring in Swedish.

This knowledge was only the precursor to more definite information. The things of earth taught much, and as the foliage of trees came and went,

« 이전계속 »