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and understandings, are gifts which admit of no comparison with any other. Yet, because almost every man we meet with possesses these, we leave them out of our enumeration. They raise no sentiment; they move no gratitude. Now, herein, is our judgement perverted by our selfishness. A blessing ought in truth to be the more satisfactory, the bounty at least of the donor is rendered more conspicuous, by its very diffusion, its commonness, its cheapness; by its falling to the lot, and forming the happiness, of the great bulk and body of our species, as well as of ourselves. Nay, even when we do not possess it, it ought to be matter of thankfulness that others do. But we have a different way of thinking. We court distinction. That is not the worst: we see nothing but what has distinction to recommend it. This necessarily contracts our views of the Creator's beneficence within a narrow compass; and most unjustly. It is in those things which are so common as to be no distinction, that the amplitude of the Divine benignity is perceived.
But pain, no doubt, and privations exist, in numerous instances, and to a degree, which, collectively, would be very great, if they were compared with any other thing than with the mass of animal fruition. For the application, therefore, of our proposition to that mixed state of things which these exceptions induce, two rules are necessary, and both, I think, just and fair rules. One is, that we regard those effects alone which are accompanied with proofs of intention: The other, that when we cannot resolve all appearances into benevolence of design, we make the few give place to the many; the little to the great; that we take our judgement from a large and decided preponderancy, if there be one.
I crave leave to transcribe into this place, what I have said upon this subject in my Moral Philosophy :
"When God created the human species, either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about either.
"If he had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment: or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter; every thing
we saw, loathsome: every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord.
"If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune, (as all design by this supposition is excluded,) both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.
"But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view and for that purpose.
"The same argument may be proposed in different terms; thus: Contrivance proves design: and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances: and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it; or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance: but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's hand: though from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often follows. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture, or execution: this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints; this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the feet. Here, pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment."
The TWO CASES which appear to me to have the most difficulty in them, as forming the most of the appearance of exception to the representation here given, are those of venomous animals, and of animals preying upon one another. These properties of animals, wherever they are found, must, I think, be referred to design; because there is in all cases of the first, and in most cases of the second, an express and distinct organization provided for the producing of them. Under the first head, the fangs of vipers, the stings of wasps and scorpions, are as clearly intended for their purpose, as any animal structure is for any purpose the most incontestably beneficial. And the same thing must, under the second head, be acknowledged of the talons and beaks of birds, of the tusks, teeth, and claws of beasts of prey; of the shark's mouth, of the spider's web, and of numberless weapons of offence belonging to different tribes of voracious insects. We cannot, therefore, avoid the difficulty by saying, that the effect was not intended. The only question open to us is, whether it be ultimately evil. From the confessed and felt imperfection of our knowledge, we ought to presume, that there may be consequences of this œconomy which are hidden from us: from the benevolence which pervades the general designs of nature, we ought also to presume, that these consequences, if they could enter into our calculation, would turn the balance on the favourable side. Both these I contend to be reasonable presumptions. Not reasonable presumptions, if these two cases were the only cases which nature presented to our observation; but reasonable presumptions under the reflection, that the cases in question are combined with a multitude of intentions, all proceeding from the same author, and all, except these, directed to ends of undisputed utility. Of the vindications, however, of this economy, which we are able to assign, such as most extenuate the difficulty are the following. With respect to venomous bites and stings, it may be observed,— 1. That, the animal itself being regarded, the faculty complained of is good: being conducive, in all cases, to the defence of the animal; in some cases, to the subduing of its prey; and in some, probably, to the killing of it, when caught, by a mortal wound, inflicted in the passage to the stomach, which may be no less merciful to the victim, than salutary to the devourer. In the viper, for instance, the poisonous fang may do that which, in other animals of prey, is done by the crush of the teeth. Frogs and mice might be swallowed alive without it.
2. But it will be said, that this provision, when it comes to the case of bites, deadly even to human bodies and to those of large quadrupeds, is greatly overdone; that it might have fulfilled its use, and yet have been much less deleterious than it is. Now I believe the case of bites, which produce death in large animals, (of stings I think there are none,) to be very few. The experiments of the Abbé Fontana, which were numerous, go strongly to the proof of this point. He found that it required the action of five exasperated vipers to kill a dog of a moderate size; but that, to the killing of a mouse or a frog, a single bite was sufficient; which agrees with the use which we assign to the faculty. The Abbé seemed to be of opinion, that the bite even of the rattle-snake would not usually be mortal; allowing, however, that in certain particularly unfortunate cases, as when the puncture had touched some very tender part, pricked a principal nerve for instance, or, as it is said, some more considerable lymphatic vessel, death might speedily ensue.
3. It has been, I think, very justly remarked, concerning serpents; that, whilst only a few species possess the venomous property, that property guards the whole tribe. The most innocuous snake is avoided with as much care as a viper. Now the terror with which large animals regard this class of reptiles, is its protection; and this terror is founded on the formidable revenge, which a few of the number, compared with the whole, are capable of taking. The species of serpents, described by Linnæus, amount to two hundred and eighteen, of which thirtytwo only are poisonous.
4. It seems to me, that animal constitutions are provided, not only for each element, but for each state of the elements, i. e. for every climate, and for every temperature; and that part of the mischief complained of, arises from animals (the human animal most especially) occupying situations upon the earth, which do not belong to them, nor were ever intended for their habitation. The folly and wickedness of mankind, and necessities proceeding from these causes, have driven multitudes of the species to seek a refuge amongst burning sands, whilst countries, blessed with hospitable skies, and with the most fertile soils, remain almost without a human tenant. We invade the territories of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, and then complain that we are infested by their bites and stings. Some accounts of Africa place this observation in a strong
point of view. "The deserts," says Adanson, "are entirely barren, except where they are found to produce serpents; and in such quantities, that some extensive plains are almost entirely covered with them." These are the natures appropriated to the situation. Let them enjoy their existence; let them have their country. Surface enough will be left to man, though his numbers were increased a hundred-fold, and left to him, where he might live, exempt from these annoyances.
The SECOND CASE, viz. that of animals devouring one another, furnishes a consideration of much larger extent. To judge whether, as a general provision, this can be deemed an evil, even so far as we understand its consequences, which, probably, is a partial understanding, the following reflections are fit to be attended to.
1. Immortality upon this earth is out of the question. Without death there could be no generation, no sexes, no parental relation, i. e. as things are constituted, no animal happiness. The particular duration of life, assigned to different animals, can form no part of the objection; because, whatever that duration be, whilst it remains finite and limited, it may always be asked, why it is no longer. The natural age of different animals varies, from a single day to a century of years. No account can be given of this; nor could any be given, whatever other proportion of life had obtained amongst them.
The term then of life in different animals being the same as it is, the question is, what mode of taking it away is the best even for the animal itself.
Now, according to the established order of nature, (which we must suppose to prevail, or we cannot reason at all upon the subject,) the three methods by which life is usually put an end to, are acute diseases, decay, and violence. The simple and natural life of brutes, is not often visited by acute distempers; nor could it be deemed an improvement of their lot, if they were. Let it be considered, therefore, in what a condition of suffering and misery a brute animal is placed, which is left to perish by decay. In human sickness or infirmity, there is the assistance of man's rational fellow-creatures, if not to alleviate his pains, at least to minister to his necessities, and to supply the place of his own activity. A brute in his wild and natural state, does every thing for himself. When his strength, therefore, or his speed, or his limbs, or his senses fail him, he is delivered over, either to absolute famine, or to the protracted