Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Samuel George Morton.

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rians have adopted the Algerine system of taking you,
as a slave, to the mountains, where they exact a ran-
som of as many thousand dollars as they conceive the
property you possess will enable you to pay."*

On returning to the United States in 1824, Mr.
Maclure was still intent on establishing an Agricul-
tural School on a plan similar to that he had attempted
in Spain. At this juncture the settlement at New
Harmony, in Indiana, had been purchased by the ec-
centric author of the Social System ; and many in-
telligent persons, deceived by a plausible theory, went
forth to join the Utopian colony ; and Mr. Maclure
♦American Journal of Science, vol. viii, p. 187.



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20 MEMOIR OF

himself, willing to test the validity of a system which
seemed to promise something for human advantage,
resolved to establish, in the same locality, his pro-
posed Agricultural school. He did not, at the same
time, adopt all the peculiar views of this fugitive com-
munity, to many of which, in fact, he was decidedly
opposed ; but he consented to compromise a part of
his own opinions in order to accomplish, in his own
phrase, " the greatest good for the greatest number."
For this purpose he forwarded to New Harmony his
private library, philosophical instruments and col-
lections in Natural History, designing, by these and
other means, to make that locality the centre of edu-
cation in the West. That the Social scheme was
speedily and entirely abortive, is a fact familiar to
every one; but Mr. Maclure having purchased ex-
tensive tracts of land in the town and vicinity of New
Harmony, continued to reside there for several years,
in the hope of bringing his school into practical ope*
ration.

In leaving Philadelphia for New Harmony, Mr.
Maclure induced several distinguished naturalists to
bear him company, as coadjutors in his educational
designs ; and among them were Mr. Say, Mr. Lesueur,
Dr. Troost, and a few others, who had already earned
an enviable scientific reputation.

For various reasons which need not be discussed
in this place, the School did not fulfil the expectations
of its founder, who was at length constrained to re-



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WILLIAM MACLURE. 21

linquish it ; and the less reluctantly as the approach
of age, and the increasing delicacy of his constitution,
admonished him of the necessity of seeking a more
genial climate. We accordingly find him, in the au-
tumn of 1827, embarking for Mexico in company with
his friend Mr. Say. They passed the winter in that
delightful country ; and employed their time in ob-
serving and recording the various new facts in science
which there presented themselves; and on the ap-
proach of summer they returned to the United States.
Mr. Maclure was so pleased with the climate of
Mexico, and so solicitous to study the social and po-
litical institutions of the country, that he determined
to return the same year; and with this intent he
visited Philadelphia, proceeded thence to New Haven,
and presided for the last time at a meeting of the
American Geological Society in that city on the 17th
of November, 1828. Of this institution he had also
long been President, and took an active interest in
its prosperity, which was strengthened by his regard
for his friend Professor Silliman — a man justly es-
teemed for his zealous and successful exertions to
advance the interests of Science, as well as for his
extensive acquirements and his many virtues. On
this occasion Mr. Maclure declared his intention to
bring back with him from Mexico a number of young
native Indians, in order to have them educated in the
United States, and subsequently diffuse the benefits
of instruction among the people of their own race.



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22 MEMOIR OF

This benevolent object, however, was not accom-
plished ; for in the ordering of Providence he did not
live to return.

From New Haven Mr. Maclure proceeded to New
York, and embarked for Mexico. Time and distance,
however, could not estrange him from that solicitude
which he had long cherished for the advancement of
education in his adopted country; and from his re-
mote residence he kept a constant correspondence
with his friends in the United States, among whom
was the author of this memoir.

'Mr. Say* died in 1834, at New Harmony; and
Mr. Maclure was thus deprived of one his oldest
and firmest friends. The loss seemed for a time to
render him wavering as to his future plans; but con-
vinced, on reflection, that his educational projects in
the West could be no longer fostered or sustained,
he resolved to transfer his library at New Harmony
to the Academy of Natural Sciences. This rich do-

*Mr. Say was one of the founders of the Academy; and
among the last acts of his life, he provided for the further utility
of the institution by requesting that it should become the depo-
sitory of his books and collections. This verbal bequest was
happily confided to one whose feelings and pursuits were conge-
nial to his own ; and the Academy is indebted to Mr. and Mrs.
Say, for some of its most valuable acquisitions.

An interesting and eloquent Memoir of Mr. Say, was written
by Dr. Benjamin Hornor Coates, under the auspices of the
Academy in 1835.



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WILLIAM MACLURE. 23

nation was announced to the Society in the autumn
of 1835 ; and Dr. Charles Pickering, who had been
for several years librarian of the institution, was de-
puted to superintend the conveyance of the books to
Philadelphia ; a trust which was speedily and safely
accomplished.

This second library contained 2259 volumes, em-
bracing, like the former one, works in every depart-
ment of useful knowledge, but especially Natural
History and the Fine Arts, together with an extensive
series of maps and charts.

Mr. Maclure's liberality, however, was not con-
fined to a single institution : the American Geologi-
cal Society, established, as we have already mention-
ed, at New Haven, partook largely of his benefactions
both in books and specimens ; and in reference to
these repeated contributions, Professor Silliman has
expressed the following brief but just and beautiful
acknowledgment: "This gentleman's liberality to
purposes of science and humanity has been too often
and too munificently experienced in this country, to
demand any eulogium from us. It is rare that afflu-
ence, liberality and the possession and love of science
unite so signally in the same individual."*

Since the year 1826 the academy had occupied an
edifice in some respects well adapted to its objects;
but the extent and value of the library, suggested to

* Amer. Jour, of Science, vol. iii. p. 362.



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24 MEMOIROF

Mr. Maclure the necessity of a fire-proof building.
In order to accomplish this object he first transferred
to the society a claim of an unsettled estate for the
sum of five thousand dollars, which was followed in
1837 by a second donation of the same amount.
Meanwhile, having matured the plan of the new
Hall of the A6ademy, and having explained his views
to the members, he transmitted, in 1838, an addition-
al subscription for ten thousand dollars.

Thus sustained by the splendid liberality of their
venerable President, the Society proceeded without
delay in the erection of a new building. The corner
stone was laid at the corner of Broad and George
streets, with due form on the 25th of May 1839;
on which occasion an appropriate Address was deli-
vered by Professor Johnson. The edifice thus au-
spiciously begun, was conducted without delay to
completion ; so that the first meeting of the Society
within its walls was held on the 7th day of February
1840.

Mr. Maclure had fervently desired and fully ex-
pected to revisit Philadelphia ; but early in the year
1839 his constitution suffered several severe shocks
of disease, and from that period age and its varied
infirmities grew rapidly upon him. JJnder these
circumstances be became more than ever 'solicitous
to return to the United States, to enjoy again the com-
panionship of his family and friends, and to end his



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WILLIAM MACLURE. 25

days in that land which had witnessed alike his pros-
perity and his munificence.

He made repeated efforts to accomplish this last
wish of his heart; and finally arranged with his
friend Dr. Burrough, then United States Consul at
Vera Cruz, to meet him at Jalapa with a littera and
bearers, in order to conduct him to the sea-coast.
Dr. Burrough faithfully performed his part of the
engagement ; but after waiting for some days at the
appointed place of meeting, he received the melan-
choly intelligence that Mr. Maclure, after having left
Mexico and accomplished a few leagues of his jour-
ney, was compelled by illness and consequent ex-
haustion to relinquish his journey.

Languid in body, and depressed and disappointed
in mind, Mr. Maclure reluctantly retraced his steps ;
but being unable to reach the capital, he was cordially
received into the country house of his friend Valen-
tine Gomez Farias, Ex-President of Mexico, where
he received all the attentions which hospitality could
dictate. His feeble frame was capable of but one
subsequent effort, which enabled him to reach the
village of San Angel ; where, growing weaker and
weaker, and sensible of the approach of death, he
yielded to the common lot of humanity on the 23d
day of March, 1840, in the seventy-seventh year of
his age.

The death of Mr. Maclure was announced to the
Academy on Tuesday evening the 28th of April, on



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26 MEMOIR OF

whiclToccasion the following resolutions were una-
nimously adopted :

Resolved, That the Academy has learned with deep
concern, the decease, at San Angel, near the city of
Mexico, of their venerable and respected President
and benefactor, William Maclure, Esq.

Resolved, That although his declining health in-
duced him to reside for some years in a distant and
more genial clime, this Academy cherishes for Mr.
Maclure the kindest personal recollections, and a
grateful sense of his contributions to the cause of
Science.

Resolved, That as the Pioneer of Americal Geolo-
gy, the whole country owes to Mr. Maclure a debt
of gratitude, and in his death will acknowledge the
loss of one of the most efficient friends of Science
and the Arts.

Resolved, That as the patron of men of science,
even more than for his personal researches, Mr.
Maclure deserves the lasting regard of mankind.

Resolved, That a member of the Academy be ap-
pointed to prepare and deliver a discourse commemo-
rative of its lamented President.

Resolved, That the Corresponding Secretary be
requested to communicate to the family of Mr. Ma-
clure a copy of these Resolutions.



Thus closed a life which had been devoted, with
untiring energy and singular disinterestedness, to the



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WILLIAM MAGLURE. 27

attainment and diffusion of practical knowledge. No
views of pecuniary advantage, or personal aggran-
dizement, entered into the motives by which he was
governed, his educational plans, it is true, were
repeatedly inoperative, not because he did too little,
but because he expected more than could be realized
in the social institutions by which he was surrounded.
He aimed at reforming mankind by diverting their
attention from the mere pursuit of wealth and ambi-
tion, to the cultivation of the mind ; and espousing
the hypothesis of the possible " equality of education,
property and power " among men, he laboured to
counteract that love of superiority which appeared
to him to cause half the miseries of our species.
However fascinating these views are in theory, man-
kind are not yet prepared to reduce them to practice ;
and without entering into discussion in this place we
may venture to assert, that what Religion itself has
not been able to accomplish, Philosophy will attempt
in vain.

Mr. Maclure's character habitually expressed itself
without dissimulation or disguise. Educated in the
old world almost to the period of manhood, and
inflexibly averse to many of its established institu-
tions, he was prone to indulge the opposite extremes
of opinion, and became impatient of those usages
which appeared to him to fetter the reason and em-
barrass the genius of man ; and while he rejoiced in
the republican system of his adopted country, he



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28 MEMOIR OF

aimed at an intellectual exaltation which, to common
observation at least, seems incompatible with the
wants and impulses of our nature.

Fully and justly imbued with the importance of
disseminating practical truth, he strove, through its
influence to bring the several classes of mankind
more on a level with each other; not by invading
the privileges of the rich, but by educating the poor ;
thus enforcing the sentiment that "knowledge is
power," and that he who possesses it will seldom be
the dupe of designing and arbitrary minds. With
a similar motive he endeavoured to inculcate the
elements of Political Economy, by the publication
of epistolary essays in a familiar style, which have
been embodied in two volumes with the title of
Opinions on Various Subjects. They discover a bold
and original mind, and a fondness for innovation
which occasionally expresses itself in a startling sen-
timent ; but however we may differ from him on
various questions, it must be conceded that his views
of financial operations were remarkably correct,
inasmuch as he predicted the existing pecuniary em-
barrassments of this country, at the very time when
the great mass of observers looked forward to accu-
mulating wealth and unexampled prosperity.

Let it not be supposed that Mr. Maclure's benevo-
lent efforts were restricted to those extended schemes
of usefulness to which we have so often adverted.
Far, very fair from it. His individual and more pri-



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WILLIAM MACLURE. 29

vate benefactions, were such as became his affluent
resources, influenced by a generous spirit. He habitu-
ally extended his patronage to genius, and his cordial
support to those plans which, in his view, were
adapted to the common interests of humanity. There
are few cabinets of Natural History in our country,
public or private, that have not been augmented
from his stores ; and several scientific publications of
an expensive character, have been sustained to com-
pletion by his instrumentality. While in Europe,
he purchased the copper-plate illustrations of some
important works both in science and art, with the
intention of having them re-published at home in a
cheaper form, in order to render them accessible to
all classes of learners. Among these works was
Michaux's Sylva, which is now going through the
press in conformity to his wishes.

He was singularly mild and unostentatious in his
manner ; and though a man of strong feelings, he
seldom allowed his temper to triumph over his judg-
ment. Cautious in his intimacies, and firm in his
friendships, time and circumstance in no degree
weakened the affections of his earlier years. Though
affable and communicative, Mr. Maclure was very
much isolated during the last thirty years of his
life ; partly owing to a naturally retiring disposition,
partly to the peculiarity of some of his opinions, in
respect to which, though unobtrusive, he was inflexi-
ble — but mainly to that frequent change of residence



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30 MEMOIR OF

which is unfavourable to social fellowship. Hence
it is that of the thousands who are familiar with his
name in the annals of Science, comparatively few
can speak of him from personal knowledge.

In person he was above the middle stature, and of
a naturally robust frame. His constitution was elas-
tic, and capable of much endurance of privation and
fatigue, which he attributed chiefly to the undevia-
ting simpliciiy of his diet. His head was large, his
forehead high and expanded, his nose acquiline ; and
his collective features were expressive of that undis-
turbed serenity of mind which was a conspicuous
trait of his character.

Those who knew him in early life, represent him
to have been remarkable for personal endowments ;
a fact which is evident in the full-length portrait now
in possession of his family, and which was painted
upwards of forty years ago by the celebrated North-
cote. The engraved likeness which accompanies
this memoir, is copied from a portrait taken by Mr.
Sully, in 1824, at which period Mr. Maclure was
about sixty-three years of age.

Such was William Maclure, whose long, active
and useful life is the subject of this brief and inade-
quate memorial. His remains are entombed in a dis-
tant land, and even there the spirit of affection has
raised a tablet to his memory. But his greater and
more enduring monument, is the edifice within whose
walls we are now met to recount and perpetuate his



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WILLIAM MACLURE. 31

virtues. Wherever we turn our eyes we behold the
proofs of his talent, his zeal, his munificence. We
see an Institution which, under his fostering care, has
already attained the manhood of Science, and is des-
tined to connect his name with those beautiful truths
which formed the engrossing subject of his thoughts
We see around us the collections that were made with
his own hands, vastly augmented, it is true, by the
zeal of those who have been stimulated by his ex-
anple. Here are the books which he read — to him
the fountains of pleasure and instruction. Here has
he concentrated the works of nature, the sources of
knowledge, the incentives to study ; and, actuated by
his liberal spirit, we open our doors to all inquiring
minds, and invite them to participate, with us, in
these invaluable acquisitions ; and while we regard
them as a trust to be transmitted unblemished to pos-
terity, let us honour the name and cherish the memory
of the man from whom we derived them.*

*Mr. Maclure died before he had accomplished all his views in
respect to this Institution ; for, looking forward, as he did, to re-
newed personal intercourse with its members, he intended to inquire
for himself into the most available modes of extending its useful,
ness. This, as we have seen, was denied him ; but the Spirit of
Science which was inherent in him, has descended upon his brother
and sister ; and to these estimable and enlightened individuals, we
owe the consummation of all that their brother had proposed in re-
ference to the Academy, which will be hereafter enabled to devote
its resources exclusively to the advancement of those objects for
which it was founded.



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APPENDIX.



List of Mr. Maclure's Published Works and Memoirs.

The following list embraces the separate works
(two in number) and miscellaneous papers written
by Mr. Maclure during his residence in the United
States. It is not presumed that the list is complete .
for it is more than probable that he contributed some-
thing to the periodical journals of England, France,
Spain, and perhaps Mexico, whilst resident in those
countries.

A reference to the following Essays will show how
exclusively Mr. Maclure's mind was devoted to mat-
ters of fact, seldom indulging in hypothesis, and never
yielding himself, at least in his writings, to purely
imaginative reflections.

1. Observations on the Geology of the United States of

America, with some Remarks on the Nature and Fer-
tility of Soils, &c. 8vo. Philad. 1817. This is a cor-
rected reprint from the Trans, of the Amer. Philos.
Soc.

2. Opinions on Various Subjects, 2 vols. 8vo. This work

is epistolary, and was chiefly written in Mexico.
It embraces reflections on many subjects, but is
mainly devoted to Political Economy.
Memoirs in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences
of Philadelphia :

1. Observations on the [Geology of the] West India
Islands, from Barbadoes to Santa Cruz, inclusive.
Vol. I, p. 134.



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f APPENDIX 33

Essay on the Formation of Rocks ; or an Inquiry into
] • their probable Origin, and their present Form and

Structure. Vol. I, p. 261.
i^ Memoirs in the American Philosophical Transactions :

1. Observations on the Geology of the United States, ex-

t x planatory of a Geological Map. Vol. VI, p. 91. 1809,

2. The same Memoir, corrected and extended. Vol. I.
New Series, IS 17.
Memoirs in the American Journal of Science and ArL con-
ducted by Professor SUliman :
* • 1. Hints on some of the Outlines of Geological Arrange-

/ ment. Vol. I, p. 209

2. Conjectures on the probable changes that have taken
place in the Geology of the Continent of America,
east of the Stony Mountains. Vol. VI, p. 98.

3. Miscellaneous Remarks on the Systematic Arrange-
ment of Rocks, and on their probable Origin. Vol.
VII, p. 261.

4. Notice of the Anthracite Region of Pennsylvania,
Vol. X, p. 205.

5. Remarks on the Igneous Theory of the Earth. Vol.
XVI, p. 351.

6. Geological Remarks relating to Mexico. Vol. XX.
p. 406. The same periodical also contains many
detached Observations, and fragments of letters com-
municated to the Editor of that work.

Memoirs published in the Journal de Physique, de Chimie
et d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris :

1. Extrait d'une Lettre de M. William Maclure, k J. C.
Delamfctherie sur la Geologic des Etats Unis. Tome
69, p. 201. (1809.)

2. Observations sur la Geologie des Etats Unis, servant
k expliquer une Carte Geologique. Tome 69, p.
204. (1809.)

This last memoir is a translation from the original in the
American Philosophical Transactions.



V



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NOTE.

The Hall of the Academy of Natural Sciwices of Philadel-
phia is situated at the corner of Broad arid. George streets,
forty-five feet front on the former, and eighty-five feet in
depth on the latter. The building is fire-proof, and presents
a single saloon with three ranges of galleries, beneath which,
in the basement, is a lecture-room capable of accommodating
four hundred persons.

The institution was founded in 1812 and incorporated in
1817, and enjoys a perpetual exemption from taxation by
legislative enactment.

The Museum embraces extensive collections in every de-
partment of Natural History, arranged according to the most
approved systems, viz :

2500 Minerals.

3000 Fossil Organic Remains.

10,000 Species of Insects.

2400 Species of Shells.

1000 Species of Fishes and Reptiles.

1500 Species of Birds; a small but valuable collection of
Quadrupeds, and an extensive series in Comparative Anat-
omy.

The Herbarium contains about 35,000 species of plants,
arranged according to the natural system.

The Library embraces 7000 volumes, and is alwars acces-
sible to members, and to visiters attended by members, except-
ing only those occasions when the Academy is open to the
public, viz :— on the afternoon of Tuesday and Saturday.

Admission free of charge.






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Online LibraryAcademy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Samuel George MortonA memoir of William Maclure, esq: late president of the Academy of Natural ... → online text (page 2 of 2)