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There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new method for building houses, by beginning at the roof and working downward to the foundation ; which he justified to me by the like practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider.
There was a man born blind, who had several apprentices in his own condition : their employment was to mix colours for painters, which their master taught them to distinguish by feeling and smelling. It was indeed my misfortune to find them at that time not very perfect in their lessons, and the professor himself happened to be generally mistaken. This artist is much encouraged and esteemed by the whole fraternity.
In another apartment, I was highly pleased with a projector who had found a device of ploughing the ground with hogs, to save the charges ploughs, cattle, and labour. The method is this : In an acre of ground, you bury, at six inches' distance and eight deep, a quantity of acorns, dates, chestnuts, and other mast or vegetables whereof these animals are fondest ; then you drive six hundred or more of them into the field, where in a few days they will root up the whole ground in search of their food, and make it fit for sowing ; it is true, upon experiment they found the charge and trouble very great, and they had little or no crop. However, it is not doubted that this invention may be capable of great improvement.
We next went to the school of languages, where three professors sat in consultation upon improving that of their own country.
The first project was to shorten discourse, by cutting polysyllables into one, and leaving out verbs and
participles, because, in reality all things imaginable are but nouns.
The other project was a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever, and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health, as well as brevity. For it is plain, that every word we speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and consequently contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, “that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express a particular business they are to discourse on.” And this invention would certainly have taken place, to the great ease as well as health of the subject, if the women, in conjunction with the vulgarand illiterate, had not threatened to raise a rebellion, unless they might be allowed the liberty to speak with their tongues, after the manner of their forefathers; such constant irreconcilable enemies to science are the common people. However, many of the most learned and wise adhere to the new scheme of expressing themselves by things, which has only this inconvenience attending it, that if a man's business be very great, and of various kinds, he must be obliged in proportion to carry a greater bundle of things upon his back, unless he can afford one or two strong servants to attend him. I have often beheld two of these sages almost sinking under the weight of their packs, like pedlars among us; who, when they meet in the street, would lay down their loads, open their sacks, and hold conversation for an hour together, then put up their implements, help each other to resume their burdens, and take their leave.
But for short conversations, a man may carry implements in his pockets, and under his arms, enough to supply him: and in his house he cannot be at a loss. Therefore the room where company meet who practise this art is full of all things ready at hand, requisite to furnish matter for this kind of artificial converse.
Another great advantage proposed by this invention was, that it would serve as a universal language to be understood in all civilized nations, whose goods and utensils are generally of the same kind, or nearly resembling, so that their uses might easily be comprehended. And thus ambassadors would be qualified to treat with foreign princes, or ministers of state, to whose tongues they were utter strangers.
In the school of political projectors I was but ill entertained ; the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their senses ; which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy.
These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue ; of teaching ministers to consult the public good ; of rewarding merit, great abilities, and eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people ; of choosing for employments persons qualified to exercise them ; with many other wild impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive ; and confirmed in me the old observation, “That there is nothing so extravagant and irrational, which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.”
But, however, I shall so far do justice to this part of the academy, as to acknowledge that all of them
were not so visionary. There was a most ingenious doctor who seemed to be perfectly versed in the whole nature and system of government. This illustrious person had very usefully employed his studies in finding out effectual remedies for all diseases and corruptions to which the several kinds of public administration are subject, by the vices or infirmities of those who govern, as well as by the licentiousness of those who are to obey. For instance, whereas all writers and reasoners have agreed that there is a strict universal resemblance between the natural and the political body ; can there be anything more evident than that the health of both must be preserved, and the diseases cured, by the same prescriptions? It is allowed, that senates and great councils are often troubled with redundant, ebullient, and other peccant humours; with many diseases of the head, and more of the heart ; with strong convulsions, with grievous contractions of the nerves and sinews in both hands, but especially the right ; with spleen, flatus, vertigoes, and deliriums; with scrofulous tumours, full of fetid purulent matter ; with sour frothy ructations ; with canine appetites, and crudeness of digestion, besides many others needless to mention. This doctor, therefore, proposed, that “Upon the meeting of the senate certain physicians should attend at the three first days of their sitting, and at the close of each day's debate feel the pulses of every senator ; after which, having maturely considered and consulted upon the nature of the several maladies and the methods of cure, they should, on the fourth day, return to the senate-house, attended by their apothecaries stored with proper medicines ; and, before the members sat, administer
to each of them lenitives, aperitives, abstersives, corrosives, restringents, palliatives, laxatives, cephalalgics, icterics, apophlegmatics, acoustics, as their several cases required ; and, according as these medicines should operate, repeat, alter, or omit them at the next meeting.'
This project could not be of any great expense to the public, and might, in my poor opinion, be of much use for the despatch of business, in those countries where senates have any share in the legislative power ; beget unanimity, shorten debates, open a few mouths which are now closed, and close many more which are now open ; curb the petulancy of the young, and correct the positiveness of the old ; rouse the stupid, and damp the pert.
Again : because it is a general complaint that the favourites of princes are troubled with short and weak memories, the same doctor proposed “That whoever attended a first minister, after having told his business with the utmost brevity and in the plainest words, should at his departure give the said minister a tweak by the nose, or a kick on the belly, or tread on his corns, or lug him thrice by both ears, or run a pin into his breech, or pinch his arm black and blue, to prevent forgetfulness : and at every levee day repeat the same operation, till the business were done, or absolutely refused.”
He likewise directed, “That every senator in the great council of a nation, after he had delivered his opinion, and argued in the defence of it, should be obliged to give his vote directly contrary ; because, if that were done, the result would infallibly terminate in the good of the public.”