Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 203

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 203

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 203
illumined by the light shed abroad by actual improve-
ment—that his facts were appreciated and his system
comprehended —a system not wholly new in theory,
and in some parts ancient in practice. The truth is
that discovery has done more for Bacon than he has
done as yet for it, since it is only now that we begin
to look with astonishment and admiration at the vast
range and wonderful foreshadowing of his mighty
intellect. That he was himself, in some respects, over-
taken and outrun by the progress of his own age is suf-
ficiently illustrated by the melancholy fact that he was
the first English judge tried and sentenced for receiv-
ing bribes —a practice which had been universal, and,
until his case, notoriously tolerated.
The close inquirer will often be amazed to find
how true it is, that, after all, there is little new under
the sun ; to perceive from what remote sources and
for what a period, the greatest ideas, unrealized,
unsystematized, almost unheeded, have floated down
the mighty stream of time now far out in the cur-
rent, now driven near the shore, and finally thrown
on some propitious headland where they found a
genial soil and bear the most precious fruit. Thales
attributed the formation of the earth to the action of
water, and gave a hint of electricity. Pythagoras said
the sun, and not the earth, was the centre of the
universe, and that the planets moved round it in
elliptical orbits. The Roman bakers stamped their
bread. Aristotle believed that the explosive power
of steam was sufficient to produce earthquakes. And
Hero of Alexandria actually applied steam power to
a toy machine, two centuries before the Christian Era.
So, long ago, were laid the foundations for discoveries,