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 204

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Page 204

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 204
which have, in some instances, been fully developed
only in our age.
But if Physical and Experimental Philosophy is of
much older origin than the seventeenth century, it is
not less certain that it would have been utterly
inadequate to produce the civilization we enjoy. The
steam engine and power loom, printing, and the
mariner's compass, have undoubtedly made vast addi-
tions to the comforts, conveniences and enjoyments of
the whole human family ; and it is common to say of
them, and of other kindred inventions, that they have
been great civilizers. But this is the language of
metaphor —a language much too generally used, and
too literally interpreted in our times. They have,
indeed, been powerful instruments of civilization, and,
in the hands of genius and enterprise, of men of
refined and cultivated intellects, of pure and noble
sentiments, they have been of incalculable service in
improving and elevating the condition of mankind.
But what service could even such mighty instruments
have rendered, if there had not been hands strong
enough and wise enough to wield them ? What would
a steam engine avail a Sioux ? To what purpose
would a Ghilanese apply a printing press? For un-
numbered ages, nature, in her grandest aspects, has
been familiar to those wild children of the sons of
Noah. They have little else to study. Yet they have
penetrated but few of her secrets have appropriated
but few of her blessings. What is it that has en-
abled the descendants of Japheth to conquer so many
of her mysteries and to control, for their own ends, so
many of their powers ? To answer this question we
must look back, and traverse a wide surface. We