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tottering and insecure, in so much that the smallest departure from the exact balance leads to its total subversion. The other is stable, so that even a violent concussion only excites some vibrations backward and forward, after which every thing settles in its own place. Those governments in which there is no political liberty, and where the people have no influence, are all unavoidably in the first of these predicaments: those in which there is a broad basis of liberty, naturally belong to that in which the balance re-establishes itself. The same weight, that of the people, which in the first case tends to overset the balance, tends in the second to restore it and hence, probably, the great difference between the result of the French Revolution, and of the revolutions which formerly took place in this country.
It will be happy for mankind, if they learn from these disasters, the great lessons which they seem so much calculated to enforce, and if, while the people reflect on the danger of sudden innovation, their rulers consider, that it is only by a gradual reformation of abuses, and by extending, rather than abridging, the liberties of the people, that a remedy can be provided against similar convulsions.
But I return willingly from this digression, to those branches of knowledge, where, in describing
what Mr Robison has done, the language of truth and of praise will never be found at variance with one another.
In autumn 1799, this country had the misfortune to lose one of its brightest ornaments, Dr Black, who had laid the foundation of the Pneumatic Chemistry, and discovered the principle of Latent Heat. The Doctor had published very
little; and his discoveries were more numerous than his writings. His lectures, however, had drawn much attention; they presented the first philosophical views of chemical science; they were remarkable for their perspicuity and elegance, and this, joined to the simplicity and gracefulness of manner in which they were delivered, made them universally admired. It was now proposed to publish these lectures; but this required that they should be put into the hands of some one able to perform the part of an editor, and to prepare for the press the notes from which the Doctor used to read his lectures. The person naturally thought of was Mr Robison, one of Dr Black's oldest friends, and so well skilled in chemistry, that no one could be supposed to execute the work with more zeal or more intelligence. The task, however, was by no means easy. Dr Black, with a very large share of talent and genius, with the most correct taste and soundest judgment, with no habits that could dissipate his mind, or withdraw it from the pursuits of
science, was less ardent in research, and less stimulated by the love of fame, than might have been expected from such high endowments. A state of health always delicate, and subject to be deranged by slight accidents, was probably the cause of this indifference. Hence the small number of his writings, and his sudden stop in that career of discovery on which he had entered with such brilliancy and success. Of much that he had done, the world had never heard any thing, but from verbal communication to his pupils, and on the subject of latent heat, no written document remained to ascertain to him the property of that great discovery. The only means of repairing this loss, and counteracting the injustice of the world, was the publication which Professor Robison now undertook with so much zeal, and executed with so much ability. Dr Black had used to read his lectures from notes, and these often but very imperfect, and ranged in order by marks or signs only known to himself. The task of editing them was therefore difficult, and required a great deal both of time and labour, but was at last accomplished in a manner to give great satisfaction. The truth, however, is, that the time was past when this work would have met in the world with the reception which it deserved. Chemical theories had of late undergone great changes, and the language of the science was entirely altered. Dr Black, on the subject of these changes, had cor
responded with Lavoisier, and the mutual respect of two great men for one another, was strongly marked in the letters which passed between them. The Doctor had acceded to the changes proposed by the French chemist, and had even adopted the new nomenclature; but his notes had not undergone the alterations which were necessary to introduce it throughout. It would now have been difficult to make those alterations; and Mr Robison, who was not favourable to the new chemistry, did not conceive that, by making them, he was permanently serving the interest of his friend. He conceived, indeed, that there was unfairness in the means employed by Lavoisier, for bringing Dr Black to adopt the new system of chemistry, and has thrown out some severe reflections on the conduct of the former, which appear to me to rest on a very slight foundation.
It was quite natural for a man, convinced like Lavoisier, of the importance of the improvements which he had made in chemistry, to be desirous that they should be received by the most celebrated Professor of that time,-by the very man, too, whose discoveries had opened the way to those improvements. His letters to Dr Black contain expressions of respect and esteem, which, I confess, appear to me perfectly natural, and without any thing like exaggeration or deceit. Indeed, it is
not probable that M. Lavoisier, even if he could himself have submitted to flatter or cajole, could conceive that any good effect was to arise from doing so, or that there was any other way of inducing a grave, cautious, and profound philosopher, to adopt a certain system of opinions, but by convincing him of their truth. He had, with those who knew him, the character of a sincere man, very remote from any thing like art or affectation. We must, therefore, ascribe the view which Mr Robison took of this matter, to the same system of prejudices on which we have had already occasion to animadvert. Such, indeed, was the force of those prejudices, that he considered the Chemical Nomenclature, the new System of Measures, and the new Kalendar, as all three equally the contrivances of men, not so much interested for science, as for the superiority of their own nation. Now, whatever be said of the Kalendar, the project of uniform Weights and Measures is admitted to be an admirably contrived system, which Britain is now following at a great distance; and the New Nomenclature of Chemistry to be a real scientific improvement, adopted all over Europe. Many of the radical words may depend on false theories, and may of course require to be changed; but though the matter pass away, the form will remain; the words of the language may perish, but the