網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

his heart, any more than in his intellect. It was as clear as crystal, and the rays of moral truth were transmitted through it without being refracted or tinged. In all his intercourse and transactions he was remarkably frank and candid. He revealed himself entirely. He had no secrets. He kept nothing back, for he had nothing to conceal. He lived openly, and talked freely, of himself, and of his doings, and of every thing that was uppermost in his mind. He never hesitated to speak out what he thought on all subjects, public and private, and he avowed his opinions of men and things with the utmost freedom and unconcern. It seemed to me that he never had the fear of man before his eyes, and that it never checked, in the least, the free and full utterance of his sentiments.

He was a singularly modest man. He made no pretensions himself, and there was nothing that he so much despised in others.* He was remarkably simple

mistake both me and him; we are very different men. I trust I understand his works, and can supply his deficiencies, and correct his errors, and render his book more intelligible, and record the successive advancements of the science, and perhaps append some improvements. But La Place was a genius, a discoverer, an inventor. And yet I hope I know as much about mathematics as Playfair!"

As an illustration of Dr. Bowditch's remarkable modesty and simplicity of character, I relate the following little incident, for which I am indebted to JOHN R. ADAN, Esq., one of those who were favored with his friendship and confidence. He tells me that, in the year 1811, the Hon. Walter Folger, of Nantucket, a self-educated man, and quite eminent as a mathematician, and highly respectable in every point of

in all his manners and intercourse with the world. He put on no airs and assumed no superiority on the ground of his intellectual attainments, but put himself on a level with every one with whom he had any concern. He reverenced integrity and truth wherever he found them, in whatever condition in life. He felt and showed no respect for mere wealth or rank. He fearlessly rebuked, to his face, the mean and purse-proud nabob, and "condescended to men of low estate. "

Dr. Bowditch was a truly conscientious man. He was always true to his moral as well as intellectual convictions, and followed them whithersoever they led. He had great faith in the rectitude of his moral perceptions, and in the primary decisions of his own judgment and moral sense; and he carried them forth and acted

view, having been successively a judge of the Common Pleas, a senator in the Legislature of this State, and a member of Congress, came to Boston, and expressed a desire to see Mr. Bowditch. Mr. Adan accordingly accompanied him to Salem. Mr. Folger immediately proceeded alone to Mr. Bowditch's house, and knocked at the door, which was opened by Mr. Bowditch himself, when the following conversation ensued. Folger. "Is Mr. Bowditch at home?" Bowditch. "Yes, sir, that is my name." F. "But I wish to see Mr. Bowditch, the astronomer and mathematician." B. "Well, sir, folks sometimes call me by those names." F. "My name, sir, is Walter Folger, of Nantucket. I have long corresponded with Mr. Bowditch the mathematician, and I want to see him." B. "I am the very person, then, and I am very happy to see you. Walk in." F. "Well, upon my word, sir, I did not expect to find my correspondent so young a person. I thought I should see an older head upon those shoulders." He went in, and had a most delightful interview. Mr. B. was at this time thirty-eight years old.

them out instantly. The word followed the thought, and the deed the feeling, with the rapidity of lightning. This straight-forwardness and frankness were among the secret causes of the remarkable influence which he confessedly exercised over the minds and judgments of others. By his honesty, as well as by his resoluteness and decision, he was the main-spring of every thing with which he was connected. By this moral influence he controlled and swayed all men with whom he was associated. As Ben Jonson says of Lord Bacon, “he commanded where he spoke." *

Dr. Bowditch was a man of ardent natural feelings, and of an impetuous temperament. He was strong in his attachment to men and to opinions, and was not easily turned from any course of speculation or action, which he had once satisfied himself was right, wise and good. At the same time, he always kept his mind open to evidence; and if you brought before him new facts and arguments, he would reconsider the subject,—

The Hon. SAMUEL T. ARMSTRONG, formerly Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth, and under whose administration, as Mayor of the City, the iron fence round the Common was undertaken and completed, has told me the following anecdote, which illustrates Dr. Bowditch's decision of character. He was standing at the bottom of the Common one day, conversing with Dr. Bowditch, and, among other things, mentioned the obstacles that had been thrown in his way in attempting to carry the mall through the burying-ground. "Sir," said Dr. Bowditch, "it depends entirely upon you. If you say ' Volo,' it will go. If you say "Nolo,' it won't." "I did not exactly understand his Latin words," said the Mayor, "but I knew what he meant, and I acted accordingly." He said " Volo," and the thing was done.

deliberately, not hastily, and the next day, perhaps, would tell you that you were in the right, and that he had altered his mind. He was sometimes quick, warm, and vehement in expressing his disapprobation of the character or conduct of an individual, particularly if he thought that the person had practised anything like duplicity or fraud. In such cases, his indignation was absolutely scorching and withering. But he never cherished any personal resentments in his bosom. He did not let the sun go down upon his wrath. His anger was like a cloud, which passes over the disk of the moon, and leaves it as mild and clear as before; or, as the judicious Hooker's was represented to be, "like a vial of clear water, which, when shook, beads at the top, but instantly subsides, without any soil or sediment of uncharitableness."

Let me relate an incident illustrative of this remarkable trait in his character. Dr. Bowditch had been preparing a plan of the town of Salem, which he intended soon to publish. It had been the fruit of much labor and care. By some means or other, an individual in the town had surreptitiously got possession of it, and had the audacity to issue proposals to publish it as his own. This was too much for Dr. Bowditch to bear. He instantly went to the person, and burst out in the following strain: "You villain! how dare you do this? What do you mean by it? If you presume to proceed any farther in this business, I will prosecute you to the utmost extent of the

law." The poor fellow cowered before the storm of his indignation, and was silent; for his wrath was terrible. Dr. Bowditch went home, and slept on it; and the next day, hearing from some authentic source that the man was extremely poor, and had probably been driven by the necessities of his family to commit this audacious plagiarism, his feelings were touched, his heart relented, his anger melted away like wax. He went to him again, and said, "Sir, you did very wrong, and you know it, to appropriate to your own use and benefit the fruit of my labors. But I understand you are poor, and have a family to support. I feel for you, and will help you. That plan is unfinished, and contains errors that would have disgraced you and me had it been published in the state in which you found it. I'll tell you what I will do. I will finish the plan; I will correct the errors; and then you shall publish it for your own benefit, and I will head the subscription list with my name."

What a sublime, noble, Christian spirit was there manifested! This was really overcoming evil with good, and pouring coals of fire upon the poor man's head. The natural feeling of resentment, which God has implanted within all bosoms for our protection against sudden assault and injury, was overruled and conquered by the higher, the sovereign principle of conscience.*

Compare Bishop Butler's admirable sermons on "Human Nature" and "Resentment," in which this subject is handled in a masterly man

« 上一頁繼續 »