Posted by: MTR | January 13, 2010

First Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions

Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner.

The whole earth, and all within it, upon it, and round about it, including himself, in his physical, moral, and intellectual nature, and his susceptabilities, are the infinitely various “leads” from which, man, from the first, was to dig out his destiny.

In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood naked, and knowledgeless, upon it.

Fishes, birds, beasts, and creeping things, are not miners, but feeders and lodgers, merely. Beavers build houses; but they build them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand years ago. Ants, and honey-bees, provide food for winter; but just in the same way they did, when Solomon refered the sluggard to them as patterns of prudence. [2]

Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions. His first important discovery was the fact that he was naked; and his first invention was the fig-leaf-apron. This simple article—the apron—made of leaves, seems to have been the origin of clothing—the one thing for which nearlyPage  438 half of the toil and care of the human race has ever since been expended. The most important improvement ever made in connection with clothing, was the invention of spinning and weaving. The spinning jenny, and power-loom, invented in modern times, though great improvements, do not, as inventions, rank with the ancient arts of spinning and weaving. Spinning and weaving brought into the department of clothing such abundance and variety of material. Wool, the hair of several species of animals, hemp, flax, cotten, silk, and perhaps other articles, were all suited to it, affording garments not only adapted to wet and dry, heat and cold, but also susceptable of high degrees of ornamental finish. Exactly when, or where, spinning and weaving originated is not known. At the first interview of the Almighty with Adam and Eve, after the fall, He made “coats of skins, and clothed them” Gen: 3-21.

The Bible makes no other alusion to clothing, before the flood. Soon after the deluge Noah’s two sons covered him with a garment; but of what material the garment was made is not mentioned. Gen. 9-23.

Abraham mentions “thread” in such connection as to indicate that spinning and weaving were in use in his day—Gen. 14.23— and soon after, reference to the art is frequently made. “Linen breeches, [”] are mentioned,—Exod. 28.42—and it is said “all the women that were wise hearted, did spin with their hands” (35-25) and, “all the women whose hearts stirred them up in wisdom, spun goat’s hair” (35-26). The work of the “weaver” is mentioned— (35-35). In the book of Job, a very old book, date not exactly known, the “weavers shuttle” is mentioned.

The above mention of “thread” by Abraham is the oldest recorded alusion to spinning and weaving; and it was made about two thousand years after the creation of man, and now, near four thousand years ago. Profane authors think these arts originated in Egypt; and this is not contradicted, or made improbable, by any thing in the Bible; for the alusion of Abraham, mentioned, was not made until after he had sojourned in Egypt.

The discovery of the properties of iron, and the making of iron tools, must have been among the earliest of important discoveries and inventions. We can scarcely conceive the possibility of making much of anything else, without the use of iron tools. Indeed, an iron hammer must have been very much needed to make the first iron hammer with. A stone probably served as a substitute. How could the “gopher wood” for the Ark, have been gotten out without an axe? It seems to me an axe, or a miracle, was indispensable. Corresponding with the prime necessity for iron, we find at leastPage  439 one very early notice of it. Tubal-cain was “an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron[”]—Gen: 4-22. Tubal-cain was the seventh in decent from Adam; and his birth was about one thousand years before the flood. After the flood, frequent mention is made of iron, and instruments made of iron. Thus “instrument of iron” at Num: 35-16; “bed-stead of iron” at Deut. 3-11—- “the iron furnace [”] at 4-20— and “iron tool” at 27-5. At 19-5— very distinct mention of “the ax to cut down the tree” is made; and also at 8-9, the promised land is described as “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” From the somewhat frequent mention of brass in connection with iron, it is not improbable that brass—perhaps what we now call copper—was used by the ancients for some of the same purposes as iron.

Transportation—the removal of person, and goods—from place to place—would be an early object, if not a necessity, with man. By his natural powers of locomotion, and without much assistance from Discovery and invention, he could move himself about with considerable facility; and even, could carry small burthens with him. But very soon he would wish to lessen the labor, while he might, at the same time, extend, and expedite the business. For this object, wheel-carriages, and water-crafts—wagons and boats—are the most important inventions. The use of the wheel & axle, has been so long known, that it is difficult, without reflection, to estimate it at it’s true value. [3]

The oldest recorded allusion to the wheel and axle is the mention of a “chariot” Gen: 41-43. This was in Egypt, upon the occasion of Joseph being made Governor by Pharaoh. It was about twentyfive hundred years after the creation of Adam. That the chariot then mentioned was a wheel-carriage drawn by animals, is sufficiently evidenced by the mention of chariot-wheels, at Exod. 14-25, and the mention of chariots in connection with horses, in the same chapter, verses 9 & 23. So much, at present, for land-transportation.


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