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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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969. BUFFON (Count de), Animal theories refuted.—
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969. BUFFON (Count de), Animal theories refuted.—

The opinion advanced by
the Count de Buffon, is, 1. That the animals
common both to the old and new world are
smaller in the latter. 2. That those peculiar
to the new are on a smaller scale. 3. That
those which have been domesticated in both
have degenerated in America; and 4. That
on the whole it exhibits fewer species. And
the reason he thinks is, that the heats of
America are less; that more waters are spread
over its surface by nature, and fewer of these
drained off by the hand of man. In other
words, that heat is friendly, and moisture adverse
to the production and development of
large quadrupeds. I will not meet this hypothesis
on its first doubtful ground, whether the
climate of America be comparatively more
humid, because we are not furnished with observations
sufficient to decide this question.
And though, till it be decided, we are as free
to deny as others are to affirm the fact, yet
for a moment let it be supposed. The hypothesis
after this supposition, proceeds to another;
that moisture is unfriendly to animal
growth. The truth of this is inscrutable to
us by reasonings à priori. Nature has hidden
from us her modus agendi. Our only appeal
on such questions is to experience; and I
think that experience is against the supposition.
It is by the assistance of heat and moisture
that vegetables are elaborated from the
elements of earth, air, water, and fire. We
accordingly see the more humid climates produce
the greater quantity of vegetables. Vegetables
are mediately or immediately the food
of every animal; and in proportion to the
quantity of food, we see animals not only multiplied
in their numbers, but improved in
their bulk, as far as the laws of their nature
will admit. Of this opinion is the Count de
Buffon himself in another part of his work:
“En general il paroit que les pays un peu
froids conviennent mieux á nos boeufs que
les pays chauds et qu'ils sont d'autant plus
gros et plus grands que le climat est plus
humide et plus abondans en paturages. Les
boeufs de Danemarck, de la Podolie, de
l'Ukraine et de la Tartarie qu'habitent les Calmouques
sont les plus grands de tous.”
Here then a race of animals, and one of the
largest too, has been increased in its dimensions
by cold and moisture, in direct opposition
to the hypothesis, which supposes that
these two circumstances diminish animal bulk,
and that it is their contraries, heat and dryness
which enlarge it.—
Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 290. Ford ed., iii, 135.