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the beautiful and pious sentiments contained in the 28th query at the end of the Optics. He represented the principles of these great men as precisely the same with those of the materialists, and thus endeavoured to degrade the character of English philosophers.
These attacks of Leibnitz became subjects of conversation at court, and when they reached the ear of the king, his majesty expressed his expectation that Sir Isaac Newton would draw up a reply. He accordingly entered the lists on the mathematical part of the controversy, and left the philosophical part of it to Dr. Clarke, who was a full match for the German philosopher. The correspondence which thus took place was carefully perused by the princess, and from the estimation in which Sir Isaac continued to be held, we may infer that the views of the English philosopher were not very remote from her own.
When Sir Isaac was one day conversing with her royal highness on some points of ancient history, he was led to mention to her, and to explain, a new system of chronology which he composed during his residence at Cambridge, where he was in the habit, as he himself expresses it, “ of refreshing himself with history and chronology when he was weary with other studies.” The princess was so much pleased with his ingenious system, that she subsequently, in the year 1718, sent a message by the Abbé Conti to Sir Isaac, requesting him to speak with her, and she, on this occasion, requested a copy of the interesting work which contained his system of chronology. Sir Isaac informed her that it existed merely in separate papers, which were not only in a state of confusion, but which contained a very imperfect view of the subject, and he promised, in a few days, to draw up an abstract of it for her own private use, and on the condition that it should not be communicated to any other person. Some time after the princess received the manuscript, she requested that the Abbé Conti might be allowed to have a copy of it. Sir Isaac granted this request, and the Abbé was informed that he received a copy of the manuscript with Sir Isaac's leave, and at the princess's request, and that it was to be kept secret.* The manuscript which was thus rashly put into the hands of a foreigner was entitled "A Short Chronicle from the First Memory of Things in Europe to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great.” It consists of about twenty-four quarto printed pages,t with an introduction of four pages, in which Sir Isaac states that he “ does not pretend to be exact to a year, that there may be errors of five or ten years, and sometimes twenty, but not much above."
The Abbé Conti kept his promise of secrecy during his residence in England, but he no sooner reached Paris than he communicated it to M. Freret, a learned antiquarian, who not only translated it, but drew up observations upon it for the purpose of refuting some of its principal results. Sir Isaac was unacquainted with this transaction till he was informed of it by the French bookseller, M. Cavalier, who requested his leave to publish it, and charged one of his friends in London to procure Sir Isaac's answer, which was as follows:
“I remember that I wrote a Chronological index for a particular friend, on condition that it should not be communicated. As I have not seen the manuscript which you have under my name, I know not whether it be the same. That which I wrote was not at all done with design to publish it. I intend not to meddle with that which hath been given you under my name, nor to give any consent to the publishing of it.-I am your very humble servant,
* This anecdote concerning the Chronological manuscript is not correctly given in the Biographia Britannica, and in some of the other lives of Newton. I have followed implicitly Newton's own account of it in the Phil. Trans. 1725, vol. xxxiii. No. 389, p. 315.
+ M. Biot has supposed that this abstract was an imperfect edition of Newton's work on Chronology.
“ Isaac Newton. “ London, May 27th, 1725, 0. S.”
Before this letter was written, viz. on the 21st May, the bookseller had received the royal privilege for printing the work; and when it was completed, he sent a copy in a present to Sir Isaac, who received it on the 11th November, 1725. It was entitled, Abregé de Chronologie de M. Le Chevalier Newton, fait par lui-meme, et traduit sur le manuscript Anglais, and was accompanied with observations by M. Freret,* the object of which was to refute the leading points of the system.t An advertisement was prefixed to it, in which the bookseller defends himself for printing it without the author's leave, on the ground that he had written three letters to obtain permission, and had declared that he would take Sir Isaac's silence for consent. When Sir Isaac received this work, he drew up a paper entitled, Remarks on the Observations made on a Chronological Index of Sir Isaac Newton, translated into French by the Observator, and published at Paris, which was printed in the Philosophical Transactions for 1725. I In this paper Sir Isaac gives a history of the transaction,-charges the Abbé Conti with a breach of promise, and blames the publisher for having asked his leave to print the translation without sending him a copy for his perusal, without acquainting him with the name of the translator, and without announcing his intention of printing along with it a refutation of the original. The observations made by the translator against the conclusions deduced by the author were founded on an imperfect knowledge of Sir Isaac's system; and they are so specious, that Halley himself confesses that he was at first prejudiced in favour of the observations, taking the calculations for granted, and not having seen Sir Isaac's work.
* Father Souciet was supposed by Halley and others to have been the author of these observations, but there is no doubt that they were written by M. Freret.
It is stated in the Biogr. Britannica, Art. Newton, that the copy of the French translation was not accompanied with the refutation. Though the reverse of this is not distinctly stated by Sir Isaac himself, yet it may be inferred from his observations.
I Vol. xxxiii. No. 389, p. 315.
To all the observations of M. Freret Sir Isaac returned a triumphant answer. This presumptuous antiquary had ventured to state at the end of his observations, “ that he believed he had stated enough concerning the epochs of the Argonauts, and the length of generations, to make people cautious about the rest; for these are the two foundations of all this new system of chronology.” He founds his arguments against the epochs of the Argonauts, as fixed by our author, on the supposition that Sir Isaac places the vernal equinox at the time of the Argonautic expedition in the middle of the sign of Aries, whereas Sir Isaac places it in the middle of the constellation,-a point corresponding with the middle of the back of Aries, or go from the first star of Aries. This position of the colure is assigned on the authority of Eudoxus, as given by Hipparchus, who says that the colure passed over the back of Aries. Setting out with this mistake, M. Freret concludes that the Argonautic expedition took place 532 years earlier than Sir Isaac made it. His second objection to the new system relates to the length of generations, which he says is made only 18 or 20 years. Sir Isaac, on the contrary, reckons a generation at 33 years, or 3 generations at 100; and it was the lengths of the reigns of kings that he made 18 or 20 years. This deduction he founds on the reigns of 64 French kings. Now, the ancient Greeks and Egyptians reckoned the length of a reign equal to that of a generation; and it was by correcting this mistake, and adopting a measure founded on fact, that Sir Isaac placed the Argonautic expedition forty
four years after the death of Solomon, and fixed some of the other points of his system.
This answer of Sir Isaac's to the objections of Freret called into the field a fresh antagonist, Father Souciet, who published five dissertations on the new chronology. These dissertations were written in a tone highly reprehensible; and the friends of Sir Isaac, being apprehensive that the manner in which his system was attacked would affect him more than the arguments themselves, prevailed upon a friend to draw up an abstract of Souciet's objections, stripped of the “ extraordinary ornaments with which they were clothed.” The perusal of these objections had no other effect upon him than to convince him of the ignorance of their author; and he was induced to read the entire work, which produced no change in his opinion.
In consequence of these discussions, Sir Isaac was prevailed upon to prepare his larger work for the press. He had nearly completed it at the time of his death, and it was published in 1728, under the title of The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms amended, to which is prefixed a short Chronicle, from the first memory of Things in Europe to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. It was dedicated to the queen by Mr. Conduit, and consists of six chapters : 1. On the Chronology of the Greeks ;* 2. Of the Empire of Egypt; 3. Of the Assyrian Empire; 4. Of the two contemporary Empires of the Babylonians and Medes; 5. A Description of the Temple of Solomon; 6. Of the Empire of the Persians. The sixth chapter was not copied out with the other five, which makes it doubtful whether or not it was intended for publication; but as it was found among his papers, and appeared to be a continuation of the
* According to Whiston, Sir Isaac wrote out eighteen copies of this chapter with his own hand, differing little from one another.- Whiston's Life, p. 39.