of expressing my sense of the value which attaches to the writings of my friend Mr. Herbert Spencer, and of the high estimation in which I, as a practical man of science, hold his speculative labors.
"Founded as it is upon the accurate observation of facts, science would soon stagnate if the co-ordination of its data did not accompany their accumulation; and I can conceive nothing that would give a more vigorous impulse to the progress of science than the promulgation of a modern Novum Organon adapted to the state of knowledge in these days, and showing the unity of method of all science, and the mutual connection and interdependence of all forms of acquisition.
"I can not testify more strongly to my estimation of Mr. Spencer's abilities than by expressing my belief that, if health and moderate leisure be granted him, he will very satisfactorily perform this necessary piece of work for us. And I base my conviction not so much upon a knowledge of Mr. Spencer's works (though I could amply justify it from them), as upon that intimate acquaintance with himself which it has, for some years past, been my privilege to enjoy."
The eminent and responsible pledges thus tendered twenty-five years ago of Mr. Spencer's preparation to enter upon a great intellectual undertaking for the advancement of human knowledge have now been amply redeemed. Seven volumes of the "Synthetic Philosophy" have been given to the public, have been translated into various languages, and are recognized by the best minds as authoritatively representing a new epoch of thought, and as taking rank among the monumental works of the century. Though it may seem useless to quote authorities in confirmation of this statement, yet they have so important a bearing upon our present purpose that we must be excused for citing a few expressions testifying to the position of the man as shown by the character of his accomplished work.
Dr. Masson, of the Edinburgh University, spoke several years ago, in one of his books, of Spencer as the rising power in British philosophy; and G. H. Lewes, in his "History of Philosophy," declared "that no thinker of finer caliber had appeared in England." Professor Jevons, in his "Principles of Science," ranks the works of Spencer as in their influence among the most important that have appeared since the "Principia" of Newton. Dr. J. D. Morell, author of the "History of Philosophy," testified to Spencer's "extraordinary power of analysis and generalization," and Dr. Fairbairn recently declared that to conceive such a system as Spencer's "is in itself an education to an age." Professor Huxley remarked before the Royal Institution that "the only complete and systematic statement of the doctrine (evolution) with which I am acquainted, is that contained in Mr. Herbert Spencer's 'System of Philosophy.'" Mr. J. S. Mill has referred to his "encyclopedic knowledge"; Mr. Darwin spoke of him as "our great philosopher"; H. W. Beecher as "king of the thinkers of this age"; President McCosh recognized his "giant mind," and President Barnard speaks of him as "not only the profoundest thinker of our time, but the most capacious and the most powerful intellect of all time."
These emphatic declarations regarding Spencer's genius and position as evinced by the greatness of his work must be construed as applying to what he had really achieved in 1858-'59. It is not that his works stand to-day confessed in their supereminence, but that he was before all other men in arriving at the views they contain. Evolution has now become a commonplace of thought; it was the guiding principle of Herbert Spencer's intellectual labor thirty years ago. While yet the doctrine was scouted as a chimera by one half the world, and execrated as an abomination