ORDER OF MERIT.
Too Long; Didn't ReadAmongst the various proposals for encouraging science, the institution of an order of merit has been suggested. It is somewhat singular, that whilst in most of the other kingdoms of Europe, such orders exist for the purpose of rewarding, by honorary distinctions, the improvers of the arts of life, or successful discoverers in science, nothing of the kind has been established in England. [At the great meeting of the philosophers at Berlin, in 1828, of which an account is given in the Appendix; the respect in which Berzelius, Oersted, Gauss, and Humboldt were held in their respective countries was apparent in the orders bestowed on them by the Sovereigns of Sweden, of Denmark, of Hanover, and of Prussia; and there were present many other philosophers, whose decorations sufficiently attested the respect in which science was held in the countries from which they came.]
Our orders of knighthood are favourable only to military distinction. It has been urged, as an argument for such institutions, that they are a cheap mode of rewarding science, whilst, on the other hand, it has been objected, that they would diminish the value of such honorary distinctions by making them common. The latter objection is of little weight, because the numbers who pursue science are few, and, probably, will long continue so. It would also be easily avoided, by restricting the number of the order or of the class, if it were to form a peculiar class of another order. Another objection, however, appears to me to possess far greater weight; and, however strong the disposition of the Government might be (if such an order existed) to fill it properly, I do not believe that, in the present state of public opinion respecting science, it could be done, and, in all probability, it would be filled up through the channels of patronage, and by mere jobbers in science.