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They who at present write on geology seem fearful that any general advantage should aecrue to society from their labours. They write to each other in a style unintelligible to the mass of the people. It is therefore a reasonable question to ask them what is their purpose in so writing, Do they wish mankind to improve by their works? No! it is evidently they do not. I love learning and learned men; but they must be also well-meaning men. They must delight in truth and nature,* and clothe themselves in the simple garb of legibility. I refer my readers to the vapid writings to be fonnd in the pages of Geological Societies, which, in the language of Job the Impatient, “ confound knowledge, with words; without understanding." So I must e'en give them geology in my way,
It does not appear to me, that people, on either side the question, have considered to what geology, when it becomes a science, will ultimately lead. Heretofore, it has been more the object of curiosity than of interest; and those who have studied it have, from design, cowardice, or want of penetration, come to no decision, have made no conclusion from their researches. It is one of those great, though imperceptible causes, that fall in the way of the curious observer, which must eventually contribate to the overthrow of every thing fabulous, vicious, or unreasonable, and in the end, will, perhaps, establish Truth on the throne of universal empire. I said it was not understood on either side; let me explain. Priests pursue it, but it is against them; and the Materialists explore its paths without benefitting mankind by their discoveries. They are alike afraid to draw a just or conclusive decision from the arguments they produce. The first are restrained by interest-the latter by fear of losing the dubious title or claim to intellectual superiority. They must both come to a point yet, a clear one too; the benefit of one must be for the advantage of all. Knowledge has been too long monopolized by a few for their own emoluinent and the evil of society.
society. The time will be of uo distant date, when a party-writer will not be known,
• I have been triumphantly asked, What I meant by Nature? I here, with due respect and deference, give my definition of the term. Nature is whatever is embodied in a natural form without art, aud having substantial being without apparent cause. Hençe illimitable universe is Nature, and every thing visible to the sight, sensible to the touch, perceptible to the feelings, or demonstrable to the understanding, is unquestionably Nature, or Natural. “ O! then, God is your Nature." Very possible. If there be a God, his name should be Truth. Your God is a tissue of fraud, cruelty, falsehood, and lies; at once despicable and terrible; worthy only of abhorrence or contempt. Go, Priests, mend your God ; mend him, or make a new one.
Vol. XIV. No. 18.
and he who writes for the public will write free, clear, decisive, and general. I must observe, that I cannot write fluently, I am not a master of arts; science I know not; I understand no language but one, and hardly that: but if I know right from wrong, what I say shall be pure, legible English, strong, bold, and clear, perhaps harsh sometimes,” for I am no Italian, to worship sound and despise sense. That knowledge which I have acquired in silent obscurity, I freely deliver without private motive or personal interest. Nothing is more hateful than selling knowledge, except it be confining it within a certain limit for the advantage of a few to the detriment of many. Such, hitherto, has been the case.
It must be allowed, that it is not a bad method of understanding the nature and properties of a tree, to begin by examining the fruit. Here then we have the palpable and plain; we have the essence of its nature, the experimental proof, its virtues, or obtain the secret of its vices. Thus, then, in this preliminary treatise, we shall examine the visible surface of the earth, that we may be the better prepared to descend and uuderstand what is latent. They who will condescend to travel with me through the following fields of remark, shall not find themselves under the conduct of a lame or blind guide; for where I cannot approach with safety, I shall candidly acknowledge my ignorance, and relinquish the task. Nature having to human perceptibility two distinct properties, one of good and one determined of evil
, I shall perhaps speak of her as vicious or virtuous; virtue will become an article of good, and evil may be designated as vice. Hence I shall be understood, when I may personify matter, passion, property, or capability ; but with me there shall be no metaphysical agency admitted, geology is my subject, which I undertake to speak about, more as a disciple of Nature than learning; and the book which is open to me, is not shut against the meanest of my readers; unless they imagine themselves like good, pious, hypocritical Christians, outcasts from the system of nature, in which they move as the superior produce of varied animation.
The science of geology is yet in its infancy: but, like Hercules in his cradle, has already destroyed the Hydra superstition. Where its influence is known or felt, doubts subside, and the malignity of error is overpowered by the simplest means, i. e. the demonstrations of Nature herself. He then who developes but a part, may plead at least the will to do more; he may lead the way to farther and deeper investigation, and it is hoped, at least, that he will be found worthy of attention, if not of esteem. Nature will ever display to those who pursue the path of her progress, not her secrets and mysteries, for she has none, but the powers of her action, and the method of her labours. These require not a variety of languages to understand or explain them, nor the imposing diligence of imposing schools and high-gifted seats of
learning to comprehend them. The field, the forest, the ocean' and the shore; the hut of the savage, and the palace of the prince; the spring of the river, and the action of the flood; the gentle flow of the smooth stream, and the impetuous rush of the descending torrent ploughing the mountain to its centre; the stor pendous altitude of the Andes, and the winding course of the valleys; the produce of the generous and fertile soil, or the barrenness of the sterile region; the sandy waste, or the uncultivated desart; the untrodden heath, or the peopled city: are all the works of industrious Nature, ceaseless in her operations, deter-, mined in principles, and produced from a cause, latent to the desultory cr careless traveller, but of easy access to the attentive observer. An endeavour to elucidate this cause, to account for it, and to shew the why and the wherefore, should be the object of the serious geologist. We must commence with a known and general circumstance, and take the most powerful, continuous, and active agent as the pilot of our reseach. Where this sublime guide proceeds with slow but sure execution, we may follow with caution, advance with certainty, rely on security, and hope for success.
From what I have seen of the surface of the earth, (and that is not a small part) I have every where distinguished a sea-shore, or the remains of one. Whether inland or adjacent to the sea, there is a general uniformity, directly indicative of the action of the wave, and the presence of a sea-beach: and whatever the contexture of the verge, whether rock, chalk, loam, sand, or pebbles, the powerful and incessant labour of a restless, resistless, and indefatigable ocean, is demonstrated. All seems to be the produce of ocean; the very offspring of the superintending element of water. Water is known to be an universal dissolvent or menstruum, equally prolific, perdurable, active, and destructive; capable of creating, producing, and destroying ; curiously combining that which is wonderful and latent with that which is simple and openly manifest. I would recommend it to those who may feel inclined to differ from me in opinion, to consult Buffon's Natural History, especially his theory of the earth and his proofs. Next, to consult experience and Nature herself, and if they have the opportunity of following the simple process hereafter given, I will vouch for it, that we shall agree to a particle of identity. Let any one stand on the sea-beach or shore, and examine attentively the features of the winding margin to right and left, then penetrate as far as he pleases direct inland, he will find beach after baach, shore without sea, and the very sinuosities of ocean visible every where that he sets his foot; and if he descends only two feet below the surface, whether on the mountain-top or in the valley at the bottom, he will discover marine productions sufficient to convince him, that, the place whereon he stands was once
in the possession of illimitable ocean, the resting-place or bed of the unfathomable deep.
I know, that, in the derangement or formation of the earth's surface, ocean has some auxiliaries. The most powerful of these are earthquakes, fresh water floods, and marine inundations. But these, though frequent, are partial and local agents, confined to a very limited theatre, and the circle of their action so narrow, as to gratify curiosity and satisfy investigation, with a single enquiry or momentary research. On the other hand, the action of the ocean is general, resolute, unceasing, powerful, minute, slow, and imperceptible. The for-ever-invading element is constant in its action, working unseen; and its process is scarcely discernible in the field of its progress, or discoverable on the records of Time; and its influence hardly acknowledged by analogy. In this paper, if I refer to the blundering and unsatisfactory article called Holy Writ, it will be with reluctance, as it is impervious to sense and reason, and is in direct opposition to truth and experience. But what I have described is immediately visible to the eye, and legible to the simple understanding, requiring only the powers of thought and comparison to prove it fact: and what I shall speak of as a problem in Nature, only to be solved or understood by the help of geology, the infatuated, the ignorant, the misled, and the deceivers, pretend to account for it by the pernicious doctrine of an universal deluge. This sweeping and convenient postulatum answers gratuitously for all marine substances found any where on or in the terraqueous globe. Hence to confute, or rather confound, them, I must mingle their absurd nonsense and unfounded fable and falsehood with Nature, truth, and experience. It is allowed, that, this earth might have been decomposed, that a general convulsion of Nature might have taken place, and that the world's vast fabric might have been disorganized. But it follows direct, that in such a mighty ruin, nothing could have preserved its form, shape, or make; for the dreadful moment of the shock would have destroyed every embodied article, with respect to its natural appearance, and have reduced it to its atomical state, not leaving even a vestige whereon to form a conjecture. Hence whatever the world might contain of substance, nothing would be defined ; and shapeless earth, water, or stone, could be the only residuum. People do not conceive what would be the effect of the stroke or cause which would break or destroy the earth's symmetry. Would the power that exerted its force and fury to derange the solid world, be capable of preserving amidst the wreck the frail form of a fish, the brittle bone of an animal, or the reducible form of an oyster-shell ? But this is not the case. Deep under the surface of the dry earth the remains of animals of the land and water are discovered, some in part, some whole, in the obscure, quiescent state of reposing fossils, petrifactions, &c.
I am prevented, at this time, from sending some extracts from recent discoveries, which are singular, and tend to raise our admiration. These shall be forthcoming, in another essay, as I only intend this as an introduction, both to what I and others, better informed on the subject, may have to say; and I shall conclude, before I grow tiresome or impertinent. I must beg leave to observe, before I finish this paper, the curious and attractive phenomena of animal remains, of genera now not only extinct on earth, but unknown to the ancient world, more than to the modern, of which the Jewish Almighty did not think proper to give his historian or amanuensis the most distant hint, to prevent futore doubts. Fragments of that tremendous animal, of the swine species seemingly, called the mammoth, whose name is only preserved by my ancestors, the North American Indians, is found in high northern latitudes, but extending longitudinally through more than a semicircle of the Arctic regions ; indeed, from about 42° to 68° of north latitude, and from 80° of west to 120° of east longitude from Greenwich; the magnitude of this stupendous quadruped, compared to any thing now in existence, is truly wonderful and astonishing; his bulk exceeding that of a full grown elephant, as 1 to 3. At home, here in England, there has been lately discovered the entire remains of an animal of the reptile class, exceeding the magnitude of the enormous giant of the polar regions as 1 to 4 or 5. I shall say something more about these and others at a future opportunity. And I shall here infer from what I have stated, that the world is much older than any theory has yet said it is; that the ocean is the cause of all the changes that take place; that earthquakes and volcanoes, of which last there are only about 125 in action over the earth, produce very little change, and what they do perform is confined to the seat of the eruptive mountain or island; there are no volcanoes on the plain any where, which is a proof that the fire of the volcano is never deep, but rather above the surface of the ocean. Nor has the earthqnake made any visible change on the face of the earth. No, all arises from the stow, incessant action of the restless ocean. Its extent, weight, and perdnrable motion, is equal to those changes which Nature produces without meaning to terrify or astonish any of her offspring. Though sometimes an accidental violence may be exhibited, it alters not the case, nor accelerates, nor diminishes the progressive motion and design of Nature.
Etna and Vesuvius are much too near to the sca to suppose that their fires are not below its surface. The history of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions leads to the inference, that there is a chain of connection through the earth with the volcánves. It is the characteristic of volcanoes to produce mountains, which is reason cnough why they are never found on plains. What Su D.BAGO says of the ocean is indisputable, and has been said before by De Maillet, and others. Mackey's theory makes the water produce the earth or planet.-R. C.