Obrázky na stránke

shipwrecked in the great deluge, it was so broken and disordered, that it lost its equal poise, and thereupon the centre of its gravity changing, one pole became more inclined towards the sun,

and the other more removed from it, and so its right and parallel situation, which it had before to the axis of the ecliptic, was changed into an oblique, in which skew posture it hath stood ever since, and is likely so to do for some ages to come.' How many ages, the ingenious author does not predict. He seems wholly absorbed with the calamity itself, which has caused the changes of the seasons, the extremes of winter and summer, tempests, thunders, lightnings, hurricanes, earthquakes, and all the furious conflicts of the elements; and so great is his horror at these things, that he assures us, if Archimedes could have found a place to fix his lever, he should wish him to have been employed in no higher enterprise, than that of prying back the earth to its original position, thus restoring to us the comfort of a perpetual spring, which we have lost by its dislocation ever since the deluge.' After having described the formation of the earth, its past changes, and present disorders, the author concludes his theory by a methodical account of its final dissolution; and although his work defies the majesty of science, and boasts little of the wisdom of philosophy, it claims an honorable rank among the trophies of fancy.

Whiston made a New Theory of the earth, resembling in some of its features the one just noticed. It was his opinion, that a comet was cooled by a long voyage beyond the orbit of saturn, its atmosphere condensed, and that this, together with the nucleus of the comet, constituted the chaos mentioned in the Scriptures. The eccentric orbit was changed to one of a more circular form. The nucleus of the comet was converted into a central solid, and around this was the abyss of waters nade by the condensation of the comet's tail. The whole was enveloped in an exterior covering, which the ingenious theorist, being a mathematician, calculated to be two hundred miles thick. This envelopement was dry and habitable, and the affairs of the world went on quietly and prosperously, till, in an evil hour, the earth ran into the tail of a comet, which was suddenly condensed to rain, and poured so heavy a burden on the surface, as to break the outer shell, force the waters from beneath, and produce a universal deluge. When the earth was happily rescued from this perilous adventure in the comet's tail, the rain ceased, and the waters fled for refuge, some into the beds of oceans, seas, lakes, and others to their central prison, where they bare ever since been confined.

Many other theories might be enumerated. Leibnitz, the rival of Newton, believed the earth to be an extinguished sun, on the surface of which, as it gradually cooled, vapors were condensed into water. The notion of Buffon was much the same, except that he believed the earth and other planets to be only fragments of the sun, splintered from its surface by the concussion of a comet, which had unwittingly broken loose from its orbit, and hurried to its destruction in the consuming embrace of the king of fires. Kepler thought the earth a living animal, sustained by a regular circulation of internal Auids, and winging its way through the heavens by its own vital energy. According to Demaillet, says M. Cuvier, 'the globe was covered with water for many thousand years. He supposed that this water had gradually retired ; that all the terrestrial animals were originally inhabitants of the

sea ; that man himself began his career as a fish; and he asserts, that it is not uncommon, even now, to meet with fishes in the ocean, which are still only half men, but whose descendants will in time become perfect human beings.' Thus, in following the chain of theories, we might go on from step to step, till we should find ourselves swallowed up and lost in the deep gulf of the controversy, which has raged with so much heat between the modern Neptunians and Vulcanians.

But we design not to push our inquiries so far. Our purpose is answered, if it has been made to appear, as we trust it has, that precedents are sufficiently numerous and respectable to rescue any person from the charge of a misuse of time or talents, in devising new theories of the earth; and especially ought the ambition, which prompts to such an enterprise, to be considered praiseworthy and highminded, after so many champions have retired discomfited from the field. We have the satisfaction to feel, therefore, that we bave discharged our duty towards the author of the new theory before us, so far as that duty consists in showing, that no apology is necessary on his part for giving himself up to these pursuits, and that he is borne out by examples, which he may well be proud to imitate, in claiming his theory as an original one.' Should any reader doubt the accuracy of this statement, we beg he will again look over what we have written. Some, perhaps, may have the fastidiousness to say, that the very name of theory carries with it an air of suspicion, and that, in the important matter of world-making, it is better to have one plain fact, than a thousand theories, which can be little more, after all, than so many hypotheses, conjectures, or speculations. Others may fancy themselves wise in discovering few indications of a sound understanding, or rational science, in the theories we have sketched, and be ready to lament with Juvenal, that common sense is so rare a quality among the inhabitants of the earth, and to declare, that, if all men were cosmogonists, nothing could have been more in the spirit of truth and wisdom, than the courageous attempt of Democritus Junior to prove the whole world insane. Such impertinent objections as these, we shall not stop to answer, but proceed without delay to the author's new theory.

As far as we can judge, he is a decided Vulcanian, although much less inveterate in his enmity to water, than some other disciples of this school. In his analysis of chaos, the element of water holds a conspicuous place. In fact, the body of chaos itself seems to have been of a fluid, pulpy consistency, and the author affirms, that when the earth was first shaped into a sphere, there were no rocks nor stones in the whole confused mass,' so well is he versed in the scenes,

"Where eldest Night And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise

Of endless wars.' Notwithstanding the acknowledged abundance of water in the wild dominions of Chaos, our theorist's favorite element is fire, to whose agency he mainly ascribes the great work of creation. At first, it would seem, the fire was latent, and without heat, and the author explains the manner in which this important property was elicited. When the world was fashioned,' he says, the concussion of particles of matter in consolidating would produce heat.' The greater the uproar, therefore, the more violent the heat, and the sooner the work would be accomplished. By some accident, the chaotic elements did not resolve themselves into a regular and well constituted mass ; volumes of fire were pent up within impenetrable barriers of earth and stone, where they increased in fury and strength, till they burst from their confinement with terrible explosions and devastation. Immense rocks were torn from their roots in the nether recesses of the earth, and thrown up to be mountains on its surface. Frightful caverns opened their dark vaults to receive the waters, and make new oceans. In this way, all the dry land has been raised above the face of the deep; to a succession of earthquakes, proceeding from this subterranean furnace, we are indebted for continents, islands, seas, lakes, rivers, mountains, hills, vallies, and every variety of conformation, which renders the globe a fit dwelling place for man.

This will suffice for an outline of the author's new theory. In a case so obvious, we deem it unnecessary to enter more fully into its general merits ; but we should do injustice both to the theorist, and to such of our readers as may not have been favored with a perusal of his works, were we to pass over in silence his account of the time and manner in which our continent came into being. All those parts of this western hemisphere, through which run the ridges of the Andes, the Stony Mountains, and the Alleganies, were raised at the time of the general deluge, and were the cause of that catastrophe. The masses of rocks, which form these mountains, were thrust up by one tremendous explosion of the central fire, and the superincumbent waters, thus driven from their ancient beds, rolled to the eastern hemisphere, overspread the old world, and destroyed the inhabitants, as recorded in the Scriptures.

The north east part of America had a much later origin, although the author forbears to mention the precise period when this event took place. He dwells chiefly on its effects. The regions of Greenland and Labrador arose at once; a current was forced to the south west, which, after scooping out the excavation now called the Bay of Funday, swept with * awful grandeur' over the New England States. · Nova Scotia rested on strata not to be shaken.' Long Island was produced by the junction of this torrent with the ocean. And now ensued a fray, worthy to be recorded in all vera

New Series, No. 18. 36

cious history, and to stand in high places among the annals of departed ages. We give the description in the author's own inimitable language.

• The current of the ocean overspread all the low lands of the Atlantic states, and was enjoying uninterrupted dominion where our largest cities, delightful plantations, and luxurious farms now appear. But suddenly its regal sway, its imperial authority was attacked. The waters, which had been confined beyond the mountains, as if ambitious of a nobler sway, now burst the bounds that had confined them, and with an irresistible impetuosity rushed to attack the ocean, which had extended beyond his natural domains, and presumed to assault the mountains. The majestic Hudson, elated by the conquest of the firm barriers that confined him, armed with the soil and fragments of the mountains he had conquered, in awful grandeur overspreading the country, dared dispute the power of the ocean. Accelerated by the numerous auxiliaries from the mountains, and strengthened by arming himself with every rock that opposed his passage, the ocean himself retired at his approach. But from the attack of the powerful Hudson, who moved from the mountains of freedom, the tyrant ocean would have held his dominion over the most luxuriant parts of the middle and southern states. He would have extended Long Island to the highlands of Jersey, and destined the site of the emporium of the new world to be a stagnant marsh, or a barren plain. The Hudson turned the proud currents of the ocean to the south, removed the sands and rocks, which would have united the island to the main, and preserved a harbor unequalled in the world.' pp. 96–98.

Such were the daring attempts, such the proud success of the Hudson. But notwithstanding this humiliating discomfiture of the ocean, its towering pride was not subdued ; it made other encroachments, rushed headlong into other encounters, and again met with a like disgraceful repulse. Listen once more to the author.

• As the God of nature never formed a nobler stream, or one which is capable of being converted to more important uses than the Susquehanna, it is to be expected that such a river would weigh much either in favor or against our theory. This noble river rescued from the gloomy embrace of the ocean millions of acres, which now are adorned by rich harvests, pleasant villages, and magnificent cities. Before the ocean was met by the Susquehanna, he had recovered from the shocks experienced from the Hudson and the Delaware, and was again pressing his forces towards the mountains. Had this noble river been an experienced warrior, standing on the

« PredošláPokračovať »