tion of time that elapsed till then, and which should be added to the result of immediate observation, is not easily ascertainable. The same uncertainty prevails in the commencement of all the phenomena that prove the great truth which I here propose to establish; but from the nature of the specific causes which produce such uncertainty in each particular phenomenon, it will be found, that though there hence results a certain latitude in the determination of the time total, it is confined within such limits, that this natural basis of chronology effectually opposes, not only all the fables or systems of chronology which are not founded on the book of Genesis, but even the conjectures of some chronologists who have arbitrarily lengthened the period of time between Noah and Abraham.

“The same result is supplied by the progress of cultivation. Every where, as we ascend in the history of any settled nation, we find agriculture established, and we can follow uninterrupted traces of new cultivation ; while at the same time it is to be inferred from the relations of travellers, that one-half of our continents still remains uncultivated. Certain spots of ground, which had something attractive in them, either on account of the facility of tillage, or as offering an easy communication with other places already cultivated, became the cradles of great nations; and in such the traces of the progress of cultivation are not distinctly observable: but from thence have issued vast bodies of men, wanderers at first, afterwards cultivators; whence have resulted a number of centres of cultivation scattered here and there in the first deserts, and which from that time have not ceased, both to increase in extent, and to send out fresh colonies. This process is continued round places adjoining to lands still uncultivated, nor does it appear as if it would speedily terminate. Here, then, is a new succession of operations, which have sprung from the birth of our continents; and in comparing my own observations on this head with those of other travellers, I have had occasion to remark, that the progress of cultivation has left such evident traces in spots similar to those just described, that when we attentively consider this subject, the aspect of the country, the names of places, the traces of their aggrandizement, their relations to each other in language, opinions, customs, the beginnings of public works by the increase of wealth, the national progress of the arts, commerce and luxury: in a word, every thing, in a retrospective research, leads us, from every point, to some chief places, the history or traditions relating to which carry us back to the first eras of the cultivation of our lands. This is a most interesting subject.’— Letter ii. pp. 196—199.

The natural history of the peat mosses next claims our attention.

“Peat, as well as the blackish earth I have spoken of above, is a product of vegetation; but the remains of the vegetables that form it, lose much less of their bulk, and they retain their combustible property. These vegetables, at first simply withered, form a spongy mass, always saturated with water, and on which new plants, some of them aquatic, grow in great abundance, and with much rapidity. It is, perhaps, owing to an antiseptic quality in some of these plants, that there happens such an accumulation of their remains, constantly penetrated with water, without their undergoing putrefaction; a circumstance that essentially distinguishes our peatlands from marshes, inasmuch as the air is always salubrious in the former.


“The formation of peat could commence only with all the other phenomena to which the birth of our continents gave rise: it at first began to form in spots of ground that were watered by springs; and in these places, very favourable to all sorts of vegetation, there grew at first trees of a resinous nature, principally pines and yews, the leaves and smaller branches of which, though falling on a humid ground, resisted putrefaction; herbaceous plants at the same time grew on these soils, and began to form peat there. In proportion as this peat became thicker, the new trees took root in its mass, and attained such size, that at length the winds had the power to tear them up, and the peat continuing to increase, buried them. Here is a first period marked in all our large peat lands; for when they come to cut peat to a certain depth, they find the trunks, branches, and -roots of these trees; and from that time trees no longer grew at the surface of most of those soils.

“The peat continuing to increase, frequently extended itself beyond the places where it originally began to be formed; if it was on hills, it descended down their sides; if in the low grounds, it gradually spread beyond its first limits, and sometimes even ascended the slopes of the hills. Every where, in a word, where this spongy substance, in whatever direction it spreads, meets with small springs to moisten it, it continues to increase both in thickness and extent, and where it is not too much softened by the water, trees continue to grow on it. This increase of the peat still continues wherever the circumstances are favourable to it, and where no means are employed to arrest it : we know its progress by tradition; and when we compare it with the mass produced, we discover

various proofs of the small antiquity of that phenomenon, as will now appear.

“In a number of places, where the population has so far increased, that colonies have reached the confines of large peat lands, they have laboured to stop their progress, and to render their surfaces fit for cultivation; a double end, which is to be gained by first draining the peat, that is to say, by cutting trenches in a direction towards some lower ground where the water may run off, and deepening them as the peat sinks down. Now, in the course of these observations, monuments have in various places been discovered which connect themselves with the history of nations, and of the arts, or with some local traditions, of which I shall give some instances.

“In draining the great peat lands of the country of Groningen, some Roman medals have been found at the bottom of a trench, buried in the natural soil, since covered with a considerable bed of peat. Here then is a fixed period in the increase of these peat lands, namely, the invasion of the Romans; and this monument is connected with another, on the same coasts, furnished also by a progressive operation, but totally of another kind. Roman medals have been found near the ancient mouth of a branch of the Rhine, which formerly passed through Holland. The Romans had built near this mouth—at this day entirely obstructed by the sands—a custom-house, the ruins of which we discover buried in those sands; and together with the Roman medals, coins of the ancient nations of those coasts have also been discovered.

“In my travels along these maritime districts, where I particularly observed several great tracts of peat land, I arrived at the country of Bremen, at a time when the inhabitants were carrying on with great vigour the operations of draining, and bringing into cultivation a considerable extent of


peat-land, which is called the Devil's Moor, on account of the accidents

that frequently happened to the cattle which ventured on it, as well as to men, who were sometimes swallowed up in it, without the least traces remaining outwardly. The undertaking to drain such a peat-land as this, was too great for the neighbouring peasants; it was therefore carried on at the expense of the Sovereign, who interests himself with paternal attention, in every thing relating to their prosperity. During this operation, they

discovered at the bottom of a deep trench, an ancient aqueduct, formed in

the sand with planks, near which they also found an auger to bore wood with, which they showed me, and which is very similar to ours. Now, the depth at which were found those monuments of art, belonging to a time the moderate distance of which we shall see, bore a very considerable proportion to the total depth of the peat on its original base, which is sand, by which also all the surrounding hills are covered.

, “At a period not very far distant, for they already spoke the German language in the country of Bremen, the Devil's Moor was still here and there studded with small sandhills, which had all their several names, with the termination berg, which signifies an eminence. From that time, though the peat, in continuing to rise, has covered these eminences, the places where they had been noticed by preceding generations, have retained the same names, with the termination berg. This circumstance has been attended with most fortunate effects; for, without the tradition connected with it, these solid places in the peat-bed would have been unknown; and wherever they are not too far from the borders, they are very useful spots for building new villages. When the peat is drained to a considerable depth, it sinks down; it is then cut for fuel on those solid spots where it remains higher than in the neighbouring places; and while those spots afford a firmer foundation for the settlements of the colonists, the latter have still further the advantage of finding there sand at a small depth, which is of great use to them for repairing their roads, and for mixing with the peat at the surface, which adapts it for every agricultural purpose, and even for plantation. The greatest depth of the peat-bed, through its whole extent, is about 35 feet; it was still sprinkled with islands, or small eminences of sand, at a time when the German language was the language of the country, and when the inhabitants determined the direction of the waters in the sand by the same means, and with the same instruments as our own; and in growing to its present thickness, the peat has entirely covered these eminences. This then is a phenomenon not very slow in its progress, and its origin is to be dated from the birth of our continents. Thus the history of peat-lands traced, in their formation, by causes that could exist only with our continents, and, in their progress, by historical monuments of different kinds, would be alone sufficient to confirm the chronology of the sacred history since the deluge.”—Letter v. pp. 200–204.

To these descriptions we shall add the account of two other phemomena, serving the same purpose of illustration. These are mentioned by De Luc, but they are detailed in the graceful and forcible language of our author.

“Gravity, and the action of the rains, and other atmospherical causes, have a continual tendency to crumble down and reduce the abrupt sections of mountains, as well in valleys, as towards the plains. The detached fragments are accumulated at their feet, and “ rise against them with that kind of slope, which, in fortification, is called a talus, being formed by materials rolling down over each other from a certain point;” and preventing the farther demolition of the parts which they thus have covered. The gradual progress of this general operation is clearly discernible by the progress of vegetation. Now, if an antiquity without any assignable limits is to be ascribed to our continents, such operations must long since have been every where terminated, and the surface of the slopes would be found entirely overspread with plants and verdure. But, remarks De Luc, the operation continues, and we observe its different stages, which depend on the original state of each individual part, and on the nature of its strata. Further: It has been rendered evident by De Luc, that the action of the sea has a tendency to efface the original indentations of coasts, by diminishing the promontories, filling up creeks and bays, and reducing cliffs to gentle declivities. These simultaneous operations on the same coasts must have commenced as soon as the ocean retired into its present bed; they

continue, and by the effects produced, compared with their measurable

progress, necessarily constitute a direct chronometer. . Accordingly all the lands formed by the sea upon its shores are every where distinct in their composition from those to which they are joined; they are horizontal from the point of junction to their actual extremity, and continue to increase. Now, from the known progress of these lands, compared with their total extent, it is manifest that the sea cannot have occupied its present bed during a very great number of centuries. Again, at the entrance of lakes, the progress of the accumulation of the sediments of rivers affords another striking chronometer of the same kind; and in every such place, the dates at which possession was taken of new grounds, and embankments were opposed to the swells of the streams, are ascertained.’—Introductory Remarks, pp. 13–17.

The whole of the arguments of De Luc, for proving that the Deluge took place at the era stated in the sacred writings, are sustained with the most extensive learning, and are characterized by the most penetrating acuteness. They are worthy of the deepest meditation by every man who has yet to form his opinion on the most serious of all subjects.

Having disposed of this fundamental question, De Luc proceeded to trace, in the subsequent geological phenomena which developed themselves, a remarkable conformity with the Mosaic narrative of the deluge. Here De Luc shines unrivalled as a collector of facts, and as a powerful master of inductive reasoning. In the letters before us, he points out the causes of the differences which prevailin those substances that are found in the successive strata, and he traces those substances to their origin. After illustrating, as far,” we believe, as human ingenuity could succeed in doing so, the knotty points presented by the blending of marine animals with those of terrestrial origin in certain of the strata, he goes on to explain the disordered and broken state of those strata, and shows,


in a satisfactory manner, the reasons why their ruinous fragments are found above the level of the sea. In determining the epoch at which the physical changes of our globe commenced, De Luc considers that that era was pointed out by the first accession of light, which, being united to the elements already existing, occasioned those physical changes. Being added to another peculiar element, light produced fire: fire was the cause of liquidity; and, lastly, liquidity was essential to the formation of the mineral strata. The result then of the combination of light with the elements of the globe, and the liquid with which it was surrounded, was to produce various chemical precipitations, which, being of different genera and species, arranged themselves in horizontal layers. In the intervals of their formation, these strata were subjected to frequent disturbance, so that they were divided into masses or mountains, the intervening strata having sunk around them. We are not prepared to follow the sagacious author through the plant which he has adopted, of considering the successive changes which took place in the precipitations of the ancient sea, and his manner of connecting them with other natural phenomena. His explanations have been adopted by the greatest philosophers of his time, and by no one more deliberately than by Cuvier, the most scrutinizing perhaps of them all. A few reflections on the importance of geology, in a moral point of view, from such as De Luc, who had perhaps the best right to estimate its extent, will not prove uninteresting to any reader.

* “The history of our globe, like every other which relates to past time, can be traced back only by monuments. It is thus that the histories of nations have been compiled; but of those the most ancient monuments have been successively effaced or disfigured by a thousand various events and interests; and, for the most part, nothing remains in that respect but traditions, obscure, imperfect, and often fabulous: hence have arisen so many contradictions in the early annals of the same nations; and from these has originated historic doubt. The case is not the same with the history of the earth; the monuments of this are of too great magnitude to have been essentially changed by mankind, and the surface of the globe is covered with them: they remain, and may still lead to truth........ The question to be decided is no less than this: whether geological monuments authorize us to discard, as so many authors have done, either explicitly or implicitly, the only written history of the earth, and of mankind, which now exists; a history more ancient than any other authentic writing, the origin of all religions, and the first, the positive, the only foundation of our own. When the study of the earth shall have become more general, there will be much greater difficulty than at present, in circulating errors respecting the only basis of the repose and happiness of mankind.”—Introductory Remarks, pp. 134, 135.

* The following observations of an eminent geologist of the continent, M. de Férussac, will be perused with satisfaction:-" If every thing around

« ElőzőTovább »