Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

instruments, and accompanied by Mr. Peale and Dr. James as naturalists, Mr. Orde ornithologist, Dr. Say entomologist, Mr. Keating chemist and mineralogist, Dr. Baldwin botanist, Professor Douglass mathematician, and Mr. Seymour designer. They fixed the latitudes and distances of many points, and returned rich in rare collections and scientific sketches of the country explored. These expeditions have thrown much light upon our physical geography, and are creditable to the nation. The Federal government, in aid of its marine, and to further and facilitate commercial operations, has surveyed and rendered charts of our long line of sea-coast, with its inflections, harbours, and soundings; and with instruments of the nicest construction fixed the meridian of Washington city as a base, with respect to Greenwich and Paris, and those of many of our cities. Its military engineers have made recognisance of all our harbours, our exposed points and elevations on the sea-coast and the Canada line, with reference to our defences, and have extended around many of them, lines, parallel to the horizon, in grades of ten or twenty feet rise; and at regular distances, marked the convergence or divergence of these lines to fix the exact elevation and nature of the slope. Several corps of topographical and civil engineers have, for the last four or five years, been employed by the Federal government to ascertain the practicability of connecting the Atlantic slope with the great central or Mississippi valley, and the Gulf of Mexico with the northern lakes, by rail roads and canals. These surveys have presented ten vertical sections of the country, from the Atlantic coast to the waters of the Mississippi, between New-England and Alabama, embracing in as many points the Alleghany mountains. These engineers have examined almost every basin, crossed almost every summit and plain in the United States, and present the most interesting results and finest perspective of the country to the lovers of physical geography. Mr. Darby has availed himself of these highly important views, and has not only given the results, but about twenty tabular statements, filled with the detail of their elevations and distances.

The labours of the Federal government do not stop here; it has, throughout the entire cordon of our military posts, from the Gulf of Mexico to the northern lakes, along our whole sea coast, and at Washington city, and also at its offices for the sale of lands through the Mississippi valley, amounting to nearly one hundred different points, ordered ranges of the thermometer, weathergauges, and the courses of the winds, to be duly noted and registered, by the officers and commandants at those points; and to be reported regularly to the bureaus of the government. This budget is extremely interesting, and has done much in determining our climate and seasons. It shows the relative heat and moisture of the Atlantic slope and Mississippi valley. Mr.

Darby has extracted its essence, exhibited the results, and given many tabular statements of the detail.

Individuals of science and enterprise have added to the mass of facts already enumerated. The geology and mineralogy of these states, have been presented by M'Clure's general work on this subject--Eaton's Geology of the western part of New-York-Silliman's geological sketches of a great part of New-England-Dr. Mitchell's account of the North river and Long-Island–Troost's and Lea's neighbourhood of Philadelphia—Keating, Flint, and Schoolcraft, on the valley of the Mississippi-Hayden, Dr. Morton, and professor Vanuxem on the tertiary and sandy region of our sea coast-Dr. James and major Long on the Rocky mountains and sand plains of the upper Missouri and Arkansas, and professor Cleveland's excellent work on our mineralogy. Our botany is minutely and ably exposed : our general botany by Nuttal, Rush, Frazier, Lyons, Bradbury, Bartram, and others; our medical botany by Bigelow and Barton—our southern plants by Elliot-our northern plants by Torrey-our sylvæ by Michaux, and our funguses and mosses by Swinitz. Our ornithology stands beautifully figured, and ably described, by Wilson, Orde, and Charles Buonaparte. Dr. Say, Mr. Lesueur, and Mr. Lea, have collected and described our entomology, fish, and shells; Drs. Godman and Harlan have set forth our natural history-Harlan, Morton, Fitch, Vanuxem, and Bigsby have examined our fossils. Dr. Pickering is investigating the Alpine character and geographical ranges of our animals and plants. Pierce, Cist, Griscom, and M'Clure, have exhibited the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. The cadets at West Point, and of captain Partridge's academy, have triangulated most of the mountains and elevations in New-England, and on the North river, and ascertained their heights and distances; and H. S. Tanner's very able and scientific maps and atlases leave nothing to be supplied in the complete delineations of the country.

The above mentioned, is the ample and rich collection whence Mr. Darby derived his authentic facts, and which enabled him to adduce so many interesting results.

But if our physical geography excited so much interest in Europe, it was to be expected that our political condition would awaken an interest still more intense. The improvements of this age are not confined to the arts and sciences; they consist not alone in chemical developments, labour-saving machinery, and facility of communications; they reach the moral and political state of man. An enlightened spirit is abroad among the people. The dry bones are quickened; the inert mass begins to move; the people feel and assert their importance; their spirit is in the schools and the cabinet; it enters the very palaces of the Belshazzars, and writes alarming admonitions on the wall.

The still small voice of popular rights is heard in every legislative hall in Europe; and when a government is under the influence of public opinion, all is safe; names then are unimportant, and forms go for nothing. Call the head of such a government president, king, dictator—they are all the same, no matter whether set up by the popular franchise, or family prescription ; they are the servants of the people, and the virtual representatives of that public opinion, which reaches them all, and to which all must bow. This spirit leaves the kings upon their thrones, because it is necessary to the good order of society. It compromises with privilege, because its eradication would convulse the body politic. Popular rights are the common lares.

The aristocratic and liberal parties of Europe, look with deep interest, but very different feelings, to these United States. The aristocracy of Europe would derive strength from our dissolution. They would callours the last experiment upon popular government, and proclaim its failure conclusive of the want of capacity in man to govern himself. The liberal party lean upon our example; draw from the permanency of our institutions much support to the great cause of civil liberty, and consider the great question of representative and constitutional government solved. The friends of man in Europe anxiously inquire, whether a nation's prosperity is in a proper ratio with the freedom of her institutions? whether our population, our literature, our improvements in the arts, our facility of communication and domestic comforts, keep pace with our civil liberty ? Mr. Darby's View answers these questions affirmatively:

He derived his facts illustrative of the political condition of this country, from the following authentic sources: viz., the census rolls of the Federal government, taken with great accuracy and nice discriminations of age, sex, colour, and occupation; Carey & Lea's Atlas of the United States, after the plan of Le Sage; Dr. Seybert's Statistics-Mr. Pitkin's Resources of the United States-Blodget's Tables—the returns of our schools and universities of our banks and mint-reports on canals, roads, bridges, and public buildings—the histories of the different States; and above all, the legislative measures and annual budgets of the federal and local authorities.

This government of the people can have no secrets; all its acts are overt; all the disbursements, all the estimates, all executive proceedings, the very arcana of diplomacy, are annually unfolded to the sovereign people. Reports on the finances; on commerce; the exports; imports; tonnage; on our fortifications and defences; on our armories; military; marine; foreign relations; products of the seas; forests and agriculture, are annually submitted, examined and published, and become authenticated documents.

So great had grown the mass of facts above enumerated, and

so diffuse in its character, that but few Americans had the courage to encounter it and extract the information necessary to a proper understanding of our real condition. Foreigners did not attempt the task ; the detail was bewildering ; they possessed no clue to guide them, nor any principles of connexion. Mr. Darby's View of the United States is labour-saving to the American, and all that is desirable to the foreigner. It presents us at the tribunal of science in Europe, exhibiting our own case, and telling “a round unvarnish'd tale.” It is an analysis of our geography and political condition, that rectifies all the theories of her philosophers and refutes all the misrepresentations of her travellers.

Mr. Darby's language and style are in the general adapted to the important and matter of fact nature of his subject: he conveys his ideas in manly language, without any reaching after ornament. He is occasionally, however, stiff, and somewhat affected in the construction of his sentences; we discover an imi. tation of Baron Humboldt, in generalizing too much, using compound technical words, in meanings too unlimited; and a tendency to substitute new terms of a more general signification, for those already in use and understood; as “Chippewayan, Appalachian, Ocean river, Cabotia,” for Rocky and Alleghany mountains, Gulf-Stream, and British North America. In such a work, however, style becomes a secondary consideration; and if the author's method be good, and his ideas clearly conveyed, we look no further. Mr. Darby's method is novel and philosophical. He throws the country into slopes and valleys, mountains and plains, and deduces our climate from the influence of neighbouring oceans, seas, and lakes; the course of the winds; the elevation of our ranges of mountains; and the nature and extent of our plains. He carries isothermal lines across our continent, and shows their deflections from the operation of the abovenamed causes.

He examines the connexions between our great valleys and plains; their rock formations; agricultural capacicies; and mineral resources. Such is the grand outline of his plan in relation to physical geography. We will now consider it inore in detail.

Mr. Darby's second chapter is rich in original matter and extended views: it develops his plan.

“The territory of the United States is naturally divided into three great sec. tions ; that of the Atlantic slope ; that within the great central valley of North America; and thirdly, a slope or inclined plane extending from the Rocky or Chippewayan mountains towards the Pacific ocean.

"The already most thickly inhabited part, and the seat of primitive European colonization, is an elongated, but comparatively narrow slope, falling towards the Atlantic ocean. The second section, flanked South by the Gulf of Mexico, North by the interior sea of Canada, and by a wide sweep spreading from the Appalachian to the Chippewayan mountains, embraces the most important part of the great central valley of the continent. This expanded region is drained in great

part by the innumerable confluents of the Mississippi, but having within its limits an important part of the basin of St. Lawrence or Canadian sea. Beyond the Rocky, or Chippewayan mountains, descends the great basin of Columbia or Oregon.'

"In every disquisition upon its geography, the relative position and extent of these great natural divisions ought to be carefully kept in view. Contrasted in their general aspect, separated by natural if not by impassable boundaries, and each in itself of great extent, the civil and political history of the United States must in all future times be modified by features which no human power can essentially change.”

Mr. Darby gives the following bird's-eye view of the Atlantic slope and great central valley, before he enters on the particular description of each. This view is necessary to exhibit the river and mountain systems of those divisions, viz.

“To an eye sufficiently elevated and powers of vision strengthened so as to admit a view of the whole territory of the United States, the perspective would present, on the south-east an immense inflected sea-line, from the mouth of the Sabine to Cape Cod, of 2400 miles, unbroken and unadorned by any of those strong features which give relief to landscape. Approaching the Hudson, far distant hills would be perceived, but still the ocean spray would continue to have a beach of sand and shells. With the Merrimac the monotonous scenery would cease; more indented and now rising into rounded promontories, the ocean border would be seen richly variegated with sheets of water, intervening between isles now smiling in all the luxury of civilized cultivation. Extend the view inland from the Atlantic ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and one vast and very gently rising alluvial plain would seem emerging from the waters, and spreading to the base of the Appalachian mountains. The ocean plain, first an almost undeviating level, would be found imperceptibly broken into hill and dale ; the hills first humble in elevation, but approaching the mountains more proudly swelling into that majesty, which gives so imposing an aspect to many of the interior parts of the United States. But to give still more grandeur to this interesting picture, the long and irregular chains and ridges of the Appalachian system, would appear stretching from south-west to nortb-east, through upwards of 1200 miles. Those chains and ridges, however irregular in their individual physiognomy, would be perceived arranged as a whole, with a symmetry which mocks the efforts of art, and again, exhibiting the peculiar phenomenon of constituting the far highest elevation intervening between the Atlantic ocean and Mississippi basin, without being the dividing ridge between the respective rivers of these two great sections of North America. Impressed with the common but erroneous opinion, that the Appalachian chains and ridges are the superlative of hills, and that the Atlantic scope is terminated by the base of that system, the observer would quickly perceive his error. He would discover that the Appalachian system, so far from constituting a dividing river line, that compared with the real fountain boundary, the mountains ranged obliquely; and would appear in some respects as extraneous to the general structure of that part of the continent; and as having been formed at a different period. The mountains would be seen deflecting the courses, but in no single instance as determining the recipient into which their waters are discharged. The river volumes would appear flowing down the moun. tain valleys, or bisecting the chains at very nearly right angles. This symmetrical inflection in the courses of the rivers, though apparent on both the Atlantic slope and Mississippi basin, is in a peculiar manner evident in the confluents of Chesa. peake bay; the Delaware, Hudson, and Connecticut basins.

“If a perceptible line was drawn on a good map of the United States, an oh. server of such a diagram, would be placed relatively as would such a one as I have supposed. Such a map would present the mountains as crossing the river line at an angle of about 30°; and what is truly worthy of remark, the river line, from the sources of St. John's of New Brunswick, and Maine, to Florida Point, would appear to obey the inflections of the opposing Atlantic coast. The moun

« ElőzőTovább »