Infomotions, Inc.Theory of the Earth, Volume 2 (of 4) / Hutton, James, 1726-1797

Author: Hutton, James, 1726-1797
Title: Theory of the Earth, Volume 2 (of 4)
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ces; que; sont; montagnes; dans; cette; plus; une; par; eaux; montagne; meme; rochers; sur; strata; ont; mais; couches; surface; ces couches; que l'on; ces montagnes; pierre calcaire; ces rochers; cette montagne; que ces; ont ete; nous avons; mountains; q
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Project Gutenberg's Theory of the Earth, Volume 2 (of 4), by James Hutton

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Title: Theory of the Earth, Volume 2 (of 4)

Author: James Hutton

Release Date: November 27, 2004 [EBook #14179]

Language: English

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_Farther Induction of Facts and Observations, respecting the Geological
Part of the Theory_



_Facts in Confirmation of the Theory of Elevating Land above the Surface
of the Sea._


_The same Subject continued, with Examples from different Countries._


_Facts in confirmation of the Theory, respecting those Operations which
re-dissolve the Surface of the Earth._


_The same Subject continued, in giving still farther Views of the
Dissolution of the Earth._


_Facts in confirmation of the Theory respecting the Operations of the
Earth employed in forming Soil for Plants._


_A View of the Economy of Nature, and necessity of Wasting the Surface
of the Earth, in serving the purposes of this World._


_The same Subject continued, in giving a View of the Operations of Air
and Water upon the Surface of the Land._


_The present Form of the Surface of the Earth explained, with a View of
the Operation of Time upon our Land._


_The Theory Illustrated, with a View of the Summits of the Alps._


_The Theory Illustrated, with a View of the Valleys of the Alps._


_Facts and Opinions concerning the Natural Construction of Mountains and


_The Theory Illustrated, by adducing Examples from the different
Quarters of the Globe._


_The same Subject continued._


_Summary of the Doctrine which has been now Illustrated._




By the present theory, the earth on which we dwell is represented as
having been formed originally in horizontal strata at the bottom of the
ocean; hence it should appear, that the land, in having been raised from
the sea, and thus placed upon a higher level, had been of a different
shape and condition from that in which we find it at the present time.
This is a proposition now to be considered.

In whatever order and disposition the hard and solid parts of the
land were at the time of its emerging from the surface of the sea, no
provision would have then been made for conducting the rivers of the
earth; therefore, the water from the heavens, moving from the summits of
the land to the shores, must have formed for themselves those beds
or channels in which the rivers run at present; beds which have
successively changed their places over immense extents of plains that
have often been both destroyed and formed again; and beds which run
between the skirts of hills that have correspondent angles, for no other
reason but because the river has hollowed out its way between them.

In this view of things, the form of our land must be considered as
having been determined by three different causes, all of which have
operated, more or less, in producing the present state of those things
which we examine. First, There is a regular stratification of the
materials, from whence we know the original structure, shape, and
situation of the subject. Secondly, There are the operations of the
mineral region, some of which have had regular effects upon the strata,
as we find in the veins or contractions of the consolidated masses;
others have had more irregular effects, but which may still be
distinguished by means of our knowing the original state and structure
of those masses. Lastly, There are operations proper to the _surface_ of
this globe, by which the form of the habitable earth may be affected;
operations of which we understand both the causes and the effects, and,
therefore, of which we may form principles for judging of the past,
as well as of the future. Such are the operations of the fun and
atmosphere, of the wind and water, of the rivers and the tides.

It is the joint operation and result of those three different causes
that are to be perceived in the general appearances of this earth, and
not the effects of any one alone; although, in particular places of the
earth, the operation peculiar to each of these may be considered by
itself, in abstracting those of the others, more or less. Thus there are
several views in which the subject is to be examined, in order to find
facts with which the result of the theory may be compared, and by which
confirmation may be procured to our reasoning, as well as explanation of
the phenomena in question.


_Facts in confirmation of the Theory of Elevating Land above the Surface
of the Sea._

The first object now to be examined, in confirmation of the theory, is
that change of posture and of shape which is so frequently found in
mountainous countries, among the strata which had been originally almost
plain and horizontal. Here it is also that an opportunity is presented
of having sections of those objects, by which the internal construction
of the earth is to be known. It is our business to lay before the reader
examples of this kind, examples which are clearly described, and which
may be examined at pleasure.

No person has had better opportunities of examining the structure of
mountains than M. de Saussure, and no body more capable of taking those
comprehensive views that are so necessary for the proper execution of
such a task. We shall therefore give some examples from this author,
who has every where described nature with a fidelity which even
inconsistency with his system could not warp. Speaking of the general
situation of the beds of the Saleve, (p. 179.)

"Dans quelques endroits, et meme presque partout, les couches descendent
tout droit du haut de la montagne jusques a son pied: mais au dessus
de Collonge le sommet arrondi en dos d'ane presente des couches qui
descendent de part et d'autre, au sud-est vers les Alpes, et au
nord-ouest vers notre vallee; avec cette difference, que celles qui
descendent vers les Alpes parviennent jusques au bas; au lieu que celles
qui nous regardent sont coupees a pic, a une grande hauteur.

"Ces deux inclinaisons ne sont pas les seules que l'on observe dans le
bancs du mont Saleve, ils en ont encore une troisieme; ils sont releves
vers le milieu de la longueur de la montagne, et descendent de la vers
ses extremites. Cette pente, qui sur le Grand Saleve n'est pas bien
sensible, devient tres remarquable au Petit Saleve, et meme tres rapide
a son extremite. Les dernieres couches au nord au dessus d'Etrembieres
descendent vers le nord-nord-est, sous un angle de 40 au 50 degres.

"On verra, dans le cours de cet ouvrage, combien le montagnes calcaires
ont frequemment cette forme.

"Sec. 235. Outre ces grandes couches qui constituent le corps de la
montagne, et qui peuvent en general etre mises dans la classe des
couches horizontales, on en trouve d'autres dont l'inclinaison est
absolument differente. Elles sont situes au bas de Grande Saleve du cote
qui regarde notre vallee; on les voit appliquees contre les tranches
inferieures des bancs horizontaux ou tres-inclinees en appui contre la

"Ces couches s'elevent en quelques endroits, par exemple, entre Veiry et
Crevin, a peu-pres a la moitie de la hauteur du Grande Saleve. Celles
qui touchent immediatement la montagne, sont le plus inclinees; on
en voit la de verticales et meme quelque fois de renversees en sens
contraire, qui sont soutenues par le plus exterieures. Celle ci font
avec l'horizon un angle de 60 a 65 degres. Ces couches sont souvent tres
etendues, bien suivies, et continues a de tres-grandes distances. Leur
assemblage forme une epaisseur considerable au pied de la montagne.
Elles ont cependant ete rompues, et manquent meme totalement dans
quelques places. Cela meme donne la facilite de les bien observer, parce
qu'en se postant dans ces intervalles, on peut les prendre en flanc, et
voir distinctement leurs tranches, et tout leur structure.

"On observe ces couches non-seulement au pied de rocs nuds du Grand
Saleve, mais encore dans la partie de sa pente qui est boisee par
exemple au dessous de la croisette, le chemin qui de ce hameau descend
au village de Collonge, passe sur les couches inclinees, comme celles
que je viens de decrire."

In Sec. 237, the description is continued.

"En suivant le pied de la montagne entre le Coin et Crevin, on voit
reparaitre nos couches verticales ou tres inclinees qui vis a vis du
Coin, ont ete detruites comme je viens de le dire. Ces couches la ou
elles sorte que l'on peut comparer toutes les couches de la montagne a
celles d'un jeu de cartes ploye en deux suivant sa longueur."

In considering the chains of the Jura, on the west side of that
which looks to the lake, our author has the following interesting
observations, p. 275.

"Les chaines dont il est compose, a mesure qu'ils s'eloignent de la
haute ligne orientale perdent graduellement de leur hauteur et de leur
continuite; le plus occidentales ne forment pas, comme la premiere, des
chaines de montagnes elevee et non interrompues; ce sont des monticules
allonges il est vrai, mais isoles ou qui du moins ne sont unis que par
leurs bases.

"Sec. 338. Leur structure n'est pas la meme dans toute l'etendue du Jura.
La forme primitive la plus generale ressemble cependant a celles de la
haute chaine; c'est-a-dire, que ce sont de voutes, composees et remplies
d'arcs concentriques.

"C'est surtout entre Pontarlier et Besancon, que l'on rencontre des
collines qui ont regulierement cette structure. La grande route traverse
de larges vallees, dans lesquelles les couches sont horizontales; mais
ces vallees sont separees par des chaines peu elevees dont le couches
arquees montent jusques au haut de la montagne, et descendent ensuite
du cote oppose. On en voit aussi de la meme forme dans la Prevote de
Moutier Grand Val. La birs traverse des rochers qui offrent a decouvert
la construction interieure des montagnes; les couches de roc forment
dans cet endroit des voutes elevees l'une sur l'autre en suivant le
contour exterieur de la montagne.--_Dict. Geog. de la Suisse, tom._ 2.
_p._ 150.

"D'autres fois le sommet de la montagne est plus aigu que n'est celui
d'une voute, et les couches paralelles entr'elles, mais inclinees a
l'horizon en sens contraire, presentent dans leur section, la form d'un
chevron ou d'un lambda [Greek: L].

"Sec. 339. Mais cette meme structure presente frequemment une singularite
remarquable. Ce sont des bancs perpendiculaires a l'horizon qui occupent
a-peu-pres le milieu ou le coeur de la montagne et qui separent les
couches d'une des faces de celles de la face opposee.

"J'ai observe plusieurs montagnes secondaires, et du Jura et d'ailleurs,
et surtout un grande nombre de montagne primitive, dont la structure est
la meme[1]."

[Footnote 1: This correspondency in the shape of the primitive and
secondary mountains of our author, of which the structure is the same,
is an important observation for our theory, which makes the origin of
those two different things to be similar; it is inconsistent, however,
with the notion of primitive parts, which some philosophers have

"Sec. 340. Les couches perpendiculaires a l'horizon, que l'on rencontre
frequemment dans le Jura ont presque toutes leurs plans diriges du
nord-nord-est au sud-sud-ouest, suivant la direction generale de cette
chaine de montagne. Cette observation est d'une assez grande importance
parce qu'elle exclut ou rend du moins improbable l'idee d'un

"J'ai cru pendant long-temps que toutes les couches devoient avoir ete
formees dans une situation horizontale, ou peu inclinee a l'horizon, et
que celles que l'on rencontre dans une situation perpendiculaire, ou
tres-inclinees, avoient ete mises dans cet etat par quelque revolution;
mais a force de rencontrer des couches dans cette situation, de les voir
dans de montagnes bien conservees, et qui ne paroissoient point avoir
subi de bouleversement, et d'observer une grande regularite dans la
forme et dans la direction de ces couches; je suis venu a penser que la
nature peut bien avoir aussi forme de ces bancs tres-inclines, et meme
perpendiculaire a la surface de la terre."

Here the reasoning of our author is sufficiently just; he sees too much
order in the effect to ascribe it to a cause merely fortuitous. But
surely nothing in those appearances hinders the conclusion, that
the strata now found in ail possible positions, had been originally
horizontal when at the bottom of the sea, and that they had been
afterwards regularly bent and broken, by the same cause which operated
in placing them above the level of the ocean. The force of this argument
will appear, by considering the various regular and irregular positions
in which they are found.

"Sec. 242. Dans quelques endroits du Jura, on voit des especes de
demi-cirques formes par des rochers dont le couches sont de portions de
la surface d'un meme cone et tendent a un centre commun eleve au dessus
de l'horizon.

"Ainsi aupres de Pontarlier, etc.

"Sec. 343. Mais il est bien plus frequent de voir des montagnes dont les
couches ont la forme d'une demi-voute, et qui vues de profil presentent,
comme notre montagne de Saleve, un pente douce d'une cote, et des
escarpemens de l'autre.

"Plusieurs vallees du Jura sont situees entre deux chaine de montagnes
qui ont cette forme, et qui se presentent reciproquement leur faces
escarpees. On croit meme apercevoir quelque correspondance, entre les
couches de ces montagnes opposees, et l'on diroit qu'elles furent
anciennement unies, et que la partie intermediaire a ete detruite, ou
que la montagne s'est fendue du haut en bas, et que ses deux moities se
sont ecartees pour faire place a la vallee qu'elles renferment.

"Sec. 346. Pour resumer en peu de mots les idees que je me forme de
la structure du Jura; je dirai que je crois qu'il est compose de
differentes chaines a-peu-pres paralleles entr'elles, et a celles des
Alpes, mais tirant un peu plus du nord au midi: que la chaine la plus
elevee et la plus voisine des Alpes, a eu originairement la forme d'une
dos d'ane dont les pentes partent du faite, recouvrent les flancs, et
descendent jusques au pieds de la montagne: que les chaines suivantes du
cote de l'ouest, sont composees de montagnes graduellement moins elevees
et moins etendues; que les couches de ces montagnes ont generalement la
forme de voutes entieres ou de moitie de voutes; et qu'elles viennent
mourir dans des plaines, qui ont pour base des bancs calcaires tout a
fait horizontaux de la meme nature que ceux du mont Jura, et qui furent
peut-etre anciennement continus avec eux."

Our author has here described most accurately, not only the present
shape and positions of particular strata, but the general shape and
structure of the land him the Saleve and Jura, which are not in the
Alps, to the plains of France, where the strata are generally in a more
horizontal situation.

Having thus seen the structure of what are commonly termed the secondary
mountains, a structure which prevails generally in all parts of the
land, at least in all that which is not primitive in the estimation of
naturalists, who suppose a different origin to different parts, it
will now be thought a most interesting view of nature, to see the same
accurate examination of the structure of the earth, from those secondary
mountains of Geneva to the center of the Alps, where we find such a
variety of mountains of different materials, (whether they shall be
called primitive or secondary) and where such opportunity is found for
seeing the structure of those mountains. For, if we shall find the same
principles, here prevailing in the formation of those supposed primitive
mountains as are found over all the earth in general, and as are
employed in fashioning or shaping every species of material, it will be
allowed us to conclude, that, in this situation of things, we have
what is general in the formation of land, notwithstanding imaginary
distinctions of certain parts which had been formed one way, and of
others which are supposed to be operations of an opposite nature.

This question therefore will be properly decided in our author's journey
to the Alps; for, if we shall there find calcareous strata perfectly
consolidated, as they should be by the extreme operation of subterranean
heat and fusion; if we find materials of every species formed after the
manner of stratification; and if all those different strata variously
consolidated shall be found in all positions, similar to those which
we have now seen in the examination of the Jura and Saleve, with this
difference, that the deplacement and contorsion may be more violent in
those highly consolidated strata, we shall then generalise an operation
by which the present state of things must have been produced; and in
those regular appearances, we shall acknowledge the operation of an
internal heat, and of an elevating power.

"Sec. 287. Les pentes rapides des bancs dont est forme le mole, les
directions variees de ces memes bancs sont aussi conformes a une
observation generale et importante, que le montagnes secondaires sont
d'autant plus irregulieres et plus inclinees qu'elles s'approchent plus
des primitives.

"A la verite, quelque montagnes calcaires meme a de grandes distances
des primitives ont ca et la des couches inclinees et meme quelquefois
verticales; mais ces exception locales n'empechent pas qu'il ne soit
vrai qu'en general, les bancs calcaires, que l'on trouve dans les
plaines qui sont eloignees des hautes montagnes, ont leurs bancs ou
horizontaux ou peu inclines; tandis, qu'au contraire, les montagnes qui
s'approchent, du centre des grands chaines, n'ont que tres-rarement
des couches horizontales, et presentent presque par-tout des couches
fortement et diversement inclinees."

That is to say, that there is no place of the earth, however plain and
horizontal in general may be the strata, in which examples are not found
of this manner of disordering or displacing strata; at the same
time they are more crested and more disordered in proportion to the
mountainous nature of the country. Here is the proposition contained in
that general observation of natural history; and this is a proposition
which either naturally flows from the theory, or is perfectly consistent
with it.

"Sec. 360, a. Le rocher dont j'ai parle (Sec. 354) qui touche celui de la
Dole, et qui porte le nom de Vouarne, est d'une structure singuliere.
Les bancs dont il est compose sont escarpes, les uns en montant contre
le nord-est sous un angle de 40 a 50 degres; les autres en s'elevant
contre le sud-est.

"Sec. 361. En avant de ce rocher, du cote l'est, on en voit un autre d'une
structure tres remarquable. Il a la forme d'un chevron aigu ou d'un
lambda [Greek: L]. on le nomme, sans doute a cause de sa forme, le
Rocher de fin Chateau. Les bancs dont il est compose sont tres inclines
a l'horizon, et s'appuient reciproquement contre leurs sommites
respectives. Les planches que l'on dresse en appui les unes contre les
autres pour les faire secher, peuvent donner une idee de la situation de
les bancs. Cette forme n'est pas rare dans ces rochers calcaires; mais
elle est bien plus frequente encore, et plus decidee dans le rochers
primitifs, comme nous le verrons dans la suite.

"Le rocher de fin chateau presente dans cette forme meme une
circonstance tres-remarquable; c'est que l'intervalle que les jambes
du lambda [Greek: L] laissent entr'elles, est rempli par des couches
perpendiculaires a l'horizon. On diroit que ces couches chassees en haut
par une force souterraine, ou souleve de part et d'autre, des bancs qui
sont demeures appuyes contre elles. Nous avons deja vu des rochers de
cette forme, Sec. 339."

Here the truth of our theory is so evident, that this philosopher
naturally acknowledges it without intention.

In his Journey to Mont Blanc, he observes, page 364,

"Un peu au dela de Contamine on passe sous les ruines du chateau de
Faucigny, bati sur le sommet d'un rocher escarpe, qui fait partie de la
base du mole. Tant qu'on est immediatement au dessous de ce rocher on ne
demele pas bien sa structure; mais apres l'avoir passe, on peut voir a
l'aide d'une lunette, qu'il est compose de couches perpendiculaires a
l'horizon, et dirigees du nord-est au sud-ouest. Au dessous de ce rocher
au sud-est, on voit d'autres couches verticales, mais dont les plans
coupent a l'angle droits ceux des premiers.

"A une bonne demi-lieue de ce chateau on observe, comme au pied du
Mont Saleve, une masse de rochers, dont les couches minces, presque
perpendiculaires a l'horizon, sont adossees aux escarpemens de couches
epaisses et bien suivies, qui paroissent horizontales."

Speaking of the Mont Brezon, our author says, page 369,

"Mais le pied de cette montagne est encore, comme celui de Saleve,
couvert de grandes couches presque perpendiculaires a l'horizon et
appuyees contre le corps meme de la montagne. Et quoique le Brezon se
termine a une petite demi-lieue de la Bonne Ville, cependant ses couches
qui sont appuyees contre le pied de la chaine meridionale, et qui
tournent ainsi le dos a l'Arve, continuent de regner jusques au village
de Siongy pendant l'espace de pres de deux lieues. Elles sont a la
verite coupees par une petite vallee a l'extremite du pied du Brezon,
mais elles recommencent au de la de cette coupure.

"Sec. 446. Cette petite vallee, qui s'ouvre au pied du Brezon, est etroite
et tortueuse; les angles saillans engrenees dans les angles rentrans y
sont extremement sensibles. Elle conduit au village de Brezon, qui est
situe derriere la montagne de ce nom.

"Au dessus de ce village sont de grands et beaux paturages avec des
chalets qui ne sont habites qu'en ete, et que l'on nomme les Granges de
Solaison. C'est la que j'allois coucher quand je visitois le Brezon
et les montagnes voisines. Les granges de Solaison sont dominees, au
sud-est par le monts Vergi, chaine calcaire tres elevee, dont j'ai aussi
parcouru les sommets qui se voyent des environs de Geneve, sur la droite
du mole.

"Cette chaine court du nord-est au sud-ouest, et vient se terminer
derriere les montagnes qui bordent notre route a droite.

"Sec. 447. On peut, des environs de Siongy, observer la structure de la
derniere montagne de cette chaine; elle est tres remarquable. Les
couches horizontales au sommet se courbent presqu'a angles droits, et
descendent de la perpendiculairement du cote du nord-ouest. On diroit
qu'elles ont ete ployees par une violent effort; on les voit separees et
eclatees en divers endroits.

"Sec. 449. Le mole se termine a la jonction du Giffre avec l'Arve; ses
dernieres couches descendent avec rapidite dans le lit de cette petite

"Les montagnes qui suivent le mole, et qui forment apres lui le cote
septentrional de la vallee de l'Arve, sont basses et indifferentes, une
seule est remarquable par sa forme pyramidale, et par ses couches qui
convergent a son sommet, et lui donnent la forme d'un chevron.

"Sec. 450. La ville meme de Cluse est batie sur le pied d'une montagne,
dont la structure est tres extraordinaire; on en juge mieux a une
certain distance que de la ville meme.

"Cette montagne de forme conique emoussee, ou plutot parabolique, est
pour ainsi dire coiffee d'une bande de rochers, qui du haut de sa tete
descendent a droite et a gauche jusques a son pied. Ces rochers nuds
sont relevees par le fond de verdure dont le reste de montagne est
couverte. Ils sont composes de plusieurs bandes paralleles entr'elles;
les exterieures sont blanches et epaisses, les interieures sont brunes
et plus minces. Le corps meme de la montagne, dont on appercoit ca et la
les rochers au travers du bois, qui les couvre, paroi compose de couches
irregulieres et diversement inclinees. On pourroit soupconner que cette
bande n'est que le reste d'une espece de callote qui vraisemblablement
couvroit autrefois toute la montagne.

"Sec. 463. Des que l'on est sorti de la ville de Cluse, on voit en se
retournant sur la droite, les rochers en surplomb sous lesquels on
a passe avant de traverser l'Arve. On distingue d'ici le profil
des couches de ces rochers; et on reconnoit qu'elles sont presque
perpendiculaires a l'horizon.

"Ces couches sont adossees a d'autres couches calcaires et verticales
comme elles, mais qui sont la continuation de couches a-peu-pres
horizontales: on diroit qu'une force inconnue a ploye a angles droits
l'extremite de ces couches, et les a ainsi contrainte a prendre une
situation verticale.

"Sec. 467. Si du grande chemin qui est au pied de la caverne, on jette les
yeux sur le rocher dans lequel est son ouverture, on observera que les
bancs de ce rocher sont tres epais, et composes d'une pierre calcaire
grise; qu'au dessus cette pierre grise on en voit une autre de couleur
brune, dont les couches font tres minces; mais qui par leur repetition
forment une epaisseur considerable.

"Ces couches de pierres a feuillets minces, continuent jusques a
Sallanches et au de la; et sont renfermees par dessus et par dessous
entre des bancs de pierre grise compacte et a couches epaisses.
Quelquefois la pierre grise qui sert de base, ou comme disent les
mineurs, de plancher a la brune, s'enfonce et alors celle-ci paroit a
fleur de terre; ailleurs cette pierre grise se releve et porte la brune
a une grande hauteur.

"Cette pierre brune et feuilletee est comme la grise de nature calcaire;
mais un melange d'argile, et peut-etre un peu de matiere grasse ou
phlogistique lui donnent sa couleur brune et la disposent a se rompre en
fragmens angulaires et a cotes plans.

"Ce genre de pierre est fort sujet a avoir ses couches flechies ou
ondees en forme de S de Z ou de C. Pres de la caverne, on, voit une
lacune dans le milieu des bancs du roc gris; les couches minces ont
rempli cette lacune, mais elles sont dans cet espace extremement
tourmentees. On comprend que ce vide et ce remplacement, se sont faits
dans le temps meme de la formation de ces rochers."

We have the following description of the Cascade Mountain, p. 396.

"Les couches de cette montagne sont la continuation des couches
superieures du rocher de la cascade, et forment des arcs concentriques,
tournes en sens contraire; en sorte que la totalite de ces couches a la
forme d'une S, dont la partie superieure se recourbe fort en arriere.

"Le rocher de la cascade, represente par la planche IV. est tout
calcaire; les couches, qui sont au dessous des lettres d et e, sont
composees de ce roc gris compact dont les bancs, comme nous l'avons vu
plus haut, sont ordinairement epais, mais les couches exterieures entre
e et f, sont du roc brun a couches minces, dont nous avons aussi
parle. Ces meme couches minces se voyent encore a l'intersection de
perpendiculaire qui passent par lettres a et e.

"Ici dont c'est le roc gris qui est renferme entre deux bancs de roc
brun au lieu qu'aupres de la caverne, c'etoit le roc brun, qui etoit
resserre entre deux bancs de roc gris; mais cette difference n'est pas
ce qu'il y a de plus difficile a expliquer; c'est la forme arquee de ces
grandes couches dont il faudroit rendre raison."

Having measured this rock geometrically, the result is as follows:

"Le plus grand des arcs de cercle que forment ces couches exterieures de
ce rocher, a donc pour corde une ligne d'environ 800 pieds: dans toute
cette etendue, ces couches de meme que les interieures sont suivies sans

"Je dois cependant avertir, qu'en avant du rocher de la cascade a la
hauteur de la lettre a, et au dessous, on voit des couches detachees
des circulaires, et independantes d'elles; ce sont de plans inclines en
appui contre le corps de la montagne, semblables a ceux que j'ai observe
au pied du mont Saleve, et d'une formation vraisemblablement plus
recente que le corps meme de la montagne.

"Mais derriere ces plans, on voit les couches arquees, qui sont
horizontales dans le bas, servir de base au rocher, se relever ensuite
sur la droite, et venir en tournant former le faite de ce meme rocher."

"It may be interesting to hear our author's reasoning upon this subject,
more especially as it will give more faith or light, if it were
possible, to his descriptions, which are irreproachable.

"Sec. 473. Il s'agiroit a present de dire quelle force a pu donner a ces
couches cette situation; comment elles out pu etre retroussees de facon
que les plus basses soient devenues les plus elevees?

"La premiere idee qui se presente est celle des eaux souterrains. Ce
qui pourroit meme faire soupconner que ces couches ont ete reellement
relevees par une force souterraine c'est que, sur la droite du rocher
qu'elles forment, il y a un vide ou il manque a peu-pres ce qu'il
faudroit pour former la hauteur de la cascade; car la montagne que l'on
voit sous les lettres g et h, est sur une ligne beaucoup plus reculee.
Sur la droite de ce vide ces couches recommencent sur la ligne de celles
qui sont recourbees; on les voit coupees a pic de leur cote, avec les
memes couleurs, la meme epaisseur, mais dans une situation horizontale.

"J'ai observe dans plus d'une montagne des couches ainsi retroussees,
aupres desquelles on voit le vide qu'elles paroissent avoir laisse en se
repliant sur elles memes.

"Dans l'ober Hasli la vallee de Meiringen au dessus du village de Stein.

"Dans le canton de Uri, sur le bords du lac de Lucerne, on en voit aussi
plusieurs exemples bien distincts.

"Une montagne plus rapprochee de notre cascade, et qui presente aussi ce
phenomene, est situee derriere elle au nord-est entre le village de Seiz
et les granges des Fonds. Cette montagne porte le nom d'Anterne. Elle
est plus elevee que celle du Nant d'Arpenaz, ses couches forment des
arcs concentriques plus grands et plus recourbes encore, et l'on voit de
meme a leur droite un vide qu'elles semblent avoir laisse en se levant
et se repliant sur la gauche.

"Mais malgre ces observations, ce n'est pas sans peine que j'ai recours
a ces agens presque sur-naturelles, sur-tout quand je n'apercois aucun
de leurs vestiges; car cette montagne et celle d'alentour ne laissent
apercevoir aucune trace du feu. Je laisse donc cette question en
suspens; j'y reviendrai plus d'une fois, et meme avant la fin de ce

"Il faut a present jetter un coup-d'oeil sur les montagnes de l'autre
cote de l'Arve.

"Sec. 474. Vis-a-vis de la cascade de l'autre cote de la riviere, on
voit un chaine de montagnes extremement elevees, qui presentent leurs
escarpemens au dessus de Sallenche, et contre le Mont Blanc. Leurs
couches descendent par consequent vers la vallee du Reposoir, situee a
leur pied au nord-ouest.

"Mais au pied des escarpemens de cette meme chaine, on voit une rangee
de bases montagnes paralleles a sa direction, inclinees en appui contre
ses escarpemens et qui descendent en pente douce vers Sallenche; de meme
encore une fois qu'au mont Saleve.

"Sec. 475. De la cascade jusques a St Martin, on voit frequemment a sa
gauche des couches singulierement contournees, et toujours dans cette
espece de pierre calcaire brune que nous suivons depuis si long-tems.
Quelques-unes de ces couches forment presqu'un cercle entier, les plus
remarquables sont a une demi-lieue de la cascade. Elles representent des
arcs dont les convexites se regardent a peu pres comme dans un X; mais
avec des plans situes obliquement entre les deux convexites, et des
couches planes et horizontales immediatement au-dessus de l'arc de la

"Ces diverses couches sont si bien suivies dans tous leurs contours, et
si singulierement entrelacees que j'ai peine a croire qu'elles ayent ete
formees dans une situation horizontale, et qu'ensuite des bouleversemens
leur ayent donne ces positions bizarres.

"Deja il faudroit supposer que ces bouleversemens se sont faits dans un
tems ou ces couches etoient encore molles et parfaitement flexibles, car
on n'y voit rien de rompu, leurs courbures, meme les plus angulaires,
sont absolument entieres.

"Ensuite il faudroit, que ces couches, dans cet etat de mollesse,
eussent ete froissees et contournees d'une maniere tout-a-fait etrange,
et presqu'impossible a expliquer en detail. D'ailleurs des explosions
souterraines rompent, dechirent, et ne soulevent pas avec le menagement
qu'exigeroit la conservation de continuite de toutes ces parties.

"La crystallization peut seul, a mon avis, rendre raison de ces
bizarreries; nous voyons, comme je l'ai deja dit, des albatres formes
pour ainsi dire sous nos yeux par de vrayes crystallizations dans les
crevasses, et dans les cavernes des montagnes, presenter des couches
dans lesquelles on observe des jeux tout aussi singuliers[2]."

[Footnote 2: M. de Saussure would explain the various shape and
contortions of strata upon the principles of crystallization; but
surely he has not adverted to the distinction of crystallization as an
operation giving form or shape, and as giving only solidity or hardness,
which last, it is apprehended, is the only sense in which our author
here considers crystallization, although, from the way in which he has
employed this principle, it would seem that it is the figure which is
to be explained by it. This conjecture is supported by the example of
alabaster or _stalactites_, with which he compares the section of those
mountains; for, in the example of implicated figures of the
stalactite marble, similar to those of the present distorted strata,
crystallization has nothing to do with that part of the figure which
corresponds to the case now under consideration; it forms indeed certain
figures of crystals in the mass by which also the configuration of some
minute parts, affected by those crystals, is determined; but the figure
of those alabasters, which is to be compared with the present subject,
arises solely from the current of petrifying water along the surface of
the mass. This mass, therefore, being formed by succession from that
water, crystallising calcareous earth, and carrying colouring parts of
other earth, gives an appearance of stratification to a figure which
is absolutely inconsistent with stratification; an operation which is
performed by depositing materials at the bottom of the sea, and which
the marine bodies contained in some of the strata sufficiently attest.]

"Je ne repugnerois donc pas a croire que le rocher de la cascade a pu
etre forme dans la situation dans laquelle il se presente; si ce vuide a
sa droite, ses couches qui, bien que suivies, montrent pourtant quelques
ruptures dans les flexions un peu fortes, et ses grands bancs de cette
pierre grise compacte, qui n'est point si sujette a ces formes bizarres,
n'establissoient pas une difference sensible entr'elles et celles que
nous venons examiner."

It is impossible to be more impartial than M. de Saussure has proved
himself to be on this occasion, or to reason more in the manner in which
every philosopher ought to reason on all occasions.

But to see the full value of this author's impartiality, notwithstanding
of his system, let us follow him in the second volume of Voyages dans
les Alpes. It is in chap. XX. entitled, Poudingues de Valorsine, that we
find the following description, with his reasoning upon that appearance.

"On voit la (page 99.) que la base de cette montagne est un vrai granit
gris a grains mediocres, et dont la structure n'a rien de distinct; mais
au-dessus de ces granits on trouve des roches feuilletees quartzeuses
melangees de mica et de feldspath genre moyenne entre le granit veine
et la roche feuilletee ordinaire. Leurs couches courent du nord au sud,
comme la vallee de Valorsine, et font avec l'horizon un angle de 60
degres, en s'appuyant au couchant contre cette meme vallee. Ces roches
continuent dans la meme situation jusques a ce qu'apres une demi-heure
de marche, on les perd de vue sous la verdure qui tapisse une petite
plaine, situee au milieu des bois, et qui se nomme le _plan des

"Sec. 689. De-la, en montant obliquement du cote du sud, on rencontre de
grands blocs d'un schiste gris ou de couleur de lie-de-vin, quelquefois
meme d'un violet decide, qui renferment une grande quantite de cailloux
etrangers, les uns angulaires, les autres arrondis, et de differentes
grosseurs, depuis celle d'un grain de sable jusqu'a celle de la tete. Je
fus curieux de voir ces poudingues dans leur lieu natal; je montai
droit en haut pour y arriver; mais la quel ne fut pas mon etonnement de
trouver leur couches dans une situation verticale!

"Sec. 690. On comprendra sans peine la raison de cet etonnement si l'on
considere qu'il est impossible que ces poudingues aient ete formees dans
cette situation.

"Que des particules de la plus extreme tenuite, suspendues dans un
liquide, puissent s'agglutiner entr'elles et former des couches
verticales, c'est ce que nous avons la preuve en fait dans les albatres,
les agathes, et meme dans les crystallizations artificielles. Mais
qu'une pierre toute formee, de la grosseur de la tete, se soit arretee
au milieu d'une parois verticale, et ait attendu la que les petites
particules de la pierre vinssent l'envelopper, la souder et la fixer
dans cette place, c'est une supposition absurde et impossible. Il faut
donc regarder comme une chose demontree, que ces poudingues ont ete
formes dans une position horizontale, ou a peu-pres telle, et redresses,
ensuite apres leurs endurcissement. Quelle est la cause qui les a
redresses? c'est ce que nous ignorons encore; mais c'est deja un pas,
et un pas important, au milieu de la quantite prodigieuse de couches
verticales que nous rencontrons dans nos Alpes, que d'en avoir trouve
quelques-unes dont on soit parfaitement sur qu'elles ont ete formees
dans une situation horizontale.

"Sec. 691. La nature meme de la matiere qu'enveloppe les cailloux de ces
poudingues rend ce fait plus curieux et plus decisif. Car si c'etoit une
pate informe et grossiere, on pourroit croire que ces cailloux et
la pate qui les lie ont ete jetes pele-mele dans quelques crevasses
verticales, ou la partie liquide c'est endurcie par le dessechement.
Mais bien loin de-la, le tissu de cette pate est d'une finesse
admirables; c'est une schiste, dont les feuillets elementaires sont
excessivement minces, meles de mica, et parfaitement paralleles aux
plans qui divisent les couches de la pierre. Ces couches memes sont
tres-regulieres, bien suives et de differentes epaisseurs, depuis une
demi pouce jusques a plusieurs pieds. Celles qui sont minces contiennent
peu et quelquefois point de cailloux etrangers, et on observe quelques
alternatives de ces couches minces sans cailloux et des couches epaisses
qui en contiennent. La couleur du fond de ce schiste varie beaucoup; il
est ici gris, la verdatre, le plus souvent violet ou rougeatre; on en
voit aussi qui est marbre de ces differentes couleurs. Ses couches sont
dirigees du nord au sud exactement comme celles des roches granitoides
qui sont au-dessous, Sec. 688. mais l'inclinaison du schiste est beaucoup
plus grande, ses couches sont souvent tout-a-fait verticales, et
lorsqu'elles ne le sont pas, elles montent de quelques degres du meme
cote que les roches dont je viens de parler; c'est-a-dire, du cote de

"Sec. 692. Les cailloux enclaves dans ce schiste sont, comme je l'ai dite,
de differentes grandeurs, depuis celle du grain de sable, jusques a 6 ou
7 pouces de diametre; ils appartiennent tous a la classe des roches que
j'appelle primitives; je n'y ai cependant pas vu de granit en masse;
seulement des granits feuilletes, des roches feuilletees, melangees de
quartz et de mica; des fragmens meme de quartz pur; mais absolument
aucun schiste purement argileux, ni aucune pierre calcaire, rien qui
fit effervescence avec l'eau-forte, et la pate meme qui renferme ces
cailloux n'en fait aucune. Leur forme varie; les uns sont arrondis et
ont manifestement perdu leurs angles par le frottement; d'autres ont
tous leurs angles vifs, quelques uns meme ont la forme rhomboidale
qu'affectent si frequemment les roches de ce genre. Dans les parties de
la pierre ou ces cailloux etrangers sont entasses en tres-grand nombre,
les elemens du schiste n'ont pas eu la liberte de s'arranger et de
former des feuillets paralleles; mais par-tout ou les cailloux laissent
entr'eux des intervalles sensibles, les feuillets reparoissent, et
sont constamment paralleles, et entr'eux et aux plans qui divisent les

"Sec. 693. Les bancs de ces schistes poudingues forment dans la montagne
une epaisseur d'environ cent toises, comptees de l'est a l'ouest
transversalement aux couches, et je l'ai suivie dans le sens de la
longueur l'espace de plus d'une lieue; on ne peut pas la suivre plus
long-temps, parce que les bancs se cachent et s'enfoncent sous la

Here M. de Saussure, who is always more anxious to establish truth,
than preserve theory, gives up the formation of the alpine strata by
crystallization. Let us now see how he acknowledges the evidence of
softness in those strata. It is in his description of the Val de Mont
Joye, Tom. 2d. page 173.

"Ce sont des roches dures a fond de quartz, ou de feldspath blanc,
confusement cristallise, avec des veines noires de mica ou de schorl en
petites lames. Ces veines, qui penetrent tout au travers de la pierre,
sont la section des couches dont elle est composee; on les voit, ici
planes et paralleles, entr'elles; la en zig-zags, renfermes entre de
plans parfaitement paralleles; accident dont les etoffes tout-a-la-fois
rayees et chinees donnent encore le dessin. Ces anfractuosites des
couches sont-elles un effect de la crystallization, ou bien d'un
mouvement de pression qui a refoule des couches planes lorsqu'elles
etoient encore flexibles, apres quoi d'autres couches planes sont venues
se former sur elles."

M. de Saussure has no idea of strata formed at the bottom of the sea,
being afterwards softened by means of heat and fusion. He had already
given up the supposition of those vertical or highly inclined strata
having been formed in their present position; but had this geologist
seen that it was the same cause by which those strata had both been
raised in their place and softened in their substance, I am persuaded
that he would have freely acknowledged, in this zig-zag shape, which is
so common in the alpine strata, the fullest evidence of the softening
and the elevating power.

At the _Tour de Fols_, near St Bernard, M. de Saussure found an
appearance the most distinct of its kind, and worthy to be recorded as a
leading fact in matters of geology. _Voyages dans les Alpes_, Tome 2d.
pag. 454.

"La direction general des couches de ces rochers et des ardoises qui les
separent, est donc du midi au nord, ou plus exactement du sud-sud-ouest
au nord-nord-est; mais cette direction est coupee a angles droits par
des couches d'ardoises et de feuillet quartzeux, qui passent du levant
au couchant par le milieu des couches qui courent du midi au nord."

Clearly as this fact must demonstrate, to a reasoning person, the
fracture and dislocation of strata, our author, who knows so well the
reasoning of naturalists on such an occasion, gives us his opinion
as follows: "Quant a la raison de ce fait, on peut l'attribuer a de
boulversemens, et c'est ce qui me paroit le plus vraisemblable. On
pourroit cependant supposer qu'il existoit au milieu de ces couches une
grande fissure, qui a ete remplie par des couches transversales. Mais il
faudroit pour cela que ce remplissage se fut fait dans le temps meme
de la formation de ce montagne, puisque les ardoises et les pyramides
quartzeuses, donc la direction est transversales, sont precisement de la
meme nature que les autres; et il faudrait encore supposer, qu'elles ont
ete formees dans la situation tres-inclinee qu'on leur voit aujourd'hui;
supposition que l'on aura quelque peine a admettre."

In this second volume, M. de Saussure gives us a general view with
regard to the mountains which border the valley of the Rhone, p. 543.

"Sec. 1095. Cette suite de montagnes calcaire que nous avons cotoyee depuis
St Maurice jusques a Chillon, ne presente presque nulle part des couches
regulieres et horizontales: elles sont presque par-tout inclinees,
flechies, et paroissent avoir ete tourmentees par des causes violentes:
car de simples affaissemens ne suffisent pas a mon gre pour rendre
raison de toutes leurs formes. Leurs escarpemens sont aussi assez
irregulierement situes; la plus grande partie d'entr'eux paroit
cependant tournee du cote de la vallee du Rhone.

"La suite des montagnes qui correspond a celle-ci sur la rive gauche du
Rhone et du lac est aussi calcaire, et a-peu-pres aussi irreguliere. La
plupart de ces montagnes, celles surtout qui sont les plus voisines du
lac, sont escarpees, et du cote du lac et de celui du Rhone. Les vallees
qui les separent paroissent les diviser en chaines paralleles au lac,
qui courent du nord-est au sud-ouest. Les plus voisines du lac sont
escarpees contre lui, comme je viens de le dire, tandis que les plus
eloignees du lac, ou les plus proches du centre des Alpes, sont
inclinees contre ces memes Alpes. _Le Val de lie_ separe ces deux ordres
de montagnes: cette vallee riche et fertile a la forme d'un berceau; les
deux chaines qui la bordent s'elevent en pente douce de son cote, et
tournent leurs escarpemens, l'une contre le lac, l'autre contre les
Alpes; au reste je n'ai point parcouru ces montagnes, je n'ai pu en
juger qu'en les observant de loin.

"Mais ce dont on peut etre certain, c'est que, si les montagnes qui
bordent ces deux rives de la vallee du Rhone, se ressemblent par leur
nature, qui est calcaire de part et d'autre elles ne se ressemblent
point par leur structure. On n'y voit aucune correspondance, ni dans
les positions, ni dans les formes: Les vallees qui les separent ne se
correspondent pas non plus. Ce defaut de correspondance me paroit encore
reveiller l'idee des bouleversemens."

The general result, from these observations of our author, is this.
First, there is no distinction to be made of what is termed primary and
secondary mountains, with regard to the position of their strata; every
different species of stratum, from the stratified granite and quartzy
_schistus_ of the Alps to the _oolites_ of the Jura and Saleve, being
found in every respect the same; whether this shall be supposed as
arising from their original formation, or, according to the present
theory, from a subsequent deplacement of strata formed originally in a
horizontal situation.

Secondly, it appears that, in all those alpine regions, the vertical
position of strata prevails; and that this appearance, which seems to
be as general in the alpine regions of the globe as it is here in the
mountainous regions of the Alps, has been brought about both by the
fracture and flexure of those masses, which, if properly strata, must
have been originally extended in planes nearly horizontal. Whereas, in
descending from that mountainous region towards the more level country
of France, the same changes in the natural position of strata are
observed, with this difference, that here they are in a less degree. Now
that those vertical strata had been originally formed at the bottom
of the sea is evident from this author's observation, which has been
already referred to (vol. 1st, page 23).

Thirdly, in all those accurate observations of a naturalist, so well
qualified for this purpose, there appears nothing but what is perfectly
consistent with such a cause as had operated by slow degrees, and
softened the bodies of rocks at the same time that it bended them into
shapes and positions inconsistent with their original formation, and
often almost diametrically opposite to it; although there appeared to
our author an insurmountable difficulty in ascribing those changes to
the operation of subterranean fire, according to the idea hitherto
conceived of that agent.

This grand mineral view of so large a tract of country is the more
interesting, in that there has not occurred the least appearance of
volcanic matter, nor basaltic rock, in all that space, where so great
manifestation is made of those internal operations of the globe by
which strata had been consolidated in their substance, and erected into
positions the most distant from that in which they had been formed.

It is peculiarly satisfactory to me, and I hope also to my readers,
to have the observations of so able a philosopher and so diligent a
naturalist to offer in confirmation of a theory which had been formed
from appearances of the same kind in a country so far distant from those
of our author now described, as are the Alps of Savoy from those of
Scotland. It gives me a singular pleasure, in thus collecting facts for
the support of my opinion, to contribute all I can to recommend the
study of a work in natural history the most exemplary of its kind; and
a work which will remain the unalterable conveyance of precious
information when theories making a temporary figure may be changed.

To a person who understands the present theory, there can be no occasion
here to give the particular applications which will naturally occur in
reading those various descriptions. In these examples are contained
every species of bending, twisting, and displacement of the strata, from
the horizontal state in which they had been originally formed to the
vertical, or even to their being doubled back; and although M. de
Saussure had endeavoured to reason himself into a belief of those
inverted strata having been formed in their present place, it is evident
that he had only founded this opinion upon a principle which,
however just, may here perhaps be found misplaced; it is that of not
endeavouring to explain appearances from any supposition of which we
have not full conviction. I flatter myself, that when he shall have
considered the arguments which have here been employed for the manifold,
the general operations of subterranean fire, as well as for the long
continued operations of water on the surface of the erected land, he
will not seek after any other explanation than that which had naturally
occurred to himself upon the occasion, and which he most ingenuously
declares to have great weight, although not sufficient to persuade him
of its truth.


_The same Subject continued, with examples
from different Countries._

Our theory, it must be remembered, has for principle, that all the
alpine as well as horizontal strata had their origin at the bottom of
the sea, from the deposits of sand, gravel, calcareous and other bodies,
the materials of the land which was then going into ruin; it must also
be observed, that all those strata of various materials, although
originally uniform in their structure and appearance as a collection
of stratified materials, have acquired appearances which often are
difficult to reconcile with that of their original, and is only to be
understood by an examination of a series in those objects, or that
gradation which is sometimes to be perceived from the one extreme state
to the other, that is from their natural to their most changed state. M.
de Saussure who will not be suspected of having any such theory in his
view, will be found giving the most exemplary confirmation to that
system of things.

I would therefore beg leave farther to transcribe what he has observed
most interesting with regard to that gradation of changed strata. It is
in the high passage of the Bon-Homme, tom. 2. p. 179.

"Depuis le col, dont je viens de parler, jusqu'a la croix, qui suivant
l'usage, est placee au point le plus eleve du passage, on a trois quarts
de lieue, ou une petite heure de route, dans laquelle on traverse des
gres, des breches calcaires, des pierres calcaires simples de couleur
grise, d'autres calcaires bleuatres et des ardoises: ces alternatives
se repetent a plusieurs reprises. Parmi ces gres on en trouve qui
renferment des cailloux roules, et qui font effervescence avec les
acides; d'autres qui ne renferment point de cailloux, et qui ne font
point d'effervescence.

"Quelques-uns de ces gres m'out paru remarquables par leur ressemblance
avec des roches feuilletees; ils sont compactes meles de mica; un suc
quartzeux remplit tous les interstices de leurs grains, et leur donne
une durete et une solidite singuliers; il n'y a personne, qui en voyant
des morceaux detaches de cette pierre, ne la prit pour une roche
feuilletee; mais quand on la trouve dans le lieu de sa formation, et
qu'on voit les gradations qui la lient avec des gres indubitables, par
exemple avec ceux qui renferment des cailloux roules, on ne peut plus
douter de sa nature. Ces couches sont en general inclinees de 30 degres
en descendant au sud-est."

Our author would here make a distinction of the _roche feuilletee_ and
the _gres_; the one he considers as primitive, and as having had an
origin of which we are extremely ignorant; the other he considers as
a secondary thing, and as having been formed of sand deposited at the
bottom of moving water, and afterwards becoming stone. This great
resemblance, therefore, of those two things so different in the opinion
of naturalists, struck him in that forcible manner. Nothing can be a
stronger confirmation of the present theory, which gives a similar
origin to those two different things, than is the observation of so good
a naturalist, finding those two things in a manner undistinguishable.

He thus proceeds: "J'ai vu dans les Vosges de tres-beaux gres du
meme genre; ils ne ressembloient cependant pas autant a des roches
primitives, parce qu'ils ne contenoient pas de mica. Mais ce qu'il y
a ici de plus digne d'attention, et que l'on ne voit point dans les
Vosges, c'est de trouver des gres de cette nature renfermes entre des
bancs de pierre calcaire. Cependant plus ces gres s'eloignent de la
roche primitive, qui forme la base de la montagne, et moins ils
sont solides et quartzeux jusqu'a ce qu'enfin les plus eleves font
effervescence avec l'eau-forte."

Here again the alpine lime-stones, which, according to the present
naturalists, should be primitive, are plainly homologated in their
origin with strata formed of sand.

Our author proceeds, (p. 181,) Sec. 765, "Le haut du passage du Bon-Homme,
au pied de la croix est d'ardoises minces melees de feuillets de quartz.
En descendant au Chapiu, on trouve ces memes ardoises alternant avec
des couches de gres mince feuillete, mele de mica, puis des calcaires
simples, puis des breches calcaires qui renferment des fragmens
calcaires a angles vifs. Toutes ces couches descendent au sud-est
suivant la pente de la montagne, mais avec un peu plus de rapidite.

"Comme cette montagne est absolument degarnie d'arbres, on y voit d'un
coup-d'oeil les progres de l'action des eaux. Des sillons a peine
visibles dans le haut, s'elargissent et s'approfondissent graduellement
vers le bas, ou ils forment enfin des ravines profondes, que l'on
pourrait presque nommer des vallees. Ces sillons ramifies sur toute
la pente de la montagne et remplis encore de neige, tandis que leurs
intervalles sont couverts de gazon, forment sur ce fond verd une
broderie blanche, dont l'effet est extremement singulier. Lorsque je
passai la, le 13 Juillet 1774, tous les enfoncemens de ces neiges
etoient couverts de la poudre rouge que j'ai decrite Sec. 646.

"Vers la bas de la descente, on trouve des chalets que je m'etonnai de
voir construits en pierres de taille, d'une forme tres reguliere; je
demandai la raison de cette recherche, peu commune dans les montagnes,
et j'appris que c'etoit la nature qui avoit fait tous les frais de cette
taille. Effectivement je trouvai un peu plus bas une profonde ravine,
creusee par les eaux dans des couches d'un beau gres qui se divise de
lui-meme, et que l'on voit dans sa position originelle actuellement
divise en grands parallelepipedes rectangles. Est-ce une retraite operee
par le dessechement, ou n'est-ce pas plutot l'affaissement successif
des couches qui les a divisees de cette maniere? C'est ce que je ne
deciderai pas dans ce cas particulier."

The only thing which, in this particular case, makes our author express
his wonder, is the extreme regularity of these natural divisions of
stone; for, the same appearances are to be found in every case of
consolidated strata, though not always with such extreme regularity. But
this is one of the most irrefragable arguments for those various bodies
having been consolidated by means of heat and fusion. The contraction of
the mass, consolidated by fusion or the effect of fire, is the cause
of those natural divisions in the strata; and the regularity, which
is always to be observed more or less, depends upon the proper
circumstances of the case, and the uniform nature of the mass.

(Page 184.) "Le matin avant de partir du Chapiu, j'allai voir si les
beaux gres rectangulaires, que j'avois observes la veille descendoient
jusqu'au bas de la montagne; j'y trouvai effectivement des gres mais
a couches minces, et qui ne se divisoient point avec regularite;
en revanche, je vis des couches de ce gres ployees et reployees en
zig-zags, comme celles que j'avois rencontrees aux contamines, Sec. 755, et
ces couches ondees etoient aussi renfermees entre de couches planes et
paralleles. Ce phenomene est bien plus rare dans les gres, que dans les
roches feuilletees proprement dites."

Thus every appearance is found by which the primitive _schisti_ are
perfectly resembled, both as to their original formation and their
accidents, with the strata, which are acknowledged by naturalists as
being the common operation of the sea.

Our author then gives an account of the _Passage de Fours_, in which he
makes the following observations:

"Sec. 776. Tout pres du sommet du Col, on rencontre de beaux bancs de gres
jaunatre qui sortent de dessous la pierre calcaire, et qui pourtant ne
font aucune effervescence avec les acides.

"Sec. 777. Je mis deux heures et trois quarts a monter depuis le hameau du
Glacier jusqu'au haut du Col, d'ou l'on descend a la croix du Bon-Homme.
J'envoyai mes mulets m'attendre a cette croix, et je m'acheminai avec
Pierre Balme sur ma droite, pour atteindre le faite de la montagne dont
la cime arrondie me paroissoit devoir dominer sur toutes les montagnes
d'alentour. J'ai donne a cette sommite, qui n'avoit point de nom, celui
de _Cime des Fours_, a cause du passage qu'elle domine. De grandes
plaques de neige couvroient en divers endroits la route que j'avois a
faire pour y aller; le roc se montroit cependant assez pour que l'on put
reconnoitre sa nature.

"Sec. 778. Je traversai d'abord des couches des gres qui etoient la
continuation de celles dont je viens de parler, Sec. 776. Je trouvai
ensuite des bancs d'une espece de poudingue grossier, dont le fond etoit
ce meme gres rempli de cailloux arrondis. Quelques uns de ces bancs
se sont decomposes, et les eaux out entraine les parties de sable qui
lioient les cailloux, en sorte que ceux-ci sont demeures libres et
entasses exactement comme au bord d'un lac ou d'une riviere. Il etoit si
etrange de marcher a cette hauteur sur des cailloux roules, que Pierre
Balme en temoigna son etonnement, meme avant, que j'en parlasse. On
auroit ete tente de croire qu'une cascade tombant anciennement de
quelque rocher plus eleve, detruit des-lors par le temps, avoit arrondi
ces cailloux, si on n'en trouvoit pas de semblables encore enclaves dans
les couches regulieres du gres qui compose le haut de cette montagne.

"Sec. 779. Quoique depuis long-temps je ne doute plus que les eaux n'aient
couvert et meme forme ces montagnes, et qu'il y en ait meme des preuves
plus fortes que l'existence de ces cailloux roules, cependant leur
accumulation sur cette cime avoit quelque chose de si extraordinaire,
et qui parloit aux sens un langage si persuasif, que je ne pouvois pas
revenir de mon etonnement. Si en marchant sur ces cailloux, et en les
observant, j'oubliois pour un moment le lieu ou j'etois, je me croyois
au bord de notre lac; mais, pour peu que mes yeux s'ecartassent a droite
ou a gauche, je voyois au-dessous de moi des profondeurs immenses; et ce
contraste avoit quelque chose qui tenoit d'un reve; je me representois
alors avec une extreme vivacite les eaux remplissant toutes ces
profondeurs, et venant battre et arrondir a mes pieds ces cailloux sur
lesquels je marchois, tandis que les hautes aiguilles formoient seules
des isles au-dessus de cette mer immense; je me demandois ensuite quand
et comment ces eaux s'etoient retirees. Mais il fallut m'arracher a ces
grandes speculations et employer plus utilement mon temps a l'exacte
observation de ces singuliers phenomenes."

The fact here worthy of observation is the effect of time in decomposing
this _gres_, or sand-stone, which contains the gravel. All the other
appearances follow naturally from the situation of this place, which
is a summit, and does not allow of such a collection of water as might
travel or transport the loose gravel, although it has been sufficient
for carrying away the sand. This decomposition of the sand stone we
shall find also explained from what follows of the description of this

"Sec. 780. Tous les bancs de gres que l'on voit sur cette montagne
ne renferment pas des cailloux roules; il y a des alternatives
irregulieres, de bancs de gres pur, et de bancs de gres mele de
cailloux. Les plus eleves n'en contiennent point. Le plus haut de ceux
qui en renferment est un banc bien suivi d'un pied d'epaisseur, et qui
monte de 30 degres au nord-nord-ouest.

"Quelques-uns de ces bancs, remplis de cailloux, offrent une
particularite bien remarquable; on voit a leur surface exterieure,
exposee a l'air, une espece de reseau forme par des veines noires
solides, et saillantes de deux ou trois pouces au-dessus de la surface
de la pierre; les mailles de ce reseau sont quelquefois irregulieres,
mais ce sont pour la plupart des quadrilateres obliquangles, dont les
cotes ont huit a dix pouces de longueur. Comme ces pierres ont toutes
un tendance a se partager en rhomboides, il paroit qu'il y a eu
anciennement des fentes qui divisoient les bancs en parties de cette
forme; et que ces fentes ont ete remplies par du sable qui a ete cimente
par un suc ferrugineux; ce gluten solide a rendu ces parties plus dures
que le reste de la pierre; et lorsque les injures de l'air ont ronge la
surface de ces bancs, les mailles du reseau sont demeurees saillantes.

"Les cailloux arrondis, qui out ete long-temps exposes a l'air, out
aussi pris par dehors une teinte noiratre ferrugineuse, mais ceux qui
sont encore renfermes dans les bancs de gres ont comme lui une couleur
jaunatre. Je n'en trouvai la aucun qui ne fut de nature primitive, et
la plupart etoient de feldspath gris ou roux tres-dur, et confusement
crystallise. Ce sont donc des pierres qui n'ont point naturellement une
forme arrondie; et qui, par consequent, ne tiennent celle qu'elles ont
ici, que du roulement, et du frottement des eaux.

"Tous ces gres font effervescence avec l'eau-forte, mais les parties du
reseau ferrugineux en font beaucoup moins que le fond meme du gres. De
meme si l'on compare entr'eux les gres qui renferment des cailloux avec
ceux qui n'en contiennent pas, on trouve dans ceux-ci plus de gluten
calcaire, l'eau-forte diminue beaucoup plus leur coherence.

"Sur la cime meme de la montagne, ces gres sont recouverts par une
ardoise grise, luisante, qui s'exfolie a l'air. Et si l'on redescend de
cette meme cime par le nord-est, du cote oppose au passage des Fours,
on retrouvera des bancs d'un gres parfaitement semblable, et qui se
divisent la d'eux-memes en petits fragmens parallelepipedes.

"Du haut de cette cime, elevee de 1396 toises au-dessus de la mer, on
a une vue tres entendue. Au nord et au nord-ouest les vallees de Mont
Joie, de Passy, de Sallanches; au couchant la haut cime calcaire dont
j'ai parle, Sec. 759; au sud les montagnes qui s'etendent depuis le
Chapiu jusqu'au Col de la Seigne; a l'est, ce meme Col que l'on domine
beaucoup. Sur la droite de ce col, on voit du cote de l'Italie la chaine
du Cramont, et plusieurs autres chaines qui lui sont paralleles, tourner
tous leurs escarpemens contre la chaine centrale, de meme qu'on voit du
cote de la Savoye, les chaines du Reposoir, de Passy, de Servoz, tourner
en sens contraire leurs escarpemens contre cette meme chaine. Car
c'est-la une des vues tres etendues sur les deux cotes opposes des
Alpes; puisque l'on decouvre d'ici les montagnes de Courmayeur et de
l'Allee Blanche, qui sont du cote meridional de la chaine, et celles du
Faucigny et de la Tarentaise, qui sont du cote septentrional. Or les
sites d'ou l'on jouit tout a-la-fois de ces deux aspects sont tres
rares; parce que les hautes cimes de la chaine centrale sont presque
toutes inaccessibles, et les cols par lesquels on la traverse sont
presque tous tortueux, etroite, et ne presentent pour la plupart que de
vues tres bornees."

We have here two facts extremely important with regard to the present
theory. The one of these respects the original formation of those alpine
strata; the other the elevation of those strata from the bottom of the
sea, and particularly the erection of those bodies, which had been
formed horizontal, to their present state, which is that of being
extremely inclined. It is to this last, that I would now particularly
call the attention of my readers.

It is rarely that such an observation as this is to be met with. Perhaps
it is rarely that this great fact occurs in nature, that is, so as to
be a thing perceptible; it is still more rare that a person capable of
making the observation has had the opportunity of perceiving it; and it
is fortunate for the present theory, that our author, without prejudice
or the bias of system, had been led, in the accuracy of a general
examination, to make an observation which, I believe, will hardly
correspond with any other theory but the present.

If strata are to be erected from the horizontal towards the vertical
position, a subterraneous power must be placed under those strata; and
this operation must affect those consolidated bodies with a
certain degree of regularity, which however, from many interfering
circumstances, may be seldom the object of our observation. If indeed we
are to confine this subterraneous operation to a little spot, the effect
may be very distinctly perceived in one view; such are those strata
elevated like the roof of a house, which M. de Saussure has also
described. But when the operation of this cause is to be extended to a
great country, as that of the Alps, it is not easy to comprehend, as it
were, in one view, the various corresponding effects of the same cause,
through a space of country so extensive, and where so many different and
confounding observations must be made. In this case, we must generalize
the particular observations, with regard to the inclinations of strata
and their direction, in order to find a similar effect prevailing among
bodies thus changed according to a certain rule; this rule then directs
our understanding of the cause. The general direction of those alpine
strata, in this place, is to run S.E. and N.W. that is to say, this is
the horizontal line of those inclined beds. We also find that there is
a middle line of inclination for those erected strata in this alpine
region; as if this line had been the focus or centre of action and
elevation, the strata on each side being elevated towards this lint, and
declined from it by descending in the opposite direction.

The view which our author has now given us from this mountain is a most
interesting object, and it is a beautiful illustration of this theory;
for, the breaking of the tops of mountains, composed of erected strata,
must be on that side to which their strata rise; and this rupture being
here towards the central line of greatest elevation, the ridges must in
their breaking generally respect the central ridge. But this is the very
view which our enlightened observator has taken of the subject; and it
is confirmed in still extending our observations westward through the
kingdom of France, where we find the ridges of the Jura, and then those
of Burgundy gradually diminishing in their height as they recede from
the centre of elevation, but still preserving a certain degree of
regularity in the course of their direction.

But our author has still further observed that this is a general rule
with regard to mountains. I will give it in his own words, Tom. 2. (p.

"Sec. 918. Mais la chaine centrale n'est pas la seule primitive qu'il y
ait de ce cote des Alpes. Du haut du Cramont en se tournant du cote de
I'Italie, on voit un entassement de montagnes qui s'etendent aussi
loin que peut aller la vue. Parmi ces montagnes on en distingue un au
sud-ouest qui est extremement elevee: son nom est _Ruitor_: elle
se presente au Cramont a-peu-pres pres sous le meme aspect que le
Mont-Blanc a Geneve; sa cime est couverte de neiges, un grand glacier
descend de sa moyenne region, et il en sort un torrent qui vient se
jetter dans la riviere de la Tuile. Cette haut montagne, de nature
primitive, est au centre d'une chaine de montagnes moins elevees, mais
primitives comme elle, et qui passent au-dessus du val de Cogne. On voit
de la cime du Cramont des montagnes secondaires situees entre le Cramont
et cette chaine primitive, et on reconnoit que les couches de ces
montagnes s'elevent contre cette chaine en tournant le dos a la chaine

"Sec. 939. L'inclinaison du Cramont et de la chaine contre le Mont-Blanc,
n'est donc pas un phenomene qui n'appartienne qu'a cette seule montagne;
il est commun a toutes les montagnes primitives, dont c'est une loi
generale que les secondaires qui les bordent, ont de part et d'autre
leurs couches ascendantes vers elles. C'est sur le Cramont, que je
fis pour la premiere fois, cette observation alors nouvelle, que
j'ai verifie ensuite sur un grand nombre d'autres montagnes, non pas
seulement dans la chaine des Alpes, mais encore dans diverses autres
chaines, comme je le ferai voir dans le IVe. volume. Les preuves
multipliees que j'en avois sous les yeux au moment ou je l'eus faite,
et d'autres analogues que ma memoire me rappela d'abord, me firent
soupconner son universalite, et je la liai immediatement aux
observations que je venois de faire sur la structure du Mont-Blanc et de
la chaine primitive dont il fait partie. Je voyois cette chaine composee
de feuillets que l'on pouvoit considerer comme des couches; je voyois
ces couches verticales dans le centre de cette chaine et celles des
secondaires presque verticales dans le point de leur contact avec elles,
le devenir moins a de plus grandes distances, et s'approcher peu-a-peu
de la situation horizontale a mesure qu'elles s'eloignoient de leur
point d'appui. Je voyois ainsi les nuances entre les primitives et les
secondaires, que j'avois deja observees dans la matiere dont elles
sont composees, s'etendre aussi a la forme et a la situation de leurs
couches; puisque les sommites secondaires que j'avois la sous les yeux
se terminoient en lames piramidales aigues et tranchantes, tout comme le
Mont-Blanc, et les montagnes primitives de la chaine. Je conclus de tout
ces rapports, que, puisque les montagnes secondaires avoient ete formees
dans le sein des eaux, il falloit que les primitives eussent aussi
la meme origine. Retracant alors dans ma tete la suite des grandes
revolutions qu'a subies notre globe, je vis la mer, couvrant jadis toute
la surface du globe, former par des depots et des crystallisations
successives, d'abord les montagnes primitives puis les secondaires; je
vis ces matieres s'arranger horizontalement par couches concentriques;
et ensuite le feu ou d'autres fluides elastiques renfermes dans
l'interieur du globe, soulever et rompre cette ecorce, et faire sortir
ainsi la partie interieure et primitive de cette meme ecorce, tandis que
ses parties exterieures ou secondaires demeuroient appuyees contre les
couches interieures. Je vis ensuite les eaux se precipiter dans les
gouffres creves et vides par l'explosion des fluides elastiques; et ces
eaux, en courant a ces gouffres, entrainer a de grandes distances ces
blocs enormes que nous trouvons epars dans nos plaines. Je vis enfin
apres la retraite des eaux les germes des plantes et des animaux,
fecondes par l'air nouvellement produit, commencer a se developper,
et sur la terre abandonnee par les eaux, et dans les eaux memes, qui
s'arreterent dans les cavites de la surface.

"Telles font les pensees que ces observations nouvelles m'inspirerent
en 1774. On verra dans le IVe. volume comment douze ou treize ans
d'observations et de reflections continuelles sur ce meme sujet
auront modifie ce premier germe de mes conjectures; je n'en parle ici
qu'historiquement, et pour faire voir qu'elles sont les premieres idees
que le grande spectacle du Cramont doit naturellement faire eclore dans
une tete qui n'a encore epouse aucun systeme."

How far these appearances, which had suggested to this philosopher those
ideas, agree with or confirm the present theory, which had been founded
upon other observations, is here submitted to the learned.

We have now not only found a cause corresponding to that which can alone
be conceived as producing this evident deplacement of bodies formed
horizontally at the bottom of the sea, but we have also found that this
same cause has operated every where upon those strata, in consolidating
by means of fusion the porous texture of their masses. Now when the
evidence of those two facts are united, we cannot refuse to admit, as a
part of the general system of the earth, that which is every where to be
observed, although not every where to such advantage as in those regular
appearances, which our author has now described from those alpine

I have only one more example to give concerning this great region of the
Alps belonging to Savoy and Switzerland. It is from the author of Les
Tableaux de la Suisse.

[3] "On s'embarque a Fluelen a une demi-lieue d'Altorf sur le lac des
quatre Waldstoett ou cantons forestiers; les bords de ce lac sont des
rochers souvent a pic et d'une tres grande elevation et la profondeur
de ses eaux proportionnee. Ces roches sont toutes calcaires, et souvent
remarquables par la position singuliere de leurs couches. A une
demi-lieue environ de Fluelen, sur la droite, des couches de six pouces
environ d'epaisseur sont deposees en zig-zags comme une tapisserie
de point-d'hongrie; a une lieue et demie a cote de couches bien
horizontales, de quatre a cinq pieds d'epaisseur il y en a de
contournees de forme circulaire et d'elliptiques. Il seroit difficile de
se faire une idee de la formation de pareilles couches, et d'expliquer
comment les eaux ont pu les deposer ainsi."

[Footnote 3: Discours sur l'Hist. Nat. de la Suisse, page CLV.]

Having thus given a view of a large tract of country where the strata
are indurated or consolidated and extremely elevated, without the least
appearance of subterraneous fire or volcanic productions, it will now be
proper to compare with this another tract of country, where the strata,
though not erected to that extreme degree, have nevertheless been
evidently elevated, and, which is principally to the present purpose,
are superincumbent upon immense beds of basaltes or subterranean lava.
This mineral view is now to be taken from M. de Luc, Lettres _Phisiques_
et Morales, Tom. 4.

This naturalist had discovered along the side of the Rhine many ancient
volcanos which have been long extinct; but that is no part of the
subject which we now inquire after; we want to see the operations of
subterraneous lava which this author has actually exposed to our view
without having seen it in that light himself. He would persuade us, as
he has done himself, that there had been in the ancient sea volcanic
eruptions under water which formed basaltic rocks; and that those
eruptions had been afterwards covered with strata formed by the deposits
made in that sea; which strata are now found in the natural position in
which they had been formed, the sea having retreated into the bowels of
the earth, and left those calcareous and arenaceous strata, with
the volcanic productions upon which they had been deposited, in the

It would be out of place here to examine the explanation which this
author has given with regard to the consolidation of those deposited
strata which is by means of the filtration of water, but as in this
place there occurs some unusual or curious examples of a particular
consolidation of limestone or calcareous deposits, as well as similar
consolidations of the siliceous sort, it may be worth while to mention
them in their place that so we may see the connection of those things,
and give all the means of information which the extremely attentive
observations of this naturalist has furnished to the world of letters.

At Oberwinter our author remarks a stratum of consolidated sand above
volcanic matter, Tome 4, p. 162. "Tant que j'ai parcouru le pied du
cone, je n'ai vu qu'un terrain compose de ces debris, et cultive en
vignes. Mais apres l'avoir depasse, j'ai trouve la coupe verticale d'une
colline a couches pierreuses, si reguliers, que je les ai prises au
premier coup d'oeil pour de la pierre a chaux. L'esprit de nitre m'a
detrompe: c'est une pierre sableuse tres compacte, dont les couches, qui
n'ont souvent que quelques pouces d'epaisseur, s'elevent par une pente
insensible vers le cone volcanique qu'elle recouvrent de ce cote la
sans aucune apparence de desordre. Ces couches qui sont visiblement des
depots de la mer, quoique je n'y ai pas trouve de corps marins, ont ete
formees depuis que le cone s'etoit eleve."

This is a species of reasoning which this acute naturalist would surely
not have let pass in any other cosmologist. But here the love of system,
or a particular theory, seems to have warped his judgment. For, had
our author been treating of beds or bodies deposited in water, and
preserving the natural situation in which they had been formed, he would
have had reason to conclude that the superior bed was of the latest
formation; but here is no question of superincumbent strata; it is a
stratum which is superincumbent on a lava; and it is equally natural to
suppose the lava posterior to the stratum as the stratum posterior to
the lava.

Our author meets with a limestone too much erected in its position to be
supposed as in its natural place, and then he explains this phenomenon
in the following manner, p. 333. "Les rochers d'Ehrentbreitstein et
de Lahnstein sont donc des faits particuliers. Ces rochers la ont ete
formes par des depots de la mer: Les corps marin qu'ils renferment en
font foi. Des lors ils ont du avoir dans leur origine la seule position
que la mer put leur donner; l'horizontale ou legerement inclinee. Leur
couches sont aujourd'hui rompues, et leur inclination n'est plus
celle de depots immediats de la mer. Les collines, auxquelles elle
appartenoient, sont en meme tems entourees de volcans anciens; et il est
naturel d'en conclure, que c'est a eux que ces grands rochers doivent
leur position actuelle."

Here one would expect our author is to allow that volcanos may erect
rocks in heightening them in their place; but this is not the light
in which it has been seen by him, as will appear from what follows.
"L'enfoncement d'une de leurs cotes n'est rien, quand on considere le
prodigieuse excavation qui ont du se faire, pour porter au dehors toutes
les montagnes, les collines, et les plaines volcaniques qui se trouvent
dans ce vaste circuit."

When a small portion of a stratum is examined, such as the present case,
it is impossible from inspection to determine, whether it owes its
inclined position to the sinking or the raising of the ground; the
stratum is changed from its original position, but whether this has been
brought about by the raising of the one side, or the sinking of the
other is not apparent from what then is seen. But unless we are to
explain the appearance of strata above the level of the sea by a
supposition which is that of the retreat of the ocean, a theory which
this author has adopted, it is as impossible to explain the present
appearance of horizontal strata as of those that are inclined. At the
same time, if a power placed below the strata is to be employed for the
purpose of raising them from the bottom of the sea, to the place in
which we find them at present, it is impossible that this should be done
without the fracture of those strata in certain places; and it is much
more difficult to conceive this operation not to be attended with
changing the natural horizontal position of strata, and thus leaving
them in many places inclined, than otherwise by supposing that this
internal power of the globe should elevate the strata without changing
their original position.

With this description of strata on the Rhine, we may compare that of M.
Monnet respecting those which he found upon the Meuse, (Nouveau Voyage
Mineralogique, etc. Journal Physique, Aoust, 1784.)

Speaking of the schistus, or slate, he adds: "Mais ces petites veines
nous donnent lieu de faire une observation importante; c'est qu'elles
se presentent assez communement perpendiculaire, tandis que les grands
bancs d'ardoises, ceux qu'on exploite, sont, comme nous l'avons dit,
couches sur une ligne de 15 a 20 degres. J'ai parle des montagnes de
marbre qui sont derriere Givet, et de celles sur la quelle est situe
Charlemont. J'ai fait voir que bien loin que les bancs de marbre, qui
forment la montagne du Givet, soient horizontaux comme on seroit
tente de le croire, d'apres les principes de quelques naturalistes
systematiques, qui pensent que tous les bancs de pierres calcaires ne
sauroient etre autrement; j'ai fait voir, dis-je, que ces bancs sont
presque perpendiculaire a l'horizon; et de plus, qu'ils sont tellement
colles les uns contre les autres, qu'a peine on peut les distinguer."

The changed structure and position of the strata, now exemplified from
the observations both of M. de Saussure and M. de Luc, observations made
in a great extent from France to Germany, show the effects without the
means by which those effects had been produced; and, in this case, it is
by judging from certain principles of natural philosophy that the cause
is discovered in the effect.

We are now to see the deplacement of at least a great body of earth in
another light, by having at the same time in our view both the cause and
the effect. Nothing can give a more proper example of this than the mine
of Rammelsberg; and no description better adapted to give a clear idea
than that of M. de Luc, which I shall now transcribe. Lettres Phisiques
et Morales, Tome 3. p. 361 to 364.

"Deux _filons_ principaux occupent les mineurs dans le _Rammelsberg_:
filons immenses, car ils ont jusqu'a 18 ou 20 toises d'epaisseur dans
une etendue dont on ne connoit pas encore les bornes. L'un de ces
_filons_ fait avec l'horizon un angle de 25 degres; c'est l'inferieur:
l'autre s'eleve de 45 degres: et leur distance etant peu considerable,
leurs plans doivent se rencontrer dans un point qui n'est pas fort
eloigne des mines. Leurs _directions_ sont aussi differentes: celle du
_filon_ de 35 degres est a 61/2 _heures_; et celle du _filon_ de 45 degres
est a 5_h._-1/2: tellement qu'ils se croisent a l'endroit ou est perce
le puits des pompes.

"On est embarrasse d'expliquer l'etat de cette montagne par des
secousses. Il faut au moins supposer que la montagne entiere a ete
culbutee, et encore reste-t-il a comprendre, comment s'est soutenue
cette grande piece qui separe les filons, et qui, en supposant vuides
les espaces de ceux-ci, se trouveroit absolument en l'air.

"Ce phenomene important a l'histoire des montagnes, je veux dire ces
intersections des _filons_, est tres frequent dans les mines et tres
remarque par les mineurs. Il arrive souvent que des _filons_, qui sont a
la meme _heure_, c'est-a-dire, qui ont des _directions_ semblables vers
l'horizon, ont une chute ou inclinaison differente, et telle que leurs
deux plans se coupent a une certaine profondeur. Si le mineur ne s'en
appercoit pas assez tot, et que des le commencement de son exploitation,
il n'etanconne pas fortement partout ou il enleve les _filons_, tout son
ouvrage peut etre ecrase par l'enfoncement de la piece qui les separoit.
Cette piece meme a un nom chez le mineurs; ils la nomment _Bergkiel_,
c'est-a-dire coin de la matiere de la montagne: et quand deux filons
sont voisins l'une de l'autre, le geometre souterrain en etudie
l'inclinaison pour juger a l'avance s'il y aura un _Bergkiel_; et qu'en
ce cas la mineur prenne ses precautions, en conservant des appuis
naturels dans la gangue, ou s'en faisant d'artificiels, a mesure qu'il
s'enfonce. Or si, en elevant les filons, ce coin se trouve sans appui;
comment s'est-il soutenu avant que les filons fussent formes?

"Voila une question forte embarrassante. Mais peut-etre n'a-t-on pas
fait assez d'attention jusqu'ici a la mauvaise gangue, qui se trouve
etre de la meme nature que la montagne. Peut-etre trouveroit on par la,
qu'en meme tems que les fentes se font faites, il y est tombe des pieces
des cotes, qui ont empeche la reunion des parties de la montagne;
fragmens qui, aujourd'hui, font partie des _filons_, et qu'on pourroit
laisser encore pour appuis naturels, n'exploitant qu'autour d'eux
lorsqu'on auroit appris a les connoitre.

"Ce peu d'inclinaison des _filons_ du Rammelsberg rappelleroit l'idee
des _couches_ formees de depots successifs, s'ils etoient paralleles.
Mais leur manque de parallelisme en tout sens exclut cette explication.
Car dans toutes les montagnes qui doivent leur formation aux depots des
eaux, les _couches_ sont paralleles; et l'on sent bien qu'elles doivent

"La nature des _filons_ du _Rammelsberg_ est aussi differente de celle
de _Claustbat_ que l'est leur situation. C'est un massif compacte, et
presque partout le meme, de mineral de _plomb_ et _argent_ pauvre,
penetre de _pyrite_ sulphureuse. Ils sont traverses en plusieurs
endroits par de _Ruscheln_, qui ont fait glisser le toit vers le _mur_;
tellement que malgre l'epaisseur de ces _filons_, on crut une fois en
avoir trouve la fin. Ils sont aussi coupes dans leur interieur, en sens
differens, par d'autres plus petits _filons_, composes de matieres tres
differentes; surtout d'une _pyrite cuivreuse_ dure et pauvre, et que par
cette raison on ne tente pas de separer.

"En mettant a part ces petits _filons_ particuliers, ainsi que
les Ruscheln, dus probablement les uns et les autres a des causes
posterieures a celles qui ont produit les filons principaux, la masse
compacte de ceux-ci reveille beaucoup l'idee d'une matiere fondue; en
meme tems qu'on seroit fort embarrasse a concevoir, d'ou viendroit cette
matiere, si distincte de toute autre, lorsqu'on voudroit l'attribuer a

"Cette idee, que je dois a Mr. de Redden, perfectionnee par l'etude des
phenomenes, donnera peut-etre un jour le mot de toutes ces enigmes."

Here is the clearest evidence that an enormous mass of mountain had
been raised by a subterranean force; that this force had acted upon an
enormous column of melted minerals, the specific gravity of which is
great; and that this fluid mass had suspended a great wedge of this
mountain, or raised it up. Now, if by means which are natural to the
globe, means which are general to the earth, as appearing in every
mineral vein, this mass of mountain had been raised up and suspended
twenty fathoms, there is no reason why we should suppose nature limited,
whether in raising a greater mass of earth, or of raising it a greater
height. That the height to which the land of this globe shall be raised,
is a thing limited in the system of this earth, in having a certain
bounds which it shall not exceed, cannot be disputed, while wisdom in
that system is acknowledged; but it is equally evident, that we cannot
set any other bounds to the operation of this cause, than those which
nature appears actually to have observed in elevating a continent of
land above the level of the sea for the necessary purpose of this world,
in which there is to be produced a variety of climates, as there is of
plants, from the burning coast under the equator to the frozen mountains
of the Andes.

Here therefore we have, although upon a smaller scale, the most perfect
view of that cause which has every where been exerted in the greater
operations of this earth, and has transformed the bottom of the sea to
the summits of our mountains. Now, this moving power appears to have
been the effect of an internal fire, a power which has been universally
employed for the consolidation of strata, by introducing various degrees
of fusion among the matter of those masses, and a power which is
peculiarly adapted to that essential purpose in the system of this
earth, when dry land is formed by the elevation of what before had
existed as the bottom of the sea.

I hope it will not be thought that too much is here adduced in
confirmation of this part of the theory. The elevation of strata from
their original position, which was horizontal, is a material part; it
is a fact which is to be verified, not by some few observations, or
appearances here and there discovered in seeking what is singular or
rare, but by a concurrence of many observations, by what is general upon
the surface of the globe. It is therefore highly interesting not only to
bring together that multitude of those proofs which are to be found in
every country, but also to give examples of that variety of ways in
which the fact is to be proved. Were it necessary, much more might be
given, having many examples in this country of Scotland, in Derbyshire,
and in Wales, from my proper observation; but, in giving examples for
the confirmation of this theory, I thought it better to seek for such as
could not be suspected of partiality in the observation.


_Facts in confirmation of the Theory, respecting those Operations which
re-dissolve the Surface of the Earth_.

We have now discussed the proof of those mineral operations by which
the horizontal strata, consolidated at the bottom of the sea, had been
changed in their position, and raised into the place of land. The next
object of our research is to see those operations, belonging to the
surface of the earth, by which the consolidated and erected strata have
been again dissolved, in order to serve the purpose of this world, and
to descend again into the bottom of the sea from whence they came.

Of all the natural objects of this world, the surface of the earth is
that with which we are best acquainted, and most interested. It is here
that man has the disposal of nature so much at his will; but here, man,
in disposing of things at the pleasure of his will, must learn, by
studying nature, what will most conduce to the success of his design,
or to the happy economy of his life. No part of this great object is
indifferent to man; even on the summits of mountains, too high for
the sustaining of vegetable life, he sees a purpose of nature in the
accumulated snow and in majestic streams of the descending ice. On
every other spot of the surface of this earth, the system of animal and
vegetable life is served, in the continual productions of nature, and
in the repeated multiplication of living beings which propagate their

But, for this great purpose of the world, the solid structure of this
earth must be sacrificed; for, the fertility of our soil depends upon
the loose and incoherent state of its materials; and, that state of our
fertile soil necessarily exposes it to the ravages of the rain upon the
inclined surface of the earth. In studying this part of the economy
of nature, we may perceive the most perfect wisdom in the actual
constitution of things; for, while it is so ordered that the solid
mass of earth should be resolved for the purpose of vegetation, the
perishable soil is as much as possible preserved by the protection of
those solid parts; and these consolidated masses are resolved in so slow
a manner, that nothing but the most philosophic eye, by reasoning upon a
chain of facts, is able to discover it. Thus it may be concluded, that
the apparent permanency of this earth is not real or absolute; and that
the fertility of its surface, like the healthy state of animal bodies,
must have its period, and be succeeded by another.

The study of this subject must tend to enlarge the mind of man, in
seeing what is past, and in foreseeing what must come to pass in
time; and here is a subject in which we find an extensive field for
investigation, and for pleasant satisfaction. The hideous mountains and
precipitous rocks, which are so apt to inspire horror and discontentment
in minds which look at sensible objects only for immediate pleasure,
afford matter of the most instructive speculation to the philosopher,
who studies the wisdom of nature through the medium of things. As, on
the one hand, the summit of the mountain may be supposed the point of
absolute sterility, so, on the other, the sandy desert, moved by nothing
but the parching winds of continents distant from the sources of
abundant rains, finishes the scale of natural fertility, which thus
diminishes in the two opposite extremes of hot and dry, of cold and wet;
thus is provided an indefinite variety of soils and climates for that
diversity of living organised bodies with which the world is provided
for the use of man. But, between those two extremes, of mountains
covered with perpetual snow, and parched plains in which every living
thing must perish, we find the most pleasant subject of contemplation,
in studying the means employed in nature for producing the beautiful
and benevolent system of hills and valleys, of fertile soils and
well watered plains, of the most agreeable circumstances and proper
situations for every thing that lives, and for the preservation of an
indefinite variety of organised bodies which propagate their species.

Without this philosophic view of things, the prospect of the surface of
this earth is far from giving always satisfaction or contentment to the
mind of man, who is subject to be continually displeased with that which
is presented to his view, and which, in his opinion, is not the best; in
his partial views of things, it is either too high or too low, too cold
or too warm, too moist or too dry, too stiff for the labour of his
plough, or too loose for the growing of his corn. But, considering
nature as the common parent of living growing propagating bodies, which
require an indefinite variety of soils and climates, the philosopher
finds the most benevolent purpose in the end proposed, or effect which
is attained, and sees perfect wisdom in the effectual means which are
employed. This is the view that I would wish men of science to take; and
it is for this purpose that I am now to examine the phenomena of the
surface of this earth.

If strata, formed at the bottom of the sea, had been consolidated by
internal operations proper to the earth, and afterwards raised for the
purpose of a habitable world; and if, for the purpose of vegetation, the
solid land must be resolved into soil by the dissolution and separation
of its parts, as is required in the theory, the strata, instead of being
entire immediately below the soil, should be found in a mutilated state;
the ends of hard and solid beds should present their fractures or abrupt
sections immediately under the confused materials with which they
are covered; and the softer strata should appear to suffer gradual
resolution and decay, by which may be perceived their transition into
soil, the most important part of all the operations of the globe which
do not immediately concern our life.

These are facts which every person of observation has it in his power to
verify; they are facts for which nothing further can be laid than that
the thing is truly so; and they are facts from which the most important
arguments might be formed, were any doubt to be entertained concerning
the justness of the theory which has now been given.

The theory consists in this, that it is necessary to have a habitable
country situated in the atmosphere, or above the surface of the sea.

It is difficult to say precisely what constitutes a habitable country. A
resting place out of the water suffices for such amphibious animals as,
while they necessarily live in the atmosphere, feed in the sea. Man,
more versatile in his nature than most animals, and more capable of
adapting his manners to his circumstances, is even sometimes found
subsisting in situations where the land affords him little more than
it does the seal on which he feeds. The growth of terrestrial plants,
however, seems necessary to the idea of a habitable country; and, for
the growth of plants, there is required soil: Now, this is only to be
procured by the resolution or decay of solid land.

We are not to consider the resolution of our land as being the effect
of accident, while it is performed by the operations of the sun and
atmosphere, by the alternate action of moisture and of drought, and by
the casual operations of a river in a flood. Nothing is more steady than
the resolution of our land; nothing rests upon more certain principles;
and there is nothing which in science may be more easily investigated.

Calcareous, argillaceous, and other soluble earths, compose many of
the strata; but in many more, which are partly or chiefly composed
of insoluble substances, those soluble earths are mixed in various
proportions. Now, when the siliceous substance, which is the insoluble
part, shall be supposed resisting every effort of the elements towards
its dissolution, those compound masses upon the surface of the earth,
however endued with hardness and solidity, are gradually impaired by the
dissolution of some of their constituent parts, and by the separation of
others which are thus exposed to the ablution of water. In like manner,
by the resolution of the surrounding parts, the solid _silex_, which is
supposed to be insoluble, is removed from its bed, and thus suffers new
parts of the solid land to be exposed to those injuries of the air, by
which the general good of plants, of animals, and even of future worlds,
are consulted.

The solid land is resolved into stones, gravel, sand, earths, and clays;
all or either of these, by retaining moisture, and affording places for
the roots of plants, are disposed for vegetation in different degrees; a
mixture of the different earths being, upon the whole, the best suited
to that purpose; and this compound body, mixed with vegetable or animal
substances, becoming a most luxuriant soil.

Soils are thus formed, either by the resolution of the surface of that
land upon which they are to rest, or by the transportation of those
solid parts to be again deposited upon another basis. In this manner
soils are constantly changing upon the same spot; sometimes they are
meliorated, at other times impoverished. From the tops of the mountains
to the shores of the sea, all the soils are subject to be moved from
their places, by the natural operations of the surface, and to be
deposited in a lower situation; thus gradually proceeding from the
mountain to the river, and from the river, step by step, into the sea.
Countries are thus formed at the mouths of rivers in the sea, so long as
the quantities of materials transported from the land exceeds that which
is carried from the shore, by tides and currents, into the deeper water.

The soil, with which the surface of this earth is always covered more or
less, is extremely various, both with respect to quantity and quality;
it is found resting upon the solid parts; and those solid parts are
always more or less affected by the influences of the atmosphere near
the surface of the earth. Those parts of the strata which approach
the surface are always in a decayed state; and this sometimes may be
observed for very considerable depths, according as the quality of the
materials, and the situation of the place dispose to that effect. This
general observation however may be formed, that, _cet. par._ the strata
become always more solid, or are found in their sound and natural state,
more and more in proportion as we sink into the earth, or have proceeded
from the surface.

There is nothing of which we have more distinct experience than this,
That, universally upon the surface of the earth, the solid parts are
dissolving and always going into decay; whereas, at a sufficient
depth below, they are found in their natural consolidated state. The
operations of man in digging into the ground, as well as the sections
of the earth so often formed by brooks and rivers, affords such ample
testimony of this truth that nothing farther need be observed upon this
head only that this is a most important operation in the natural economy
of the globe, and forms a subject of the greatest consequence in the
present Theory of the Earth, which holds for principle, that the strata
are consolidated in the mineral regions far beyond reach of human

Consistently with this view of things, the strata or regular solid
parts, under the soil or travelled earth, should be found in some shape
corresponding to the represented state of those things, when affected
by the powers which have acted upon the surface of the earth. Here,
accordingly, the strata are always to be observed with those marks of
resolution, of fracture, and of separation, which have most evidently
arisen from the joint operation of those several causes that have been
now explained. But though every operation of the globe be necessarily
required for the explanation of those appearances which we now examine,
it is principally the action of the sun and atmosphere, and the
operations of the waters flooding the surface of the earth, that form
the proper subject of the present investigation.

It must not be imagined that, from the present state of things, we may
be always able to explain every particular appearance of this kind which
occurs; for example, why upon an eminence, or the summit of a ridge of
land which declines on every side, an enormous mass of travelled soil
appears; or why in other places, where the immediate cause is equally
unseen, the solid strata should be exposed almost naked to our view. We
know the agents which nature has employed for those purposes; we know
the operations in which the solid parts are rendered soil of various
qualities and for different purposes; and when we find the marks of
those natural operations in places where, according to the present
circumstances, the proper agents could not have acted or existed, we are
hereby constrained to believe, that the circumstances of those places
have been changed, while the operations of nature are the same.

It is thus that we shall find reason to conclude an immense period of
time, in those operations which are measured by the depradations of
water acting upon the surface of the earth; a period however which is to
be esteemed a little thing compared with that in which a continent had
taken birth and gone into decay; but a period which interests us the
more to examine, in that it approaches nearer to another period, for the
estimation of which _some data_ may perhaps be found by naturalists and
antiquaries, when their researches shall be turned to this subject. It
is only in this manner that there is any reasonable prospect of forming
some sort of calculation concerning that elapsed time in which the
present earth was formed, a thing which from our present data we have
considered as indefinite.

In this view which we are now taking of the surface of the earth,
nothing is more interesting than the beds of rivers; these take winding
courses around the hills which they cannot surmount; sometimes again
they break through the barrier of rocks opposed to their current; thus
making gaps in places by wearing away the solid rock over which they
formerly had run upon a higher level; and thus leaving traces of their
currents in the furrowed sides of rocky mountains, far from the course
of any water at the present time.

So strongly has M. de Saussure been impressed with this and some other
appearances, that he has imagined a current of water which, however in
the possibility of things, is not in nature; and which moreover could
not have produced the appearances now mentioned, which is the work of
time, and the continued operation of a lesser cause. We are further
obliged to him for the following facts.

Vol. 1. (page 163.) "Les tranches nues et escarpees des grandes couches
du petit et surtout du grande Saleve, presentent presque partout les
traces les plus marquees du passage des eaux, qui les ont rongees et
excavees, on voit sur ces rochers, des sillons a peu pres horizontaux,
plus ou moins larges et profonds; il a de 4 a 5 pieds de largeur, et
d'une longueur double ou triple, sur 1 ou 2 pieds de profondeur. Tous
ces sillons ont leur bords termines des courbures arrondies; telles
que les eaux ont coutume de les tracer. Je dis qu'ils sont a peu pres
horizontaux, parce qu'ils sont par fois inclines de quelques degres,
en descendant vers le sud-sud-ouest, suivant la pente qu'a du avoir le
courant." This is evidently the effect of a river running along the side
of a rock of such soft materials as may be worn by the friction of sand
and stones; and such are the materials of the rocks now considered.
Notwithstanding that it is so easy to explain this appearance by the
operation of natural causes, M. de Saussure proceeds in taking it in
another view. "De tels filons ne sauroient avoir ete traces par les eaux
des pluies; car celles-ci forment des excavations, ou perpendiculaires a
l'horizon ou dirigees suivant la plus grande inclinaison des faces des
rochers; au lieu que celles la font tracees presqu'horizontalement sur
de faces tou-a-fait verticales." Here our author takes it for granted
that things upon the surface of this earth were always the same as at
present; and he reasons justly from these principles. But we are now
tracing a former state of things; and those furrowed rocks testify the
former current of a river by their side.

This operation of rivers undermining the sides of mountains, and causing
scenes of ruin and destruction, may be illustrated by what our author
has described under the title of _Ravage du temps sur les Rochers de
Saleve_, Sec.236. "La ou ces couches manquent, il est aise de voir qu'elles
ont ete detruites par le tems; les couches meme horizontales, contres
lesquelles elles out appuyees, ont souffert en bien des endroits des
alterations considerables.

"Un peintre qui voudroit monter son imagination, et se faire des grandes
idees des ravages du tems sur de grands objects, devroit aller au pied
de Saleve, a l'extremite des ces grands rochers, au-dessus du coin,
hameau fort eleve de la paroisse de Collonge.

"On voit la des rochers tailles a pic a la hauteur de plusieurs
centaines de pied avec des faces, ici planes et uniformes, la partagees
et sillonnes par les eaux.

"La base de ces rochers est couverte de debris et de fragmens enormes,
confusement entasses; un de ces debris soutenu fortuitement par d'autres
est demeure, et paroit de pres un obelisque quadrangulaire d'une hauteur
prodigieuse; de plus loin on reconnoit que sa sommite est une arrete
tranchante, et qu'il a la forme d'un coin; et c'est peut-etre cette
forme qui a donne son nom au hameau qu'il domine.

"L'Angle meme de la montagne est partage par une fente qui le traverse
de part en part. Cette profonde fissure merite qu'on la voye, et meme
qu'on la penetre. Elle est tortueuse, et dans quelques endroits si
etroite, qu'a peine un homme peut il y passer. Quand vous y etes engages
vous trouvez des places ou les sinuosites du rocher vous cache le ciel,
plus loin elles le laissent apercevoir par echappees; ailleurs vous
voyez des blocs de rochers engages dans la crevasse, et suspendus
au-dessus de votre tete."

In his route from Contamine to Bonneville, he observes, page 365, "Enfin
vis-a-vis la Bonne-ville, ces memes escarpemens des bases du mole,
presentent une grande echancrure, qui paroit etre le vuide qu'a laisse
une montagne qui s'est anciennement ecroulee; ses debris sont encore
entasses au-dessous de l'echancrure. Il paroit meme qu'elle etoit plus
elevee que ses voisines, j'en juge par leur couches qui montent a droite
et a gauche, contre le vuide qu'elle a laisse.

"Sec. 493. En suivant la route de servez, on voit sur sa gauche la
continuation des rocs escarpes qui couronnent les montagnes situees
au-dessus de Passy. Un de ces rochers est si eleve, et en meme tems
si mince que l'on a peine a concevoir qu'il puisse se tenir debout et
resister aux orages.

"C'est aupres de cette sommite elevee qu'etoit situee une montagne qui
s'eboula en 1751, avec un fracas si epouvantable, et une poussiere si
epaisse et si obscure, que bien de gens crurent que c'etoit la fin du

Vitaliano Donati, who was sent from Turin to examine this phenomenon,
says in his letter, which M. de Saussure transcribes, that the great
snows, which fell that year in Savoy, increasing the operation of
some lakes, the waters of which continually undermined this mountain,
occasioned the fall of three millions of cubic toises of rock.

In describing the Saleve, our author proceeds to mention other
appearances equally conclusive with regard to the operations of water,
but such as may be found over all the surface of the globe, to have
been brought about by natural causes. "Ce que l'on nomme le Grottes de
l'Hermitage, ou ces excavations profondes de 30 pieds, et 8 ou 10 fois
aussi longues produites par la destruction totale de plusieurs couches
de rocher.

"La gorge meme de Monetier, ou cette grande echancrure qui separe le
grand Saleve du petit, et dans le fond de laquelle est renferme le joli
vallon de Monetier, paroit avoir ete formee par un courant semblable,
qui descendant des Alpes par la vallee de l'Arve, venoit se jetter dans
notre grand courant; car les couches correspondantes du grand et du
petit Saleve indiquent leur ancienne jonction; et l'on ne comprend pas
quel agent auroit pu detacher et emporter la piece enorme qui manque en
cet endroit a la montagne."

Further, in treating of the changes made in the form of the Jura by the
ravages of time, our author observes, page 273, vol. I.

"Le faite de la montagne, battu de tous cotes par les vents, et par les
pluies, a souffert des alterations les plus grandes: ici les couches du
cote du lac ont ete detruites, et laissent voir les sommites des couches
opposees, dont les escarpemens paroissent tourner contre ce meme lac;
la, ce font les couches du cote de la vallee de Mijoux, qui out ete
emportees, et la montagne en pente uniforme de notre cote, est escarpee
du cote de celle vallee; plus loin, le faite entier a ete enleve, et la
on voit des abaissemens ou des gorges comme aux Faucilles, a St. Serge,

"Les flancs et la base de La montagne ont aussi ete degrades par les
torrens que produisent la pluie et les neiges fondues, qui ont forme de
larges et profondes excavations."

These ravages of time, or rather of the wasting operations of the
surface of the earth, however great, compared with the little changes
that we find in our experience, or in the most ancient record of our
histories, are little things, considering the softness and solubility of
the materials, and compared with the wasting of the Alps, which we find
in tracing up those same rivers to their sources in the icy valleys. Let
us go up the Arve to the valley of Chamouni. From this fertile valley,
M. de Saussure heads us up the Montanvert, 428 fathoms above the level
of the valley, and consequently 954 above that of the sea.

From this mountain we descend again into the high frozen valley which
runs between the granite mountains, and pours its ice into the valley of

In this high valley, which communicates with an immensity of the like
kind, we find ourselves among the most hard and durable materials. Here
we must perceive, that most enormous masses of those solid materials
had, in the course of time, been wasted by the flow effects of air and
water, of the sun and frost, in order to hollow out those barren
valleys of immense extent, which have, during an amazing tract of time,
contributed from their solid rocks to the formation of travelled soils
below, but which materials have long ago been travelling in the sea. The
sides of those valleys are solid rock here exposed naked to our view. It
is to such a place as this that we should go to see the operations
of the surface wasting the solid body of the globe, and to read the
unmeasurable course of time that must have flowed during those amazing
operations which the vulgar do not see, and which the learned seem to
see without wonder!

M. de Saussure, in his second volume of _Voyages dans les Alps_, has
given us a most interesting view of this scene, p. 6.

"En montant au Montanvert, on a toujours sous ses pieds la vue de la
vallee de Chamouni, de l'Arve qui l'arrose dans toute la longueur, d'une
soule de villages et de hameaux entoures d'arbres et de champs bien
cultives. Au moment ou l'on arrive au Montanvert, la scene change; et au
lieu de cette riante et fertile vallee, on se trouve presqu'au bord
d'un precipice, dont le fond est une vallee beaucoup plus large et
plus etendue, remplie de neige et de glace, et bordee de montagnes
colossales, qui etonnent par leur hauteur et par leurs formes, et qui
effraient par leur sterilite et leurs escarpements."

It is the cause of this appearance, of deep valleys and colossal
mountains, that I would now wish my readers to perceive. This is a
thought which seldom strikes the mind of wondering spectators, viewing
those lofty objects; they are occupied with what they see, and do not
think how little what they see may have been, compared with what had
been removed in the gradual operations of the globe. We have but to
suppose this scene hewn out of the solid mass of country raised above
the level of the valley; and, that this had been the case, must appear
from the examination of all around.

Let us follow our author up those valleys between the solid granite
mountains, valleys which properly are great rivers of ice moving,
grandly but slowly, the ruins of those mountains upon which they were
gathered. It is the Glacier de Bois upon which he is set out, (p. 26.)

"Apres une bonne demi-heure de marche sur le glacier, nous traversons
une arrete de glace chargee de terre, de sable et de debris de rocher.
J'ai parle dans le 1er. vol. de ces arretes paralleles a la longueur de
glaciers, que l'on voit souvent dans le milieu de leur largeur, ou a des
distances plus ou moins grandes de leurs bords. J'ai fait voir qu'elles
sont produites par des debris qui du haut des montagnes, roulent sur le
glacier, et qui entraines par la glace sur laquelle ils reposent suivent
comme elle une direction oblique en descendant tout-a-la-fois vers le
milieu et vers le bas de la vallee.

"Dix minutes apres, nous traversames une seconde arrete plus haute que
la premiere, et nous jugeames que sous ces debris la glace etoit de 20
ou 25 pieds plus elevee que dans les endroits ou l'air et les rayons du
soleil agissent librement sur elle. On rencontre une troisieme arrete a
vingt minutes de la seconde, et la quatrieme, qui est la derniere, la
suit de tres-pres.

"Ici nous nous trouvons au point ou le glacier des bois se divise, comme
je l'ai dit, Sec. 611, en deux grandes branches, dont l'une tourne a droite
vers le Mont-Blanc, et prend le nom de glacier de _Tacul_, et l'autre
a gauche se nomme le glacier de _Lechaud_. Il seroit, sans doute, plus
interessant de suivre celle de la droite, et de s'approcher ainsi du
Mont-Blanc; ses pentes de neige et de glace, qui se presentent a nous,
semblent meme n'etre point absolument inaccessibles: mais ce sont des
apparences trompeuses; des glaciers entrecoupes de profondes crevasses
masquees ca et la par des couches minces de neige les approches de cette
redoutable montagne, quoique peut-etre en choisissant une annee ou il
seroit tombe beaucoup de neige, et en prenant le temps ou cette neige
seroit encore ferme, quelque chasseur adroit et courageux pourroit
tenter cette route.

"Comme dans ce moment cette entreprise est absolument impraticable, nous
suivons la branche gauche de la vallee, et apres deux heures de marche
sur le glacier des bois, nous en sortons au pied de celui du Talefre,
c'est-a-dire, a l'endroit ou celui-ci vient verser sa glace dans
celui-la qui a change de nom, et qui s'appelle ici le _glacier de

"La vue du glacier du Talefre est ici majestueuse et terrible. Comme la
pente par laquelle il descend est extremement rapide, les glacons se
pressant mutuellement, se dressent, se relevent, et presentent des
tours, des pyramides diversement inclinees, qui semblent pretes a
ecraser le voyageur temeraire qui oseroit s'en approcher.

"Pour parvenir au sommet de ce glacier, ou il est moins incline et par
cela meme moins inegal, nous gravissons le rocher qui est a la gauche du
cote du couchant. Ce rocher se nomme _le Couvercle_; il est domine par
une cime inaccessible, qui, suivant l'usage du pays, est decoree du nom
_aiguille_, et, en prenant le nom du glacier le plus proche, s'appelle
_l'aiguille du Talefre_.

"La pente, par laquelle on gravit le couvercle, est excessivement
rapide; on suit une espece de sillon creuse dans le roc par la nature;
quelques pointes de roc aux quelles on se cramponne, en montant avec les
mains, autant et plus qu'avec les pieds, ont fait donner a ce passage le
nom _d'egralets_ ou de petits degres. Ce passage n'est cependant point
dangereux, parce que le roc, qui est un granit tres-coherent, permet
d'assurer toujours solidement les mains et les pieds; mais la rapidite
le rend un peu effrayant a la descente.

"Lorsqu'on est au haut des egralets, on suite un pente beaucoup moins
rapide; on marche tantot sur du gazon, tantot sur de grandes tables de
granit, et on arrive ainsi au bord du plan du glacier du Talefre. On
nomme le _plan_ d'un glacier la partie elevee et a-peu-pres horizontale
dans laquelle on peut le traverser.

"Nous avions mis une heure et un quart a monter du glacier de Lechaud au
plan de celui du Talefre. Nous fumes tentes de nous reposer un moment
avant d'entrer sur celui-ci. Tout nous invitoit a choisir cette place,
un beau gazon arrose par un ruisseau qui sortoit de dessous la neige et
qui rouloit son eau crystalline sur un sable argente, et ce qui etoit
plus seduisant encore, une vue d'une etendue et d'une beaute dont une
description ne peut donner qu'une bien foible idee.

"Sec. 631. En effet comment peindre, a l'imagination des objets qui n'ont
rien de commun avec tout ce que l'on voit dans le reste du monde;
comment faire passer dans l'ame du lecteur cette impression melee
d'admiration et de terreur qu'inspirent ces immenses amas de glaces
entoures et surmontes de ces rochers pyramidaux plus immenses encore;
le contraste de la blancheur des neiges avec la couleur obscure des
rochers, mouilles par les eaux que ces neiges distillent, la purete de
l'air, eclat de la lumiere du soleil, qui donne a tous ces objets une
nettete et une vivacite extraordinaires; le profond et majestueux
silence qui regne dans ces vastes solitudes, silence qui n'est trouble
que de loin en loin par le fracas de quelque grand rocher de granit ou
de glace qui s'ecroule du haut de quelque montagne; et la nudite meme
de ces rochers eleves, ou l'on ne decouvre ni animaux, ni arbustes, ni
verdure. Et quand on se rappelle la belle vegetation, et les charmans
paysages que l'on a vus le jours precedens dans le basses vallees, on
est tente de croire qu'on a ete subitement transporte dans un autre
monde oublie par la nature, ou sur une comete dans son aphelie. La vue
du Montanvert ne donne de celle-ci qu'une idee tres-imparfaite; la on ne
voit qu'un seul glacier, au lieu que d'ici vous voyez les trois grands
glaciers des Bois, de Lechaud et du Tacul, sans compter un grand nombre
d'autres moins considerables qui, comme celui du Talefre, versent leurs
glaces dans les glaciers principaux.

"Les rochers innombrables que l'on voit au-dessus de ces glaciers sont
tous de granit, car s'il y a, comme j'en suis certain, des rochers
feuilletees, interposees entre ces granits, des _gneufs_, par exemple,
ou des roches de corne; comme elles etoient plus tendres que les
granits, leurs parties faillantes ont ete detruites par les injures de
l'air, et il ne reste plus que leurs bases, caches au fond des gorges
qui separent les hautes pyramides."

This is a fact which, independent of the good authority we have here,
we would have been naturally led, from the theory, to suppose. For, in
wearing out the solid mass, which had been once continuous among those
mountains, something must have determined the situation of those
valleys; but what so likely as some parts more destructible by the
wasting operations of the surface than others, which are therefore less
impaired, and remain more high.

Now, whatever may be our theory with regard to the origin or formation
of these solid masses of the globe, this must be concluded for
certain,--that what we see remaining is but a specimen of what had been
removed,--and that we actually see the operations by which that great
work had been performed: we only need to join in our imagination that
portion of time which, upon the surest principles, we are forced to
acknowledge in this view of present things.


_The same Subject continued, in giving still farther Views of the
Dissolution of the Earth._

To have an idea of this operation of running water changing the surface
of the earth, one should travel in the Alps; it is there that are to
be seen all the steps of this progression of things, and so closely
connected in the scene which lies before one, that there is not required
any chain of argument, or distant reasoning from effect to cause, in
order to understand the natural operations of the globe, in the state
of things which now appears. So strongly are the operations of nature
marked in those scenes, that even a description is sufficient to give a
lively idea of the process which had been transacted. With this view, I
shall here transcribe, from the _Tableau de la Suisse_, a description of
that remarkable passage by the mountain of St. Gothard, from Switzerland
to Italy, hoping, that, even independent of the illustration hereby
given to the theory, the reader will be pleased to see such a picture
of that country as will either excite new ideas in a person who has not
seen such scenes, or call up those which it is proper for a naturalist
to have[4].

[Footnote 4: Tableaux de la Suisse Discours, etc. p. 113. Route d'Altorf
au St. Gothard.]

"Nous allons donner les observations que nous avons faites, en montant
le Saint Gothard par le cote septentrional, et nous terminerons ce que
nous avons a dire par la description du haut de cette montagne. Il y a
aux environs d'Altorf, chef-lieu du canton d'Uri, de grands terrains
couverts de pierres roulees, dont la plus grande partie est amenee par
le Schechen, torrent qui descend de la vallee du meme nom, et l'autre
par la Reuss qui descend du St. Gothard. Sans se donner beaucoup de
peines, on y a la facilite de voir et d'examiner une grande variete de
pierres d'especes differentes et de connoitre d'avance les rochers qui
composent les montagnes qu'on va parcourir; nous repetons ici que toutes
les pierres arrondies ont pris cette forme par le roulis qu'elles ont
essuyees dans les torrens, en se precipitant avec les eaux qui les ont
amenees: plus nous avons parcouru de montagnes, plus nous nous sommes
confirmes que cette observation etoit vraie et exact. Si on a la
constance de suivre une espece jusqu'au lieu de son origine ou position
premiere, on l'y trouvera anguleuse, et n'ayant subi d'autres changemens
que celui que le tems imprime a toutes les substances qui restent en
place; on verra qu'a mesure qu'elles s'eloignent de leur premiere
position leurs angles et leurs parties saillantes se detruisent, et
qu'elles finissent par prendre la forme ronde ou approchante, en raison
de leurs durete et du chemin qu'elles auront parcouru. Nous renvoyons a
ce sujet ce qui a ete dit vers le commencement de ces observations, en
parlant du Trient. Nous ajoutons seulement qu'il n'y a guere d'espece
de pierres roulees dans les montagnes, dont nous n'ayons pas trouve les
rochers analogues, et qu'avec du tems et les courses convenables, en
observant bien les directions des montagnes et des torrents, on les
trouveroit toutes. Altorf est entoure de tres-hautes montagnes, des
vallons aboutissent de tous cotes dans ses environs, parce-que c'est le
lieu le plus bas ou les eaux vont se jetter dans le lac de Wahlasthall
ou de Lucerne, a l'extremite duquel Altorf est situe; le vallon est
assez couvert dans le bas, il est cultive dans quelques parties, et il
y a des arbres fruitiers; c'est sur-tout aux environs de Birglen qu'on
rencontre beaucoup de pierres roulees et des rochers amenes par les

"Les rochers sont de pierre calcaire, et continuent jusqu'a Silenen a
deux lieues d'Altorf; les montagnes sont fort hautes et fort escarpees
des deux cotes du vallon, de beaux pres sont dans le bas; quelque arbres
fruitiers et sur-tout des noyers sont a mi-cote, et entre les rochers,
des forets de sapins. Avant d'arriver a Silenen, on appercoit le glacier
de Tittlis; il est sur le territoire d'Engelberg, et on trouve encore
quelques hetres; derriere les montagnes boisees il s'en eleve d'autre
nues et arides. Des points et des vues admirables par la degradation des
montagnes et pour le sauvage, s'offrent de toutes parts. Des chalets,
des habitations isolees, sont situes au pied des plus affreux rochers
qui les menacent d'une ruine prochaine. L'habitant y vit sans crainte,
entoure de son pre et de son petit bien dont il est tranquille

"La chaleur concentree dans ce vallon y fait murir differentes
productions peu recherchees; a la verite, ce sont des fruits fort
communs, excellens pour le pays, parce qu'on n'y en connoit pas de
meilleurs. C'est du petit village d'Amsteeg entoure de fort hautes
montagnes, qu'on commence a monter ce qu'on nomme le Saint Gothard
general: le chemin devient plus roide, la Reuss y est plus resserres et
roule ses eaux dans un lit fort profond et tres-escarpe, des torrens des
cascades, tombent de differens endroits des deux cotes de ce vallon
et de belles forets de sapin, ou il y a des arbres prodigieux pour la
hauteur, varient les points de vues; on s'eleve beaucoup au-dessus du
fond des vallons par des chemins rapides: l'exposition plus heureuse
fait cultiver du jardinage et des arbres fruitiers; il y a beaucoup de
chanvre dans ces environs. De l'autre cote du vallon, sur la gauche de
la Reuss, est une usine ou on fabriquoit de l'alum et du vitriol, les
travaux ont cesse, ces etablissemens et l'exploitation des mines sont
peu connus et peu suivis en Suisse. La Reuss semble toujours s'enfoncer
d'avantage, par-tout elle roule ses flots avec bruit et fracas, elle
s'est creusee un lit a des profondeurs incroyables; il n'y a point
d'endroit ou l'on puisse mieux voir cet etonnant travail des eaux que
sur le pont du Pfaffensprung, a une demi-lieue de Vassen; il est a une
hauteur si effrayante que le premier mouvement, quand on regarde au bas
du pont, est de se tenir au parapet, et le second de le quitter, dans la
crainte qu'il ne manque, ce n'est que par reflexion qu'on y revient, On
voit la progression et le travail successif de l'eau du haut jusqu'en
bas; la roche a des sinuosites ou des angles arrondis, rentrans et
faillans, alternativement de chaque cote, et dont saillans sont opposes
aux rentrans, de facon qu'il reste peu d'espace pour apercevoir l'eau,
ce canal ou ce, gouffre n'ayant pas plus de deux toises et demie de
large. Depuis Silenen on ne voit plus de pierres calcaires, les rochers
sont schisteux argileux, mele de beaucoup de quartz; le lit de la Reuss
est rempli de granits, mais qui viennent des montagnes superieures.
Au-dessus du pont, dont nous venons de faire mention, on rencontre un
passage des plus pittoresques, compose de moulins, de scieries, de
chutes d'eau, domines par le village de Vassen, et entoures de montagnes
fort extraordinaire. Une roche argileuse sur un plan incline, s'est
detachee de la hauteur, et a emporte un pont et un moulin.

"On monte beaucoup apres avoir passe Vassen; ces environs sont d'une
variete etonnante pour la beaute et la singularite des paysages. Des
nappes d'eau, des cascades qui se precipitent de roches en roches,
forment dix et quinze chutes avant de se perdre dans les sapins qui
contrastent avec la blancheur des eaux toutes reduites en ecume. Des
maisons d'une construction particuliere, placees contre les rochers pour
les mettre a l'abri des avalanches, des poutres jetees sur differentes
masses de rochers pour passer la Reuss et autres torrens dont les eaux
sont bouillonnantes et jaillissantes, des arcades de pierres pour
joindre des rochers suspendus sur ces precipices, rochers de mille
formes bizarres occupent le voyageur, et ne lui donnent plus le tems
d'apercevoir les mauvais pas qu'il franchit. Il y a sans doute des
hommes assez malheureux, qui ne verroient que des dangers, et ne
seroient occupes que de leurs craintes et des terreurs paniques; c'est
en effet une grande privation de ne pas sentir les beautes de la nature,
elle devient un malheur reel quand ce plaisir se trouve remplace par des
angoisses et de la frayeur. Un tableau d'un autre genre nouveau, et pour
lequel les expressions manquent, est une foret rasee et abattue par une
avalanche, il y a quelques annees, ces sapins de plus de cent pied de
long, ont eu le tems de perdre leurs feuilles et de permettre a la vue
de passer a travers cette enorme quantite de bois et de branches entre
lacees de mille manieres bizarres, et d'apercevoir des rocs epars, des
eaux qui circulent autour, et tombent quelque fois en cascades. C'est
une spectacle qui devient effrayant quand on pense a la force et a la
violence du moyen qui a pu occasionner un pareil effet. On recueille
dans ce canton la resine des melezes. Quoique Vassen soit deja fort
eleve, on y cultive encore quelque jardinage, et il y a aussi quelque
cerisiers sauvages. Il y a environ cinq-lieues jusqu'a Altorf.

"Apres avoir passe Vassen, on trouve cinq ou six superbes cascades
formees par la Reuss. Elle fait un bruit a etourdir: la chaleur qu'il
faisoit, avoit procure une abondante fonte de neige, et l'eau avoit
beaucoup augmente depuis le matin. Des bouleaux, des sapins, et des
melezes, groupes ensemble, formoient des contrastes agreables par la
variete et le melange des differens verts. Les chemins sont faits
a grand frais et avec beaucoup de soin; on a jette des arcades en
differens endroits pour joindre les rochers, et faire passer les chemins
par-dessus; on entend mugir la Reuss sous ses pieds elle ecume par-tout,
il faut etre accoutume a ce spectacle pour n'en pas etre effraye. Les
rochers de droite et de gauche sont par-tout a pic et d'une granit, qui
est jaunatre dans differens endroits; dans d'autres, il est decompose,
passant a l'etat d'argile; c'est le felds-path qui subit le premiere
ce changement. Des quartiers de rochers des parties de montagnes sont
epars; des chalets, des habitations solitaires sont place aux environs
des endroits ou il y a quelque paturage. Il y a un de ces rochers qui
est une belle masse de granit, appellee la Pierre du Diable; on n'oublie
pas de la faire remarquer, parce qu'il y a un conte populaire a son
sujet que de graves auteurs nous ont conserve. Le vallon se retrecit
beaucoup avant d'arriver a Gestinen.

"On a eleve par-tout de murailles a de tres-grandes hauteur pour
faire le chemin. Tout ce travail, vu le local, est incroyable pour la
difficulte; de gros blocs de granits sont ranges sur les bords du chemin
pour servir de barrieres dans les endroits les plus dangereux. Ces
passages sont si etroit qu'il faut peu de chose pour les interrompre.
Le pont du Diable est d'une seul arche a plein ceintre de quatre toises
d'ouverture deux et demie de large, et de douze toises d'elevation
au-dessus de l'eau; le fracas et la rapidite avec laquelle l'eau passe
sous ce pont, ne permettent gueres qu'on la considere tranquillement de
dessus le pont, on est toujours tente de s'en eloigner.--La distance
depuis Gestinen jusqu'a Teufelsbruck ou pont du Diable, qui est environ
deux lieues, suffit pour prouver ce que nous disons; cette vallee, qu'on
nomme Schollenen, offre a chaque pas des difficultes vaincues, des
rochers franchis, des intervalles combles par des murailles, ou il a
fallu employer des montagnes de pierres.

"Les chemins sont paves partout mieux que dans beaucoup de villes; des
chevaux et des mulets charges les frequentent toute l'annee; et dans
quels pays ces grands travaux ont-ils ete executes? Dans un veritable
chaos de rochers et montagnes dont partie sont bouleverses, et l'autre
paroit prete a s'ecrouler sur le passant, qui ne voit sous ses pieds que
des ecueils, des gouffres et des precipices, au fond desquels roule un
torrent ecumant et furieux. Si les rochers sont menacans, les avalanches
sont encore plus dangereuses dans ce redoutable passage; il n'y a point
d'annee qu'il ne perisse des hommes et des betes de somme; on fait voir
un endroit ou une avalanche transporta a plus de cent toises au-dela
de la Reuss, dix-neuf chevaux et mulets charges ainsi que leurs
conducteurs; dans d'autres endroits des quartiers de rochers prodigieux
qui ont ete deplaces et transportes de meme.

"Apres avoir passe le pont du Diable, le chemin tourne a gauche, puis a
droite, pour monter une rampe assez rapide, tres-bien pavee, qui conduit
a une ouverture dans le rocher, c'est le seul passage qui se presente,
nomme Urner-Loch, trou du pays d'Urner ou Urseren; un rocher fort eleve
est sur la gauche, et les cascades de la Reuss a droite; l'entree du
passage est obscure, c'est une galerie souterraine pratiquee dans le
roc, haute de neuf pieds environ de facon qu'un homme peut y passer
a cheval, de onze pieds de large et trente-deux toises de long; on a
pratique dans le milieu une ouverture pour donner du jour; cette roche
est toute de granit, ainsi que celles qui sont autour du pont du Diable;
Il y a environ soixante ans que cette galerie a ete ouverte; le chemin
passoit auparavant en dehors sur une espece de pont qui tournoit le
rocher, et se trouvoit exactement suspendu et fort mal assure au-dessus
des cascades de la Reuss; de frequens accidens, de grands frais pour
reconstruire et entretenir ce pont, souvent entraine par les eaux, ont
necessite l'ouverture de ce passage.

"En sortant de ce passage obscur, on est surpris d'entrer dans une
plaine ouverte, riante et couverte de verdure, et de voir couler a cote
de soi une onde limpide et tranquille. Ce tableau est d'autant plus
frappant qu'on vient de voir le contraste le plus effrayant; ce passage
souterrain est comme le rideau qui se leve entre deux decorations,
dont l'une representoit le chaos et le bouleversement de la nature, et
l'autre celle de la nature naissante et paree des premiers et des plus
simples ornemens; cette plaine est unie, de forme ovale, couverte d'un
vaste gazon et de paturages, entre lesquels serpente doucement la Reuss:
sur ces bords il y a quelques buissons et peu d'arbres, ce sont des
aulnes. Des cabanes de bois, des chalets isoles et solitaires sont
repandus ca et la a l'entree du vallon: a gauche est le village
d'In-der-Matt bati en pierres, et a neuf; dans le fond celui de hospital
et situe sur le penchant d'un coteau, il est domine par une grosse tour:
les montagnes du St. Gothard servent de fond au tableau, elles sont trop
eloignees pour laisser apercevoir leur aridite; des montagnes nues,
couvertes d'une verdure legere sans arbres et sans buissons, bordent les
deux cotes du vallon: enfin tout paroit jeune et d'une creation nouvelle
au premier coup d'oeil, qui met le spectateur dans l'etat ou est un
homme a son reveil apres un reve epouvantable, ou il n'a vu que des
objets effrayans; il se trouve heureux et content d'etre en surete et
hors des dangers qui le menacoient, tant les impressions de son reve lui
sont encore presentes.

"Ce vallon offre des remarques interessantes pour l'histoire naturelle,
sa position, sa forme, et son nivellement ne laissent aucun doute que
cet emplacement n'ait ete le sejour des eaux; en examinant les bords
du lit de la Reuss, on reconnoit que le terrain de ce vallon est par
couches horizontales de pierres argileuses; le pied des montagnes qui
entourent le vallon sur la droite est de pierre calcaire grise, a la
meme hauteur, et a mi-cote, sur la gauche, on trouve de la pierre
ollaire. Voila encore une de ces circonstances ou il seroit interessant
de connoitre la hauteur exacte de cette pierre calcaire, et de pouvoir
comparer son niveau avec d'autres que nous avons deja observe etre aussi
deposees au pied des montagnes dans de petits vallons fort eleves,
analogues a celui dont il est question. Quelque secousse aura rompu
l'enceinte de rocher qui fermoit ce bassin: l'ecoulement des eaux aura
acheve de creuser ce passage, ou coule actuellement la Reuss, et le
vallon qui est au-dessous. Quoique les angles rentrans et saillans des
montagnes ayent lieu dans quelque endroits, il s'en faut de beaucoup que
ce soit une regle certaine: le vallon qui descend du Saint Gothard a
Altorff est une de ces exceptions. Une autre chose remarquable dans ce
vallon, c'est qu'au sortir du passage souterrain que nous avons dit etre
creuse dans le granit, il y a tout a cote sans interruption, et formant
la meme masse de rocher, de la pierre schisteuse micacee, melee de
quartz, dont les couches sont perpendiculaire, se fendent et tombent par
morceaux, qui ont la forme de poutres ou de bois equarris. Cette espece
de roche est aussi haute que celle de granit, et composee, dans des
proportions differentes, des memes parties integrantes que le granit;
n'a-t-elle pas ete apposee et formee contre celle de granit, qui
assurement doit etre plus ancienne, puisqu'elle est enveloppee par la
roche schisteuse[5]?

[Footnote 5: Here is an example of the junction of the granite with
the schistus; and probably here will be a proper opportunity of
investigating the formation of those two things. Our author here
supposes the granite to be the primary, and the schistus to be the
secondary body; on the contrary, I believe that schistus to be the
primary in relation to the granite, and that the granite had invaded the
schistus, as will be made to appear in its proper place.]

Ce vallon, d'une bonne lieue de longueur sur moitie de largeur, peut
occasionner bien des reflexions; nous avons ete oblige de passer
rapidement sur ces objets, nous ne faisons que les indiquer. Au-haut de
la montagne rapide, qui est au-dessus du village d'In-der-Matt, il y a
un petit bois de sapins, auquel il est defendu de toucher sous peine de
la vie. Il est reserve contre les avalanches; ce sont les seules arbres
qu'on voie sur les hauteurs environnantes; derriere ce bois on appercoit
un glacier d'ou descend un torrent qui va se jetter dans la Reuss; il
amene, ainsi que les autres qui descendent de ce cote, des pierres
schisteuses micacees, melees de quartz, de meme nature que celle qui est
a cote du passage souterrain. On monte par un beau chemin au village de
Hospital, qui depend aussi du pays d'Urseren: tout ce canton est renomme
pour ces excellens fromages. Il n'y a que des paturages et point d'autre
culture. Le bois, qui est de premiere necessite dans un pays aussi
froid, aussi eleve et toujours entoure de neige, y manque totalement,
on est oblige de l'aller chercher dans la vallee de Schollenen, et on
traine sur la neige le bois de charpente. Le village de Hospital est
situe sur des roches schisteuses melees de mica et de quartz, elles sont
bleues, verdatres, et grises. C'est a Hospital qu'est la rencontre de
differens chemins pour passer le Saint-Gothard; il y en a un qui venant
du Vallais, passe a cote du glacier du Rhone et par la montagne de
Fourk. Un second qui vient des Grisons, passe par Disentis et Chiamut
entre les sources du bas Rhin. Ce sont des sentiers: qu'on juge de ce
qu'ils peuvent etre d'apres le grand chemin que nous venons de decrire,
qui conduit de la Suisse en Italie.

"Sur la droite du village de Hospital est un vallon que nous avons
visite jusqu'au village de Zum-d'Orff, a une grand demi-lieue. Il y
regne aussi une couche de pierre calcaire a meme hauteur, au bas de la
montagne qui renferme le vallon, et nous prions de remarquer qu'elle est
aussi sur la droite, et que sur la gauche il y a de pierre ollaire;
une masse enorme de cette espece, sous laquelle on travailloit depuis
long-tems pour en tirer de quoi faire des poeles, ayant perdu son
equilibre, est tombee sur le cote. Les rochers qui dominent, sont des
rochers schisteuse micacees avec du quartz. Ce dernier village fait
aussi partie de la vallee d'Urseren, c'est le pays habite le plus eleve
de l'Europe; les habitons sont forts et robustes; les montagnes de
ce canton etant nues, arides, et fort rapide, les avalanches y sont

"C'est au sortir de Hospital qu'on monte veritablement le Mont Saint
Gothard: le chemin est escarpe, pave, et bien entretenu. Par un vallon a
droite descend le Garceren, torrent qui vient des glaciers; son eau est
blanchatre, se jette dans la Reuss, et en trouble la limpidite; les
rochers sont de plus en plus depouilles, secs et arides, on trouve les
derniers buissons, des aulnes rabougris. La Reuss tombe de rocher en
rocher, des blocs et des quartiers enormes, qui remplissent son lit, lui
barrent souvent le passage; ses eaux s'elancent par-dessus quand elle ne
peut le contourner; on ne voit enfin que des rochers, des abymes et des
precipices; on marche neanmoins en surete au milieu de ce desordre de
la nature; les chemins sont bien paves, et assez larges pour que deux
chevaux ou deux mulets charges puissent y passer de front. Sur un rocher
a droite, a une lieue de Hospital environ, on trouve tailles dans le roc
les limites entre le pays d'Urseren, et la partie Italienne ou vallee
de Livenen; ainsi tout sommet du St. Gothard appartient a la partie
Italienne, qui est actuellement sujette du canton d'Uri. On parvient
enfin sur un terrain plus uni, et une espece de plateau, c'est le haut
du Saint Gothard; a une demi-lieue sur la droite, entre des rochers
forts hauts, forts escarpes et a pic, est une espece d'entonnoir, ou se
rassemblent les eaux des neiges fondues; elles y forment le petit lac de
Luzendro, gele le trois quarts de l'annee, d'ou la Reuss tire sa source
en partie; car le glaciers du mont de la Fourche ou Fourk dans le haut
Vallais, fournissent aussi un torrent qui est regarde comme la seconde
source de la Reuss; le Rhone prend sa source dans la partie opposee du
meme glacier. Le haut du Saint Gothard est un vrai vallon, puisque des
cimes, des pyramides, des montagnes prodigieuses, composees toutes de
rochers, s'elevent au-dessus, et l'entourent de tous cotes. L'espace qui
est entre ces rochers a une forme a-peu-pres circulaire; il paroit avoir
ete un fond qui a ete eleve et comble jusqu'au point ou il est par les
debris des montagnes qui le dominent, et qui s'y amoncelent encore
actuellement sous nos yeux; il a une espece de niveau qui va un peu
en pente du cote du midi, et du cote du Nord par lesquels se fait
l'ecoulement des eaux fournies par la fonte des neiges, dont la Reuss et
le Tessin sont les canaux. Des masses etonnantes de rochers remplissent
la surface de ce vallon: elles y sont placees dans une desordre qui ne
ressemble point aux positions des rochers actuels, et autorise a croire
qu'elles y ont ete jetees et culbutees au hazard. Ces masses isolees
sont toutes de granit, compose de quartz, de feldspath, et de mica
verdatre; le chemin qui traverse ce vallon tourne autour de ces masses.
Il faut que les pics eleves qui bordent ce vallon ayent ete beaucoup
plus hauts qu'ils ne le sont actuellement pour avoir pu fournir a
combler cette etendue, qui a une lieue au moins. Il n'est pas douteux
non plus, que les vastes montagnes qui font au pied de toutes celles qui
forment l'enceinte du Gothard, au moyen desquelles on trouve un acces
plus facile, et des rampes moins rapides pour s'elevent comme par degres
a cette hauteur, qui composent enfin ces montagnes de seconde et de
troisieme formation, ne doivent leur existence qu'aux debris de ces
colosses qui dominent tout. L'examen de ce qui se passe sous nos yeux
journellement, ne peut nous laisser aucun doute sur l'abaissement de
montagnes. Il n'y a point de torrent, point d'ecoulement d'eaux, quelque
petit qu'il soit, qui n'entraine en descendant des montagnes, des
terres, des graviers, ou des sables, pour les porter plus bas. Les
grands torrens, les fleuves, les rivieres, gonfles par les fontes
subites des glaces et des neiges, entrainent des rochers entieres,
creusent de vastes et profonds ravins; ces masses de rochers diminuent
par le choc et le frottement qu'elles essuient entre elles, et sur
les rochers sur lesquels elles passent, dont elles occasionnent
reciproquement la destruction; ce sont des debris de cette espece
de trituration qui troublent les eaux, et dont le depot eleve
insensiblement les bords des rivieres, forme le limon fecondant de nos
plaines, et va former jusque dans le sein des mers ces atterrissemens,
ces barres, et ces bancs qui en reculent les bornes. Les rochers les
plus durs, ces granits que les meilleurs outils ont tant de peine a
faconner, ne resistent point au tems et aux intemperies des saisons;
leur superficie se denature et se decompose souvent au point de ne pas
les reconnoitre: des lichens, des petites mousses s'insinuent dans leur
tissu, l'eau y penetre, et la gelee separe leurs parties; s'ils se
trouvent place sur une pente de facon a pouvoir etre entraine par les
eaux, la plus grosse masse est bientot reduite a peu de chose, apres
avoir parcouru un plan incline; quels changemens ne doit pas avoir opere
cette marche constante de la nature. A quel point n'est elle pas rendu
meconnoissable la superficie du globe que nous habitons. Pour peu qu'on
reflechisse que les montagnes fournissent continuellement aux plaines,
et que celle-ci ne rendent rien aux montagnes, on pourra se faire
quelque idee des changemens que la revolution des siecles a du operer.
Aussi n'est ce que sur les hautes montagnes qu'on appercoit encore
parmi leurs vastes debris, les materiaux qui ont servi et servent aux
creations nouvelles que la nature opere journellement, qu'ils sont
grands, qu'ils sont majestueux ces antiques debris! que l'homme est
petit, qu'il est confondu quand il ose y porter un regard curieux!"

In this picture of the Alps, there is presented to our view the
devastation of solid rocks by agents natural to the surface of the
earth; here is the degradation of mountains in the course of time. Of
these ruins plains are formed below; and these plains are continually
shifting their place, in affording materials to be washed away and
rolled in the rivers, and in receiving from the higher grounds the
spoils of ruined rocks and mountains. Such operations are general to the
globe, or are to be found over all this earth; but it is not every where
that we have descriptions proper to give just ideas of this subject,
which escapes the common observation of mankind.

As I have given an example in the Alps of Savoy and Switzerland, it
may be proper to give some view of the same operation in those of the
Pyrenees (Essai sur la Mineralogie des Monts Pyrenees) page 76.

"La vallee d'Aspe est arrosee dans toute sa longueur, par le Gave, qui
prend sa source vers les frontieres d'Espagne: dans les temps de pluie
et d'orage, cette riviere est coloree en rouge par des terres composees
de schiste rougeatre, qui s'eboulent: des montagnes de Gabedaille et de
Peyrenere: au reste les eaux du Gave profondement encaissees dans leur
lit ne peuvent plus contribuer a la fecondite des plaines qu'elles ont

"On observe, en suivent cette riviere que lorsque les montagnes courent
parallelement, les angles faillans qu'elles forment correspondent aux
angles rentrans; cette regle generale sert a etablir que les vallees des
Pyrenees, qu'il faudroit plutot appeler _de gorges_ puisqu'elles n'ont
qu'une demi-lieue dans leur plus grande largeur, sont l'ouvrage des
eaux; mais doit on les ranger parmi celles que M. de Buffon a demontre
avoir ete creusees par les courans de la mer, ou les supposer formees
par les torrens qui se precipitent des montagnes?

"Ne croyez pas, dit M. d'Arcet, en faisant mention des vallees des
Pyrenees, que les eaux aient pris ces routes parce qu'elles les ont
trouvees frayees anterieurement a leur cours; ce sont les eaux meme
d'en-haut, qui, se ressemblant peu-a-peu, se sont ouvert de force ces
passages: elles se sont creuse ces lits dans le temps passes, comme
elles les creusent encore tous les jours. _Voyez la Discours sur l'Etat
Actuel de Pyrenees, p._. 10.

(p. 86.) "Les pierres que les eaux du Val de Canfrac entrainent, sont
rarement usees dans leurs angles; on en trouve peu dont la figure soit
arrondie, comme celle des pierres que roulent les torrens de la partie
septentrionale des Pyrenees; le sol des environs de Jacia, plus eleve
que celui des plaines du cote de la France, s'oppose a ce qu'elles
soient emportees a d'assez grandes distances, et avec la rapidite
necessaire pour recevoir, par un long frottement, une figure arrondie:
on ne voit point de pierres roulees dans les plaines qui entourent cette
ville, les bancs calcaires ne sont couverts que d'une croute de terre
peu epaisse; un telle formation differe de celle qu'on observe au
pied des monts Pyrenees, du cote de la France, ou le sol de plusieurs
contrees est compose des debris que les rivieres y ont deposes[6];
une partie de l'Egypte, selon Herodote, a ete pareillement formee des
matieres que le Nil y a apportees; Aristotle la nomme l'ouvrage du
fleuve: c'est pourquoi les Ethiopiens se vantoient que l'Egypte leur
etoit redevable de son origine. Les habitans de Pyrenees pourroient
dire la meme chose de presque toutes les contrees situees le long de la
chaine septentrionale, depuis l'ocean jusqu'a la Mediterranee, et qui
forment cette espace d'isthme qui separe les deux mers: c'est ainsi que
la nature change continuellement la surface de notre globe; elle eleve
les plaines, abaisse les montagnes; et l'eau est principal agent qu'elle
emploie pour operer ces grandes revolutions; il ne faut que du temps,
pour que le mot de Louis XIV. a son petit-fils, se realise. La posterite
pourra dire un jour; _il n'y a plus de Pyrenees_. On concoit combien
cette epoque est eloignee de nous. M. Gensanne a trouve, par des
observations qu'il pretend non equivoques, que la surface de ces
montagnes baisse d'environ dix pouces par siecle; ainsi, en les
supposant seulement de quinze cens toises au-dessus du niveau de la mer,
et toujours susceptibles du meme degre d'abaissement, il s'ecoulera un
million d'annees avant leur destruction totale."

[Footnote 6: The notion, that the water-worn gravel, which we so
frequently find upon the surface of the earth, had been the effect of
rivers transporting the rocks and stones, is not accurate or in perfect
science. That stones are thus continually transported is certain; it is
also indisputable, that in this operation they are broken and worn
by attrition, more or less; but, that angular stones of the hardest
substance are thus made into that round gravel, which we find so
abundantly in many places forming the soil or loose materials of the
surface, is a conclusion which does not necessarily follow from
the premises, so far as there is another way of explaining those
appearances, and that by a cause much more proportioned to the effect.

The view which I take of the subject is this; first, that those
water-worn materials had their great roundness from the attrition
occasioned by the waves of the sea upon some former coast. Secondly,
that, after having been thus formed by agitation on the shores, and
transported into the deep, this gravel had contributed to the formation
of secondary strata, such as the puddingstone which has been described
in Part I. Chap 5, and 6; and, lastly that it has been from the decay
and resolution of those secondary strata, in the wafting operations of
the surface, that have come those rounded siliceous bodies, which could
not be thus worn by travelling in the longest river.]

I do not know in what manner M. Gensanne made his calculation; I would
suspect it was from partial, and not from general observations. We have
mountains in this country, and those not made of more durable materials
than what are common to the earth, which are not sensibly diminished
in their height with a thousand years. The proof of this are the Roman
roads made over some of those hills. I have seen those roads as distinct
as if only made a few years, with superficial pits beside them, from
whence had been dug the gravel or materials of which they had been

The natural operation of time upon the surface of this earth is to
dissolve certain substances, to disunite the solid bodies which are not
soluble, but which, in having been consolidated by fusion, are naturally
separated by veins and cutters, and to carry those detached bodies, by
the mechanic force of moving water, successively from stage to stage,
from places of a higher situation to those below.

Thus the beds of rivers are to be considered as the passages through
which both the lighter and heavier bodies of the land are gradually
travelling; and it is through them that those moveable bodies are from
time to time protruded towards the sea shore. But, in the course of
rivers, it often happens that there intervenes a lake; and this must be
considered as a repository for heavy bodies which had been transported
by the force of running water, in the narrow bed through which it was
obliged to pass; for, being arrived in the lake, the issue of which
is above the level of its bottom, the moving water loses its force in
protruding heavy bodies, which therefore it deposits. Thus the bottom of
the lake would be filled up, before the heavy materials which the river
carries could be made to advance any farther towards the sea.

Reasoning upon these principles, we shall find, that the general
tendency of the operations of water upon the surface of this earth is to
form plains of lakes, and not, contrarily, lakes of plains. For example,
it was not the Rhone that formed the lake of Geneva; for, had the lake
subsisted in its present state, while the Rhone had transported all the
matter which it is demonstrable had passed through that channel from the
Alps, the bed of the lake must have been made a plain through, which the
river would continue to pass, but in a changing channel, as it does in
any other plain. We are therefore led to believe, that the passage of
the Rhone through the lake, in its present state, is not a thing of long
existence, compared with the depredations which time had made by that
river upon the earth above the lake. But how far there are any means for
judging, with regard to the causes of that change which must have taken
place, and produced the present state of things about this lake, can
only be determined by those who have the proper opportunity of examining
that country.

If lakes are not in the natural constitution of the earth, when this is
elevated from the sea into the place of land, they must be formed by
some posterior operation, which may be now considered.

There are in nature, that is, in the natural operations of the globe,
two ways by which a lake may properly be formed in a place where it had
not before existed. One of these is the sliding or overshooting of a
mountain or a rock, which, being undermined by the river, and pressed by
its weight, may give way, and thus close up the defile through which the
river had worn for itself a passage. The other is the operation of an
earthquake, which may either sink a higher ground, or raise a lower, and
thus produce a lake where none had been before. To which, indeed, may be
added a third, the dissolution of saline or soluble earthy substances
which had filled the place.

So many must have been those alterations upon the surface of the earth
which we inhabit, and so short the period of history by which, from the
experience of man, we have to judge, that we must be persuaded we see
but little of those operations which make any sensible change upon the
earth; and we should be cautious not to form a history of nature from
our narrow views of things; views which comprehend so little of the
effects of time, that they may be considered as nothing in the scale by
which we are to calculate what has passed in the works of nature.

To form an idea of the quantity of the solid land which has been carried
away from the surface of the earth, we must consider our land, with the
view of a mineralist, as having all the soil and travelled materials
removed, so as we might see the terminations of all the strata, where
these are broken off and left abrupt. Now, the generality of those
strata are declined from the horizontal plane in which they had been
formed, and shew that the upper extremity had been broken off and
carried away; and the quantity of that which has been carried away,
since the time of the formation of those strata, so far as may be judged
from the nature and situation of what remains, must be concluded as very
great. This is best to be observed in mountainous countries, where not
only the causes of this destruction of the land are more powerful, but
the opportunities of investigating the effects more frequent, from the
washing away of the loose soil or covering.

The correspondent angles of the valleys among mountains is a subject
of this nature, in which may be perceived a visible waste of the solid
mountain which has those correspondent angles. I am happy to have an
authority so much better than my own observations to give on this
occasion, where the question relates to what is common or general in
these appearances. It is that of M. de Luc, Lettres Physique et Morales,
tom. 2. p. 221. "Mais avant de finir sur les montagnes _primordiales_,
il faut que je revienne a ces _angles saillans et rentrans
alternativement opposes_, qui lorsque Mr. Bourguet les annonca, firent
un si grand bruit parmi les naturalistes qu'on ne douta plus que toutes
les montagnes ne fussent l'ouvrage de la _mer_. Voici ce que c'est que
ce phenomene pretendu demonstratif.

"Lorsqu'on voyage dans les vallees, on va ordinairement en tournoyant;
et quand un angle saillant oblige a courber la route, on trouve assez
souvent un angle rentrant qui lui fait face, et la vallee conserve a
peu pres la meme largeur. M. Bourguet ayant fait cette remarque, et
considerant que les bords opposes d'une riviere qui serpente, offrent la
meme opposition des angles saillans et rentrans, en conclut en general,
que les montagnes avoient ete formees par les courans de la mer.

"Si toutes les montagnes, et les _Alpes_ par exemple, avoient tous les
autres caracteres qu'exige une telle formation celui-la sans doute ne
paroitroit pas les contredire; et l'on ne peut meme disconvenir, qu'au
premier coup d'oeil, ces zig-zags ne ressemblent beaucoup aux effets des
eaux courantes. Cependant ce caractere appartient bien plus aux eaux qui
se frayent une route, qu'a celles qui font des depots. Un riviere qui
creuse son lit, se detourne a la rencontre d'un obstacle, et ronge le
cote oppose; c'est ce qui produit ses meandres. Mais on ne voit point
les memes causes de zig-zags dans les courans au sein de la mer; a moins
qu'il n'y ait deja des montagnes.

"En effet si l'on considere les montagnes et les collines qui par leurs
couches et les corps etrangers qu'elles renferment, montrent sans
equivoque qu'elles sont l'ouvrage des eaux, on les trouvera le plus
souvent rangees sans ordre. Quelquefois elles ne paroissent que des
monceaux poses ca et la; comme dans une grand partie du _Piemont_. Ou
si elles sont sous la forme de chaines continues, on y trouve peu de
parallelisme, c'est-a-dire de ces angles rentrans opposes aux angles
saillans: tel est le Jura.

"Mais si les courans de la mer ont trouve des montagnes toutes faites,
et qu'ils les ayent traversees, dans quelque sens que ce soit; ils se
sont fraye des routes dans les endroits ou la resistance etoit moindre,
et ont ronge les bords de leurs canaux a la maniere des rivieres. On
doit donc y trouver du parallelisme.

"Si maintenant on considere la chaine des _Alpes_, on verra qu'elle
repond fort bien a cet effet naturel. Quoique ces montagnes forment une
chaine dans leur ensemble, leurs parties superieures ne montrent aucune
sorte d'arrangement particulier, aucune trace de zig-zags: c'est dans
le fond des grandes vallees, ou dans les coupures qui servent a
l'ecoulement des eaux, que ce parallelisme des cotes opposes se
remarque; quoiqu'avec bien des exceptions. Et ce qu'il y a de plus
important a considerer, c'est que ces grandes vallees ou les angles
saillans et rentrans forment l'engrenement le plus sensible, coupent
ordinairement la chaine en travers, au lieu de la suivre; ce qui annonce
plutot destruction qu'edification.

"Ainsi _les angles saillans et rentrans alternativement opposes dans les
vallees des montagnes_, peuvent bien contribuer a prouver qu'elles ont
ete toutes sous les eaux de la _mer_; mais non que la mer les ait toutes
faites. C'est ici donc un nouvel exemple de la necessite de considerer
attentivement les idees qui paroissent le plus naturelles au premier
coup d'oeil: car cet apercu etoit bien un de ceux qu'on est tente
d'admettre sans examiner autre chose que la verite du fait."

Here we have the testimony of this author concerning the nature of those
causes by which the shape of the surface of the earth, in those regular
appearances of corresponding parts, had been determined, viz. That these
had been destroying operations, and not those by which the mountains had
been formed. We differ, however, from this naturalist with regard to
the particular agent here employed. It will be shown, in a subsequent
chapter, that there is almost as little reason to conclude from this
appearance, that the space between the correspondent angles had been
hollowed by the currents of the sea, as that those angles had been
formed by matters deposited in that shape and situation.

Farther, treating of the calcareous mountains, the same author observes,
(Lettre 38. p. 229.)

"Cette chaine exterieure des _Alpes_ evidemment d'origine _marine_, a
cependant des caracteres qui la distinguent de la plupart des autres
montagnes de la meme classe; et ces caracteres semblent annoncer plus
d'antiquite. Je crois d'abord pouvoir les regarder comme les montagnes
_secondaires_ les plus hautes de notre continent. (Je ne parle ici que
des montagnes marines.) Ensuite leur destruction est beaucoup plus
grande que celle d'aucune autre montagne de ce genre qui me soit
connue: car elles sont presque aussi couronnees de pics que les _Alpes
primordiales_; et ces _pics_, etant par _couches_, montrent des restes
d'anciens sommets qui devoient avoir une grande etendue. Ce qui, joint
a quelques derangemens dans leurs couches, paroit indiquer que ces
montagnes ont ete exposees plus longtemps que la plupart des autres
montagnes _secondaires_, aux revolutions qu'essuyoit le fond de la
_mer_; et qu'elles en sont sorties deja fort alterees."

There is at present no question concerning the particular shape in which
the mountains of the earth had come out of the waters of the sea. We
are considering the wasting of those mountains, in being exposed to the
atmosphere and waters of the earth; and the operation that the sea may
have had upon their surface, is a subject for judging of which we have
not the smallest data, unless by taking the thing for granted, or
supposing that the present state of things is that former shape after
which we inquire. Now, this is a species of reasoning that M. de Luc
would certainly explode; for he admits, as we shall afterwards find,
great changes among the mountains of the Alps, from the influences of
the atmosphere, perhaps more rapid changes than we are disposed to
allow. Therefore, to call in the aid of the ocean, for the degradation
of these secondary calcareous mountains, holds of no reason that I can
see, unless it be that of diminishing the time which otherwise would
have been required in bringing about those changes by the atmosphere

To conclude: Whether we examine the mountain or the plain; whether we
consider the degradation of the rocks, or the softer strata of the
earth; whether we contemplate nature, and the operations of time, upon
the shores of the sea, or in the middle of the continent, in fertile
countries, or in barren deserts, we shall find the evidence of a general
dissolution on the surface of the earth, and of decay among the hard
and solid bodies of the globe; and we shall be convinced, by a careful
examination, that there is a gradual destruction of every thing which
comes to the view of man, and of every thing that might serve as a
resting place for animals above the surface of the sea.


_Facts in confirmation of the Theory respecting the Operations of the
Earth employed in forming Soil for Plants._

I have distinguished the mineral operations of the earth, by which
solid bodies are formed of loose materials, as well as the resolving or
decomposing operations which are proper to the surface exposed to the
sun and atmosphere. I have also pointed out the end or intention of
those several operations, and likewise the means by which they have been
brought about. We may now turn our view to that part of the system in
which an indefinite variety of soils, for the growth of plants and life
of animals, is to be provided upon the face of the earth, corresponding
to that diversity which, in the wisdom of nature, has been made of

In this last view, now to be considered, some confirmation should be
given to the Theory, in finding the soil, or travelled materials upon
the surface of the land, composed of earth, that is, of sand and
clay, of stones and gravel; the earth and stones as arising from the
resolution and separation of the solids in the neighbourhood of the
place; the gravel, again, as having often travelled from more distant

It would be very improper to adduce any example of a particular, where
the force of the argument lies in the generality alone. It is enough
to have mentioned the facts which are to be examined: Every person of
inquiry and observation will judge for himself how far those facts are

But there is one general remark that may be made on this occasion, where
the operations of the surface are concerned, and which may assist the
investigation of this subject; it is with regard to the gravel or stones
worn by attrition, which may have come from a distance. In proportion as
hard and insoluble stones are near to their natural beds, they will be
found with the sharp angles of their fracture, unless there may have
been a cause of agitation and attrition on the spot; they will also be
in greater quantity, _cet. par._ in this place; whereas the farther they
may have travelled, they will naturally incline to be more rounded, and,
in equal circumstances, will always be more scarce.

We have thus principles by which to judge of every appearance in
relation to the travelled materials of our soil. When, for example, we
find an immense quantity of the hardest stones worn round by attrition,
and collected not far distant from their native place, we cannot suppose
that they have acquired their shape by the attrition in the distance
they have travelled, but in an agitation which they must have received
nearly in the place from whence they came. Such is the gravel in the
chalk country of England. Around London, in all directions, immense
quantities of gravel are round, which consists almost entirely of flint
worn or rounded by attrition; but this is the very centre of the chalk
country, at least of England; and no doubt the same appearances will be
found in France. We must therefore conclude, that the south of England
was under water when that gravel was formed; and that immense quantities
of the chalk above had been destroyed by the agitation of the sea in
preparing such quantities of gravel which still remain upon the land;
besides the immense quantities which must have been dispersed all around
during the operation, as well as carried into the sea by the rivers
since the elevation of our land. It is not uncommon to find this gravel
twenty or thirty feet deep; and masses are found of much greater
thickness. Were these masses of gravel formed in a deep hollow place,
they would draw to no conclusion beyond the appearance itself; but they
are, on the contrary, in form of hills; and therefore they serve as a
kind of measure or indication of what had been carried away when these
were left remaining.

We may observe a series or a progress in those forming and destroying
operations, by which, on the one hand, the flinty bodies, already formed
in the mineral region, were again destroyed, in being diminished by
their mutual attrition; and, on the other hand, those diminished bodies
were again consolidated into one mass of flinty stone, without the
smallest pore or interstice. This example is to be found in the
puddingstone of England. It consists of flint pebbles, precisely like
Kensington gravel, penetrated or perfectly consolidated by a flinty
substance. Here are the two opposite processes of the globe carried
on at the same time and nearly in the same place. But it must be
considered, that our land was then in the state of emerging from the
sea, and those operations of subterranean fire fit for elevating land
was then no doubt exerted with great energy; at present, no such thing
appears in this place. But, from the momentary views we have of things,
it would be most unphilosophical to draw such absolute conclusions.

The argument now employed rests upon the identity of the substance of
the gravel with that of the entire flint, which is found in the chalk
country; and it goes to prove that the sea had worn away a great deal of
that chalk country above the place upon which this body of gravel is now
resting; consequently that the sea had formerly flowed over that
country covered with gravel, and had dispersed much of that gravel in
transporting it to other regions, where that species of flint was not
naturally produced. By a parity of reasoning, the gravel produced in
the neighbouring regions, and which would be proper to those places,
as consisting of their peculiar productions, must have been likewise
dispersed and mixed with the surrounding bodies of gravel. But as in the
country of which we are now treating, there are considerable regions,
the different productions of which are perfectly distinct, we have a
proper opportunity of bringing those conclusions of the theory to the
test of observation.

For this purpose, let us examine the different countries which surround
the chalk regions of England, France, and Flanders; if the gravel upon
those neighbouring countries contain flint which the country does not
naturally produce; and if the mixture of this flint among the gravel,
which is proper to the country itself, be with regard to quantity in
proportion to the vicinity of the flint country, the Theory will then be
confirmed; and there is no doubt that this is so. On the other hand, let
us examine the gravel about London, which is far distant from any place
that produces quartz; if we shall find a very small proportion of quartz
gravel in this flinty soil, we may be assured that the quartz has
travelled from a distance, and that the Theory is thus approved. This is
actually the case, and I have seen puddingstone containing quartz gravel
among the flint.

In confirmation of this view of the travelled soil, it may be observed,
that in lower Saxony about Hamburgh, and for a great way to the
south-west, the gravel is mostly of broken flint, such as is around the
chalk countries: Yet it is at a distance from the chalk of Flanders;
there is however at Luxemburgh chalk with flint, the same as in England
and France. Therefore the flinty soil of that country, in like manner,
demonstrates the great destruction of the solid parts, and illustrates
the formation of soil by the remainder of the hard parts below, and the
alluvion of other parts.

There is most undoubted evidence that the solid body of our land had
been formed at the bottom of the sea, and afterwards raised above the
surface of the water; but, in the case which has now been described,
it appears that the travelled soil of the surface of our land had been
lately under the surface of the sea. We have thus therefore traced the
different steps in the operations of nature, of which the last step
may be considered as thus exposed to our view almost as much as the
operations of man in building the Pyramids of Egypt. But surely there
are other documents to be found in examining the different coasts of
this island with attention; and there must be a consistency in the
general appearance which never fails to attend on truth.

From the south to the north of this island, there are, in many places,
the most evident marks of the sea having been upon a higher level on
the land; this height seems to me to amount to about 40 or 50 feet
perpendicular at least, which the land must have been raised. Some of
those facts may now be mentioned.

Upon the banks of the Thames, I have found sea shells in the travelled
soil a considerable height above the level of the sea. In low Suffolk
there are great bodies of sea shells found in the soil which the farmers
call _crag,_ and with it manure their land. I do not know precisely the
height above the sea; but I suppose it cannot exceed 100 feet. In
the Frith of Forth there are, in certain places, particularly about
Newhaven, the most perfect evidence of a sea bank, where the washing of
the sea had worn the land, upon a higher level than the present. The
same appearance is to be found at Ely upon the Fife coast, where the sea
had washed out grottos in the rocks; and above Kinneel, there is a bed
of oyster shells some feet deep appearing in the side of the bank, about
20 or 30 feet above the level of the sea, which corresponds with the old
sea banks. I have seen the same evidence in the Frith of Cromarty, where
a body of sea shells, in a similar situation, was found, and employed
in manuring the land. There are many other marks of a sea beach upon a
higher level than the present, but I mention only those which I can give
with certainty.

We have been considering an extensive country more or less covered with
gravel; such is England south of Yorkshire; both upon the east and west
sides of the island. This country having no high mountainous part in the
middle, so as to give it a considerable declivity towards the shores and
rivers, the gravel has remained in many places, and in some parts of
a considerable thickness. But in other parts of the island, where the
declivity of the surface favours the transportation of gravel by the
currents of water, there is less of the gravel to be found in the soil,
and more of the fragments of stone not formed into gravel. Still,
however, the same rule holds with regard to tracing the gravel from its
source, and finding particular substances among the gravel of every
region, in proportion to the quantity of country yielding that
substance, and the vicinity to the place from whence it came.

Here are principles established, for the judging of a country, in some
respects, from a specimen of its gravel or travelled stones. In this
manner, I think, I can undertake to tell from whence had come a specimen
of gravel taken up any where, at least upon the east side of this
island. Nor will this appear any way difficult, when it is considered,
that, from Portland to Caithness or the Orkneys, there are at least ten
different productions of hard stone in the solid land which are placed
at proper distances, are perfectly distinguishable in the gravel which
is formed of them, and with all of which I am well acquainted. Let us
suppose the distance to be 600 miles, and this to be divided equally
into 10 different regions of 60 miles each, it must be evident that we
could not only tell the region, which is knowing within 60 miles of the
place, but we could also tell the intermediate space, by seeing an equal
mixture of the gravel of two contiguous regions; and this is knowing
within 30 miles of the place. If this be allowed, it will not seem
difficult to estimate an intermediate distance from the different
proportions of the mixed gravel. This is supposing the different regions
to be in all respects equal, which is far from being in reality the
case; nevertheless, a person well acquainted with the different extent
and various natures of those regions, may make allowances for the
different known circumstances that must have influenced in those
operations, although it is most probable there will be others which must
be unknown, and for which he can make no allowance.

The author of the Tableaux de la Suisse has entered very much into this
view of things; he has given us some valuable observations in relation
to this subject, which I would here beg leave to transcribe[7].

[Footnote 7: Discours sur l'Histoire Naturelle de la Suisse, p. 27.]

"Nous avons dit precedemment que c'etoit entre Orfiere et Liddes que
nous avions vu les derniers granites roules, on n'en rencontre plus dans
tout le reste de la route jusqu'au haut du Mont St. Bernard. Les rochers
qui dominent ce sommet ne sont pas composes de granites, et quoiqu'on
ne puisse aborder jusqu'a leur plus grande elevation, on peut juger de
leurs especes, par les masses qui s'en precipitent. D'ou peuvent donc
provenir ces masses roulees de granites qui se trouvent jetes et
repandus sur le penchant et au bas de ce mont? Il y a peut-etre quelque
montagne ou rocher de granite que nous n'avons pas ete a portee de voir:
il faudroit plus d'un mois pour faire un pareil examen et parcourir
les montagnes environnantes, et faute de pouvoir parvenir a certains
sommets, examiner scrupuleusement les fonds pour juger des hauts. De
pareilles recherches sont plus difficiles et plus longues qu'on ne le
croit communement quand on veut reellement voir et observer. Beaucoup de
vallons sont combles a des hauteurs prodigieuses, par les amas et les
debris provenant des montagnes superieures: ils cessent d'etre des
vallons, pour former ou faire partie de montagnes. Ces deplacement et
des bouleversemens, changeant la direction et le courant des torrens,
entrainent dans des parties bien opposees des debris qu'on croiroit
devoir chercher et trouver ailleurs. On seroit induit en erreur, en
voulant suivre toujours le cours actuel des eaux qui descendent des
montagnes. Ce n'est pas dans cette occasion seul mais l'Allemagne, la
Corse, la Sardaigne, et beaucoup de pays de hautes montagnes, nous out
fourni egalement des exemples de masses de rochers roules de differentes
especes dont il n'existoit pas de rochers pareils, dans toutes les
parties elevees environnantes, a plusieurs lieues, a plusieurs journees
de chemin, et souvent totalement inconnus dans les pays d'alentour.
Si nous avons remarque les meme especes de rochers faisant corps, et
attaches au sol, a une ou plusieurs lieues de distance; nous avons vu
souvent que des montagnes plus hautes etoient entre ces masses roulees
et les rochers, d'ou on auroit pu supposer qu'elles ont ete arrachees:
il repugne a croire que des masses, d'un poids prodigieux, ayent ete
transportees et roulees en travers d'un vallon profond, pour remonter
et passer de l'autre cote d'une montagne. Nous abandonnons, a ceux qui
travaillent dans le cabinet, a l'arrangement du globe, la recherche des
moyens que la nature a employe pour produire de pareils effets. Nous
nous contenterons, ainsi que nous avons promis, de rendre compte de ce
que nous avons vu et observe, et d'engager ceux qui auront la facilite
de faire des remarques analogues de constater leurs observations en
indiquant toujours les lieux fidelement, ainsi que nous le faisions pour
la Suisse."

Here the experience of our naturalist amounts to this, that, in those
operations by which the solid land is wasted, and the hard materials
worn by attrition and transported, it is not always evident from whence
had come every particular body of stone or mineral which had travelled
by means of water; nor the particular route which, in descending from
a higher to a lower place, the protruded body had been made to take,
although, in general, these facts may be discovered without much
difficulty. Now, this state of things is no other than the natural
consequence of the great wasting of the surface and solid parts of our
land, and the unequal degradation of this surface, by which means the
shape of the earth is so changed, that it would often be impossible,
from the present state, to judge of the course in which many bodies had
been travelled by water.

M. de Saussure has described a very curious appearance of this kind:
It is the finding the travelled materials of Mont Blanc, or fragments
detached from the summit and centre of the Alps, in such places as give
reason to conclude that they had passed through certain openings between
the mountains of the Jura. This is a thing which he thinks could not
happen according to the ordinary course of nature; he therefore ascribes
this appearance to some vast _debacle_, or general flood, which had with
great impetuosity transported all at once those heavy bodies, in the
direction of that great current, through the defiles of the Alps, or the
openings of those mountains.

In giving this beautiful example of the wasting and transporting
operations of this earth, this naturalist overlooks the principles which
I would wish to inculcate; and he considers the surface of the earth, in
its present state, as being the same with that which had subsisted while
those stones had been transported. Now, upon that supposition, the
appearances are inexplicable; for, How transport those materials, for
example, across the lake of Geneva? But there is no occasion to have
recourse to any extraordinary cause for this explanation; it must appear
that all the intervening hollows, plains, and valleys, had been worn
away by means of the natural operations of the surface; consequently,
that, in a former period of time, there had been a practicable course
in a gradual declivity from the Alps to the place where those granite
masses are found deposited. In that case, it will be allowed that there
are natural means for the transportation of those granite masses from
the top of the Alps, by means of water and ice adhering to those masses
of stone, at the same time perhaps that there were certain summits of
mountains which interrupted this communication, such as the Jura, etc.
through the openings of which ridges they had passed.

In this case of blocks of alpine stones upon the Jura, the question is
concerning the transportation of those stones; but, in other cases, the
question may be how those blocks were formed.

That many such blocks of stone are formed by the decay of the rock
around them, is clearly proved by the observations of M. Hassenfratz,
published in the _Annales de Chimie_, October 1791. He has particularly
mentioned a place on the road from Saint-Flour to Montpellier, where an
amazing collection of these blocks of granite is to be seen. It is here
particularly that he observes these blocks to be the more durable parts
which remain after the rock around them is decayed and washed away. The
proof is satisfactory; the operation is important to the present theory;
and therefore I shall give it in his own words.

"Tous les blocs de granit dur degages et sortis entierement des masses
qui forment les montagnes, posent immediatement sur le granit friable ou
sur d'autres blocs durs qui eux-memes sont sur le granit friable.

"Quoique la plupart des blocs de granit dur, que l'on observe sur toute
l'etendue de ce terrain granitique, soient entierement sortis et degages
de la masse de pierre qui forme la montagne, on en rencontre cependant
qui ne sont pas encore tout-a-fait degages. Et c'est ici l'observation
essentielle qui conduit directement a l'explication du phenomene de
l'arrangement, de l'entassement, et de _l'amoncellement_ des blocs d'une
maniere simple et absolue.

"On voit sur la surface du terrain des portions de blocs durs qui
semblent sortir peu a peu, et se degager de la masse de granit friable;
celui-ci se decompose et se reduit en poussiere tout autour de cette
masse dure que les causes de decomposition du granit friable semblent

"Quelques-uns de ces blocs durs, sortans de la montagne granitique, sont
deja considerable; on distingue qu'ils n'y tiennent plus que par une
tres-petite partie; d'autres commencent a paroitre se degager, ils ne
_saillent_, ils ne sortent encore que de quelque pieds, et meme de
quelques pouces. Enfin, en examinant soigneusement et attentivement
toute la surface de ce terrain granitique, on appercoit tous les
intermediaires entre un bloc de granit dur contenu et enchasse dans la
masse totale du granit friable et un bloc entierement degage.

"Ces observations, suivies avec attention, ne laissent aucun doute que
les blocs de granit que l'on observe sur toute l'etendue de ce terrain
granitique, n'aient fait autrefois partie d'une couche considerable de
granit decomposable qui couvroit ces montagnes et exhaussoit leur sol;
que cette couche, dont il semble impossible d'apprecier la hauteur,
malgre les blocs considerable qui restent et qui attestent son
existence, a ete decomposee par l'air et l'intemperie des saisons;
que la poussiere, le sable resultans de cette decomposition, ont ete
entraines par les eaux, et deposes a divers points de la surface de la
globe; et que ces blocs ont ete peu-a-peu degages de la couche, ainsi
qu'il s'en degage encore tous les jours."

To enable the reader to form a notion of what these blocks are, I shall
farther give what our author has said in describing this place where
they are found.

"C'est apres avoir quitte le terrain volcanique, c'est dans le terrain
granitique que j'ai trouve des blocs enormes de granit, qui ont fixe mon

"Toute l'etendue du terrain granitique que j'ai traversee, se trouve
presque couverte de ces masses; les uns sur les sommets des montagnes
les plus elevees, les autres sur la pente et dans les vallees. Plusieurs
de ces masses sont arrangees les uns sur les autres avec un art
inimitable, les autres sont isolees et eparses.

"Peu de ces masses m'ont presente un spectacle plus beau et plus
imposant que celles que l'on rencontre a 6 heures de marche de S. Flour,
a une petite demi heure avant d'arriver a la Garde.

"La, sur le sommet d'une montagne, est un amas considerable de blocs de
granit, etonnans par leur volume et leur nombre. La grande route passe
a travers, et circule autour de ces masses que les constructeurs des
chemins n'ont pas ose attaquer.

"Le voyageur est penetre d'admiration en voyant l'ordre et l'arrangement
symetrique de ces blocs monstrueux par leur masse, et qu'il ne cesse
d'observer en suivant la trace tortueuse du chemin qui les contourne.

"Quelques-uns de ces blocs sont poses purement et simplement les uns sur
les autres, et forment une colonne isolee; le plus gros sert de base, et
les autres, graduellement plus petits, son poses dessus. On voit jusqu'a
trois de ces blocs immediatement l'un sur l'autre.

"D'autres fois, le bloc qui sert de base est beaucoup plus petit que
celui qui le couvre immediatement; et s'arrangement de ces deux blocs
presente l'aspect d'un champignon.

"Plus souvent plusieurs blocs separes les uns des autres, forment la
base, et un ou plusieurs blocs sont poses immediatement dessus, sans
ordre constant, tantot inclines, mais toujours d'une maniere stable et
fixe, propre a resister aux plus grands efforts.

"Enfin, par fois, des masses plus petites placees entre les grosses,
semblent assurer la situation fixe de l'ensemble des blocs; mais ces
rencontres sont fort rares."

Here is a distinct view of this part of nature; a view in which the
present state of things plainly indicates what has passed, without
our being obliged to raise our imagination to so high a pitch as is
sometimes required, when we take the mountains themselves, instead of
these blocks, as steps of the investigation. Here is a view, therefore,
that must convince the most scrupulous, or jealous with regard to the
admitting of theory, first, that those mountains had been much higher;
secondly, that they had been degraded in their present place; thirdly,
that this continent has subsisted in its present place for a very
long space of time, during the slow progress of those imperceptible
operations; and, lastly, that much of the solid parts of this earth has
been thus travelled by the waters to the sea, after serving the purpose
of soil upon the surface of the land.

But though M. Hassenfratz has thus given us a most satisfactory view of
the natural history of those blocks of stone which are now upon or near
their native place, this will not explain other appearances of the same
kind, where such blocks are found at great distances from their native
places, in situations where the means of their transportation is not
to be immediately perceived, such as those resting upon the Jura and
Saleve, and where blocks of different kinds of stone are collected
together. These last examples are the records of something still more
distant in the natural history of this earth; and they give us a more
extensive view of those operations by which the surface of this earth
is continually changing. It is, however, extremely interesting to this
Theory of the Earth, to have so distinctly ascertained some of those
first steps by which we are to ascend in taking the more distant
prospect; and these observations of M. Hassenfratz answer this end most

Thus all the appearances upon the surface of this earth tend to show
that there is no part of that surface to be acknowledged as in its
original state, that is to say, the state in which it had come
immediately from the mineral operations of the globe; but that, every
where, the effects of other operations are to be perceived in the
present state of things. The reason of this will be evident, when we
consider, that the operations of the mineral kingdom have properly in
view to consolidate the loose materials which had been deposited and
amassed at the bottom of the sea, as well as to raise above the level of
the ocean the solid land thus formed. But the fertility of the earth,
for which those operations were performed, and the growth of plants, for
which the surface of the earth is widely adapted, require a soil; now
the natural, the proper soil for plants, is formed from the destruction
of the solid parts. Accordingly, we find the surface of this earth,
below the travelled soil, to consist of the hard and solid parts, always
broken and imperfect where they are contiguous with the soil; and we
find the soil always composed of materials arising from the ruin and
destruction of the solid parts.


_A View of the Economy of Nature, and necessity
of Wasting the Surface of the Earth,
in serving the purposes of this World_.

There is not perhaps one circumstance, in the constitution of this
terraqueous globe, more necessary to the present theory, than to see
clearly that the solid land must be destroyed, in undergoing the
operations which are natural to the surface of the earth, and in serving
the purposes which are necessary in the system of this living world.
For, all the land of the present earth being a certain composition of
materials, perfectly similar to such as would result from the gradual
destruction of a continent in the operations of the inhabited world,
this composition of our land could not be explained without having
recourse to preternatural means, were there not in the constitution
of this earth an active cause necessarily, in the course of time,
destroying continents.

It is therefore of great importance to this Theory, to show, that the
land is naturally wasted, though with the utmost economy; and that the
continents of this earth must be in time destroyed. It is of importance
to the happiness of man, to find consummate wisdom in the constitution
of this earth, by which things are so contrived that nothing is wanting,
in the bountiful provision of nature, for the pleasure and propagation
of created beings; more particularly of those who live in order to know
their happiness, and who know their happiness on purpose to see the
bountiful source from whence it flows.

We are to conceive the continent of the earth, when first produced above
the surface of the ocean, to be in general consolidated, with regard
to its structure, by the same mineral operations which are necessarily
employed in raising it from its primary situation at the bottom of the
sea, to that in which we now inhabit it.

We are now to consider the purpose of this mineral body, exposed to the
influences of the atmosphere, that so we may see the intention of
its solid composition, as well as that of its resolution, or natural
solubility when thus exposed; and we are to trace the ultimate effects
of this order of action in the economy of the globe, that so we may
perceive the wisdom of nature perpetuating the system of a living world
in an endless succession, of changing perishable forms.

The purpose of the land of this earth, in being placed above the sea
and immersed in the atmosphere, is to sustain a system of plants and
animals. But; for the purpose of plants; there is required a soil;
and, as there is in the vegetable system a vast variety of plants with
different habits or natural constitutions, there is also required a
diversity of soils, in which those vegetable bodies are to be made to
live and prosper. From the bare rock exposed to the sun and wind, to the
tender mud immersed in water, there is a series to be observed; and in
every stage or step of this gradation, there are plants adapted to those
various soils or situations. Therefore nothing short of that diversity
of soils and situations, which we find upon the surface of the earth,
could fulfill the purpose of nature, in producing a system of vegetables
endued with such a diversity of forms and habits.

The soil or surface of this earth is no more properly contrived for the
life and sustenance of plants, than are those plants for that diversity
of animals, which will thus appear to be the peculiar care of nature in
forming a world. Scarce a plant perhaps that has not its peculiar animal
which feeds upon its various productions; scarce an animal that has
not its peculiar tribe of plants on which the economy of its life, its
pleasure, or its prosperity must depend.

If we shall suppose the continent of our earth to be a solid rock,
on which the rain might fall, and the wind and waves might dash
perpetually, without impairing its mass or changing its constitution,
what an imperfect world would we have! how ill adapted to the
preservation of animal and vegetable life! But the opposite extreme
would equally frustrate the intention of nature, in producing
bounteously for the various demands of that multiplicity of species
which the author of this world has thought proper to produce.

For if, instead of a solid rock, we shall suppose a continent composed
of either dry sand or watery mud, without solidity or stability, how
imperfect still would be that world for the purpose of sustaining lofty
trees and affording fruitful soils!

We have now mentioned the two extreme states of things; but the
constitution of this earth is no other than an indefinite number of
soils and situations, placed between those two extremes, and graduating
from the one extreme, in which some species of animals and plants
delight in finding their prosperity, to the other, in which another
species, which would perish in the first, are made to grow luxuriantly.
That is to say, the surface of this earth, which is so widely adapted to
the purpose of an extensive system of vegetating bodies and breathing
animals, must consist of a gradation from solid rock to tender earth,
from watery soil to dry situations; all this is requisite, and nothing
short of this can fulfil the purpose of that world which we actually

We have been representing this continent of our earth as coming out of
the ocean a solid mass, which surely it is in general, or in a great
degree; but we find the surface of this body at present in a very
different state; and now it will be proper to take a view of this change
from solid rock to fertile soil.

Upon this occasion I shall give the description of nature from the
writings of a philosopher who has particularly studied this subject. It
is true that M. de Luc, who furnishes the description, draws, from this
process of nature, an argument for the perpetual duration or stability
of mountains; and this is the very opposite of that view which I have
taken of the subject; but as, in this operation of nature producing
plants on stones, he allows the surface of the solid stone to be changed
into earth and vegetables, it is indifferent to the present theory how
he shall employ this earth and vegetable substance, provided it be
acknowledged that there is a change from the solid state of rock to the
loose or tender nature of an earth, from the state of a body immovable
by the floods and impenetrable to the roots of plants, to one in which
some part of the body may be penetrated and removed.

[8]"Les pluies et les rosees forment partout ou elles sejournent, des
depots qui sont la premiere source de toute _vegetation_. Ces depots
sont toujours meles des semences des _mousses_, que l'air charie
continuellement, et auxquelles se joignent bientot les semences presque
aussi abondantes des _gramens_, qui sont l'herbe dominante de nos
prairies. Ainsi partout ou la pluie a forme quelque petit depot, il
croit de la mousse ou des _gramens_. Ceux-ci demandent un peu plus
de _terre vegetale_ pour croitre, ils germent, et se conservent
principalement dans les intervalles et les creux des pierres: mais la
_mousse_ croit bientot sur la surface la plus unie. Il n'est aucune
pierre long-temps exposee a l'air, qui soit parfaitement polie; l'action
de l'air, du soleil, des eaux, des gelees, detruiroit ce poli quand
il existeroit. Le moindre creux alors recoit un depot de la pluie, et
nourrit un brin de _mousse,_ ces brins poussent des racines; et de
nouveaux jets autour d'eux, qui contribuent a arreter l'eau de la pluie
et de la rosee, et par ce moyen a arreter les depots Nourriciers."

[Footnote 8: Histoire de la Terre, Tom. 2. page 26.]

"Quand la mousse a multiplie ses filets, les depots s'augmentent plus
rapidement encore; les brins de la _mousse,_ en sechant et pourrissant,
en forment eux-memes; car leur substance n'etoit que ces memes depots
faconnes: d'autres semences charriees par l'air, qui au-paravant
glissaient sur les pierres, parce que rien ne les retenoit, tombent
dans le fond de la _mousse_, et y trouvent l'humidite necessaire pour
produire leurs premieres racines: celles-ci s'entrelassent dans la
_mousse_, ou elles se conservent a l'abri du soleil, et sont alors
autant de petites bouches qui pompent les sucs, que l'air, les pluies,
et les rosees y deposent. Ces premieres plantes sont foibles, quelque
fois meme elles ne parviennent pas a leur perfection: mais elles ont
contribue a fixer la _terre vegetable_. En sechant et se decomposant,
elles se transforment en cette _terre_, qui tombe au fond de la
_mousse_, et qui prepare ainsi de la nourriture pour de nouvelles
plantes qui alors prosperent et fructifient.

"Nous connoissons peu encore ce que c'est que cette _terre vegetable_,
ce depot des pluies ou en general de l'air. Cependant, en rassemblant
les phenomenes, on peut conjecturer, que la plupart des corps terrestres
sont susceptibles d'etre changes en cette substance, et qu'il ne s'agit
pour cette transformation que de les decomposer. J'entends par la une
telle division de leurs parties, que devenant presque des elemens, elles
puissent etre intimement melees a l'eau, et pompees avec elle par les
tuyaux capillaires des plantes. En un mot, il semble suffisant qu'une
matiere puisse entrer en circulation dans les vegetaux, pour qu'elle
serve a en developper le tissu, et qu'elle y prenne la figure et les
qualites que chacun de ces laboratoires est propres a produire.

"Nous pouvons accelerer de bien des manieres la transformation
des matieres terrestres en _terre vegetable_. La fermentation, la
calcination, une plus grande exposition a l'air, differens melanges,
rendent propres a la vegetation, des matieres qui ne l'etoient par
elles-memes: voila ce que peuvent nos soins. Mais l'air travaille sans
cesse et en mille manieres. Son simple frottement sur tous les corps, en
enleve des particules si attenuees que nous ne les reconnoissons plus.
La _poussiere_ de nos appartemens en est peut-etre un exemple. De
quelque nature que soient les corps dont elle se detache, c'est une
poudre grisatre qui semble etre partout la meme. La formation de la
_terre vegetable_ a probablement quelque rapport a celle-la. Toute la
surface de la terre, les rocs les plus durs, les sables et les graviers
les plus arides, les metaux meme, eprouvent l'action _rongeante_ de
l'air et leurs particules attenuees, decomposees, recomposees de mille
manieres, sont probablement la source principal de la vegetation.
_L'air_ lui-meme ainsi que _l'eau_, s'y combinent: beaucoup
d'observations et d'experiences nous prouvent que ces deux fluides
fournissent leur propre substance aux parties solides des vegetaux,
et par consequent a la _terre vegetable_ qui les produit et qu'ils
deposent. Quantite de plantes se nourrissent de _l'eau_ seule, et
nous laissant cependant en se sechant, un residu de matiere solide
permanente. _L'air_ aussi se _fixe_ dans les corps terrestres, il fait
partie de leur substance solide; les chimistes savent de plus en plus,
et le _fixer_, et lui redonner son elasticite primitive, par divers
procedes: et avant la multitude d'experiences qui se sont de nos jours
sur cet objet interessant de la physique, le Dr. Hales avoit montre, que
les vegetaux renferment une tres-grande quantite _d'air_, qui s'y trouve
sans ressort et comme matiere constituante.

"Voila donc probablement les sources ou la nature puise peu a peu la
_terre vegetable_ dont elle recouvre la surface de nos continens. Ce
sont les particules, peut-etre, de tous les corps tant solides que
fluides, extraites ou fixees par des procedes qui les rapprochent
de leurs premiers elemens, et leur font prendre a nos yeux une meme
apparence. Ces particules sont ainsi rendues propres a circuler dans
les semences des plantes, a en etendre le tissu a y prendre toutes les
proprietes qui caracterisent chaque espece, et a les conserver tant
que la plante existe. Ces memes particules, apres la destruction
des plantes, prennent le caractere general de _terre vegetable_,
c'est-a-dire de provision toute faite pour la vegetation.

"Les plus petits recoins des montagnes, qui peuvent arreter l'eau de
la pluie, sont certainement fertilises; ce ne sont pas seulement les
grandes surfaces plates, ni les pentes; ce sont meme les faces escarpees
des rochers les plus durs. S'il s'y fait quelque crevasse, un arbre s'y
etablit bientot; et souvent il contribue, par l'accroissement de ses
racines, a accelerer la chute du lambeau de rocher qui l'avoit recu.
S'il y a quelque petite terrasse, ou seulement quelque partie saillante
grande comme la main, elle est bientot gazonnee. Les plus petites
sinuosites se peuplent de plantes; et les surfaces les plus unies,
celles memes qui sont tournees vers la bas, recoivent au moins
quelqu'une de ces _mousses_ plates, nommes _lichen_ par les botanistes,
qui ne font en apparence que passer une couleur sur la pierre. Mais
cette couche est ecaillee, et elle loge bientot de petites plantes dans
ses replis; de celles qui veulent l'ardeur du soleil, si le rocher est
au midi, ou la fraicheur de l'ombre, s'il est au nord: c'est sur ces
rochers en un mot, qui paroissent nues aux spectateurs ordinaires, que
se trouve la plus grande variete de ces petites plantes, qui font les
delices des botanistes, et l'une des sources les plus abondantes ou la
medicine puise les secours reels qu'elle fournit a l'humanite.

"Quelle richesse dans les ressources de la nature! La pesanteur n'est
pas plus prete a entrainer les pierres qui se detachent des montagnes,
que l'air a fournir de semences celles qui se fixent: et des qu'une fois
elles sont recouvertes de plantes, elles sont certainement fixees pour
toujours, du moins contre les injures de l'air. Le fait meme nous
l'annonce. Si ces ravins ou ces terreins quelconques, tendoient encore a
rouler ou a se degrader, en un mot a se detruire de quelque maniere que
ce fut, ils ne le recouvriroient, ni de _mousses_ ni d'aucune autre
plante. La premiere vegetation est due a quelque depot de _terre
vegetable_; et les pluies ou l'air n'en forment que lentement; le
moindre mouvement la detruite. Le terrein est donc bien certainement
fixe quand il se recouvre de plantes; et s'il s'y accumule de la _terre
vegetable_, c'est un signe bien evident que rien ne l'attaque plus: car
elle seroit la premiere emportee si quelque cause exterieure tendoit a
detruire le sol qui la porte."

The doctrine here laid down by our author consists in this; first, That
there is a genus of plants calculated to grow upon rocks or stones;
those hard bodies then decay, in decomposing themselves, and affording
sustenance to the plants which they sustain. Secondly, That by this
dissolution of those rocks, and the accumulation of those vegetable
bodies, there is soil prepared for the nurture and propagation of
another genus of plants, by which the surface of the earth, naturally
barren, is to be fertilised. It is also in this natural progress of
things that the solid parts of the globe come to be wasted in the
operations of the surface, and that lofty rocks are levelled, in
always tending to bring the uneven surface of the earth to a slope of
vegetating or fertile soil.

Here we are to distinguish carefully between the facts described by this
author, who has seen so much of nature, and the conclusion which
he would draw from his principles. The surface of most stones are
dissolved, or corroded by the air and moisture. This gives lodgement to
the roots of plants, which grow, die, and decay; and these are carried
away with the earthy parts of the solid stone, in order to form a
vegetable soil for larger plants, growing upon some bottom or resting
place to which that earth is carried. Here is so far the purpose of
rocks, to sustain a genus of plants which are contrived to live
upon that soil; and here is so far a purpose for certain plants, in
decomposing rocks to form a soil for other plants which have been made
upon a larger scale, and are adapted to the use of man, the ultimate in
the view of nature.

Our author concludes thus: (p. 37.) "Le tems ne fera qu'augmenter
l'epaisseur de la couche de _terre vegetable_ qui couvre les montagnes,
et qui les garantit ainsi de plus en plus de cette destruction a
laquelle on les croit exposes: les pluies en un mot, au lieu de les
degrader comme on se l'imagine y accumuleront leurs depots. Tel
est l'agent simple qu'employe si admirablement le Createur pour la
conservation de son ouvrage."

Such, indeed, is the admirable contrivance of the system, that, in the
works of nature, nothing shall be destroyed more than is necessary for
the preservation of the whole. But, that the whole is preserved by the
necessary destruction of every individual body, and the change of every
part which comes within the examination of our senses, is sufficiently
evident to require no farther illustration in this place, where we are
contemplating the destruction of the strongest things, by means the most
effectual, though really slow, and apparently most feeble.

In his 30th letter, this author describes the progress of nature, in
bringing precipitous rocks to that slope and covering of soil which is
to maintain plants of every kind, and to establish woods. (P. 40.) "J'ai
l'honneur d'exposer a V.M. les causes qui garantissent de destruction
exterieure les terreins sur lesquels la _pesanteur_ ne peut plus agir
que pour les consolider. Mais ce n'est pas ainsi que sont actuellement
la plupart de nos montagnes; il en est peu qui soyent deja parvenus a
cet etat permanent. Tout roc nud est attaque par l'air et les meteores,
et il tend a se detruire quelle que soit sa durete. Mais ce seroit
peu que cette destruction exterieure; elle pourroit meme cesser enfin
totalement par l'effet seul des _mousses_, s'il n'y avoit pas des causes
plus puissantes qui pendant quelque tems agissent dans l'interieur.

"Il n'est presque point de rocher qui offre a l'air une seule masse
compacte; ils sont ou crevasses, ou formes par couches; et l'eau
s'insinue toujours dans ces fentes. Quand cette eau vient a se geler,
elle agit comme un coin pour ecarter les pieces entre lesquelles elle se
trouve. V.M. seroit etonnee de la grandeur des masses que cette cause
peut mouvoir: elle agit exactement comme la poudre a canon dans les
mines; detachant toutes les pieces exterieures qui commencent a se
separer, et en decouvrant ainsi de nouvelles. Chaque hiver renouvelle
donc la surface de certains rochers, ou facilite l'ouvrage pour les
hivers suivans.

Plusieurs autres causes agissent encore pour separer les rochers deja
crevasses, qui se trouvent a l'exterieur des faces escarpees. Le petit
moellon qui s'y accumule, les depots des pluies, les plantes qui y
croissent, les alternatives de l'humidite et de la secheresse, les
vicissitudes de la chaleur, les vents meme, sont autant de causes
continuellement agissantes quand la _pesanteur_ les seconde. Les rochers
escarpes se detruisent donc par de continuels eboulemens.

"Mais toutes ces matieres qui tombent, ne sont pas perdues pour les
montagnes; il s'en perd meme bien peu. Elles s'arretent au pied
des rochers dont elles sont successivement detachees; et la elles
s'entassent, s'elevant en forme de _talus_ contre ces rochers

If the solid body of the Alps, the most consolidated masses of our land,
is thus reduced to the state of soil upon the surface of the earth
contrived for the use of plants, _a fortiori_, softer bodies, less
elevated and less consolidated masses, will be considered as easily
arriving at the purpose for which the surface of the earth has been
intended. We only wish now to see the ultimate effect that necessarily
follows from this progress of things; and how, in this course of nature,
the land must end, however long protracted shall be the duration of this
body, and however much economy may be perceived in this gradual waste of
land;--a waste which by no means is so slow as not to be perceived by
men reasoning in science; although scientific men, either reasoning for
the purpose of a system which they had devised, or, deceived by the
apparent state of things which truly change, may not acknowledge the
necessary consequence of what they had perceived.

Let us now suppose all the solid mass of land, contained in our
continent, to be transformed into soil and vegetable earth, it must be
evident that no covering of plants, or interlacing of vegetable fibres,
could protect this mass of loose or incoherent materials from the
ravages of floods, so long as rivers flowed, nor from being swallowed by
the ocean, so long as there were winds and tides. From the border of
the land upon the shore, to the middle of the ocean, there is either at
present an equable declivity at the bottom of the sea, or every thing
tends to form this declivity, in gradually moving bodies along this
bottom. But, however gradual the declivity of the bottom, or however
slow the progress of loose materials from the shore towards the deepest
bottom of the sea, so long as there are moving powers for those
materials, they must have a progress to that end; the law of
gravitation, always active, must prevail, and sooner or later the moving
sea must swallow up the land.

But, along the borders of our continent, and in the courses of our
rivers, there are rocks; these must be surmounted or destroyed, before
the parts which they protect can be delivered up to the influence of
those moving powers which tend to form a level; and we may be assured
that those bulwarks waste. The bare inspection of our rocky coasts and
rivers will satisfy the enlightened observator of this truth; and to
endeavour to prove this to a person who has not principles by which to
reason upon the subject, or to one who has false principles, by which he
would create perpetual stability to decaying things, would be but labour

In proportion as the solid bulwark is destroyed, so is the soil which
had been protected by it; and, in proportion as the solid parts of the
mass of land are exposed to the influences of the atmosphere and water,
by the ablution of the soil, more soil is prepared for the growth of
plants, and more earth is detached from the solid rock, to form deep
soils upon the surface of the earth, and to establish fertile countries
at the mouths of rivers, even in making encroachment on the space
allotted for the sea. But this production of land, in augmentation of
our coasts, is only made by the destruction of the higher country.
While, therefore, we allow that there is any augmentation made to the
coast, or any earthy matter travelling in our rivers, the land above the
coast cannot be stable, nor the constitution of our earth fixed in a
state which has no tendency to be removed.

M. de Luc, in his Histoire de la Terre, would make the mountains last
for ever, after they have come to a certain slope. He sums up his
reasoning upon this subject in these words: "L'adoucissement des pentes
arrete d'abord l'effet de ces deux grandes causes causes de destruction
de montagnes, la _pesanteur_ et les _eaux_: la vegetation ensuite arrete
l'effet de toutes les petites cause."

If all the great and little causes of demolition are arrested by the
slope of mountains and the growth of plants, the surface of the earth
might then remain without any farther change; and this would be a fact
in opposition to the present theory, which represents the surface of the
earth as constantly tending to decay, for the purpose of vegetation,
and as being only preserved from a quick destruction by the solid rocks
protecting, from the ravages of the floods and sea, the loose materials
of the land. It will therefore be proper to show, that this author's
argument does not go to prove his proposition in the terms which he has
given it, which is, that those sloped mountains are to last for ever,
but only that these causes, which he has so well described, make the
destruction of the mountains become more slow[9].

[Footnote 9: This also would appear to be a part of that wise system of
nature, in which nothing is done in vain, and in which every thing
tends to accomplish the end with the greatest marks of economy and
benevolence. Had it been otherwise, and the demolishing powers of the
land increased, in a growing rate with the diminution of the height,
the changes of this earth and renovation of our continent, in which
occasionally animal life must suffer, would necessarily require to be
often repeated; and, in that case, chaos and confusion would seem to be
introduced into that system which at present appears to be established
with such order and economy that man suspects not any change; it
requires the views of scientific men to perceive that things are not at
present such as they were created; it requires all the observation of a
natural philosopher to know that in this earth there had been change,
although it is not every natural philosopher that observes the
benevolence accompanying this constitution of things which must subsist
in change.]

The slope which our author gives to his mountains, in order to secure
them from the ravages of time, is that which, according to his own
reasoning, renders them fertile and proper for the culture of man; but
fertile soil yields always something to the floods to carry away; and,
while any thing is carried from the soil, the land must waste, although
it may not then waste at the rate of those within the valleys of the
Alps. According to the doctrine of this author, our mountains of
Tweeddale and Tiviotdale, being all covered with vegetation, are arrived
at that period in the course of things when they should be permanent.
But is it really so? Do they never waste? Look at the rivers in a
flood;--if these run clear, this philosopher has reasoned right, and I
have lost my argument. Our clearest streams run muddy in a flood. The
great causes, therefore, for the degradation of mountains never stop as
long as there is water to run; although, as the heights of mountains
diminish, the progress of their diminution may be more and more

Let us now see how far our author has reasoned justly with regard to
vegetation, which, he says, stops the effects of all the little causes
of destruction; this is the more necessary, as, in the present theory,
it is the little causes, long continued, which are considered as
bringing about the greatest changes of the earth.

Along the courses of our rivers there are plains between the mountains
of greater or lesser extent; these are almost always fertile, and
generally cultivated when large; when small, they are in pasture. The
origin of these fertile soils, and their perpetual change, is to be
described with a view to show, that vegetation, although most powerful
in stopping the ravages of water, and for accumulating soil retained
by this means, does it only for a time; after which the soil is again
abandoned to the ravages of the running water, when no more protected by
the vegetation.

Let us suppose the river running upon the one side of the haugh (which
is the name we gave those little fertile plains) and close by the side
of the mountain. In this case the bed of the river is deepest at the
side of the mountain, which it undermines, leaving a falling _(un
eboulement)_ on that side; on the other side, the river shelves
gradually from the plain, and leaves soil in its bottom or stony bed
upon the side of the haugh, in proportion as it makes advances in
carrying away the bank at the bottom of the sloping mountain. The part
which vegetation takes in this operation is now to be considered.

When the river has enlarged its bed by preying upon one side, whether of
the mountain or the haugh, the water only covers it in a flood; at other
times, it leaves it dry. Here, among the rocks and stones, the feeds of
plants, left by the water or blown by the wind, spring up and grow; and,
in little floods, some sand and mud is left among those plants; this
encourages the growth of other plants, which more and more retain the
fertile spoils of the river in its floods. At last, this bed of the
river is covered perfectly with plants, which having retained plenty of
fertile soil, although still rooted among the stones, opposes to the
river a resistance which its greatest velocity is not able to overcome.
In this state, the haugh is always deepening or increasing its soil, and
has its surface heightened. At last, when this soil becomes so high as
only to be flooded now and then, it becomes most fertile, as the
heavier parts are carried in the bed of the river, and the lighter soil
deposited upon the plain. The operations of the river, upon the plain,
thus increase at the same time the height and fertility of the haugh.
But this operation, of accumulated soil upon the stony bottom, has a
period, at which time the river must return again upon its steps, and
sweep away the haugh which it had formed. This is the natural course of
things; and it happens necessarily from the deepening of the soil. Let
us then examine this operation.

When no more soil is left upon the stony bottom than is sufficient for
the covering of the ground, and rooting of plants which are also fixed
in the solid ground or bottom of the soil, the water is not able to
carry away the plants; and these plants protect the surface of loose
soil. When again there is a depth of soil accumulated upon the haugh,
the surface only is protected by the vegetable covering. But what avails
it to the soil to be protected from above, when undermined by the enemy!
The vegetable roots now no longer reaching to the bottom where solidity
is found, the tender soil below is easily washed away by the continued
efforts of the stream; and the unsupported meadow, with the impregnable
texture of its leaves, its roots, and its fibres, falls ruinously into
the river, and is born away in triumph by the flood. The water thus
reclaims its long deserted bed,--only in order to pass from it again,
and circulate or meander from hill to hill in varying perpetually its

Now this progress of the river, or this changing of its bed, is
determined by the strong resistance of the new made haugh, humbly
standing firm in the protection of its vegetation, while the elevated
surface of the older haugh, deserted by the inferior soil which it had
ceased to protect, falls a victim to its exalted state, and passes away
to aggrandize another. This is the fate of haughs or plains erected by
the operations of a river, and again destroyed in the natural course of
things, or in the very continuation of that active cause by which they
had been formed.

The water is constantly carrying the moveable soil from the higher to
the lower place; vegetation often disputes the possession of these
spoils of ruined mountains for a while; but, in the end, this vegetable
protector, not only delivers up to the destroying cause the mineral soil
which it had preserved, but, by its buoyancy in water, it facilitates
the transportation of the stony parts to which this fibrous body is
attached. Over and over a thousand times may be repeated this alternate
possession of the transferable soil, by moving water on the one part and
by fixed vegetation on the other, but at last all must land upon the
shore, whether the river tends. Thus the mountain and the plain, the
vegetable earth and the plants produced in that soil, must all return
into the sea from whence either they themselves or their materials had
come. In proportion as the mountains are diminished, the haugh or plain
between them grows more wide, and also on a lower level; but, while
there is a river running in a plain, and floods produced in the seasons
of rain, there can be nothing stable in this constitution of things
evidently founded upon change.

The description now given is from the rivers of this country, where it
is not unfrequent to see relicts of three or four different haughs which
had occupied the same spot of ground upon different levels, consequently
which had been formed and destroyed at different periods of time. But
the same operation is transacted every where; it is seen upon the plains
of Indostan, as in the haughs of Scotland; the Ganges operates upon its
banks, and is employed in changing its bed continually as well as the
Tweed[10]. The great city of Babylon was built upon the haugh of a river.
What is become of that city? nothing remains,--even the place, on which
it stood, is not known.

[Footnote 10: An Account of the Ganges and Burrampooter Rivers, by James
Rennel, Esquire. Philosophical Transactions, 1781.]


_The Same Subject continued, in giving a View
of the Operations of Air and Water upon the
Surface of the Land._

We have but to enlarge our thoughts with regard to things past by
attending to what we see at present, and we shall understand many things
which to a more contracted view appear to be in nature insulated or
without a proper cause; such are those great blocks of granite so
foreign to the place on which they stand, and so large as to seem to
have been transported by some power unnatural to the place from whence
they came. We have but to consider the surface of this earth as having
been upon a higher level; as having been every where the beds of rivers,
which had moved the matter of strata and fragments of rocks, now no more
existing; and as thus disposed upon different planes, which are, like
the haughs of rivers, changing in a continual succession, but changing
upon a scale too slow to be perceived. M. de Luc has given a picture
which is very proper to assist our imagination in contemplating a more
ancient state of this earth, although in this he has a very different
end in view, and means to show that the world, which we inhabit at
present, is of a recent date. It is in the 32d letter of his Histoire de
la Terre, which I beg leave here to transcribe.

"Des montagnes basses (comme le _Jura_, qui est bas comparativement aux
Alpes) sont bientot fixees par ce moyen. Il ne se fait presque qu'un
seul _talus_ depuis leur sommet jusques dans les basses vallees, ou sur
la plaine. Aussi l'etat de ces montagnes est-il deja presqu'entierement
_fixe_: on y voit tres peu de rochers nuds qui s'eboulent, excepte,
aupres des _rivieres_. C'est dans ces lieux-la que l'ouvrage tarde le
plus a se finir. Le bas des _talus_ est mine par l'eau; leur surface
s'eboule donc, pour ainsi dire, sans cesse, et laisse a decouvert les
rochers des sommets, qui par la continuent aussi a _s'ebouler_. Mais
les vallees s'elargissent enfin; et les _talus_ s'eloignant ainsi des
_rivieres_, commencent a eprouver les influences du repos."

Here nothing can be more positively described than the natural
destruction of those mountains by the operation of the rivers which run
between them; and this is from the authority of matter of fact, which,
on all occasions, this author faithfully describes. At the same time, we
are desired to believe, upon no better authority than the imagination of
a person hurried on by system, that those mountains are absolutely
to come to rest. I am aware of the danger to which a spirit of
systematising leads; and I wish for nothing more than to have my Theory
strictly examined, in comparing it with nature.

Our author thus proceeds: "La vue seule de la chaine du _Jura_ nous
apprend donc ce que deviendroit enfin toutes les montagnes. Dans la
plus grande partie de son etendue, il ne souffre plus aucun changement
ruineux: la _vegetation_ le recouvre presque partout. Les bas sont
cultives de toute sorte de maniere suivant leur exposition; les sommets
sont couverts de pelouses, qui forment les paturages les plus precieux.
Cette gazonade s'etend aussi sur toutes les parties des pentes qui ne
sont pas trop rapides, et le reste est couvert de bois.

"J'ai parcouru fort souvent le pied de ces montagnes: leur etat est
presque partout tel que je viens d'avoir l'honneur de la descrire a V.M.
J'ai sur-tout observe avec attention les lits des _torrens_ qui, en
descendent pour se rendre dans les lacs de _Geneva_, de _Neufchatel_ et
de _Bienne_, ainsi que dans l'Aar et dans le Rhin: et hormis ceux de ces
_torrens_ qui viennent des gorges ou les terrains sont encore escarpes,
ils ne roulent plus que l'ancien gravier qu'ils out apporte autrefois.

"Mais il n'en est pas ainsi des _Alpes_, des _Pyrenees_, et des autres
montagnes, qui, comme celles-la, sont beaucoup plus elevees, ou qui
sans l'etre davantage ont ete livrees aux influences de l'air dans un
desordre plus grand. Dans ce genre de montagnes il reste encore a la
_vegetation_ de bien grandes conquetes a faire.

"Ces montagnes ne sont pas telles que V.M. pourroit se les figurer
naturellement; il faut y etre monte pour s'en former une juste idee. Ce
sont des montagnes sur d'autres montagnes. De pres on ne voit que les
parties inferieures; de loin tout se confond; il faut donc etre arrive
sur une des premieres _terrasses_ pour voir les secondes; sur celles-ci
pour les troisiemes; et ainsi de suite.

"La plupart de ces _terrasses_ successives sont de grandes plaines,
dominees par des rochers qui s'eboulent, et forment des _talus_. Si dans
la succession des siecles, les _eboulemens_ de ces bandes de rochers en
amphitheatre finissoient sans emporter les plaines qu'ils soutiennent,
et que les _torrens_ eussent creuse leur lit pendant ce tems la a
quelque distance des _talus_ tout seroit fini par cette premiere
operation. Mais il y a peu de hautes montagnes ou les arrangemens soient
si simples: souvent ces bandes empietent les unes sur les autres en
_s'eboulant_, et alors le repos est bien differe.

"Supposons que ces _terrasses_ soient etroites, et que leurs murs,
c'est-a-dire les rochers qui les soutiennent, soient fort eleves. Les
_terrasses_ alors ne suffiront pas pour recevoir les _eboulemens_ qui
doivent se faire sur elles car le dessus de chacune d'elles s'etrecit
de plus en plus par la destruction du rocher qui la soutient. Il pourra
donc arriver que ce talus, s'etant etendu jusqu'au bord de la terrasse,
se trouve reposer sur une base qui s'eboule encore; et meme cela arrive
tres souvent; de sorte qu'a chaque retrecissement de la base, le _talus_
lui-meme s'eboule. Ainsi deux _talus_, qui etoient peut-etre deja en
pleine vegetation par la lenteur des eboulemens des rochers qui les
formoient, pourront etre fort recules a cet egard; le _talus_ superieur,
parce que la surface fertilisee glissera en bas; et le _talus_
inferieur, parce que la sienne sera ensevelie sous de nouveaux

"Les montagnes qui sont dans ce cas seront proportionnellement plus
abaissees que les autres; parce que leurs _talus_ se confondant ainsi et
devenant par la fort etendus demeureront longtemps a devenir solides.
Les eaux partant de fort haut, auront le tems de s'y rassembler et de
devenir destructives vers le bas. Au lieu que dans les montagnes ou
les terrasses subsisteront encore apres que tous les rochers se seront
_eboules_, les eaux etant recues par reprises, perdront beaucoup de
leur rapidite. Elles se rassembleront dans les enfoncemens des petites
vallees superieures, elles s'y formeront des lits qu'elles ne rongeront
presque point; et la _vegetation_ restera tranquille partout."

Let us now consider the height of the _Alps_, in general, to have been
much greater than it is at present; and this is a supposition of which
we have no reason to suspect the fallacy; for, the wasted summits of
those mountains attest its truth. There would then have been immense
valleys of ice sliding down in all directions towards the lower country,
and carrying large blocks of granite to a great distance, where they
would be variously deposited, and many of them remain an object of
admiration to after ages, conjecturing from whence, or how they came.
Such are the great blocks of granite which now repose upon the hills
of _Saleve_. M. de Saussure, who has examined them carefully, gives
demonstration of the long time during which they have remained in their
present place. The lime-stone bottom around being dissolved by the rain,
while that which serves as the basis of those masses stands high above
the rest of the rock, in having been protected from the rain. But no
natural operation of the globe can explain the transportation of those
bodies of stone, except the changed state of things arising from the
degradation of the mountains.

Every thing, therefore, tends to show that the surface of the earth must
wear; but M. de Luc, although he allows the principles on which this
reasoning is founded, labours to prove that those destructive causes
will not operate in time. Now, What would be the consequence of such a
system?--That the source of vegetation upon the surface of the earth
would cease at last, and perfect sterility be necessarily the effect of
allowing no farther degradation to the surface of the earth; for, What
is to supply the matter of plants? Water, air, and light alone, will not
suffice; there are necessarily required other elements which the earth
alone affords. If, therefore, this world is to continue, as it has done,
to form continents of calcareous strata at the bottom of the ocean, the
animals which form these strata, with their _exuviae_, must be fed. But,
on what can they be fed? not on water alone; the consequence of such a
supposition would lead us to absurdity; nor can they be fed on any
other element without the dissolution of land. According to my views of
things, it is certain that those animals are ultimately fed on vegetable
bodies; and it is equally certain, that plants require a soil on which
they may not only fix their fibrous roots, but find their nourishment
at least in part; for, that air, water, and the matter of light, also
contribute, cannot be doubted. But if animals, which are to form the
strata of the earth, are to be fed on plants, and these are to be
nourished by the matter of this earth, the waste of vegetable matter
upon the surface of the earth must be repaired; the exhausted soil must
be transported from the surface of the land; and fertility must be
restored by the gradual decay of solid parts, and by the successive
removal of soil from stage to stage. What a reverie, therefore, is that
idea, of bringing the earth to perfection by fixing the state of its
vegetable surface!

The description of those natural operations, which M. de Luc has given
with a view to establish the duration of the mountains, is founded upon
nothing but their destruction. These beds of rivers, which, according
to our author, are _hardly_ to be wasted any more, will not satisfy a
philosopher, who requires to see no degree of wasting in a body which is
to remain for ever, or continue without change. But, however untenable
this supposition of a fixed state in the surface of this earth, the
accuracy of the natural philosopher may still be observed in the
absurdity of the proposition. "L'etat des _montagnes_ sera _fixe_,
partout ou les _rivieres_ seront arrivees au point de n'emporter pas
plus de limon hors de leur enceinte, que l'air et les pluies n'y
deposeront de _terre vegetable_, et voila enfin quel sera le repos,
l'etat permanent de la surface de notre globe. Car alors il y aura
compensation entre les destructions et les reparations simultanees, et
les montagnes surement ne s'abaisseront plus."

Surely, if there is in the system of nature wisdom, we may look for
compensation between the destroying and repairing operations of the
globe. But why seek for this compensation in the _rest_ or immobility of
things? Why suppose perfection in the want of change? The summit of the
Alps was once the bottom of the sea; the existence of our land depended
then upon the change of seas and continents. But has the earth already
undergone so great changes, and is it not yet arrived at the period
of its perfection? How can a philosopher, who is so much employed
in contemplating the beauty of nature, the wisdom and goodness of
Providence, allow himself to entertain such mean ideas of the system as
to suppose, that, in the indefinite succession of time past, there has
not been perfection in the works of nature? Every material being exists
in motion, every immaterial being in action and in passion; rest exists
not any where; nor is it found in any other way, except among the parts
of space. Surely it is contrary to every species of philosophy, whether
ancient or modern, to found a system on the inutility of repose, or
place perfection in the vacuity of rest, when every thing that truly
exists, exists in motion; when every real information which we have is
derived from a change; and when every excess in nature is compensated,
not by rest, but by alternation.

M. de Luc allows the rivers to carry matter always to the sea; but
then, at a certain period, this matter carried by the floods is to be
compensated to the mountains by the vegetable earth received from the
air and rains. Here is a proposition which should be well considered,
before it be admitted as a principle, which shall establish the
perpetuity of these mountains, if it be true; or, if false, assure us of
their future demolition. Let us now examine it.

If from air and rain there is produced earth which cannot afterwards be
resolved by the operation of those elements, and thus again dissolved
in the air and water of the land, then this author might have had some
pretext, however insufficient, for alledging that it might be possible
to compensate the loss of mineral substances, carried off the surface of
the earth, by the production of this vegetable matter from the air and
rain; but, when there is not sufficient reason to conclude that any
substance, produced in vegetation, can resist the continued influences
of the air and water, without being decomposed in its principles, and at
last entirely dissolved in water, the cautious argument here employed by
this author, for the permanency of mountains, must appear as groundless
in its principle as it would be insufficient for his purpose, were it to
be admitted; but this will require some discussion.

That which preserves vegetable bodies so long from dissolution in water,
is what may be called the inflammable or phlogistic composition of those
bodies. This composition is quickly resolved in combustion; but it is no
less surely resolved by the influences of the sun and atmosphere, only
in a slower manner. Therefore, to place the permanency of this earth, or
any of its surface, upon a substance which in that situation necessarily
decays, is to form a speculation inconsistent with the principles of
natural philosophy[11].

[Footnote 11: It is from inadvertency to this fact in natural history,
the consuming of vegetable substances exposed to the influences of the
atmosphere, that M. de Luc, in his _Histoire de la Terre_, has pretended
to determine the past duration of the German heaths as not of a very
high antiquity. He has measured the increase of the vegetable soil, an
increase formed by the accumulation of the decayed heath; and, from the
annual increase or deposits of vegetable matter on that surface, he has
formed a calculation which he then applies to every period of this turfy
augmentation, not considering that there may be definitive causes which
increase with this growing soil, and which, increasing at a greater rate
in proportion as the soil augments, may set a period to the further
augmentation of that vegetable soil. Such is fire in the burning of
those parched heaths; such is the slower but constant and growing
operation of the oxygenating atmosphere upon this turfy substance
exposed to the air and moisture. This author has very well described the
constant augmentation of this vegetable substance in the morasses of
that country, as it also happens in those of our own; but there is a
wide difference in those two cases of peat bog and healthy turf; the
vegetable substance in the morass is under water, and therefore has
its inflammable quality or combustible substance protected from the
consuming operation of the vital or atmospheric air; the turfy soil,
on the contrary, is exposed to this source of resolution in the other

But even supposing that the degradation of mountains were to be
suspended by the pretended compensation which is formed, by the rivers
carrying mineral mud into the sea, and the air and rain producing
vegetable earth; in what must this operation end? In carrying into the
sea, to be deposited at its bottom, all the vegetable earth produced
by the air and rain. But our cosmologist, in thus procuring an eternal
station to his mountains, has not told us whether this transmutation of
the air and rain be a finite operation, or one that is infinite; whether
it be in other respects confident with the natural operations of the
globe; and whether, to have the air and water of the globe converted
into earth, would ultimately promote, or not, that perfection which he
wishes to establish. Here, therefore, in allowing to this philosophy all
its suppositions, it would be necessary to make another compensation, in
preserving mountains at the expense of air and rain; and, the waste of
air and water, which are limited, would require to be repaired.

It is not in our purpose here to treat of moral causes; but this author
having endeavoured to fortify his system by observing, that the world
certainly cannot be ancient, since men have not ceased as yet to quarrel
and fight, (Lettre 34.) it may be proper to observe, that the absolute
rest of land, like the peace among mankind, will never happen till those
things are changed in their nature and constitution, that is to say,
until the matter of this globe shall be no more a living world, and man
no more an animal that reasons from his proper knowledge, which is still
imperfect. If man must learn to reason, as children learn to speak, he
must reason erroneously before he reasons right; therefore, philosophers
will differ in their opinions as long as there is any thing for man to
learn. But this is right; for, how are false opinions to be corrected,
except in being opposed by the opinions of other men? It is foolish,
indeed, for men to quarrel and fight, because they differ in opinion.
Man quarrels properly, when he is angry; and anger perhaps is almost
always ultimately founded upon erroneous opinion. But, in nature, there
is no opinion; there is truth in every thing that is in nature; and in
man alone is error. Let us, therefore, in studying nature, learn to
know the truth, and not indulge erroneous notions, by endeavouring to
correct, in nature, that which perhaps is only wrong in our opinion.

Having shown that every thing, which is moveable upon the surface of
the land, tends to the sea, however slowly in its pace, we are now to
examine, what comes of those materials deposited within the regions of
the waves, still however within the reach of man, and still subservient
more immediately to that soil on which plants grow, and man may dwell.

As, from the summit of the land, the natural tendency of moveable bodies
is to fall into the water of the sea, so, from the borders of the land
or coast, there being a declivity towards the deepest bottom of the
sea, and there being currents in the waters of the ocean occasionally
rendered more rapid on the shore, every moveable thing must tend to
travel from the coast, and to proceed alone; the shelving bottom of the
sea into the unfathomable deep, when they are beyond the reach of man or
the possibility of returning to the shore.

But it is not every where upon the coast that those materials are
equally delivered; neither is it every where along the shore that the
currents of the ocean are equally perceived, or operate with equal power
in moving bodies along the shelving bottom of the sea. Hence in some
places deep water is found washing rocky coasts, where the waste of land
is only to be perceived from what is visibly wanting in the continuity
of those hard and solid bodies. In other places, again, the land appears
to grow and to encroach upon the space which had been occupied by the
sea; for here the materials of the land are so accumulated on the coast,
that the bottom of the sea is filled up, and dry land is formed in the
bafon of the sea, from those materials which the rivers had brought down
upon the shore.[12]

[Footnote 12: We are not however to estimate this operation, of forming
soil by the muddy waters of a river depositing sediment, in the manner
that M. de Luc has endeavoured to calculate the short time elapsed in
forming the marshlands of the Elbe. This philosopher, with a view to
show that the present earth has not subsisted long since the time it had
appeared above the surface of the sea, has given an example of the marsh
of _Wisebhafen_ where the earth, wasted by inundation, was in a very
little time replaced, and the soil heightened by the flowings of the
Elbe, and this he marks as a leading fact or principle, in calculating
the past duration of our continents, of which he says, we are not to
lose sight (Tome 5, p. 136.) But here this philosopher does not seem
to be aware, that he is calculating upon very false grounds, when he
compares two things which are by no means alike, the natural operations
of a river upon its banks, making and unmaking occasionally its haughs
or level lands, that is to say, alternately making and destroying, and
the artificial operations of man receiving the muddy water of a tide-way
into the still water of a pond formed by his ramparts; yet, it is by
this last operation that our author forms an estimate which he applies
to the age of this earth, in calculating how long time might have been
required for producing the marsh lands of the Elbe.

I would here ask if he can calculate what time it may have required to
hollow out the bed of the Elbe from its source to the sea; and to tell
how often the marsh-lands, which he now sees cultivated, had been formed
and destroyed by the river before they were cultivated in their present
state; or if there is any security that they shall not again be taken
away by the river, and again formed in the same place. If this is the
case, that the river is constantly changing the fertile lands, which it
forms by its inundation, what judgement are we to form by calculating
the quantity of sediment in a certain measure of its muddy water.]

Holland affords the very best example of this fact. It is a low country
formed in the sea. This low land is situated in the bottom of a deep
bay, or upon the coast of a shallow sea, where more materials are
brought by the great rivers from the land of Germany than what the
currents of the sea can carry out into the deep. Here banks of sand are
gathered together by streams and tides; this sand is blown in hillocks
by the wind; and those sand hills are retained by the plants which have
taken root and fixed those moving sands. Behind that chain of hillocks,
which line the sea shore, the waters of the rivers formed a lake, and
the bottom of this lake had been gradually filled up or heightened by
materials travelling in the rivers, and here finding rest. It grew up
until it became a marsh; then man took possession of the soil; he has
turned it to his own life; and, by artificial ramparts of his forming,
preserves it in the present state, some parts above the level of the
sea, others considerably below the ordinary rise of tides. M de Luc,
who has given a very scientific view of this country in his Lettres
Physiques et Morales, has there also furnished us with the following
register of what had been found by sinking in that soil. It was at
Amsterdam at the year 1605 in making a well.

"Voici la designation des matieres qui furent trouvees en partant de la

  51 pieds, meles _de sable tourbeux_, de fable
  _des dunes pur_ et _d'argile_ ou

  22.---de meme _sable des dunes pur_,
  et _d'argile_ bleuatre.

  14.---du meme _sable_ pur.

  87 pieds.--Ou rien encore n'indiquoit la
  presence de la mer.

  55.---de _sable marin_, et _de limon_,
  meles l'un et l'autre de _coquilles_
  dans plusieurs couches.

  142 pieds.--Soit la plus grande profondeur,
  ou s'est manifestee la _presence_
  de la mer.

  49.---_Argille_ dure sans melange de
  coquilles, soit que ce soit une
  couche _argilleuse continentale,_
  ou les premiers depots des
  fleuves; ce qu'il est difficile de

  191 pieds.

  13.---Sable mele de pierres; qui est
  enfin surement le _sol_ vierge

  28.---Sable pur; continental encore;
  car j'ai remarque partout
  dans la _Geest_, que c'est
  dans la couche superieure, a
  une petite profondeur que se
  trouvent les pierres; au-dessous
  le _sable_ est pur.

  232 pieds.--C'est a cette profondeur, ou
  dans la masse de ces deux dernieres
  couches, que se trouva
  l'eau douce, et par consequent
  le vrai _sol continental_."

The light that we have from this pit which has been made in the soil,
according to my view of the subject, is this, that here is the depth of
232 feet in travelled soil, and no solid bottom found at this distance
from the surface or level of the sea. How far this depth may be from the
bottom of these travelled materials is unknown; but this is certain,
that all that depth, which has been sunk, had been filled up with those

[Footnote 13: An interesting map for the use of natural history would be
made by tracing the places (behind this country of loose or travelled
soil) where the solid strata appear above the level of the sea. We
should be thus able to form some notion of the quantity of materials
which had been deposited in the water of this sea. But, though we might
thus enlarge our views a little with regard to the transactions of time
past, it would only be in a most imperfect manner that we would thus
form a judgment; for, not knowing the quantity of sand and mud carried
out by the currents from the German sea into the Atlantic, we could only
thus perceive a certain minimum, which is perhaps a little portion of
the whole.]

It will thus appear of what unstable materials is composed the land of
that temporary country. It will also be evident, that, by removing
the sand banks of this coast, the whole of this low country would be
swallowed by the sea, notwithstanding every effort that the power of man
could make. But it may be alledged, that those sand banks are increasing
still with the alluvion of Germany, instead of being in a decreasing
state. I should also incline to believe that this is truly the case;
but, though we may acknowledge the growth of land upon the coast of
Holland, we must deny that a stable country can be formed in the bed of
the sea by such means. For, however increasing may be the sand in the
German sea, and however great additions may be made of habitable country
to the coast of Holland, yet, as the islands of Great Britain and
Ireland are worn by attrition on the shores, and are wasted by being
washed away into the ocean, the causes for the accumulation of sand in
the German sea must cease in time, when, in this progress of things, the
sand banks, on which depends the existence of Holland, must diminish,
and at last be swept away, in leaving the solid coast of Germany to be
again buffeted by the waves, as is at present the coasts of Ireland,
France, and Spain.

This reasoning is, indeed, very far removed from that which is commonly
employed for the purpose of conducting human operations, or establishing
the political system of a nation; it is not, however, the less
interesting to man, in that it cannot direct him immediately in his
worldly affairs; and it is the only way of reasoning that can be
employed in order to enlighten man with a view of those operations which
are not to be limited in time, and which are to be concluded as in the
system of nature, a system which man contemplates with much pleasure,
and studies with much profit.

Thus we have shown, that, from the top of the mountain to the shore of
the sea, which are the two extremities of our land, every thing is in
a state of change; the rock and solid strath dissolving, breaking, and
decomposing, for the purpose of becoming soil; the soil travelling along
the surface of the earth, in its way to the shore; and the shore wearing
and wasting by the agitation of the sea, an agitation which is essential
to the purposes of a living world. Without those operations, which wear
and waste the coast, there would not be wind and rain; and, without
those operations which wear and waste the solid land, the surface of the
earth would become sterile. But showers of rain and fertile soil are
necessarily required in the system of this world; consequently, the
dissolution of the rocks, and solid strata of the earth, and the
gradual, flow, but sure destruction of the present land, are operations
necessary in the system of this world; so far from being evils, they are
wisely calculated, in the system of nature, for the general good.


_The present Form of the Surface of the Earth
explained, with a View of the Operation of
Time upon our Land_.

It is not to _common_ observation that it belongs to see the effects of
time, and the operation of physical causes, in what is to be perceived
upon the surface of this earth; the shepherd thinks the mountain, on
which he feeds his flock, to have been always there, or since the
beginning of things; the inhabitant of the valley cultivates the soil as
his father had done, and thinks that this soil is coeval with the valley
or the mountain. But the man of scientific observation, who looks into
the chain of physical events connected with the present state of things,
sees great changes that have been made, and foresees a different state
that must follow in time, from the continued operation of that which
actually is in nature.

It is thus that enlightened natural history affords to philosophy
principles, from whence the most important conclusions may be drawn.
It is thus that a system may be perceived in that which, to common
observation, seems to be nothing but the disorderly accident of things;
a system in which wisdom and benevolence conduct the endless order of
a changing world. What a comfort to man, for whom that system was
contrived, as the only living being on this earth who can perceive it;
what a comfort, I say, to think that the Author of our existence
has given such evident marks of his good-will towards man, in this
progressive state of his understanding! What greater security can be
desired for the continuance of our intellectual existence,--an existence
which rises infinitely above that of the mere animal, conducted by
reason for the purposes of life alone.

The view of this interesting subject, which I had given in the first
part, published in the Transactions of the Edinburgh Royal Society, has
been seen by some men of science in a light which does not allow them,
it would appear, to admit of the general principle which I would thereby
endeavour to establish. Some contend that the rivers do not travel the
material of the decaying land;--Why?--because they have not seen all
those materials moved. Others alledge, that stones and rocks may be
formed upon the surface of the earth, instead of being there all in a
state of decay. These are matters of fact which it is in the power of
men who have proper observation to determine; it is my business
to generalise those facts and observations, and to bring them in
confirmation of a theory which is necessarily founded upon the decaying
nature and perishing state of all that appears to us above the surface
of the sea.

Nothing is more evident, than that the general effect of mineral
operations is to consolidate that which had been in an incoherent state
when formed at the bottom of the sea, and thus to produce those rocks
and indurated bodies which constitute the basis of our vegetable soil;
but, that indurating or consolidating operation is not the immediate
object of our observation; and, to see the evidence of that operation,
or the nature of that cause, requires a long chain of reasoning from the
most extensive physical principles. Our present subject of investigation
requires no such abstract distant _media_, by which the effect is to be
connected with its cause; the actual operation in general is the object
of our immediate observation; and here we have only to reason from
less to more, and not to homologate things which may, to men of narrow
principles, appear to be of different kinds. But even here we find
difficulty in persuading those who have taken unjust views of things;
for, those who will not deny the truth of every step in this chain of
reasoning, will deny the end to which it leads, merely because they
are not disposed to admit the progress of that order which appears in

In the last chapter, I have been using arguments to prove that M. de
Luc has reasoned erroneously, in concluding the future stability of a
continent; and I have been endeavouring to show that our continent
is necessarily wasted in procuring food to plants, or in serving the
various purposes of a system of living animals. We have now in view to
illustrate this theory of the degradation of the surface of the earth;
a theory necessarily leading to that system of the world in which a
provision is made for future continents; and a theory explaining various
natural appearances which otherwise are not to be understood. A door may
thus be opened for the investigation of natural history, particularly
that which traces back, from the present state of things, those
operations of nature which are more immediately connected with what we
take much pleasure to behold, viz. the surface of the earth stored with
such a variety of beautiful plants, and inhabited by such a diversity of
animals, all subservient to the use of man.

There are two ways in which we may look for the transactions of time
past, in the present state of things, upon the surface of this earth,
and read the operations of an ancient date in those which are daily
transacted under our eye. The one of these is to examine the soil, and
to trace the origin of that which we find loose upon the surface of the
earth, or only compacted by the soft and cohesive nature of some of its
materials. In thus studying the soil we shall learn the destruction of
the solid parts; and though, by this means, we cannot form an estimate
of the quantity of this destruction which had been made, we shall, upon
many occasions, see a certain _minimum_ of this quantity which may
perhaps astonish us.

The second method here proposed, is to examine the solid part of the
earth, in order to learn the quantity of matter which had been separated
from this mass. Here also we shall not be able to compute the quantity
of what had been destroyed; but we shall every where find a certain
_minimum_ of this quantity, which will give us an extensive view with
regard to the operation of the elements and seasons upon the surface of
this earth. We shall now examine more particularly those two ways of
judging with regard to the operations of time past, and the changes
which have been made upon the surface of our land, by those active
causes, which, being in the constitution of this earth, must continue to
operate with undiminished power, and tend to preserve the _whole_ amidst
the destruction of its particular parts.

The quality of the soil or travelled earth of the globe is various;
because the solid parts, from the destruction of which the soil is
formed, consist of very different substances, in the different portions
of each country. Thus, in one part of a country, the soil will be
calcareous, or containing much of that species of substance; in another,
again, it will be argillaceous; in another sandy, where the prevailing
substance is siliceous. These are the original soils; other substances
may be considered as adventitious to this soil, though natural to the
surface of the earth, which is covered with plants and animals. The
substance of those animal and vegetable bodies, mixed with the soil,
adds greater fertility to the earth, and gives a soil which is still
more compounded in its nature, but still composed of those materials now

We have been now supposing the solid parts below, or in the same field,
as furnishing materials of which the soil is formed; this soil then
partakes of the nature of those solid parts, whether more simple or
more compound. There is, however, another subject of variety, or still
greater composition in soils; this is the transportation of materials
from a distance; and this, in general, is performed by the ablution of
water, in following the declivity of the surface. But sand is sometimes
travelled by the wind, and proceeds along the surface of the earth,
without regard to the declivity, and changes the nature of soil in those
places which happen to be exposed to this accident.

There cannot be any extensive, great, or distant travelling of sand or
soil by means of the wind, except in those places which are sterile for
want of rain, and thus are destitute of rivers and of streams; for,
these running waters form every where a bar to this progressive movement
of the soil, even if the sterility or dryness should permit the blowing
of the sand. But the operation of streams and rivers, carrying soil and
stones along the surface of the earth, is constant, great, and general
over all the globe, so far as a superfluity of water, in the seasons of
rain, falls upon the earth.

From the amazing quantity of those far travelled materials, which in
many places are found upon the surface of the ground, we may with
certainty conclude, that there has been a great consumption of the
most hard and solid parts of the land; and therefore that there must
necessarily have been a still much greater destruction of the more soft
and tender substances, and the more light and subtile parts which,
during those operations of water, had been floated away into the sea.
This appears from the enormous quantities of stones and gravel which
have been transported at distances that seem incredible, and deposited
at heights above the present rivers, which renders the conveyance of
those bodies altogether inconceivable by any natural operation, or
impossible from the present shape of the surface. This therefore leads
us to conclude, that the surface of the earth must have been greatly
changed since the time of those deposits of certain foreign materials
of the soil. Examples of this kind have been already given. I shall now
give one from the Journal de Physique.

"Les bords du Rhone aux environs de Lyon, et sur la longueur de quarante
lieues, et de plus, des montagnes entieres, dans le meme pays, sont
formes de pierres dont on ne trouve les analogues que dans la Suisse. Ce
fait presqu'incomprehensible est accompagne de beaucoup de circonstances
qui meritent d'etre detaillees dans un discours plus longue que
celui-ci. Il y a cependant une que je ne peux pas m'empecher de
rapporter ici, comme une suite de ce que je viens de dire.

"Dans cette grand catastrophe, a laquelle j'attribue le transport de ces
matieres alpines, il se fit de grandes echancrures dans le Jura; les
plus profondes que j'aie vues sont celles de Jougue de Sainte-Croix,
du val de Mousthier Travers, de Someboz au val de Saint-Inver, une
cinquieme aux environs du village de Grange, trois lieues plus bas que
Bienne, et une sixieme a quatre a cinq lieues plus bas que Soleure,
a l'endroit dit la cluse. Cette derniere est la plus profonde, et se
trouve de niveau avec les eaux de l'Aar. Beaucoup de ces matieres
etrangeres au Jura, ont passe par ces echancrures, et sans doute, par
bien d'autres et se sont repandues, dans plusieurs de ces vallees. J'en
ai vu un suite bien marquee qui a passe par Jougue, par Saint-Antoine,
part Mont Perreux, les Grangettes, les Granges Friards, Oye, et qui est
allee jusqu'aux plaines de Pontarlier. Cette suite est en ligne droite
vis-a vis l'echancrure de Jougue, et la direction de la vallee qui est
au bas de ce village. On en trouve quelques morceaux a Metabiefs,
mais je n'en ai point vu aux Longevilles, ni a Roche-Jean. Il y en a
au-dessus de Saint-Croix ou d'autres ont pu passer aussi pour aller
de meme aux environs de Portarlier. Il y en a dans le val de
Mousthier-Travers jusqu'au dessus de village de Butte; elles ont meme
passe les roches de Saint-Sulpice du cote des Verrieres de Suisse, ou
l'on a ete oblige d'en faire sauter de gros blocs avec de la poudre pour
degager la grande route; il y en a dans les vallees de Tavannes, et de
Delemont; on en trouve bien plus loin, j'en ai vu pres de Roulans, et je
ne douterois pas que les pierres meulieres de Moissez et des environs
n'eussent la meme origine."

M. de Saussure, who has so well observed every thing that can be
perceived upon the surface of the earth, gives us the following remarks
which are general to mountainous countries. (Voyages dans les Alpes,
tome 2d Sec. 717).

"Dans le haut des vallees entourees de hautes montagnes, on ne voit
point de cailloux roulees, qui soient etrangers a la vallee meme dans
laquelle on les trouve; ceux que l'on y rencontre ne sont jamais que
les debris des montagnes voisines. Dans le plaines au contraire, et a
l'embouchure des vallees, qui aboutissent aux plaines et meme assez haut
sur les pentes des montagnes qui bordent ces plaines, on trouve des
cailloux et des blocs que l'on diroit tombes du ciel, tant leur nature
differe de toute ce que l'on voit dans les environs."

Here are facts which can only be explained in supposing that the valleys
have been hollowed out of the solid mass, by the gradual operation of
the rivers. In that case stones, travelled from a far, will be found at
considerable heights, upon the sides of the valleys at their under end,
or where, as our author says, they terminate in plains.

We have a striking example of the operation of time and the influences
of the atmosphere, in wasting the surface of the rocks, and forming soil
upon the earth; this is the kaolin of the Chinese, or the true porcelain
earth, which is the produce of granite countries. The feldspar of the
granite rock exposed to the atmosphere is corroded very slowly indeed,
by the effects of air and moisture, and in having the soluble earth or
calcareous part of its composition dissolved; the surface of this stone,
thus, in a long course of time, becomes opaque in having the white
siliceous earth exposed to view, and thus appears like a calcined
substance. The snows and rain detaches from this surface of the rock the
white earth, which being deposited in the plain below, forms a stratum
of kaolin more or less pure, according to the circumstance of the place.

As this operation of the atmosphere upon the surface of granite is so
extremely slow as to be altogether unmeasurable to man; and as there are
in many places of the earth inexhaustible quantities of this kaolin,
notwithstanding a small portion only of the ablution of the rock had
been retained upon the surface and deposited by itself, it must appear
that much time had been required for amassing those beds of kaolin, and
that these operations, which in the age of a continent is nothing, or
only as a day, are, with regard to the experience of man, unmeasurable.

For approbation of this theory, it is not necessary to show, that
wherever there is granite found, there should be also kaolin observed;
but it is necessary that wherever kaolin is found, there should be also
granite or feldspar to explain its origin; and to this proof the theory
is most willingly submitted. The following are the places which have
come to my knowledge. First Loch Dune in the shire of Ayr; this lake
receives its water from the granite hills which are at its head.
Secondly, some small lakes which receive the washings of the granite
mountain, Crifle, in East Galloway. Thirdly, Cornwall, a county in which
I have not been, but which is sufficiently known as possessing kaolin
and granite.

Another example from a very distant country we have both from M.
Pallas, in the Oural mountains, and from M. Patrin, who has given a
mineralogical _notice_ of the Douari, _Journal de physique, Mars_ 1791.
Here we find the following observation.

"Parmi les chose interessantes qu'offrent les rives de Chilea, on
remarque au dessous de la fonderie, des collines de petunt-fe blanc
comme la neige, parseme de mica argentin de la plus grande tenuite.
Dans le voisinage de ce petunt-fe est une argile micacee, qui en est
peut-etre une decomposition: on essaya en ma presence d'en faire de
la poterie qui avoit tous les caracteres du meilleurs biscuit de

We have now been endeavouring to illustrate the wasting and washing
away of the solid land, in the examples of decayed rocks and water worn
stones, all of which are traceable, though at a great distance, to their
source; we are now to consider another species of substance, which is
still more particular as to the place of its production, or to its
original situation, this being only in the veins of the earth. Among all
the various productions of mineral veins, we have only now in view
some particular metallic substances which do not seem to waste and be
dissolved, as many of them are, in being long exposed to the influence
of air and rain. When, therefore, the solid parts of the land are wasted
in time, and carried away from the surface of the earth, the contents of
the veins, which are occasionally found in those decayed parts of the
land, are also carried away in the stream; but as the specific gravity
of those metallic contents is much greater than the other stony
materials moved in the stream, they sink to the bottom, and tend much
more to be deposited upon the land, than those stones which had moved
with them from their place. Hence it is, that deposits, rich in those
metallic substances, are formed in certain places of the soil; and these
are sought for, upon account of the value of their contents. Thus,
stream tin, which in the time of the Romans formed a subject of traffic,
is still found in the soil of Cornwall, even in great profusion, at this

Nothing can tend more to illustrate this travelling of the wasted
surface of the solid land, than the contents of those mineral veins
suffering in the general destruction of things, but partly saved from
that total ablution by which so much of the solid parts had been made to
disappear; and nothing can, in a more beautiful manner, show this order
of things, than the method practised by the Cornish miners in quest of
the original country of that metal, by _shoding_, (as it is called)
upwards in running back the tract in which the stream tin had been
conveyed. This is done by trying parcels of the soil, in always mounting
to see from whence the mineral below had come.

Gold is thus found almost in every country but it is only in the most
sparing manner that it may thus be in general procured, by reason of the
few veins in which gold is found, and the small quantity of this metal
contained in those veins. America, however, affords an example of veins
rich in gold, and it is also there that quantities of stream gold is
found in the soil, bearing a due proportion to the number and riches of
the veins.

I shall give an example concerning the situation in which this stream
gold is found in Peru (Voyage au Perou, par M. Bouguer, page 49.)

"Cette Cordeliere occidentale contient beaucoup d'or de meme que le pied
de l'orient, et celui d'une autres chaine tres-longue qui s'en detache
un peu au sud de Popayan, et qui apres avoir passe par Santa Fe de
Bogota, et par Merida, va se terminer vers Caracas sur la mer du nord;
outre que l'or en paillettes occupe toujours des postes assez bas a
l'egard du reste de la Cordeliere, on ne peut aussi jamais le decouvrir
qu'en enlevant presque toujours deux couches de differentes terres qui
le cachent. La premiere, qui est de la terre ordinaire, a trois ou
quatre pieds d'epaisseur et quelquefois dix ou douze. On trouve souvent
au dessous une couche moins epaisse qui tire sur le jaune, et plus bas
est une troisieme qui a une couleur violette, qui a souvent trois ou
quatre pieds d'epaisseur, mais qui n'a aussi quelquefois qu'un pouce, et
c'est cette troisieme dans laquelle l'or est mele. Au dessous la terre
change encore de couleur, elle devient noire comme a la surface du
sol, et elle ne contient aucun metal. D'ailleurs on ne creuse pas
indistinctement par tout. On se determine a chercher en certains
endroits plutot qu'en d'autres par la pente de terrain. On agit comme
si l'or avant que d'avoir ete couvert par les deux couches superieures,
avoit ete charrie par des eaux courantes. On s'est assure aussi que
les terres une fois _lavees_ ou depouillee de leurs richesses n'en
produisent point d'autres; ce qui prouve que l'or y avoit ete comme

Therefore, whether we consider the quantity or the quality of the
materials which are found composing the soil upon the surface of the
earth, we must be led to acknowledge an immense waste of the solid
parts, in procuring those relicts which indicate what had been

We have now to examine what is left of that solid part which had
furnished the materials of our soil; this is the part which supports the
vegetable or travelled earth, and this earth sustains the plants and
animals which live upon the globe. It is by this solid part that we are
to judge concerning the operations of time past; of those destructive
operations by which so great a portion of the earth had been wasted and
carried away, and is now sunk at the bottom of the sea.

Man first sees things upon the surface of the earth no otherwise than
the brute, who is made to act according to the mere impulse of his sense
and reason, without inquiring into what had been the former state of
things, or what will be the future. But man does not continue in that
state of ignorance or insensibility to truth; and there are few of those
who have the opportunity of enlightening their minds with intellectual
knowledge, that do not wish at some time or another to be informed of
what concerns the whole, and to look into the transactions of time past,
as well as to form some judgment with regard to future events.

It is only from the examination of the present state of things that
judgments may be formed, in just reasoning, concerning what had been
transacted in a former period of time; and it is only by seeing what had
been the regular course of things, that any knowledge can be formed of
what is afterwards to happen; but, having observed with accuracy
the matter of fact, and having thus reasoned as we ought, without
supposition or misinformation, the result will be no more precarious
than any other subject of human understanding. To those who thus
exercise their minds, the following remarks may furnish a subject for
some speculation. Now, though to human policy it imports not any thing,
perhaps, to know what alterations time had made upon the form and
quantity of this earth, divided into kingdoms, states, or empires,
or what may become of this continent long after every kingdom now
subsisting is forgotten, it much concerns the present happiness of man
to know himself, to see the wisdom of that system which we ascribe to
nature, and to understand the beauty and utility of those objects which
he sees.

There are two different operations belonging to the surface of this
globe which we are now to consider, and by which we shall be enabled
to form some computation of what had been in space and time, from that
which now appears. Moving water is the means employed in both those
operations; but, in the one case, it is the water of the sea; in
the other again, it is the water of the land. The effect of the one
operation is the wasting of the coast, and the diminution of that basis
on which our land and soil depends; of the other, again, it is the
degradation of our mountains, and the wasting of our soil. In the course
of this last operation, there is also occasionally land formed in the
sea, in addition to our coast.

With regard to the wearing of the coast by the agitation of the waves,
this is an operation of which some understanding is to be formed from
the surest of all records, from a careful examination of our shores
which are in this decaying state, and by observing what has been removed
from those portions which we find remaining. Few people have either the
skill or the opportunity of thus judging of the state of our earth from
that which actually appears; but there is no person, who studies this
science of geology, that may not satisfy himself with regard to the
truth of this theory, by looking into our maps and charts, and making
proper allowances for causes which cannot appear in the maps, but which
may be understood by a person of knowledge making observations on the
spot. In order to assist this study, the following observations may be

It is a general observation among mariners, that a high coast and rocky
shore have deep water; whereas a low coast, and sandy shore, are as
naturally attended with shallow water. The explanation of this fact will
appear by considering, that a steep rocky coast is occasioned by the sea
having worn away the land; and, when that is the case, we are not to
expect sand should be accumulated upon that shore, so as to make the sea
shallow. Look round all the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland that are
exposed to the wide ocean, as likewise those of France and Norway, deep
water, and a worn coast, are universally to be acknowledged. If again
the coast is shallow, this is a proof that the land affords more
materials than the sea can carry away; consequently, instead of being
impaired, the coast may here increase and be protruded from the land.
Such is the case in many places along the coast of North America, where
several reasons concur in accumulating sand upon that coast; for, not
only is the shore plentifully provided with sand from the rivers of that
continent, but also the sand of the Mexican Gulf would appear to be
carried along this coast with the stream which flows here towards the
north, and which has thus contributed to form the banks of Newfoundland.

The second general observation is to be considered as respecting
the shape of coasts, in like manner as the first had in view their
elevations. Now, it is plain that the shape of the coast, in any part of
the land, must depend upon a combination of two different causes. The
first of these is the composition of the land or solid parts of the
coast; if this be uniform and regular, so will be the shape of the
coast; if it is irregular and mixed, consisting of parts of very
different degrees of hardness and resistance to the wasting operations,
the coast will then be, _cet. par._ irregular and indented. The second,
again, respects the wearing power. If this wearing power shall be
supposed to be equally applied to all the coast; and, if every part of
that coast were of an equal quality or resisting power, no explanation
could be given, from the present state of things, for the particular
shape of that coast, which ought then to be wasted in an equable manner
by the sea. But neither is the coast, of any extensive country at least,
composed of such uniform materials; nor is the application of the
wearing power to the coast an equal thing; and this will form the
subject of another observation. The third general observation,
therefore, regards the operations of the sea upon the coast, and the
effects which may be perceived in consequence of that cause, independent
of the qualities of the coast, or supposing them in general to be alike.
Here, according to the theory, we should expect to find deep water and
an indented coast upon a country, in proportion as that coast is exposed
to the violence of the sea, or is open directly to the ocean. We have
but to look along the west coast of Norway, the north-west of Scotland,
the west of Ireland, and the south-west of England and of France; and we
shall soon be convinced that the sea has made ravages upon those coasts
in proportion to its power, and has left them in a shape corresponding
to the composition of the land, in destroying the softer, and leaving
the harder parts[14].

[Footnote 14: M. de Lamblardie, _ingenieur des ponts et chaussees_, has
made a calculation, seemingly upon good grounds, with regard to the
wasting of a part of the coast of France, between the Seine and the
Somme. This coast is composed of _falaises_, (or chalk cliffs, like the
opposite coast of England), which are 200 feet high above the level of
the sea, composed of strata of marl, separated by beds of flint. This
coast is found to be wasted, at an average, at the rate of one foot _per
annum_. We may thus perhaps form some idea of the time since the coast
of France and that of England had been here united, or one continued
mass of those strata which are the same on both those coasts.]

With those hard and rugged coasts of Britain and Ireland, let us
contrast the east coasts; What a difference between these and the west
side! Upon the west side, there are no sand banks left upon the coast;
the mariner has nothing there to fear but rocks. It is otherwise on the
east; here we find a tamer coast, and, in many places, a sandy bottom.
On the west, nothing appears opposed to the storm of the ocean except
the hardest and most solid rock; on the east, we find coasts exposed
to the sea which could not have remained in a similar situation on the
west. Let us but compare the two opposite coasts of England, viz. the
promontory of Norfolk and Suffolk upon the one side, and Pembrokeshire
and Carnarvonshire on the other, both similarly exposed, the one to the
north east storm of the German sea, the other to the south west billows
of the Atlantic. What a striking difference! The coast in the bay of
Cardigan is a hard and strong coast compared with that of Norfolk and
Suffolk; the one is strong schistus, the other the most tender clay;
yet the soft coast stands protuberant to the sea, the harder coast is
hollowed out into a bay; the one has no protection but the sands with
which it is surrounded, the other had not remained till this day but
for the protection of the most solid rocks of Pembrokeshire and
Carnarvonshire, which oppose the fury of the waves.

The last general observation which I shall propose, has, for its
subject, a more enlarged view than those now taken of the coast, a view
indeed which is not so immediately the object of our observation, but
which is nevertheless to be made most evident, by means of the others
now considered. We have seen that the land exposed to the sea is
destroyed, and the coast wasted more or less, in proportion to the
wearing causes, and to the different resisting powers opposed to those
causes of decay; we are now to make our observations with regard to the
extent and quality of that which has been already destroyed, a subject
which can only be conjectured at from the scientific view which may be
taken of things, and from the careful examination of that which has been
left behind upon the different coasts.

Our land is wasted by the sea; and there is also a natural progress to
be observed which necessarily takes place on this occasion; for, the
coast is found variously indented, that is to say, more or less,
according as the land is exposed to this wasting and wearing operation
of the sea, and according as the wasted land is composed of parts
resisting with different degrees of power the destroying cause. The
land, thus being worn and wasted away, forms here and there peninsulas,
which are the more durable portions of that which had been destroyed
around; and these remaining portions are still connected with the main
land, of which they at present form a part.

But those promontories and peninsulas are gradually detached from the
main land, in thus forming islands, which are but little removed from
the land. An example of this we have in Anglesay, which is but one
degree removed from the state of being a promontory. These islands
again, in being subdivided, are converted into barren rocks, which point
out to us the course in which the lost or wasted land upon the coast had
formerly existed.

To be satisfied of this, let us but look upon the western coast of
Scotland; from the islands of St. Kilda to Galloway, on the one side,
and to Shetland on the other; in this tract, we have every testimony,
for the truth of the doctrine, that is consistent with the nature of the
subject. The progress of things is too slow to admit of any evidence
drawn immediately from observation; but every other proof is at hand;
every appearance corresponds with the theory; and of every step in the
progress, from a continent of high land to the point of a rock sunk
below the surface of the sea, abundant examples may be found. We do not
see the beginning and ending of any one island or piece of country,
because the operation is only accomplished in the course of time, and
the experience of man is only in the present moment. But man has science
and reason, in order to understand what has already been from what
appears; and we have but to open our eyes to see all the stages of the
operation although not in one individual object. Now, where the nature
of things will not admit of having all and every step of the progress
to be perceived in one object, an indefinite progression in the various
states of different objects, showing the series or gradation from a
continent to a rock, must form a proof in which no deficiency will be

I have given for example the coast of Scotland; but all over the world
where there is a coast not covered with sand, or where it is exposed to
the violence of the sea, it is the same. Take the map of any country,
provided it be sufficiently particular, and you will see the breaking of
continents or islands, first, into promontories or peninsulas; secondly,
into islands which stand on the same solid basis with the continent;
and, lastly, into rocks which are related to the islands, in like manner
as those parasitical islands are related to the head lands and the
shore. Here is a general fact, from the simple inspection of which we
must conclude one of two things; either that those rocks and smaller
islands, which we have termed parasitical, are in a state of
progression, by which in time they will be joined to the main land, and
form one continent; or that they are in a state of degradation, by which
in time they will be made to disappear. There is no other supposition to
be made; and, of that alternative, there is no room to hesitate a moment
which to choose. This is not a matter of mere probability, it is the
subject of physical demonstration. Should we find an old manuscript in a
similar condition, we could not conclude with more certainty, that
the deficient or intervening places had been destroyed, than we here
conclude that the part which is now wanting, between the two remaining
portions of the same rock or strata, had once connected those two
portions, and had been destroyed by the operation of those causes which
are every day employed in still increasing the breach.

Though over all the world, where the shore is washed bare by the sea,
examples are to be found which require but to be seen to give compleat
conviction, it is not in every place that the eye of a naturalist has
been employed in taking this view of the coast; nor is it upon every
occasion that enlightened philosophers of this kind have given their
thoughts upon the subject. M. de Spallanzani has given us the following
observations with regard to the coast of Italy[15].

[Footnote 15: Observations sur la Physique, etc. Juliet 1786.]

"Autant l'interieur du petit bourg de Porto-venere et les rochers qui
l'environnent sont a l'abri des tempetes, autant les parties exterieures
sont exposees aux coups de mer les plus violens, lorsqu'elles sont
en proie au deux terribles vents d'Afrique et a celui du sud-est. Ce
dernier en particulier souleve les flots avec tant de violence et a
une telle hauteur contre les ecueils qui servent de defense a ce petit
terrain, que la mer semble menacer de l'engloutir. J'ai ete le temoin
d'un de ces orages, et quoique je fusse a l'abri de tout danger, je ne
pourroit vous representer l'horreur que me fit eprouver ce spectacle.
J'ai voulu prendre avec exactitude la hauteur moyenne de l'elevation des
flots dans les plus violens coups de vent; et quand je vous en parlerai
vous serez etonne de leur force et de l'etendue de leurs effets. Les
rochers qui sont a la partie meridionale de Porto-venere se rongent et
se detruisent peu-a-peu de meme que les trois isles voisines _Tiro_, le
_petit Tiro_, et _Palmarin_. On le remarque surtout dans cette dernier:
les bords voisins de la terre ont une pente douce; ils sont couverts
d'arbres et de plantes, tandis que la partie opposee est deserte et
inaccessible couverte de precipices, de ruines et d'horreurs; les autres
parties du rivage sont renfermees par la riviere du ponent et par celle
du levant, de meme que celles qui s'approchent des cotes de Provence. Il
me paroit que la mer a beaucoup gagne sur le terre dans ces parages;
et pour parler seulement de Palmarin, la plus grande, et la plus
remarquable des trois isles que j'ai nommees, je crois etre suffisamment
fonde pour conclure que la meme pente facile et longue qu'on observe du
cote de la terre avoit aussi existe du cote de la mer; mais que cette
derniere avoit ete detruite par les orages, qui se sont succedes pendant
le cours de siecles. La vue reflechie de ces trois isles me force a les
regarder comme ayant ete autre fois reunies, et formant une isle
seule par leur reunion, ou plutot comme une presqu'ile attenante a

We have a still more interesting observation made upon this same coast
of Italy, by a naturalist to whom the world is much indebted for his
excellent remarks upon what he has, by his great industry, brought to
light. I mean the Chevalier de Dolomieu; where-ever he goes, natural
history reaps the benefit of the most enlightened observations. We are
now to avail ourselves of his Memoire sur les Iles Ponces.

The pumice islands form part of a chain of land that may be traced
forming a circular line from the cape Missene to the mount Circello at
the other side of the Gulf of Gaeta. The islands of Ischia and Procida,
which form part of this chain of land, might, from the inspection of the
map, be allowed as having once formed a continuation of the land from
the continent of Italy, even without the testimony of natural history,
that traces this connection from the materials of those masses which now
are separated.

The pumice islands form the middle part of that chain, and are the
farthest removed from that continent of which it is probable they once
formed a part. They are connected with the promontory of Missene on the
one hand, as being of the same or similar volcanic origin, and on the
other with mount Circello, by a curious circumstance in the island
Zanone, which, but a little more of the devouring operation of the sea,
would have concealed from our observation.

The island of Ventotiene, which is the nearest of them to Ischia, would
appear to be the ancient island of Pendataria, in which Julia was
confined. The marks of degradation in this island, I would wish to give
in the Chevalier's own words, (p. 52.)

"Cette isle continue a etre devoree par la mer, elle l'attaque dans
toutes les parties de son contour, ou elle trouve peu de resistance, et
elle ne cesse de creuser, principalement, tous les escarpemens du nord.
Il paroit, par les vestiges des antiquites qui sont sur la pointe dite
_di Nevola_, que sous l'Empire de Cesar cette isle avoit encore une
etendue plus considerable. Il s'y fait journellement des eboulemens; on
peut prevoir qu'elle diminuera progressivement, qu'elle se divisera, et
que dans les temps a venir elle sera reduite aux rochers de laves qui la
supportent, et qui seuls peuvent resister, pendant une longue suite de
siecles, a tous les efforts des flots; ce ne sera surement pas la seule
terre que le temps et la mer auront devoree, et que les vicissitudes de
la nature ont fait disparoitre avant que l'histoire en ait pu constater

As the island of Ventotiene connects this group of the pumice islands
with the continent of Missene, that of Zanone, on the other side,
connects them with the continent at mount Circello. Here is a fact of
which our author now gives proper evidence.

It would appear that Mount Circello is composed of an alpine limestone.
But in the north end of the island of Zanone, the Chevalier de Dolomieu
finds a small part of a similar limestone in vertical strata,
closely united with the volcanic materials of the islands now under
consideration. It is impossible that this portion of calcareous rock
could be formed in its present situation, and we have but to examine
nature in order to be convinced that this limestone part had been once
continued from Mount Circello. Here again I beg leave to give this
author's own words, (page 141.)

"Cette reunion de deux matieres aussi differentes par leur origine que
le font celles qui forment l'Isle Zanone, est une circonstance des plus
singuliers. La pierre calcaire ne contient point de coquillages; sa
densite sa durete; son odeur fetide annonce une origine ancienne; elle
n'est point formee par un depot de nouvelle date; elle differe des
pierres calcaires-coquilliere qui recouvrent les volcans du Padouan et
du Vicentin, et de celles qui se sont meles avec les produits du feu
dans les volcans eteintes de la Sicile: les laves ici reposent sur elle:
elle paroit donc anterieure a l'epoque des irruptions qui ont eleve
les isles ponces. Par sa nature elle est semblable aux pierres du Mont
Circe, et a celles de l'interieure de l'Apennin; il semble que cette
portion de montagne calcaire, abstraction faite des matieres volcaniques
qui lui sont reunies, a appartenu a quelqu'unes des montagnes qui
dependent de la chaine qui traverse l'Italie; car il n'est pas possible
que ni elle ni le Mont Circe ayent ete formes seules et isoles ainsi
que nous les voyons. Mais quand ont-ils ete detachees? etoient-ils deja
isoles lorsque les feux ont commence la formation des isles ponces? ou
seroit-ce la meme revolution qui les auroit separes du continent, et qui
a opere le desordre que nous voyons dans ces isles volcanique? On ne
peut former sur toutes ces questions que des conjectures bien vagues."

Our present inquiry is only with regard to the operation of those causes
which we now perceive to be acting upon the coasts of the land; which
must be considered as having been operating for a long time back, and
which must be considered as continuing to operate. One example more
I wish to give, not only as it is much to the purpose, and properly
described, but because it contains the natural history of a coast well
known from the circumstance of the Giant's Causeway which it contains;
a coast composed of stratified chalk indurated and consolidated to a
species of marble or lime-stone, and of great masses of basaltes or
columnar whin-stone. Now, though our present object is not the formation
of land, yet, knowing the mineral constitution of this land, the coast
of which we are considering as having been worn by the action of the
sea, the view here to be given, of the white marble and basaltic cliffs,
is satisfactory in the highest degree. It is from Letters concerning
the Northern Coast of the County of Antrim, by the Reverend William
Hamilton, A. M.

"The chalky cliffs of the island of Raghery, crowned by a venerable
covering of brown rock, form a very beautiful and picturesque appearance
as one sails towards them; and, if the turbulence of the sea does not
restrain the eyes and fancy from expatiating around, such a striking
similitude appears between this and the opposite coast, as readily
suggests an idea that the island might once have formed a part of the
adjoining country, from whence it has been disunited by some violent
shock of nature.

"You, to whom demonstration is familiar, will wonder to see two shores,
seven or eight miles asunder, so expeditiously connected by such a
slender and fanciful middle term as apparent similitude; and yet the
likeness is so strong, and attended with such peculiar circumstances,
that I do not entirely despair of prevailing even on you to acknowledge
my opinion as a probable one.

"It does not appear unreasonable to conclude, that, if two pieces of
land, separated from each other by a chasm, be composed of the same kind
of materials, similarly arranged, at equal elevations, these different
lands might have been originally connected, and the chasm be only
accidental. For, let us conceive the materials to be deposited by any of
the elements of fire, air, earth, or water, or by any cause whatever,
and it is not likely that this cause (otherwise general) should in all
its operations regularly stop short at the chasm.

"The materials of which the island of Raghery is composed are accurately
the same as those of the opposite shore; and the arrangement answers so
closely, as almost to demonstrate, at first view, their former union.
But to explain this more clearly, it will be necessary to give you a
general sketch of this whole line of coast.

"The northern coast of Antrim seems to have been originally a compact
body of lime-stone rock, considerably higher than the present level
of the sea; over which, at some later period, extensive bodies of
vitrifiable stone have been superinduced in a state of softness. The
original calcareous stratum appears to be much deranged and interrupted
by those incumbent masses. In some places it is depressed greatly below
its ancient level; shortly after it is borne down to the water's edge,
and can be traced under its surface. By and by it dips entirely, and
seems irretrievably lost under the superior mass. In a short space,
however, it begins to emerge, and, after a similar variation, recovers
its original height.

"In this manner, and with such repeated vicissitudes of elevation and
depression, it pursues a course of forty miles along the coast from
Lough Foyle to Lough Larne.

"It naturally becomes an object of curiosity to inquire what the
substance is from which the lime-stone seems thus to have shrunk,
burying itself (as it were in terror) under the covering of the ocean:
And, on examination, it appears to be the columnar basaltes, under which
the lime-stone stratum is never found; nor indeed does it ever approach
near to it without evident signs of derangement.

"Thus, for example, the chalky cliffs may be discovered a little
eastward from Portrush; after a short course, they are suddenly
depressed to the water's edge, under Dunluce Castle, and, soon after,
lost entirely in passing near the basalt-hill of Dunluce, whose craigs,
near the sea, are all columnar. At the river Bush the lime-stone
recovers, and skims a moment above the level of the sea, but immediately
vanishes in approaching towards the great basalt promontory of Bengore,
under which it is completely lost for the space of more than three

"Eastward from thence, beyond Dunsaverock Castle, it again emerges, and,
rising to a considerable height, forms a beautiful barrier to White
Park Bay and the Ballintoy shore. After this it suffers a temporary
depression near the basalt hill of Knocksoghy, and then ranges along the
coast as far as Ballycastle Bay.

"Fairhead, standing with magnificence on its massy columns of basaltes,
again exterminates it; and once again it rises to the eastward, and
pursues its devious course, forming, on the Glenarm shores, a line of
coast the most fantastically beautiful that can be imagined.

"If this, tedious expedition have not entirely worn out your patience,
let us now take a view of the coast of Ragery itself, from the lofty
summit of Fairhead, which overlook it. Westward we see its white cliff
rising abruptly from the ocean, corresponding accurately in materials
and elevation with those of the opposite shore, and like them, crowned
with a venerable load of the same vitrifiable rock. Eastward, we behold
it dip to the level of the sea, and soon give place to many beautiful
arrangements of basalt pillars which form the eastern end of the island,
and lie opposite to the basaltes of Fairhead, affording in every part a
reasonable presumption that the two coasts were formerly connected,
and that each was created and deranged by the same causes extensively
operating over both.

"But it is not in these larger features alone that the similitude may be
traced; the more minute and accidental circumstances serve equally well
to ascertain it.

"Thus, an heterogeneous mass of freestone, coals, iron-ore, etc. which
forms the east side of Ballycastle Bay, and appears quite different from
the common fossils of the country, may be traced also directly opposite,
running under Rathlin, with circumstances which almost demonstrably
ascertain it to be the same vein.

"What I would infer from hence is, that this whole coast has undergone
considerable changes; that those abrupt promontories, which now run
wildly into the ocean, in proud defiance of its boisterous waves, have
been rendered broken and irregular by some violent convulsion of nature;
and that the island of Ragery, standing as it were in the midst between
this and the Scottish coast, may be the surviving fragment of a large
tract of country which, at some period of time, has been buried in the

Besides this argument of the gradation from a continent of land to
a bare rock, we have another from the consideration of those rocks
themselves, so far as these could not be formed by nature in their
present state, but must have been portions of a greater mass. How, for
example, could a perpendicular mountain, such as St. Kilda, have been
produced in the ocean? Of whatever materials we shall suppose it formed,
we never shall find means for the production of such a mass in its
present insulated state. Let us take examples of this kind near our
coast, and of known rocks. Staffa and Ailsa, on the west coast, and the
Bass, upon the east, are mountains of either whin-stone or granite,
similar to many such mountains within the land; and they are
perpendicular around, except perhaps on one part. It is demonstrable
that such basaltic rock as contains zeolite and calcareous spar, as most
of our whin-stones do, could not have been the eruption of a volcano,
consequently those rocks must have been masses protruded in a fluid
state, under an immense cover of earth at the time of their production;
and they could not have risen immediately out of the sea, with all their
various minerals, their veins and cutters, their faces and their angles.

In like manner, the east coast of Caithness is a perpendicular cliff
of sand-stone, lying in a horizontal position, and thus forming a flat
country above the shore. But along this coast there are small islands,
pillars, and peninsulas, of the same strata, corresponding perfectly
with that which forms the greater mass. Now, shall we suppose those
strata of sand-stone to have been formed in their place, and to have
reached no farther eastward into the sea?--It is unsupposable. Or, shall
we conceive that the sea, which has made such depredations in land
composed of much more solid materials, had spared this, and had
not wasted much more than that now pointed out by the ruins which
remain?--Impossible; we must suppose that there had once existed much
land where nothing now is found but sea. But, if we are to suppose much
to have been wasted, where shall we stop in this process of restoring
continents? That is the question now to be discussed.

With this view, let us now turn our attention to the north-west coast of
Europe, in consulting the general as well as the most particular maps.
Upon the one extremity of Britain, we find Cornwall separating it as it
were from the main land; and, from this promontory, the Scilly Isles
pointing out what had been destroyed in that direction, which is here to
be considered as the line of greatest resistance. But what a quantity
of the soft materials, or less resisting parts on either side, has been
destroyed! Upon the other extremity of Britain, we find the country
of Scotland, forming itself into promontories and islands, and those
islands and rocks pointing out to us what had been the former extent
of our continent and land around. But, in following this connection of
things, we cannot refuse to acknowledge that Ireland had formerly been
in one mass of land with Britain, in like manner as the Orkneys had been
with Scotland[16].

[Footnote 16: I have the most satisfactory evidence of this fact, in
finding the schistus of Galloway and of England in the opposite coast of
Ireland, corresponding to its direction in stretching from the coasts of

It will be still less possible to refuse the junction of England with
the continent of France; the testimony of that peculiar body of chalk
and flint, which borders each of those opposite coasts, forms an
argument which is irrefragable. Now, in order to complete our continent,
we have only to connect the Shetland islands with the coast of Norway.
But this is a notion which, however probable it may appear, is not
proposed as a fact immediately supported by natural appearances; it is
only to be considered as an enlarged view in which we may contemplate
the operations of this earth upon a more extended scale; one which
may be conceived as a step in our cosmogeny, and one which, while it
illustrates the theory of the earth already given, is by no means
required in order to confirm a theory founded upon appearances which
leave no manner of doubt.


_The Theory Illustrated, with a View of the
Summits of the Alps._

There are two different directions in which we may observe the
destruction of our land to proceed; in the one of these, the basis of
our continent is diminished by the incroachment of the sea; in the
other, again, it is the height of the land above the level of the sea
that is lowered. We have been considering the incroachment of the sea
upon the continent; let us now examine how far there may also appear
sufficient documents, by which we may be led to conclude a long progress
in time past, for the destruction of the solid mass of earth above the
sea, without diminishing its basis.

If we shall suppose this earth composed of horizontal strata, and of
one level surface, without the least protuberance remaining by which we
might be informed of what had been removed by time in the operation of
second causes, we should be ignorant of every thing of cosmogeny but
this, That the strata of the globe had been originally formed (by the
sea) in the same shape as we had found them on the surface of the land.
But this is not the shape of the surface of our continent: We have every
where abundance of eminences, sufficient to give us great information
with regard to what had passed in former periods of time, if the strata
of the globe were in that regular shape which they had originally
assumed in being deposited at the bottom the sea.

The strata, however, are not in that regular shape and position from
whence we might learn, by examining the remaining portions, what had
been carried away from the surface in general; they are found variously
inclined to the horizon; and this we find both occasioned from the
fracture and flexure of those bodies, thus changed from their natural
horizontal state. Thus, though there are in many places immense masses
of strata cut off abruptly, and exposed to view, without the remainder
appearing, we cannot from hence form any estimate of the general
quantity of destruction; at the same time, it must be evident, from a
general inspection, that there has been an immense quantity removed;
and that an immense time had been required in bringing about those
revolutions of things, which are not done by violent changes, but by
slow degrees.

Besides that general conclusion with regard to the destruction of the
strata, there is also in many places a demonstration of that fact, from
a measured minimum of the quantity which had been removed. It is to the
mining business chiefly that we are indebted for that demonstration of
which we now shall give an example.

The coal strata, about Newcastle upon Tyne, dip to the south-east at the
rate of one in twelve, or thereabouts. This is but little removed from
the horizontal position; at the same time, the strata come all up to the
soil or surface in a country which is level, or with little risings. But
in those strata there is a slip, or hitch, which runs from north-east to
south-west, for 17 or 18 miles in a straight line; the surface on each
side of this line is perfectly equal, and nothing distinguishable in
the soil above; but, in sinking mines, the same strata are found at
the distance of 70 fathoms from each other. Here therefore is a
demonstration, that there had been worn away, and removed into the sea,
70 fathoms more from the country on the one side of this line, than from
that on the other. It is far from having given us all the height of
country which has been washed away, but it gives us a minimum of that

The examination of what is commonly called a secondary country is not
sufficient to give us an idea of the immense operation of time in
wearing the surface of this earth. It is not that those countries of
inferior hardness and elevation have been spared in the course of
time, but because we have not, in those levelled countries, such great
remainders, by which we are to judge the quantity of what is lost. In
the alpine country, again, though it be the same system of things with
that which takes place in the lower country, the revolution of things
is more marked for our view; and the ravages of time, in destroying
the solid parts of the globe, in order to make soil of that which is
removed, may be seen in all the steps of that important operation;
whereas, in the more level countries, the scale of elevation is
imperceptible, and that of time is so slow as renders our examination
fruitless. It is the Alps, therefore, chiefly that we are to take for an
example, in tracing this operation of nature upon the surface of this
earth, and forming some idea of the course of time that must have
flowed during that operation in which the height of our land had been

On whatever side we approach the Alps, we find some great river
discharging the waters which had been gathered above, and with that
water all the waste of earth and stone which had been made among those
lofty masses of decaying rock. Now, we find this river running in a
valley proportioned, in general, to this vehicle, in which is travelled
the wreck of ruinous mountains. Spacious plains attend those mighty
streams; and, tho' sometimes we find the greatest rivers much confined
between approaching hills of solid rock, the valley opens again, and,
on the whole, is always corresponding to the current of water which has
successively run in all the quarters of this plain. Here a question
occurs; Has this valley been made by the operation of the river itself,
or has it been the effect of other causes? Let us now resolve that

If the valley was made for the river by any other natural cause, either
we should tell by what means this work had been performed, or all
reasoning upon the subject is at an end, and fancy substituted in its
place. If again the river be considered as the means employed by nature
in making this valley, then all the solid parts between the bounding
mountains must have been removed, and the fertile plains must have been
formed by the water depositing those materials which we find in the
soil, and which had come originally from the solid mountains. There is
no occasion to enter into any argument to prove this fact; nobody that
examines the matter will find any reason to doubt; and it would be as
unreasonable for those to doubt who have not examined, as for those who
find no reasonable subject of doubt to disbelieve.

We are now to suppose the great river to have formed the valley and
extensive plain in which the water runs,--a valley corresponding to the
grandeur of the river by which it has been formed. But, as we ascend
this great valley, we find other valleys branching from this main
valley; and, in all those subordinate valleys, we find rivers
corresponding in like manner with the magnitude of the valley. Here,
therefore, is infinitely more than a single river, and a valley
corresponding to the river; here is a _system_ of rivers and of valleys,
things calculated in perfect wisdom, or properly adapted to each other.

Now it is just as easy, by our theory, to explain this system of rivers
and valleys, as it is to understand the single appearance of a river
and a valley. But it is only in this manner that such a complicated
operation, of a series in rivers and their valleys, is to be explained;
and we can neither suppose the land to be formed with this intention by
a supernatural cause, nor imagine any other natural cause so arranging
things, upon the surface of the earth, as to form this perfect system,
which holds of nothing but itself; a system in which is manifested
wisdom, so far as all the parts are properly adapted to each other, and
thus made to answer that intention which is so visible in the economy of
this world.

The direction of the principal valleys of the Alps, or every mountainous
region of the globe, may be considered as proceeding from the centre of
that region to the plain country in which each river is to terminate;
each secondary river with its valley then branches from the primary as
from a stem, consequently runs in a direction perpendicular or inclined
to the other. But the secondary rivers also have their branches; and
subordinate branches still are branched. In thus tracing rivers and
their branchings, we come at last to rivulets that only run in times of
rain, and at other times are dry. It is here I would wish to carry my
reader, in order to be convinced, with his proper observation, of this
great fact,--that the rivers, in general, have hollowed out their

The changes of the valley of the main river are but slow, the plain
indeed is wasted in one place, but it is repaired in another, and we do
not perceive the place from whence that repairing matter had proceeded.
Therefore, that which here appears does not immediately suggest to the
spectator what had been the state of things before the valley had been
hollowed out, or before that plain, through which the river runs so
naturally as being in the lowest place, was made. But it is otherwise in
the valley of the rivulet; no person can examine this subject without
seeing that the rivulet carries away matter which cannot be repaired
except by wearing away some part of the mountain, or the surface of that
place upon which the rain, which forms the stream, is gathered. In those
rivulets, or their little plains, we see the detached parts remaining
in the soil, and also the place from whence those detached parts were
taken. Here we need no long chain of reasoning from effect to cause;
the whole operation is in a manner before our eyes. In this case, it
requires but little study to replace the removed parts; and thus to see
the work of nature, resolving the most hard and solid masses by the
continued influences of the sun and atmosphere. In this state of things,
we are easily made to understand how heavy bodies are travelled along
the declivity of the earth, by means of water running from the height.

Such is the system of rivers and their valleys; nor is there upon the
continent a spot on which some river has not run. But, in the Alps of
Switzerland and Savoy, there is another system of valleys, above that
of the rivers, and connected with it. These are valleys of moving ice,
instead of water. This icy valley is also found branching from a greater
to a lesser, until at last it ends upon the summit of a mountain,
covered continually with snow. The motion of things in those icy valleys
is commonly exceeding slow, the operation however of protruding bodies,
as well as that of fracture and attrition, is extremely powerful.

To illustrate those operations of excavating the valleys of rivers and
of thus undermining mountains which fall by their proper weight, I shall
transcribe some descriptions of what is to be found among the Alps. But
first I would wish to carry my reader to the summit of that country, to
examine the state of that part which nothing can have affected but the
immediate influences of the sun and air. After having thus formed some
idea of the summit of this wasting country, we shall next examine the
valleys through which the materials of the degraded summit must have

In order to give a proper idea of this central part of the Alps, which
is so interesting a part in the natural history of the earth, M. de
Saussure, in the plates of his _Voyages dans les Alpes_, tom. 2. has
given us two views, the one in profile, the other in face, of the
Mont-Blanc. I have caused copy those plates, which are necessary to be
consulted in reading the following description of this centre of the

This author has taken much pains to form, to himself a proper idea of
the object which we have now in view; and he gives a description of the
Mont-Blanc as seen from the top of the Cramont. It is that description
which I am now to transcribe[17].

[Footnote 17: Voyage dans les Alpes, tom. 2.]

Sec. 910. "Le premier objet de mon etude fut le Mont Blanc. Il se
presente ici de la maniere la plus brillante et la plus commode pour
l'observateur. On l'embrasse d'un seul coup-d'oeil, depuis sa base
jusqu'a sa cime, et il semble avoir ecarte et rejete sur ses epaules
son manteau de neiges et de glaces pour laisser voir a decouvert
la structure de son corps. Taille presqu'a pic dans une hauteur
perpendiculaire de 1600 toises, les neiges et les glaces ne peuvent
s'arreter que dans un petit nombre d'echancrures, et il montre partout a
nud le roc vif dont il est compose.

"Sa forme paroit etre celle d'une pyramide, qui presente au sud-est du
cote du Cramont une de ses faces. L'arrete droite de cette pyramide du
cote du sud-ouest, monte au sommet, en faisant avec l'horison un angle
de 23 a 24 degres. L'arrete gauche du cote du nord-est, monte au meme
sommet sous un angle de 23 a 24 degres, en sorte que l'angle au sommet
est d'environ 130 degres.

"Cette pyramide paroit elle meme composee de grands feuillets
triangulaires ou pyramidaux. Trois de ces grands feuillets ont leurs
bases dans l'Allee-Blanche, et forment ensemble tout l'avant corps de
la base de la pyramide. Chacun de ces feuillets, vu de l'Allee-Blanche,
paroit une grande montagne, je les ai decrits dans le chapitre precedent
sous le noms de Mont-Peteret, Mont-Rouge, et Mont-Broglia, Sec. 830, 831,
834. Mais du haut du Cramont, on voit plus nettement leur forme, et leur
ensemble, on distingue, par exemple, qu'ils sont eux-memes composes
de grandes feuilles pyramidales; on voit que les injures du temps ont
detruit la pointe du Mont-Rouge, tandis que celles des deux autres
pyramides sont demeurees entieres.

"Ces trois feuillets ne s'elevent pas jusqu'a la moitie de la hauteur du
Mont-Blanc; d'autres feuillets plus petits, situes derriere et au-dessus
d'eux, et places sur deux lignes principales qui convergent au sommet,
achevent de couvrir la face de cette grande pyramide. Ces feuillets sont
tous de forme pyramidale; les plus petits sont les plus aigus; j'en ai
mesure plusieurs, dont l'angle au sommet n'etoit que de 70 degres. Tous,
absolument tous, ont leurs plans paralleles a l'Allee-Blanche, et par
consequent diriges du nord-est au sud-ouest.

"Sec. 911. Quant a la matiere dont est composee cette grande et haute
montagne, toute sa cime et toute sa base, tant au centre que du cote du
nord-est, sont indubitablement de granit; mais le cote sud-ouest de la
base, ou le Mont-Broglia que nous avons vu de pres, Sec. 834, est d'une
pierre moins dure, melangee de schorl, de feldspath, de mica, de quartz
gras et de pyrites.

"On voit tres-bien du haut du Cramont que cette partie de la base n'est
point du granit; sa couleur est d'un brun rougeatre, elle ne se termine
point par des arretes vives et nettes, n'est point composee de grandes
tables planes. Ce font cependant des feuillets pyramidaux, mais petits
et presses les unes contre les autres; a mesure qu'ils s'approchent
du sommet, et par cela meme du coeur de la montagne, ils perdent leur
couleur rouge, leurs angles deviennent plus vifs, leurs tables plus
grandes et plus planes, et enfin pres de la cime, et a la cime meme, ce
sont de vrais granits parfaitement caracterises. On peut donc conclure,
que le corps entier du Mont-Blanc, et meme ces bases avancees du cote de
l'Italie, sont toutes de granit, excepte la base de l'arrete exterieure
du cote du sud-ouest.

"Sec. 912. La montagne qui touche le Mont-Blanc du cote du nord-est, et
qui, vue de Geneve, forme en quelque maniere le premiere escalier en
descendant de la cime, est aussi composee de tables de granit qui
paroissent dirigees du nord-est au sud-ouest. Mais la sommite qui
suit celle-ci en tirant toujours au nord-est, et qui forme le second
escalier, paroit avoir quelques feuillets tournans autour de son corps
pyramidal, comme les feuillets d'un artichaux, et comme j'ai depeint
l'aiguille du Midi, _tome_ I. _pl._ 6. En tirant plus encore au
nord-est, on reconnoit les Jorasses que nous avons vues du haut du
Talefre, Sec. 637, elles paroissent d'ici, apres le Mont-Blanc et ses
escaliers, les sommites les plus elevees de toute cette chaine, et elles
semblent resulter de l'assemblage de plusieurs suites de feuillets
pyramidaux convergents vers leur sommet. En general toutes les cimes
elevees que l'on peut distinguer dans cette chaine, depuis le Mont-Blanc
jusqu'au col Ferret, sont soutenues par des augives composees d'une ou
de plusieurs suites de feuillets pyramidaux appuyes les uns contre les
autres; les exterieures ont leurs bases dans le fond de la vallee, et
les interieures remontent par degres jusqu'au haut des cimes. Les deux
escaliers du Mont-Blanc sont les seules sommites qui n'aient pas des
augives de ce genre.

"Sec. 913. Je demande a present quelle idee on peut se faire de l'origine
de ces feuillets plans et de toutes ces pyramides grandes et petites
qui resultent de leur assemblage, si on ne les considere pas comme les
restes ou les noyaux les plus durs des couches qui out resiste aux
ravages du temps, tandis que les parties intermediaires, qui les lioient
entr'elles, out ete detruites par ces memes ravages.

"Mais jusqu'a quel point la crystallization a-t-elle contribue a
determiner ces formes pyramidales? doit-on considerer le Mont-Blanc
ou telle autre de ces aiguilles, comme un enorme crystal? C'est une
question de theorie que j'examinerai ailleurs. Quant a present je me
contenterai de conclure, que la face meridionale de la chaine centrale
des Alpes est, comme la face septentrionale de cette meme chaine,
composee, pour la plus grande partie, de couches de granit a-peu-pres
verticales, et dirigees pour la plupart du nord-est au sud-ouest."

This theoretical question of our author is so properly connected with
the natural history which he has here given us, that it is not difficult
to resolve it in the most satisfactory manner.

Here is an enormous mass of granite, the origin of which we are not now
inquiring after, but the causes of its present form. The internal part
of this granite subsists in a state of the most perfect solidity; the
external again is evidently in a decaying state. This is a fact which we
learn from the nature of feldspar, of which granite is in part composed;
this crystallised substance is every where decomposed, where long
exposed to the atmosphere. But it is not this gradual decay of the mass
of granite perishing equably from its external surface, and resolved
into some of its component parts, that we are here to consider; it is
only mentioned to show that the mass of granite is subject to decay,
when exposed to the influence of the atmosphere, like every other
compound mineral body, and to lose that perfect solidity which we find
in the centre of the mass.

We find the granite masses not only subject to decay from the external
surface, by the decomposition of the feltspar, or the dissolution of
its constituent parts, but also liable to be separated into blocks of
different degrees of regularity, commonly rectangular or approaching to
the rhombic shape. This is the consequence, either of larger veins and
fissures, filled with matter which is still more dissolvable than is the
substance of the granite, or else by imperceptible crevices or cutters,
into which the atmospheric influences gradually insinuate, and form at
last a visible separation.

In examining the tops of granite mountains, or where this rock is
exposed to the weather, we may perceive those two species of decay
proceeding together. The external surface of the stone, where there is a
sufficient mixture of feltspar, is separating into grains which form a
species of sand, being nothing but the particles of granite separating
by means of the decaying sparry part. But a similar progress may be
observed, from the external surface penetrating in lines the mass of
solid rock, and dividing that mass into the rectangular blocks into
which those exposed places are gradually resolved.

Now the tops of all those mountains are formed into an assemblage of
pyramids, declining in height from the central pyramid; and all those
pyramids are again in like manner subdivided into lesser pyramids. But
the smallest of those pyramids are no other than the rectangular blocks
into which those granite masses always separate by the influence of the

It will now be evident, that those mountains, thus resolving into
separate blocks, must acquire this series of pyramidal constructions;
for, in every particular mass of mountain, there must be a central part,
from which the separated blocks cannot be removed, while those around,
or towards the sides, are detached by the swelling water upon freezing,
and separated from the more central masses which are thus the latest of
being removed.

It is impossible to see this series of pyramidal relics, without at the
same time perceiving that manner of formation, by the gradual resolution
of the solid mass of granite, as it comes to be exposed in succession to
the influences of the atmosphere, which M. de Saussure has termed _les
ravage du temps_.

But if it be in this manner, that time wastes the solid masses of this
globe; and if all the solid masses of the earth have acquired their
solid state by the same means, _i.e._ by heat and fusion, as is
maintained in the present theory, we should find similar pyramidal
mountains formed of different materials. Now there can be nothing more
different than masses of lime-stone and those of granite. But pyramidal
mountains are equally formed of those two different materials. In plate
V, under the letter B, may be seen the calcareous pyramids which are
near the _col de la Seigne_, and which in plate VI. are represented
under the letter G.

Here is a view of the summit of the Alps, from whence we may be allowed
to draw the most important conclusions in favour of our theory.

This summit is of solid granite, a mass in which there is no
stratification, such as is to be perceived in all the other masses of
those alpine regions. With regard again to the extent of this mass of
granite, its basis is about two leagues in breadth, by at least thrice
that space in length; and now we are to consider in what shape this mass
of granite presents itself to our view.

The summit of Mont Blanc, which may be considered as in the centre of
this mass, is a pyramid; and this great central pyramid is surrounded by
a number of other great pyramids of the same kind. The points of those
pyramids are extremely lofty; and, having sides often vastly steep, if
not perpendicular, those colossal pyramids rise from the icy valleys in
such a shape as has given occasion to their being named _needles_. Thus
we find the whole space of this granite mass consisting of a mixture of
icy valleys, and pyramidal rocks on which hardly any thing rests.

Now, these lofty rocks or pointed mountains must have been either
originally formed of that shape, or posteriorly hewn out by the hand
of nature, gradually wasting mountains in the course of time, and
operations of the surface. If it is by the first that we are to explain
the present state of things, then observation is superfluous, and our
reasoning is at an end; for, when even observation should not contradict
the proposition, which it actually does, it would be useless, as it can
afford no data from a former state, which is supposed to have been no
other than it is at present; and reasoning cannot be admitted if we have
no data. Therefore, if we are to reason upon the subject, we are obliged
to admit, that nature must have hollowed out of the solid rock all those
pyramidal mountains, and a system of inclined valleys carrying the ice
from the summits.

Let us now reason from our principles, in order to see how far the
present appearances of things would naturally result from those wasting
causes acting upon a mass of granite, of a given basis and of sufficient
height, during a space of time which is unlimited.

We are to suppose our mass of granite without any structure except that
of the veins and cutters, formed by the contraction of the solid mass
in cooling. Now, those separations will naturally give direction to the
operation of the wasting causes, whether we consider these as chymical
or mechanical. Hollow tracts would thus be formed in the solid mass; in
those hollow ways would flow the water, carrying the detached portions
of the rock; and those hard materials, by their attrition upon the solid
mass, would more and more increase the channels in which they move. Thus
there would be early formed a system of valleys in this rock, and among
those valleys a number of central points, or summits over which no
running water would carry hard materials to operate upon the solid rock
over which it flows.

Here therefore, in the nature of things, is placed the rudiments of our
needles, those colossal pyramids which acquire height gradually as the
valleys widen, and whose _apices_ may arrive at an angle of a certain
degree of acuteness. But what a waste of rock to have formed all those
needles which we find rising from the icy valleys round Mount Blanc!

Upon the supposition that this had been the origin of those pyramidal
mountains, it must be evident, that there is a _ne plus ultra_ of
acuteness to which the _apex_ of a pyramid would in time arrive; and
that then the decaying summit would tumble by the lump alternately, and
regain the acuteness of its point. Now, if this be the case, although
we cannot see the process, which is too slow for human observation, we
should actually find them in all the stages of this progress. But this
is precisely the state in which the summits of those mountains are to be
found. M. de Saussure gives a view of one of those pyramids, which will
serve to illustrate this subject in the most perfect manner. It is from
the Montanvert that this object is to be perceived. (Voyages dans les
Alpes, vol. 2.).

These high peaks of solid rock demonstrate the manner in which those
enormous masses of mountains are degraded, and also the means which
are employed by nature for that purpose; but this scene, however well
represented, is too far removed, in its appearance, from the ordinary
mountains of this earth, to satisfy the doubts of every reader or to
generalise a principle which must be universal in the system of this
earth. We therefore have occasion for a mean, by which the extreme of
those alpine summits shall be generalised or connected with our low
inclined plains; and, on this occasion, I will give M. de Saussure's
most excellent description of the Breven. Nothing can better suit our
present purpose than the subject of this natural history; and I am
persuaded that most readers will be better informed by the description
of this naturalist, than they would be by their own observation.

"Sec.. 639. J'ai deja plusieurs fois nomme cette montagne, qui est situee
immediatement au-dessus du Prieure de Chamouni, du cote du nord-ouest:
elle est liee par sa base avec les Aiguilles-rouges, dont j'ai aussi
parle dans le premier volume. Mais sa cime est nue, isolee, arrondie sur
les derrieres, et coupee a pic du cote de Chamouni. C'est a tous egards
une des montagnes les plus interessantes pour un naturaliste.

"J'y montai pour la premiere fois en 1760, et je ne crois pas qu'aucun
naturaliste l'eut visitee avant moi; j'y retournai l'annee suivante; j'y
allai encore en 1767, et j'y montai enfin pour la derniere fois en 1781,
afin de verifier mes anciennes observations, et de me mettre en etat
d'en donner une description plus exacte.

"Sec. 640. On peut du Prieure monter au sommet du Breven et redescendre
dans le meme jour, mais c'est une course penible, car il faut au moins
cinq heures pour monter, et la pente est extremement rapide. On peut
cependant faire a mulet le premier tiers de cette montee. Comme je
voulus avoir le tems d'observer tout avec soin, j'y destinai deux jours,
et j'allai coucher le premier jour dans un chalet, nomme _Plianpra_,
qui, en partant du Prieure, est aux deux tiers de la hauteur totale de
la montagne.

"En montant a Plianpra, on fait pres des trois quarts du chemin sur des
debris tombes et roules du haut de la tete du Breven. La colline meme
sur laquelle est bati le village du Prieure n'est composee que des
debris de cette montagne; ces debris ont debouche par une gorge que nous
traversons en montant, et se versant ensuite a droite et a gauche, ils
ont pris la forme d'un cone, dont le sommet est au milieu de cette
gorge. Les collines de ce genre et de cette forme se rencontrent bien
frequemment dans les vallees bordees par de hautes montagnes.

"Ces debris, qui ne viennent pas seulement de la tete du Breven, mais
de ses flancs et de sa base, sont des roches feuilletees melangees de
quartz, de mica et de feldspath dans toutes les proportions imaginables.
De ces differentes proportions naissent differens degres de durete,
depuis le granit feuillete le plus dur jusques a la roche micacee la
plus tendre.

"Sec. 641. Les rochers au pied desquels on passe avant de gravir la montee
rapide et herbee qui aboutit a Plianpra, sont composes d'une roche
feuilletee assez dure, dont les couches bien paralleles aux veines
interieures de la pierre, suivent la direction de l'aiguille aimantee et
sont tres-inclinees a l'horison.

"Le chalet de Plianpra est situe au milieu d'une assez grande prairie en
pente douce du cote de la vallee de Chamouni, et dominee du cote oppose
par les rocs nus qui forment les sommites de la chaine du Breven. Du
bord de cette prairie, on a une tres-belle vue du Mont-Blanc, de la
vallee de Chamouni et des glaciers qui y aboutissent. Ces memes objets
se presentent avec bien plus d'eclat de la cime du Breven; cependant la
vue de Plianpra meriteroit bien que ceux qui n'auroient pas la force ou
le courage d'aller jusques a la cime, montassent du moins jusque la pour
s'en former une idee.

"Comme je ne voulois monter sur le Breven que lendemain, j'employai
le reste de la journee a observer les environs du chalet. J'examinai
surtout avec soin des rochers situes a une demi-lieue au nord au-dessus
du chalet, qui de loin paroissent colores en rouge, comme plusieurs
sommites de cette chaine: c'est par cette raison qu'elle porte le nom

"Sec. 642. Je trouvai que c'etoient encore des granits veines, melanges
de quartz, de feldspath, de mica et de fer qui colore la pierre en se
decomposant au-dehors: cette teinte penetre meme quelquefois assez avant
dans l'interieur. Ces rochers sont divises par couches bien distinctes,
a-peu-pres verticales, et dans la direction de l'aiguille aimantee,
comme celles que j'avois observees au-dessous du chalet. Ces couches
sont coupees par des fentes a-peu-pres perpendiculaires a leurs plans,
et qui sont pour la plupart paralleles a l'horison, de maniere que ces
rochers se trouvent ainsi divises en grandes pieces de forme a-peu-pres
rhomboidale. Les veines memes interieures de la pierre sont aussi
tres-bien prononcees, et exactement paralleles a ses couches;
observation generale et de la plus grande importance, parce qu'elle
prouve que ces couches sont bien de vraies couches, et non point des
fissures produites fortuitement par la retraite ou par un affaissement
inegal des parties du rocher. Ces veines sont dessinees sur le fond
blanc de la pierre des feuillets minces de mica noiratre; elles sont
tantot planes, tantot ondees, mais toujours regulieres et paralleles
entr'elles, excepte la ou il se rencontre des noeuds; encore
reprennent-elles leur direction apres en avoir fait le tour. Comme le
mica s'y trouve en petite quantite, la pierre est dure, et ne se brise
qu'a grands coups de marteau. Lorsqu'on l'observe de pres dans sa
cassure, on voit que les petites lames ou ecailles de mica sont
constamment couchees dans le sens des veines de la pierre. Ces memes
ecailles n'ont presque aucune adherence entr'elles, en sorte que les
feuillets dont la pierre est composee, n'adherent entr'eux que par les
points ou il ne se trouve point de mica.

"Sec. 643. Je me demandois a moi-meme, en observant cette pierre, s'il
etoit possible qu'elle eut ete formee dans cette situation verticale;
si ces ecailles incoherentes auroient pu venir s'attacher a ces murs
verticaux, et si le mouvement des eaux, clairement indique par le tissu
feuillete de la pierre, n'auroit pas du les detacher et les faire tomber
a mesure qu'elles se formoient. Je me demandois encore, si les fentes
qui coupent ces feuillets, perpendiculairement a leurs plans, ne
dateroient point d'un tems ou ces couches auroient ete horisontales,
et n'auroient point ete produites alors par le poids et l'affaissement
inegal des parties de la pierre. Mais pour admettre cette supposition,
il faudroit expliquer comment ces bancs, d'abord horisontaux, ont pu se
redresser; pourquoi ce redressement a ete si frequent, si regulier,
etc. etc. Je reserve pour un autre tems la discussion de ces grandes
questions; mais je ne crois pas inutile de faire apercevoir la liaison
qu'ont avec la theorie des observations si minutieuses en apparence.

"En faisant ces reflexions, je retournai au chalet de Plianpra ou je
passai la nuit sur de la paille que j'avois fait etendre aupres du feu,
parce que la soiree etoit extremement fraiche.

"Sec. 645 On commence a monter par de jolis sentiers peu inclines,
pratiques le long d'un grand rocher semblable a ceux que j'avois
observes la veille. On a ensuite le choix de monter, ou par des pentes
couvertes de rocailles un peu fatigantes, ou par des gazons extremement
rapides. Ceux-ci paroissent d'abord plus agreables et moins penibles;
cependant ces gazons sont si serres et si glissans, qu'ils en deviennent
dangereux, au moins pour ceux qui n'ont pas l'habitude des montagnes.
Ces rocailles sont debris de roches feuilletees, semblables a celles que
l'on rencontre en montant du Prieure a Plianpra.

"Sec. 646. B. Au bout d'une heure de marche, on arrive au pied d'un rocher
assez escarpe, qu'il faut escalader pour parvenir a la cime de la
montagne. C'est une roche micacee, mais qui contient cependant assez de
quartz pour avoir de la consistance. Elle se separe par feuillets si
decides, que sans employer d'autre instrument que mes mains, j'en
detachai une dalle, qui avoit sept pieds de hauteur sur quatre de
largeur, et a peine un pouce dans sa plus grande epaisseur.

"J'avois quelque desir de descendre de-la au pied des grandes tables
verticales qui composent la tete du Breven, pour les observer de pres et
comparer ainsi leur base avec leur cime; mais de cet endroit la chose
est impossible, la pente est d'une telle rapidite qu'une pierre
mediocrement grosse, que je mis en mouvement, roula avec beaucoup de
vitesse, en entraina d'autres, celles-ci d'autres, et elles formerent
enfin un torrent de pierres qui se precipita avec un fracas mille fois
repete par les grands rochers du Breven.

"Comme donc je ne pouvois pas descendre, je montai par le passage
ordinaire, qui est une espece de couloir ou de cheminee ouverte, adossee
a un rocher presqu'a pic, de 40 ou 50 pieds de hauteur. Bien des curieux
sont venus jusques au pied de ce passage sans oser le franchir; mais je
vis en revenant qu'a un demi-quart de lieue plus au nord, on trouve un
autre passage extremement commode, qui mene au meme but, et qu'il faut
par consequent toujours preferer.

"Ce rocher une fois escalade, on monte par une pente douce, sans danger
et sans fatigue, jusqu'au sommet du Breven.

"Sec. 646. C. En montant le long du bord, du cote de Chamouni, j'eus un
plaisir inexprimable a contempler les magnifiques tables de granit dont
est composee toute la tete de cette montagne. Car bien que les ecailles
du mica noiratre dont cette roche est melangee, soient paralleles
entr'elles et lui donnent ainsi quelque ressemblance avec une roche
feuilletee, cependant la quantite de quartz et de feldspath qui entrent
dans sa composition, son extreme durete, le peu de disposition qu'elle
a a se fondre dans le sens de ses feuillets, la placent, sinon pour le
nomenclateur, du moins pour le naturaliste, dans la classe des vrais
granits[18]; et le parfait parallelisme de ces feuillets avec les faces
des grandes tables, ou des grandes divisions du rocher, demontre que ces
tables sont des couches, et non des parties separees par des fissures

[Footnote 18: "La denomination de _granit veine_ que j'ai, a ce que
je crois, employee le premier, a paru tres-heureuse a quelques
naturalistes, et a, au contraire, souverainement deplu a quelques
autres. Un de ces derniers pretend que ce que je nomme granit veine
n'est qu'un amas de gravier graniteux, et par consequent une espece de
gres grossier. Mais je voudrois que ceux qui de bonne foi pourroient
croire que j'aie commis une erreur aussi grossiere et aussi frequemment
repetee, observassent les granits du Breven; et j'en enverrais
volontiers a ceux d'entr'eux que le souhaiteroient. Lorsqu'ils verroient
que les parties de quartz et de feldspath qui entrent dans leur
composition, ont tous leurs angles vifs et tranchans, que ces parties
sont intimement unies entre elles et empatees les unes avec les autres,
comme dans les granits en masse; que leur coherence est aussi grande que
dans ces derniers granits, et que cette roche n'en differe absolument,
comme je l'ai deja dit, que par le parallelisme qu'observent entr'elles
les lames rares de mica dont elle est melangee: je suis persuade qu'ils
reconnoitroient qu'elle a tous les caracteres essentiels du ranit,
qu'elle doit avoir la meme origine, et qu'en un mot elle est au granit
proprement dit, ce qu'une pierre calcaire feuilletee est a une pierre
calcaire dans laquelle on ne distingue point de feuillets."]

"L'extreme regularite de ces tables acheve de demontrer que ce sont
de veritables couches. Leurs plans qui sont ici a decouvert dans une
hauteur perpendiculaire de plus de 500 pieds, sont parfaitement suivis,
comme tailles au ciseau, diriges tous comme l'aiguille aimantee, et
verticaux, a quelques degres pres dont ils s'appuyent contre le corps de
la montagne. On s'assure en montant que cette structure est celle de la
montagne entiere; on voit les profils d'une infinite de ces couches, on
passe sur les sommites de ces tranches verticales, et on les voit se
prolonger dans cette meme direction tout au travers de la montagne.
Or je demande si un naturaliste qui aura observe cet ensemble et ces
details pourra regarder cette montagne comme le produit du concours
fortuit de grains de sable agglutines entr'eux.

"Ces tables sont coupees un peu obliquement a leurs plans par des fentes
dont la plupart sont a-peu-pres horizontales et d'autres tres-inclinees
a l'horizon. La pierre se trouve ainsi tres-frequemment coupee en
parallelepipedes obliquangles. Ces memes fentes rendent raison, d'une
observation que j'avois faite en 1776. En examinant avec une bonne
lunette, depuis une fenetre du Prieure, les faces verticales des couches
de la sommite du Breven, j'avois remarque un grand dieze [Illustration]
bien nettement ecrit sur la face de la montagne, je le vis de pres en
1781, et je reconnus qu'il etoit forme par quatre de ces fentes qui se
coupoient obliquement.

"Sec. 647. La cime de la montagne est une pointe mousse, coupee a pic du
cote de la vallee de Chamouni et arrondie de tous les autres cotes.
Cette tete est entierement couverte de debris et de blocs confusement
entasse. On est etonne de trouver la ces debris, car cette cime est
absolument isolee, et separee par de larges et profondes vallees des
sommites qui la surpassent en hauteur: il semble que ces debris n'aient
pu tomber que du ciel; mais quand on les examine avec soin, on voit
qu'ils sont du meme genre de pierre que la montagne elle meme; et que
tous leurs angles font vifs, leurs faces planes et leur forme souvent
rhomboidale. On reconnoit donc par la que les parties superieures de la
montagne, qui sont plus exposees aux injures de l'air et qui ne sont pas
assujetties par des masses situees au-dessus d'elles, se delitent et
se separent. Je trouvai cependant sur la cime une pierre d'une espece
differente; c'etoit une roche composee de schorl noir en aiguilles, de
quartz et de grenats; sa forme etoit exactement rhomboidale. Mais ce
genre de pierre se rencontre assez souvent en filons dans les roches
feuilletees et dans les granits veines; il est donc vraisemblable que le
filon auquel ce fragment avoit appartenu s'est detruit avec la partie
superieure du rocher, du moins n'en ai-je pu trouver aucun indice dans
la partie solide de la montagne.

"L'admirable regularite des couches de cette cime elevee merite
l'attention des amateurs de la geologie, et la vue qu'elle presente
dedommageroit seule de la peine d'y monter.

"Sec. 648. Mon but principal dans la premiere course que je fis au Breven
etoit de prendre de la une idee juste des glaciers de la vallee de
Chamouni, de leur forme, de leur position, et de l'ensemble des
montagnes sur lesquelles ils sont situes. Comme cette montagne est
postee a-peu-pres au milieu de la vallee de Chamouni, en face du
Mont-Blanc et vis-a-vis des principaux glaciers qui en descendent,
c'etoit certainement un des meilleurs observatoires que l'on put choisir
dans cette intention. J'y montai par le jour le plus beau et le plus
clair; c'etoit mon premier voyage dans les hautes Alpes, je n'etois
point encore accoutume a ces grands spectacles; en sorte que cette vue
fit sur moi une impression qui ne s'effacera jamais de mon souvenir.

"On decouvre tout-a-la-fois et presque dans un seul tableau les six
glaciers qui vont se verser dans la vallee de Chamouni, les cimes
inaccessibles entre lesquelles ils prennent leur naissance; le
Mont-Blanc surtout, que l'on trouve d'autant plus grand, d'autant plus
majestueux, qu'on l'observe d'un lieu plus eleve. On voit ces etendues
immenses de neige et de glaces, dont, malgre leur distance, on a peine a
soutenir l'eclat, ces beaux glaciers qui s'en detachent comme autant de
fleuves solides qui vont entre de grandes forets de sapins, descendre en
replis tortueux, et se verser au fond de la vallee de Chamouni; les
yeux fatigues de l'eclat de ces neiges et de ces glaces se reposent
delicieusement ou sur ces forets, dont le verd fonce contraste avec la
blancheur des glaces qui les traversent, ou dans la fertile et riante
vallee qu'arrosent les eaux qui decoulent de ces glaciers."

Our object at present is not to see the degradation of that great
mass of granite out of which have been hewn, by the hand of time and
influences of the atmosphere, these lofty pyramids which surround
Mont-Blanc; it is to see the degradation of that immense mass of
vertical or highly inclined strata, out of which that great mass of
granite rises; and it is to understand the conical and rounded forms
which are to be perceived more or less in all the inferior mountains,
where apparently the degradation has come to a stand, and where the
surface is actually employed in vegetation, or in maintaining the system
of living bodies in this world.

How high those vertical strata may have been erected, or how much
may have been wasted of that mass in forming the mountains and their
valleys, is a question which it is impossible to resolve: It is evident,
however, that this quantity must have been very great. In the Mont-Rosa
we find those strata at present in the horizontal situation, as high as
the summits of those granite pyramids that overlook the mass of vertical
strata which we are now considering; and, in those mountains of Rosa,
the valleys are most profound. It is therefore most reasonable to
suppose, that the mass out of which the Breven and all the other
mountains had been formed, was once as high, at least, as the summit of
Mont-Blanc. It is altogether inconceivable, that this mass of vertical
and horizontal strata could have been formed, either originally, or by
any mineral operation, into the present shape of things; therefore, we
must look out for another cause.

Let us now suppose them degraded by the hand of time, and all their
moveable materials transported in the floods; In what state would they
be left for our examination?--Here is a question that must decide the
theory of those mountains; for, if it is not possible to conceive the
present appearances as arising from any other cause than this gradual
degradation which we see operating at present, we must conclude that
this is the system of nature established for the purpose of this world.
But this is the very state in which they are found; every where the
solid parts are going into decay, and furnishing those heaps of earth
and stones that form the slopes by which we ascend from step to step.
Wherever earth and stones may lie, there they are found to form a bank
for vegetation; whenever these loose materials are carried away to a
lower; station, the more solid parts above are still decaying in order
to furnish more. There is not one step in all this progress, (of the
summit of the solid mountain forming earth and stones, and travelling
to the sea) that is not to be actually perceived, although it is only
_scientifically_ that man, who reasons in the present moment, may see
the effect of time which has no end.

The summit of the granite pyramids of Mont-Blanc, the summit of the
Breven, that of the Saleve[19], and of every little hillock upon the
surface of the earth, attest this truth, that there is no other natural
means by which this end may be attained. It is true, indeed, that
geologists every where imagine to themselves great events, or powerful
causes, by which these changes of the earth should be brought about in a
short space of time; but they are under a double deception; _first_
with regard to time which is limited, whereas they want to explain
appearances by a cause acting in a limited time; _secondly_, with regard
to operation, their supposition of a great _debacle_ is altogether
incompetent for the end required. How, for example, accumulate the
_debris_ of the Breven, as we have now seen, upon the summit of that
mountain, by the force of running water? But this is only one of a
thousand appearances that proves the operations of time, and refutes the
hypothesis of violent causes.

[Footnote 19: See Part II. chap. 30.]

From the top of those decaying pyramids to the sea, we have a chain of
facts which clearly demonstrate this proposition, That the materials of
the wasted mountains have travelled through the rivers; for, in every
step of this progress, we may see the effect, and thus acknowledge the
proper cause. We may often even be witness to the action; but it is
only a small part of the whole progress that we may thus perceive,
nevertheless it is equally satisfactory as if we saw the whole; for,
throughout the whole of this long course, we may see some part of the
mountain moving some part of the way. What more can we require? Nothing
but time. It is not any part of the process that will be disputed;
but, after allowing all the parts, the whole will be denied; and, For
what?--only because we are not disposed to allow that quantity of time
which the ablution of so much wasted mountain might require.


_The Theory illustrated with a view of the Valleys of the Alps._

Such is the summit of the Alps, a body wasting by the influence of the
elements, slowly changing, but in actual decay. This mass of granite is
arrived at such a perfect state of degradation as leaves no trace of
its original shape or height, from whence we might compute the quantity
which has been lost, or time which had flowed in bringing about that
event. We are now to take a view of the valleys that are formed at the
same time that the mountains are degraded.

To the valleys of ice succeed those formed by water upon the same
principle by moving the hard materials procured from the summits. Let
us now begin at the bottom of one of those fertile valleys, and ascend,
tracing the marks of time and labour in those operations by which the
surface of the earth is modified according to the system of the globe.

(M. Bourrit[20], _Nouvelle Description des Alpes_.) "Saint-Maurice est
entre le Rhone et une montagne; "Quoique la situation de Saint-Maurice
paroisse l'exposer au malheur d'etre un jour ensevelie sous les ruines
des montagnes, cependant on ne vit pas ici avec moins de securite
qu'ailleurs: ce qu'il y a de plus a craindre, c'est la submersion du
pays; ce malheur pourrait arriver si l'une ou l'autre des montagnes qui
forment la gorge, venoit a tomber soit par un tremblement de terre, soit
par des affaissemens considerables: cette gorge etant etroite, le Rhone
ne pourroit plus s'ecouler il s'etendroit necessairement au large,
bientot toute la vallee jusqu'a Martigni, Sion meme, rentreroit sous
les eaux qui l'ont autrefois couvert, et tout ce pays ne formeroit
plus qu'un lac, a moins que le Rhone ne se fit jour sous les rochers
renverses, comme il passe au travers de ceux qui semblent lui disputer
le passage a cinq-lieues au-dessous de Geneve."

[Footnote 20: M. Bourrit, etc.]

"Avant de penetrer dans le Vallais, il convient d'en donner une idee
generale: il forme cette partie des Alpes connue sous le nom d'Alpes
Pennines; il contient non-seulement les plus hautes montagnes des Alpes,
mais encore la plus longue vallee qui il y ait en Europe, puis qu'elle
a trente-quatre lieues depuis Saint-Maurice jusqu'a-la source du
Rhone, qui la traverse dans toute cette etendue: sa largeur est depuis
demi-lieu jusqu'a une lieue et demie; sa direction suit le soleil. Outre
cette vallee, il y en a d'autres qui y viennent aboutir dans diverses
directions: celle-ci sont enclavees dans les deux chaines de montagnes
qui bordent la grande vallee; quelques-unes remontent a quatre lieues et
meme a six, dans les sinuosites que forment les rochers qui bordent les
deux cotes du fleuve."

To give an idea of these valleys which proceed to the icy tops of
mountains, or to the high valleys of ice, I shall transcribe some
descriptions of this country from the Tableaux de la Suisse Discours,
etc. page 21.

"_Route au Mont-Saint Bernard._

"On passe par Martigny pour aller au Mont du grand Saint-Bernard; cette
ville est un depot pour les marchandises qui vont et viennent d'Italie.
Le chateau a cote de cette ville est situe sur des rochers calcaires qui
bordent la Drance dans cette partie; ce torrent prend sa source au Mont
Saint-Bernard. On compte huit lieues de Martigny a l'Hospice situe sur
ce mont; a une demie-lieue on commence a monter insensiblement; le
chemin est beau et peut se faire en voiture jusqu'au bourg Saint-Pierre.

"Le vaste base de ces monts accumules n'est qu'un compose des debris des
montagnes superieures; on rencontre ici des granits roules, composes de
quartz, de feld-spath, et de mica; des graviers et des sables provenant
de la decomposition des granits des pierre calcaire grise, puis de
grosse masses de granit arrondies, dont il seroit difficile d'assigner
l'origine, puisque toutes les montagnes a portee de la vue et qui forme
cette gorge sont absolument de pierres micacees par lits et par couches,
ou schisteuses melees de gros et petits rognons, de filons et de veines
de quartz; elles font en general toutes feu avec le briquet. Le chemin
et la Drance qu'on passe et repasse plusieurs fois, occupent tout le
fond de la vallee qui devient fort etroite. On rencontre des pierres
schisteuses, quartzeuses et sablonneuses, seules sans melange d'autre

"Saint-Branchier, bon village, est situe entre des montagnes tres-hautes
et tres-escarpees composees des memes especes des pierres schisteuses
micacees que les precedentes; elles sont de couleur bleuatre, vue en
grandes masses et inclinees a l'horison; cette inclinaison suivant
la meme direction de ce cote ci de la Drance, et les couches se
correspondant l'une a l'autre, on voit que ce torrent s'y est creuse un
passage. En avancant, on trouve de l'ardoise feuilletee bleue avec des
veines de spath calcaire, ensuite une grande quantite de granits et de
pierres calcaires roulees, sans que les montagnes environnantes changent
d'especes; les montagnes a l'est sont bien cultivees, rapportent
differentes sortes de grains, avant et apres avoir passe orsiere; on
retrouve de l'ardoise entre ce village et Liddes et les derniers granits

"La Drance est ici fort resserree et tres encaissee; ce n'est pas sans
fremir qu'on s'appercoit, quand on est sur deux morceaux de bois jetes
d'une roche a l'autre, appelles ici pont, qu'on a un gouffre de plus de
trois cent pieds au dessous de soi, il faut etre sur cette espece de
pont pour s'en apercevoir et distinguer les differents sinuosites
tracees sur chaque cote de cette roche du haut jusqu'en bas; ce sont
autant de preuves des differentes hauteurs ou l'eau a passe avant de
parvenir a sa profondeur actuelle.

"La dernier village qu'on rencontre, avant d'arriver au Saint-Bernard,
est le bourg Saint-Pierre, on mont insensiblement jusqu'a ce village, et
on ne peut plus se servir de voitures pour aller au-dela. Les montagnes
sont plus rapides, il n'y a plus de chemin fait, et on n'en peut point
pratiquer, moins a cause de la quantite des rochers dont toute cette
partie est couverte que par la difficulte de les entretenir ou de les
renouveler chaque annee, parce que les torrens et les avalanches les
detruiroient; de plus on ne pourroit y travailler que trois ou quatre
mois de l'annee, les huit ou neuf autres mois le pays, au dela du bourg,
etant presque toujours couvert de neige. La truite ne remonte pas
au-dela du bourge Saint-Pierre, elle se trouve arretee par les cascades
et chutes trop considerables de la Vassoree qui va se jetter dans la
Drance. Ce torrent sort encaisse et resserre dans le lit qu'il
s'est creuse, provient d'un glacier qu'on rencontre en montant le
Saint-Bernard qui porte le meme nom. L'entree du valais est fermee et
defendue de ce cote par le lit de la Vassoree; c'est le fosse le plus
profond et le plus escarpe qui existe. Des ouvrage creneles et une porte
sont places a l'entree du bourg Saint-Pierre, nous avons donne un dessin
de la chute de ce torrent, on voit le travail des eaux dans le rocher
qu'il a mine et ou il s'est ouvert un passage.

"On compte trois lieues de ce bourg a l'Hospice, sur le haut du
Saint-Bernard; c'est le passage le plus frequente pour communiquer du
Bas-Vallais en Italie par le Piemont et la vallee d'Aost; le transport
des marchandises ne se fait qu'a dos de mulets et de chevaux; c'est du
produit de ces transports que vivent la plupart des habitans qui sont
des deux cotes de ce mont; celui des fromages, qui est la principale
production de ces hautes Alpes, fait le plus fort article. On ne
rencontre sur cette route que des rochers entasses les uns sur les
autres, entre lesquels on passe par mille detours, en suivant les
petits vallons qu'ils forment. Des torrents des eaux y roulent et s'y
precipitent de tous cotes; on voit dans ces bas, de bois de sapins meles
de quelques pins et puis des melezes; ils diminuent insensiblement,
leurs vegetation est moins vigoureuse, les arbres sont plus rares les
derniers qu'on rencontre sont des melezes a une heure de Saint-Pierre.
Plus loin, on ne voit plus que des buissons bas et rabougris; au bord de
quelque ruisseau ou torrent ce sont des aulnes ou vergnes; le dernier
arbrisseau que nous avons vu, entre les melezes et les aulnes, est un
sureau sans fruit. Les paturages, l'herbe et le gazon suivent la meme
progression. Ce n'est-que dans quelques endroits, d'ou les eaux n'on pas
entraine une restant de terre vegetale, qu'il se voit un gazon fin, menu
et serre; de petites fleurs, aussi bases que ces gazons, nuancees des
plus belles et des plus vives couleurs, y forment des groupes de la plus
grande beaute; des mousses non moins curieuses que variees, couvrent
et colorent quelques parties de rochers; le reste n'offre a l'oeil que
d'enormes masses de rochers, entrecoupes de fentes, de crevasses; des
pierres culbutees et amoncelees dans les fonds, qui font en partie
couverts de neige.

"A une demie lieue de l'Hospice dans une vallon assez large pour une
pareille hauteur, nomme les Envers des Foireuse, on rencontre une enorme
quantite de pierre roulees qui remplissent presque tout le haut de ce
vallons. Cet amas de pierres provient des glaciers et des hauteurs qui
descendent du Mont-Velan, qui est la partie la plus elevee du groupe de
montagnes, qui forment le grand Saint Bernard. La sont des neiges et des
glaciers de cette partie, fournit aussi la Drance qui va se jetter dans
le Rhone au dessous de Martigny. On ne voit de ces pierres roulees qu'en
cet endroit, elles viennent directement des glaciers, elles ont ete
charriees par les eaux qui en viennent, et ne peuvent avoir pris leur
forme que par les meme causes, dont nous avons parle ci-devant dans
l'observation faite en Savoie sur les pierres roulees; elles sont
toutes, ainsi que les rochers au-dessus, d'ou-elles proviennent,
composees de parties micacees-argilleuses, plus ou moins melees de
partie de rognons, de veines et de filons de quartz, par lits et par
couches irregulieres, plus ou moins epaisses. Les parties micacees de
ces pierres sont variees de differentes nuances, tirant sur le gris, le
bleu, le verd, et le jaune; ces nuances sont quelquefois melees. Tous
les rochers composans ce cote de montagne tourne au nord, sont de la
meme espece. Nous n'y avons pas vu un seul granit, c'est-a-dire, une
pierre composee de petites masses irregulieres de quartz, melees et
agglutinees, avec des parties micacees argilleuses, et quelquefois
melanges de feldspath. Parmi ces pierres, il y en a quelques-unes
provenant du meme filon, qui contiennent de la pyrite cuivreuse dans un
filon de quartz.

"Nous avons dit precedement que c'etoit entre Orfiere et Liddes que nous
avions vu des derniers granites roules, on n'en rencontre plus dans
toute le reste de la route jusqu'au haut du Mont Saint-Bernard. Les
rochers, qui dominent ce sommet, ne sont pas composes de granites, et
quoiqu'on ne puisse aborder jusqu'a leurs plus grands elevation, on peut
juger de leurs especes, par les masses qui s'en precipitent.

"(Page 35.) Malgre la chaleur qu'il avoit fait le jour de l'arrivee au
Saint-Bernard, la nuit fut froide; le lendemain (31 Juillet) le haut de
la montagne etoit enveloppe de nuages epais, mais tranquilles, il n'y
avoit point d'agitation dans l'air on assuroit qu'il faisoit beau
au-dessous de ce sommet; nous fumes visiter le revers meridional de la
montagne qui conduit au val d'Aost; apres une demie heure de marche,
nous fumes hors de cet atmosphere sombre et humide, le soleil etoit
chaud, le ciel pur et serein: on voyoit dans le lointain les sommets des
plus hautes montagnes enveloppes dans les nuages comme le Saint-Bernard:
les sommets les plus a portee etoient decouverts et eclaires par le
soleil; ces rochers termines en pointe, en pyramides et en aiguilles,
sembloient s'elancer dans la region pure de l'ether: des vallons
profonds, des ecueils, et des precipices effrayants les entouraient.
Toutes ces masses sont, comme dans la partie opposee de la montagne, des
pierre schisteuses, argilleuses et micacees: le plupart schisteuses,
c'est-a-dire par feuillets, par lits ou par couches differemment
inclinees, le toute mele de veines et de parties quartzeuses, de
couleurs variees, mais les verdatres dominent: il y a de plus sur la
hauteur de ce revers des masses et des blocs prodigieux, sans melange,
de quartz blanc et grenu a sa superficie, lesquels, au premier
coup-d'oeil, paroissoient etre de marbre de Carare; a quelque distance
c'est un chaos immense de blocs de pierres de toutes grandeurs, jetes,
culbutes, entasses dans la plus grand confusion; c'est la meme espece
de pierre micacee; il faut que des sommets, des rochers prodigieux se
soient ecroules pour avoir produit un pareil desordre qui ressemble a la
destruction d'un mond.

"(Page 40.) On trouve aux environs du couvent quelques schistes
argilleux ou ardoises grises feuilletees detruites a moitie. On ne voir
nulle part de ces ardoises sur pied ou formant des masses attachees au
sol; il faut que les couches ou les lits de ces ardoises, qui avoient
ete formes et places sur ces hauts, ayent ete detruits et renverses par
le temps.

"Enfin toute cette montagne, une des plus hautes des Alpes Poenines, qui
conserve des neiges et de glaces permanentes, est composee en general de
pierres et de roches schisteuses, dont les couches et les lits sont plus
on moins sensibles et inclines, et d'une grande durete. Leurs parties
constituantes sont un mica argilleux dont les lames ou les parties sont
plus ou moins grandes et brillantes et diversement colorees: elles sont
traversees de filons et de veines meles de rognons et de globule de
quartz ordinairement blanc, quelquefois vitreux, transparent, opaque ou
grenu: nous n'y avons vu des granits que sur le penchant de la montagne;
ils y etoient isoles et roules. Quelqu'un qui aura plus de temps, plus
de loisir, decouvrira peut-etre d'ou ces masses proviennent[21]."

[Footnote 21: M. de Saussure, in his 2d volume of Voyages dans les Alpes,
has shown the origin of these travelled granites, and traced the way by
which they have come.]

We have here a picture of one of those valleys which branch from, or
join the main valley of the Rhone. In this subordinate valley, there is
the most evident marks of the operations of water hollowing out its way,
in flowing from the summits of the mountains, and carrying the fragments
of rocks and stones along the shelving surface of the earth; thus
wearing down that surface, and excavating the solid rock. On the summit
of the mountain, again, there is an equal proof of the operation of
water and the influences of the atmosphere continued during a long
succession of ages. It is impossible perhaps to conjecture as to the
quantity of rock which has been wasted and carried away by water from
this alpine region; the summits testify that a great deal had been above
them, as that which remains has every mark of being the relicts of what
had been removed, and moved only by those operations which here
are natural to the surface of the earth. Let us now abstract any
consideration of that quantity above the summits of those mountains, as
a quantity which cannot be estimated; and let us only consider all the
cavity below the summits of those ridges of mountains to have been
hollowed out by those operations of running water which we now have in

In taking this view of the mountains on each side which supply the water
of the Rhone, what an immense quantity of stones, of sand, and fragments
of rock, must have travelled in the bed of that river, or bottom of
that valley which receives the torrents coming from the mountains! The
excavation of this great valley, therefore, will not be found any way
disproportionate to that which is more evident in the branches; and,
though the experience of man goes for nothing in this progress of
things, yet, having principles in matter of fact from whence he may
reason back into the boundless mass of time already elapsed, it is
impossible that he can be deceived in concluding that here is the
general operation of nature wasting and wearing the surface of the earth
for the purposes of this world, and giving the present shape of things,
which we so much admire in the contrast of mountains and plains, of
hills and valleys, although we may not calculate with accuracy, or
ascribe to each particular operation every individual appearance.

With a view to corroborate what has been here alledged of the valley
of the Rhone, I would beg leave to transcribe still more from the same
author. From the immense masses of horizontal strata remaining upon both
sides of the valley of the Rhone, with a face broken off abruptly, we
shall find the most perfect evidence of that which had been carried away
in the course of time, and in the forming of those valleys.

"(Page 49.) Route au Bains de Loiche. Nous quitterons un moment les
bords du Rhone pour visiter les bains de Loiche, afin de ne pas revenir
sur nos pas. De Sierre on passe par Clare et Salge, en laissant le Rhone
sur la droite; tout ce terrain est calcaire et fort pierreux. A Faren
(villages qui ne font point sur les cartes) on commence a monter la
montagne de Faren; le chemin est fort rapide et mauvais, et dure une
bonne heure et demie; on trouve sur le haut de cette montagne de
blocs de granit composes de quartz, de feld-spath, et de mica, d'ou
viennent-ils? On ne voit que des roches calcaires et point de montagne
plus elevee au-dessus; on passe par un bois de pins, on parvient enfin a
un escarpement a pic, dont on n'a point d'idee pour la hauteur; on reste
stupefait de voir le gouffre qu'on a devant soi, et on ne prevoit pas
trop comment on parviendra dans ce fond, ou la vue a peine a distinguer
la Dala, gros torrent qui y precipite ses eaux. On a taille a grands
frais un sentier tortueux dans cette roche toute calcaire; On a eu soin
de garnir le cote scabreux du sentier avec des pierres ou des garde
fou, pour rendre ce passage moins effrayant; ces precautions ne peuvent
guerir de la crainte de voir tomber d'enormes quartiers de rochers
suspendus au-dessus de soi, ils sont fendus et crevasses partout, et
menacent de se precipiter a chaque instant; on ne peut meme s'empecher
de remarquer qu'il y en a qui sont tombes nouvellement! Ce sont des
mineurs Tiroliens qui ont fait cet ouvrage, ainsi que le passage du

"Quand on est descendu au tiers environ de cet enorme fond, on passe
sur les decombres de cette vaste montagne, et par un bois de pins et de
sapins; la vue ne perce pas dans ce fond tenebreux, on entend plutot
le bruit du torrent qu'on ne l'appercoit. Ayant eu occasion de voir et
d'examiner par la suite ces bas et le pied de cette etonnante montagne
calcaire, nous avons vu dans plus d'un endroit qu'elle pose, et que ces
fondements sont un lit de schistes argilleux ou d'ardoises feuilletees
sans melange, que ce lit est detruit et se detruit dans differens
endroits, qu'il est incline et affaisse dans d'autres, et que c'est la
destruction qui a occasionne la chute d'une partie de cette montagne;
elle est par-tout a pic de ce cote, et a subi successivement ces
renversements qui paroissent plus anciens les unes que les autres,
car ces debris sont plus ou moins couverts de bois, d'arbres, et de
productions vegetales.

"On continue la route a mi cote au travers de ces debris. Le sommet de
ces montagnes eclaires par le soleil, etoit peint de rouge, de jaune, de
blanc, de bleu, et de noir, dans les endroits ou les eaux avoient coule
par-dessus, ils ressemblent de loin a des murailles, des tours, des
forts, et des fortifications de differentes formes placees pour se
defendre contre des ennemis qui viendroient par les airs. Les neiges
qu'on appercoit dans differents endroits, produisent des chutes d'eau,
des cascades, dont partie se reduit en vapeurs avant d'atteindre le
bas: le haut des montagnes qu'on voit de l'autre cote de ce vallon, est
egalement calcaire, elles sont plus basses, couverts d'arbres et de
sapins; au lieu que celles dont il est question sont nues et arides;
elles sont le sejour des neiges et sont partie de la Gemmi.

"Une de plus haute montagnes du Vallais, et situee sur une terrain
tres-eleve, est la Gemmi; elle fait partie de la grande chaine qui
separe le Canton de Berne du Vallais. Elle est remarquable, a cause de
l'importance du chemin qu'on y a pratique, des grandes difficultes qu'il
a fallu surmonter, et qu'elle est la seule communication entre les deux
Cantons. Nous parlerons de ce chemin, apres avoir decrit la nature de ce
prodigieux rocher. La Gemmi est la partie la plus haute de cette chaine
qui commence aux galleries; elle est en general calcaire. On commence
a monter insensiblement en sortant de Loiche; on traverse beaucoup de
paturages; on voit quelques champs de seigle qui etoient encore sur pied
et a moitie verts, des bosquets et de petits bois de sapins. Des masses
considerables des rochers, des monceaux de pierres entassees descendues
des hauteurs, couvrent cette superficie qui devient d'autant plus rapide
qu'on approche plus du pied du rocher: cette pente qui est au pied de
l'escarpement et de toutes les autres montagnes, est forme des pierres
et des sables qui tombent des hauts et produisent, a la longue, des
talus formes en pain de sucre, adosses contre les parties escarpees;
les plus grosses pierres roulent et se precipitent plus bas, servent de
point d'appui aux nouveaux materiaux qui s'y arretent, augmentent la
hauteur des talus, en elargissant les basis, et finissent par devenir
des montagnes tres considerables qui ont augmente en raison de la
quantite des debris qu'ont pu fournir les parties plus elevees; c'est ce
qu'on nomme montagnes de troisieme formation, composees des ruines de
celles qui dominent ces talus; ces eboulemens sont ordinairement plus
fertiles, plus couverts de vegetaux, d'arbres et de forets, sur-tout
s'ils sont composes de differentes especes de debris. Nous avons deja vu
que les montagnes calcaires sont elles-memes assises sur des couches
et des lits d'ardoise ou de schiste, qui, par l'arrangement de leurs
feuillets et de leurs couches, paroissent aussi avoir ete arranges et
formes successivement; quelle est donc la base primitive sur laquelle
sont appuyees et reposent ces masses qui etonnent l'imagination, a
quelle profondeur faudra-t-il l'aller chercher? Si nous concevons la
formation et la maniere dont se sont accrues et elevees ces troisiemes
montagnes, pouvons-nous imaginer comment se sont arrangees celles qui
sont si elevees au-dessus d'elles, ce tout que rien ne domine. C'est en
examinant en considerant ces grands spectacles que ces reflections nous
viennent; nous nous arretons, pour continuer a decrire ce que nous avons
vu et remarque, qui est la tache que nous nous sommes imposee.

"En arrivant au pied de l'escarpement, le premier objet qui frappe la
vue, ce sont des bancs de schistes ou d'ardoises bleuatres, meles de
larges filons de quartz qui forment la base, et les fondemens sur
lesquels est eleve ce mur de pierres calcaires. Car cette roche est
elevee de meme a pic; ce lit d'ardoises est un peu incline vers le
couchant, ainsi que tout ce qui repose dessus; la destruction de ce lit
a cause, ainsi qu'aux galeries, la chute des rochers superieurs, et leur
a occasionne cet a-plomb. Avant ces eboulements, ces couches schisteuses
devoient etre decouvertes a une grande hauteur, etre exposees aux
injures du tems et des saisons, se detruire et se decomposer plus
aisement. Peut-etre que l'enveloppe calcaire les couvroient entierement,
et que ces schistes n'ont commence a se detruire qu'apres la ruine de la
pierre calcaire. Actuellement ces schistes sont enterres et couverts;
ce n'est qu'en peu d'endroits qu'on les appercoit; appuyes soutenus et
couverts par ces immenses debris en talus, ce sont des contre forts qui
les aiderons a supporter plus longtemps les prodigieuses masses sous
lesquelles ces schistes sont ensevelis. Nous allons placer par ordre les
differentes substances, telle qu'elle se presentent en montant.

"1. Base de schiste ou d'ardoise feuilletee bleuatre, traverse, de
larges filons de quartz. On ne voit, on ne peut estimer son epaisseur
dont partie est enterree.

"2. Immediatement dessus pose la pierre calcaire, elle est d'une grain
fin, serre, couleur grise-jaunatre, ainsi que toute le reste.

"3. Des filons de differentes epaisseurs, d'un spath calcaire jaunatre.

"4. Quelques petits filons ou renules de schiste pur.

"5. De la pierre calcaire d'un grain plus grossier.

"6. D'autres couches d'un grain plus fin.

"7. Couches de pierres calcaires melees d'une quantite suffisante de
sable pour faire feu avec le briquet, sans cesser de faire effervescence
avec les acides.

"8. De petits filons ou couches ondoyantes de spath.

"9. De la pierre calcaire dans laquelle sont deposes des especes de
noyaux oblongs, quelques fois par couches, mais sans suite, composes
d'un sable fin de couleurs grisatre, plus blanc que la pierre calcaire,
tres-durs, faisant feu au briquet, et sans effervescence avec les

"10. On retrouve encore des couches minces sablonneuses melees de
parties calcaires.

"11. D'autres de pierre calcaire compacte et d'une epaisseur

"12. Alternativement de moins compactes. Dans l'une de ces couches il y
a de la pyrite vitriolique decompose, qui teint en jaune les parties du
rochers sur lesquels a flue la decomposition martiale.

"13. Quelques filons de spath jaunatre, entremeles de veines de schiste
pur, ne faisant pas effervescence.

"14. De la pierre calcaire.

"15. Des schistes meles de parties calcaires.

"16. De la pierre calcaire pure.

"17. De larges filons de spath calcaire jaunatre meles de quartz,
faisant feu au briquet, et une peu d'effervescence.

"18. De la pierre calcaire pure grise, plus foncee que dans le bas.

"19. Des couches calcaires jaunatres.

"20. Enfin tout le haut n'est que pierre calcaire grise et denaturee.
Cette partie superieure du monte est fort etendue. Tout ce qui est
sur le local qui va en pente assez douce vers le milieu, n'a pas ete
assujetti a de roulis et a des frottemens, il n'y a que la longueur du
tems qui l'ait degrade, et lui ait imprime le caractere de la vetuste.
On ne voit que des pierres calcaires, elles sont remplies de trous, de
fentes, et de crevasses; beaucoup, paroissent poreuses comme de la la
pierre ponce grossiere; le sejour des neiges des eaux, la gelee, et
l'intemperie des saisons a tout fait. On voit de tous cotes que l'eau
s'y infiltre et s'y perd. L'arrangement de cette espece de pierre par
couches, facilite l'entree des eaux dans l'interieur de la montagne pour
aller donner naissance a des sources, a des torrents, et quelquefois a
d'assez fortes rivieres qui sortent du pied de ces montagnes calcaires;
lors de la fonte des neiges, l'eau ne se verse point des sommets de ces
sortes de montagnes comme de dessus les autres especes de rochers qui
absorbent moins les eaux. Dans le milieu de ce haut il y a un petit lac
d'un grand quart de lieue de long de forme ovale, ou se rassemblent les
eaux des neiges fondues; il n'y a point d'issues a ce lac, ses eaux sont
absorbees, et se perdent dans l'interieur de la montagne; il n'y avoit
que peu de glace alors sur ce lac, mais il y avoit encore beaucoup de
neiges aux environs; un glacier est sur la droite, se prolonge et va
fermer le sommet du vallon ou est Loiche; c'est le meme glacier qu'on
appercoit derriere les sources chaudes. Deux aiguilles de rocher en
cone, fort hautes s'elevent au-dessus du sommet; elles sont toujours
couvertes de neiges: leur ressemblance et leur proximite a donne le nom
de Gemmi Jumeaux, a cette montagne--On voit a ses pieds a une profondeur
immense le village de Loiche, qui paroit etre tout au pied du rocher; il
faut cependant une grand heure et demie pour s'y rendre, tant la hauteur
diminue le point de perspective. Le chemin qui est pratique dans ce
rocher, y a ete par-tout taille; il le contourne certains endroits, dans
d'autres il est creuse de facon qu'il forme une voute couverte, et qu'on
a le rocher suspendu au-dessus de soi. Il est rare de trouver l'occasion
de pouvoir examiner de detailler avec autant de facilite une montagne
d'une pareille hauteur. A compter des galleries jusqu'aux glaciers de la
Gemmi, ces rochers perpendiculaires et a pic ont plus de trois lieues
d'etendue; ils diminuent en hauteur a mesure que le pays s'eleve, et se
confond dans les plus hautes alpes, qui sont surmontees d'autre masses
de rochers.

"De l'autre cote du vallon, et vis-a-vis des montagnes qui forment
celles de la Gemmi, est la montagne du midi, separee par la Dala,
torrent qui vient du glacier a la tete du vallon, dont les eaux
paroissent avoir creuse le lit etroit et profond. Cette montagne est
calcaire comme la Gemmi, et paroit en avoir fait partie: je n'ai pu
verifier nulle part si elle etoit posee sur des schistes: tout est dans
un grand bouleversement sur sa pente qui est fort rapide. A environs
trois quarts de lieue des bains, un sentier fort difficile, qui passe
sur les decombres de cette montagne et dans des bois de sapins fort
obscurs, conduit par un pente fort rapide a un rocher perpendiculaire,
comme sont presque tous ceux du canton on y trouve des echelles appuyees
contre; on parvient a la premiere, en grimpant par les avances et les
saillies du rocher; d'autres roches facilitent le moyen d'arriver a la
seconde; on trouve ainsi sept echelles dont quelques-unes sont fort
hautes, et par lesquelles on se guide au sommet de ce rocher; on est
bien surpris d'y trouver un terrain en pente, ou il y a des champs
laboures et des vignes qui entourent le village d'Albinien, dont les
habitans ont place ces echelles pour raccourcir le chemin qui conduit a
Loiche, ou ils vont vendre leurs denrees.

"Nous quittons les bains de Loiche pour nous rapprocher du Rhone: on
repasse par Inden, on ne trouve ensuite que des pierres, des rochers,
des escarpemens; c'est un chemin des plus mauvais jusqu'au bourg de
Loiche; c'est pour eviter ce chemin qu'on a fait celui des galleries. Le
bourg de Leuck, ou Loiche, est un des principaux endroits du Vallais,
bati en pierres, dans une position fort elevee et tres-forte; l'art
avoit encore ajoute anciennement a la force de son assiette, il y a
encore d'anciens forts et des tours; toute cette hauteur est calcaire;
on a la plus belle vue de ce lieu, elle s'etend sur tout le bas Vallais
jusqu'au dela de Martigny; nous avons donne une foible idee de cette
vue, avant d'arriver aux bains de Loiche, car les expressions manquent
pour rendre ces grands tableaux. Un spectacle bien interessant pour ceux
qui etudient les changemens qui arrivent journellement a la surface du
globe, est la vue du Kolebesch, montagne fort elevee en face du bourg de
Leuck, et de l'autre cote du Rhone; cette montagne est calcaire ainsi
que la chaine sur la rive gauche du Rhone, du moins la partie avancee
qui forme le vallon ou coule ce fleuve. Des chutes, des eboulemens y ont
produit de grands changemens; les eaux et les torrens qui viennent des
parties elevees, ont entraine ces debris, les ont deposes aux pieds de
la montagne, et en ont forme une colline qui a plus d'une demie-lieue
jusqu'au Rhone, et plus d'une grande lieue de large, en forme
circulaire; elle s'etend vers le haut et le bas Vallais; la partie
superieure est couverte de pres et des paturages; celle du cote du bas
Vallais est couverte d'une foret; elle va en pente douce; la grosseur
des arbres prouve combien la formation de ce terrain est ancienne.
Depuis la consolidation de ce terrain des torrens nouveaux y ont creuse
un ravin large et profond, par lequel s'ecoulent actuellement les eaux
des montagnes, et les pierres qu'elles en arrachent. Le Rhone mine et
emporte le pied de cette colline qui resserroit son cours, avec ces
materiaux il va plus loin former des atterrissemens composes des
matieres les plus pesantes; les parties les plus fines le limon suspendu
dans ces eaux servent ensuite a couvrir les anciens atterrissemens,
au moyen desquels ils deviennent susceptibles de toute espece de
vegetation; ses eaux finissent de s'epurer dans le lac Leman, d'ou il
sort clair et limpide, ainsi que toutes les rivieres qui sortent des
lacs jusqu'a ce que d'autre torrens, tombant des montagnes, viennent les
troubler de nouveau."

Here is a most satisfactory view of the structure of this country
on each side of the Rhone; strata of lime-stone and schisti, almost
horizontal or little inclined, compose the mountains from their most
lofty summits to the deepest bottom of those valleys. Such mountains
cannot have been formed in any other manner than by the waste and
degradation of their horizontal strata; consequently, here we are
certain, that, from the summit of the Gemmi to those upon the other side
of the Rhone, all the solid substance had been hollowed out by water.
Thus were formed the valleys of the Rhone, the Dala, and a multitude of

M. de Saussure has given us a description of a tract of alpine country
of the same kind with that of the _Vallais_ now considered, so far as
the strata are here in a horizontal position, instead of that highly
inclined situation in which those primary bodies are commonly found. It
is the description of Mount-Rosa Journal de Physique, Juillet 1790.

Here the same interesting observation may be made with regard to the
immense destruction which must necessarily have taken place, in the
elevated mass of solid earth, by the dissolving or wearing power of
running water; and this will be clearly explained by the formation of
those mountains and valleys, which, while they correspond with mountains
and valleys in general, have something particular that distinguishes
them from most of the Alps, where the strata, being much inclined, give
occasion to form ranges of peaks disposed in lines according to the
directions of the inclined strata. Here on the contrary, there being no
general inclination of the strata to direct the formation of the
peaks, they are found without any such order. I shall give it in M. de
Saussure's own words.

"En effect toutes les hautes sommites que j'avois observees jusqu'a ce
jour sont ou isolees comme l'Etna, ou rangees sur des lignes droites
comme le Mont-Blanc et ses cimes collaterales. Mais la je voyois le
Mont Rose compose d'une suite non-interrompue de pics gigantesques
presqu'egaux entr'eux, former un vaste cirque et renfermer dans leur
enceinte, le village de Macugnaga, ses hameaux, ses paturages, les
glaciers qui les bordent, et les pentes escarpees qui s'elevent
jusqu'aux cimes de ces majestueux colosses.

"Mais ce n'est pas seulement la singularite de cette forme qui rend
cette montagne remarquable; c'est peut-etre plus encore sa structure.
J'ai constate que le Mont-Blanc et tous les hauts sommets de sa chaine
sont composes de couches verticales. Au Mont-Rose jusqu'aux cimes les
plus elevees, tout est horizontal ou incline au plus de 30 degres.

"Enfin il se distingue encore par la matiere dont il est construit. Il
n'est point de granits en masse, comme le Mont-Blanc et les hautes cimes
qui l'entourent; ce sont des granits veines et des roches feuilletees de
differens genre qui constituent la masse entiere de cet assemblages de
montagnes, depuis bases jusqu'a ses plus hautes cimes. Ce n'est pas que
l'on n'y trouve du granit en masses, mais il y est purement accidentel,
et sous la forme de rognons, de filons, ou de couches interposees entre
celles des roches feuilletees.

"On ne dira donc plus que les granits veines, le _gneiss_ et les autres
roches de ce genre, ne sont que les debris des granits rassembles et
agglutines au pied des hautes montagnes, puisque voila des roches de ce
genre dont la hauteur egale a tres-peu-pres celle des cimes granitiques
les plus hautes connues, et ou l'on ferois bien embarrasse a trouver
la place des montagnes de granit dont les debris out pu leur servir de
materiaux; sur-tout si l'on considere la masse enorme de l'ensemble des
murs d'un cirque tel que celui du Mont-Rose. En effet, ce seroit une
hypothese inadmissible que de supposer, qu'anciennement il a existe dans
le vuide actuel du cirque une montagne de granit, et que ce cirque est
le produit des debris de cette montagne. Car comment ne resteroit-il
aucun vestige de cette montagne? On concoit bien que sa tete auroit pu
se detruire, mais son corps, la base du moins, protegee par les debris
de sa tete accumules autour d'elle qu'est ce qui auroit pu l'aneantir;
d'ailleurs les parois interieures du cirque quoique tres-escarpees
ne sont pourtant pas verticale; elles s'avancent de tous cotes vers
l'interieur; et le fond, le milieu meme du cirque n'est point du granit,
il est de la meme nature que ses bords. Enfin nous avons reconnu que les
montagnes qui forment la couronne du Mont-Rose se prolongent au dehors
a de grandes distances en sorte que leur ensemble forme une masse
incomparablement plus grande que celle qui auroit rempli le vuide
interieur du cirque.

"Il faut donc reconnoitre, comme tous les phenomenes le demontrent
d'ailleurs, qu'il existe de montagnes de roches feuilletees, composees
des memes elemens que le granit, et qui sont sorties comme lui des mains
de la nature sans avoir commence par etres elles-memes des granits[22]."

[Footnote 22: M. de Saussure, upon the evidence before us, might have
gone farther, and maintained that the masses of granite, which here
traverse the strata in form of veins and irregular blocks, had been
truly of a posterior formation. But this is a subject which we shall
have afterwards to consider in a particular manner; and then this
example must be recollected.]

Here is an example the most interesting that can be imagined. Those
mountains are the highest in Europe, and their lofty peaks are
altogether inaccessible upon one side. They had all been formed of the
same horizontal strata. How then have they become separated peaks? And
how have the valleys been hollowed out of this immense mass of elevated
country?--No otherwise than as we may perceive it, upon every mountain,
and after every flood. It is not often indeed, that, in those alpine
regions, any considerable tract of country is to be found, where
an example so convincing is exhibited. It is more common for those
mountains of primary strata or schistus to rise up in ridges, which,
though divided into great pyramids, may still be perceived as connected
in the direction of their erected strata. These last, although affording
the most satisfactory view of that mineral operation by which land,
formed and consolidated at the bottom of the sea, had been elevated and
displaced, are not so proper to inform us of the amazing waste of those
extremely consolidated bodies, as are those where the strata have
preserved their original horizontal portion. It is in this last case,
that there are data remaining for calculating the _minimum_ of the waste
that must have been made of those mountains, by the regular and long
continued operations of the atmospheric elements upon the surface of
this earth.

It is the singularity of these horizontal strata in that extensive
alpine mass, which seems to have engaged M. de Saussure, who has
inspected so much of those instructive countries, to make a tour around
those mountains, and to give us a particular description of this
interesting place. Now, from this description, it is evident, that there
is an immense mass of primary or alpine strata nearly in the horizontal
position, which is common to all the strata at their original formation;
that this horizontal mass had been raised into the highest place of land
upon this globe; and that, in this high situation, it has suffered the
greatest degradation, in being wasted by the hand of time, or operations
of the elements employed in forming soil for plants, and procuring
fertility for the use of animals. Here is nothing but a truth that may
almost every where be perceived; but here that important truth is to be
perceived on so great a scale, as to enable us to enlarge our ideas with
regard to the natural operations of this earth, and to overcome those
prejudices which contracted views of nature, and magnified opinions of
the experience of man may have begotten,--prejudices that are apt to
make us shut our eyes against the cleared light of reason.

Abundant more examples of this kind, were it necessary, might be given,
both from this very good observator, and from M. de Luc[23].

[Footnote 23: Vid. Discours sur l'Histoire Naturelle de la Suisse,
passim; _but more particularly under the article of Route du Grindle_
wald a meiringen _dans le pays de Hasti:_ Also Hist: de la Terre, Lettre
30. p. 45, et Lettre 31. page 68, etc.]

I will now only mention one from this last author, which we find in the
Journal de Physique, Juin 1792.

"Entre Francfort et Hanau, le mein est borde sur ses deux rives, de
collines dans lesquelles la _lave_ se trouve enchassee entre des
_couches calcaires_. Ces _couches_ sont tres-remarquables par leur
contenue, qui est le meme au-dessus et au-dessous de la _lave_, et qu'on
retrouve dans les _couches_ d'une grande etendue de pays, ou, comme
d'ordinaire, on voit leurs sections abruptes dans les flancs de
collines, mais sans _lave_, excepte dans le lieu indique."

The particular structure of those lime-stone strata, with the body of
basaltes or subterraneous lava which is interposed among them, shows
evidently the former connection of those two banks of the river, by
solid matter, the same as that which we see left there, and in the
flanks of those hills. That which is wanting, therefore, of those
stratified masses, in that great extent of country, marks out to us the
minimum of what has been lost, in having been worn by the attrition of
travelled materials.

I would now beg leave, for a moment, to transport my reader to the other
side of the Atlantic, in order to perceive if the same system of rivers
wearing mountains is to be found in that new world, as we have found it
in the old.

Of all the mountains upon the earth, so far as we are informed by our
maps, none seem to be so regularly disposed as are the ridges of the
Virginian mountains. There is in that country a rectilinear continuity
of mountains, and a parallelism among the ridges, no where else to be
observed, at least not in such a great degree.

At neither end of those parallel ridges is there a direct conveyance for
the waters to the sea. At the south end, the Allegany ridge runs across
the other parallel ridges, and shuts up the passage of the water in that
direction. On the north, again, the parallel ridges terminate in great
irregularity. The water therefore, that is collected from the parallel
valley, is gathered into two great rivers, which break through those
ridges, no doubt at the most convenient places, forming two great gapes
in the _blue ridge_, which is the most easterly of those parallel

Now, so far as mountains are in the original constitution of a country,
the ridges of those mountains must have been a directing cause to the
rivers. But so far as rivers, in their course from the higher to the
lower country, move bodies with the force of their rolling waters, and
wear away the solid strata of the earth, we must consider rivers as also
forming mountains, at least as forming the valleys which are co-relative
in what is termed _mountain_. Nothing is more evident than the operation
of those two causes in this mountainous country of Virginia; the
original ridges of mountains, or indurated and elevated land, have
directed the courses of the rivers, and the running of those rivers have
modified the mountains from whence their origin is taken. I have
often admired, in the map, that wonderful regularity with which those
mountains are laid down, and I have much wished for a sight of that
gap, through which the rivers, gathered in the long valleys of those
mountains, break through the ridge and find a passage to the sea.
A description of this gap we have by Mr Jefferson, in his notes on

"The passage of the Potomac, through the Blue Ridge, is perhaps one of
the most stupendous scenes in nature. You stand on a very high point of
land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged, along the
foot of the mountains, an hundred miles to seek a vent. On the left
approaches the Potomac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment
of their junction, they rush together against the mountain, rend it
asunder, and pass off to the sea.

"The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion,
that this earth had been erected in time; that the mountains were formed
first; that the rivers began to flow afterwards; that in this place
particularly they have been dammed up by the Blue Ridge of mountains,
and have formed an ocean which filled the whole valley; that, continuing
to rise, they have at length broken over this spot, and have torn the
mountain down from its summit to its base. The piles of rock on each
hand, but particularly on the Shenandoah, the evident marks of this
disrupture and avulsion from their beds, by the most powerful agents
of nature, corroborate the impression. But the distant finishing which
nature has given to the picture is of a different character. It is a
true contrast to the foreground. It is as placid and delightful as that
is wild and tremendous. For the mountain being cloven asunder, she
presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue
horizon at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as
it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the
breach, and partake of the calm below. Here the eye ultimately composes
itself; and that way too the road happens actually to lead. You cross
the Potomac above the junction, pass along its side through the base
of the mountain for three miles, its terrible precipices hanging in
fragments over you, and within about twenty miles reach of Frederick
town, and the fine country around it. This scene is worth a voyage
across the Atlantic. Yet here, as in the neighbourhood of the natural
bridge, are people who have passed their lives within half a dozen of
miles, and have never been to survey these monuments of a war between
the rivers and mountains, which must have shaken the earth itself to its

To this description of the passage of the Potomac may be added what
Mr Jefferson, in the appendix, has given from his friend Mr Thomson,
secretary of Congress.

"The reflections I was led into on viewing this passage of the Potomac
through the Blue Ridge were, that this country must have suffered some
violent convulsion, and that the face of it must have been changed from
what it probably was some centuries ago; that broken and ragged faces of
the mountain on each side of the river; the tremendous rocks which are
left with one end fixed in the precipice, and the other jutting out, and
seemingly ready to fall for want of support; the bed of the river for
several miles below obstructed, and filled with the loose stones carried
from this mound; in short, every thing on which you cast your eye
evidently demonstrates a disrupture and breach in the mountain, and that
before this happened, what is now a fruitful vale, was formerly a great
lake, or collection of water, which possibly might have here formed a
mighty cascade, or had its vent to the ocean by the Susquehanna, where
the Blue Ridge seems to terminate. Besides this, there are other parts
of this country which bear evident traces of a like convulsion. From the
best accounts I have been able to obtain, the place where the Delaware
now flows through the Kittatinny mountain, which is a continuation
of what is called the North Ridge, or mountain, was not its original
course, but that it passed through what is now called the Wind-gap, a
place several miles to the westward, and above an hundred feet higher
than the present bed of the river. This Wind-gap is about a mile broad,
and the stones in it such as seem to have been washed for ages by water
running over them. Should this have been the case, there must have been
a lake behind that mountain; and, by some uncommon swell in the waters,
or by some convulsion of nature, the river must have opened its way
through a different part of the mountain, and meeting there with less
obstruction, carried away with it the opposing mounds of earth, and
deluged the country below with the immense collection of waters to
which this new passage gave vent. There are still remaining, and daily
discovered, innumerable instances of such a deluge on both sides of the
river, after it passed the hills above the falls of Trenton, and reached
the champaign. On the New Jersey side, which is flatter than the
Pennsylvania side, all the country below Croswick hills seems to have
been overflowed to the distance of from ten to fifteen miles back from
the river, and to have acquired a new soil, by the earth and clay
brought down and mixed with the native sand. The spot on which
Philadelphia stands evidently appears to be made ground. The different
strata through which they pass in digging for water, the acorns, leaves,
and sometimes branches which are found above twenty feet below the
surface, all seem to demonstrate this."

How little reason there is to ascribe to extraordinary convulsions the
excavations which are made by water upon the surface of the earth, will
appear most evidently from the examination of that natural bridge of
which mention is made above, and which is situated in the same ridge
of mountains, far to the south, upon a branch of James's River. Mr
Jefferson gives the following account of it.

"The natural bridge, the most sublime of nature's works, is on the
ascent of a hill, which seems to have been cloven through its length
by some great convulsion. The fissure, just at the bridge, is by some
admeasurements 270 feet deep, by others 205; it is about 45 feet wide at
the bottom, and 90 feet at the top; this of course determines the length
of the bridge, and its height from the water. Its breadth in the middle
is about 60 feet, but more at the ends; and the thickness of the mass
at the summit of the arch about 40 feet. A part of its thickness is
constituted by a coat of earth, which gives growth to many large
trees. The residue, with the hill on both sides, is one solid rock of
lime-stone. The arch approaches the semi-elliptical form; but the larger
axis of the ellipsis, which would be the cord of the arch, is many times
longer than the transverse. Though the sides of the bridge are provided
in some parts with a parapet of fixed rock, yet few men have resolution
to walk to them, and look over into the abyss. You involuntarily fall on
your hands and feet, and creep to the parapet, and look over it. Looking
down from this height about a minute gave me a violent headache. If
the view from the top be painful and intolerable, that from below is
delightful in the extreme. It is impossible for the emotions arising
from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here. On the sight of
so beautiful an arch, so elevated, so light, and springing as it were
up to heaven, the rapture of the spectator is really indescribable!
The fissure, continuing narrow, deep, and straight, for a considerable
distance above and below the bridge, opens a short but very pleasing
view of the north mountain on one side, and blue ridge on the other, at
the distance each of them of about five miles. This bridge is in the
county of Rockbridge, to which it has given name, and affords a public
and commodious passage over a valley, which cannot be crossed elsewhere
for a considerable distance. The stream passing under it is called Cedar
Creek: it is a water of James's River, and sufficient in the driest
seasons to turn a grist mill, though its fountain is not more than two
miles above[24]."

[Footnote 24: Upon this occasion it may be observed, the most wonderful
thing, with regard to cosmology, is that such remnants, forming bridges,
are so rare; this therefore must be an extraordinary piece of solid
rock, or some very peculiar circumstances must have concurred to
preserve this monument of the former situation of things.]

Thus both in what is called the Old World and the New, we shall be
astonished in looking into the operations of time employing water to
move the solid masses from their places, and to change the face of
nature, on the earth, without defacing nature. At all times there is a
terraqueous globe, for the use of plants and animals; at all times there
is upon the surface of the earth dry land and moving water, although the
particular shape and situation of those things fluctuate, and are not
permanent as are the laws of nature.

It is therefore most reasonable, from what appears, to conclude, that
the tops of the mountains have been in time past much degraded by the
decay of rocks, or by the natural operations of the elements upon the
surface of the earth; that the present mountains are parts which either
from their situation had been less exposed to those injuries of what is
called time, or from the solidity of their constitution have been able
to resist them better; and that the present valleys, or hollows between
the mountains, have been formed in wasting the rock and in washing away
the soil.

If this is the case, that rivers have every where run upon higher levels
than those in which we find them flowing at the present, there must be
every where to an observing eye marks left upon the sides of rivers,
by which it may be judged if this conclusion be true. I shall now
transcribe a description of a part of the _Vallais_ by which this will
appear. (Discours sur l'Histoire Naturelle de la Suisse.)

"Apres avoir passe le village de Saint-Leonard, on commence a monter la
montagne de la Platiere; cette route est on ne peut plus interessante
pour le naturaliste Etc.

"On se trouve fort eleve au-dessus du Rhone quand on est sur le haut de
ce chemin, dont on decouvre un de plus singuliers, des plus riches, et
de plus varies passages qu'on puisse imaginer. On voit sous ses pieds le
Rhone serpenter dans le lit qu'il se creuse actuellement, car il change
et tout prouve qu'il en a souvent change; une quantite prodigieuse de
petites isles le separent et le coupent en une multitude de canaux et
de bras; ces isles sont couvertes les unes d'arbres, d'arbustes, de
paturages, de bosquets et de verdure, d'autres de pierres, de sable, et
de debris de rochers; quelques-unes sont formees ou occasionnees par un
amas de troncs d'arbres entasses avec de grands sapins renverses dont
les long tiges herissees de branches droites et nues representent des
chevaux de frise, et donnent l'idee de ces abatis destines a preserver
un pays contre l'approche de l'ennemi. Du cote du bas Vallais, on suit
a perte de vue le fleuve dans ses sinuosites et ses detours, on
l'appercoit egalement dans le haut Vallais; des avances de montagne le
cachent quelquefois: il reparoit et diminue insensiblement en approchant
de ces monts eleves ou il prend sa source: le fond du vallon paroit
etre de niveau, s'abaisser seulement d'une pente douce du cote du bas
Vallais: des mamelons, des hauteurs des monticules isoles, quelquefois
groupes de differentes manieres, sont repandus dans cet espace, et
rappellent la vue d'une pre devaste par les taupes; plusieurs de ces
hauteurs sont surmontees des ruines d'antiques chateaux, d'eglises, et
de chapelles; des villages distribues ca et la enrichissent ce fond, qui
d'ailleurs est couvert de paturages, de champs d'arbres, de bois, et de
bosquets; les enclos des possessions le coupent en mille figure bizarres
et irregulieres. Ces monticules avec leurs fabriques s'elevent au-dessus
de tous ces objets varies; quelques-unes se distinguent par leur cotes
ecroules qui sont a pic; la blancheur de ces eboulemens contraste
singulierement avec les verts qui sont les couleurs dominantes du
vallon. Au-de-la des coteaux, des montagnes s'elevent et vont s'appuyer
et s'adosser a ces masses, a ces colosses enormes de rochers a pic
eleves comme des murailles et d'une hauteur prodigieuse qui forment
cette barriere qui separe le Vallais de la Savoie. Les contours du
pied de ces monts forment des entrees de vallons et de vallees d'ou
descendent et se precipitent des torrens qui viennent grossir les eaux
du Rhone; la vue cherche a penetrer et a s'etendre dans ces espaces,
l'imagination cherche vainement des passages dans effrayantes limites,
parmi ces ecueils et ces rochers amonceles, elle est arretee partout;
de noires forets de sapin sont suspendues parmi ces rochers
blancs-jaunatres, qui se terminent enfin par une multitude d'aiguilles
et de pyramides qu'on voit percer au travers des neiges et des glaces,
s'elancer dans les nues, s'y cacher et s'y perdre.

"En examinant de plus pres ces mamelons repandus dans le vallon, on voit
qu'ils sont composes de pierres, de sables, et de debris rapportes et
amonceles sans ordre depuis des temps dont rien ne peut fixer l'epoque:
on voit que les eaux du Rhone ont coule a leurs pied, qu'il en a
mine plusieurs et a occasionne leurs chutes et leurs ruines. On voit
actuellement quelques mamelons qui subissent ces memes degradations,
et fournissent au Rhone les materiaux dont il va former plus loin ces
atterissemens dont nous avons parle. La confusion et le desordre qui se
remarque dans la composition interieure de ces mamelons prouvent
qu'ils ne sont pas le produit de la mer ou des eaux qui ont travaille
successivement et lentement a la formation de la plupart des terrains;
mais que le fond de ce vallon a ete rempli des decombres et des
debris des montagnes superieures, qu'ils y ont ete entraines par des
inondations et des debordemens subits; que les eaux du Rhone ensuite ont
parcouru ce vallon qu'il a souvent change de lit; que c'est en tournant
et en circulant dans ce terrain nouvellement forme, qu'il a creuse les
espaces qui sont entre ces mamelons, et que c'est en creusant le terrain
qu'ils se sont eleves; leurs formes et leurs pentes allongees vers le
bas Vallais, sont de nouvelles preuves que ce sont les eaux actuelles
qui ont change la surface de ce terrain, nous verrons de nouvelles
preuves de ce que nous disons en avancant d'avantage vers le haut
Vallais; il n'y a peut-etre point d'endroit plus propre a etudier le
travail des eaux que ce vallon qu'on a la facilite de voir et d'examiner
sous des aspects differentes."

Another example of the same kind, with regard to the bed of the Rhine,
we have from the same author. (Discours, etc. page 259.)

"_De Richenau a Coire, Troyen, et Saint-Gal._

"Pour aller a Coire on passe le port qui est sur le haut Rhin; en
cotoyant ce fleuve, qui coule dans un fond, on entre dans une plaine de
niveau, qui n'a qu'une pente tres insensible de trois quarts de lieue;
le fond du terrain n'est qu'un amas de pierres roulees de toutes
especes. Les deux cotes sont bordes de montagnes calcaire qui courent
parallelement entr'elles. Celle de la gauche, au pied de laquelle coule
le Rhine, est tres rapide et perpendiculaire a son sommet; celle qui est
a droite de la plaine ou petit vallon, puisqu'il se trouve entre des
montagnes, est moins haute, plus boisee, et couverte de sapins. Le
vallon est aussi couvert, en partie, de tres-grands et beaux pins; mais
ce qu'on y voit de plus remarquable, c'est une douzaine de gros mamelons
ou butes, elevees de cinquante a soixante toises, plus ou moins isolee,
et a differentes distances les unes des autres; ces butes sont rondes,
la plupart allongees dans le sens du vallon, et composees de debris
calcaires et de sables; le fond du vallon est mele de plus d'especes de
galets. On ne croit pas se tromper en disant que ce vallon a ete rempli
de matieres apportees par les eaux jusqu'a la hauteur ou sont encore
actuellement les mamelons; que de nouvelles inondations ont ensuite
creuse et entraine ce qui manque de terrain a ces mamelons; que c'est en
circulant autour de ces mamelons que les eaux leur ont donne la forme
ronde; et surtout allongee dans le sens du vallon, et que c'est par le
moyen de ces memes eaux que le fond actuel de cette plaine a pris ce
niveau et cette pente insensible vers un pays plus ouvert qui est
au-dela. On a deja fait mention de pareils mamelons qui se trouvent dans
le vallon du Vallais parcouru par le Rhone."

These examples may also be supported by what this author observes in
another place[25].

[Footnote 25: Discours, etc. page 201.]

"Le vallon ou est situe Meiringen, est visiblement forme par le depot
des eaux, il est de niveau, et s'etend trois lieues en longueur jusqu'au
lac de Brientz, a la suite duquel est le meme terrain nivele, qui
va jusqu'au lac de Thun, dont on a parle. Une autre observation
qui concourt a favoriser ce sentiment, c'est que toutes les roches
calcaires, qui entourent le vallon, sont a pic, qu'on y remarque des
cavites circulaires et des enfoncemens a meme hauteur et a differents
points, qui constatent la fouille et le mouvement des eaux contre ces

Thus we have seen the operation of the atmospheric elements degrading
mountains, and hollowing out the valleys of this earth.

The land which comes from the mineral region in a consolidated state,
in order to endure the injuries of those atmospheric elements, must be
resolved in time for the purposes of fertilising the surface of this
earth. In no station whatever is it to be exempted from the wasting
operations, which are equally necessary, in the system of this world, as
were those by which it had been produced. But with what wisdom is that
destroying power disposed! The summit of the mountain is degraded, and
the materials of this part, which in a manner has become useless from
its excessive height, are employed in order to extend the limits of the
shore, and thus increase the useful basis of our dwellings. It is our
business to trace this operation through all the intermediate steps of
that progress, and thus to understand what we see upon the surface of
this earth, by knowing the principles upon which the system of this
world proceeds.


_Facts and Opinions concerning the Natural Construction
of Mountains and Valleys._

The valley of the Rhone is continued up to the mountain of St. Gothard,
which may be considered as the centre of the Continent, since, from the
different sides of this mountain, the water runs in all directions. To
the German Sea it runs by the Rhine, to the Mediterranean by the Rhone,
and to the Adriatic by the Po. Here it may be proper to take a general
view of this mountainous country, or that great mass of rock or solid
strata which has been either formed originally in its present shape, or
has been excavated by the constant operation of water running from the
summit in all the different directions.

On the one hand, it is supposed that the forming cause which had
produced those mountains, in collecting their materials at the bottom of
the sea, had also determined the shape in which their various ridges are
at present found; on the other hand, it is supposed that the destructive
causes, which operate in degrading mountains, have immediately
contributed to produce their present forms, and that it is only
mediately or more remotely that this shape has been determined by
mineral operations and the constitution of the solid parts, which thus
oppose the wearing operations of the surface with different degrees of
hardness and solidity. Whether natural appearances correspond with the
one or the other of those two different suppositions, every person who
has the opportunity of making such an examination, and has sufficient
knowledge of the subject to judge from his observation, will determine
for himself.

I will here give the opinion of a person who has had great opportunities
for this purpose, who is an intelligent as well as an attentive
observator, and who has had particularly this question in his view. It
is from 'Tableaux de la Suisse'[26].

[Footnote 26: "Discours sur l'Histoire Naturelle de la Suisse."]

"Quand nous nous sommes trouve sur ces points eleves, nous avons
toujours considere le total des montagnes prises ensemble, leurs
situations respectives, les unes par rapport aux autres; afin de
reconnoitre, s'il y avoit quelque chose de constant dans leurs position;
rien n'est plus varie. Dans la grande chaine de montagnes qui separe
le canton de Berne du Vallais d'un cote, et les Alpes qui separent le
Vallais de la Savoie de l'autre, en considerant le course du Rhone sous
differens points de vue, on n'a point vu que les angles saillans de ces
tres hautes montagnes fussent opposes aux angles rentrans des
montagnes qui sont vis-a-vis; Le fameux vallon qui est sur le haut du
Saint-Gothard, le point le plus eleve de l'Europe, contredit egalement
cette observation, aussi que les positions de la plus grande partie des
montagnes qui forment son vaste circuit. Le vallon de Scholenen, qui
a plus de huit lieues, et dans lequel la Reusse coule du sommet du
Saint-Gothard jusqu'au lac de Lucerne, offre a peine quelques exemples
d'angles rentrans opposes a des angles saillans. Les nombreux vallons
que nous avons constamment traverses ceux qui conduisent au Grindelwald,
et celui qui mene au pays de Hasli qui sont sous nos yeux, n'etablirent
pas d'avantage cette correspondance d'angles saillans et angles
rentrans, qu'on regarde comme si constante. Dans les montagnes basses,
du troisieme et quatrieme ordre, ou inferieures, on remarque plus
souvent cette correspondance, encore n'est-elle pas constante: les eaux
ordinaires ont forme ces vallons; mais si on veut donner une theorie
generale, c'est assurement dans les plus hautes montagnes qu'il faut
prendre ses exemples. Ce qui se trouve au-dessous de ces points les plus
eleves, a pris sa forme de la disposition meme des plus hauts sommets."

M. de Saussure, in his second volume of _Voyages dans les Alpes_, gives
the strongest confirmation to the theory of the gradual degradation of
mountains by the means of rain.

"Sec. 920. Je reviens aux observations. Il en est une tres importante pour
la theorie de la terre, dont on peut du haut du Cramont apprecier la
valeur, mieux que d'aucun autre site; je veux parler de la fameuse
observation de _Bourguet_ sur la correspondance des angles saillans avec
les angles rentrans des vallees. J'ai a deja dit un mot dans le 1er.
volume, Sec. 577, mais j'ai renvoye a ce chapitre les developpemens que je
vais donner.

"Ce qui avoit fait regarder cette observation comme tres-importante,
c'est que l'on avoit cru qu'elle pourroit servir a demontrer que les
vallees ont ete creusees par des courans de la mer, dans le temps ou
elle couvroit encore les montagnes; ou que les montagnes qui bordent ces
vallees avoient ete elles-memes formees par l'accumulation des depots
rejetes sur les bords de ces memes courans.

"Mais l'inspection des vallees que l'on decouvre du haut du Cramont
demontre pleinement le peu de solidite de ces deux suppositions. En
effet, toutes les vallees que l'on decouvre du haut de cette cime sont
fermees, au moins a l'une de leurs extremites et quelques-unes a leurs
deux extremites, par des cols eleves, ou meme par des montagnes d'une
tres-grande hauteur: toutes sont coupees a angles droits par d'autres
vallees, et l'on voit enfin clairement que la plupart d'entr'elles ont
ete creusees, non point dans la mer, mais, ou au moment de sa retraite,
ou depuis sa retraite, par les eaux des neiges et des pluies.

"On a d'abord sous ses yeux la grande vallee de l'Allee-Blanche, qui
etant parallele a la direction general de cette partie des Alpes, est
du nombre de celles que je nomme _longitudinales_; et l'on voit cette
vallee barree a l'une de ses extremites par le Col de la Seigne et a
l'autre par le Col Ferret. En se retournant du cote de l'Italie, on voit
plusieurs vallees a-peu-pres paralleles a celle-la, comme celle de la
Tuile, celle du Grand Saint Bernard, qui toutes aboutissent, par le
haut, a quelque Col tres-eleve, et par le bas, a la Doire, ou elles
viennent se jeter vis-a-vis de quelque montagne qui leur correspond de
l'autre cote de cette vallee.

"Si l'on considere ensuite cette meme vallee de la Doire, qui descend
de Courmayeur a Yvree, on la verra barree par le Mont-Blanc et par
la chaine centrale, qui la coupent a angles droits dans la partie
superieure. On verra cette meme vallee s'ouvrir, dans un espace de sept
ou huit lieues, deux ou trois inflexions tout-a-fait brusques; et on
la verra enfin coupee a angles droits par une quantite de vallees qui
viennent y verser leurs eaux, et qui sont elles memes coupees par
d'autres, dont elles recoivent aussi le tribut. Or quand on reflechit a
la largeur et a l'etendue des courans de la mer, peut-on concevoir
que ces sillons etroits, barres, qui se coupent en echiquier a de
tres-petites distances, aient pu etre creuses par de semblables courans.

"L'observation de la correspondance des angles, fut-elle aussi
universelle qu'elle l'est peu, ne prouveroit donc autre chose, sinon que
les vallees sont nees de la fissure et de l'ecartement des montagnes, ou
qu'elles ont ete creusees par les torrens et les rivieres qui y coulent
actuellement. On voit un grand nombre de vallees naitre, comme je l'ai
fait voir au Bon-Homme, Sec. 767, sur les flancs d'une montagne; on les
voit s'elargir et s'approfondir a proportion des eaux qui y coulent; un
ruisseau qui sort d'une glacier, ou qui sort d'une prairie, creuse un
sillon, petit d'abord, mais qui s'agrandit successivement a mesure
que ses eaux grossissent, par la reunion d'autres sources ou d'autres

"Il n'est meme pas necessaire, pour se convaincre de la verite da ces
faits, de gravir sur le Cramont. Il suffit de jeter les yeux sur
la premiere carte que l'on trouvera sous la main, des Pyrenees, de
l'Apennin, des Alpes, ou de quelqu'autre chaine de montagnes que ce
puisse etre. On y verra toutes les vallees indiquees par le cours des
rivieres; on verra ces rivieres et les vallees dans lesquelles elles
coulent, aboutir par une de leurs extremites au sommet de quelque
montagne ou de quelque col eleve. Les replis tortueux d'un grand fleuve,
indiqueront une vallee principale, dans laquelle des torrens ou des
rivieres qui indiquent d'autres vallees moins considerables, viennent
aboutir, sous des angles plus ou moins approchans de l'angle droit. Or
ces rivieres qui viennent de droite et de gauche se jeter dans la vallee
principale, ne s'accordent pas pour se jeter par paires dans le
meme point du fleuve; elles sont comme les branches d'un arbre qui
s'implantent alternativement sur son tronc, et par consequent, chaque
petite vallee se jette dans la vallee principale vis-a-vis d'une
montagne. Et de plus on verra aussi sur les cartes que meme les plus
grandes vallees ont presque toutes des etranglemens qui forment des
ecluses, des fourches, des defiles.

"Je ne pretends cependant pas que l'erosion des eaux pluviales, des
torrens et des rivieres, soit l'unique cause de la formation des
vallees: le redressement des couches des montagnes nous force a en
admettre une autre, dont je parlerai ailleurs; j'ai voulu seulement
prouver, ici que la correspondance des angles, lorsqu'elle a lieu dans
les vallees, ne prouve point que ces vallees soient l'ouvrage des
courans de la mer."

The place to which M. de Saussure here remits us is where he afterwards,
in describing the _Val d'Aoste_, makes the following observation.

"(Sec. 960.) Au-dela de Nuz, les montagnes qui bordent au midi la vallee,
et dont on voit d'ici tres-bien la structure, sont composees de grandes
couches appliquees les unes contre les autres, et terminees par des
cimes aigues, escarpees contre le midi, elles tournent ainsi le dos a la
vallee, dont la direction est toujours a 10 degres de l'est par nord.
Celles de la gauche que nous cotoyons, et qui sont de nature schisteuse,
tournent aussi le dos a la vallee en s'elevant contre le nord. Je crois
pouvoir conclure de la, que cette vallee est une de celles dont la
formation tient a celle des montagnes memes, et non point a l'erosion
des courans de la mer ou des rivieres. Les vallees de ce genre,
paroissent avoir ete formees par un affaissement partiel des couches des
montagnes, qui ont consenti, dans la direction qu'ont actuellement ces

Here I would beg leave to differ a little from this opinion of M. de
Saussure, at least from the manner in which it is expressed; for perhaps
at bottom our opinions upon this subject do not differ much.

M. de Saussure says that the formation of this valley depends upon the
mountains themselves, and not upon the erosion of the rivers. I agree
with our author, so far as the mountains may have here determined the
shape and situation of the valley; but, so far as this valley was
hollowed out of the solid mass of our earth, there cannot be the least
doubt that the proper agent was the running water of the rivers. The
question, therefore, comes to this, How far it is reasonable to conclude
that this valley had been hollowed out of the solid mass. Now, according
to the present theory, where the strata consolidated at the bottom of
the sea are supposed to be erected into the place of land, we cannot
suppose any valley formed by another agent than the running water upon
the surface, although the parts which are first to be washed away, and
those which are to remain longest, must be determined by a concurrence
of various circumstances, among which this converging declivity of the
strata in the bordering mountains, doubtless, must be enumerated.

With regard to any other theory which shall better explain the present
shape of the surface of the earth, by giving a cause for the changed
position of the strata originally horizontal, I cannot form a judgment,
as I do not understand by what means strata, which were formed
horizontally, should have been afterwards inclined, unless it be that of
a power acting under those strata, and first erecting them in relation
to the solid globe on which they rested.

Besides, in supposing this valley original, and not formed by the
erosion of the rivers, What effect should we ascribe to the transport
of all those materials of the Alps, which it is demonstrable must have
travelled through this valley? Whether is it more reasonable to
suppose, on the one hand, that the action and attrition of all the hard
materials, running for millions of ages between those two mountains, had
hollowed out that mass which originally intervened; or, on the other,
that this valley had been originally formed in its present shape, while
thousands of other valleys have been hollowed out of the solid mass?

But to put this question out of doubt, with regard to this very valley
of the river _Doire_, M de Saussure has given us the following decisive
fact, Sec. 881: "Immediatement au-dessus de cette source, est un rocher
qui repond si precisement a un autre rocher de la meme nature, situe de
l'autre cote de la vallee de Courmayeur, qu'on ne sauroit douter qu'ils
n'aient ete anciennement unis par une montagne intermediaire, detruite
par les ravages du temps."

Now, to see how little the situation of the strata influences the shape
of the valleys, I shall transcribe the two paragraphs immediately
following that which has given occasion to the present discussion.

"Un peu au-dela de Nux, la vallee cesse d'etre large et plane, comme
elle etoit dans le environs de la cite; elle devient etroite et tres
variee; la sterile et sauvage, ici couverte de vergers et de prairies
arrosees par la Doire.

"Sec. 961. Les couches des montagnes a notre gauche, qui depuis la cite
avoient constamment couru a l'est et monte au nord, paroissent changer
a un quart de lieue du village de Chambaise, qui est a une lieue et un
quart de Nux. Elles montent d'abord au sud-est, et peu plus loin droit
au sud, tandis que l'autre cote de la vallee elles paroissent monter a

In every mountain, and in every valley, the solid parts below have
contributed in some manner to determine the shape of the surface of the
earth; but in no place is the original shape of the earth, such as it
had first appeared above the sea, to be found. Every part of the land is
wasted; even the tops of the mountains, over which no floods of water
run, are degraded. But this wasting operation, which affects the solid
rock upon the summit of the mountain, operates slowly in some places,
compared with that which may be observed in others. Now, it is in the
valleys that this operation is so perceptible; and it is in the valley
that there is such a quick succession of things as must strike the mind
of any diligent observer; but this is the reason why we must conclude,
that at least all the valleys are the operation of running water in
the course of time. If this is granted, we have but to consider the
mountains as formed by the hollowing out of the valleys, and the valleys
as hollowed out by the attrition of hard materials coming from the
mountains. Here is the explanation of the general appearance of
mountain and valley, of hill and dale, of height and hollow; while each
particular shape must have its dependence, consequently its explanation,
upon some local circumstance.

But, besides the general conformation of mountains and valleys, there
may be also, in the forms of mountains, certain characters depending
upon the species of substances or rocks of which they are composed, and
the general manner in which those masses are wasted by the operations of
the surface. Thus there is some character in the external appearance
of a hill, a mountain, or a ridge of hills and mountains; but this
appearance is generally attended with various circumstances, or is so
complicated in its nature, as to be always difficult to read; and it is
but seldom that it affords any very particular information; although,
after knowing all the state and circumstances of the case, I have always
found the appearances most intelligible, and strictly corresponding
with the general principle of atmospheric influence acting upon the
particular structure of the earth below.

M. de Saussure has given us an observation of this kind, in describing
the mountains through which the Rhone has made its way out of the Alps,
at the bottom of the Vallee.

"Sec.. 1061. Plus loin le village de _Juviana_ ou Envionne on voit des
rochers qui ont une forme que je nomme _moutonnee_; car on est tente
de donner des noms a des modifications qui n'en ont pas, et qui ont
pourtant un caractere propre. Les montagnes que je designe par cette
expression sont composees d'un assemblage de tetes arrondies, couvertes
quelquefois de bois, mais plus souvent d'herbes, ou tout au plus de
brousailles. Ces rondeurs contigues et repetees forment en grand l'effet
d'une toison bien fournie, ou de ces perruques que l'on nomme aussi
_moutonnees_. Les montagnes qui se presentent sous cette forme, sont
presque toujours de rochers primitives, ou au moins des steatites; car
je n'ai jamais vu aucune montagne de pierre a chaux ou d'ardoise revetir
cette apparence. Les signes qui peuvent donner quelque indice de la
nature des montagnes, a de grandes distances et au travers des plantes
qui le couvrent, sont en petit nombre, et meritent d'etre etudies et
consacres par des termes propres."

When philosophers propose vague theories of the earth, theories which
contain no principle for investigating either the general disorder of
strata or the particular form of mountains, such theories can receive no
confirmation from the examination of the earth, nor can they afford any
rule by which the phenomena in question might be explained. This is not
the case when a theory presents both the efficient and final cause of
those disorders in bodies which had been originally formed regular, and
which shows the use as well as means for the formation of our mountains.
Here illustration and confirmation of the theory may be found in
the examination of nature; and natural appearances may receive that
explanation which the generalization of a proper theory affords.

The particular forms of mountains depend upon the compound operation
of two very different causes. One of these consists in those mineral
operations by which the strata of the earth are consolidated and
displaced, or disordered in the production of land above the sea; the
other again consists in those meteorological operations by which this
earth is rendered a habitable world. In the one operation, loose
materials are united, for the purpose of resisting the dissolving powers
which act upon the surface of the earth; in the other, consolidated
masses are again dissolved, for the purpose of serving vegetation
and entertaining animal life. But, in fulfilling those purposes of a
habitable earth, or serving that great end, the land above the level of
the sea is wasted, and the materials are transported to the bottom of
the ocean from whence that consolidated land had come. At present we
only want to see the cause of those particular shapes which are found
among the most elevated places of our earth, those places upon which the
wasting powers of the surface act with greatest energy or force.

In explaining those appearances of degraded mountains variously
shaped, the fact we are now to reason upon is this; first, that in the
consolidated earth we find great inequality in the resisting powers of
the various consolidated bodies, both from the different degrees of
consolidation which had taken place among them, and the different
degrees of solubility which is found in the consolidated substances;
and, secondly, that we find great diversity in the size, form, and
positions of those most durable bodies which, by resisting longer the
effects of the wearing operations of the surface, must determine the
shape of the remaining mass. Now so far as every particular shape upon
the surface of this earth is found to correspond to the effect of those
two causes, the theory which gave those principles must be confirmed in
the examination of the earth; and so far as the theory is admitted to be
just, we have principles for the explanation of every appearance of that
kind, whether from the forming or destroying operations of this earth,
there being no part upon the surface of this earth in which the effect
of both those causes must not more or less appear.

But though the effects of those two causes be evident in the
conformation of every mountainous region, it is not always easy to
analyse those effects so as to see the efficient cause. Without sections
of mountains their internal structure cannot be perceived, if the
surface which we see be covered with soil as is generally the case. It
is true, indeed, that the solid bodies often partially appear through
that covering of soil, and so far discover to us what is to be found
within; but as those solid parts are often in disorder, we cannot, from
a small portion, always judge of the generality. Besides, the solid
parts of mountains is often a compound thing, composed both of
stratified and injected bodies; it is therefore most precarious, from
a portion which is seen, to form a judgment of a whole mass which is
unexplored. Nevertheless, knowing the principles observed by nature
both in the construction and degradation of mountains, and cautiously
inferring nothing farther than the data will admit of, some conclusion
may be formed, in reasoning from what is known to what is still unknown.

It is with this view that we are now to consider the general forms of
mountains, such as they appear to us at a certain distance, when we have
not the opportunity of examining them in a more perfect manner. For,
though we may not thus learn always to understand that which is thus
examined, we shall learn, what is still more interesting, viz. that
those mountains have been formed in the natural operations of the earth,
and according to physical rules that may be investigated.

We are to distinguish mountains as being either on the one hand soft and
smooth, or on the other hand as hard and rocky. If we can understand
those two great divisions by themselves, we shall find it easy to
explain the more complex cases, where these two general appearances
partially prevail. Let us therefore examine this general division which
we have made with regard to the external character of mountains.

The soft and smooth mountains are generally formed of the schisti, when
there is any considerable extent of such alpine or mountainous
region. The substance is sufficiently durable to form a mountain, or
sufficiently strong, in its natural state, to resist the greatest
torrent of water; at the same time this fissible substance generally
decays so completely, when exposed to the atmosphere, as to leave no
salient rock exposed by which to characterise the mountain.

Of this kind are the schisti of Wales, of Cumberland, of the isle of
Man, and of the south of Scotland. I do not say absolutely, that there
is no other kind of material, besides the schisti which gives this
species of mountain, but only that this is generally the case in alpine
situations. It may be also formed of any other substance which has
solidity enough to remain in the form of mountains, and at same time not
enough to form salient rocks. Such, for example, is the chalk hills of
the Isle of Wight and south of England. But these are generally hills of
an inferior height compared with our alpine schisti, and hardly deserve
the term of mountain.

This material of our smooth green mountains may be termed an
argillaceous schistus; it has generally calcareous veins, and is often
fibrous in its structure resembling wood, instead of being slatey, which
it is in general. There is however another species of schistus, forming
also the same sort of mountain; it is the micaceous quartzy schistus
of the north of Scotland. Now it must be evident that the character of
those mountains arises from there being no part of those schisti that
resists the influence of the atmosphere, in exfoliating and breaking
into soil; and this soil is doubtless of different qualities, according
to the nature of those schisti from which the soil is formed.

Such mountains are necessarily composed of rounded masses, and not
formed of angular shapes. They are covered with soil, which is more
or less either stoney or tender, sterile or fertile, according to the
materials which produce that soil. The fertile mountains are green and
covered with grass; the sterile mountains again are black, or covered
with heath in our climates.

Thus we have a general character of smooth and rounded mountains; and
also a distinction in that general character from the produce of the
soil indicating the nature of the solid materials, as containing, either
on the one hand calcareous and argillaceous substances, or, on the
other, as only containing those that are micaceous and siliceous.

With regard again to the other species of mountain, which we have termed
rocky, we must make a subdistinction of those which are regular, and
those in which there is no regularity to be perceived. It must be plain
that it is only of those which have regularity that we can form a
theory. It is this, that the regularity in the shape of those mountains
arises from the rock of the mountain being either on the one hand an
uniform solid mass, or on the other hand a stratified mass, or one
formed upon some regular principle distinguishable in the shape. In the
first of these, we have a conical or pyramidal shape, arising from the
gradual decay of the rock exposed to the destructive causes of the
surface, as already explained in this chapter. In the second, again, we
find the original structure of the mass influencing the present shape in
conjunction with the destructive causes, by which a certain regularity
may be observed. Now, this original shape is no other than that of beds
or strata of solid resisting rock, which may be regularly disposed in a
mountain, either horizontally, vertically, or in an inclined position;
and those solid beds may then affect the shape of the mountain in some
regular or distinguishable manner, besides the other parts of its shape
which it acquires upon the principle of decay.

In distinguishing, at a distance, those regular causes in the form
of mountains, we may not be able to tell, with certainty, what the
substance is of which the mountain is composed; yet, with regard to the
internal structure of that part of the earth, a person of knowledge and
experience in the subject may form a judgment in which, for coming
at truth, there is more than accident; there is even often more than
probable conjecture. Thus, a horizontal bed of rock forms a table
mountain, or such as M. Bouguer found in the valley of the Madelena. An
inclined rock of this kind forms a mountain sloping on the one side, and
having a precipice upon the upper part of the other side, with a slope
of fallen earth at the bottom; such as the ridges observed by M. de
Saussure from the top of the Cramont, having precipices upon one side,
which also had a respect to certain central points, an observation
which draws to more than the simple structure of the mountain. Were it
vertical, again, it would form a rocky ridge extended in length, and
having its sides equally sloped, so far as the other circumstances of
the place would permit.

Therefore, whether we suppose the mountains formed of a rock in mass, or
in that of regular beds, this must have an influence in the form of this
decaying surface of the earth, and may be distinguished in the shape of
mountains. It is but rarely that we find mountains formed altogether of
rock, although we often find them of the other sort, where little or
nothing of rock is to be seen. But often also we find the two cases
variously compounded. This is the source of the difficulty which occurs
in the reading of the external characters of mountains; and this is one
of the causes of irregularity in the form of mountains, by which there
is always some degree of uncertainty in our judgment from external

We may form another distinction with regard to the structure of
mountains, a distinction which depends upon a particular cause, and
which will afford an explanation of some other appearance in the surface
of the earth.

Mountains in general may be considered as, being either on the one hand
associated, or on the other insulated; and this forms a distinction
which may be explained in the theory, and afford some ground for judging
of the internal structure from the external appearance.

The associated mountains are formed by the wearing down of the most
decayable, or softer places, by the collected waters of the surface;
consequently there is a certain similarity, or analogy, of the mountains
formed of the same materials, and thus associated. The highest of those
mountains should be near the center of the mass; but, in extensive
masses of this kind, there may also be more than one center. Nor are
all the associated mountains to be of one kind, however, to a certain
extent, similarity may be expected to prevail among them.

It must now be evident, that when we find mountains composed of very
different materials, such as, _e.g._ of granite, and of lime-stone or
marl, and when the shape of those mountains are similar, or formed upon
the same principle, such as, _e.g._ the pyramidal mountains of the Alps,
we are then to conclude, as has already been exemplified (chap. 9. page
306.) that those consolidated masses of this earth had been formed into
the pyramidal mountains in the same manner. We have there also shown
that this principle of formation is no other than the gradual decay of
the solid mass by gravity and the atmospheric influences. Consequently,
those pyramidal mountains, though composed of such different materials,
may, at a certain distance, where smaller characteristic distinctions
may not be perceivable, appear to be of the same kind; and this indeed
they truly are, so far as having their general shape formed upon the
same principle.

We come now to treat of insulated mountains. Here volcanos must be
mentioned as a cause. By means of a volcano, a mountain may be raised
in a plain, and a volcanic mountain might even rise out of the sea.
The formation of this species of mountain requires not the wearing
operations of the earth which we have been considering as the modifier
of our alpine regions. This volcanic mountain has a conical shape,
perhaps more from the manner of its formation which is accretion, than
from the wasting of the surface of the earth. It is not, however, of
this particular specie of mountain that I mean to treat, having had no
opportunity of examining any of that species.

The genus of mountain which we are now considering, is that of the
eruptive kind. But there is much of this eruptive matter in the bowels
of the earth, which, so far as we know, never has produced a volcano. It
is to this species of eruption that I am now to attribute the formation
of many insulated mountains, which rise in what may be termed low
countries, in opposition to the highlands or alpine situations. Such is
Wrekin in Shropshire, which some people have supposed to have been a
volcano. Such are the hundred little mountains in the lowlands of this
country of Scotland, where those insulated hills are often called by the
general term _Law_; as, for example, North Berwick Law.

When masses of fluid matter are erupted in the mineral regions among
strata which are to form our land; and when those elevated strata are,
in the course of time, wasted and washed away, the solid mass of those
erupted substances, being more durable than the surrounding strata,
stand up as eminences in our land. Now these often, almost always, form
the small insulated mountains which are found so frequently breaking out
in the lowlands of Scotland. They appear in various shapes as well as
sizes; and they hold their particular form from the joint operation of
two different causes; one is the extent and casual shape of the erupted
mass; the other is the degradation of that mass, which is wasted by the
influences of the atmosphere, though wasted slower than the strata with
which it was involved.

When the formation of this erupted mass has been determined by the
place in any regular form, which may be distinguished in the shape of a
mountain, it gives a certain character which is often not difficult to
read. Thus, our whin-stone, interjected in flat beds between the
regular strata, often presents its edge upon, or near the summit of our
insolated mountains and eminences. They are commonly in the form of
inclined planes; and, to a person a little conversant in this subject,
they are extremely distinguishable in the external form of the hill.

We have a good example of this in the little mountain of Arthur's Seat,
by this town of Edinburgh. This is a peaked hill of an irregular erupted
mass; but on the south and north sides of this central mass, the
basaltic matters had been forced also in those inclined beds among
the regular strata. On the north side we find remarkable masses of
whin-stone in that regular form among the strata, and lying parallel
with them. The most conspicuous of these basaltic beds forms the summit
of the hill which is called Salisbury Craig. Here the bed of whin-stone,
more than 60 or 80 feet thick, rises to the west at an angle of about 40
degrees; it forms the precipicious summit which looks to the west; and
this is an appearance which is distinguishable upon a hundred other
occasions in the hills and mountains of this country.

Rivers make sections of mountains through which they pass. Therefore,
nothing is more interesting for bringing to our knowledge the former
state of things upon the surface of this earth, than the examination of
those valleys which the rivers have formed by wearing down the solid
parts of alpine countries. We have already seen that the wide extensive
valley of the Rhone, between Loiche and Kolebesche, as well as the whole
extensive circus of the Rosa mountains, has on each side mountains of
the same substances, the strata of which are horizontal; consequently,
here the valley must have been hollowed out of the solid rock; for there
is no natural operation by which those opposite mountains of horizontal
strata could have been formed, except in the continuation of those beds.
We are therefore to conclude, that the solid strata between those ridges
of lofty mountains had been continuous.

The most perfect confirmation which this theory could receive, would
be to find that those ridges of mountains, which the Rhone divides in
issuing from the Alps into the plain, had been also united, in forming
one continued mass of solid rocks. But the observations of M. de
Saussure, who has most carefully examined this subject, will leave no
room to doubt of that fact.

This view of the entry to the valley of the Rhone is too interesting not
to give it here a place. It follows immediately after that which we have
last transcribed.

"Ces montagnes que j'allai sonder au haut des prairies qui les separent
de la grande route, sont composees d'un melange tres ressemblant au
precedent, et ce sont-la, les derniers rochers primitifs que l'on
rencontre en sortant des Alpes par cette vallee. Le village de Juviana,
dont ils occupent les derrieres, est encore a une lieue de St Maurice.

"Sec. 1062. A l'extremite de ces rochers, on voit une grande ravine, ou
plutot une vallee ouverte du nord au midi, dans laquelle coule le
torrent de St. Barthelemi. Cette vallee termine les montagnes primitives
que je viens de decrire: au-dela commencent les montagnes calcaires.
Cependant le pied de la montagne primitive, coupe par le torrent, est
demeure engage sous les premieres couches de la montagne calcaire.

"Au travers de cette vallee, on voit de hautes montagnes couverte de
neige, situees derriere celles qui bordent notre route. La plus haute et
la plus remarquable de ces montagnes se nomme la _Dent_ ou _l'Aiguille
du Midi_. De l'autre cote du Rhone, on voit une autre cime aussi
tres-elevee, qui se nomme la _Dent_ ou _l'Aiguille de la Morele_. Ces
deux hautes cimes ont entr'elles une correspondance de hauteur, de
forme, et meme de matiere tout-a-fait singuliere. L'une et l'autre
presentent leurs escarpemens a la vallee du Rhone. Leurs cimes crenelees
sont de la meme couleur brune. Sous ces cimes brunes, on voit de part et
d'autre une bande grise, qui paroit horizontale, et au-dessous de cette
bande grise, le rocher, dans l'une comme dans l'autre, reprend sa
couleur jaunatre. Ces montagnes sont surement secondaires, les bandes
grises paroissent etre de pierre a chaux, et les jaunes de schiste
argilleux et de gres, a en juger du moins a cette distance, car je ne
les ai point observees de plus pres. Elles paroissent aussi appartenir a
des chaines secondaires qui passent derriere les chaines primitives,
que nous avons observees sur les bords du Rhone, et quoique les bandes
jaunes et grises que l'on y observe, semblent horizontales, je ne doute
point que les couches memes, dont ces bandes sont les sections, ne
descendent en arriere avec assez de rapidite; le escarpemens de ces
montagnes en font une preuve a-peu-pres certaine.

"Ces hautes montagnes auroient-elles ete anciennement liees entr'elles
par des intermediaires de la meme nature, que couvroient, et les
primitives que nous avons observees, et toute cette vallee dans laquelle
coule aujourd'hui le Rhone? Je me garderois bien de l'affirmer, mais je
ferois tente de le croire.

"Sec. 1063. Depuis la vallee dont je viens de parler, et qui termine au
couchant les montagnes primitives, celles qui suivent jusques a St.
Maurice, sont de nature calcaire a couches epaisses et suivies. Ces
couches s'elevent contre les primitives que nous avons cotoyees; et
celles qui en sont les plus voisines paroissent fort tourmentees; ici
flechies, la rompues. Apres une interruption, ces rochers sont suivis
d'autres rochers, aussi calcaires, coupes a pic du cote de la vallee,
et composes de grandes assises horizontales. Ces rochers forment une
enceinte demi-circulaire, qui vient presque se joindre a ceux qui
bordent la rive droite du Rhone, et former ainsi l'entree de cette
vallee, dont le fleuve ne sort que par une issue tres-etroite.

"La ville de St. Maurice est ainsi renfermee par cette enceinte de
rochers, dont les bancs epais, bien suivis, separes par des cordons de
verdure, et couronnes par des forets, avec un hermitage niche entre ces
bancs, presente une aspect singulier et pittoresque.

"Sec. 1064. Les rochers correspondans de l'autre cote du Rhone, ou sur la
rive droite de ce fleuve sont aussi calcaires. La montagne qui domine
cette rive, un peu au-dessus de St. Maurice, est composee de couches
contournees, froissees et repliees de la maniere la plus etrange. Ce
qu'il y a encore de remarquable, c'est que ces couches ainsi repliees
en ont d'autres a cote d'elles qui sont planes, presque verticales, et
d'autres sous elles, qui sont horizontales. Il faudroit avoir observe
de pres ce singulier rocher, et avoir determine comment et jusqu'a quel
point ces couches sont unies entr'elles pour former les conjectures sur
leur origine. Car la vallee est trop large pour que l'on puisse en juger
avec precision d'une rive a l'autre.

"On voit avec peine que cette large vallee soit aussi peu cultivee; elle
est presque partout couverte, ou de marais, ou de debris des montagnes

"Sec. 1065. Avant de quitter cette vallee, je jetterai un coup-d'oeil
general sur la singuliere suite de rochers qui composent la chaine que
nous venons d'observer.

"Les deux extremites sont calcaires, avec cette difference, que celle
qui est la plus pres de Martigny est melee de mica, tandis que celle de
St Maurice n'en contient point. Entre ces calcaires sont refermees des
rochers que l'on regarde comme primitives; et au milieu de ces roches on
trouve des ardoises et des poudingues. On fait que ce dernier genre est
ordinairement classe parmi les montagnes tertiaires, ou de la formation
la plus recente. Mais ces poudingues-ci, qui ne contiennent aucun
fragment de pierre calcaire, qui ne sont meme point unis par un gluten
calcaire, ne sont vraisemblablement pas posterieures a la formation des
montagnes calcaires, ou du moins ils ne doivent point etre confondus
avec ces gres et ces poudingues de formation nouvelle, qui entrent dans
la composition des montagnes du troisieme ordre.

"Quant aux ardoises que se trouvent interposees au milieu de ces gres
et de ces poudingues, Sec. 1054, elles sont de nature argilleuse, et dans
l'ordre des pierres que l'on nomme secondaires.

"Ces ardoises, de meme que toutes les pierres de ces montagnes, ont
leurs couches dans une situation verticale: mais nous avons vu qu'il y a
lieu de croire qu'elles ont ete anciennement horizontales."

It is singularly fortunate that such remarkable appearances, as are
found in the rocks of this place, had called the attention of M. de
Saussure to investigate a subject so interesting to the present theory;
and it is upon this, as well as on many other occasions, that the value
of those observations of natural history will appear. They are made by a
person eminent for knowledge; and they are recorded with an accuracy and
precision which leaves nothing more to be desired.

From _Martigny_ to _St. Maurice_, about three leagues, there is a most
interesting valley of the Rhone, through which this river makes its way
from the _Vallais_, or great valley above, among those mountains which
seem to have shut up the _Vallais_, and through which the river must
pass in running to the lake. M. de Saussure found some singular masses,
which attracted his attention, in examining the structure of the rocks
on the left side of this little valley. Like a true philosopher, and
accurate naturalist, he desired to compare what was to be observed
in the other side of this valley of the Rhone, which he had found so
singular and so interesting on that which he had examined. Accordingly,
in Spring 1785, he made a journey for that purpose. In this survey he
found the most perfect correspondence between the two sides of this
valley, so far as rocks of the same individual species, and precisely in
the same order, are found upon the one side and upon the other.

This author, after describing those particular appearances, sums up
the evidence which arises from this comparison of the two sides of the
valley; and he here gives an example of just reasoning, of accuracy, and
impartiality, which, independent of the subject, cannot be read without
pleasure and approbation. But when it is considered, that here is a
matter of the highest importance to the present theory, or to any other
system of geology, no less than a demonstration that the rocks, of which
the mountains on both sides of the valley of the Rhone are formed, are
the same, and must have been originally continued in one mass, the
following observations of our author will be most acceptable to every
person who inclines to read upon this subject.

"Sec. 1079. On voit par cet expose, que bien que la vallee du Rlione ait
dans ce trajet pres d'une lieue de largeur moyenne, les montagnes qui
la bordent sont en general du meme genre, et dans la meme situation sur
l'une et l'autre rive.

"Il y a cependant trois differences que je dois exposer et apprecier en
peu de mots.

"La plus importante est dans ces couches de pierre calcaire, Sec. 1073,
que j'ai trouvees sur la rive droite, et que je n'ai point vue sur la
gauche. Mais il est possible qu'elles y soient, et qu'elles m'ayent
echappe, masquees par des debris ou par d'autre causes accidentelles;
cette supposition est d'autant plus possible, que l'epaisseur de ces
couches n'est que de quelques pieds. D'ailleurs il arrive souvent, que
des filons, tel que paroit etre celui dont je parle, ne s'etendent pas a
de grandes distances, quoique la nature de la montagne demeure la meme.
Enfin ce qui diminue l'importance de cette difference, c'est que ces
couches calcaires se trouvent dans le voisinage de l'ardoise qui passe,
comme la pierre calcaire, pour une pierre de nature secondaire, et qui
alterne tres-frequemment avec elle.

"Une autre difference que l'on aura pu remarquer, c'est que sur la rive
droite, je n'ai point trouve de petrosilex pur et en grandes masses,
comme sur la rive gauche dans les environs de la cascade. Mais cette
difference ne me frappe pas non plus beaucoup; parce qu'au lieu de
petrosilex, j'ai trouve sur la rive droite des roches composees en
tres-grande partie de feldspath. Or je regarde le petrosilex et
le feldspath comme des pierres de la meme nature. Leur durete est
a-tres-peu-pres la meme; leur densite la meme, leur fusibilite la
meme; l'analyse chymique demontre dans l'un et dans l'autre les memes
principes, la terre siliceuse, la terre argilleuse et le fer; et de plus
ces ingrediens s'y trouvent a tres-peu-pres dans les memes proportions.
Il ne reste donc de difference que dans la couleur et dans l'agregation
des elemens. Or on fait que ces qualites accidentelles tiennent souvent
a des causes qui peuvent etre purement locales.

"La troisieme difference, celle qui se trouve dans la direction de
quelques-unes des couches, je l'ai deja indiquee, Sec. 1075. et il semble
inutile de repeter, que quand des couches formees originairement dans
une situation horizontale, ont ete redressees par des operations
violentes de la nature, il n'y a pas lieu de s'etonner qu'elles n'aient
pas exactement la meme position dans tout l'espace qu'elles occupent.

"Les differences ne sont donc pas tres-significantes, et les
ressemblances sont au contraire du plus grand poids. Ce qui leur donne
a mon gre la plus grande force, c'est la rarete des pierres dont ces
montagnes sont composees, ces especes de porphyres a base de petrosilex,
ces rochers feuilletees melangees de feldspath et de mica; c'est encore
la correspondance de l'ordre dans lequel elles se suivent; ces bancs de
poudingues separes par des ardoises sur une rive comme sur l'autre; leur
situation egalement ou a-peu-pres telle. Viola de grandes et fortes
analogies et qui ne permettent pas de douter que ces montagnes,
produites dans le meme temps et par les memes causes, n'aient ete
anciennement unies."

Having thus shown, that the Rhone had in the course of time hollowed
out its way from the central mountain of the _St. Gothard_ through the
extensive valley of the _Vallais_ we may still further trace the marks
of its operation in the more open country towards the lake. It is an
observation which M. de Saussure made in his way from the valley of the
Rhone to Geneva.

"Sec. 1090. La grande route de Bex a Villeneuve suit toujours le fond de la
vallee du Rhone, en cotoyant les montagnes qui bordent la droite ou le
cote oriental de cette vallee. Ces montagnes sont en general de nature
calcaire, mais on voit a leur pied, jusques aupres de la ville d'Aigle,
situee a une lieue et demi de Bex, la continuation des collines de gypse
qui renferment les sources salees.

"Sec. 1091. A l'opposite de ces collines, au couchant de la grande route,
on voit sortir du fond plat de la vallee deux collines allongees dans
le sens de cette meme vallee. Ces collines sont l'une et l'autre d'une
pierre calcaire dure et escarpees presque de tous les cotes. L'une la
plus voisine de Bex, ou la plus meridionale, se nomme _Charpigny_,
l'autre _Saint Tryphon._

"Il paroit evident que ces rochers isoles au milieu de cette large
vallee sont de noyaux plus dures et plus solides qui ont resiste aux
causes destructrices par lesquelles cette vallee a ete creuse. Ils ne
sont cependant pas exactement de la meme nature, et surtout pas de la
meme structure; car celui de _Saint Tryphon_ est compose de couches
regulieres, horizontales ou a-peu-pres telles, tandis que celui de
_Charpigny_ a les siennes tres-inclinees et souvent dans un grand

In M. de Saussure's Journey to the Alps, we have now seen a description
of the shape that had been given to things, by those operations in which
strata had been consolidated and elevated above the sea; nothing but
disorder and confusion seems to have presided in those causes, by which
this mass of continent had been exposed to the sight of men; and nature,
it would appear, had nothing in view besides the induration, the
consolidation, and the elevation of that mass into the snowy regions of
the atmosphere. From the descriptions now given, we see the operation of
the waters upon the surface of the earth; we perceive a regular system
of mountains and valleys, of rivulets and rivers, of fertile hills and
plains, of all that is valuable to the life of man, and that which is
still more valuable to man than life, viz. the knowledge of order in
the works of nature, and the perception of beauty in the objects that
surround him.

Let us now turn our view to distant regions, and see the effect of
causes which, being general, must be every where perceived.


_The Theory illustrated, by adducing examples
from the different Quarters of the Globe_

The system which we investigate is universal on this earth; it hangs
upon, the growth of plants, and life of animals; it cannot have one
rule in Europe, and another in India, although there may be animals
and plants, the constitutions of which are properly adapted to certain
climates, and not to others. The operation of a central fire, in making
solid land on which the breathing animals are placed, and the influences
of the atmosphere, in making of that solid land loose soil for the
service of the vegetable system, are parts in the economy of this world
which must be every where distinguishable. But this the reader is not
to take upon my bare assertion; and I would wish to carry him, by the
observations of other-men, to all the quarters of the globe.

Mr Marsden, without pretending to be a natural historian, gives us a
very good picture of the water-worn surface of Sumatra. History of
Sumatra, page 20.

"Along the western coast of the island, the low country, or space of
land which extends from the sea shore to the foot of the mountains, is
intersected and rendered uneven to a surprising degree, by swamps, whose
irregular and winding course may in some places be traced in a continual
chain for many miles till they discharge themselves either into the sea,
or some neighbouring lake, or the fens that are so commonly found near
the banks of the larger rivers, and receive their over flowings in the
rainy monsoons. The spots of land, which these swamps incompass, become
so many islands and peninsulas, sometimes flat at the top, and often
mere ridges; having in some places, a gentle declivity, and in others
descending almost perpendicularly to the depth of an hundred feet. In
few parts of the country of Bencoolen or of the northern districts
adjacent to it, could a tolerable level space of four hundred yards be
marked out: about Soogey-lamo in particular, there is not a plain to
be met with of the fourth part of that extent. I have often from an
elevated situation, where a wider range was subjected to the eye,
surveyed with admiration the uncommon face which nature assumes, and
made enquiries and attended to conjectures on the causes of those
inequalities. Some chose to attribute them to the successive concussions
of earthquakes, through a course of centuries. But they do not seem to
be the effect of such a cause. There are no abrupt fissures; the hollows
and swellings are for the most part smooth and regularly sloping, so as
to exhibit not unfrequently, the appearance of an amphitheatre, and they
are clothed with verdure from the summit to the edge of the swamp. From
this latter circumstance, it is also evident that they are not, as
others suppose, occasioned by the falls of heavy rains that deluge the
country for one half of the year. The most summary way for accounting
for this extraordinary unevenness of the surface were to conclude, that
in the original construction of our globe, Sumatra was thus formed by
the same hand which spread out the sandy plains of Arabia, and raised up
the Alps and Andes beyond the regions of the clouds." Our author then,
after reprobating this idea, endeavours to explain the appearance here
examined by the constant though imperceptible operation of springs.
The present purpose is not so much concerning the explanation of those
appearances, as to inquire if these be the general appearances of things
over all the surface of the earth.

The general appearance here is that of land washed away upon the surface
by water, which has every where left the marks of its operation in
the shape of the ground. As for any particulars in the shape of this
water-worn surface, this can only be explained in knowing the nature
of the soil and solid parts, and the circumstances of the operation in
which they have been wasted.

If the shape of the land here described by Mr Marsden has been produced
by means of water, it must be by water moving from a higher to a lower
place; and, in that respect, it is the same operation which every where
prevails, in producing similar effects, although it is not every where
that this effect comes to be the object of our notice. It is therefore
so necessary to illustrate, in giving a diversity of cases. But it is
not every case that can be understood as belonging to this rule; for,
though the shape of every part has been modified by the operation of
this cause, it is not every where that this relation of cause and effect
is immediately perceived. There must be a certain regularity in the
parts to be described, and a certain conformity wish those in which we
have no doubt, or in which we certainly acknowledge the efficacy of the

In America, this system of swamps and savannas are to be found upon a
large scale; but for this very reason, they are not so remarkable to
men. Man only sees a system of things, so far as that system is more
immediately within the reach of his perception; for, without having
prepared _media_, by which he may compare things that are distant either
in their nature or their place, How could he judge those things to be
connected in a system? It is in this manner that, seeing only the small
part of an extended system of things, he sees no system in it, and,
consequently he cannot give any scientifical description of the subject.

There is another case in which men of science, or systematising men,
are apt to fall into delusion: it is not from any deficiency of seeing
effects, and knowing general causes; it is from the misapplication
of known causes to effects which are perceived. We have a remarkable
example of this in the view which M. de Bouguer has taken of a singular
appearance which he met with, perhaps more interesting to the present
Theory than almost any other of which we know. (Voyage au Perou, page

"Une particularite qui a attire souvent mon attention dans toutes ces
contrees, c'est que toutes les montagnes aupres desquelles je
passois, et qui sont au pied et au dehors de la grande Cordeliere, me
paroissoient avoir eu une origine toute differente de celles que j'avois
vues auparavant. Les lits de differentes terres et le plus souvent de
rochers dont elles etoient formees, n'etoient pas inclines de divers
cotes, comme dans les autres: ils etoient parfaitement horizontaux, et
je les voyois quelquefois se repandre fort loin dans les differentes
montagnes. La plupart de celle-ci ont deux ou trois cent toises de
hauteur, et elles sont presque toutes inaccessibles; elles sont souvent
escarpees comme des murailles: c'est ce qui permet de mieux voir leurs
lits horizontaux dont elles presentent l'extremite. Le spectacle
qu'elles fournissent n'est pas riant, mais il est rare et singulier.
Lorsque le hazard a voulu que quelqu'une fut ronde, et qu'elle se
trouvat absolument detachee des autres; chacun de ses lits est devenu
comme un cylindre tres-plat, ou comme un cone tronque qui n'a que
tres-peu de hauteur; et ces differens lits places les uns au-dessus des
autres, et distingues par leurs couleurs et par les divers talus de leur
contour, ont souvent donne au tout la forme d'ouvrage artificiel et fait
avec la plus grande regularite. Il est une de ces montagnes a environ
une lieue de Honda sur le bord du Guali et sur le chemin de Mariquita,
qui est exposee a la vue de tous les voyageurs; mais je sens que si j'en
donnois ici une representation, il faudroit que je comptasse sur le
credit que doit naturellement avoir le rapport de quelqu'un qui n'a
aucun interet d'alterer la verite, et qui a en toute sa vie le plus
grand eloignement pour le mensonge. On voit dans ces pays la les
montagnes y prendre continuellement l'aspect d'anciens et somptueux
edifices, de chapelles, de domes, de chateaux; quelquefois ce sont des
fortifications formees de longues courtines munies de boulevarts. Il est
difficile lorsqu'on observe tous ces objets et la maniere dont leurs
couches se repondent, de douter que le terrain ne se soit abaisse tout
autour. Il paroit que ces montagnes dont la base etoit plus solidement
appuyee, sont restees comme des especes de temoins ou de monumens qui
indiquent la hauteur qu'avoit anciennement le sol."

There are but two ways in which those appearances may be explained; one
of these is that which M. Bouguer has adopted; the other, again, belongs
to the present Theory, which represents the action of running water upon
the surface of the earth as instrumental in producing its particular
forms, and thus forming many natural appearances upon the surface of the
earth. The first of these, viz. that a mass of solid land, in such a
shape as that here described, should remain while all around it sinks,
is an opinion which, however possible it may be, is not supported, I
believe, by any example in nature; the last again, viz. that the parts
around those insulated masses, and those that had intervened between the
corresponding mountains, have been carried away by the natural operation
of the rivers, is not only the most easy to conceive, but is also, so
far as those operations are concerned, conform to every appearance upon
the surface of the globe. It is not necessary to go to South America,
and the rivers of the Cordeliers, for examples to illustrate that which
every one may see performed almost at his own door; but it is there that
an example has occurred, which, though it has imposed upon an eminent
philosopher, cannot properly be employed in support of any other theory
but the present. Our author proceeds:

"Je ne connois les environs de l'Orenoque que par relation, mais je
scais qu'en plusieurs endroits les montagnes y sont egalement formees de
couches horizontales, et qu'elles ont souvent en haut des plateformes
qui sont exactement de niveau. On ne trouve a ce que je crois rien de
semblable au Perou malgre la variete presque infinie qui y est repandue.
Toutes les couches y vont en s'inclinant autour de chaque sommet, en se
conformant a la pente des collines."

It would appear that it is a rare thing to find a great extent of
indurated strata in a horizontal position. Now, this circumstance is
necessary in affording the appearances here considered; those particular
appearances, therefore, are only to be found more partially in other
places, where the strata are inclined. If here, therefore, where the
strata are horizontal, and where the spaces between the summits of those
mountains had evidently been as solid as the masses which remain, we
find mountains formed by the waste of land, and a system of rivers
forming valleys amidst these mountains, Have we not reason to conclude,
that in other mountainous regions, where the regular position of the
strata has been broken and confounded, and where the same system of
river and valley universally is found, the form of the surface has been
produced upon no other principle than that of the natural waste of the
solid mass, and the washing down of the heights for the formation of the
fertile plains?

Nothing can tend more to illustrate the Theory than a proper comparison
of the Old World with that which is called the New. It is not that we
are to expect to see the operation of a longer time, upon the one of
those continents, compared with the other; we equally lose all measure
of time, in tracing the operations of nature on either continent. But in
those operations there is rule to be observed; and the question is, If
the same order of things may be perceived in all the quarters of the

This is a question which the learned, even, in their closet, may be able
to decide. They have but to look at the maps to be convinced that every
where the process of nature, in forming habitable countries, is uniform;
and that the system of what is called the watering those countries with
rivers, is universally the same; a system which is now considered as
giving us a view of the operations of water wearing down the land which
it has fertilized, and shaping the surface of the earth so as to make it
on the whole most useful.

There cannot be a doubt of the effects of those natural operations which
belong to the surface of the earth, and which affect more powerfully
the surfaces of the mountains; the only question is with regard to the
general amount of those operations, and to the particular occasions
which may have concurred in producing those effects. These questions can
only be resolved in making particular observations. A general theory may
thus be formed, of those operations by which the surface of the earth
above the level of the sea has been changed, and will continue to be so
as long as it remains a surface exposed to the influence of those agents
which must be acknowledged in this place.

Naturalists, who have examined the various parts of the earth, almost
all agree in this, that great effects have been produced by water moving
upon the surface of the earth; but they often differ with respect to the
cause of that motion, and also as to the time or manner in which the
effect is brought about. Some suppose great catastrophes to have
occasioned sudden changes upon the surface, in having removed immense
quantities of the solid body, and in having deposited parts of the
removed mass at great distances from their original beds. Others again,
in acknowledging the natural operations which we see upon the surface of
the earth, have only supposed certain occasions in which the consequence
of those natural operations have been extremely violent, in order to
explain to themselves appearances which they know not how to reconcile
with the ordinary effects of those destructive causes.

The theory of the earth which I would here illustrate is founded upon
the greatest catastrophes which can happen to the earth, that is, in
being raised from the bottom of the sea, and elevated to the summits of
a continent, and in being again sunk from its elevated station to be
buried under that mass of water from whence it had originally come. But
the changes which we are now investigating have no farther relation to
those great catastrophes, except in so far as these great operations of
the globe have put the solid land in such a situation as to be affected
by the atmospheric influences and operations of the surface.

The water from the atmosphere, collected upon the surface of the earth,
forms channels to itself in running towards the sea or lower ground; and
it is these channels, increasing in their size as they are diminished in
number by the uniting of their waters, that give so clear a prospect of
the operations of time past, and prove the theory of the land being in a
continual state of decay, and necessarily wasted for the purpose of this
world. Every description, therefore, of a river and its valleys, from
its sources in the mountains to its mouth where it delivers those
waters to the sea, is interesting to the present theory, which is the
generalization of those facts by which the end or intention of nature is
to be observed. M. Reboul, in a Memoir read to the Academy of Sciences
at Paris in 1788, has given a very distinct view of the _Vallee du Gave
Bearnois dans les Pyrenees_; there are many things interesting in this
memoir; and I shall now endeavour to avail myself of it.

"Le torrent qui porte le nom de Gave de Pau parcourt depuis sa source
pres des limites de l'Espagne, jusqu'a la petite ville de Lourde, une
vallee qui se dirige du sud au nord sur une longueur d'environ dix
lieues. Cet espace, qui forme son lit dans l'interieur des Pyrenees,
ressemble moins a une vallee dans la majeure partie de son etendue, qu'a
une entaille etroite et profonde, dont les flancs sont souvent coupes a
pic d'une hauteur effrayante, et dont le fond est toujours couvert d'une
eau ecumeuse. Cette long coupure se termine, ainsi que plusieurs de ses
branches, aux sommets les plus eleves des Pyrenees, et elle recoit les
eaux qui distillent sans cesse de leur neiges durcies. Sa division
geographique est en deux vallees, dont l'une plus voisine de la plain
est appelee Lavedan, et dont l'autre ne fait que partie de la contree
qui porte le nom de Bareges."

From the summit of that ridge of mountains which run from the Atlantic
to the Mediterranean, the vallies of the principal rivers run from the
south northward towards the plain of France; from this again they turn
westward in order to find their way to the sea. The mountains, which
then separate these rivers from the plain, are composed of schistus and
great collections of water-worn gravel which had come from the mountains
of the Pyrenees.

Upon this occasion Mr Reboul observes: "Les ruines amoncelees et la
grand quantite de cailloux roules qui forment ces digues naturelles,
invitent sans doute a penser que ce sont les torrens eux-memes qui ont
comble leur lit et obstrue leur passage, mais on ne peut concevoir que
cet effet ait pu avoir lieu que dans des tems tres-recules, et avant
l'entiere excavation des vallees. Peut-etre paroitra-t-il naturel
d'imaginer que les masses out ete produites par le conflit des eaux
qui se precipitoient des montagnes et des flots de la mer, lorsqu'elle
recouvroit encore les plaines, etc.

"Je ne fatiguerai point le lecteur du denombrement inutile de tous les
bancs pierreux de ces substances qui se succedent le long de la vallee,
et prenant seulement le resultat de mes observations, je me bornerai
a dire que depuis Lourde jusqu'a Luz, les parois de la gorge sont
alternativement composees de matieres argilleuses et calcaires,
quelquefois sous la forme de couches diversement inclinees, mais plus
souvent fissiles, montrant de feuillets de differentes grandeurs et d'un
tissu plus ou moins compacte. Ces schistes heterogenes sont presque
toujours entasses et superposes dans la meme montagne, mais en plusieurs
endroits un seul genre predomine, etc. L'espece d'uniformite qui semble
exister dans la composition de ces masses, ne se trouve nullement
dans leurs disposition; on chercheroit en vain dans leurs couches une
direction et une inclinaison generale et constante, on pourroit tout
au plus hazarder a ce sujet de legeres conjectures; mais si l'ordre
primitif de ces montagnes est derobe a l'oeil de l'observateur, on
trouve a chaque pas des indices certains, des marques evidentes de la
maniere dont il a ete altere ou detruit.

"Je reconnus d'abord que les memes cailloux, les memes debris de marbre
et d'ardoise qui couvraient le fond de la vallee, et que le Gave
entraine et remplace sans cesse, se trouvent aussi a plusieurs toises
au-dessus de son niveau. Je voyois quelquefois les sedimens fluviatiles
recouverts et ensevelis sous des grandes masses de pierre feuilletee
adherente a la montagne; levant ensuite les yeux, j'observai que de l'un
ou de l'autre cote du torrent, les flancs des montagnes etoient souvent
couverts et comme plaques de semblables masses de schiste, dont les
couches et les feuillets offroient toujours des directions contraires a
celles des schistes de meme nature, auxquels ils etoient adosses.
Les eaux du torrent, qui ont sans doute renverse ces couches sur
elles-memes, y ont depose des marques de leur passage; elles ont
abandonne, engage sous ces debris memes, a des grandes hauteurs, des
blocs enormes de granit que le voyageur surpris voit pendre sur sa tete;
de pareils blocs arrondis et uses couvrent le fond de la vallee, et
opposent quelquefois au torrent une digue qui le fait jaillir et
retomber en ecume; enfin j'ai suivi les traces de ce courant aux
differentes hauteurs des parois du canal ou il coule aujourd'hui a
plusieurs centaines de toises de profondeur. Il a du les parcourir
toutes successivement en creusant et retrecissant sont lit et augmentant
sa vitesse.

"Les cretes des sommites qui forment les bords les plus eleves de
la gorge, sont escarpees dans la direction du courant. J'ai apercu
quelquefois des portions de montagnes separees de la crete, ou du sommet
principal, et dont les eaux semblent en avoir fait des especes d'iles,
en creusant autour d'elles un fosse profond, ou l'on voit fort bien
les angles saillans de l'ile correspondre aux angles rentrans de la
montagne, etc.

"Dans la partie de la vallee ou s'observent ces phenomenes, on marche
toujours entre deux montagnes resserrees, dont les nuage derobent
souvent les cimes, mais par-tout ou les eaux de quelque torrent
considerable viennent se reunir a celles du Gave, il s'est forme un
bassin d'une etendue moyenne, qui ne fut d'abord vraisemblablement
qu'une grande mare d'eau semblable a ces lacs qui existent encore dans
le sein des Pyrenees et des Alpes. Ainsi on voit, a une lieu avant
Argeles, les montagnes s'ecarter, se replier en un vaste circuit,
et entourer, comme d'une muraille sterile et ruineuse, des prairies
arrosees par mille canaux et par le brouillard des cascades; des
coteaux, ou l'on voit s'elever, parmi les vergers et les bois, des
villages ornes de marbre, des chateaux majestueux et les delicieuses
habitations de quelques moines fortunes.

"Le penchant qui borde ce vallon du cote de l'est n'est creuse que par
quelques ravins tres-inclines, dont les eaux se precipitent en ecume et
disparoissent, avant d'arriver au bas de la montagne, sous l'ombre
des bois et d'une foule d'habitations rustiques: mais le penchant de
l'ouest, plus profondement excave par les torrens, presentent les issues
de trois autres vallees, dont les deux principales vont prendre leurs
origine aux limites de l'Espagne; l'autre, plus voisine de la plaine,
est a-peu-pres dirigee de l'est a l'ouest. Elles s'appelle _Estrem de
Sales_, et joint ses eaux a celles du Gave un peu au-dela de l'extremite
interieure de ce grand bassin qu'elle a concouru a former. C'est au
centre du bassin, aupres du village d'Argeles, que le Gave d'Azun arrive
avec fracas, et c'est a son extremite superieure que le Gave de Cautres
s'y precipite en sortant d'une gorge dont l'aspect frappe d'etonnement
et d'horreur. Le cours de ces deux Gaves est aupres de leur embouchure
oblique a celui du Gave principal; mais ils se replient ensuite vers le
centre de la chaine et deviennent presque paralleles. Aupres de Luz se
decouvre un autre bassin ou se joignent les eaux du Gave a celles du
torrent de la Lise, qui n'a creuse qu'un ravin, et a celles du Bastan
qui descend d'un vallon tres-evase dans la direction de l'est a l'ouest,
ou se trouvent les eaux minerales de Bareges. Ce nouveau bassin n'offre
que le spectacles d'une vaste prairie bordee de montagnes prodigieuses.
Je n'entreprendrai point de rien ajouter ici touchant ces diverses
branches de la vallee du Gave Bearnois; chacune d'elles exigeroit une
description detaille, soit a cause de son etendue, soit a cause de la
variete de ses phenomenes.

"De Luz a Gavarnie le Gave se trouve de nouveau resserre dans une gorge
etroite ou les montagnes paroissent encore s'elever et les abimes
s'enfoncer; ses eaux ne coulent plus qu'en cascades bruyantes, et
quelquefois le voyageur, qui les voit ecumer sous ses pieds du haut du
sentier trace sur la montagne, entend a peine un murmure lointain. On
y remarque de nouveau les phenomenes, decrit ci-devant, des pierres
feuilletees renversees de leur premiere direction, des bancs entiers
courbes et brises dans leur chute, des debris granitiques arrondis par
les eaux, deposes a de tres-grandes hauteurs dans le fond des ravins ou
le courant n'existe plus, etc.

"A Gedre le Gave recoit les eaux de Heas, lieu devenu celebre et enrichi
par la devotion Espagnole. A peine a-t-on passe le torrent, que le
granit commence a paroitre. Le Gave roule ses eaux sur cette base qu'il
entame difficilement: aussi son lit est-il plus large et la gorge
moins profonde: le granit se montre enterre sous de grandes montagnes
calcaires. Du cote de l'ouest il est presque toujours recouvert de ces
masses qu'on distingue de loin a leur teinte grise et blanchatre melee
de sillons d'un rouge peu fonce. A l'est les montagnes calcaires
laissent le granit a decouvert, et lui demeurent comme adossees. Celles
qui leur succedent offrent des marques, effrayantes de decrepitude;
leurs cretes sont demantelees, et leurs flancs sont lesardes et herisses
de rochers suspendus. Le fond de la vallee semble enseveli sous les
debris de cette montagne a demi ecroulees. On trouve, parmi les ruines,
des blocs de plusieurs milliers de pieds cubes. Le Gave les couvre
quelquefois de ses eaux, se precipite dans les intervalles qu'ils
laissent entr'eux, et renait comme sous une voute affaissee. Plusieurs
de ces lambeaux affectent sur leurs plans la forme de parallelogrammes
et de rectangles; mais ceux que l'on voit encore attaches au corps de la
montagne, sont pour la plupart pyramidaux, et sa crete est formee d'une
suite de ces pyramides granitiques. Toutefois on ne peut pas se refuser
a voir que le granit est ici dispose en couches tres-distinctes qui
paroissent surmontees dans quelques points des sommites, de bancs
calcaire. La direction de ces couches granitiques n'est pas constante
dans toute la masse; elles semblent s'incliner vers le sud-ouest du
cote de Gavernie, et vers le nord-est du cote de Gedre. Quoique leurs
substance soit melees de plusieurs roches heterogenes, elle est
generalement composees de quartz, de feld-spath, et de mica; mais ces
deux substances y sont dans un etat frappant de decomposition, et
semblent quelquefois reduites en chaux de fer.

"Au-dela de leurs debris, dont l'amas est designe par le montagnards
sous le nom de _Peyrade_ et sous celui de _Catios_ par les gens du
monde, le granit est de nouveau surmonte de substances calcaires. Il
sort de base aux pics coniques de Caumelie et de Pimene. Cette base
forme elle-meme une vaste montagne qu'on appelle _Allans_; ses roches,
d'un granit ferrugineux et sombre, sont entourees d'une couronne
blanchatre et calcaire, ou vegetent quelque sapins epars: Gavarnie est a
ses pieds.

"C'est a une legere distance de ce village, que se termine la vallee du
Gave Bearnois, ou plutot qu'elle prend naissance avec le torrent qui l'a
formee. On appercoit de loin les vastes sommets et les champs eleves de
neige et de glace d'ou ses eaux se precipitent; on reconnoit ensuite
qu'ils ne forment qu'une montagne ou plutot une masse enorme par sa
hauteur et son volume, composee d'une meme matiere, et qui, placee sur
une base vers laquelle on n'a cesse de monter pendant l'espace de dix
lieues, s'eleve tout-a-coup de sept a huit cens toises, et domine au
loin toutes les montagnes qui l'entourent. Les differens sommets dont
elle est couronnee se presentent sous mille formes bizarres; ce sont des
pyramides irregulieres et de vastes cylindres, ou de cones tronques pres
de leur base, qui ressemblent assez a des tours ecrasees. Les cretes,
qui sont formees du prolongement de ces sommites, sont autant de
murailles inaccessibles bordees d'un long tas de ruines ou d'un large
fosse de neige glacee, et quelquefois interrompues par de breches
profondes. On ne peut apercevoir tous ces objets du fond de la vallee,
et il faut s'elever sur quelque hauteur voisine, telle que le sommet de
Bergons, ou celui de Pimene, pour embrasser toutes les parties de ce
vaste tableau. En remontant vers les sources du Gave, qui en occupe le
centre, on penetre par un coupure peu profonde dans une prairie de forme
ovale assez reguliere bordee a l'est et a l'ouest par des hauteurs
plantees de sapins et de hetres, et au sud par un amas de rochers
ecroules, et par les sommets que je viens de decrire. Le Gave y serpente
sur un lit de sable et de cailloux, et recoit les eaux qui descendent,
en ecumant, des hauteurs voisines; il se fraie un chemin vers cette
prairie parmi les debris entassees qui la bornent au sud, et qui la
separent d'une autre bassin non moins vaste, ou le torrent commence son
cours, et ou la montagne s'eleve tout autour en un rempart inaccessible.

"On peut prendre une idee legere et imparfaite de cette majestueuse
enceint, en se la figurant comme un amphitheatre moins remarquable par
la vaste etendue de son arene que par la hauteur prodigieuse de ses murs
qui, par-tout bordes de parties saillantes, d'echancrures profondes, et
herisses de rochers dont la ruine est prochaine, se sont entierement
ecroules du cote du nord; elle-est couronnee vers le sud par deux
sommets cylindriques recouverts d'une croute epaisse de neige durcie, et
que leur forme a fait nommer tour de marbre. Au-dessous se succedent, en
forme de gradins, de vastes platte bandes d'une neige qui ne disparoit
jamais, et qui ne cesse point de se fondre insensiblement. Les eaux
produites par cette stillation continuelle se divisent en sept ou huit
petits torrens qui naissant sous ces lits de glace, et roulent sur le
penchant rapide de la montagne ou jaillissent en cascades, quand elle se
trouve coupee a pic. L'un de ces torrens venant du cote de l'est et dont
le volume surpasse celui de tous les autres ensemble, se precipite
du haut d'un rocher qui s'avance en saillie, et tombe avec un bruit
horrible a plus de 1200 pieds de profondeur. Ses eaux, divisees dans les
airs et reduites comme en poussiere, forment autour de la cascade un
brouillard suspendu qui derobe aux yeux du spectateur tout son volume et
la vitesse de sa chute. L'arene ou se reunissent toutes ces eaux et ou
commence le Gave, est de forme irreguliere; sa surface inegale offre
tantot de grands plateaux de neige, des blocs de rochers ecroules et
d'autre debris attenue et reduits a l'etat terreux ou vegetent de belles
plantes que le soleil eclaire a peine. Le Gave, en tombant sur les amas
de neige, y a creuse un gouffre au fond duquel le soleil avant son
declin peint le cercle colore de l'iris. Les eaux disparoissent sous la
neige et renaissent ensuite comme sous un pont etroit ou sou la voute
d'un aqueduc; elles serpentent, se replient a travers les ruines
amoncelees, et surmontent les obstacles qui s'opposent a leur sortie.

"Si l'aspect magnifique et la beaute sauvage de cette enceinte sont
difficiles a representer, sa structure n'en est pas moins facile a
saisir; et dans ce lieu, qui semble fait pour le tourment du peintre de
la nature, elle se decouvre sans peine au yeux de l'observateur et de
l'historien. _La grande enceinte de la cascade de Gavarnie_, dit
M. d'Arcet, _fut un lac autrefois: l'aspect des lieux fait naitre
naturellement cette idee. Dans la suite les rochers qui la fermoient sur
le devant, s'etant detruits, les eaux se sont ecoulees et perdues_.

"On ne peut se refuser a croire avec M. d'Arcet, que l'enceinte des
cascades de marbre n'ait ete autrefois un lac. Le nombre et l'etendue
de ces amas d'eau diminuent tous les jours dans les Pyrenees comme dans
tout pays de montagnes; les eaux qui viennent s'y rendre en exhaussent
le fond par les cailloux et les debris terreux qu'elles y entrainent, et
celles qui s'ecoulent en abaissent le niveau, en creusant insensiblement
le canal par lequel elles sortent. Ainsi la marche lente et progressive
de la nature sans l'intermede des accidens et de revolutions, suffit
pour combler ces vastes creuse ou les eaux se sont amassees, ou pour
ouvrir des issues qui ne leur permettent plus d'y sejourner. Le nombre
de ces lacs abandonnes et perdus n'est guere au-dessous de celui de lacs
encore existans. Les naturels du pays ont appris eux-memes a distinguer
ces monumens naturel; ils ont saisi leur structure semblable a celle
d'un vaisseau evase et coupe dans ses parois d'une ou de plusieurs
entailles profondes, et les ont tous designes par le mot _oule_, qui
derive du mot Latin _olla_, et signifie chez eux marmite; comparaison
aussi juste que peu noble et bien digne de ces observateurs froids, mais
exacts, egalement depourvue de prevention et d'enthousiasme. Ces _oules_
se trouvent souvent placees aux extremite superieurs des vallees, a
l'origine des torrens qui les remplissoient autrefois. En effect,
ceux-ci naissent communement sous quelque vaste amas de neige, ou
s'ecoulent d'un reservoir qui rassemble les eaux des hauteurs voisines.
Le nombre de ces lacs augmente a mesure qu'on s'eleve, et c'est une
observation generale, que ceux des vallees sont pour la plupart combles
ou perdus, et que ceux des montagnes, surtout de celle de granit, sont
presque tous conserves. J'ai dit precedemment, d'apres l'observation
de M. d'Arcet, que l'enceinte des cascades presentoit la forme d'un
reservoir entr'ouvert et epuise, et qu'elle etoit precedee d'un autre
bassin dont l'aspect est moins sauvage et la forme plus reguliere. Tout
porte a penser que celui-ci a ete aussi long-tems rempli d'eau, ou
plutot il resulte d'un examen detaille de ces lieux, que le deux bassins
ne faisoient autrefois qu'un seul et immense reservoir, ou les eaux
etoient retenues a deux ou trois cens toises d'elevation au-dessus du
sol ou elles coulent aujourd'hui. Les rochers qui separent le premier
bassin de l'enceinte des cascades, ne sont, comme je l'ai deja remarque,
qu'un vaste amas de debris; mais ces debris ne ressemblent point a
ceux d'une muraille renversee sur elle-meme, ou d'une digue rompue par
l'effort des eaux. Il est au contraire aise de se convaincre qu'ils ont
ete detaches de cette partie de la montagne qui bord l'enceinte du cote
de l'est, et sur laquelle sont les sommets les plus eleves de toute
cette masse. On voit encore sur ses flancs dechires pendre d'enormes
quartiers de roche prets a s'ecrouler. Ceux qui sont deja tombes ont
demeure entasses les uns sur les autres. L'amas qu'ils ont forme est
adosse a la montagne dont ils faisoient jadis partie, et s'incline
jusqu'aux parois opposee de l'enceinte. Le torrent qui la traverse se
trouve ainsi rejete du cote de l'ouest, et le lit qu'il a creuse suit
les contours de cet amas de debris. Un tems a donc existe auquel les
deux enceintes dont j'ai parle, etant remplies d'eau, ne formoient qu'un
seul lac vaste et profond; et peut-etre la meme revolution qui les a
separees a-t-elle change tout-a-fait leur forme et cause l'entiere
dispersion de leurs eaux; car si l'on considere que l'enceinte du bassin
de la prairie est entierement detruite du cote du nord et de la vallee,
on doit se convaincre que les eaux ne l'ont point corrodee lentement,
mais qu'elles l'ont entrouverte et emportee par un effort violent et
subit. Or a quelle cause peut-on mieux attribuer le mouvement rapide
et le choc qui dut les agiter, qu'a la chute instantanee de plusieurs
milliers de toises cubes de rocher. Je me represente alors ce lac
paisible et eleve change en une mer courroucee, ses eaux bouleversees
jusqu'au fond de ses abimes jaillir au-dessus des sommets voisins, et
retombant sur elles memes ebranler de leur poids et de leur chute la
barriere qui les retenoit, cette barriere trop foible enfin renversee et
ses debris transportes au loin.

"M. d'Arcet, dans son discours sur les Pyrenees, a presage la meme
revolution pour le lac d'Escoubons le plus considerable de ceux
qui dominent les bains de Bareges, et on ne peut douter que si
quelqu'eboulement considerable vient hater et accroitre l'effet de cette
debacle inevitable, ces regions elevees subiront un nouveau deluge dont
les hommes et les troupeaux seront la victime, qui ensevelira plusieurs
villages, et inondera les tanieres des betes fauves."

M. Reboul has here imagined to himself the former existence of an
immense deep lake, which, no doubt, is a thing that may have been,
like many others which actually exist. But then he likewise supposes
a particular revolution of things, in which one side of that stony
circuit, forming the bason of the lake, had been destroyed while the
water was discharged. It is this last hypothesis which appears to me to
be a thing altogether inadmissible, according to the natural order of

In order to see this, it must be considered, that the side of the bason,
which has disappeared, must have been either of similar materials to
those which we see now remaining, or it must be supposed as composed of
loose materials, such as had been more soft, or of those that might be
easily dissolved and washed away by the water. If this last had been
the state of things, there would not have been occasion for any violent
catastrophe, as M. Reboul has supposed; the natural overflowing of the
lake had been sufficient to wear the mound by which the water had
been detained, and to carry away those materials so as one side might
disappear. If, again, this mound had been formed of rock, like what
remains of those mountains, in that case, the catastrophe, which this
author has suggested as the cause of that destruction, would have been
ineffectual to procure that end; for, though such a _debacle_ might have
carried away a great mass of loose materials, it could not have moved a
mound of solid rock.

That of which we have here undoubted information, and that which I am
labouring to generalise by comparing similar phenomena, such as are to
be found over all the earth, is this, That the natural operations of
the atmospheric elements decompose the solid rocks, break down the
consolidated strata, waste and wash away those loosened materials of the
mountains, and thus excavate the valleys, as the channels by which an
indefinite quantity of materials are to be transported to the sea for
the construction of future continents. It is this operation of nature
which we see performed, more or less, every day, which some natural
philosophers have such difficulty in admitting at all, and which others
overlook in seeking for some wonderful operation to produce the effect
in a shorter time. The prodigious waste that evidently appears, in
many places, to have been made of the solid land, and the almost
imperceptible effects of the present agents which appear, have given,
occasion to those different opinions concerning that which has already
happened, or that natural history by which we are to learn the system of
this world. The object which I have in view, is to show, first, that
the natural operations of the earth, continued in a sufficient space of
time, would be adequate to the effects which we observe; and, secondly,
that it is necessary, in the system of this world, that these wasting
operations of the land should be extremely slow. In that case, those
different opinions would be reconciled in one which would explain, at
the same time, the apparent permanency of this surface on which we
dwell, and the great changes that appear to have been already made.

Now if, in the indefinite course of time, (which we cannot refuse to
nature, and which is only to be traced in those effects), the chymical
and mechanical operations of the surface are capable of diminishing the
mass of land above the level of the sea, (of which fact the appearances
here so well described by M. Reboul, and those which are every where
else to be observed, leave no room to doubt); and, if the wise system,
of a world sustaining plants and animals, requires the long continuance
of a continent above the surface of the sea, What reason have we to look
out for any other causes, besides those which naturally arise from that
constitution of things? And, Why refuse to see, in this constitution of
things, that wisdom of contrivance, that bountiful provision, which
is so evident, whether we look up into the great expanse of boundless
space, where luminous bodies without number are placed, and where, in
all probability, still more numerous bodies are perpetually moving and
illuminated for some great end; or whether we turn our prospect towards
ourselves, and see the exquisite mechanism and active powers of things,
growing from a state apparently of non-existence, decaying from their
state of natural perfection, and renovating their existence in a
succession of similar beings to which we see no end.

We have been comparing similar operations of nature in different
countries; but at present we have something farther in our view than to
compare the distant regions of the earth. We want to see if it be the
same system that is observed in the higher regions of the globe as in
the lower. We shall thus have investigated the subject as far as we can

The high region of the Andes and Cordeliers affords an opportunity of
deciding that question. It is there that we find a habitable country
raised above the rest of the earth. It is there that nature, in
elevating land, has proceeded upon a larger scale. Here, therefore, in
the operations of water upon the surface of the earth, we are to look
for effects proportioned to the cause.

Let us cast our eye upon the southern continent of the new world; there
is not, from the one end to the other, any great river that flows to the
sea upon the west side. A ridge of mountains, at no great distance from
the coast, divides the water of this continent; a small part runs to the
west; the most part runs to the east; and forms a country which, for
fertile plains and navigable rivers, has not its equal upon the globe.

But let us observe the course of the rivers; while confined by the
ridges of the Andes and Cordeliers; they run either south or north, and
are thus for some time constrained to take a course very different from
that which they are afterwards to pursue. It is while thus retained
within the ridges of the Andes that those rivers water plains which they
had formed; and it is here that we find countries so much elevated above
the rest of the world, that, under the direct rays of the sun, their
inhabitants are made to suffer from the cold.

It is the collection of those waters running from south to north, and
descending from an enormous height, that have formed in the plain those
appearances that struck so much the French philosopher, as to make
him give us a detail, which, though out of his line, is extremely
interesting in the natural history of the earth.

It is in the valley of the Madelena that M. Bouguer found those grand
relicts of the wasted strata; but we are now to take a view of a country
situated high above the level of that valley. It is that of Santa Fee de
Bogota; a fertile plain estimated at 1600 toises, almost about two miles
above the level of the sea; and which pours its water into the valley
of the Madelena about a degree above Honda, which is mentioned by M.
Bouguer as giving so fine an example of those water-worn rocks. The
extreme singularity in the situation of this country, and at the same
time the perfect similarity which is here to be observed of this country
with all the rest of the earth, as the work of water, will excuse my
transcribing from M. le Blond, _(Journal de Physique,_ Mai 1786) what I
judge to be interesting to my readers.

"Si un observateur attentif parcourt les plaines immenses de l'Amerique
meridionale, s'il monte les fleuves rapides et profonds qui les
traversent, et les inondent, et s'il franchit les montagnes prodigieuses
que l'action des eaux detruit, il apercevra bientot qu'un developpement
successif et inevitable de ce nouveau continent tend a l'agrandir dans
tous les sens, et rendra peut-etre un jour sa surface egale a celle de
notre hemisphere.

"Il est des sites dans les montagnes des Cordilleres ou des obstacles
plus ou moins puissant retardent cette meme degradation: la plaine de
Santa Fee de Bogota est entre ces sites celui qui m'a paru le mieux
caracterise et le plus frappant. Il sera l'objet de ce Memoire: on
verra avec surprise qu'un pays sain, agreable, abondant, et fertile
aujourd'hui, etoit autrefois le plus depourvu et le plus miserable du
monde, ou l'Indien malheureux n'avoit pour tout bien que des rivieres
sans poissons, des oiseaux en petit nombre, un quadrupede ou deux, et
quelques legumes; on sera etonne d'apprendre qu'une temperature froide
environnee d'un climat brulant, fut une barriere insurmontable pour
presque tous les animaux et les plantes des pays chauds. La nature
agresse et avare de ses dons sembloit en rejeter l'homme, et vouloir y
etre en quelque sorte separee du reste du monde par des rochers
enormes, coupes verticalement, qu'on ne parvient a franchir qu'avec des
difficultes etranges a travers un brouillard humide et tenebreux, qui
persuade au voyageur fatigue qu'il travers la region des nues.

"Arrive au haut de ces montagnes, un nouveau ciel, un nouvel ordre
de choses se presentent; ce ne sont plus ces insectes degoutans et
insupportables qui le fatiguoient sans relache; ces reptiles venimeux,
dont il redoutoit la morsure; ces betes feroces toujours prets a le
devorer; enfin, cette, chaleur suffocante des lieux bas qu'il vient de
quitter; l'air qu'il respire rafraichit et le vivifie; il s'arrete, et
ce qui l'environne l'etonne et le ravit; s'il regarde au-dessous de lui,
tout est eclipse par des nuages, dont la surface egale mouvante lui
represente une mer qu'habite le silence et que termine son horison;
s'il jette la vue sur la plaine qui se perd devant lui, les nues
qu'il croyait sous ses pieds, roulent majestueusement sur sa tete; de
nouvelles montagnes s'elevent de toutes parts, et forment un nouveau
monde qui paroit independant du premier.

"Pour donner une idee exacte de ce pays singulier, j'ai cru devoir
transporter le spectateur a la capitale, ou de la comme d'un centre, il
put observer plus commodement les phenomenes que j'ai a lui presenter.

"La ville de Santa Fee de Bogota, capital du nouveau royaume de Grenade,
a environ 4 degres de latitude N. et 304 de longitude, prise de l'ile de
Fer, est situee au pied et sur le penchant d'une montagne escarpee qui
la couvre a l'est; elle domine une plaine de douze lieues de largeur
sur une longueur indeterminee et tres considerable, qui presente toute
l'annee le riant tableau des plus belles campagnes de l'Europe: les
coteaux toujours verts ou les troupeaux bondissent, les prairies
couverts de betail, les champs bien cultives, les maisons de campagne
agreables, les hameaux, les villages, les vergers, les jardins, montrent
a la fois, les fleurs du printemps et les fruits de l'automne, que
l'abondance des pluies ou les secheresses retardent ou avancent
quelquefois mais dont l'eternelle duree bien loin d'inspirer le plaisir,
et d'offrir l'attrait piquant de la nouveaute qui fait le charme de ces
saisons dans nos climats, amene bientot l'indifference pour une beaute
toujours le meme, pour des agremens qui ne changent pas.

"Ce climat est d'ailleurs si etrange et tellement constitue, que quand
on est au soleil, on se trouve bientot incommode de sa chaleur; est on a
l'ombre? on se sent penetre d'un air subtil et froid qui transit.

"A trois lieues a-peu-pres a l'ouest de la ville, passe la riviere de
Bogota qui, apres avoir recu les eaux de toute la plaine, la riviere de
Serrefuela et les torrens qui se precipitent de la chaine de montagnes,
dirige son cours paisible vers Tekendama a sept ou huit lieues au
sud-est a-peu-pres; c'est-la que ces eaux rassemblees coulent entre
une suite de rochers granitiques, dont le plain incline accelere leurs
vitesse; elles n'offrent bientot plus qu'un courant rapide, etroit et
profond qui, au moment de sa chute, rejaillit sur un rocher place plus
bas que son lit, d'ou il tombe dans une abime dont on n'a pu jusqu'ici
mesurer la profondeur; c'est la cataracte ou saut de Tekendama.

"Des trous pratiques dans le roc par les anciens aux endroits les plus
commodes pour voir toute l'etendue de cette chute prodigieuse, donnent
le moyen d'observer sans risque la continuation des rochers qui
s'avancent a droite et a gauche et annoncent par leurs hauteur qu'avant
le passage que les eaux semblent avoir force, la plain de Santa Fee
n'etoit alors qu'un lac d'une tres-grand etendue: une tradition
constante du pay, mais peu vraisemblable, porte que les Indiens ont
creuse cette espece de canal.

"Il y a quelques-uns de ces trous d'ou l'on voit confusement le lieu ou
finit cette chute d'eau effroyable; la riviere qui en provient n'offre
plus qu'un foible ruisseau, dont le cours presqu'insensible se perd
parmi les plantes qui croissent sur ses bords; ainsi disparoissent
dans l'eloignement les masses les plus enormes: quelques especes de
perroquets et d'autres oiseaux de pays chauds, qui habite cette vallee
profonde et inabordable de ce cote, s'elevent assez quelquefois pour
pouvoir etre remarques d'en-haut; mais le froid subit de ces montagnes
qu'ils craignent, est une obstacle invincible qu'ils ne franchissent
jamais: pour jouir commodement de ce point de vue, a la fois admirable
et effrayant, il faut choisir un jour calme et serein, entre sept a huit
heures du matin.

"Il est necessaire de prendre un long detour et cheminer pendant toute
une journee, presque toujours a travers des rochers et des precipices,
pour parvenir au pied de cette cataracte; on est alors etrangement
surpris de voir que cette riviere a peine sensible d'en haut, soit
encore un torrent prodigieux, dont la chute en cascades dans une angle
de 45 degres, offre pendant l'espace d'une grande demie lieue des amas
de rochers entasses au hazard, que frappe et detruit sans relache le
plus bruyant conflict des eaux; c'est apres cet espace que le courant,
devenu plus paisible permet encore de comparer la riviere de Bogota a ce
qu'est la Seine dans l'ete.

"Un phenomene bien extraordinaire et qui sert en meme tems a donner la
plus haute idee de l'etendue prodigieuse de cette cataracte, c'est que
sa chute commence dans un pays tres-froid ou il gele souvent pendant
la nuit, et finit dans un autre ou la chaleur, egale a nos beaux jours
d'ete, offre la vegetation prompte et facile de toutes les plantes des
pays chauds: seroit-ce le passage subit de l'air du chaud au froid qui
occasionneroit ces gelees blanches, a-peu-pres comme celles qui ont lieu
dans nos climats aux approche de l'hiver et a l'entree du printemps? car
on en eprouve rarement dans la plane.

"Une autre particularite remarquable de ce pays, c'est le defaut de
poisson dans toutes les rivieres qui l'arrosent: on en trouve cependant
dans celle de Bogota ou les autres rivieres viennent se rendre; mais
c'est une seule espece tres-peu abondante, que les Espagnols appellent
el Capitan, ou le capitaine; la plus grande longueur de ce poisson est
d'environ un pied, sur six pouces de grosseur; il vit dans les eaux
troubles et vaseuses de cette riviere, et jamais dans les eaux claires;
il est gras et excellent a manger: son genre est celui de la _mustelle
fluviatile de France_ et le _Gades_ de Linne.

"Il est certain cependant que les poissons de toutes les sortes abondent
dans les grandes rivieres de l'Amerique meridionale et notamment dans
celle de la Magdelaine; ne pourroit-on pas supposer d'apres cela, que
puisque toute communication des eaux de tout le pays eleve de Santa Fee
est interrompue avec cette derniere par le saut de Tekendama, ces memes
eaux n'ont pu en etre peuplees comme celle-ci paroissent avoir ete, au
moins en partie, par la mer. Ce meme defaut de poisson se remarque dans
la plus part de lacs et des rivieres des Cordilleres, probablement par
une cause semblable; il n'y en a point dans les deux lacs assez etendus
qui sont pres de la ville d'Hyvarra dans la province de _Quito_, non
plus que dans les rivieres de la province de Pastos.

"On peut objecter qu'une temperature toujours froide comme celle
de Santa Fee, joint a la limpidite et la rapidite des torrens des
Cordilleres, suffisent pour ecarter les poissons, de meme que cela
arrive dans plusieurs rivieres de l'Europe.

"Cette objection seroit vraie pour la plupart des torrens des
Cordilleres, mais on observera que la riviere de Bogota quoique froide,
est presque stagnante dans bien des endroits, et coule toujours sur de
la vase qui en rend les eaux bourbeuses; il est a presumer que, s'il
etoit possible d'y tranporter des poissons de nos rivieres, ils y
reussiroient aussi bien que les autres productions de l'Europe qui se
sont naturalisees dans ce pays. Quant a la temperature constante froide
de ces eaux, qui pourroient paroitre s'opposer au developpement des
oeufs du poisson qui habite les rivieres des pays chauds, on y respondra
par le fait suivant.

"A vingt lieues environ au nord de Santa Fee a la meme elevation et a la
meme temperature, est un grand lac ou l'on trouve des iles habitees,
et qui en a paru assez grand pour etre indique dans les cartes
geographiques, si on en savoit les dimensions; c'est le lac de
Chiquinquira assez poissonneux pour y faire des peches abondantes, parce
que la riviere qui en sort n'est pas interrompue par des sauts dans son
cours jusqu'a la riviere de la Magdelaine; cependant les especes de
poissons qu'on trouve dans ce lac ne sont pas aussi variees que dans
cette grande riviere, sans doute a cause de la rapidite du courant, que
le poisson ne remonte pas egalement bien.

"Lorsqu'on gravit sur les montagnes escarpees qui dominent la ville de
Santa-Fee, on ne rencontre, depuis leur base jusqu'a leurs sommets,
termines par des rochers de granite, que des bruyere, des fougeres,
quelques plantes sauvages, etc. et pas un arbre qu'on puisse seulement
appeler un boisson excepte dans quelques gorges a l'abri de courans
d'air, ou l'on en voit quelques-uns dont les plus grands, n'egale pas
nos prunieres; cette vegetation engourdie parait etre due au froid vif
et continuel qu'il fait sur ces montagnes; car plus on monte, moins elle
se developpe, et enfin finit par cesser tout-a-fait: on remarque a la
moitie de la hauteur d'une de ces montagnes (a une demi-lieue a peu-pres
de la ville) une mine de charbon de terre en filon que renferme une
rocher entrouvert, dans une situation verticale[27], les torrens y
roulent de l'or."

[Footnote 27: Here is an evidence that those vertical strata, now
elevated into the highest stations upon the earth; had been formed
originally of the spoils of the land, and deposited at the bottom of the

"Si l'on descend dans la plaine, si l'on remonte sur les collines,
toutes a-peu-pres de la meme hauteur qui sont entierement separees
des montagnes voisines, et situees dans la direction ou courant des
rivieres, on remarque aisement qu'elle sont les restes d'une plaine
anterieure que les eaux ont degradee. Au lieu de ces forets, et de
ces boissons qui surchargent bientot nos campagnes lorsque la main de
l'homme cesse de les cultiver, un gazon touffu couvre la plaine et les
collines de Santa-Fee d'une verdure agreable sans nul arbrisseau qui
puisse en alterer l'uniformite, ou les graminee, le plantain, le
scorconnaire, le trefle, le marrube, la pimprenelle, le pourpier, la
patience, le chardon, le raifort, le cresson, la chicoree sauvage, la
jonquille, la marguerite, le fraisier, la violette, le serpolet, le
thym, et mille autres plantes d'Europe et particulieres a ce pays,
offrent les varietes les plus piquantes par la beaute des fleurs et
I'odeur de leurs parfums; des rochers qu'entourent le rosier ou la
ronce, et quelques cavernes que le hazard presente sur ces memes
collines, en rendent l'aspect pittoresque et delicieux."

Here is a picture of a country such as we might find in Europe; only it
is placed under the line, and elevated above the highest of the frozen
summits of the European Alps. We may observe that the same order of
things obtains here as in every other place upon the surface of this
earth; mountains going into decay; plains formed below from the ruins
of the mountains; these plains ruined again, and hills formed in their
place; rivers wearing rocks and breaking through the obstacles which had
before detained their waters; and a gradual progress of soil from the
summits of the continent to the border at the sea, over the fertile
surface of the land, successively destroyed and successively renewed.

Here are to be observed two states of country along side of each other,
the plain of the Bogota, and the Valley of the Madalena. The courses of
the two rivers show the direction of those ridges of mountains which had
been raised from the deep; they run south and north, as do those valleys
which they drain. At this place we find the valley of the river Cauca,
and the valley of the Magdalena parallel to each other, and also to this
high plain of the Bogota. Now the waters of this high country, instead
of running northward to the sea, as do those of the two valleys below,
run both from the south and north until, uniting together, they proceed
westward, break the rampard of granite rocks at Tekendama, and fall at
once from the high plain down into the valley of the Madalena. Those
water formed plains which we perceive subsisting at unequal levels
immediately adjoining to each other, while they present us with a view
of the degradation of the elevated earth, at the same time illustrate
the indefinite duration of a continent; for, we judge not of the
progress of things from the actual operations of the surface, which
are too slow for the life of man, and too vague for the subject of
his history, but from the state of things which we contemplate with a
scientific eye, and from the nature of things which we know to be in

In like manner the horizontal situation of the solid strata in the
mountains of that low country, while those of the high country are more
or less inclined, afford the most instructive view of the internal
operations of the globe, by which the Andes had been raised from the
bottom of the sea, and of the external operations of the earth by which
mountains are formed by the wasting of the elevated surface.

With this description of those high plains upon the north side of the
line, let us compare what D. Ulloa has said upon the same subject in
describing the continuation of that high country to the south. I shall
give it from the best French translation.

It is after describing a cut or narrow ravine in the solid rock with
perpendicular sides, about forty yards deep, in which a rivulet runs and
the road passes.

"Cette excavation est, en petit, une modele des vastes _Quebradas_ ou
profondeurs, et fait comprendre leur origine: elles ne pouvoient etre
que semblables a celle-ci: tout s'y est passe de meme, ou plus tot
ou plus tard. Les flancs en ont ete plus ou moins perpendiculaires,
jusqu'au moment ou ils se sont affaissees, et ont forme des plains
inclines, lorsque l'eau faisant de plus profondes excavations, eut mine
la base qui les soutenoit. Ne pouvant plus alors perseverer dans leur
premier etat, les terrains ont croule, et ont pris l'inclinaison qu'ils
ont conservee depuis. La meme chose arrivera necessairement a ce passage
de _Conaica_ lorsqu'avec le laps du tems, les effets des pluies, de
gelees, des rayons solaires, auront fait tomber en ruine ces parois,
quoique de roche rive; car ses agens puissans font sentir leur energie
aux corps les plus durs. Ainsi les bords du _Chapilancas_ perdront
insensiblement la regularite de leur distance, de leurs cotes rentrans
et saillans, apres l'avoir peut-etre conservee plus long tems que
d'autres excavations, parce que c'est une pierre dure, qui n'est melee
d'aucune veine de terre movible. Nous pouvons le croire sans hesiter;
car ce n'est que le seul frottement de l'eau qui a excave ce lit jusqu'a
la profondeur qu'il a. Mais le tems, qui reduit les roches les plus
dures en sablon, ira toujours en elargissant la partie inferieure, par
son action continuelle et insensible: aussi voit-on ce ruisseau rouler
de petites pierres qui se detachent sous les eaux, comme on en appercoit
dans la plaine ou il les entraine, en sortant de la montagne, pour se
decharger dans une terrain plus spatieux.

"Que ce canal ait ete excave a cette profondeur par l'effet continuel
du frottement des eaux, ou qu'il a ete ouvert par une secousse de
tremblement de terre qui fit fendre la montaigne, de sorte que le
ruisseau qui couloit d'un autre cote, se soit jette de celui-ci. il est
certain que cette ouverture profonde est posterieure a l'arrangement que
les terrains eurent apres le deluge; et que c'est ainsi que ces enormes
_Quebradas_ de la partie meridionale de l'Amerique, se sont formees
avec le tems, par le frottement du cours rapide des eaux. En effet, on
observe que la force avec laquelle s'ecoulent toutes les eaux de
cette partie du globe, suffit pour arracher des roches d'une masse
extraordinaire. C'est pourquoi l'on voit en certaines parages des
marques evidentes de leurs excavations profondes au milieu meme des lits
de ces eaux. Ce sont des cubes d'une grandeur enorme, qui n'ont pu etre
detaches avec la meme facilite que les parties contigues. La riviere
_d'Iscutbaca_, qui coule pres d'une hameau de meme nom, nous presente
dans son lit une de ces masses, dont la forme est precisement celle
d'une cube. Lorsque l'eau est basse, ce cube s'eleve a sept ou huit
_varas_ au-dessus du courant: chaque cote porte douze _varas_ de face.
Mais ces masses, et autres moindres de differentes formes, qui se voient
dans les eaux, ne peuvent etre arrivees a cet etat, sans que l'eau les
ait degarnies peu-a-peu des pierres, des sables que les envelopoient, et
qu'elle a arraches de tous cotes pour les laisser isolees; or elles se
maintiendrons dans cette position, jusqu'a ce que les eaux, cavant
de plus en plus, rencontrent enfin a la base des veines de matieres
friables et dissolubles, qu'elles penetreront et qu'elles emporteront,
en detruisant l'assiette sur laquelle posent ces masses jusqu'alors
_inamovibles_. Une crue d'eau considerable, et qui ne laissera plus
paroitre qu'une _varas_ de cette masse, pourra dans ce tems-la
l'arracher, et la faire rouler; mais ce mouvement, et les chocs qu'elle
eprouvera de la part d'autres masses moins grosses, suffiront pour
en briser les parties saillantes, et la reduire en parties moins
volumineuses, qui rouleront avec plus de facilite; et qui par cette seul
cause diminueront encore. C'est a cette cause qu'on doit attribuer ces
quantites prodigieuses de pierres repandues ca et la sur les bords de
ces eaux, de meme que ces roches enormes qu'on y voit detachees, et que
jamais les forces humaines n'auroient pu mettre en mouvement.

"Mais pour donner une idee quelconque de la profondeur de ces
excavations, relativement au terrain ou au sol habitable de la partie
haute de l'Amerique, il est a propos de rapporter quelques experiences.

"Guancavelica est une bourgade, ou un corps municipal, situe dans une de
ces profondeurs, formees par differentes suites d'eminences. Le mercure
du barometre y descend, et s'arrete a dix-huit pouces une ligne et
demie. Sa plus grande variation y est de 1-1/4 a 1-3/4. Sa hauteur est
donc de 1949 toises, ou 4536-2/3 _varas_ au-dessus du niveau de la
_mer_. Au haut du mont ou se trouve la mine de mercure, mont qui est
habitable par-tout, et qui est immediatement surmonte par d'autres,
autant qu'il s'eleve au-dessus de Guancavelica, le mercure descend et
s'arrete a 16 pouces 6 lignes. Sa hauteur est donc de 2337-2/3 toises,
ou de 5448 varas au-dessus du niveau de la mer. Ainsi les eaux ont
encore fait cet autre excavation comme il est facile de le voir par des
indices manifestes. On remarque en effet dans la partie voisine de leur
lit, des roches detachees, toutes semblables a celles qui sont au milieu
des eaux; ce qui prouve que les eaux ont ete au meme niveau a une epoque
beaucoup plus ancienne, et qu'elles ont excave le sol, a force d'en
arracher les parties agregees.

"Ces terrains sont couverts par un si grand nombre de courans, qu'il
n'en est aucun ou l'on n'en apercoive, soit dans des ravins, soit entre
des montagnes. J'ai observe que la superficie des terrains qui en
avoisine les lits, est plus unie aux confluens, ou plusieurs de ces
courans se reunissent. Cela vient de ce que l'eminence, qui se trouve au
confluent, paroit avoir ete diminuee a la partie ou elle a du former
une pointe saillante, a mesure que les eaux l'ont rongee de l'un ou de
l'autres cote, en continuant leurs excavation. Ces surfaces planes
sont comme par etages, les unes plus hautes que les autres, et se sont
insensiblement formees, selon que l'eau s'est plus ou moins arretee a
differente hauteur, pendent qu'elle creusoit ces lits. On observe, au
contraire, que les bords eleves dans ces courans, n'ont presque point
de largeur dans les endroits ou l'eau a pu suivre son cours
tres-directement. C'est cependant sur ces bords etroits et escarpees que
se trouvent pratiques les chemins par ou l'on passe. Le danger y est
tres grand: car a peine un animal peut-il poser le pied. Toutes les fois
que le courant fait un detour, la surface des bords a plus de largeur;
cependant moins que lorsque plusieurs se reunissent. Un voit facilement
pourquoi. L'eau forcee de se detourner, s'eloigne plus de la rive que
quand elle va en ligne droite, et ronge ainsi le cote saillant sur
lequel elle fait son detour, et qui en devient comme le centre.

"On peut conclure de ce que je viens de dire, a quelle elevation est
la partie haute ou montagneuse de l'Amerique, relativement a la partie
basse, et qu'il y a des excavations extremement profondes; car elles
ont, comme je l'ai deja dit, 1769-2/3 varas perpendiculaires, ou meme
d'avantages: cependant elles ont assez de surface pour devenir le local
de nombre d'habitations fort peuplees, qui en tirent tous les produits
necessaires a la vie. Parmi ces _Quebradas_, il en est de plus etendues
ou de moins profondes que les autres. Or, c'est en ceci que cette partie
du monde se distingue de toutes les autres.

"Mais il est indifferent pour mes vues que ces vastes ouvertures soient
l'effet des courans d'eau, ou de toute autre cause. Ce que je me
propose, est uniquement de montrer qu'elles sont d'autant plus profondes
et plus vastes, que ces terrains sont immensement hauts."

M. Monnet considers the natural operations of water, upon the surface of
the earth, as truly forming the shape of that surface; but he draws some
very different conclusions from those which I have formed. It is in his
_Nouveau Voyage Mineralogique, fait dans cette partie du Hainault connue
sou le nom de Thierache._ Journal de Physique, Aoust 1784.

"Il ne faut pas s'attendre a trouver dans ce pays des hautes montagnes
qui frappent la vue de loin; c'est seulement un pays dont l'elevation
est generale sur tout ce qui l'entoure, et est coupe profondement par
des vallees ou ravin, ouvrage des eaux, qui, la comme ailleurs, ont
use et coupe peu-a-peu les terrains et les roches les plus dures, pour
s'ouvrir un passage; et peut-etre pourroit-on dire; si la diminution des
eaux n'etoit pas trop sensible, qu'un jour ce pays offrira des montagnes
hautes est escarpees comme tant d'autres, apres que les eaux auront
creuse, pendant des milliers de siecles, ses gorges, ses ravins, et
diminue la largeur des masses de terrain qui sont entr'eux.

"Quant a present, on ne peut y voir que de petites montagnes, ou plutot
des bosses de terre, avec des platures plus ou moins considerables a
leurs sommets, avec de cotes coupees plus ou moins obliquement, ou plus
ou moins droites. Ce qu'on y trouve de singulier c'est que ces petites
montagnes sont presque toutes plus basses que les plaines qui les
avoisinent, encore ne sont elles que dans la partie calcaire.

"La plus profonde tranchee de ce pays est, sans contredit, celle ou
coule la Meuse, qui, malgre la durete des roches d'ardoise et de quartz
au travers desquelles elle passe, a coupe le terrain depuis Charleville
jusqu'a Givet, a une tres-grande profondeur. Dans cette distance, on
voit presque par-tout les cotes coupees presque a pic sur la riviere, de
deux a trois cents pieds de hauteur perpendiculaire; et comme c'est une
regle generale, que plus les cotes sont coupees droites, moins elles
sont distantes l'une de l'autre, on concoit que le canal de la Meuse,
dans cette etendue de terrain, doit etre fort etroit, eut egard a
beaucoup d'autres ou il coule un bien moindre volume d'eau. Cela
n'empeche pas qu'on n'y apercoive des marques de la regle general
que fait l'eau, et n'y ait taille des angles saillans et des angles
rentrans, qui sont tres-grands en certains endroits. Nous verrons que
Revin et Fumai, deux lieux principaux des bords de la Meuse, sont situes
sur deux de plus grandes de ces ouvertures ou se trouvent des platures
assez vaste pour permettre, outre un emplacement considerable pour les
maisons, l'etablissement de beaucoup de jardins, et meme des pieces a
grain et des prairies. Aussi, quand on arrive sur la tranchee de la
Meuse, les lieux et les terrains cultives qu'on voit dans son fond,
paroissent comme separes sous les autres et comme dans un autre pays.

"Les autres coupures ou ravins de ce pays, quoique moins profonds,
offrent cependant cette singularite, remarquee deja ailleurs, que leurs
grandeurs et profondeur ne sont point du tout proportionnees au volume
de l'eau qui y coule.

"Le massif sur lequel est situe Beaumont, est coupe presque
perpendiculairement a l'ouest, sud-ouest et cette coupe en fait de ce
cote-la un rempart inaccessibles, ayant plus de 100 pieds de hauteur.
Quand j'ai considere cette grande coupe, et le detour que fait la petite
riviere qui coule au bas de ce massif, je n'ai pus me refuser a croire
qu'il n'y avoit en la un bien plus grande courant d'eau, qui a battu et
mine ce massif, en s'y brisant avec force; car on ne peut supposer, avec
quelque vraisemblance, que cet ouvrage ait ete fait par le volume d'eau
qui y coule actuellement: et il ne faut pas s'etonner de ce disparate;
par-tout vous le trouverez; ce qui demontre evidemment que la quantite
d'eau diminue insensiblement, et que la partie solide de notre globe
augmente a proportion que la partie liquide diminue; et s'il faut encore
etendre ce principe, j'ajouterai, que par-tout vous verrez les bornes
de la mer et des rivieres reculees; par-tout vous trouverez d'anciens
courans d'eau desseches, et meme des rivieres considerables, a en
juger par les collines ondulees qu'on voit encore. Mais cette partie
essentielle de la mineralogie qui est effrayante par les consequences
qu'elle presente, et qui peut influer sur le systeme general du monde,
sera etendue un jour dans un autre memoire, ou je decrirai d'anciens
cours de rivieres de la France, qui n'existent plus. J'espere fair voir
alors, appuye par les faits que me fournira l'histoire, que les rivieres
et les fleuves actuels ont ete plus volumineux qu'ils ne le sont
maintenant, et qu'il existoit en France un grande nombre de vastes lacs,
comme dans l'Amerique Septentrionale, et dont a peine il nous reste des
traces aujourd-hui."

This opinion of M. Monnet, concerning the diminution of water upon the
earth, does not follow necessarily from those appearances which he has
mentioned. The surface of the earth is certainly changed by the gradual
operations of the running water, and it may not be unfrequent, perhaps,
to find a small stream of water in places where a greater stream had
formerly run; this will naturally happen upon many occasions, as well
as the opposite, by the changes which are produced upon the form of
the surface. Likewise the conversion of lakes into plains is a natural
operation of the globe, or a consequence of the degradation of the
elevated surface of the earth, without there being any reason to suppose
that the general quantity of running water upon the land diminishes,
or that the boundaries of the various seas are suffering any permanent

Whether we examine the Alps in the Old World, or the Andes in the New,
we always find the evidence of this proposition, That the exposed parts
of the solid earth are decaying and degraded; that these materials are
hauled from the heights to be travelled by the waters over the surface
of the earth; and that the surface of the earth is perpetually changing,
in having materials moved from one place and deposited in another. But
these changes follow rules, which we may investigate; and, by reasoning
according to those rules or general laws, upon the present state of
things, we may see the operation of those active principles or physical
causes in very remote periods of this mundane system, and foresee future
changes in the endless progress of time, by which there is, for every
particular part, a succession of decay and renovation.


_The same Subject continued._

The Chevalier de Dolomieu, in his most indefatigable search after
natural history and volcanic productions, has given us the description
of some observations which are much calculated to put this subject in a
conspicuous point of view. I give them here as examples of the operation
of water wasting the land and forming valleys in a system where every
thing is tending to the wisest end or purpose; but they are no less
interesting as proper to give us a view of the mineral operations of
the globe. That therefore which, according to the order of the subject,
ought to be cited in another part of this work, is here necessarily
mixed in the narrative of this natural historian.

There is, upon this occasion, such a connection of the facts by which
the mineral operations of the earth, either consolidating the materials
deposited at the bottom of the sea, or elevating land by the power of
subterraneous heat, are to be understood, and of those by which the
operations of the surface are to be explained, that while they cannot be
separated in this narration, they throw mutual light upon each other.
It is in his Memoire sur les Volcans eteints du Val di Noto en Sicile.
Journal de Physique, Septembre 1784.

"Je trouvai les premiers indices de ces volcans, en allant de Syracuse
a Sortino, a une lieue de cette ville, au fond du profond vallon qui y
conduit. Quelques morceaux de laves entraines et arrondis par les eaux
m'annoncerent d'avance que j'allois entrer dans un pay volcanique. Mon
attention se fixa bientot apres sur un courant de laves que je vis
sortir d'une montagne calcaire qui etoit sur ma droite, il etois coupe
par une vallon dont les eaux couloient sur un sol calcaire, et alloit
se perdre dans le massif egalement calcaire qui etoit sur ma gauche.
Je passai en suite alternativement sur des matieres calcaires et
volcaniques, pour arriver a Sortino, ville baronale batie sur une
montagne calcaire qui domine la vallon, et qui lui presente des
escarpemens de plus de 200 toises d'elevation, dans lesquels les banc de
pierres dure sont horizontaux, et exactement paralleles."

Here, it is to be observed, are horizontal beds remaining, which give a
measure of what had been abstracted by some cause, which is our present
subject of investigation. The Chevalier proceeds:

"Les environs de Sortino m'offrirent des phenomenes et des singularites
dont l'explication me parut difficile, et qui tinrent pendant longtemps
mon esprit en suspens. Je vis d'abord les matieres volcaniques
ensevelies sous des bancs horizontaux de pierres calcaires,
tres-coquillieres, contenant sur-tout une infinite de madreporites,
quelques-uns d'un volume enorme. Je vis ensuite des hauteurs dont les
sommets seuls etoient volcaniques, et les noyaux calcaires, sans que
les laves qui couronnoient ces sommets eussent communication avec
aucun courant, et eussent d'autre etendue que le plateau qu'elles
recouvroient. Ces laves n'avoient pu etre formees ou je les voyois;
elles etoient venues d'ailleurs; mais d'ou et comment? etc. Je me
determinai a consulter les montagnes les plus hautes, qui etoient a
quelque distance. J'en vis de loin plusieurs dont la forme etoit a
peu-pres conique, et dont les sommets etoient pointus; elles etoient
vers le nord, ou nord-ouest de Sortino, dans la direction de l'Etna, qui
terminoit mon horizon, a une distance de 13 ou 14 lieues, etc.

"La montagne Saint-George, une des plus hautes de tout le canton du
sommet de laquelle je pouvois prendre une idee topographique de tous le
pays, qui domine tout ce qui entoure, a l'exception de quelques pics
calcaires qui lui sont au sud; (tel que celui de la montagne de
Boujuan); cette montagne, dis-je, dont la forme est conique, et qui est
isolee par des vallees, dont le sol lui etoit sur-abaisse de 3 ou 400
toises, a sa base calcaire. Sur cette premiere assise repose une couche
volcanique, ensuite une autre tranche volcanique calcaire, a laquelle
succede un sommet forme d'une lave dure. Une autre montagne aupres
du fief de la Copodia, egalement conique, est toute volcanique, a
l'exception d'une couche de pierre calcaire dure et blanche, qui la
tranche a moitie hauteur parallelement a sa base. Quelques montagnes ou
les couches volcaniques ou calcaires sont plus ou moins nombreuses. La
montagne de Pimalia est volcanique a sa base et calcaire a son sommet;
et enfin la montagne isolee sur laquelle est batie la ville de
Carientini est moitie calcaire et moitie volcanique: mais ici la
division des deux substances se fait par un plan verticale, etc. Apres
etre arrive a cette limite des volcans, dont je poursuivois le foyer,
je pris du cote de l'est; je suivis jusqu'a Melilli les hauteurs qui
accompagnent la vallee de Lentini, et qui dominent la plaine d'Auguste;
et cheminant a mi cote je vis deboucher du milieu des montagnes
calcaires, qui, reunies par leur base, ne forme qu'une meme groupe, sous
le nom de monts Hybleens, _Colles Hyblei_, plusieurs courans de lave qui
se terminent comme s'ils avoient ete coupes sans avoir eu le temps de
descendre dans la vallee, et de s'incliner pour en prendre la pente.
Plusieurs de ces courans sont cristallises en basaltes prismatiques; on
en voit de tres-belles colonnes au-pres de Melilli. Au dela de cette
ville jusqu'a Syracuse, on ne voit plus de traces de volcans, et les
escarpemens en face du golfe d'Auguste n'offrent qu'un massif calcaire
en bancs horizontaux, etc.

"Je revins a Sortino, et en allant visiter l'emplacement de l'ancienne
Erbessus, connue maintenant sous le nom de Pentarica, je traversai deux
gorges d'une extreme profondeur, dont les encaissemens, tailles presque
a pic, ont plus de 600 pieds d'elevation, etc."

The Chevalier then found, in the mountain of Santa Venere, an extinct
volcano; and proceeds in his Memoir to give some explanation for those
appearances, as follows:

"Je ne pus pas douter que cette montagne ne fut le volcan que je
cherchois, et qui avoit repandus ses laves a une tres-grande distance
autour de lui, sur-tout dans la partie de l'est; mais il me restoit a
resoudre le probleme de la formation des montagnes isolees et coniques,
mi-parties volcaniques et calcaires, qui ne tiennent a aucune courant,
et qui sembloient n'avoir aucune relation directe avec mon volcan.
L'etude de la montagne Santa-Venere, et des pays circonvoisins, m'apprit
que ce volcan s'etoit eleve au milieu de la mer qui alors occupoit nos
continens, que sa tete seule s'etoit soulevee au-dessus du niveau des
eaux. Je fus convaincu que, lorsqu'il repandoit autour de lui des
torrens de matieres enflammees, la mer entassoit des depots calcaires;
que chaque nouvelle eruption trouvoit un sol plus eleve, sur lequel elle
se repandoit; que bientot les nouvelles matieres volcaniques etoient
ensevelies sous de nouveaux depots, et qu'ainsi, par l'entassement
successif et regulier des produit du feu et des depots de l'eau, s'etoit
forme un enorme massif, a sommet aplati et horizontal. Ce massif
occupoit tout le centre du Val di Noto, recouvroit de plusieurs
centaines de toises le sol sur lequel s'etoit repandu les premieres
laves, et fut divise, morcele et degrade par les courans ou par le
ballottement des eaux, lors de la grande debacle du de la catastrophe
qui changea l'emplacement des mers. Les vallons et les gorges qui se
formerent au milieu de ce massis, separerent les laves de la montagne a
qui elles appartenoient, couperent les courans, et faconnerent, avec les
debris de ce massif des montagnes de toutes les formes, mais la majeure
partie conique, ainsi qu'on peut le voir journellement, lorsque, dans
un terrain argilleux et submerge l'eau, se retirant avec precipitation,
excave par-tout ou elles trouve moins de resistance, creuse les premiers
sillons qu'elle a traces et forme des petits cones, dont les sommets
sont a la hauteur du sol sur lequel reposoient les eaux. Les parties ou
les laves avoient coule successivement dans la meme direction, les unes
au-dessus des autres, ont donne naissance aux montagnes dans lesquelles
les couches volcaniques et calcaires se succedent parallelement. Celles
sur lesquelles aucunes laves ne se sont portees, n'ont produit que des
montagnes totalement calcaires que se trouvent entremelees avec les
autres. Celles enfin sur lesquelles le hazard ou des circonstances
locales out entasse de preference, et dans le meme lieu, les matieres
que vomissoit le volcan, sans laisser le temps au depot des eaux de
se meler avec elles, ont produit quelques petites montagnes presque
entierement volcanique, ou les cendres sont agglutinees par une pate
calcaire, etc. Cette theorie rend raison de tous le phenomenes et de
toutes les singularites qui s'observent dans le melange des produits
du feu et des depots de l'eau, et une infinite de preuves de differens
genres, mais qui seroient etrangeres a ce Memoire, concourent a
demontrer, l'existence d'un ancien plateau qui etoit eleve de plusieurs
centaines de toises au-dessus du sol actuel des vallees et du niveau de
la mer, qui couvroit non seulement le Val _di Noto_, mais encore
toute la Sicile, et dont les debris ont forme toutes les montagnes
actuellement existantes, a l'exception de l'Etna."

It is not the explanation here given by the Chevalier de Dolomieu, of
the manner in which this great mass of land was formed in the sea, that
is concerned with the subject at present under our examination, but
certain facts set forth in the Memoir, and a certain conclusion which is
there endeavoured to be drawn from those interesting facts[28]. This will
be understood by considering; first, it is on all hands acknowledged,
that the stratified matter of the globe was successively deposited in
the bottom of the sea; secondly, it is also agreed, that this great mass
of Sicily, formed originally under the sea, was afterwards placed in the
atmosphere, whether by the retreat of the sea or by the elevation of the
land; and now, lastly, we are of one mind with respect to the present
shape of things, as having been produced by the wasting away of great
part of that mass which had been once continued all over the island, as
high at least as the tops of the mountains, _i.e._ about a mile above
the level of the sea; we only differ in the time and agents which have
been employed in this Operation.

[Footnote 28: In the first part of this work, the distinction has been
made of true volcanic productions, and those which are so frequently
confounded with them; these last, though the creatures of subterranean
fire, and bodies which have been made to flow in a fluid state, are
clearly different from those masses of lava which have issued from a
volcano, as has been there described. I would only here observe, that,
according to this Theory, these bodies, which the Chevalier de Dolomieu
here represented as lava and volcanic production, must be considered as
unerupted lavas, which had been made to flow among the strata of the
earth, where other at the bottom of the sea, or during those operations
by which this land was erected above the level of the ocean.]

On the one hand, the Memoir now before us represents this great effect
as belonging to an unknown cause, so far as we are ignorant of that
grand _debacle_ or _catastrophe_ which changed the situation of the sea.
On the other hand, the Theory now proposed explains this operation,
of forming those conical mountains of Sicily, and hollowing out its
valleys, by known causes, and by employing powers the most necessary,
the most constant, and the most general, that act upon the surface of
the earth.

But, besides explaining this change of land and water by an unknown
cause, our author has here employed, for the removing of this mass
of solid rock, powers which appear to me no ways adequate to the end
proposed. The running of water upon the soft mud left by a river, given
here as an example, corresponds indeed in some respects with the form
of valleys; for, water acts upon the same principle, whether it makes
a channel through the subtile sediment of a river, or through the
travelled materials of a valley. But it is not here that there is
any difficulty in conceiving the rivers of Sicily to have shaped the
mountains and the valleys; it is in removing the masses of solid rock,
which covered the whole surface of this land in successive strata, that
any doubt could occur in ascribing the actual appearances of things to
the natural operations of the earth; but it is here particularly that
the retreat of the sea, in whatever manner supposed to be done, is
altogether incompetent for the purpose which is now considered. I
flatter myself, that when the Chevalier de Dolomieu, who has employed
his uncommon talents in examining and elucidating the effects of fire in
the bowels of those burning mountains, shall consider and examine the
effects of time upon the surface of the earth, he will be ready to adopt
my opinion, that there is no occasion to have recourse to any unknown
cause, in explaining appearances which are every where to be found,
although not always attended with such remarkable circumstances as those
with which his labours have enriched natural history.

It may be proper to give a view of the operations of nature upon the
Apennines. It is from an account of a journey into the province of
Abruzzo, by Sir William Hamilton. Phil. Trans. 1786.

The road follows the windings of the Garigliano, which is here a
beautiful clear trout stream, with a great variety of cascades and
water-falls, particularly a double one at Isola, near which place CICERO
had a villa; and there are still some remains of it, though converted
into a chapel. The valley is extensive, and rich with fruit trees, corn,
vines, and olives. Large tracts of land are here and there covered with
woods of oak and chestnut, all timber trees of the largest size. The
mountains nearest the valley rise gently, and are adorned with either
modern castles towns, and villages, or the ruins of ancient ones. The
next range of mountains, rising behind these, are covered with pines,
larches, and such trees and shrubs as usually abound in a like
situation; and above them a third range of mountains and rocks, being
the most elevated part of the Apennine, rise much higher, and, being
covered with eternal snow, make a beautiful contrast with the rich
valley above mentioned; and the snow is at so great a distance as not to
give that uncomfortable chill to the air which I have always found in
the narrow valleys of the Alps and the Tyrol.

Having thus examined the alpine countries both of the Old World and the
New, it remains to observe some river in a more low or level country
emptying itself into a sea that does not communicate with the ocean. The
Wolga will now serve for this purpose; and we shall take our facts from
the observations of those men of science who were employed by their
enlightened Sovereign to give the natural as well as the economical
history of her dominions.

Russia may be considered as a square plain, containing about 40 degrees
of longitude, and 20 of latitude, that is, between the 47 deg. and 67 deg.
degrees. The east side is bounded by the Oural mountains, running in a
straight line from north to south. The west is bounded by Poland. The
south reaches to the Caspian and Black Seas, as does the north to the
Polar Ocean.

The greatest part of the water which falls upon this extensive country
is delivered into the Caspian by the river Wolga; and this water runs
from the east and west sides, gathered in two great rivers, the Kama and
the Oka. The water thus gathered from the two opposite extremities of
this great kingdom meet in the middle with the Wolga, which receives its
water from the north side. We thus find the water of this great plain
running in all directions to its centre. Had this been the lowest place,
here would have been formed a sea or lake. But this water found a lower
place in the bed of the Caspian; and into this bason it has made its
way, in forming to itself a channel in the great plain of the Wolga.

Our present purpose is to show that this channel, which the Wolga
has cut for itself, had been once a continued mass of solid rock and
horizontal strata, which in the course of time has been hollowed out to
form a channel for those waters. These waters have been traversing all
that plain, and have left protuberances as so many testimonies of what
had before existed; for, we here find the horizontal strata cut down and
worn away by the rivers.

M. Pallas gives us very good reason to believe that the Caspian Sea had
formerly occupied a much greater extent than at present; there are the
marks of its ancient banks; and the shells peculiar to the Caspian Sea
are found in the soil of that part of its ancient bottom which it has
now deserted, and which forms the low saline _Steppe_. He also makes it
extremely probable that the Caspian then communicated with the Euxine or
Black Sea, and that the breaking through of the channel from the Euxine
into the Mediterranean had occasioned the disjunction of those seas
which had been before united, as the surface of the Caspian is lowered
by the great evaporation from that sea surrounded with dry deserts.

However that may he, it is plain, that throughout all this great flat
inland country of Russia, the solid rocks are decaying and wearing away
by the operation of water, as certainly, though perhaps not so rapidly,
as in the more mountainous regions of the earth.

If there is so much of the solid parts worn and washed away upon the
surface of this earth, as represented in our Theory; and if the rivers
have run so long in their present courses, it may perhaps be demanded,
Why are not all the lakes filled up with soil; and why have not the
Black and Caspian Seas become land or marshy ground, with rivers passing
through them to the ocean? Here is a question that may be considered
either as being general to all the lakes upon the earth, or as
particular to every lake which should thus find a proper explanation in
the Theory. With regard to the last of these, the question has already
been considered in this view, when the particular case of the Rhone was
taken as an example; and now we are only to consider the question as
general to the globe, or so far as belonging to the Theory, without
particularising any one case.

It must be evident, that the objection to the Theory, here supposed to
be made, is founded necessarily upon this, that the solid basis of
our continent, on whose surface are found the lakes in question, is
preserved without change, because, otherwise, the smallest variation in
the basis may produce the most sensible effects upon the surface; and in
this manner might be produced dry land where there had been a lake, or a
lake where none had been before. But, as the present Theory is founded
upon no such principle of stability in the basis of our land, no
objection, to the wasting operations of the surface of the earth, can be
formed against our Theory, from the consideration of those lakes, when
the immediate cause of them should not appear.

The natural tendency of the operations of water upon the surface of
this earth is to form a system of rivers every where, and to fill up
occasional lakes. The system of rivers is executed by wearing and
wasting away the surface of the earth; and this, it must be allowed, is
perfect or complete, at least so far as consistent with another system,
which would also appear to be in nature. This is a system of lakes with
which the rivers are properly connected. Now, as there are more way
than one by which a lake may be formed, consistent with the Theory, the
particular explanation of every lake must be left to the natural history
of the place, so far as this shall be found sufficient for the purpose.

There are many places which give certain appearances, from which it is
concluded, by most intelligent observators, that there had formerly
existed great lakes of fresh water, which had been drained by the
discharge of those waters through conduits formed by some natural
operation; and those naturalists seem to be disposed to attribute to
some great convulsion, rather than to the slow operation of a rivulet,
those changes which may be observed upon the surface of the earth. Let
us now examine some of those appearances, in order to connect them with
that general system of moving water which we have been representing as
every where modifying the surface of the earth on which we dwell.

It is the P. Chrysologue De Gy, who gives the following description.
Journal de Physique, Avril 1787.

"La principaute de Porrentrui l'emporte encore en ce genre sur le reste
du Jura a ce qu'il paroit. On pourra en juger sur les circonstances
locales que je vais rapporter. Une partie de cette principaute est
divisee en quatre grandes vallees, d'environs quatre lieues de long,
sur trois quarts-d'heure ou une heure de large, separees par autant de
chaines de montagnes fort eleves et large en quelques endroits d'une
lieue et demie. Les extremites de chacune de ces vallees sont plus
elevees que le milieu, et on ne peut pas en sortir par ces extremites
sans beaucoup monter. Mais ces vallees ont des communications entr'elles
par une pente assez douce a travers ces masses enormes de montagnes qui
les separent, et qui sont coupees au niveau du milieu des vallees sur
300, 400, 500 toises de hauteur et dans toute leur largeur. On pourroit
assez justement comparer ces vallees a des berceaux poses les uns a cote
des autres, dont les extremites, remplies en talus, seroient plus eleves
que les cotes, et dont ces cotes seroient coupes jusqu'au fond, pour
laisser une passage de l'un a l'autre. Je connois sept a huit passages
semblables a travers ces hautes montagnes, dans une quarre d'environ
quatre a cinq lieues; et dont quatre aboutissent a la vallee de
Mouthier-Grand-Val. Ces passages sont evases dans le dessus, d'environ
une demi-lieue par endroits; mais leurs parois, en talus, se rejoignent
dans le fond ou coule un ruisseau. On a pratique des routes sur
quelques-uns de ces talus, mais les roches sont quelquefois si
resserrees et si escarpees, qu'on a ete oblige de construire un canal
sur le ruisseau, pour y faire passer la route. C'est-la que l'on voit
a son aise, la nature de ces rochers primitives, leur direction, leur
inclinaison, et tous leurs autres accidens qui demanderaient chacun une
dissertation particuliere trop longue pour le moment, et il faut les
avoir vues pour se faire une juste idee des sentimens de grandeur, de
surprise, et d'admiration qu'elles inspirent, et que l'on ne peut pas
exprimer par des paroles. Cependant, les sources de ruisseaux, ou si
l'on veut des rivieres qui traversent ces montagnes, sont beaucoup plus
basses que les sommites des montagnes elles-memes, ces sources ne font
donc pas la cause de ces effets merveilleux. Il a fallu un agent plus
puissant pour creuser ces abimes."

M. de la Metherie has taken a very enlightened view of the country of
France; and has given us a plan of the different ridges of mountains
that may be traced in that kingdom, (Journal de Physique, Janvier 1787).
Now there is a double purpose in natural history to which such a plan as
this may be applied; viz. first, to trace the nature of the solid parts,
on which the soil for vegetation rests; and, secondly, to trace the
nature of the soil or cultivated surface of the earth, on which depends
the growth of plants.

With regard to the first, we may see here the granite raising up the
strata, and bringing them to the light, where they appear on each
side of those centrical ridges. What M. de la Metherie calls _Monts
Secondaires_, I would call the proper strata of the globe, whether
primary or secondary; and the _Monts Granit_, I would consider as
mineral masses, which truly, or in a certain sense, are secondary, as
having been made to invade, in a fluid state, the strata from below,
when they were under water; and which masses had served to raise the
country above the level of the ocean.

But this is not the subject here immediately under consideration; we are
now tracing the operations of rivers upon the surface of the earth,
in order to see in the present state of things a former state, and to
explain the apparent irregularity of the surface and confusion of the
various mineral bodies, by finding order in the works of nature; or a
general system of the globe, in which the preservation of the habitable
world is consulted.

For this last purpose also the mineral map of M. de la Metherie is
valuable. It gives us a plan of the valleys of the great rivers, and
their various branches, which, however infinitely ramified, may be
considered as forming each one great valley watered, or rather drained,
by its proper river. But the view I would now wish to take of those
valleys, is that of habitable and fertile countries formed by the
attrition of those rivers; and to perceive the operation of water
wearing down the softer and less solid parts, while the more hard and
solid rocks of the ridges, as well as scattered mountains, had resisted
and preserved a higher station.

In this map, for example, let us suppose the first and second ridge of
our author's plan to be joined at the mouth of the Loire, and retain the
water of that river, as high as the summit of its surrounding ridges;
this great valley of the Loire, which at present is so fine and fertile
a country, would become a lake; in like manner as the proper valley of
the Rhone, above St Maurice, would be drowned by shutting up that gap of
the mountains through which the Rhone passes in order to enter the plain
of Geneva.

This is the view that P. Chrysologue takes of those small valleys formed
between the ridges of the Jura. But this is not perhaps the just view of
the subject; for though by closing the gap by which the Loire or Rhone,
passes through the inclosing ridge, the present country above would
certainly be overflowed by the accumulated waters, yet it is more
natural to suppose, that the great gap of the Loire, or the Rhone, had
been formed gradually, in proportion as the inclosed country had been
worn down and transported to the sea. We have but to consider, that the
attrition of those transported materials must have been as necessary for
the hollowing out of those gaps in the solid rock of the obstructing
mountains, as the opening of those gaps may have been for the
transporting of those materials to the sea. But it is perhaps
impossible, from the present appearance of things, to see what
revolutions may have happened to this country in the course of its
degradation; what lakes may have been formed; what mountains of softer
materials may have been levelled; and what basons of water filled up and

This general view of the valley of the Loire, and all its branches, is
perhaps too extensive to be admitted in this reasoning from effect to
cause; we must approximate it by an intermediate step, which will easily
be acknowledged as entering within the rule. It is in Forrez, near the
head of the Loire. There we find the plain of Mont Brison, 40,000 toises
or 22 miles long and half as wide, surrounded by a ridge of granite
mountains on every side. Here the river, which is a small branch of
the Loire, enters at the upper end of the plain (as M. de Bournon has
described)[29] "Par une gorge tres etroite et tortueuse," and goes out in
like manner at the under End.

[Footnote 29: Journal de Physique, Mai 1787.]

Those French philosophers, who have seen this plain, have little doubts
of this having been a lake, that is to say, they easily admit of the
original continuity of those ridges of mountains in which the gaps are
now found, through which the river passes. But upon those principles it
must be evident, that the river has hollowed out that plain, at the
same time that it had formed the gaps in those ridges of the granite
mountains. The only solid part, or original stratum, which M. de Bournon
has described as having seen in this plain, is a decomposing _gres_ or
sandstone; but there is reason to suppose, that there had been both
calcareous and argillaceous or marly strata filling the hollow of that
space which is inclosed by the granite mountains; consequently, no
difficulty in conceiving that the river, which must wear away a passage
through those mountains, should also hollow out the softer materials
within, and thus form the plain, or rather a succession of plains, in
proportion as the level of the water had been lowered with the wearing

If we are allowed to make this step, which I think can hardly be
refused, we may proceed to enlarge our view, by comprehending, first,
the Vallais of the Rhone, secondly, the countries of the Seine and
Rhone, above the mountains through which those two rivers in conjunction
have broke, below Lyons; and, lastly, that country of the Rhone and
Durance which is almost inclosed by the surrounding mountains, meeting
at the mouth of the Rhone. But this reasoning will equally apply to the
countries of the Garonne, the Loire, and the Seine.

One observation more may now be made with regard to the courses of great
rivers, and the fertile countries which they form in depositing the
travelled soil; it is this. That though those rivers have hollowed out
their beds and raised their banks; though they are constantly operating
in forming fertile soil in one place and destroying it in another; and
though, in many particular situations, the fertile countries, formed
at the mouths of those rivers, are visibly upon the increase, yet the
general progress of those operations is so slow, that human history does
not serve to give us information almost of any former state of things.
The Nile will serve as an example of this fact.

The river Nile, which rises in the heights of Ethiopia, runs an amazing
tract through desert countries, and discharges its waters near the
bottom of the Mediterranean sea, fertilizes a long valley among barren
countries with which it is surrounded, and thus lays the foundation of
a kingdom, which, from its situation and the number of people it can
maintain and easily bring together for any manner of action, is perhaps
the strongest that can well be imagined. Accordingly, it has been of old
a great kingdom, that is to say, a powerful state within itself; and has
left monuments of this power, which have long been the admiration of the
world. The most ancient Grecian Histories mention these monuments as
being no better known, with regard to their dates and authors, than they
are at this day.

The conclusion here meant to be drawn is this, that, in a period of time
much more ancient than the most ancient periods in human history, Egypt
had been a country formed and watered by the Nile in like manner as it
is at present; that though continual changes are making in this as well
as in every other river, yet, on the whole, no sensible alteration can
be discerned within the compass of human experience, consequently, it is
only by considering, in a scientific manner, the nature of things, and
making allowances for operations which have taken place in time past,
that any competent judgment can be formed of the present shape and
condition of countries, or of any particular place upon the surface of
this earth, so far as regards its date, its causes, or its future state.
Nothing, almost, but the kingdom of Egypt would have formed those
stupendous monuments of art and labour; and nothing but the present
state of Egypt, fertilised by the Nile, could have formed that powerful
kingdom which might execute those works.

Thus there is a system of mountains and valleys, of hills and plains,
of rivulets and rivers, all of which are so perfectly connected, and so
admirably proportioned, in their forms and quantities, like the arteries
and veins of the animal body, that it would be absurd to suppose any
thing but wisdom could have designed this system of the earth, in
delivering water to run from the higher ground; or that any thing could
have formed this beautiful disposition of things but the operation of
the most steady causes; operations which, in the unlimited succession
of time, has brought to our view scenes which seem to us to have been
always, or to have been in the original construction of this earth.

To suppose the currents of the ocean to have formed that system of
hill and dale, of branching rivers and rivulets, divided almost _ad
infinitum_, which assemble together the water poured at large upon the
surface of the earth, in order to nourish a great diversity of animals
calculated for that moving element, and which carry back to the sea the
superfluity of water, would be to suppose a systematic order in the
currents of the ocean, an order which, with as much reason, we might
look for, in the wind. The diversity of heights upon the surface of the
earth, and of hardness and solidity in the masses of which the land is
formed, is doubtless governed by causes proper to the mineral kingdom,
and independent either of the atmosphere or sea; but the form and
structure by which the surface of the earth is fitted peculiarly to the
purpose of this living world, in giving a fertility which sustains both
plants and animals, is only caused by those powers which work upon the
surface of the earth,--those powers, the operation of which men in
general see with indifference every day, sometimes with horror or

The system of sustaining plants and animals upon a surface where
fertility abounds, and where even the desert has its proper use, is to
be perceived from the summit of the mountain to the shore within the
region of the sea; and although we have principally taken the Alps,
or alpine situations, for particular examples, in illustrating this
operation of the waters upon the surface of the earth, it is because the
effects are here more obvious to every inquirer, and not because there
is here to be acknowledged any other principle than that which is to be
found on all the surface of the earth, a principle of generation in one
sense, and of destruction in another.

We may also find in this particular, a certain degree of confirmation
to another part of the same theory; a part which does not come so
immediately within our view, and concerning which so many contradictory
hypotheses have been formed. Naturalists have supposed a certain
original construction of mountains, which constitution of things,
however, they never have explained; they have also distinguished those
which have evidently been formed in another manner, that is to say,
those the materials of which had been collected in the ocean. Now, here
are two things perfectly different; on the one hand original mountains
formed by nature, but we know not how, endued with solidity, but not
differing in this respect from those of a posterior formation; on the
other hand, secondary mountains, formed by the collection of materials
in the sea, therefore, not having solidity as a quality inherent in
their constitution, but only occasional or accidental in their nature.
If, therefore, it be the natural constitution of things upon the surface
of this earth to indurate and become solid, however originally formed
loose and incoherent, we should thus find an explanation of the
consolidation of those masses which had been lately formed of the loose
materials of the ocean; if, on the contrary, we find those pretended
primitive mountains, those bodies which are endued with hardness
and solidity, wasting by the hand of time, and thus wearing in the
operations natural to the surface of the earth, Where shall we find
the consolidating operations, those by which beds of shells have been
transformed into perfect marble, and siliceous bodies into solid flint?
or how reconcile those opposite intentions in the same cause?

Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose a collection of shells and
corals, amassed about the primitive mountains of the earth, to become
mountains equally solid with the others, upon the removal of the sea; it
would be inconsistent with every principle of sound reasoning to suppose
those masses of loose materials to oppose equal resistance to the
wasting and destroying operations of the surface of the earth, as do
those pretended primitive masses, which might be supposed endued with
natural hardness and solidity; yet, consult the matter of fact, and it
does not appear that there is any difference to be perceived. There are
lofty mountains to be found both of the one kind and the other; both
those different masses yield to the wasting operations of the surface;
and they are both carried away with the descending waters of the earth.

It is not here meant to affirm, that a mass of marble, which is
a calcareous substance, opposes equal resistance, whether to the
operations of dissolution or attrition, as a mass composed of granite or
of quartz; it is only here maintained that there are in the Alps lofty
mountains of marble, as there are in other places lower masses of
granite and its accompanying schistus. But that which is particularly to
be attended to here is this: In all countries of the earth, whether of
primitive masses or those of secondary formation, whether uniform and
homogeneous, or compound and mixed of those two different kinds of
bodies, the system is always the same, of hills and valleys, lakes and
rivers, ravines and streams: no man can say, by looking into the most
perfect map, what is primary or what secondary in the constitution of
the globe. It is the same system of larger rivers branching into lesser
and lesser in a continued series, of smaller rivers in like manner
branching into rivulets, and of rivulets terminating at last into
springs or temporary streams. The principle is universal; and, having
learned the natural history of one river, we know the constitution of
every other upon the face of the earth.

Thus all the surface of this earth is formed according to a regular
system of heights and hollows, hills and valleys, rivulets and rivers,
and these rivers return the waters of the atmosphere into the general
mass, in like manner as the blood, returning to the heart, is conducted
in the veins. But as the solid land, formed at the bottom of the sea or
in the bowels of the earth, could not be there constructed according to
that system of things which we find so widely pursued upon the surface
of the globe, it must be by wasting the solid parts of the land that
this system of the surface has been formed, in like manner as it is by
the operations of the sea that the shape of the land is determined, upon
the shore.

Thus it has been shown, that the general tendency of the operations
natural to the surface of the globe is to wear the surface of the earth,
and waste the land; consequently that, however long the continents of
this earth may be supposed to last, they are on the whole in a constant
state of diminution and decay; and, in the progress of time, will
naturally disappear. Hence confirmation is added to that mineral system
of the earth, by which the present land is supposed to have acquired
solidity and hardness; and according to which future land is supposed to
be preparing from the materials of the sea and former continents; which
land will be brought to light in time, to supply the place of that which
necessarily wastes, in serving plants and animals. But what is here more
particularly to the purpose is this; that we find an explanation of that
various shape and conformation which is to be observed upon the surface
of this earth, as being the effect of causes which are constant and
unremitting in their operation, which are widely adapted to the end or
absolutely necessary in the system of this world, and which, in the
indefinite course of time, become unlimited in their effect, or powerful
in any conceivable degree.

It is not sufficient for establishing the present theory, to refute that
most unscientific hypothesis, adopted by some eminent philosophers, of
mountains and valleys being the effect of currents in the ocean; it is
necessary to see what is their proper cause, and to show that by no
other cause known could the general effect, which is of such importance
in the system of this world, be actually produced. It is for this reason
that we have endeavoured to show that there is a general, an universal
system of river and valley, which renders the surface of this earth a
sort of organized body destined to a purpose which it perfectly fulfils.

But to see the full force of this argument, taken from that order of
things which is perceived in that system of valley and river all over
the earth, let us examine, first, what would be the effect, in the
constitution of this world, of bodies of land formed upon no such
system; and, secondly, what would be the effect of the natural
constitution of this world and meteorological operations of the
atmosphere, if continued for a sufficient length of time, upon a mass of
land without any systematic form.

For this purpose we shall take for example a portion of this earth,
which is the best known to us, that is the south-western part of Europe,
in order to compare its present state, which so perfectly fulfils the
purpose of this world, with that in which no order of valley and of
rivers should be fund.

Let us begin at the summit, which is the Mont-Blanc. At present the
water, falling from the heavens upon this continent, is gathered into
a system of rivers which run through valleys, and is delivered at last
into the Adriatic, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the German Seas;
all the rest of this continent, except some lakes and marshes, is dry
land, properly calculated, for the sustenance of a variety of plants and
animals, and so fulfils the purpose of a habitable earth. Now, destroy
that system of river and valley, and the whole would become a mixture
of lakes and marshes, except the summits of a few barren rocks and
mountains. No regular channels for conveying the super-abundant water
being made, every thing must be deluged, and nothing but a system of
aquatic plants and animals appear. A continent of this sort is not found
upon the globe; and such a constitution of things, in general, would
not answer the purpose of the habitable world which we possess. It is
therefore necessary to modify the surface of such a continent of land,
as had been formed in the sea, and produced, by whatever means, into the
atmosphere for the purpose of maintaining that variety of plants and
animals which we behold; and now we are to examine how far the
proper means for that modification is to be found necessarily in the
constitution of this world.

If we consider our continent as composed of such materials as may decay
by the influence of the atmosphere, and be moved by water descending
from the higher to the lower ground, as is actually the case with the
land of our globe, then the water would gradually form channels in
which it would run from place to place; and those channels, continually
uniting as they proceed to the sea or shore, would form a system of
rivers and their branchings. But this system of moving water must
gradually produce valleys, by carrying away stones and earthy matter
in their floods; and those valleys would be changing according to the
softness, and hardness, destructability or indestructability of the
solid parts below. Still however the system of valley and river would
be preserved; and to this would be added the system of mountains, and
valleys, of hills and plains, to the formation of which the unequal
wearing down of the solids must in a great measure contribute.

Here therefore it is evident, _first_, that the great system upon the
surface of this earth, is that of valleys and rivers; _secondly_, that
no such system could arise from the operations of the sea when covering
the nascent land; _thirdly_, that this system is accomplished by the
same means which, are employed for procuring soil from the decaying
rocks and strata; and, _lastly_, that however this system shall be
interrupted and occasionally destroyed, it would necessarily be again
formed in time, while the earth continued above the level of the sea.
Whatever changes take place from the operation of internal causes, the
habitable earth, in general, is always preserved with the vigour of
youth, and the perfection of the most mature age. We cannot see man
cultivate the field, without perceiving that system of dry land provided
by nature in forming valleys and rivers; we cannot study the rocks
and solid strata of the earth, those bulwarks of the field and shore,
without acknowledging the provident design of nature in giving as much
permanency to our continent, as is consistent with sufficient fertility;
and we cannot contemplate the necessary waste of a present continent,
without perceiving the means for laying the foundation of another. But
the evidence of those truths is not open to a vulgar view; _media_ are
required, or much reasoning; and between the first link and the last, in
this chain, what a distance, from the wasting of hard bodies upon the
surface of the earth, to the formation of a solid rock at the bottom of
the sea.


_Summary of the Doctrine which has been now

The system of this earth appears to comprehend many different
operations; and it exhibits various powers co-operating for the
production of those effects which we perceive. Of this we are informed
by studying natural appearances; and in this manner we are led to
understand the nature of things, in knowing causes.

That our land, which is now above the level of the sea, had been
formerly under water, is a fact for which there is every where the
testimony of a multitude of observations. This indeed is a fact which
is admitted upon all hands; it is a fact upon which the speculations of
philosophers have been already much employed; but it is a fact still
more important, in my opinion, than it has been ever yet considered.
It is not, however, as a solitary fact that any rational system may be
founded upon this truth, That the earth had been formerly at the bottom
of the sea; we must also see the nature and constitution of this earth
as necessarily subsisting in continual change; and we must see the means
employed by nature for constructing a continent of solid land in the
fluid bosom of the deep. It is then that we may judge of that design,
by finding ends and means contrived in wisdom, that is to say, properly
adapted to each other.

We have now given a theory founded upon the actual state of this earth,
and the appearances of things, so far as they are changing; and we have,
in support of that theory, adduced the observations of scientific men,
who have carefully examined nature and described things in a manner that
is clear and intelligible. We are now to take a review of the principle
points on which this theory hangs; and to endeavour to point out the
importance of the subject, and the proper manner of judging with regard
to a theory of the earth, how far it is conform to the general system of
nature, which has for object a world.

If it should be admitted, that this earth had been formed by the
collection of materials deposited within the sea, there will then appear
to be certain things which ought to be explained by a theory, before
that theory be received as belonging to this earth. These are as

_First_, We ought to show how it came about that this whole earth, or by
far the greatest part in all the quarters of the globe, had been formed
of transported materials collected together in the sea. It must be here
remembered, that the highest of our mountainous countries are equally
formed of those travelled materials as are the lowest of our plains; we
are not therefore to have recourse to any thing that we see at present
for the origin of those materials which actually compose the earth;
and we must show from whence had come those travelled materials,
manufactured by water, which were employed in composing the highest
places of our land.

_Secondly_, We must explain how those loose and incoherent materials had
been consolidated, as we find they are at present. We are not here to
allow ourselves the liberty, which naturalists have assumed without
the least foundation, of explaining every thing of this sort by
_infiltration_, a term in this case expressing nothing but our

_Thirdly_, The strata are not always equally consolidated. We often find
contiguous strata in very different states with respect to solidity; and
sometimes the most solid masses are found involved in the most
porous substance. Some explanation surely would be expected for this
appearance, which is of a nature so conclusive as ought to attract the
attention of a theorist.

_Fourthly_, It is not sufficient to show how the earth in general had
been consolidated; we must also explain, how it comes to pass that the
consolidated bodies are always broken and intersected by veins and
fissures. In this case, the reason commonly given, that the earth
exposed to the atmosphere had shrunk like moist clay, or contracted
by the operation of drying, can only show that such naturalists have
thought but little upon the subject. The effect in no shape or degree
corresponds to that cause; and veins and fissures, in the solid bodies,
are no less frequent under the level of the sea, than on the summits of
our mountains.

_Fifthly_, Having found a cause for the fracture and separation of the
solid masses, we must also tell from whence the matter with which those
chasms are filled, matter which is foreign both to the earth and sea,
had been introduced into the veins that intersect the strata. If we fail
in this particular, What credit could be given to such hypotheses as are
contrived for the explanation of more ambiguous appearances, even when
those suppositions should appear most probable?

_Sixthly_, Supposing that hitherto every thing had been explained in the
most satisfactory manner, the most important appearances of our earth
still remain to be considered. We find those strata that were originally
formed continuous in their substance, and horizontal in their position,
now broken, bended, and inclined, in every manner and degree; we must
give some reason in our theory for such a general changed state and
disposition of things; and we must tell by what power this event,
whether accidental or intended, had been brought about.

_Lastly_, Whatever powers had been employed in preparing land, while
situated under water, or at the bottom of the sea, the most powerful
operation yet remains to be explained; this is the means by which the
lowest surface of the solid globe was made to be the highest upon the
earth. Unless we can show a power of sufficient force, and placed in
a proper situation for that purpose, our theory would go for nothing,
among people who investigate the nature of things, and who, founding on
experience, reason by induction from effect to cause.

Nothing can be admitted as a theory of the earth which does not, in a
satisfactory manner, give the efficient causes for all these effects
already enumerated. For, as things are universally to be acknowledged
in the earth, it is essential in a theory to explain those natural

But this is not all. We live in a world where order every where
prevails; and where final causes are as well known, at least, as those
which are efficient. The muscles, for example, by which I move my
fingers when I write, are no more the efficient cause of that motion,
than this motion is the final cause for which the muscles had been made.
Thus, the circulation of the blood is the efficient cause of life; but,
life is the final cause, not only for the circulation of the blood,
but for the revolution of the globe: Without a central luminary, and a
revolution of the planetary body, there could not have been a living
creature upon the face of this earth; and, while we see a living system
on this earth, we must acknowledge, that in the solar system we see a
final cause.

Now, in a theory which considers this earth as placed in a system of
things where ends are at least attained, if not contrived in wisdom,
final causes must appear to be an object of consideration, as well as
those which are efficient. A living world is evidently an object in the
design of things, by whatever Being those things had been designed, and
however either wisdom or folly may appear in that design. Therefore the
explanation, which is given of the different phenomena of the earth,
must be consistent with the actual constitution of this earth as a
living world, that is, a world maintaining a system of living animals
and plants.

Not only are no powers to be employed that are not natural to the globe,
no action to be admitted of except those of which we know the principle,
and no extraordinary events to be alledged in order to explain a common
appearance, the powers of nature are not to be employed in order to
destroy the very object of those powers; we are not to make nature act
in violation to that order which we actually observe, and in subversion
of that end which is to be perceived in the system of created things. In
whatever manner, therefore, we are to employ the great agents, fire and
water, for producing those things which appear, it ought to be in such a
way as is consistent with the propagation of plants and life of animals
upon the surface of the earth. Chaos and confusion are not to be
introduced into the order of nature, because certain things appear to
our partial views as being in some disorder. Nor are we to proceed
in feigning causes, when those seem insufficient which occur in our

Animal life being thus considered as an object in the view of nature, we
are to consider this earth as being the means appointed for that end;
and then the question is suggested, How far wisdom may appear in the
constitution of this earth, as being _means_ properly adapted to the
system of animal life, which is evidently the end. This is taking for
granted, that there is a known system of the earth which is to be
tried--how far properly adapted to the end intended in nature. But,
it is this very system of the earth which is here the subject of
investigation; and, it is in order to discover the _true system_ that we
are to examine, by means of final causes, every theory which pretends
to show the nature of that system, or to assign efficient causes to
physical events.

Here then we have a rule to try the propriety of every operation which
should be acknowledged as in the system of nature, or as belonging to
the theory of this earth. It is not necessary that we should see the
propriety of every natural operation; our natural ignorance precludes us
from any title to form a judgment in things of which we are not properly
informed; but, no suppositions of events, or explanations of natural
appearances, are to be admitted into our Theory, if the propriety of
those alledged operations is not made to appear. We are now to make an

This earth, which is now dry land, was under water, and was formed in
the sea. Here is a matter of fact, and not of theory, so far as it can
be made as evident as any thing of which we have not seen the immediate
act or execution. But the propriety of this matter of fact is only to
be perceived in making the following acknowledgment, That the origin of
this earth is necessarily placed in the bottom of the sea. In supposing
any other origin to this habitable earth, we would see the impropriety
of having it covered with water, or drowned in the sea. But, being
formed originally at the bottom of the sea, if we can explain the
phenomena of this earth by natural causes, we will acknowledge the
wisdom of those means, by which the earth, thus formed at the bottom
of the sea, had been perfected in its nature, and made to fulfil the
purpose of its intention, by being placed in the atmosphere.

If the habitable earth does not take its origin in the waters of the
sea, the washing away of the matter of this earth into the sea would
put a period to the existence of that system which forms the admirable
constitution of this living world. But, if the origin of this earth is
founded in the sea, the matter which is washed from our land is only
proceeding in the order of the system; and thus no change would be made
in the general system of this world, although this particular earth,
which we possess at present, should in the course of nature disappear.

It has already been our business to show that the land is actually
wasted universally, and carried away into the sea. Now, What is the
final cause of this event?--Is it in order to destroy the system of this
living world, that the operations of nature are thus disposed upon the
surface of this earth? Or, Is it to perpetuate the progress of that
system, which, in other respects, appears to be contrived with so much
wisdom? Here are questions which a Theory of the Earth must solve; and
here indeed, must be found the most material part by far of any Theory
of the Earth. For, as we are more immediately concerned with the
operations of the surface, it is the revolutions of that surface which
forms, for us, the most interesting subject of inquiry.

Thus we are led to inquire into the final cause of things, while we
investigate an operation of such magnitude and importance, as is that of
forming land of sea, and sea of land, of apparently reversing nature,
and of destroying that which is so admirably adapted to its purpose. Was
it the work of accident, or effect of an occasional transaction, that
by which the sea had covered our land? Or, Was it the intention of that
Mind which formed the matter of this globe, which endued that matter
with its active and its passive powers, and which placed it with so much
wisdom among a numberless collection of bodies, all moving in a system?
If we admit the first, the consequence of such a supposition would be to
attribute to chance the constitution of this world, in which the systems
of life and sense, of reason and intellect, are necessarily maintained.
If again we shall admit, that there is intention in the cause by which
the present earth had been removed from the bottom of the sea, we may
then inquire into the nature of that system in which a habitable earth,
possessed of beauty, arranged in order, and preserved with economy, had
been formed by the mixture and combination of the different elements,
and made to rise out of the wreck of a former world.

In examining the structure of our earth, we find it no less evidently
formed of loose and incoherent materials, than that those materials had
been collected from different parts, and gathered together at the bottom
of the sea. Consequently, if this continent of land, first collected in
the sea, and then raised above its surface, is to remain a habitable
earth, and to resist the moving waters of the globe, certain degrees
of solidity or consolidation must be given to that collection of loose
materials; and certain degrees of hardness must be given to bodies which
were soft or incoherent, and consequently so extremely perishable in the
situation where they now are placed.

But, at the same time that this earth must have solidity and hardness
to resist the sudden changes which its moving fluids would occasion, it
must be made subject to decay and, waste upon the surface exposed to the
atmosphere; for, such an earth as were made incapable of change, or not
subject to decay, could not afford that fertile soil which is required
in the system of this world, a soil on which depends the growth of
plants and life of animals,--the end of its intention.

Now, we find this earth endued precisely with that degree of hardness
and consolidation, as qualifies it at the same time to be a fruitful
earth, and to maintain its station with all the permanency compatible
with the nature of things, which are not formed to remain unchangeable.

Thus we have a view of the most perfect wisdom, in the contrivance of
that constitution by which the earth is made to answer, in the best
manner possible, the purpose of its intention, that is, to maintain and
perpetuate a system of vegetation, or the various race of useful plants,
and a system of living animals, which are in their turn subservient to a
system still infinitely more important, I mean, a system of intellect.
Without fertility in the earth, many races of plants and animals would
soon perish, or be extinct; and, without permanency in our land, it were
impossible for the various tribes of plants and animals to be dispersed
over all the surface of a changing earth. The fact is, that fertility,
adequate to the various ends in view, is found in all the quarters of
the world, or in every country of the earth; and, the permanency of our
land is such, as to make it appear unalterable to mankind in general,
and even to impose upon men of science, who have endeavoured to persuade
us that this earth is not to change. Nothing but supreme power and
wisdom could have reconciled those two opposite ends of intention, so as
both to be equally pursued in the system of nature, and both so equally
attained as to be imperceptible to common observation, and at the same
time a proper object for the human understanding.

We thus are led to inquire into the efficient causes of this
constitution of things, by which solidity and stability had been
bestowed upon a mass of loose materials, and by which this solid
earth, formed first at the bottom of the sea, had been placed in the
atmosphere, where plants and animals find the necessary conditions of
their life.

Now, we have shown, that subterraneous fire and heat had been employed
in the consolidation of our earth, and in the erection of that
consolidated body into the place of land. The prejudices of mankind, who
cannot see the steps by which we come at this conclusion, are against
the doctrine; but, prejudice must give way to evidence. No other Theory
will in any degree explain appearances, while almost every appearance is
easily explained by this Theory.

We do not dispute the chymical action and efficacy of water, or any
other substance which is found among the materials collected at the
bottom of the sea; we only mean to affirm, that every action of this
kind is incapable of producing perfect solidity in the body of earth
in that situation of things, whatever time should be allowed for that
operation, and that whatever may have been the operations of water,
aided by fire, and evaporated by heat, the various appearances of
mineralization, (every where presented to us in the solid earth, and the
most perfect objects of examination), are plainly inexplicable upon the
principle of aqueous solution. On the other hand, the operation of
heat, melting incoherent bodies, and introducing softness into rigid
substances which are to be united, is not only a cause which is proper
to explain the effects in question, but also appears, from a multitude
of different circumstances, to have been actually exerted among the
consolidated bodies of our earth, and in the mineral veins with which
the solid bodies of the earth abound.

The doctrine, therefore, of our Theory is briefly this, That, whatever
may have been the operation of dissolving water, and the chymical action
of it upon the materials accumulated at the bottom of the sea, the
general solidity of that mass of earth, and the placing of it in
the atmosphere above the surface of the sea, has been the immediate
operation of fire or heat melting and expanding bodies. Here is a
proposition which may be tried, in applying it to all the phenomena of
the mineral region; so far as I have seen, it is perfectly verified in
that application.

We have another proposition in our Theory; one which is still more
interesting to consider. It is this, That as, in the mineral regions,
the loose or incoherent materials of our land had been consolidated by
the action of heat; so, upon the surface of this earth exposed to the
fluid elements of air and water, there is a necessary principle of
dissolution and decay, for that consolidated earth which from the
mineral region is exposed to the day. The solid body being thus
gradually impaired, there are moving powers continually employed, by
which the summits of our land are constantly degraded, and the materials
of this decaying surface travelled towards the coast. There are other
powers which act upon the shore, by which the coast is necessarily
impaired, and our land subjected to the perpetual incroachment of the

Here is a part of the Theory with which every appearance of the surface
may be compared. I am confident that it will stand the test of the most
rigid examination; and that nothing but the most inconsiderate judgment
may mistake a few appearances, which, when properly understood, instead
of forming any subject of objection to the Theory, will be found to
afford it every reasonable support or confirmation.

We have now seen, that in every quarter of the globe, and in every
climate of the earth, there is formed, by means of the decay of solid
rocks, and by the transportation of those moveable materials, that
beautiful system of mountains and valleys, of hills and plains, covered
with growing plants, and inhabited by animals. We have seen, that, with
this system of animal and vegetable economy, which depends on soil and
climate, there is also a system of moving water, poured upon the surface
of the earth[30], in the most beneficial manner possible for the use of
vegetation, and the preservation of our soil; and that this water is
gathered together again by running to the lowest place, in order to
avoid accumulation of water upon the surface, which would be noxious.

[Footnote 30: See Dissertations upon Subjects of Natural Philosophy, Part

It is in this manner that we first have streams or torrents, which only
run in times of rain. But the rain-water absorbed into the earth is made
to issue out in springs, which run perpetually, and which, gathering
together as they run, form rivulets, watering valleys, and delighting
the various inhabitants of this earth. The rivulets again are united in
their turn, and form those rivers which overflow our plains, and which
alternately bring permanent fertility and casual devastation to our
land. Those rivers, augmenting in their volume as they unite, pour at
last their mighty waters into the ocean; and thus is completed that
circulation of wholesome fluids, which the earth requires in order to be
a habitable world.

Our Theory farther shows, that in the ocean there is a system of animals
which have contributed so materially to the formation of our land. These
animals are necessarily maintained by the vegetable provision, which
is returned in the rivers to the sea, and which the land alone or
principally produces. Thus we may perceive the mutual dependence upon
each other of those two habitable worlds,--the fluid ocean and the
fertile earth.

The land is formed in the sea, and in great part by inhabitants of that
fluid world. But those animals, which form with their _exuviae_ such a
portion of the land, are maintained, like those upon the surface of
the earth, by the produce of that land to which they formerly had
contributed. Thus the vegetable matter, which is produced upon the
surface of the earth in such abundance for the use of animals, and
which, in such various shapes, is carried by the rivers into the sea,
there sustains that living system which is daily employed to make
materials for a future land.

Here is a compound system of things, forming together one whole living
world; a world maintaining an almost endless diversity of plants and
animals, by the disposition of its various parrs, and by the circulation
of its different kinds of matter. Now, we are to examine into the
necessary consequence of this disposition of things, where the matter of
this active world is perpetually moved, in that salutary circulation
by which provision is so wisely made for the growth and prosperity of
plants, and for the life and comfort of its various animals.

If, in examining this subject, we shall find that there is nothing in
the system but what is necessary, that is, nothing in the means employed
but what the importance of the end requires; if we shall find that the
end is steadily pursued, and that there is no deficiency in the means
which are employed; and if it shall be acknowledged that the end
which is attained is not idle or insignificant, we then may draw this
conclusion, That such a system is in perfect wisdom; and therefore that
this system, so far as it is found corresponding properly with
natural appearances, is the system of nature, and not the creature of

Let us then take a cursory view of this system of things, upon which we
have proceeded in our theory, and upon which the constitution of this
world seems to depend.

Our solid earth is every where wasted, where exposed to the day. The
summits of the mountains are necessarily degraded. The solid and weighty
materials of those mountains are every where urged through the valleys,
by the force of running water. The soil, which is produced in the
destruction of the solid earth, is gradually travelled by the moving
water, but is constantly supplying vegetation with its necessary aid.
This travelled soil is at last deposited upon the coast, where it forms
most fertile countries. But the billows of the ocean agitate the loose
materials upon the shore, and wear away the coast, with the endless
repetitions of this act of power, or this imparted force. Thus the
continent of our earth, sapped in its foundation, is carried away into
the deep, and sunk again at the bottom of the sea, from whence it had

We are thus led to see a circulation in the matter of this globe, and a
system of beautiful economy in the works of nature. This earth, like the
body of an animal, is wasted at the same time that it is repaired. It
has a state of growth and augmentation; it has another state, which is
that of diminution and decay. This world is thus destroyed in one part,
but it is renewed in another; and the operations by which this world is
thus constantly renewed, are as evident to the scientific eye, as are
those in which it is necessarily destroyed. The marks of the internal
fire, by which the rocks, beneath the sea are hardened, and by which
the land is produced above the surface of the sea, have nothing in them
which is doubtful or ambiguous. The destroying operations again, though
placed within the reach of our examination, and evident almost to every
observer, are no more acknowledged by mankind, than is that system of
renovation which philosophy alone discovers.

It is only in science that any question concerning the origin and end of
things is formed; and it is in science only that the resolution of those
questions is to be attained. The natural operations of this globe, by
which the size and shape of our land are changed, are so slow as to be
altogether imperceptible to men who are employed in pursuing the various
occupations of life and literature. We must not ask the industrious
inhabitant, for the end or origin of this earth: he sees the present,
and he looks no farther into the works of time than his experience can
supply his reason. We must not ask the statesman, who looks into the
history of time past, for the rise and fall of empires; he proceeds upon
the idea of a stationary earth, and most justly has respect to nothing
but the influence of moral causes.

It is in the philosophy of nature that the natural history of this earth
is to be studied; and we must not allow ourselves ever to reason without
proper data, or to fabricate a system of apparent wisdom in the folly of
a hypothetical delusion.

When, to a scientific view of the subject, we join the proof which has
been given, that in all the quarters of the globe, in every place upon
the surface of the earth, there are the most undoubted marks of the
continued progress of those operations which wear away and waste the
land, both in its height and width, its elevation and extention, and
that for a space of duration in which our measures of time are lost, we
must sit down contented with this limitation of our retrospect, as
well as prospect, and acknowledge, that it is in vain to seek for any
computation of the time, during which the materials of this earth had
been prepared in a preceding world, and collected at the bottom of a
former sea.

The system of this earth will thus appear to comprehend many different
operations, or it exhibits various powers co-operating for the
production of those appearances which we properly understand in knowing
causes. Thus, in order to understand the natural conformation of this
country, or the particular shape of any other place upon the globe, it
is not enough to see the effects of those powers which gradually waste
and wear away the surface, we must also see how those powers affecting
the surface operate, or by what principle they act.

Besides, seeing those powers which are employed in thus changing the
surface of the earth, we must also observe how their force is naturally
augmented with the declivity of the ground on which they operate.
Neither is it sufficient to understand by what powers the surface is
impaired, for, it may be asked, why, in equal circumstances, one part is
more impaired than another; this then leads to the examination of the
mineral system, in which are determined the hardness and solidity,
consequently, the permanency of those bodies of which our land is
composed; and here are sources of indefinite variety.

In the system of the globe every thing must be consistent. The changing
and destroying operations of the surface exposed to the sun and
influences of the atmosphere, must correspond to those by which land is
composed at the bottom of the sea; and the consolidating operations of
the mineral region must correspond to those appearances which in the
rocks, the veins, and solid stones, give such evident, such universal
testimony of the power of fire, in bringing bodies into fusion, or
introducing fluidity, the necessary prelude to solidity and concretion.

Those various powers of nature have thus been employed in the theory, to
explain things which commonly appear; or rather, it is from things which
universally appear that causes have been concluded, upon scientific
principles, for those effects. A system is thus formed, in generalising
all those different effects, or in ascribing all those particular
operations to a general end. This end, the subject of our understanding,
is then to be considered as an object of design; and, in this design, we
may perceive, either wisdom, so far as the ends and means are properly
adapted, or benevolence, so far as that system is contrived for the
benefit of beings who are capable of suffering pain and pleasure, and of
judging good and evil.

But, in this physical dissertation, we are limited to consider the
manner in which things present have been made to come to pass, and not
to inquire concerning the moral end for which those things may have been
calculated. Therefore, in pursuing this object, I am next to examine
facts, with regard to the mineralogical part of the theory, from which,
perhaps, light may be thrown upon the subject; and to endeavour to
answer objections, or solve difficulties, which may naturally occur from
the consideration of particular appearances.


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