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earth's history requires no ordinary share of discretion; for we are precluded from collating the corresponding parts of the system of things as it exists now, and as it existed at former periods. If we were inhabitants of another element <if the great ocean were our domain, instead of the narrow limits of the land, our difficulties would be considerably lessened; while, on the other hand, there can be little doubt, although the reader may, perhaps, smile at the bare suggestion of such an idea, that an amphibious being, who should possess our faculties, would still more easily arrive at sound theoretical opinions in geology, since he might behold, on the one hand, the decomposition of rocks in the atmosphere, or the transportation of matter by running water; and, on the other, examine the deposition of sediment in the sea, and the imbedding of animal and vegetable remains in new strata. He might ascertain, by direct observation, the action of a mountain torrent, as well as of a marine current; might compare the products of volcanos poured out upon the land with those ejected beneath the waters; and might mark, on the one hand, the growth of the forest, and, on the other, that of the coral reef. Yet, even with these advantages, he would be liable to fall into the greatest errors, when endeavouring to reason on rocks of subterranean origin. He would seek in vain, within the sphere of his observation, for any direct analogy to the process of their formation, and would therefore be in danger of attributing them, wherever they are upraised to view, to some 'primeval state of nature.'
But if we may be allowed so far to indulge the imagination, as to suppose a being entirely confined to the nether world—some 'dusky melancholy sprite,' like Umbriel, who could 'Ait on sooty pinions to the central earth,' but who was never permitted to 'sully the fair face of light,' and emerge into the regions of water and of air; and if this being should busy himself in investigating the structure of the globe, he might frame theories the exact converse of those usually adopted by human philosophers. He might infer that the stratified rocks, containing shells and other organic remains, were the oldest of created things, belonging to some original and nascent state of the planet.
Of these masses,' he might say, 'whether they consist of loose incoherent sand, soft clay, or solid stone, none have been formed in modern times. Every year some of them are broken and shattered by earthquakes, or melted by volcanic fire; and when they cool down slowly from a state of fusion, they assume a new and more crystalline form, no longer exhibiting that stratified disposition and those curious impressions and fantastic markings, by which they were previously characterised. This process cannot have been carried on for an indefinite time, for in that case all the stratified rocks would long ere this have been fused and crystallised. It is therefore probable that the whole planet once consisted of these mysterious and curiously bedded formations at a time when the volcanic fire had not yet been brought into activity. Since that period there seems to have been a gradual development of heat; and this augmentation we may expect to continue till the whole globe shall be in a state of fluidity, or shall consist, in those parts which are not melted, of volcanic and crystalline rocks.'
Such might be the system of the Gnome at the very time that the followers of Leibnitz, reasoning on what they saw on the outer surface, might be teaching the opposite doctrine of gradual refrigeration, and averring that the earth had begun its career as a fiery comet, and might be destined hereafter to become a frozen mass. The tenets of the schools of the nether and of the upper world would be directly opposed to each other, for both would partake of the prejudices inevitably resulting from the continual contemplation of one class of phenomena to the exclusion of another. Man observes the annual decomposition of crystalline and igneous rocks, and may sometimes see their conversion into stratified deposits; but he cannot witness the reconversion of the sedimentary into the crystalline by subterranean heat. He is in the habit of regarding all the sedimentary rocks as more recent than the unstratified, for the same reason that we may suppose him to fall into the opposite error if he saw the origin of the igneous class only.
For more than two centuries the shelly strata of the Subapennine hills afforded matter of speculation to the early geologists of Italy, and few of them had any suspicion that similar deposits were then forming in the neighbouring sea. Some imagined that the strata, so rich in organic remains, instead of being due to secondary agents, had been so created in the beginning of things by the fiat of the Almighty. Others, as we have seen, ascribed the imbedded fossil bodies to some plastic power which resided in the earth in the early ages of the world. In what manner were these dogmas at length exploded? The fossil relics were carefully compared with their living analogues, and all doubts as to their organic origin were eventually dispelled. So, also, in regard to the nature of the containing beds of mud, sand, and limestone: those parts of the bottom of the sea were examined where shells are now becoming annually entombed in new deposits. Donati explored the bed of the Adriatic, and found the closest resemblance between the strata there forming, and those which constituted hills above a thousand feet high in various parts of the Italian peninsula. He ascertained by dredging that living testacea were there grouped together in precisely the same manner as were their fossil analogues in the inland strata; and while some of the recent shells of the Adriatic were becoming incrusted with calcareous rock, he observed that others had been newly buried in sand and clay, precisely as fossil shells occur in the Subapennine hills.
In like manner, the volcanic rocks of the Vicentin had been studied in the beginning of the last century; but no geologist suspected, before the time of Arduino, that these were composed of ancient submarine lavas. During many years of controversy, the popular opinion inclined to a belief that basalt and rocks of the same class had been precipitated from a chaotic fluid, or an ocean which rose at successive periods over the continents, charged with the component elements of the rocks in question. Few will now dispute that it would have been difficult to invent a theory more distant from the truth; yet we must cease to wonder that it gained so many proselytes, when we remember that its claims to probability arose partly from the very circum
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stance of its confirming the assumed want of analogy between geological causes and those now in action. By what train of investigations were geologists induced at length to reject these views, and to assent to the igneous origin of the trappean formations? By an examination of volcanos now active, and by comparing their structure and the composition of their lavas with the ancient trap rocks.
The establishment, from time to time, of numerous points of identification, drew at length from geologists a reluctant admission, that there was more correspondence between the condition of the globe at remote eras and now, and more uniformity in the laws which have regulated the changes of its surface, than they at first imagined. If, in this state of the science, they still despaired of reconciling every class of geological phenomena to the operations of ordinary causes, even by straining analogy to the utmost limits of credibility, we might have expected, at least, that the balance of probability would now have been presumed to incline towards the close analogy of the ancient and modern causes. But, after repeated experience of the failure of attempts to speculate on geological monuments, as belonging to a distinct order of things, new sects continued to persevere in the principles adopted by their predecessors. They still began, as each new problem presented itself, whether relating to the animate or inanimate world, to assume an original and dissimilar order of nature; and when at length they approximated, or entirely came round to an opposite opinion, it was always with the feeling, that they were conceding what they had been justified à priori in deeming improbable. In a word, the same men who, as natural philosophers, would have been most incredulous respecting any extraordinary deviations from the known course of nature, if reported to have happened in their own time, were equally disposed, as geologists, to expect the proofs of such deviations at every period of the past.
UNIFORMITY OF CHANGE
SUPPOSED ALTERNATE PERIODS OF REPOSE AND DISORDER
OBSERVED FACTS IN WHICH THIS DOCTRINE HAS ORIGI-
THE LAWS WHICH GOVERN THE
RIGIN of the doctrine of alternate periods of repose
and disorder.-It has been truly observed, that when
we arrange the fossiliferous formations in chronological order, they constitute a broken and defective series of monuments: we pass without any intermediate gradations from systems of strata which are horizontal, to other systems which are highly inclined—from rocks of peculiar mineral composition to others which have a character wholly distinct -from one assemblage of organic remains to another, in which frequently nearly all the species, and a large part of