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been frozen as soon as killed, putrefaction would have
decomposed them. And besides, this eternal frost did
not previously exist in those parts in which they were
frozen, for they could not have existed in such a
temperature. The same instant that these animals were
bereft of life, the country which they inhabited became
frozen. This event was sudden, momentary, without
gradation; and what is so clearly proved as to this last
catastrophe, equally applies to that which preceded it.
The convulsions, the alterations, the reversings of the
most ancient layers, leave not a doubt on the mind but
that sudden and violent causes reduced them to their
present state; and even the powerful action of the mass
of waters is proved by the accumulation of relics and
round flints which in many places intervene between
the solid layers. Existence has thus been often troubled
on this earth by appalling events. Living creatures
without number have fallen victims to these
catastrophes: some, the inhabitants of dry land, have
been swallowed up by a deluge; others, who peopled
the depths of the waters, have been cast on land by the
sudden receding of the waters, their very race become
extinct, and only a few remains left of them in the
world, scarcely recognised by the naturalist.
These are the consequences to which the subjects
which meet us at every step, and which we may find in
almost every clime, necessarily conduct us. These
overpowering and stupendous events are clearly
imprinted everywhere, and are legible to the eye that
knows how to trace their history in the monuments
they have left. But what is yet more remarkable and no
less certain, is, that life has not always existed on the
globe, and that it is easy



for the observer to discover the precise point whence it
began to deposite its productions.


Let us ascend, let us mount the lofty mountain tops,
the steep summits of the great chains, soon these relics
of marine animals, these numberless shells will become
more and more rare, and finally disappear; we shall
reach layers of a different nature which contain no
vestige of a living being. They will however show by
their crystallization and even their stratification, that
they were originally formed in a liquid state; by their
oblique situation, their steepness, that they have been
overthrown; by the manner in which they bury
themselves obliquely under the layers of shells, that
they were formed before them; finally, by the
elevation with which their jagged and naked tops rise
above all these layers of shells, that these summits
were already above the level of the waters when these
shelly layers were formed.

Such are those famous primitive or primordial
mountains which traverse our continents in different
directions; elevated above the clouds, separating the
beds of rivers; they hold in their perpetual snows the
reservoirs which feed the sources, and in a manner
form the skeleton or vast frame-work of the earth.

From a vast distance the eye perceives by the
indentions with which their crests are marked, in the
sharp points which form their summits, signs of the
violent manner of their formation: far different from



those conical mountains, those hills with long broad
surfaces, in which the recent mass has remained since
the period when it was quietly deposited by the latest
receding of the seas.
These signs become more manifest in proportion as
we contemplate them nearer.
The valleys have no longer sides with gradual
declivities, those projecting angles, intersecting each
other, which seem to have been the beds of some
ancient currents: they expand and contract without
regularity; their waters sometimes spread out into
lakes, sometimes are precipitated in torrents,
sometimes their rocks, suddenly approximating, form
transverse clefts, whence the waters fall in cataracts.
The disturbed layers on the one side exposing their
edge to the summit, present on the other large and
oblique portions of their surface. They do not
correspond in height, but that which on the one side
forms the peak of the steep height, is buried on the
other side, and does not reappear.
However, in the midst of all this disorder, great
naturalists have arrived at the conclusion that there is a
certain arrangement, and that these immense banks,
broken and misplaced as they are, yet have a
systematic order, which is nearly the same in all great
chains. The granite, they say, of which the greater
portion of the summits of the chains are composed, the
granite which protrudes beyond all, is also the stone
which is buried under all others, it is the most ancient
of those which we are enabled. to see in the place
assigned to it by nature, whether it owe its origin to
that universal liquid which formerly held all bodies in
solution, or that it was originally the first body
consolidated by the sudden cooling of a vast mass in a
state of fusion or even



of evaporation. (1) Rocks repose on their sides, and
form the lateral crests of these vast chains; rocks of
schist, porphyry, freestone, and talc, mingle in layers;
then coarse marble, and other calcareous substances
without shells, resting on the schistus, form the
exterior crests, the lower divisions, the supporters of
these chains, and are the last work by which this
unknown liquid, this sea without inhabitants, seemed
to congregate materials wherewith to form mollusca
and zoophytes, which would soon deposite on these
foundations immense masses of their shells or corals.
We even see the first productions of these mollusca, of
these zoophytes, showing themselves in small numbers,
at intervals, amongst the latest layers of these
primitive earths, or in that portion of the superfices of
the globe which geologists have termed transition
rocks. We meet here and there with layers of shells
interposing between some granites more recent than
others, amongst divers schists and amongst some later
deposites of the coarse marble; life which sought to
possess itself of this globe, seems in these early
periods to have struggled against the inert nature
which first predominated; it was a long time ere it
entirely gained the mastery it. contended for, and
appropriated to itself the right of continuing and
raising the solid coating of the earth.
Thus it is undeniable, that the masses which now
form our highest mountains were originally in a state
of liquefaction; for a long time they were

(1) The conjecture of M. le Marquis de Leplace, that the
materials which constitute this globe were originally in an
elastic form, and then in cooling assumed a liquid consistency,
and finally became solid, is greatly strengthened by the late
experiments of M. Mitcherlich, who composed and crystallized
by the heat of intense furnaces many of the mineralogical
species which enter into the composition of primitive



covered by waters which did not then nourish living
bodies; it was not only after the appearance of vitality
that important changes tookplace in the nature of the
deposited matter; the masses formed before have
changed, as well as those subsequently produced; they
have even undergone violent changes in their situation,
and a portion of these changes took place when these
masses alone were existing, and were not covered by
layers of shells. The proof is evident in the
overthrows, in the dislocations, the rents, which we
perceive in the layers, as well as in the posterior layers
of earth, which are even more numerous and more
strongly marked.
But these primitive masses have experienced other
revolutions, subsequently to the formation of these
secondary layers of earth, and have perhaps
occasioned, or at least shared, some of those changes
which these layers themselves have undergone. There
are indeed considerable portions of these primitive
layers exposed, although in situations even lower than
those of secondary layers; if they had not been exposed
by subsequent convulsions, the latter would have
concealed them. Vast and various blocks of primitive
substances are found scattered, in particular countries,
over the secondary layers, separated by deep valleys,
or even arms of the sea, from the summits of crests
whence they must have come. They have been either
thrown there by eruption, or the depths which would
have arrested their progress did not exist at the period
of their removal, or else the fury of the waters which
conveyed them there exceeded in violence any thing
that we can imagine from our own experience.(1)

(1) The travels of Saussure and Deluc present us with a
multitude of these facts; and these geologists have judged that



Here then is a combination of facts, a series of
epochs anterior to the present, the order of which can
be infallibly verified, although the period of their
intervals cannot be precisely defined. They

could only have been effected by surprising eruptions. MM.
de Buch and Escher have employed themselves on this subject
more recently. The memoir of the latter, inserted in 'La
Nouvelle Alpina de Steinmuller,' vol. i., details the whole in a
remarkable manner, of which this is the summary : — Those
blocks which are scattered in the lowlands of Switzerland or
Lombardy came from the Alps, and have descended along the
valleys. They are in all parts and of all dimensions, even to
fifty thousand cubic feet, in the great extent which separates
the Alps from Mount Jura, and they are found on the
declivities of Jura which front the Alps to the height of four
thousand feet above the level of the sea; they are on the surface
or in the superficial layers of remains, but not in those of
freestone, or pudding stone, which may occupy nearly the
whole space in question; they are sometimes found perfectly
isolated, sometimes in masses: the height of their situation has
no relation to the size, only that the smaller appear sometimes
a little worn, but the larger not at all so. Those which form the
bed of any river are found, on examination, of the same kind as
the mountains of the peaks or sides of the high valleys, whence
arise the sources of these rivers; we observe them in the
valleys, and they are found accumulated especially in those
places where they are narrowest; they have passed over defiles
when they have not exceeded four thousand feet; and then we
see them on the other sides of the summits in the cantons
between the Alps and Jura and on Jura it self; it is opposite
the openings of the valleys of the Alps that they are seen of
greatest size and in greatest numbers; those in the space
between are carried less high: in the chains of Jura, themost
distant from the Alps, they are only found in places exactly
opposite to the openings of the nearest chains.
From these facts, the author draws this conclusion, that the
conveyance of the blocks took place subsequently to the
deposites of freestone and pudding stone: that it was probably
effected at the last revolution of this globe. He compares their
removal to that which still occurs amongst the torrents; but the
objection of the vastness of the blocks, and that of the depth
of the intervening valleys, seem to us to offer a powerful
opposition to this part of his hypothesis



are so many points which serve as rules and direc tions
in the ancient chronology.


Let us now examine what is at present operating on
the habitable globe; let us analyse the causes which
still affect its surface, and let us determine the
possible extent of their effects. It is a portion of the
history of the earth so much the more important, as we
have long thought we could explain anterior
revolutions by existing causes; as in political history
we easily unfold past events, when we are well
acquainted with the systems and intrigues of our own
times. But unfortunately we shall find that this is not
the case with physical history; the thread of the
operations is broken; the march of nature is changed;
and not one of her agents now at work would have
sufficed to have affected her ancient works.
There are now existing four active causes which
contribute to alter the suface of our continents: the
rains and thaws which lower our lofty mountains, and
cast their relics at their feet; the flowing waters, which
carry away their remains, and leave them in places
where they retard their currents; the sea, which saps
the base of. the lofty coasts, and which forms the
beach on which it casts the sand hills; and finally, the
volcanoes, which perforate the solid layers, and elevate
or scatter on the surface the masses which they vomit

(1) See, on the changes of the earth's surface, known from
history or tradition, and consequently attributable to known




Every where, where the broken layers present their
edge on the ruggid fronts, there falls at their base
every spring, and even at every storm, fragments of
their component parts, which become round by rolling
one on the other, and which in a mass, assume a
determined inclination, conformably with the laws of
cohesion, thus forming, at the foot of the height, a
ridge more or less elevated, according as the fall of the
materials be more or less abundant; these ridges form
the sides of the valleys in all the high mountains, and
are covered with rich vegetation when the falling away
of the upper parts becomes less frequent; but their
want of solidity renders them liable to slip themselves,
when they are undermined by streams; and it is then
that cities, rich and thickly populated districts are
overwhelmed by the slipping of a mountain; that the
course of rivers is interrupted; and that lakes are
formed on spots once fertile and luxuriant. But
fortunately these slips occur but seldom, and the
principal influence of these accumulated hills is to
supply materials for the ravages of the torrents.


The waters which fall on the peaks and summits of
mountains, the condensed vapours, or the liquified
snows, descend along their declivities by innumerable
channels; they collect in their progress some

causes, the Gennan work of M. de Hof, in 2 vols. 8vo. The
collection of facts is gathered with as much care as learning.



particles, and trace light furrows in their passage.
These channels soon unite in the deepest cavities which
are indented in the mountain's side; they glide along
the deepened valleys which are formed at the foot, and
proceed thus to produce those rivers and streams which
return to the sea those waters which had been
previously imbibed from it by the atmosphere. At the
melting of the snows, or when a storm arises, the mass
of these mountainous waters suddenly increases, and
precipitates itself with a rapidity proportional to the
slope of the declivity. Dashing with violence against
the foot of those ridges which cover the sides of all the
lofty valleys, the torrents carry with them the rounded
fragments of which they are composed; they rub and
polish them in their passage; but in proportion as they
arrive in the closer valleys where their fall is lessened,
or in large basins where they can spread themselves,
they cast on the beach the largest of these stones which
they have thus rounded; the lesser are deposited lower,
and nothing reaches the main channel of the river but
the smallest particles, or a scarcely perceptible slime.
The course of these waters, before they form the larger
and lower stream, is often through an extensive and
deep lake, in which they deposite their mud, and
emerge perfectly pure. But the lower rivers,and all the
streams which arise in the lower mountains or hills,
also produce, in the soils through which they run,
effects more or less analogous to those of the torrents
of the lofty rnoun tains. When they are swollen by
heavy rains, they assail the foot of the clayey or sandy
hills which oppose them in their progress, and carry
portions of them into the lower lands which they
overflow, and which each inundation thus tends to
elevate to a



certain extent; and when these rivers reach the
extensive lakes of the sea, and that rapidity which
carried with it the particles of mud suddenly ceases,
these particles are left at the sides of the mouth: they
finally form lands which extend the coast; and if it be
a coast where the sea also deposites her sand, and
contributes to this accumulation, it produces in this
way provinces, whole kingdoms; usually the most
fertile, and soon the richest in the world, if their
governors will allow industry to use its efforts without


The effects of the sea without the co-operation of
these inland rivers are less productive. When the coast
is flat and the bottom sandy; the waves drive the sand
towards the shore; at each ebb a portion is left dry,
and the wind, which generally blows from the sea,
casts it higher on the beach. Thus the downs are
formed, those sandy hills which, if the invention of
man does not teach him how to fix by introducing
herbage suited to the soil, progress slowly, but with
certainty, towards the interior of the country, and then
overwhelm fields and dwellings; because the same
wind which conveys the sand of the beach on the down,
casts that of the summit of the down still farther
inland. But if the nature of the sand and that of the
water it absorbs, are such as form a durable cement,
the shells and bones cast on the shore will become
incrusted with it; woods, trunks of trees, and plants
which grow near the seaside, will become enveloped in
these accumulations; and thus will be formed those
solid downs, such

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