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Je sais qtie de uos jours Ie conjectures, les hypotheses sont proscritet de 1'etude de la natuise, 
et qu'on les regarde corarae plus propres 4 retarder la marche de la science qu a lui faire faire des 
progr^s ; et rien n'est plus vrai en general ; mais quand ees conjectures sont fondles sur des ana- 
logies et sur des rapprochemens de fails, et de grands fails gedogiques, je ne pense nulkment 
quVlks soitnt inutiles et qu'on doive les proscrire. Eiles etendent las vue de I'observtteur, 
et lui font reniarqucr des rapports qui lui auroiem echappe. fatrin. 









BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the 8th day of November, in the Forty- 
fifth year of the Independence of the United States of America, Horace 
4*1******** H. Hayden of the said District, hath deposited in this Office the title of 
fSKAL.* a Book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor in the words following, 
*********** to wit: 

" Geological Essays ; or, an Inquiry into some of the Geological Phenomena to 
be found in "various parts of America, and elsewhere. By Horace H. Hayden, Esq. 
Member of the American Geological Society Honorary Member of the Medical 
Society of Maryland and of the Western Museum Society, and Corresponding 
Member oi the Academy of Science at Philadelphia. 

Je sais que de nos jours les conjectures, les hypotheses sont proscrites de 1'etude de la nature, 
et qu'on les regarde commeplus propres a retard'-r la marche tie la science qu & lu'i faire fairedes 
progrs ; et rifn u'est plus vrai en general ; mais quand ces conjectures sont fondees sur des ana- 
logics et sur des rapprochemens de fails, et de grands faits geulogiques, je ne pense nullement 
qu'.lles soient inutiles et qu'on doive les proscrire. Ellcs etendent les vues de 1'obsenateur, 
et lui font remarquer des rapports qui lui auroient el>appe. Pairing 

In conformity to an act 01 the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An 
acl for* *h4 Encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, 
and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the times therein 
mentioned." And also to the act, entitled, " An act supplementary to an act, 
entitled, " An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of 
maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during 
the times thei-ein mentioned," and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of 
designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints." 

Clerk of the District of Maryland, 







As the promoter of general science, and as a friend 
from whom repeated marks of favour and confidence have 
been received, this imperfect work on the Geological phe- 
nomena of this, and some other countries, is, with senti* 
ments of gratitude, respectfully inscribed, 
by your much obliged, 

and very obed't servant, 

Baltimore, October 13th, 1820. 




THE various hints that have been offered, by different writers, 
on the Geological phenomena, or certain physical changes, 
that appear to have taken place in other countries, have long 
since engaged the attention of the author, and led him to ex- 
amine some of the geological features of our own country, 
with a view to their origin, and the probable causes, by which 
they have been produced. 

Among those, the alluvial districts upon the margins of most 
of the rivers, in the United States, and the great alluvial re- 
gion, bordering on the Atlantic ocean, appeared the most inte- 
resting, and most worthy of a critical examination. 

On these subjects, and others, having an intimate relation 
thereto, a considerable .portion of the present work was writ- 
ten ; though not with the most distant idea, that it would ever 
appear before the publick in its present form. 

fThis imperfect sketch, however, was, in 1817, submitted 
to the perusal of several of his literary friends, among whom 
was Professor Silliman. It was also read to Dr. S. L. 
.Mitchell, of New- York. 

From the favourable terms in which it was spoken of, and 
the friendly encouragement held out, for its publication, he 
was induced to relinquish the intention of publishing it in 
detached anonymous sketches ; to enlarge and extend the sub- 
ject by a more circumstantial investigation of facts, and to 
offer it to the publick in its present shape. 


Tn forming this conclusion, he was not insensible of the 
obligations, which he has assumed, nor of the essential pre- 
requisites to an undertaking so arduous, and so important in 
its kind. Among the latter is the particular knowledge, that 
ought to be obtained of all local facts, that have any bearing 
or relation to the subject under consideration. 

To acquire this, no pains have been spared. As early as 
the year 1814, he endeavoured to interest and engage the at- 
tention, of a number of resident and travelling gentlemen, 
of science and information, in collecting and communicat- 
ing such facts, as were calculated to assist in the investiga- 
tion of this new and interesting subject. 

In this, however, he was unsuccessful ; since, with the ex- 
ception of the friendly communications of Professors C leave- 
land, and Cooper, not the scrip of a pen lias been received 
in answer to the queries proposed, and which are contained 
in the Agenda, attached to this work. 

Being thus situated, no other alternative was left, but to 
trust to his own individual observations and exertions, and to 
the occasional hints and incidental remarks of historians and 
travellers who have visited, and written upon the different sec- 
tions of this continent ; or to relinquish a subject, vast in its 
extent, important in its nature, and replete with that peculiar 
kind of interest, which cannot fail to entertain, if not instruct. 

Under such circumstances, and under disadvantages rtot 
within the limits of control, has the present work been 

In presenting it to the publick, he has not the temerity to 
presume, nor vanity to believe, that it is calculated to please 
every one ; or that it is free from errours. He is sensible 
of its imperfections, and particularly so, of the want of sys- 
tem, or that kind of order in the arrangement of the materials, 
which the subject strictly requires. Bnt he trusts that these 

PREFACE. \ il 

will be overlooked, when it is considered, that this is not tfo 
voluntary offering of a candidate for literary fame; nor is it 
the offspring of a visionary whim, ushered into the world 
from sinister motives, or to answer pecuniary ends. 

The principal and only motive by which he has been ac- 
tuated, is the wish to interest and invite the attention of 
Geologists, naturalists, and scientifick men of every deno- 
mination, to the great and important physical changes, that 
appear to have taken place upon and near the surface of the 
I'arth, in various, parts of the world, and more particular- 
ly in our own country; and also to the numerous and in- 
king facts, that seem to have, not only a direct rela- 
tion to, but an intimate connexion with those changes ; and 
this with the view of enabling us to form, something like, 
correct ideas of the causes and operations, by which they 
were produced ; and possibly too, of the times at which they 
took place. 

Among the most prominent of these changes, (and which 
may be considered, as being one of the most interesting fea- 
tures, in the Geology of this country,) is the alluvial region 
skirting the Atlantic ocean. 

It is this which constitutes the principal subject of the pre- 
sent work, and in the examination of which, he has endea- 
voured to adduce facts sufficiently numerous and strong, to 
prove that the whole region, with the attendant phenomena, is 
the result of the operation of currents, that flowed from the 
north east to the south west ; or from the north to the south 
over the whole continent of America. 

Should these facts or proofs, however, be not sufficient, it is 
10 be hoped, that when the subject has received that attention, 
which it merits, and the numerous remaining proofs, that are 
scattered over every portion of the continent, are collected 
and embodied, they will be sufficient, ki the hands of some 


abler pen, to establish the facts upon the immutable prin- 
ciples of truth, and beyond the fear of contradiction. 

In the course of this essay on alluvial formations, he has 
occasionally adverted to circumstances important in them- 
selves, either separate, or as connected with the general sub- 
ject; and which seemed to require an immediate examina- 
tion and discussion. 

This, however, could not be done, consistently with the 
plan of the work, as it would unavoidably occasion too 
many and too frequent digressions, which might be consider- 
ed as unnecessary interruptions, rendering the whole tedious 
and uninteresting. 

To avoid this, and to give a more ample view of each 
topick, he has, with slight references, thrown them into 
distinct chapters, in which each subject is separately ex- 

If, in these, he has advanced opinions at variance with 
those generally inculcated, he is conscious of having done 
it, not from a spirit of opposition, or a fondness for inno- 
vation, but from a disposition to promote the cause of truth, 
which, from the nature of the principles that he has assum- 
ed, and the facts which he has adduced, will admit of no 
other possible construction. 

Should they produce in the mind of the reader a corres- 
ponding conviction should they tend to elicit one ray of 
light in the cause of science, all the motives will be grati- 
fied, and all the purposes answered, that were ever antici- 
pated by the 




THE structure of the globe which we inhabit, and the 
infinitely varied features, either moral or physical, 
which are presented to human view in almost every 
district upon its surface, afford a subject for contem- 
plation, that far transcends the feeble capacity of man 
perfectly to comprehend ; much less is he able to de- 
lineate, with truth and correctness, the innumerable 
shades which are characteristick or indicative of some 
great and important change or operation, which has 
been wrought upon this stupendous fabrick. 

Nevertheless^ many have entered, as Geologists, with 
a becoming zeal, upon the arduous task, and with no 
inconsiderable degree of success, as well as credit to 
themselves. They have, regardless of the Mosaic 
account of the creation of this earth, endeavoured, 
from various phenomena, to account for its origin, 
formation, and the successive changes which it has 
undergone through an immense period of passed ages, 
upon principles peculiar to their views of the subject. 

How far their opinions are correct, it is not the 
object of this work to determine. Nevertheless, it 
may not be amiss to observe, (viewing the Hutto- 
nian theory as inadmissible,) that however plausible 
the Neptunian doctrines may appear, and however 
numerous the facts which not only support the theory, 
but seem to stamp with the seal of truth the entire 

system ; yet there are facts remaining which consti- 
tute insuperable obstacles to the complete establish- 
ment of this plan, as correct and unexceptionable. 
Such are the immense beds or quarries of the muriate 
of soda ; the formation of the native metals, &c. &c. 
Independently of which there are other circumstances 
or geological facts, that frequently occur, and which are 
eagerly embraced in support of the Neptunian theory ; 
but they are in many, if not in most cases, entirely 
irrelative having but little or no bearing or relation 
with the actual formation of this globe. They consti- 
tute certain geognostic features or characters, that not 
only favour, but strongly support the Neptunian theo- 
ry ; nevertheless, they are, as I shall endeavour to 
prove hereafter, almost, if not entirely accidental. 

In a geological investigation, whether with a view 
to the original formation of the globe, or to the great 
and important changes it has undergone subsequently 
to its original formation, perhaps no country upon its 
surface affords a more suitable field for scientifick re- 
search, or more ample opportunities, and numerous 
facts from which to form correct ideas on these two 
points, than the continent of North America. 

In its various parts are exhibited all the different 
formations, that are mentioned by geologists in sup- 
port of the Neptunian theory : such as primitive transi- 
tion, secondary, or floetz, &c. At the same time few 
or no indications occur that can favour in the least pos* 
sible degree, the Huttonian theory ; or, in other words, 
that any known part within the present limits of the 

United States, can owe its origin to the "Intestinal 
motion" of Patrin, or volcanick agency ;* as not an in- 
dication of the kind, I believe, has ever been found 
east of the Mississippi river. 

In tracing up, in their due order, all the differ- 
ent formations, and contemplating the varied features 
that are presented to view,t we cannot hesitate long 
in saying, that great and important changes have been 
wrought, in, and upon its surface, long since the com- 
pletion of this globe ; consequently they are unconnect- 
ed, and can have no relation with its original formation. J 

These changes are various ; but by what physical 
means they have been accomplished, no adequate so- 
lution has, as yet, been given. The means may have va- 
ried, or have originated from different sources, or may 
have depended on different causes ; but no one affords 
so strong grounds for presumption, or, in fact, such po- 
sitive evidence in its favour, as the idea of a general 
current having prevailed^ over the whole of this conti* 
nent. and, perhaps, over every other, by which those 
changes were produced. 

In support of this opinion, this continent affords the 
most ample testimony, not only of the prevalence of 
such a current, but that it flowed from the north east 
to the south west. Among these proofs, 1 shall first 
take into view the district, which is, no doubt, strictly 
called alluvial, and which lies upon the borders of the 

* See Chapter 6th. t See Chapter 7th. 

\ See Phillips's outline of Geology, page 70. 
See Chapter 8th. 

Atlantic ocean, extending from the state of Maine, to 
the bottom of the bay of Mexico. 

I am aware that much has been said on the subject 
of currents, by various authors, and of the supposed 
results in a variety of instances ; but I know of no one 
that has, in contemplating these results, endeavoured 
to trace them to their source, or to explain the cause of 
the currents which produced them. It is a subject 
which, if properly studied, may lead to a satisfactory 
solution of these phenomena. 

This immense alluvial district forms, by far, the 
most interesting geological trait, that is presented to 
view, perhaps, on the continent of North America, 
on the subject of which there exists a diversity of 

According to Mr. McClure's geological chart, it 
commences at Long Island, and stretching along upon 
the coast, increases in breadth as we advance towards 
its sputhern extremity, and is, in some parts, nearly 
two hundred miles in breadth. 

On this important subject no one has, as yet, that I 
know of. attempted a correct topographical or geologi- 
cal description. Nevertheless partial accounts have 
been given by several, and opinions advanced with a 
view to account for its origin, and, (as is supposed,) 
gradual increase. 

These opinions it becomes necessary for me to notice, 
before I proceed to offer an explanation of my own, on 
so interesting a point. 

Mr. La Trobe, in a communication to the American 
Philosophical Society, seems to intimate that the allu- 
vial district is produced in part, at least, by the sea ; 
for he observes that " The shore, and the bed of the 
Atlantic near the shore, consist of fine sand. The 
daily action of the flood tide, carries a certain quan- 
tity of this sand above high water mark, which, being 
dried by the sun and air, is carried further inland by 
the winds." 

Mr. La Trobe in this instance, is only speaking of 
the " sand hills" at Cape Henry in Virginia ; but 
that he entertains an opinion that nearly the whole 
was produced in a similar way, we have reason to be- 
lieve from the following remarks in a note in the 
same memoir, viz. I speak only of the coast of 
Virginia, at Cape Henry ; for although 1 have the 
best reason to believe that the same natural process has 
produced all the sand banks, islands, and sand hills 
from the Delaware to Florida, I have only examined 
that part of the coast which is the subject of the 
present memoir."* 

While I entertain a high respect for the opinions 
and talents of Mr. La Trobe, I must beg leave to 
observe, that although " the shore and the bed of 
the Atlantic near the shore" may consist of fine sand, 
it is well known that at a little distance, and from that 
to a great distance from the shore, at least within 
soundings, the bottom, or bed of the ocean is com- 

* Philosophical Transactions, vol. 4, page 459. 


posed more or less of green ooze, or mud.* which is 
inhabited by innumerable little shell-fish. This is the 
case, I believe with few exceptions, from Boston chan- 
nel to a great distance to the southward ; consequently 
the sand could not have been derived from that source 
to have formed " all the sand banks, sand hills, &c. 
from the Delaware to Florida." 

Independently of this, there are numerous other 
places on the Atlantic coast, where the shores are 
composed of a most beautiful fine white sand, and 
which is constantly exposed to, and washed by the 
raging billows of the ocean ; yet there has been but 
little or no alteration in the shores or neighbourhood 
adjacent, since the discovery of America ; or within 
the memory of the oldest inhabitants living in their 
vicinity. Such are the shores of Long Island from 
its east to its south western extremity, and from 
thence to the Capes of Delaware with few exceptions. 
Such are also the shores of the main land from Watch 
Hill, at or near Stonington, Connecticut, to Hurl 
Gate? with few exceptions. Such is also the Island 
of Anguilla, and the beach on which the city stands at 
the bottom of great bay in the Island of St. Martins. 
These are both immense beds of fine silicious sand, 
constantly exposed to the operations of the trade winds 
and hurricanes, yet no visible change is produced in 
their extent, or general features, except that violent 
winds sometimes, from local causes, act with more 

* See Chapter 9. 

force on some parts than on others ; hence the sand is 
raised in clouds, carried, and deposited in a part 
not far distant; but which, from a similar cause, 
will, in a few weeks perhaps, be taken up and brought 
back again ; thus shifting from place to place. 

There are numerous places in the world, where simi- 
lar circumstances occur; in many of which during the 
prevalence of high winds, the inhabitants are threaten- 
ed with destruction. Such is the case at Norfolk, in 
latitude 55 N. where " the small cottages are some- 
times totally buried under sand during high winds.' 7 * 

In the sixth volume of the transactions of the Irish 
Academy, an account is given of the encroachment of 
sand over some parts of Ireland. Trees, houses, and 
even villages have been covered or surrounded during 
the last century. The roofs still rising above the 
waste attest the period and progress of desolation. 

Mr. Bakewell, in his introduction to Geology, ob- 
serves, * The loose sands of Lybia are spreading 
over the plains that border the .Nile, and burying the 
monuments of art and the remembrances of former 
cultivation. From a similar cause the country imme- 
diately round Palmyra, that once supplied a crowded 
population with food, now scarcely aiTords a few with- 
ered plants to the camel of the wandering Arab."f 

Linnaeus says, " The Dutch are obliged to sow the 
sea mat-weed, or marrau, (which will only grow on 

* StilHngfleet'8 Tracts, page 75. 
t See fiakeweil, page 254. 


pure sand,) to prevent the neighbouring parts from 
being overwhelmed by sand "* 

So that although material changes have taken place, 
and are constantly taking place, and the buildings at, or 
about Cape Henry, are threatened with being buried 
with sand, and also the forests, yet it does not follow 
that this change or increase is produced by the sea. 
On the contrary, a circumstance of which Mr La 
Trobe takes notice in the same memoir, inclines one to 
believe that, although a material change is going on in 
the neighbourhood of the light house at Cape Henry, 
neither this increase or accumulation of sand, nor any 
part of the alluvial formation, either depended on, or 
was occasioned by the sea ; for Mr. La Trobe says, 
the swamps, or desert, to the northward and west- 
ward of the light house are overgrown with aquatick 
trees, &c. such as the gum, the cypress, the red ma- 
ple, (acerrubrum) the sycamore, (or plantanus occi- 
dentalis) and also, " That the swamp, with its trees, 
extended to the sea coast perhaps within a century, ig 
very evident from this circumstance : between the 
summit of the sand hills, and the sea shore, and more 
especially on the Chesapeake side, the undecayed, 
though mostly dead bodies of trees still appear in great 
numbers. Being on the windward side of the sand 
hills they have not been more than half buried." 

Now, if the islands, sand banks, and sand hills, on 
the Atlantic coast, have been formed by sand washed 

* See Linn. flor. Lapp, page 62. 


up by the sea ; or if such a change, as is exhibited at 
Cape Henry, could have been effected within a cen- 
tury, it will appear obvious to every thinking mind, 
that there must have been a total suspension of this 
cause, or of its operations, for nearly a century be- 
fore ; and from the following circumstances. 

The trees which he mentions, are mostly slow in 
their growth, particularly the cypress and the gum, 
(L. Styraciflua) ; if the increase or extension of the 
alluvial formation or district, depends on the cause 
which Mr. La Trobe has assigned, and this increase 
has been as great as is alleged ; these trees, and this 
forest could never have been brought into existence ; 
for as fast as the trees had sprouted from the ground, 
they would have been buried by the sand thrown up 
by the unceasing agitation of the sea, and operations 
of the winds. 

Nay more, if the trees had obtained half their pre- 
sent growth or height, before any inroads of the sand 
had been made on them, the result would have been 
nearly the same ; for as the sand gradually climbed 
" up their trunks," their verdant foliage would have 
withered and died ; and such is the case by Mr. La 
Trobe's own account ; for he says, " By gradual ac- 
cumulation the hill climbs up their trunks, they wither 
slowly, and before they are entirely buried, they die. 
Most of them lose all their branches, and nothing but 
the trunk remains to be covered with sand ; but some 
of the cypress retains life to the last." 


These circumstances afford ample proof that the 
time has been, when those trees had sufficient time to 
shoot up undisturbed ; to grow to maturity without 
having experienced any material check in their pro- 
gress, which, in all probability, must have occupied a 
space of more than a hundred, and, perhaps, two hun- 
dred years. 

We must therefore look to some other source for the 
cause of this change at the capes of Virginia. Doubt- 
less the erection of the light house and the keeper's 
dwelling, have been the principal local causes of so 
great and sudden an accumulation of sand, as is men- 
tioned by Mr. La Trobe, who says, " That the sand 
hills have risen since the establishment of the light 
(which at that time was sixteen years) about twenty 
feet in height." 

Now had this increase been general on the coast of 
Virginia, and continued from the Christian sera, it 
would now exhibit a mountain on the borders of the 
ocean no less than two thousand two hundred and 
twenty feet high. 

Mr. Beaujour, I find, in his Sketches of the United 
States (page 45) has advanced a similar opinion to 
that of Mr. La Trobe, on this subject. 

Mr. Stoddard seems to have entertained a similar 
opinion relative to the alluvial formation or soil, on the 
coast of New Spain ^ for, in speaking of the Delta of 
the Mississippi, he observes ; " The eastern part of 
New Spain, along the gulf, exhibits abundant proofs 
of similar advances, owing perhaps to the constant ac- 


cumulation of sand by the trade icinds, winch is driven 
to the shore by the perpetual motion of the waves in 
that direction." 

But why he should have resorted to two causes for 
the formation of these alluvial districts, I am unable to 
determine ; but such is the case ; for he observes, 

" Nothing: is more certain than that the Delta has 


risen out of the sea, or rather, that it has been formed 
by alluvious substances, precipitated by the waters 
from the upper regions."* 

From the latter of these two opinions, we might 
readily conclude what were his sentiments on that 
subject ; but we are soon left in doubt again, by the 
following passage : (f All the country about the gulf is 
evidently alluvial." This is doubtless the case ; but 
how was it produced ? This we are left to conclude 
from the following : " At what time it was redeemed 
from the sea, no one can conjecture ; but as some of 
the oldest inhabitants can remember when the sands 
were less dry, much oftener flooded, and to a much 
greater extent and height than at present, perhaps its 
redemption is much nearer to our time than many 
are willing to admit." (Page 183.) 

The word " redeemed" in the above sentence, 
seems to convey but an indefinite idea on the subject ; 
for it has but a very superficial relation with alluvial for- 
mations. It seems to convey the idea that the alluvial 
district, so called, was once lost, perhaps by inroads 

* Sketches of Louisiana, page 158 9. 

of the sea, and again restored ; or, that this extent of 
country has been recovered by man, from the sea, by 
artificial dikes, or mounds. This is by no means the 
case ; for wherever alluvial formations exist, it is in 
consequence of direct inroads on the ancient limits of 
the ocean, rivers, &c. 

Fortunately, however, Mr. Stoddard has in the fol- 
lowing page, removed that degree of obscurity, with 
\vhich the subject seemed to be veiled, and enabled us 
to understand what, in reality, is his opinion on this 
point, by the following. "No doubt the elevated 
islands scattered along the coast and already, in most 
instances, connected with the main land by marshes, 
were, not long ago, situated at some distance in the 
sea. These projections are caused by the deposition 
of the sediment from the rivers, particularly from 
the Mississippi. The Gulf of Mexico, though of 
great extent, is filled with shoals and sand banks, es- 
pecially near the land, which render the navigation 
dangerous ; and the materials of which they are com- 
posed have been rolled from the sources of the great 

It is a prevalent opinion with many, that the entire 
alluvial district has been formed, in the course of time, 
by the alluvial deposites from the rivers that discharge 
themselves into the sea. Others are of opinion that it 
is a part of the great .whole, but of more recent forma- 
tion than the primitive or secondary rocks. 

That considerable quantities of matter are daily 
formed and deposited at the mouths of rivers, is with- 

* Sketches of Louisiana, page 184. 


out doubt correct ; and that it is to this increase of 
alluvion, that we must attribute the inroads, which 
have been made upon the ancient limits of the ocean, 
in several instances on our Atlantic shores. But al- 
though we are informed of material changes having in 
the course of time taken place, yet no one has attempt- 
ed to account for the immense extent of alluvial for- 
mation, where there are no rivers of any consequence, 
that could have contributed much in this great and ex- 
tensive operation. Neither has any one, that I know 
of. attempted to assign any plausible reason for the 
great difference in the extent of the alluvial formation 
at the mouths of several of the great rivers in America, 
which discharge themselves into the Atlantic Ocean. 

These two circumstances are of such importance iu 
the present view, that it would be inexcusable to pass 
them over without notice. 

In the first place, I shall take into consideration the 
five principal rivers to the northward of the Delaware, 
viz : the river of St. Johns, the Penobscot, he Kenne- 
beck, the Connecticut, and the Hudson. The longest 
of these five rivers, viz : the Connecticut, is from two 
hundred and eighty, to three hundred miles ; and the 
shortest, viz : the Kennebeck, is one hundred and forty. 

Now agreeable to Mr. McClure's geological chart, 
there is no alluvial district appertaining to, at least, 
four of these rivers ; (though I shall endeavour, by 
and by, to prove that there is some alluvial soil at 
their mouths,) and although the mouth of the Hudson 
is embraced in the alluvial district, it has not in fact 


but barely three miles of alluvial soil on the New-York 
side,* by which it passes ; and the Connecticut river has 
about the same. How much the others, viz : the St. 
John's, which flows into the bay of Funda, the Kenne- 

* I have mentioned three miles of alluvial formation on the 
New- York side, as it has generally been supposed, and in fact re- 
presented that the site on which New- York stands, is strictly of 
an alluvial formation ; for in a geological description of York 
Island, by Dr. JUkerly* (see Bruce's Mineralogical Journal, page 
193,) it is said that " the primary part is all the island, except 
that over which the city is built." 

From the opportunities which I have had of examining York 
Island, I am unable to reconcile this opinion to my present views 
of the subject. That the ground, on which the city is built, and the 
hills that have been dug away, were alluvial is unquestionable : 
the rolled pebbles of various kinds, and boulders of granite and 
other kinds of rocks that have been found deposited there in the 
earth, are demonstrative of the fact. But it does not follow from 
these premises that the south part of New-Y'ork county, or the 
southern extremity of York Island, is to be considered as being a 
part of, or within an alluvial district. The same facts and appear- 
ances may be seen, in numerous instances, on the granite ridge, so 
called, not only within the limits of the primitive district, but 
upon the ridges, and those too in particular on the most southern 
borders of the primitive range. Such I am inclined to believe is, 
(with due deference to those who have advanced a contrary 
opinion,) the real foundation on which New- York stands; and 
that too from the following circumstances. 

It is well known that the strata of gneiss are exposed to view, 
on the surface at the battery, at the present time, and running, 
apparently, in a direction nearly parallel with the Hudson river, 
which leads to the conclusion that this ridge or mass of rocks, is a 
spur of the granite ridge* and that it underlays the whole city. 


beck and Penobscot have, I am unable to say with any 
degree of certainty ; but it may be presumed that they 
have, at least, some. But the river Thames, on which 
New London stands, cannot, I believe, claim one rod of 
alluvial soil at its influx, at least on the eastern side. 

It may be alleged, that those rivers embrace in 
their course so small a portion of country, that it can- 
not be expected that so great an extent of alluvial for- 
mation should be formed at their mouths. 

In reply to this, the Connecticut river receives, prin- 
cipally, the auxiliary streams, from a superficies of 
about eighty miles in breadth, by two hundred and 
eighty in length ; or 2,400 square miles ; while the 

That it is not a mere clump of rocks out of place is certain; for 
about twenty years ago, this ridge or spur was exposed to view, and 
daily washed by the waves of the Hudson river, at the north west 
corner of the battery. Not only so, but that its breadth extends 
across to the ancient or primitive shore of the east river is certain ; 
for I am informed that when Messrs. Penfield and Watson began 
to erect their houses, near the battery, in 1791 or 2, they came 
upon a fine spring of water, which, though long buried, was recol- 
lected by the then old inhabitants, to have been many years ante- 
rior to that time, a copious spring and excellent water ; notwith- 
standing its being, at that time, on, or very near the shore of the 
East river. In clearing out this spring and sinking a well, with a 
view to secure a supply of good and wholesome water, they were 
under the necessity of blasting several feet through solid granite 
or gneiss. Besides which, the same rocks appear in place again, 
I believe, at Corlear's howk, on the east side of the city. All of which 
circumstances justify the conclusion, that the southern extremity 
of York Island, though covered with alluvial grounds, is strictly 
primitive, and consequently within the primitive district. 


Delaware river cannot claim two thirds of this quan- 
tity ; and yet it passes through an alluvial district, one 
hundred and forty miles. 

This disproportion is so great, that no person can 
suppose, for a moment that the alluvion brought down 
by the rivers, had any agency in forming the district in 

But lest 1 should be considered as having been too 
limited in my view, I will extend it farther. 

From the Chesapeake bay to East Florida, or 
Cape Sable, there are eight considerable rivers, ex- 
clusive of a number of lesser streams, (viz.) the Roa- 
noke, the Pamtico, the Neus, the Cape Fear, the 
Pedee, the Santee, the Savannah, the Oconee, and 
Oakmulge; each of which is from 180 to WO miles in 
length ; the most of them take their rise in the primitive 
range of country ; and after running the above distance 
in an almost south east course, they disembogue their 
waters into the Atlantic. 

Now the alluvial district at the confluence of each of 
those streams is from 100 to 180 and even 200 miles in 
breadth ; while the Connecticut and other rivers to the 
northward, pass through a much greater extent of 
country, and yet have but two or three miles of allu- 
vial district. 

To the southward of East Florida, there are two 
principal rivers, the Appalachicola, and the Alabama. 
These likewise, take their rise in the primitive district, 
and after running in a south westerly course, from &40 
to &90 miles, discharge their waters into the sea. At 
each of these points the alluvial district is more than 


200 miles in breadth ; while, as before, the Hud sou 
and Connecticut rivers have but about three miles of 
alluvial formation at their embrochures. 

But a more complete illustration of the subject, and 
a more positive proof, that the rivers of America have 
had but little or no agency in producing the alluvial 
district, is afforded by an examination of the two prin- 
cipal rivers in North America, (viz.) the Mississippi 
and the river St. Lawrence. 

The first of these is supposed to run a distance of 
nearly three thousand miles through the country from 
north to south, and at the confluence of which the allu- 
vial district is about 200 miles in width, that is, below, 
or south of the primitive range of country on the At- 
lantic coast. While the river St. Lawrence may be 
said to pass through a distance of country, almost 
equal to that of the Mississippi, including Lakes On- 
tario, Erie, Huron, Superior, and Michigan, (and 
Herriot says they are one river,) and yet there is not 
three miles of alluvial formation at its influx into the 
gulf of St. Lawrence. Or, if any exceptions can be 
made to taking into the calculation the great lakes, we 
will include only lake Ontario, as forming unques- 
tionably a part of the St. Lawrence. Its extent would 
then be about one third that of the Mississippi, or 1000 
miles ; consequently, we ought to have an alluvial for- 
mation at its mouth, equal in breadth to eighty miles ; 
whereas, there is not, it is believed, any visible for- 
mation of an alluvious kind. 


It is the opinion of some, that the increase and ex- 
tent of alluvial formations or deposites, depends more 
or less on the extent which a river or stream passes 
through a secondary, or transition district ; inasmuch 
as the substances which compose these two districts 
are more liable to decomposition,* consequently liable 
to be carried away, by the meltings of snows and hea- 
vy rains, into the smaller streams, and from thence into 
rivers, and deposited at their mouths. But this will 
not hold good, 

The Connecticut river, and I believe some others 
in the eastern states, runs through both ; particularly 
the secondary formation, for a considerable distance, 
and yet there is but a very small extent of alluvial for- 
mation at its mouth. 

The same may be said of the Susquehanna and Po- 
tomac rivers, each of which runs through both primi- 
tive and transition formation ; yet it is a matter of 
doubt, if we judge from appearances, whether there is 
one foot more of alluvial formation at their influx into 
the Chesapeake bay, than there was a thousand years 

An other opinion is, that alluvial formations are, in 
some cases, occasioned by the retreat of the ocean, 
which, it is believed by many, is constantly retreating, 
and of course becoming less. 

Henry, (in his Travels iu Canada,) says in his re- 
marks on the subsidence of the waters in that region.. 

* See Chapter 10th. 


every where the waters appear to have subsided from 
its ancient levels ; and imagination may anticipate an 
era at which, even the banks of Newfoundland will be 
left bare." It seems too, that Lucan entertained a 
similar belief with respect to the Syrtes in the Medi- 
terranean, for he says, 

4< Perhaps, in distant ages, t'will be found, 
When future suns have ruu their burning round, 
These Syrtes shall all be dry and solid ground : 
Small are the depths their scanty waves retain, 
And earth grows daily on the yielding main." 

Row's Lucan. 

Mr. Clinton in his excellent introductory lecture to 
the literary and philosophical society, (New-York,) 
adds two other kinds of alluvial formation, (viz.) one 
occasioned by "the subsidence or extinction of lakes," 
another, from " the overflowing, retreat, and change of 

It is a circumstance much to be regretted, that in al- 
most all our researches into the operations of nature, 
our views of a subject are too frequently arrested, and 
our opinions too often swayed by some seemingly im- 
portant detail or feature, which presents itself to view, 
and which may be either accidental, or adventitious. 
Such, it appears to me, must have been the case with 
all those who have endeavored to prove that the sea is 
constantly retreating, and will ultimately become ex- 
tinct ; the plain and only inference that can be drawn 
from the writings of several on this subject : among 


,vhom are Celcius, Playfair, and particularly Mr. 
Jameson, who says, " That the water of the ocean has 
diminished and is still diminishing, can scarcely be 

This opinion, in all probability, must have been re- 
gulated by some obvious local change, which has 
taken place ; or some inroads that have been made by 
terra firma, upon the ancient limits of the ocean, with- 
in the knowledge of man ; and no country or place on 
the face of this globe, affords stronger grounds for pre- 
sumption, or in fact a more positive proof in favour of 
such an opinion, than the alluvial district which lies 
along upon, and constitutes the present shores of the 
Atlantic ocean for nearly the entire extent of the Unit- 
ed States. 

But as strong as they are, or however formidable 
and rapid may have been the strides of the alluvial 
formation upon old Neptune's wide domains, it by no 
means constitutes a proof of the actual retreat of the 
sea ; and I much doubt whether a case in point, really 
exists on the face of the globe, that is calculated to 
prove that there is one square mile less of superficies 
on the face of the ocean, than there has been at any 
time subsequent to the subsidence of the general de- 
luge. On the contrary, I am iuclined to believe, that 
no decree ever promulgated to man, through the me- 
dium of Holy Writ, has been more generally exe- 
cuted or fulfilled , nor any command, which that 

* Notes to Cuvier's theory, page 214, American edit. 


Sacred Volume contains, has been more implicitly 
obeyed than that which says of the limits of the ocean, 
" hitherto shalt thou come and no farther,"* or in 
other words, thou shalt come here and no farther, and 
here shall thy proud waves be stayed. 

But, lest my opinion should be considered as not 
only groundless, but opposed to numerous circum- 
stances which tend directly to prove a contrary opi- 
nion ; 1 shall take a superficial view of the subject, and 
ofl'cr a few remarks in support of my assertions. 

It will readily be admitted that considerable ad- 
vances have been made, by alluvial formations, in 
various parts of the world, on the ancient limits of the 
ocean ; at the same time, it will not be denied, that 
considerable inroads have been made on the land in 
different parts of the world, by the raging or overflow- 
ing of the sea. Many places have suddenly, or gra- 
dually disappeared from above the surface of the 
ocean, and many have as suddenly, or as gradually, 
risen above the surface. Numerous cases of this kind 
could be enumerated if it were necessary ; however, a 
few facts, it is presumed, will suffice in the present 

The alluvial district on the Atlantic coast of Ame- 
rica, is, perhaps, as large as that which skirts the 
margin of any country in the known world ; the rea- 
sons of which will be hereafter assigned. 

* Job Chap. 38, verse llth.- Chap. 26, verse 10th, Jere- 
miah 5, 22d. 

It may be thought that no instance has occurred, 
where a corresponding quantity of land has disap- 
peared. It must be recollected that it is a very pre- 
valent opinion (though by no means settled) that the 
whole Carribean sea was once occupied by dry land, 
and, together with all its islands, attached to the 

Whether this be true or not, certain it is that some 
parts have sunk or disappeared since the memory of 
man : such for instance as Port Royal in Jamaica. 

A similar opinion is likewise entertained of the Ca-* 
nary Islands. Humboldt, I believe, considers that 
they are, or once were decidedly a part of the conti- 
nent of Africa. 

But considering these two cases as wanting confir- 
mation ; there are others which cannot be denied, 
and particularly in the Mediterranean. Mr. P acock, 
who travelled into Egypt in 17^7? observes, that the 
Mediterranean has in all probability, gained quite as 
much ground as it has lost. 

"Nothing more is necessary," he says, ff to produce 
conviction of this, than to examine the coast ; for you 
will see, under water, not only a variety of artificial 
productions manufactured in the rock ; but likewise 
the ruins of many edifices. About two miles from 
Alexandria are to be seen under water the ruins of an 
ancient temple."* " 

* Travels into Egypt, vol. I. pages 4 & 30. 


The Abbe Fortis entertained a belief that the sea 
was not only gaining upon the land, but that its level 
is becoming more and more elevated, for he observes, 
" Proofs are also daily discovered, that its level ac- 
tually rises/ 1 * and in proof of its advances he fur- 
ther says, " In like manner some islands, and large 
pieces of the continent, about Grado, have, within 
these few ages, been covered by the sea, which every 
day advances and threatens fresh mischief; thus also 
the sea gained ground near Malamores, and covered a 
large tract of inhabited land, the ruins of which may 
still be seen under water in a calm : thus also the an- 
cient city of Corea, opposite Rimini, is covered by 
the waves, and more than a mile from land ; and thus 
also the suburbs of Pola in Istria are submerged, and 
along the shore, at low water the Mosaic pavements 
are discovered, as well as at Sipar not far from Parano. 
several palms under water. ? 'f 

We are also informed by an anonymous English 
traveller, in his Journal of a Voyage, in which he 
describes several very ancient cities of the Archipelago : 
and in which he thus speaks of Delos. " We found 
nothing else, all along the coast, but the ruins of su- 
perb edifices which had never been completed, and the 
ruins of others which have been destroyed. The sea 
appears to have gained on the Isle of Delos, and the 
water being clear, and the weather calm, we had an 
opportunity of observing the remains of beautiful 

* Abbe Fortis' Travels in Dalmatia, page 17. t Do. p. 464. 


buildings, in places where now the fishes swim at 
their ease, and on which the small boats, of these 
countries, row to get at the coast." 

It is pretty generally known and believed that the 
whole gulf of Tripoli has been formed by the sinking 
or disappearance of all that part or portion of the 
coast of Africa comprehended between Tripoli, or 
cape Bon near Tunis and cape Ras-Sern near 
Bern a ; and that too, long since the records of time 
have been substantially authenticated. " This opi- 
nion is supported," says Mi Bey, *' by the great 
banks of Kerkena wbich are considered as the re- 
mains of a country submerged."* 

Mr. Shaw, in describing the ancient city of Sher- 
shell and its port, says that the present inhabitants 
" have a tradition of the whole city being destroyed 
by an earthquake ; and that the port, formerly very 
large and commodious, was reduced to the miserable 
condition it is in at present, from the arsenal and other 
adjacent buildings which were thrown into it by the 
shock." "The Cothon" he observes, "that had a 
communication with the western port, is the best proof 
of this tradition ; for, when the sea is calm and low 
(as it frequently happens after strong S. E. winds) we 
then discover, all over the area, so many massy pillars 
and pieces of great walls, that it cannot well be con- 
ceived how they should come there without some such 
violent concussion. "f 

* All Bey's Travels. t See Shaw's Travels, page 39. 


Numerous cases of a similar kind could easily 
be cited if necessary, But admitting that the sea 
has gained upon the land in some instances, and that 
the land on the contrary has gained upon the sea in 
others ; it does not, by any means, prove that there is 
an actual but gradual diminution of the waters of the 
ocean.* If such were the case, we should, every 
year have numerous islands appearing above the sur- 
face of the water in almost every part of the ocean ; 
that is to say, in the vicinity of islands and continents. 
Not only so, but we should have, every succeeding 
year, innumerable reefs, or hidtlen rocks and quick 
sands to encounter, at the risque of the lives of mil- 
lions of our fellow creatures, and ultimately, the al- 
most total occlusion of a friendly intercourse between 
the nations of the earth, as well as almost a complete 
annihilation of commerce upon the bosom of its 

But this is not the case ; Heaven, in its unerring 
foresight, has decreed it otherwise ; and the surface of 
the sea, doubtless, retains the same elevation, and ex- 
tent of superficies that it did, at least five thousand 
years ago. Of this, we have the most unquestionable 
evidence that can be required ; and that in almost 
every part of the world. The shores and coast of 
America afford sufficient data to calculate upon, with- 
out having a recurrence to foreign countries. 

* To this opinion, De Luc seems to be decidedly opposed, and 
say*. li Proofs are every where found that such a change is chi- 



There are a great number of rocks, whose points, or 
heads* at complete low water, just shew themselves 
above its surface, and have been well known in that 
situation for more than one hundred years past, and 
without the smallest visible alteration in their appear- 
ance, at that particular state of the tides. 

The Lattimer rock, lying about midway in the 
Khode Island passage, through Long Island Sound, 
affords a striking instance of this kind. This rock 
has been well known for more than one hundred years. 
Its head or apex, at a certain state of the tide, appears 
just above the water near the middle of the passage 
between Fisher's Island, and Watch Hill, on the 
Stonington side, (Connecticut.) 

Now, it is doubtful whether the Nilometer affords a 
better standard to judge of the increase and decrease 
of the river Nile, than the above rock does, of the ac- 
tual increase, or decrease of the ocean on the coast of 

I could enumerate several others, equally as well, 
if not better known, and no less suitable objects by 
which to regulate our opinions on the subject. Among 
these are the Hogsback, and several others, at, and 
near Hurl Gate at the western extremity of Long 
Island Sound. 

Now although no visible difference is perceptible in 
these rocks, as to their positions, and appearances for 
more than a hundred years, it may be said that they 
have not been sufficiently long known and observed, to 
enable us to determine a point of so great importance. 


Admitting this to be the case, if we refer to coun- 
tries, well known in history from the most remote 
periods of time, in search of objects on which to fix 
our attention, we are sure of a successful result ; for 
the shores of Europe, Asia, and Africa afford the 
most abundant proofs that the sea still rolls its proud 
waves to the extent of its ancient limits, which it 
could not do, if it has been and is constantly de- 

" Upon the western banks of the Tafna, almost con- 
tiguous to the sea, are the ruins of the ancient Siga ; 
once the royal city of the Numidian kings.' 5 * 

Its present name is Tackum-breet, the Tebecritum 
probably, of Leo. 

Of the ancient city of Sher-shell, Mr. Shaw 
says, " Nothing certainly, could have been better 
contrived for strength and beauty than the ancient 
situation of this place. A strong wall forty feet high 
supported with buttresses, and winding itself near two 
miles through the several creeks of the sea shore, hath 
secured it from all encroachments of the sea."\ 

Cape Blanco (in Africa) the Promontorium Can- 
didum of Pliny, and probably the Promontorium Pul- 
chrum of Livy, where Scipio made his descent on his 
first African expedition, is, according to Mr. Shaw 9 
the same in situation and appearance, as it respects the 
sea, that it was in the days of Scipio. t 

* Shaw's Travels page 19. t Do. page 39. j Do. page 142. 


Of the port of Hippo on the coast of Barbary, he 
ays, (i There are still remaining the traces of a large 
j)i?r that was carried out a long way into the sea to 
break off the N. E. winds, the want whereof, together 
with the great aversion the Turks have to repairs, 
will, in a short time, demolish a haven that in any 
other country would be inestimable/ 5 * 

Of Fort St. Louis, the Baron De Tott says I 
shall likewise observe, for the natural philosopher, 
that Fort St. Louis, built at the point of the projection 
of land which formerly was the island where he dis- 
embarked, is still washed by the waters of the sea."-{ 

The ancient Utica was a maritime city situated be- 
tween Carthage and the promontory of Apollo. This 
city, which is now seven miles from the sea, together 
with that of Carthage, which is about the same dis- 
tance from it, are considered by some as unequivocal 
proofs of the gradual receding of the sea. 

The following will show how little foundation there 
is for such a belief, or how little support is to be de- 
rived from this source. 

" Neither, (says Mr. Shaw) hath Carthage, the 
next pla*ce to be described, much better supported it- 
self against the north east winds and the Me-jerdah ; 
which, together, have stopped up its ancient harbour 
and made it almost as far distant from the sea as 

* Shaw's Travels, page 145. 

t Baron De Tott, vol. II. part 2, page 91. The time of the 
landing of St. Louis, in Egypt, was about the year 1240 or 43. 

Utica." This it must be recollected, lies between the 
cape called Castra- Cornelia and the peninsula on 
which Carthage stood. 

" Upon the other side of the peninsula towards the 
south east, Carthage has been a looser to the sea ; for 
in that direction near three furlongs in length, and 
half a fur long i or more, in breadth lyeth under water. 
In rowing along the sea shore/' (where Carthage 
stood,) "the common sewers discover themselves in 
several places, which, being well built and cemented 
at first, time hath not in the least injured or im- 

In MaundrePs Journey from Alleppo to Jerusalem, 
in the year 1660, he observes, " In the Adriatic Gulf, 
the light house of Arminium, or Rimini, is a league 
from the sea ; but Jlncona, built by the Syracusians, 
is STILL close to the shore. The arch of Trajan, 
which rendered its port more commodious for mer- 
chants, is situated immediately upon it. Barritta, the 
favourite spot of Augustas, who gave it the name of 
Julius Felix, preserves no remains of its ancient 
beauty, except its situation on the BRINK of the sea, 
above which it is elevated no higher than is neces- 
sary to secure it against the inundations of that 

Ali Bey, in speaking of tbe Mediterranean sea, 
observes, " It is to be remarked that the ancient Pa- 
phos, situated upon the sea shore, is a monument of 

* Shaw's Travels, pages 150 and 151. 


the stationary condition of the Mediterranean sea, 
which, during so many ages, has not sunk a single 
inch from its general level."* 

As a further confirmation of this fact, the rocks of 
Scylla and Garybdis, are still a dread to the toil- 
some mariner, while, at a distance, he listens, through 
the sleepless night-watch, in painful anxiety, to their 
awful roarings. 

Most of the sea ports, that were frequented in an- 
cient days, remain still the same, or at least without 
any visible alteration, and are still the resort of their 
numerous ships ; such are Malta, Rhodes, Marseilles, 
and many places well known for ages past.f 

* See Ali Bey's Travels, vol. page 33. 

t See Cuvier's Theory, page 53, American edition. 


I HAVE been thus particular, in order to prove that the 
sea is not likely soon to be dried up ; and that allu- 
vial formations are not produced by the sea. 

I shall, in the next place, pass over that kind of 
alluvial formation, which is said to occasion the ex- 
tinction of lakes, but which I shall notice hereafter, 
and endeavour to prove, that the alluvion of rivers, 
\vith some few exceptions, is by no means so common, 
and so extensive as is generally imagined ;* or if there 
be a visible increase of alluvial districts in some few 
instances, it is too small and limited to. afford any sup- 
port to those, who maintain that alluvial districts in 
general, are formed by rivers. 

The alluvion that is formed by rivers may be said 
to depend, both in its quantity and extent, on three ma- 
terial circumstances. 

1st. On the extent of country through which the 
rivers pass. 2d. On the nature of the soil, of which 
the country is composed. And 3d. on the rapidity 
with which the current flows in those rivers. 

* See Chapter llth. 

This alluvial formation thus produced, will be of 
two kinds ; the first diffused, and the second circum- 
scribed, or limited. The first depends on the unin- 
terrupted flow of the current of any river into a lake, 
bay, or sea. The second depends on the obstruction 
or check, which the current of a river may experience, 
(and which may be saturated with alluvions matter,) 
by the tide flowing in direct opposition to such current. 

As both these kinds occur, I shall take notice of 
each, in order to avoid any suspicion of having been 
partial in my view of the subject 

The river Thames, (or by some called Norwich 
river,) in Connecticut, is formed by two principal 
branches, the largest of which takes its rise near the 
Massachusetts line. In their courses, they receive a 
gieat many auxiliary streams, all running through a 
country generally cultivated ; consequently much bro- 
ken up, and liable to be carried away by rains and the 
melting of snows ; yet no visible increase of alluvial 
formation is produced by this river, particularly, as 
has been observed, on the east side, at its con- 
tinence with Long Island Sound. 

In this latitude and longitude, the flood tide sets in 
so strong, and rises so high, that the moment in which 
it overpowers the current of the river so as to check its 
descent, that moment the sand and gross silicious mat- 
ter, which is kept afloat by the current only, is depo- 
sited at the bottom, or in part wafted back by the tide 
as far as it sets up. Hence, the principal cause of the 
bar in that river, which obstructs the navigation above 


New-London, and on which the Macedonian, United 
States and Hornet were obliged to unload to get over, 
when the British lay hefore that place in 1814. 

But this is not all that constitutes the alluvion, which 
is brought down hy rivers. It consists principally of 
two kinds of substances ; the one silicious or sand, and 
predominant ; the other alluminous, which is light and 
is long held suspended in water, and, where there is a 
cm rent, carried a great way before it is deposited ; 
and this very substance I shall make use of, in part, 
to prove my position. 

As soon as the current of the river, checked by a 
counter current, the tide, has deposited its sand and 
silicious matter, it there forms the principal bar in the 
river ; immediately below which, the water deepens, 
and the bottom alternates, and is almost entirely allu- 
minous, or composed of a blue and intensely tough 
clay, of which all New London harbour is composed, 
and which renders it the surest and safest anchoring 
ground on the Atlantic coast. Not only so, but the 
principal part of Long Island Sound, on the north 
shore, is nearly the same ; and which is, doubtless, a 
consequence of the lightness of the alluminous matter, 
which is held long suspended in water, and so widely 
diffused before it is deposited. Hence it is, that no 
visible alteration is, or can be produced, in those lati- 
tudes, and under those circumstances, even for ages. 

The same particulars attend the Connecticut river, 
fifteen miles to the westward of the Thames ; with 
this difference, however, that the latter discharges its 

waters into a deep bay, at the bottom of which New 
London stands. 

The waters of the Connecticut river, after passing 
through a great extent of country, are discharged al- 
most immediately into Long Island Sound ; the current 
of which, for nearly three quarters of the ebb and flood 
tide, being very strong, crosses the mouth of the river 
almost at right angles. 

At, or very near the confluence of this river, where 
its current is checked by that of the tide in the Sound, 
the principal bar, which obstructs its navigation, is 
formed across its mouth, and is well known by the 
name of Say -Brook bar. 

This bar, as well as the bed of the river, for a great 
distance above, is composed of a fine silicious sand ; 
and at ebb tide, there is not, perhaps, more than six 
feet of water in the channel. Whereas immediately 
below it, we have from two and a half to three fathoms, 
with a bottom composed of a tough blue clay. 

Here is no appearance of alluvial formation occa- 
sioned by the river. The banks on each side are, ne- 
vertheless, alluvial, as I have before observed, for 
about two and a half or three miles above its influx ; 
but these are far above the surface of the water at 
flood tide, perhaps twenty or thirty feet, and, in fact, 
were never known, I believe, to have been over- 
flowed; not only sp, but the banks on the western 
shore and the land adjacent, were, about thirty or forty 
years since, covered with lofty trees quite to the sea- 
shore, or that of the sound ; many of which must 


have required one hundred years or more to perfect 
their growth. The northern shores of the sound* 
were, at that time, covered with huge trees to the 
very margin of the beach, which could not have been, 
if the alluvion increases in the ratio that is pretended 
by some. 

At the mouth of the Hudson river, or rather at, and 
near, the ship channel at Sandy Hook, sand banks and 
bars abound ; but they are in part, I presume, formed 
by sands raised by the winds, from Long Island and 
the Jersey shore, and carried into the water ; and also* 
by the current of the East river and those on the Jer- 
sey side. 

The principal part of the alluvial matter brought in- 
to the Hudson river, comes from the country above 
the highlands, and is principally deposited where the 
current is first checked by the tides, which is some 
way above the highlands ; as near as I can recollect* 
the principal bar in that river is above Kinderhook ; 
and above that are numerous sand bars ; no river allu- 
vion has, I believe, accumulated at its mouth. The 
rocks at the battery doubtless appear the same at ebb 
tide, above the water, (that part excepted which has 
been covered by made ground,) that they did when. 
Hudson visited it in 1609. 

The same remarks will, almost, apply to the Dela- 
ware river, with the exception of the banks which 
lie in the channel between New- Castle, and the capes ; 
and even in this instance, the number, size, and extent 
of the several banks, or spits, correspond with the 


number, size, and extent of the rivers, which flow 
into the Delaware river, from the Jersey and Dela 
ware shores. 

The relative situation of those hanks to the rivers, 
seems to show that they were gradually deposited 
there, by the currents being opposed by the tides ; 
and that as soon as the currents of the rivers resumed 
their wonted course, uninterrupted, these banks were 
modified in this form, by the almost reciprocal action 
of the current of some of those rivers which flow into 
the Delaware river almost opposite to each other, 
and nearly at right angles. Hence it is, that instead 
of running obliquely or across the river, or being dif- 
fused, they are long and narrow, and, in some cases, 
ranged parallel to each other, as many as three or 
four in number. 

The next in course, and most important in every 
point of view, is the Chesapeake bay. If there was 
no other case to which we could refer to regulate our 
opinions, as to the truth of the proposition under consi- 
deration, this alone would be amply sufficient. An im- 
mense bay, one of the largest in the known world, ex- 
tending from the sea nearly, or quite, two hundred and 
seventy miles into the country, and every superficial 
inch of which is bounded by an alluvial soil, or banks 
of alluvial formation. 

Into this great reservoir, are poured the waters of 
about forty rivers and creeks ; five of which are of the 
largest class, and take their rise in the primitive range 
of country. 

From a moderate calculation, this bay receives the 
waters that are collected from a superficies of about 
sixty thousand square miles. 

To pretend to enter into an examination of the 
probable changes produced in this bay, by alluvion 
brought down and deposited in its bed by those nu- 
merous rivers and smaller streams, would be extreme- 
ly tedious, uninteresting, and unnecessary ; since a 
reference to, at least, two of its principal streams, 
(viz.) the Susquehanna and Potomac rivers, will be 
quite sufficient to determine the probable result from 
the whole ; and without entering into a minute exami- 
nation of these two great rivers, it may suffice to say, 
that there is no material difference between them and 
the Connecticut, Hudson, and Delaware rivers. 

The currents of each and all of them are checked 
by the reflux of the tides. Whenever that takes place, 
the silicious matter, suspended by the currents, is at 
once deposited. Hence, the sand banks and sand bars 
at the mouths of rivers ; but the alluminous matter 
which is brought down, and which predominates in 
the soil, generally, of the state of Maryland, is held 
much longer suspended, and is, doubtless, very gene- 
rally diffused over the borders of the Chesapeake 

There are but few or no indications of alluvions 
deposites or formations ; no islands of recent formation. 
If there is some appearence of the land having en- 
croached on the bay ; there are others where the wa- 
ters of the bay have gained on the land. 


As a proof of this, where there is an appearance of 
made ground, there is not the shadow of a shrub on 
its surface. Where there are indications of the wa- 
ter having tresspassed on the ancient limits of the 
shores, (which is mostly in consequence of severe and 
long continued storms or gales of wind,} the banks, 
which are high above the water and often covered with 
aged oaks, whose boughs have hung leafless over its 
surface for at least a hundred winters, are broken and 
washed down by the force of the surf, and those trees 
are laid prostrate on the beach. 

The Mississippi river is perhaps, an exception in 
this case ; having, no doubt, occasioned a considerable 
extent of alluvial formation at, and near, its influx into 
the gulf of Mexico ; but it appers by no means diffi- 
cult to explain the cause of this difference. 

This river, and its tributary streams, not only flow 
through an almost immeasurable extent of superficies, 
and the water thereby collected, causing such a pres- 
sure as to bear every thing before it, but its current is 
propelled with such rapidity, that the tide, which in 
this latitude flows but little,* has not the power to 

* Mr. Stoddard says fi The tides have but little effect on the 
water at New-Orleans ; they sometimes cause it to swell, but never 
to slacken its current." Sketches of Louisiana, page 164. 

This conclusion must appear obvious to every one, who may feel 
disposed to consider the influence of the tides, in this great bay, 
the average height of which scarcely exceeds that of eighteen 
inches. Mr. Stoddard says "The difference between the highest 
and lowest stages of water in the Balize is about three feet." Ibid. 


check its current, but in a moderate degree. Hence it 
is, that almost every thing that is suspended in its 
waters, is hurried down its stream into the gulf of 

But although this river has extended its limits a con- 
siderable way into the gulf of Mexico, yet 1 am not 
inclined, by any means, to admit that it has been the 
principal cause of the alluvial district from above, and 
below New-Orleans, to its mouth. 

If the Mississippi river has been the cause of the 
alluvial formation through which it runs, as is believ- 
ed by some, to what source shall we look for the 
cause of nearly the same extent of alluvial district, 
between it and East Florida ? Or, between East Flo- 
rida and Cape Hatteras ? Or in fact, that which lies 
each side of the Chesapeake bay; every inch of which 
is surrounded by an alluvial district? Not certainly, 
to successive layers of alluvion, brought down by those 
rivers, and deposited over its entire surface ; for it will 
be admitted on all hands, that the alluvial district on 
the Atlantic coast has not, in all probability, been 
overflowed, either by the sea, or rivers, since the sub- 
sidence of the general deluge.* 

* Baron de Tott in speaking of the Delta of the Nile, observes, 
u It is proper to observe, that the Delta, more elevated than the 
rest of Egypt, is bounded towards the sea by a forest of Palm trees, 
called the forest of Beleros, the land of which is much higher than 
the highest rising of the waters ; and this topographical remark is 
sufficient to destroy the system of the formation of the Delta by a 
sediment. A country, which is higher than the greatest inunda- 
dations, can never owe to them its origin." Vol. II. part 2, p. 32. 


The most then, that the Mississippi river ought to 
claim, is that which extends beyond a line drawn from 
lake Borgne, across to the bottom of Atchafalaya bay, 
which line will correspond very nearly with the line 
of coast from East Florida, to a great distance west 
of the Mississippi river. 

Whether this be the case or not, we must look to 
some other source for the cause of the formation of this 
immense district which lies on our Atlantic coast. 

Viewing the subject in all its bearings, there is no 
circumstance that affords so strong an evidence of the 
cause of its formation, as that of its having been depo- 
sited by a general current, which, at some unknown 
period, flowed impetuously across the whole continent 
of America ; and that from north east to south west. 

With this in view, I shall, in the next place, pro- 
ceed to examine the subject, and endeavour to sub- 
stantiate the fact : should I fail in the attempt, 1 flat- 
ter myself that it will not be through a deficiency in 
the force of evidence, but of the amount at issue. 

Admitting that such a current may have existed, it 
will be necessary to inquire, what, in all probability, 
was the character and extent of its operations ? That 
would no doubt depend on the extent, gravity, velo- 
city, and duration of this current. 

In regard to its extent, 1 believe I shall make it ap- 
pear that it was general over the whole surface of, at 
least, this continent. Of its operations, although they 
are strikingly obvious, I shall endeavour to point them 


out more clearly than they appear at present, to eve- 
ry one. 

Of its gravity and velocity, we must judge by its 
effects. Of its cause and duration, it is impossible to 

I shall assume the position that the course of this 
current, was not only influenced by, but, in fact, de- 
pended on that of the general current of the Atlantic 
ocean. That from some unknown cause, its waters 
rose, not merely above the common height of flood- 
tide, but to that degree, that it overran its ancient li- 
mits, and spread desolation on its adjacent shores. 

The same fruitful source, from whence proceeded the 
probable cause of the Atlantic ocean rising at first, 
above its ordinary height, continued to yield its in- 
exhaustible supplies, until this current, knowing no 
bounds, swept lawlessly over the desolated land. 

In proportion to the increase of the waters of the 
Atlantic, (for I speak only of it at present,) and the con- 
sequent rise, so must have been the acceleration and 
force of its current ; and in proportion to the velocity 
or rapidity of this current, so must have been its ra- 
vages and its general destruction wherever it may have 
prevailed, whether over the extended plains, or be- 
neath the mountains lofty heights. 

The consequence was, that the earth or soil, suscep- 
tible of the operations of this current, was hurled from 
its bed, wafted beyond the shores of the continent, 
and deposited in the ocean all along the coast. And 
in proportion to the extent of soil or land over, which 



this current prevailed, so will be the precise extent, or 
breadth of the alluvial district ; except in some few 
unimportant cases, where, from local causes, some dif- 
ference may appear. 

1 will now see how far this opinion is supported by 
fapts. From the entrance into the straits of Bell-Isle, 
by the way of the gulf of St. Lawrence, across to 
Sandwich bay, is but a small distance ; even from the 
mouth of the river St. Lawrence, or St. John's river, 
which discharges itself into the St. Lawrence, across 
the country to Orange bay or harbour, on the coast of 
Labrador, and over which this current must have pass- 
ed, is but about two hundred and eighty or three hun- 
dred miles, and that rocky in the extreme. The result 
Is what might be expected ; there is but little or no allu- 
vial soil, except on the margins of some rixers, which I 
shall have occasion to notice hereafter. 

As we advance further to the southward, we find the 
country, across which this current is prevailing, gra- 
dually increasing in breadth ; that is from the coast of 
Labrador through the New England states ; and we 
likewise see a corresponding increase of alluvial for- 
mation ; but which, however, is so small as not to have 
been noted in Mr. McClure's geological chart, until 
we come to Long Island, extending from the meridian 
of New London to the mouth of the Hudson river, in a 
north east and south west direction. 

It may be said that a great disproportion exists be- 
tween the distance across the continent, from the coast 
of Labrador to the mouth of the Connecticut river, and 


the alluvial district opposite to it ; and the distance 
from Sandwich bay, across to the mouth of the straits 
of Bell-Isle and the alluvial district opposite to it ; and 
more particularly so, between the distance of the latter, 
and that from the coast of Labrador and Trenton, in 
New- Jersey, and the alluvial district through which 
the Delaware river runs at that meridian. This is ad- 
mitted, but let us see if this difficulty cannot be ob- 
viated in such a way, as will tend to strengthen and 
support my opinion, rather than militate against it. 

It must be observed, in this case, that the current of 
the Atlantic ocean, in its due course* would pass 
through the straits of Bell-Isle, the gulf of St. Law- 
rence, and the bay of Funda, in a line nearly parallel 
to that part of the coast of America ; consequently, 
much alluvial formation could not be expected, except 
on the margin of the rivers. But a still more impor- 
tant circumstance is yet to be considered. As soon as 
the waters of the Atlantic ocean had risen to such a 
height as to sweep its current, (which it must be re- 
membered was in a south west direction,) across the 
eastern part of this continent, the full force of its ope- 
rations was acting in direct opposition to the current of 
the river St. Lawrence. Hence, meeting with an in- 
surmountable check in its course, and the waters of 
Lakes Erie and Ontario, urging on their accumulated 
forces in their usual channel, it occasioned a reflux up- 
on Ontario and lake Champlain. The consequence 
was, that their natural boundaries were no longer ca- 
pable of retaining the increasing tide ; it overwhelmed 


the neighbouring country, and poured forth its waters 
in torrents into the Connecticut and Hudson rivers, 
bearing away, by its irresistible force, every moveable 

From hence, and the increasing influx of the Atlan- 
tic, propelled by a corresponding current into the gulf 
of Mexico, we may attribute the increase in breadth of 
the alluvial district, from Long Island to the capes of 
Delaware, and perhaps further* 

Before I proceed to a more general view of the con- 
tinent of America, with the intention of pointing out 
the operations of a general current which once flowed 
over its surface ; or in search of facts to prove the pro- 
bable existence of such a current ; I shall enter into a 
partial examination of a few circumstances or features, 
which present themselves in several parts of the dis- 
trict of country which I have mentioned, both as to 
their locality and extent ; and afterwards to apply 
them as, at least, strong presumptive evidence of the ex- 
istence of such a current at some remote period of time. 

* With persons who have read the additions to Cuvier's 
Theory of the earth, by Dr. S. L. Mitchell, of New-York, 
it may be supposed that this hint, together with those which relate 
to tht- formation of alluvial districts at the mouths of rivers, was de- 
rived from that work : of which see pages S35- 345 383 393, 
and particularly 395, 

In justice to myself* it becomes necessary to observe, that having 
been free to communicate my opinions to him on this subject, long be- 
fore th^ publication of that work, (see the preface,) there is reason 
to hopp, from the known liberality of that gentleman, that he will, 
if required, shield me from the imputation of having borrowed 
cither of those sentiments from that work. 


Among these, is that of rolled or water worn peb- 
bles of different kinds ; and also that of the wave like, 
or undulating appearence of almost every section of 
alluvial formation, whether perpendicular to the sur- 
face, or inclined, shewing the operations of a current 
from the north east. 

The subject of rolled pebbles is, when viewed in its 
full extent, one of the most interesting geological facts, 
that is, or can be presented to the human view ; for 
they not only give us an idea of the formation of mi- 
neral substances in general, being composed of almost 
every species of rock ; but they speak, in a language 
that cannot be misunderstood, and tell us of some of 
the physical changes which this continent, and perhaps 
every other, has undergone ; and of the nature and ex- 
tent of those changes. They tell us, in the most em- 
phatick terms, that they were, by a resistless current, 
torn from their primitive beds, and hurled in irresisti- 
ble confusion to where they now remain. 

These unequivocal proofs of universal desolation, 
are interspersed upon the borders of almost every river 
in the known world, which has its source in, or passes 
through any distance of primitive, transition, or secon- 
dary formation of rocks. 

It is alleged by some, that water worn or rolled peb- 
bles are, in general, brought down by the currents of 
rivers, and streams of running water. 

If this be true, it would tend very much to prove, 
that they were not washed up by the ocean, and left 


by its gradual retreat; an opinion as absurd, as it is in- 
consistent and unphilosophical. 

It will be admitted that the beds of rivers are some- 
times paved, in a manner, for a considerable distance 
with rolled pebbles i that they are sometimes amassed 
in very considerable quantities on the very margins of 
the rivers, between high and low water mark ; but 
this is by no means calculated to solve the following 

By what physical means, were those immense quan- 
tities of rolled pebbles amassed together, or thrown up 
into hills that are from one hundred to two hundred 
feet above the surface of the river, in the neighbour- 
hood of which they lie, and which are sometimes 
spread over many square leagues of country* over 
which, the current of no one river upon earth has ever 
flowed? It is both morally and physically impossi- 
ble that such results could, by any means, be produc- 
ed by any river flowing through the district of country 
where they lie. 

Nothing short of a universal current could have pro- 
duced such eftects ; and it must have been of such ex- 
tent and rapidity, as to have hurled them into motion 
with almost as much facility, as the leaves of trees are 
raised into the air by a whirlwind. 

That such a current did once prevail, they remain as 
an unequivocal testimony ; and also of 'its operations. 
That it flowed from the north east, to the south west, 
is evident from the following circumstances. 


The rivers, if they may be so called, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Baltimore, run mostly in a direction from 
north to south, with some unimportant deviations. In 
almost every instance where the rolled pebbles abound, 
they are in much the greatest quantities on the west, 
or south west side of the river or creek. 

Another circumstance of a singular nature, and wor- 
thy of particular attention is, that wherever an auxilia- 
ry stream falls into the river or creek, on the east side, 
and meanders through *a valley for a considerable dis- 
tance above, and in a north east direction, (for the small 
streams fall into the principal ones at an angle of about 
forty-five degrees.) we observe, on the opposite or west 
side, and in a south west direction from the mouth 
of the valley and brook, a considerable elevation of 
ground or hills, and composed, almost entirely, of roll- 
ed pebbles and sand ; while on the east side there are 
but few, in comparison, and sometimes none ; if there 
are any, they are much the most abundant on the mar- 
gin, or bank of the valley on the south side. 

There are even valleys on the east side of Jones's 
Falls, running for some distance up into the country 
in a north east direction, and in which no water flows 
of any consequence, except after a great rain ; and in 
the hills on the south side of the valley, there is an 
abundance of pebbles ; at the same time, but very few 
are to be found in the hills on the north side of the 
valley. All of which circumstances tend to point out, 


in a very obvious manner, the operations of a power- 
ful south west current.* * 

This opinion receives additional support from 

ther circumstance. The hills on the margin of Jones's 

* In support of this opinion, an interesting fact has recently oc- 
curred, and which, in this case, is of too much importance to be 

In the opening and extension of Belvidere-street, in this city, 
(Baltimore,) it became necessary to cut through a hill, on the west 
side of Jones's Falls, to the depth of twelve or fifteen feet. This 
hill is on the very margin of, and constitutes, at that point, the 
southern border of the granite ridge. 

Its greatest height above Jones's Falls, which is at the foot of it 
on the east, is about sixty feet ; and is composed of gneiss, in which 
black horn-blend forms a constituent part. 

In cutting through the hill the workmen came upon the summit 
of the ridge of rocks, at the depth of nearly ten feet below the sur- 
face. This it was necessary, in order to follow the grade of the 
street, to cut away to the depth of about five feet. 

The section or bank on the west side of the street (its course 
being north and south) presents the following appearances. 

From the point of the ridge, as exhibited in the bank, to the 
north, and in the direction of the dip of the rocks, the slope of the 
ridge or rocks, for some distance is gradual. At the point of the 
ridge on the south side, is a sudden pitch, from the shelving or over- 
hanging of the rocks. From this point to the extremity of the sec- 
tion to the south, which is about sixty paces, the bank is filled 
with rolled pebbles; and immediately at the pitch of the rocks they 
appear as having been thrown down by cart loads. 

From a strict examination of the whole section, it appears as if 
the pebbles were driven over the surface or northern slope of the 
hill by a powerful current until they had arrived at this sudden 
pitch, when they were let fall or precipitated to the bottom. In. 


Falls, and Gwinn's-Falls, and upon the west side, con- 
tain, it is true, rolled pebbles of almost all sizes, from 
that of a pea to that of five or six pounds weight ; and 
they abound, a mile or a mile and a half to the west of 

support of this opinion, there are but very few pebbles in the nor- 
thern part of the section, and those small Moreover there are 
other appearances in this section of the hill which (setting all con- 
jectures aside) amount to proofs positive that the pebbles were 
brought and deposited there by a powerful current from the north. 

Among the pebbles in the bank, on the south side of the ridge, 
I have counted upwards of thirty masses of granite, micacious 
schist, and green stein. Now well defined granite does not occur 
within one mile to the north of where these masses now lie ; and 
the green stein range does not occur to the north within three miles. 
To the south of the ridge, neither granite nor green stein were ever 
known to exist in place ; for from the bank in which these masses 
now lie, to the capes of Virginia, every foot of land is alluvial. 
Therefore the fair conclusion is that they must have been brought 
and deposited there by a powerful current from the north ; for in 
no direction to the south do the same kind of rocks exist within the 
distance of five and perhaps six hundred leagues. 

As the appearances in the above described bank, or section of 
the hill, are liable to changes by the operations of rains, or by dig- 
ging and levelling for the purposes of building, and which may here- 
after render the statement doubtful, they have been examined 
by two respectable gentlemen who will substantiate the facts, as 

Similar facts, I believe, are observable from one extremity of 
the granite ridge to the other, or from New-York to Georgia. I 
have observed them in numerous instances in the alluvial region, 
and south of the granite ridge, and particularly in the city of Wash- 
ington. At a little distance north of the United States Branch 
Bank in that city, is a circumscribed spot of about one acre of 



those streams : sometimes more : hut as we recede 
from tlio-e streams, in a south west or west direction, 
the pebble* invariably grow smaller, so that at the dis- 
tance of three and four miles west of the streams and 
particularly GwinnVFalls, they are not bigger, in 
general, than filberts or walnuts, and from that down 
to a bird shot, showing that the stream or current had 
the power of conveying the small pebbles a great dis- 
tance ; while the larger ones were deposited, soon af- 
ter they were raised from the bottom of those rivers 
where, during preceding ages, they had been mostly 
formed, on or near the margin of those streams. 

It may be a question with some ; from whence came 
these pebbles ? This seems to be, by no means, a 
difficult matter to solve. These streams have their 

ground, covered with masses of rocks and rolled stones of various 
sizes, mostly of a quartzose kind, or in other words of granular 
quartz. Among these, I discovered in February (1820) rolled 
masses of Amygdaloid, and of hornblend porphyry, containing; epi- 
dote, both peculiar to the Blue Ridge or South Mountains in 
Maryland and Pennsylvania, and which cannot be found in any 
place, perhaps, within sixty miles of Washington city. More- 
over, among these rocks were some of a granular quartz, that 
would weigh, probably, from two to five hundred weight, contain- 
ing perfect impressions of shells resembling the Terrebratu- 
lite. This kind of rock, with like impressions, is not, I am credi- 
bly informed, to be found in any place, in a northern direction, 
short of Herkimer county state of New-York ; or far beyond the 
North Mountains in Pennsylvania. From the place at which they 
now lie, (which is alluvial, and three quarters of a mile from the 
Potomac r'wr,) to the Atlantic ocean which is about two hundred 
miles, every mcii of country is of an alluvial formation. 


source either in the primitive or transition rans;e, and, 
in every instance run through the former or granitick 
ridge; so that there could have been no want of ma- 
terials to form water worn pebbles. 

The same may be observed on the west side of the 
Susquehannah river below the granite ridge. What 
the appearances are above, I am unable to say. 

The same I believe is the case with the Delaware 
river. How it is on the west side of the Hudson river, 
at Bergen, and the other places in its vicinity, 1 cannot 
recollect ; but the alluvial formation on which New- 
York stands, is filled with rolled pebbles : while but 
feu are to be found on the Long Island side opposite 
or in any part of the northern shore of that island. I 
believe that the principal part of the streets in New- 
York, are paved with the stones that were dug out of 
the hills, in and near the city, in levelling them down. 

These stones were, doubtless, first brought down 
by the current of the east river ; or at least were formed 
on and above the granite ridge ; and were subsequent- 
ly, by the north east current, which I have mentioned, 
raised from the bottom of the river, and deposited with 
the alluvian on its western shore, above, and where 
New-York stands. This is from four, to five or six 
miles, south of where the stones were probably formed ; 
and which distance, corresponds with that of a number 
of other places ; which inclines me to believe that the 
rolled pebbles in the alluvial districts of this country, 
lie, in general, from three to five miles, aad sometimes 

53 - 

more from their original ganguc or locality ; and that 
always in a south west direction from it. 

I shall in the next place take notice of the Connec- 
ticut river. The falls over which this river runs, for 
the distance of from fifty to sixty miles above its influx 
into the sea or sound, are, I believe, principally com- 
posed of a fine grained ferruginous sand stone ; and for 
the distance of four miles below what is called the foot 
of the falls of the Connecticut river, the margin of the 
western bank and bed of the river is covered with wa- 
ter worn pebbles of the same kind, as the rocks which 
compose the falls above ; while for the same distance 
on the opposite or eastern shore, there is scarcely a 
stone to be found, until at the distance of five miles be- 
low the falls, a small river discharges itself into the 
Connecticut river on the east side. This small stream, 
called Scantic, has its source in a primitive range, 
called the East Mountains, in contradistinction to a 
like range on the western side of the Connecticut 
river, and flows for several miles over a rocky and 
stony bed, before it enters the alluvial district, which 
is from four to five miles wide at this place. Its gene- 
ral course is south westerly, until within one mile of 
its confluence, where its course is almost due west, in- 
clining northerly, and enters the Connecticut river 
nearly at right angles. 

The margin of the Connecticut river below the 
Scantic river, for some distance from the water, and 
also its bed, are covered with water worn pebbles or 
stones ; at the same time, not a stone is to be found in 


the bank of the Scantic river, nor at its mouth on the 
north side, except such as have been brought or thrown 
thfre from the south shore ; neither is there any on the 
opposite shore of the Connecticut river. 

It may be observed here, that where a current is of 
sufficient force to move the pebbles on the bed of a 
river or creek, so as to carry them down the stream to 
its month, and discharge them into a larger stream or 
ri\er, it would be very natural at least, to expect to 
find them below the mouth of the auxiliary stream, and 
not above it. 

This is undoubtedly correct ; but, in the present in- 
stance, 1 have remarked that the Scantic river enters 
the Connecticut river nearly at right angles; conse- 
quently, when the current of this river was sufficient 
to carry the pebbles down the stream, they would be 
thrown into the Connecticut river, at some distance, 
and that corresponding with the angle which the Scan- 
tic river makes with the Connecticut river, inclining, 
however, a little down the stream of the latter. 

In this case, an abundance of pebbles would be 
found at the mouth of "the Scantic: but it is not so. 
It is perhaps three hundred yards distant below its 
mouth, before the pebbles on the beach commence; 
and they continue to cover the shore for half or three 
quarters of a mile below ; having the appearence of be- 
ing raised from the bed of the Scantic, and carried ob- 
liquely or diagonally across in a south west direction, 
and deposited in a bank, that is perfectly alluvial, on 
the margin of the Connecticut river, because checked 

there by the powerful current of that river which sets 
almost due south. 

That these pebbles were brought from near the pri- 
mitive range of mountains to the east, is probable from 
thi* circumstance. I have often, when a boy, gathered 
the carburet of iron or black lead, in rolled masses, 
among the stones, on this beach. 

It may be said in reply to these remarks, that they 
are natural results, and could not otherwise be expect- 
ed ; that where a river runs any distance through a 
stony country, and even passes some distance through 
an alluvial soil, the water worn pebbles will in time, 
be carried down the stream, and be deposited at or 
near the river's mouth. 

Let us now see whether this opinion is correct. 
The Windsor river so called, (an auxiliary stream 
that falls into the Connecticut river,) is composed of 
two branches, one of which takes its rise in a primitive 
range in the county of Litchfield, (Conn.) the other in 
the same range in Massachusetts. The first of these 
runs in an easterly direction until it arrives at the foot 
of the mountain near Farming'ton, (Conn.) where it 
takes a northerly course, until it joins the second 
branch called Salmon brook, which comes from the 
northward ; when suddenly turning at right angles, it 
passes in one stream, through the mountain : from 
thence it takes a south easterly direction, and dis- 
charges itself into the Connecticut river on the west 
side (as may be seen by the map of Connecticut) about 
two miles below the mouth of the Scantic river. From 


the passage of the Windsor river through the moun- 
tains, to the distance of between four and five miles, 
it runs over almost one continued bed of rocks ; and 
during a time of freshet or high water, the current flows 
with the rapidity of a sluice. From thence to the Con- 
necticut river, it flows through a district of alluvial 

From the foot of the falls (so called) to the distance 
of two miles below, the bed of the river is, in many 
places, covered with water worn pebbles, which have 
been, in the course of time, hurled down its stream 
thus far only. 

From thence to its discharge into the Connecticut 
river, about two miles, scarcely a pebble is to be found, 
big or little, neither on its bed, in its banks, nor at, 
or below its mouth : and what is still more worthy of 
remark is, that from some distance above the foot of 
the falls, to where the pebbles cease to cover the bed 
of the river, the hills on the south west side of the ri- 
ver (its course being south east) are, in many places, 
filled with water worn pebbles ; while on the northeast 
side from its passage through the mountains to its con- 
fluence with the Connecticut river, scarcely any peb- 
bles are to be seen ; a circumstance that cannot fail to 
excite the attention of an observer. 

Such, in part, are the results of my own observations 
on the subject of rolled, or water worn pebbles. 

Let us now, for a moment, inquire into the probable 
cause of so powerful, and so general a current ; and 
since nothing short of, at least, a partial deluge, 


could have overflown the country to the extent which 
is necessary to produce the effects which 1 have men- 
tioned, we must look to a partial or general deluge, as 
absolutely necessary in the first place. 

Of such we have no authentick account, excepting 
that which happened in the days of Noah. Neverthe- 
less, there is much reason to believe that it is not the 
only time in which this earth has been totally or par- 
tially inundated. Mr. Cuvier seems to entertain a be- 
lief that this globe has been thrice deluged, at diffe- 
rent periods of time. However that may be, we have 
strong indications in this country, of there having been 
at least two deluges, over the whole continent, and 
which, perhaps, 1 shall take notice of hereafter. 

Since it is not the object of this work to ascertain 
the number and periods, at which these events took 
place ; I shall proceed to inquire into the manner in 
which an occurrence of such moment, was probably ac- 
complished, and what influence it had in causing a ge- 
neral current, sweeping across the whole continent of 
America, from the north east to the south west, in pre- 
ference to any other course, or point of the compass. 

To this end, I shall examine the plain text as re- 
lated in the 7th chapter of the book of (renesis, verse 
seventh : "For yet seven days, and I will cause it to 
rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights, and 
every living substance that I have made, will I destroy 
from q^the face of the earth." 

It is generally admitted, by almost all who believe 
in the universal deluge or Noatic-flood, that it was 


caused by incessant torrents of rain for the above 
mentioned space of forty days and forty nights. Such 
is the language of Josephus ; " The Almighty, at the 
appointed time caused torrents of water to fall upon 
the earth, in such rapid and ceaseless succession for 
the space of forty days, &c." 

Let us suppose this to have been the fact, and that 
it was likewise universal. If this is admitted, which 
is by no means improbable, it affords but little or no 
grounds for a belief that a general current could have 
been a consequence. 

The gradual or rapid increase of the waters must 
have depended on the quantity which fell into the 
bosom of the ocean, and that also which fell on the 
face of the different countries distributed over the 
globe. This being, we will suppose, equal, or nearly 
so, could have no tendency to cause a current in the 

With respect to the latter, the case must have been, 
widely different, for a certain space of time ; for in 
proportion to the height, inequalities, and rapid or 
gradual descent of any district or country, towards the 
sea, and to the quantities of water which fell upon the 
face of such country, so must have been the increase 
and rapidity of the currents which flowed over its 
surface, into its rivers, and thence into the sea; and 
such no doubt they were, on this occasion, that all 
nature stood appalled at the momentous scene ; while 
bursting torrents rushed impetuously from the moun- 
tain's brow, and hurled destruction in their mad career, 



But even these could not have had any influence il 
producing a general current in the ocean ; for in pro- 
portion to its rise, the rivers, over the face of all 
countries, falling into the sea in every possible direc- 
tion, and mingling in the parent mass, would be 
checked in their course, and ultimately subdued, as the 
waters of the sea inundated the land, in the same 
manner as a flood tide of the ocean, checks the cur- 
rent of a river or rivers. 

But admitting that the rain fell in torrents for forty 
days and forty nights " in ceaseless succession," it is 
not only, very much a matter of doubt whether it 
could have had any influence in causing a general 
current, but whether, in fact, the general deluge could 
have been caused from this circumstance alone ; for it 
is said that after the forty days the flood was upon the 
earthy " that the waters increased and bare up the 

This being the case, it is necessary to look to some 
other source for the cause of this dreadful event 

* Genesis, chap* 7, 17th & 18th verses. 


IT is believed by some that by the breaking up of 
the fountains of the great deep, we are to understand 
an irruption of waters from the southern ocean." Mr. 
Kirwan seems to be of this opinion, for he observes, 
" This is pretty evident from such animals as the 
elephant and rhinoceros being found in great masses in 
Siberia, mixed with different marine substances ; 
whereas, no animals, or other substances belonging to 
the northern regions have ever been found in southern 
climates. Had these animals died natural deaths, in 
their proper climate, then the bodies would not have 
been found in such masses. But that they were car- 
ried no farther northward than Siberia, is evident from 
there being no remains of any animals, besides those 
of whales, found in the mountains of Greenland. 
That this great rush of waters was from the south, or 
south east, is further evident (he thinks) from the 
south east sides of almost all great mountains being 
much steeper than their north, or north west sides, as 
they necessarily would be, if the force of a great body 
of water fell upon them in that direction." 

However great the probability may be, of this rush 
of waters from the south, it does not account for a 


general current setting from the north east to the south 
west, of which we have the most indubitable proofs, 
in this country. 

Dr. Clark says, of the fountains of the great deep 
being broken up, and the windows of Heaven being 
opened : " It appears that an immense quantity of 
waters occupied the centre of the antediluvian earth ; 
and as these burst forth by the order of God, the cir- 
cumambient strata must sink, in order to fill up the 
vacuum occasioned by the elevated waters. This is 
probably, what is meant by the breaking up the foun- 
tains of the great deep. These waters, with the seas 
on the earth's surface, might be deemed sufficient to 
drown the whole globe." 

1 am not a little surprized to hear an opinion so im- 
probable in itself, coming from Dr. Clarke, as in say- 
ing that " the circumambient strata must sink, in 
order to fill up the vacuum occasioned by the elevated 
waters." In this case, as there was no apparent ne- 
cessity that the " circumambient strata should sink 
in," would it not have been as easy for that Almighty 
Being who created the earth, to support these circum- 
ambient strata in their natural place, as to have elevat- 
ed the waters from this supposed cavern, for the ex- 
press purpose of inundating the world ? To deny it 
is impious. 

Another circumstance that militates against such an 
opinion is, that if the circumambient strata sunk " in 
order to fill up the vacuum occasioned by the elevated 


wafers" how, let me ask, were the elevated waters 
ever to return again ? 

Unless this vacuum was, in the wisdom of an al- 
mighty providence, reserved for the subsidence of the 
waters which once occupied it, the world might have 
remained inundated to this day. 

To determine, with any degree of precision, what is 
actually meant by the " fountains of the great deep'* 
is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible. 

If the waters which caused the general deluge, or 
Noatic flood, were contained in " the centre of the an- 
tediluvian earth," and it could be ascertained from 
what point or points the waters issued, we might 
be enabled to determine what influence they could 
have had in causing a general current across the conti- 
nent of America, as well as the whole Atlantic Ocean, 
which follows of course. 

But the circumstance is, of itself, so improbable, and 
so completely enveloped in the most profound obscuri- 
ty, that no inference can be drawn that is in favour of 
a general current arising out of this cause. 

There is, however, one source, though not establish- 
ed in the opinions of the philosophers of the present 
day, which carries with it a great degree of plausibili- 
ty if not probability. To it I shall refer, until a better 

It has been asserted by a writer of no common 
celebrity, that the probable cause of the general deluge 
was the entire melting of the ices at the two poles of 
the earth and that this was occasioned by " the sun 

deviating from the ecliptick," an idea as ingenious as 
the circumstance would be novel ; but which, howev- 
er strange and absurd it may appear, carries with it as 
much probability as that of the sun's being made to 
stand still, (in scripture language) in the days of 

Be this as it may, it is not my intention to advocate 
the theory of St. Pierre in the present instance ; neith- 
er shall I pretend that the circumstance alluded to, is, 
by any means established, since no positive testimony 
can possibily be adduced to substantiate the fact 
nevertheless, I shall assume the position, and that 
with no other view than to enable us to trace up and 
comprehend, some of the probable consequences na- 
turally resulting from an event so momentous in its 
kind, and so stupendous in its operations ; and to see 
how far they tally with various geological appearances 
that are presented to view in different parts of the 
United States. 

That two immense regions of ice have accumulated, 
and remain at the poles, is certain. That the one at 
the north pole extends south about twenty degrees ; 
and that of the south pole about twenty-three or twen- 
ty-five degrees north. That they extend to the north 
and south into regions unknown is highly probable. 
That if we admit the possibility of the earth's chang- 
ing its position, (of which mention is made in several 
instances) so that the sun should pass over the poles, 
the consequences must have been such as to mock all 
human efforts of conception. But from what we see 


and know, we may venture to contemplate a scene so 
vast, nor hazard the imputation, though w e indulge in 
extravagant conjecture, of exceeding the bounds of 

Let us now suppose that the earth with its axis was 
changed from north and south, to east and west ; and 
that the sun passed immediately over the two poles of 
the earth, upon an unknown meridian. The result, 
we mast readily believe, would have been the certain 
and inconceivably rapid dissolution of those immense 
hemispheres of ice. For as soon as the sun had miti- 
gated the intensity of the cold, and, by its genial in- 
fluence, softened the temperature of those cheerless 
regions, the yielding ice, in gushing torrents, must 
have rushed, in wild confusion, from their glassy sum- 
mits, and sought a wonted level in the neighbouring 
deep. In a few short days the atmosphere at the 
poles must have become heated, and the melting of the 
ices general ; while each pole was changed into an 
almost boundless fountain, pouring, incessantly, its 
mighty waters into the adjacent seas. 

I shall now, at least for a while, confine my remarks 
more particularly to a view of the north pole. 

From this pole, there are but two outlets ; the one 
into the Pacific ocean, through the comparatively nar- 
row channel at Bheering's straits ; the other, through 
an immense channel into the Atlantic ocean, betwe n 
the coast of Greenland, and north cape on the northern, 
coast of Lapland. These two outlets are situated al- 
most diametrically opposite to each other on the two 


sides of the globe : and whether the sun passed through 
the meridian of the Atlantic ocean and south sea, as 
is pretended, or upon a meridian passing through the 
continent of North and South America, and Asia, is 
immaterial in the present view, since by far the great- 
est proportion of the waters must have been thrown in- 
to the Atlantic ocean. No sooner was this operation^ 
established, and this accession of strength and power 
thrown into the Atlantic ocean in particular, than its 
tide began to rise above its common limits, accompani- 
ed by a consequent current, both constantly increasing, 
the one in height, the other in rapidity proportioned to 
the increase of power at the focus. These, following 
the natural course of the Atlantic, soon swelled its wa- 
ters above the shores of the atljacent continents, over 
which they began to flow in riotous disorder. 

At the commencement of this frightful drama, it is 
highly probable that the current, issuing from the pole, 
was divided by the craggy heights of Spitzbergen, and 
a part thrown into the White Sea ; while the other, di- 
recting its force against the inhospitable shores of Lap- 
land, and the rocky cliffs of Sweden and Norway, was 
thrown back upon the eastern and southern coast of 
Greenland ; from thence in a south western direction, 
until it struck the south eastern coast of Labrador, along 
which it swept, through the straits of Bell-Isle, across 
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and along the Atlantic 
coast into the gulf of Mexico. The rapid dissolution of 
the ices at the pole, constantly progressing, and as con- 
stantly increasing the rapidity of the current and quail- 


tity of water in the ocean, it continued to rise in awful 
majesty, and threaten universal destruction by its re- 
sistless force, sweeping across the neighbouring con- 

A cursory view, or even a glance at the subject, will 
enable us to form an idea of the operations that must 
naturally have occurred, from this new order of things. 
The current, bursting through each avenue, swept in 
its course every yielding substance. In a short space 
of time, the southern and eastern coast of Labrador, 
over which this current was urged with increasing 
force, was desolated. The soil, which, before, had 
fertilized this rocky coast, was hurled adrift, and 
mingling with the waters, was carried across the coun- 
try into the gulf of St. Lawrence, and across a part of 
New-England, into the sea or general current of the 

The waters continuing to rise, soon inundated the 
frozen regions of Iceland and Greenland, and urging 
on their precipitous course, swept across Davis's straits, 
and rolled their tumultuous surges into Hudson's bay, 
embracing the whole coast of Labrador, while the un- 
equal current of the St. Lawrence was forced back 
and upwards to its parent source. 

At this stage of the general deluge, while the waters 
were overwhelming the earth, the awful denunciations 
of an offended God were fast fulfilling, by the sure 
and utter extirmination of every beast of the field, and 
every creeping thing that creepeth upon the face of the 

earth. At length, the floods of the pole forming a 



junction with "BaffinVbay, and the Aortic sea, defy- 
ing all bounds, overrun their ancient limits, and hurled 
their united forces, in dread confusion, across the 
bleak regions of the north to consummate the awful 
scene. Thus lakes and seas uniting, formed one 
common Ocean, which was propelled with inconceiva- 
ble rapidity across the continent between the great 
chains of mountains, into the Gulf of Mexico, and, 
probably, over the unpeopled wilds of Smith America, 
into the southern ocean. 

Let us now see what were the probable consequen- 
ces, when examined in this view, as it respects the 
geological appearances which prevail in almost every 
part of this country. 

As has been observed, the operation of the current, 
flowing across the south eastern coast of Labrador, 
which was immediately exposed to its fury, was to 
deprive it almost, if not entirely, of its soil which it 
carried away ; but being too small in quantity, no vi- 
sible alluvial formation was occasioned upon the 
coasts, at the eastern extremity of the United States. 
Nevertheless a considerable change has been wrought 
upon the coasts near the sea in those parts, particular- 
ly on the margins of rivers having a northwardly and 
southwardly direction. Professor Cleaveland, in a 
letter to me on this subject, observes " I have attend- 
ed the digging of several wells in this vicinity (Bruns- 
wick, Maine,) which gave decided indications of impor- 
tant, but probably gradual changes on our shores. 
These indications appear in the existence of blue clay 

at the depth of twenty feet below the present soil, per- 
fectly resembling that which is taken from the borders 
of creeks and bays of salt water, in its odour and other 

This clay contains numerous bivalves, and some 
univalve-shells now found on our sea shore ; and 
rolled stones of granite or gneiss, with those little 
shells adhering, which seamen call barnacles* One 
of these wells is twenty miles from the sea shore, 
and three or four miles from the nearest tide-water^ 
above which, it is elevated perhaps seventy feet." 

Although the whole coast of Labrador was subject 
to the operations of this current until it was nearly de- 
prived of its soil ; yet, owing to the direction of the 
curreut, and distance or extent of country over which 
it had to pass, that is, from the coast of Labrador to 
the mouth of the Hudson river, littk or no alluvial 
formation is perceivable until we come to the mouth 
of Connecticut river, or rather the east end of Long- 
Island, which is a little south east of the Connecti- 
cut river, and is strictly alluvial, a distance of near- 
ly seventeen degrees of longitude and about ten 
of latitude. 

I may here be "permitted to repeat, that as soon a? 
the waters of the ocean had risen to a sufficient height, 
and the general current had acquired a power, suffi- 
cient to check the current of the river St, Lawrence, 
in direct opposition to which it was urging its force, a 
new order of things was established, and a wonderful 
increase of power added ; for the waters of Baffin's 

and Hudson's bay, overflowing their ordinary limits, 
poured their whole forces upon the great Lakes, Su- 
perior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario ; which, 
being no longer able to discharge themselves by the 
St. Lawrence, overrun their ancient limits, and, being 
at first confined by the great chains of mountains, 
spread destruction over the land, and rushed, with in- 
conceivable rapidity, into the general current of the 
Atlantic ocean and gulf of Mexico. The consequence 
was, that the face of the country being overflown, and 
for a long time saturated with water, and as constant- 
ly subjected to the operations of an impetuous current, 
the soil and earth were torn up, carried, and deposited 
along upon the coast of America, from Long-Island to 
the bottom of the bay of Mexico ; and in proportion to 
the extent of country, as I have before observed, over 
which this current passed 5 to the quantity of soil, and 
rapidity of current, when unaltered or changed by lo- 
cal circumstances, so is the extent or breadth of 
alluvial deposites from Long Island to the bay of 

For example, the distance or extent of country 
over which this current flowed, from Sandwich river 
on the coast of Labrador, to the latitude of Cape Cod, 
is about twelve degrees of latitude. In this distance, 
as has been already remarked, there is little or no 
alluvial soil on the^coast. 

But in consequence of the coast of Labrador stretch- 
ing away north westwardly, from cape Charles to cape 
Chidley, or Button Island, the distance is greatly in- 


i Teased ; so that the difference of latitude between 
Cape Chidley and New- York, is about 29, a difference 
so great that we need not wonder, when we consider 
that almost all the rivers south of the St. Lawrence, 
and it excepted, flow in a southwardly direction, and 
favourable to the current ; that w r e should find a por- 
tion of alluvial formation equal, at least, to the breadth 
of the east end of Long Island ; or even the west end 
which is still much broader. Nor need we wonder at 
the increase of alluvial formation from New-York to 
the bay of Delaware, if we admit, that by this general 
current, that of the St. Lawrence was inverted, and 
flowing upwards in the direction of Champlain and so 
on, between the chains of mountains into the Ocean. 

Nay more ; if the alluvial district, contained between 
New-York and the bay of Delaware, could have 
been formed by a general current flowing over the 
face of the country, from the coast of Labrador to the 
latitude of Philadelphia, which place is, in fact, on the 
southern border of the* primitive range, we need not be 
at a loss to account for the breadth of alluvial forma- 
tion on the coast of Florida, and in the neighbourhood 
of the Mississippi river; when the current must have 
necessarily passed over an extent of more than 50 de- 
grees of latitude : and also, a proportionate breadth 
of alluvial formation throughout the whole intermedi- 
ate space. 

This however will be more fully comprehended by 
an attentive examination of the map of the United 
States, including the British possessions in North 


America.* I shall, in the next place, take notice of a 
variety of important facts, as related by several travel- 
lers, who have, at different times, explored the uncul- 
tivated wilds, as well as the more civilized parts of 
this great continent, in order to prove, not only the ex- 
istence of a general current from the north-east to the 
south-west, but to see how far they are calculated to 
support the opinion, that the north pole was the great 
focus whence issued this current, the cause of so many 
and such stupendous results. 

I have said that one of the consequences of this cur- 
tent was, the rending of the soil from its primitive bed, 
particularly, where most exposed, and bearing it away, 
leaving the rocks literally bare. 

Hvriot, in his travels through the Canadas, speak- 
ing of Newfoundland, observes, "Besides the bays 
already noticed, this island contains a variety of others, 
particularly on the eastern coast, among which, two 

* When this work was first announced to the publick, it was 
intended to have introduced several drawings, representing sec- 
tions of alluvial districts, where the alluvion and other formations, 
alternate with each other: and also, a correct map of North Ame- 
rica, embracing the Arctic sea and north pole, in order to afford 
the reader a correct view of the source and direction of these sup- 
posed currents, and of the probable consequences : but not having 
received that encouragement and support, which is indispensably 
requisite in such an undertaking, it became necessary, in order to 
avoid the risk of pecuniary difficulties, to pursue, though reluctant- 
ly, a course more consistent with prudence and economy. Hence 
they have been omitted. 

- 71 

are remarkable for their extent ; those of Trinity and 
Conception. ^Near the latter is the harbour of St. 
John, which is secure and well fortified, bordered by 
dark and gloomy rocks which exhibit a barren inhos- 
pitable appearance : the country, on a nearer view of 
its soil, belies not the character of its rude uninterest- 
ing features, which, amid their nakedness, display 
neither grandeur nor sublimity." Page 38. 

In describing the country on the north side of the 
river St. Lawrence, in the vicinity of the river Moisa, 
he observes, " no country can exhibit a more wild as- 
pect, than that which here extends on either side of 
the river. Stunted trees, rocks and sand, compose 
these inhospitable and desolate territories, which cannot 
bou*t of an acre of soil capable of yielding any useful 

The same traveller, in speaking of the vicinity of 
Camourasca, observes, " the sulphurous springs found 
here, and the immense masses of broken rocks which 
appear to have been thrown together by some violent, 
and uncommon effort of nature, afford grounds for sup- 
posing that this part of the country has undergone ma- 
terial changes." Page 70. 

In Mr. Hearn's Journey to the Arctic sea, and in 
his description of Marble island, on which Messrs. 
Knight and Barlow were lost, together with the whole 
ship's crew, when on a voyage of discovery, we find 
the following ; " The figure head of the ship, and also 
the guns, &c. were sent home (England) to the compa- 
ny, and are certain proofs that Messrs Knight and 

Barlow had been lost on that inhospitable island, 
where neither stick nor stump was to be seen, and 
which lies near sixteen miles from the main land. In- 
deed the main is little better, being a jumble of bar- 
ren hills and rocks, destitute of every kind of her- 
bage except mo88 9 $c. ; and, at that part, the woods 
are several hundred miles from the sea side."* 

Further, " With regard to that part of my instruc- 
tions, which directs me to observe the nature of the 
soil, &c. it must be observed, that during the whole 
time of my absence from the fort, 1 was invariably con- 
fined to stony hills and barren plains all the sum- 

In the latitude of about 68 north, longitude 119 
west of London, they fell in with the Stony Mountains, 
" And surely," says Mr. Hearn, " no part of the 
world better deserves that name. On our first ap- 
proaching these mountains, they appeared to be a 
confused heap of stones, utterly inaccessible to the 
foot of man." 

And of the face of the whole country, inhabited by 
what are called the northern indians, he says, " The 
tract of land inhabited by the northern indians is very 
extensive, reaching from the fifty ninth to the sixty 
eighth degree of north latitude, and from east to west is 
upwards of five hundred miles wide. It is bounded by 
Churchill river on the south, Athapusean Indians' 
country on the west ; the Dog-ribbed and Copper In- 

* Hearn's Journey, Introduction page xxix. f Page xviii. 


dians' country on the north ; and by Hudson's bay on 
the east. The land throughout that whole tract of coun- 
try is scarcely any thing, but one solid mass of rocks 
and stones, and, in most parts very hilly, particular- 
ly to the westward."* &c. 

Mr. Me R'enzie (in his travels, or voyages) speaking 
of Turtle portage, and lake of that name observes, " At 
the first vase from whence to the great river, the coun- 
try has the appearance of having been overrun by fire, 
and consists in general of huge rocky hills ."f 

In describing the French river, which discharges 
itself into Lake Huron, he says, " There is hardly a 
foot of soil to be seen from one end of the French river 
to the other ; its banks consisting of hills of entire rock. 
The coast of the lake is the same but lower."J 

In describing Lake Superiour he says, " Along its 
north shore, is the safest navigation, as it is a continued 
mountainous embankment of rock from three hundred 
to one thousand jive hundred feet high." 

The face of the country (on Lake Superiour) offers 
a wild scene of huge hills and rocks, separated by 
stony vallies, lakes, and ponds." 

At page 61 he observes, " This lake (Winipic) in 
common with those of this country, are bounded with 
black and grey rocks." 

After giving a general view of the regions to the 
north and east of the lakes, he* observes; " Of this 

* Hearn's Journey, page 227. t McKenzie's Travels, pa^e 36. 

t McKenzie's Travels, page 37. Page 49. 



great tract more than half is represented as barren and 
broken ; displaying a surface of rock and fresh water 
lakes, with a very scattered and scanty proportion of 
soil. Such is the whole coast of Labrador and the land 
called east main, to the west of the heights which di- 
vide the waters running into the river and gulf of St. 
Lawrence, from those flowing into Hudson's bay. It 
is, consequently inhabited, only by savages, whose 
numbers are proportioned to the scantiness of the soil ; 
nor is it probable, from the same cause, that they will 

And further " the proportion of it (the soil) that is 
fit for cultivation, is very small, and is still less in the 
interiour parts ; it is also very difficult of access ; and 
whilst any land remains uncultivated to the south of 
it, there will be no temptation to settle it." 

Capt. Cook, when endeavouring to find a north 
west passage, observes " that the appearance of the 
country, (North America) in latitude 57 3' north, dis- 
covered little else than naked rocks."^ 

He likewise observes that the barren isles in la- 
titude f>9 degrees north, are composed of naked 
rocks. { 

Many parts, both of Europe and Asia, in those la- 
titudes discover the same inhospitable aspect, and 
which are mentioned by several travellers, particu- 
larly, Wraxall, who in his Description of Stockholm, 

* Ream's Journey, p. 426, f Cooke's Voyages, vol. II. p. 186< 
\ Vol. II. page 193. 


observes, " Agriculture cannot exert her powers, not 
labour produce harvests, where nature has denied the 
means. The eye discovers nothing on every side ex- 
cept firs and rugged rocks ; and it would seem as if 
famine had here fixed her eternal residence. 

" There is somewhat uncommonly savage and in- 
hospitable in the whole circumjacent country here. 
Even in this lovely season, when all animate and in- 
animate nature wakes from the long slumber of a po- 
lar winter, every thing is joyless and unfertile, and 
the rays of the sun are reflected from the expanse of 
stone that invests the city round on every side, and 
from whose bosom no verdure springs to regale the 

To what, let me ask, shall we attribute the deficien- 
cy of soil throughout these gloomy and inhospitable 
regions? Or why this almost uniform barrenness, and 
even repulsive sterrility and naked rocks, throughout 
almost all the high northern latitudes of North Ame- 
rica, and even of Europe and Asia ?f Were they ne- 
ver covered with soil like other parts of the world ? 
doubtless they were. Or, if they have once experienc- 
ed the unappeased wrath, the eternal denunciations of 
an offended God, why have not the different portions 
of the globe, in a more southern latitude, experienced 
it in like manner ? It will be said, perhaps, that they 
have in a considerable degree. In reply to this, it 
may be observed that if there are a few solitary in- 

* Wraxall's Travels. t Wraxall's Description of Sweden, 


stances of this kind, they bear no proportion, in point 
of extent and magnitude, to those under considera- 

It would appear, that nothing but the constant and 
irresistible force of a general current, and that too 
issuing from the pole, could have produced such pal- 
pable results. This opinion is strengthened by the 
following circumstances. 

Mr. Clinton, in a work that I have already men- 
tioned, has taken notice of several very interesting 
geological facts, which are so intimately connected 
with my present view of the subject, that I shall glad- 
ly make use of them, as being, perhaps, the most au- 
thentick and correct that have been given us by any 
historian or traveller. 

He observes,* "The appearance of the lands be- 
longing to the Holland company, particularly from Ba- 
tavia to lake Erie, furnishes strong indications of the 
recession of that lake. Near Vandeventer's tavern, 
in ]N iagara county, about twenty- two miles from the 
lake, there is a perpendicular descent which is said 
to extend from the Genesee river to Black Rock ; be- 
tween it and the stony ridge, which runs from the Ge- 
nesee river to Lewistown, there is an immense valley 
twenty miles across, called Tonewanto valley. The 
precipice at Vandeventer's is from one hundred to two 
hundred feet. u The distance, or extent of this ridge, 

* In note 7th, page 51, of his Introductory Lecture to the Lit- 
erary and Philosophical Society. 


from east to west, is about 78 miles." And further, 
" Its general altitude above the neighbouring land is 
thirty feet, and its width varies considerably ; in 
some places it is not more than forty yards ; its ele- 
vation above the level of lake Ontario is perhaps 136 
feet, to which it descends by a gradual slope, and its 
distance from that water, is between six and ten miles. 
There is every reason to believe that this remarkable 
ridge was the ancient boundary of this great lake." 

Of this latter remark there can be no doubt. But 
before I proceed to make any comments on the above 
quotations, I shall otter a few remarks on the subject 
of lake Ontario. 


IT is much to be regretted that Mr. Clinton did not, 
(or could not consistent with his plan,) give us a more 
general description of this interesting lake; for the 
want of which, I am obliged to depend on verbal, 
though respectable information from several sources. 
That is, that the alluvions formations on Lake Ontario, 
are by far the greatest, or most extensive on the north 
side of the lake. That it extends from near the 
western part of the lake, northwardly, almost to Lake 
Nipisin ; from thence north-eastwardly embracing the 
river U taw as, and a part of the country of the an- 
cient Algonquins ; thence south-eastwardly taking in 

Whether this be true or not, Mr. Heriot says, 
" The land on the north east coast of Lake Ontario 
is low and, in some situations, marshy/' therefore, 
doubtless composed of alluvion. 

With respect to the alluvions formation on the south 
side of Lake Ontario, Mr. Clinton observes, " These 
facts evince, beyond doubt, that Lake Ontario has re- 
ceded from this elevated ground ; and the cause of 
this retreat, must be ascribed to its having enlarged its 
former outlet. " A. similar opinion is likewise enter- 
tained of the north east shore of Lake Erie : but are 


there corresponding appearances of a recession in 
other parts oi these lakes? Is there a like quantity of 
alluvions formation at the west end of Lake Ontario ? 
On the northern shore, and west end of Lake Erie ? 
Or in fact, are similar districts to be found on the 
shores of Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superiour ? I 
believe not; and if so, or indeed, if there are not 
corresponding appearances on the shores generally, of 
Lakes Erie and Ontario, with the exception of rocky 
or mountainous districts, we cannot with propriety con- 
sider those two cases as actual proofs of a recession, 
exsicc-ition, or wasting away of the lakes ; on the con- 
trary , it is rather an encroachment of the land, upon 
the water ; and since there are not similar districts on 
the other great lakes, whose superficies are not only 
equal but much greater, regulated by the same laws, 
and subject to the same operations, it seems necessary 
to look to some other source for the cause of appear- 
ances so interesting, and peculiar to these two lakes. 

Admitting then the existence of a general current 
setting across the continent from north and east, to south 
and west, the problem is easily solved ; for while the 
current was flowing in direct opposition to that of the 
St. Lawrence, it was likewise flowing in a southwest- 
erly direction across the East Main and coast of 
Labrador, from Cape Chidley almost in a line with 
Lakes Erie and Ontario, elevating the soil in its 
course and depositing it on their shores, the same as 
is deposited on our sea coast. 


But it will be asked, why is not the same effect pro- 
duced on the shores of Lakes Huron, Michigan, and 
particularly Superiour, whose northern shore Mr. 
McICenzie tells us, " is a continued mountainous em- 
bankment of rock, from three hundred, to one thou- 
sand five hundred feet high." 

In reply, I have remarked that in proportion to the 
extent of country or superficies over which this cur- 
rent had to pass, so will be the extent and breadth of 
alluvious deposites both on lakes as well as seas. And 
this, I think, is fully verified in the present case ; for 
the distance from Hudson's bay, or the southern part 
called James' bay, across to Lake Superiour in a 
south-westerly direction, is but about five degrees ; 
while that from Cape Chidley to Lake Ontario is 
about twenty degrees ; and more than half of this 
immense district Mr. McKenzie tells us " is destitute 
of soil, presenting nothing but enormous rocks." 

Admitting that this country was once covered with 
soil, though in a sparing degree, need we be surprised 
that a small quantity of alluvial deposite should be 
formed on the shores of Ontario and a part of Erie ? 
Nay, admitting the truth of this position, and that the 
space between the Alleghany Ridge and Rocky 
Mountains, to have been once an inland sea like that 
of the Red Sea ; need we wonder that it should be 
filled up ; while an impetuous current was tearing up 
the soil, and sweeping it over a surface extending 
from the Arctic sea, to the mouth of the Missouri 
river, a distance equal to about 40 degrees of lati- 


tade ? Need we wonder that this space, now rich in 
cultivation, should abound with the remains of nume- 
rous and varied species of shell fish, while those im- 
mense focusses, Hudson's Bay, Lakes Superiour, 
Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario, and many others 
were yielding up their treasures to the impetuosity of 
a resistless current, to mingle in promiscuous ruin, and 
be swept across the country and deposited in this, now 
extinct sea ? Indeed, in this view, it appears by no 
means problematical. 

But to return to Lake Ontario. Not only does the- 
extent of country over which this supposed current 
must have run; and the proportionate alluvial deposite 
on the shores of Ontario, favour the opinion that these 
deposites were actually occasioned by this cause only ; 
but there are others of equal, if not more importance 
in support of this hypothesis. 

Mr. Clinton observes, when describing the ridge in 
the vicinity of the south shore of Lake Ontario, that 
" The gravel with which it is covered was deposited 
there by the waters, and the stones every where indi- 
cate, by their shape, the abrasion and agitation pro- 
duced by that element. All along the borders of the 
western rivers and lakes, there are small mounds, or 
heaps of gravel of a conical form erected by the fish 
(it is said) for the protection of their spawn ; these 
fish banks are found at the foot of the ridge on the side 
towards the lake : on the opposite aide none have been 


Here, I am at a loss to determine, whether Mr. C. 
meant on the opposite shore of Lake Ontario, or the 
opposite side of the ridge. But it is of little importance 
which of the two was intended, since I will venture to 
question, whether there is a single instance of these 
fish-mounds to be found on the northern shore of Lake 
Ontario, either above, or beneath the water. 

These water-worn stones or pebbles, I have before 
remarked, were, probably, formed in the course of 
ages, by the currents of rivers, and carried down 
their streams and spread over the beds of those rivers 
in immense quantities, as is the case at this day, in a 
thousand instances. 

Such was probably the case with Ontario ; and as 
soon as the general current had acquired sufficient 
velocity and power, they were elevated from the bot- 
tom and deposited with the alluvion on the shores, be- 
cause the ridge, or bank of any river, which is the 
same thing, being higher than the waters, they were 
obstructed in their course, and consequently deposited 
with the sand and gravel, the latter of which, in the 
present instance, were subsequently collected together 
into heaps by the fishes of some kind or other. 

Such is precisely the case on the western shore of 
the Connecticut river, for the distance of about three or 
four miles below tlje Falls, where there are hundreds 
of these mounds, of a low pyramidal form, from the 
size or quantity of half a bushel, to that of eight or ten 
bushels, and what is no less extraordinary than fa- 
vourable to my hypothesis, is, that not one single in- 


stance of the kind has, I believe, ever been found on 
the eastern shore of that river. 

The same may be observed on the west side of the 
Susquehannah, from six to ten miles above tide water.* 

A similar fact is likewise mentioned by Mr. Bar- 
tram, as existing on the shores of Broad river, which 
discharges its waters into that of the Savanna. " The 
waters at this place/' he says, " were still and shoal, 
and flowed over a bed of gravel just beneath a rocky 
rapid ; in this eddy shoal were a number of little gra- 
velly pyramidal hills, whose summits rose almost to 
the surface of the water, very artfully constructed by 
a species of Cray fish, (cancer macrourus) which inha- 
bited them."f 

These are not the only circumstances which Mr. C. 
mentions, that are favourable to my views of this sub- 
ject, exclusive of which, I could adduce numerous 
other cases equally favourable to the opinion ; but one 
or two of which, I shall mention in the present in- 

I have been informed by a gentleman of respectabi- 
lity, who was a witness to the fact, that while the Bri- 
tsih were employed in erecting a fort at Kingston, on 
lake Ontario, in 1814, they discovered, at the depth of 
fifteen feet below the surface, a variety of seeds lying 

* For this fact, I am indebted to Dr. R. W. Hall, who fur- 
ther observes, " The fishes which form these mounds, are a specieg 
of small mullet or gudgeon. They elevate the stones by suction, 
and deposite them on the mound, as I have often seen." 

t Bartrain's Travels, page 43. 


in the earthy veins between the strata of lime stone 
rock ; and in which they had doubtless lain for many 
ages, in a perfect state of preservation, so much so 
as to have subsequently produced entire and perfect 
plants of their several kinds. Among these are the 
Areca Cispitosa, Poa Alp ma, Poa Quinquefida, Uniola 
Gracilis; Festuca not described; Arundo Canadeusis; 
Elymus Canadensis, and a Cerex, resembling, Kra- 
seri. These plants are completely alpine, and are 
peculiar to the mountains to the northward of the 

To what shall we attribute these singular phenome- 
na, but to the agency of a general current setting from 
the northward in a south westerly direction? We 

* The circumstance of seeds having been found deposited be- 
tween the strata of lime stone, may, with some, appear doubtful. 
But it must be recollected, that the lime stone spoken of in the 
present instance, is secondary ; and that it is by no means uncom- 
mon to find organick remains in similar situations, particularly those 
of vegetables. 

Patrin speaks of a variety that is found in the secondary slate, 
and about the coal mines in the environs of St. Etienne. He has 
also given a very accurate representation of a specimen containing 
five different impressions of vegetables. Among which are the 
seeds, or, in his own words, * the fruit which has always been 
considered as resembling the grains of coffee, and which in gene- 
ral is true. I have found specimens still surrounded with their 
membranes, and it appears that it is the fruit of an umbelliferous 
plant, perhaps of a Thapsie." 

In the same specimen is likewise represented a remarkable 
Polypodium, " resembling the Polypodium Unitum of the Isle of 
France," and still bearing its fruit or seeds in fine preservation. 


can easily conceive how seeds are transported to a 
great distance from the place of their growth, by 
winds, and currents of rivers, in which case they are 
soon after destroyed, or vegetate anew. But in this 
instance, it is no easy matter to determine with certain- 
ty, how these different seeds were transported from a 
distance, precipitated, or deposited, and preserved in 
a mass that must have, subsequently, become carbo- 
nate of lime, unless we admit that they were sudden- 
ly transported in troubled waters, saturated with earth, 
as suddenly deposited at that point, perhaps by some 
whirlpool or eddy, and the superincumbent mass as 
suddenly changed into lime- stone. 

It is not only necessary that these seeds should be 
suddenly transported, deposited and fixed in their 
gangue, if I may so call it, but it is, indispensably ne- 
cessary that it should have taken place in the autumn 
or winter immediately after their growth or maturity; 
and that too, when both the air and water were at such 
a state of temperature, as to be totally unfavourable to 
vegetation ; otherwise, these seeds must have germi- 
nated, and consequently have been destroyed. Ad- 

The same specimen also contains a fruit, which is considered as 
that of an exotick plant) and on the subject of which Patrin ob- 
serves, "The learned Jussieu has in possession numerous exam- 
ples, (of the kind,) very well characterised ; but he has declared 
that he knows not to what genus it belongs." See Patrin's Natu- 
ral History of Minerals, Tome 5, page 326 and 7; and also Phil- 
lip's Description of Organick Remains in the Island of Sheppey. 
Outline of Mineralogy and Geology, page 96. 


mitting this fact, and that they were transported by a 
current flowing from the north, it may have been the 
result of the general deluge, which, according to the 
author whom 1 have already quoted (St. Pierre ) hap- 
pened in the month of February and March. If this 
circumstance be true, it will enable us to determine, 
why the seeds were preserved from germinating or 
perishing, and also, why those immense masses of gra- 
nite, mentioned by Mr. Drake in his Picture of Cincin- 
nati, should be found upon an alluvial soil, at least 
one hundred leagues from the nearest granite, in 
place, on the north 5 and perhaps one thousand leagues 
from the nearest on the south ; for it is well known, 
that large masses of rocks of different kinds are often 
enveloped in ice, and, by the freshes of rivers or tides 
of the sea, are raised and transported to a great dis- 
tance, before they are disengaged. This circumstance 
has been taken notice of by several writers. 

Tilloch has observed that masses of stone are some- 
times transported by cakes of ice, in which they hap- 
pen to be enveloped ; a circumstance equally as probable 
as that of huge animals being transported, to a great 
distance, upon masses of floating ice, which frequently 
occurs. The great White Bear, from the arctic re- 
gions, and also the White Fox, are annually brought 
from the northern coast of Greenland by these means, 
and cast upon the coast of Iceland, to the great annoy- 
ance of the inhabitants.* While this circumstance 

* See Troils's Description of Iceland. 

goes far to prove, that those enormous islands of ice 
were formed in the neighbourhood of some continent, 
or island, it heightens the probability that they might 
at the some time contain vast fragments of rocks. 

Mr. Bakewell, in his introduction to geology, (page 
55 J makes the following remarks, " Vast masses of 
rock near the sea shore, are sometimes enveloped in 
fields of ice, and raised up and transported to distant 
countries. Ice is specifically lighter than water ; eve- 
ry cubic yard will support a stone of one hundred 
pounds weight : hence we need not be surprised at the 
insulated rocks of granite, that are sometimes found in 
situations far remote from primary mountains. These 
blocks have been floated over the ocean, and their angu- 
lar points and edges defended from attrition during 
their passage, by the surrounding ice. In this manner 
large fragments of granite, and other primary rocks, 
may have been brought upon our coast (England) 
from Norway and Greenland/' 

The truth of Mr. EakewelVs opinion is strongly 
corroborated by the following fact to which 1 was 
an eye witness. In the winter of 1780, well known 
for being one of the severest ever experienced in this 
country, the ice in the Connecticut river was increased 
to a great thickness and solidity : In many instances, 
the water in the river was literally frozen to the bot- 
tom. In the month of January, as usual, there came 
a great and sudden thaw, accompanied with incessant 
torrents of rain, which appeared to spread over an im- 
nense extent of country. The consequences were such 


as might be expected ; the snow which was over five 
feet deep, was quickly melted ; every stream as sud- 
denly became a river ; and every river threatened to 
become an ocean. The Connecticut river was very 
soon raised almost to a level with its banks, and the 
ice which was two and a half feet thick, was borne 
away by the current in the most terrifick majesty ; for 
wherever it was impeded in its progress, by an island, 
or the narrowing of the shores of the river, it was 
broken up, and immense masses raised into the air, 
until their elevated positions, preponderating over 
their floating foundations, were left to fall on the sur- 
rounding ice with a report, equal in some instances to 
that of small pieces of ordnance. 

This scene of awful grandeur was extended for 
miles to the north and south, and while thousands 
were contemplating the frightful spectacle, the ice, 
being very solid, and hurried on by a powerful cur- 
rent, became obstructed at the mouth of the straits 
twenty-five miles below near Middletown, and the 
whole force of the river for a short time was impeded : 
the water set back and upwards, and enormous masses 
of ice were hurried over the banks of the river, into 
the creeks and larger streams to a considerable dis- 
tance from the river, Lito the meadows and low 
grounds : when on a sudden, from the pressure above, 
the obstruction at the straits gave way, and this threat- 
ening appearance almost in a minute vanished : the 
water fell to its natual state, and left huge masses of 
transparent ice in. the meadows and intervales, to be 


removed only by the powerful influence of a summer's 
sun. When this was accomplished in the following 
season, large pieces of rocks and heaps of rolled 
pebbles were left exposed to view on an alluvial sur- 
face, on which, before, a stone could not be found for 
its weight in gold. These rocks and stones from their 
characters, were known to be the same as those which 
composed the bed of the river many leagues above. 

Those masses of granite mentioned by Mr. DraJce^ 
have been a subject of wonder and surprise with 
many, and, in this instance, well may they excite a 
degree of curiosity : not because we see masses of 
primitive rocks entirely out of place, as in alluvial 
formations ; or at a great distance from where they 
were probably formed. This is by no means an un- 
common occurrence* We see them in various parts of 
the United States 5* numerous instances of the kind 

* But a few years since, in digging away, and levelling the road 
in the town of Windsor, in Connecticut, and at the distance of 
nine miles from Hartford, a part of a rock was uncovered, which, 
from its apparent size, it was found necessary to remove. This 
was accomplished, and it still remains in the highway. It is of 
granite of an unusual kind : the quartz and felspar are in fine 
grains, with a proportion of black hornhlend ; the whole intermixed 
with small irregular and isolated masses of black mica. Its weight 
may be one ton, or a ton and a half. Its form is more singular, 
perhaps than its composition, being of two irregular masses joined 
by a kind of neck, the curve of which has the appearance of having 
been hollowed out on two sides by the operations of running 

waters, giving it the shape and resemblance of what are considered 



are likewise to be seen, in various parts of Europe., 
particularly in mountainous districts. 

Palassau, in his geological description of the Py- 
rennees, observes, that immense boulders of granite, 

Indian idols or gods. The base or body of the rock, is perhaps 
four times as large as the apex or head. 

In the same town, and in the parish of Wintonbury, at the dis- 
tance of seven miles in a S. W. direction from this rock, is another 
of the same kind of granite, and of nearly the same form and 
diaiensions. It stands at the end of a horse shed, near a publick 
Inn, kept by a Mr. Roberts; and serves as a substitute for steps, to 
assist in mounting on horseback. 

I have been thus particular in pointing out and describing these 
two rock?, for the following reasons. 

The first mentioned rock was found at the distance of half a 
mile west of the Connecticut river, in the second plain or bank, 
which is perfectly alluvial. 

The second stands, at present, about seven miles west of the 
Connecticut river on what may be considered the third plain or 
bank of the same river, being considerably higher than the first and 
second, and commencing upon the latter with a quick ascent, and is 
likewise perfectly alluvial. 

That these two masses were never formed where they now are, 
is as certain as that they now exist ; for not a rock of the kind is 
to be found, in place, for many leagues distant. 

The nearest granite to the east, is on the range called the east 
mountains, and is distant twelve miles, with the Connecticut river 
intervening. The nearest in a north direction, is in the state of 
Massachusetts, distant from thirty -five to forty miles. The nearest 
on the south, nearly the same. On the west, no granite occurs of 
any kind within the distance of twelve or fifteen miles, with the 
range of West Mountains intervening, which is entirely of a 
secondary formation. 


limestone, and other rocks, are frequently torn from 
the sides of those mountains, and carried to a great 
distance into the low grounds, by the resistless torrents 
of water that often rush from the steep and awful pre- 
cipicies of those stupendous snow-capped heights. 

This will not appear strange when we learn from the 
same author, that whole villages are sometimes swept 

Hence, the fair and unequivocal conclusion is, that they must have 
been brought from some unknown point or place to the northward, 
by currents of water, and deposited where they are ; and that too, 
most probably, enclosed in ice : for such is their form that if em- 
braced in a mass of ice of sufficient size, and elevated from the 
earth by water, they might be floated over the ocean without the 
chance of escape, except by the melting of the ice. 

Cases of a similar kind occur elsewhere, as will appear by the fol- 
lowing extract of a letter from Professor Cooper : " The shore of 
the north east bank of Susqueliannah, from Wilksbarre in Pennsyl- 
vania, down to Sunbury, is, or a few years ago was, abundant in 
sienitic rolled pebbles, from the size of a man's head to the size of a 
marble; red felspar, hornblend, and quartz; felspar and quartz; 
fe.spar and hornblend ; quartz and hornblend. 1 know of no 
sienitic formation in the vicinity : the nearest I have heard of from 
Col. Gibbs and Mr. McClure, is in the vicinity of Lake George, 
and to the eastward of it. These are annually shifting their places, 
being enveloped with ice, which when it is deposited on the shores 
lower down, the ice melts and leaves the stones. I have traced 
them from Wilksbarre as low down as Sunbury and even Harris- 

By what possible means, I would ask, were these stones, (of 
which there can be no mistake, for I have seen and examined them) 
brought from Lake George over land to Wilksbarre, except by a 
current setting from the north east, which is precisely the direction 
from the one to the other of these two places ? 


away, at the foot of those mountains by those dreadful 
torrents. These rocks not only prevail in numerous 
places at the foot of the mountains on the side of 
France, but also on that of Spain. 

Blocks of granite are found in the beds of some of 
the rivers, in the north west part of Yorkshire, and in 
the clay pits in Lancashire and Cheshire, at a great 
distance from any granitic mountain.* 

In the Baltic are a number of islands formed by 
alluvion, and in which are masses of primordial rocks 
of granite, brought, no doubt, by ice which was 
driven by the currents and lodged upon these is- 

" The Danish islands in the Archipelago are Fu- 
nen, Zeeland, and some small islands in the Kategate, 
named Lenoe, Anholt, and Samsoe. These are prin- 
cipally composed of zeest, or alluvion, and in these 
are found gravel and blocks of granite. v f 

" Fanoe, Rom, Sylt, and Amrom, were originally 
islands of the same nature as the neighbouring conti- 
nent, but have been since extended by marshes or al- 
luvion. These islands also contain gravel and blocks 
of primordial stones. "J 

" The shallow bottom between the island of Sylt^ 
and that of Fora, is alluvial, and there are found on it 
gravel and blocks of granite, 

* See Bakewell's Introduction to Geology, page 80. 

t See Jameson's Notes on Cuvier, page 202, J Page 204. 

Page 205. 


Cumer observes, that " In some countries, we find 
numerous, and prodigiously large blocks of primitive 
substances scattered over the surface of the secondary 
strata, and separated by deep vallies, from the peaks 
or ridges, whence these blocks must have been deriv- 

Mr. Jameson observes that " numerous large blocks, 
or masses of mountain rocks, are frequently met with, 
in almost every country in Europe, and frequently 
very far removed from their original situations. Swit- 
zerland, and the surrounding countries, present nume- 
rous and very interesting appearances of this kind. 

On the mountains of Jura, immediately in the line 
of direction of the Vallais, and nearly to the height of 
6000 feet, enormous blocks of granite are found resting 
upon the lime stone rock of that range of mountains. 
These blocks are of that species of granite, which 
forms the mountains of Ornex, belonging to the group 
of Mont Blanc ; hence, it is inferred that they must 
have been transported by the force of water, from that 
region to their present situation. ?? f 

Where large masses of rocks are found out of place, 
in the neighbourhood of high mountains, as the Pyren- 
nees ; we can easily conceive how those masses of gra- 
nite and other rocks, are removed out of their proper 
places, and deposited where they are, when we can ac- 
tually see them hurried down the impetuous current, 
seemingly, with as much facility as that of rolled peb- 

* Theory of the Earth, p. 43. Amer. Edit. t Page 190, 

bles. Such is the case on the sides of almost all high 
mountains ; and such was evinced in a very striking 
manner, in the neighbourhood of Baltimore, and in ma- 
ny places in Baltimore county and elsewhere, during 
the dreadful fall of rain which was experienced, in al- 
most every part of the United States, in July 1817. 
In this instance, rocks of granite of many tons weight 
were hurried down the streams a quarter of a mile or 
more, and that almost on a perfect level. 

With respect to the masses of granite in the state of 
Ohio, and in the neighbourhood of Cincinnati, and also 
in the states of Kentucky and Indiana, the case is very 
different. There are no mountains within a great dis- 
tance, from which they could have been torn ; neither 
are they on the bottom, or on the margins of rivers, 
-from whose sources they could have been brought, 
either by the current or by ice ; but promiscuously in- 
terspersed over a great extent of country, which is, be- 
yond all doubt, decidedly alluvial. 

Neither is there any known volcano from which they 
could have been thrown ; or, if there were such, the ju- 
dicious remarks of Dr. Drake on the subject, are suffi- 
cient to remove all doubts on that point, (viz :) " that 
their surfaces discover no signs of vitrification, and 
their distribution too much in groups to favour this 

Hence, there remains no point or incident on which 
the mind can fix, that will explain this phenomenon, 

* Drake's Picture of Cincinnati. 


except that of their having been transported by a cur- 
rent from high northern regions, enveloped in enor- 
mous masses of ice ; and from no other point ; for it 
would be absurd in the extreme, to suppose that masses 
of ice could have been formed in the torrid zone, or 
even within the temperate zone, of sufficient magnitude 
to have transported those rocks from the south to their 
present situation. Hence, the conclusion is, that they 
were brought there by the same current, that once flow- 
ed from the north east to the south west, or from north 
to south, over the surface of the whole continent of 

This opinion receives additional support from the 
following circumstance ; the huge fields and mountains 
of ice, which every spring float down the Atlantic 
ocean, seldom reach the latitude of from 89 to 40, 
which is about the latitude in which those rocks lie, 
before they become so weak and rotten as to be incapa- 
ble of supporting, or retaining any considerable weight 
that might be attached to them. It therefore fol- 
lows as a natural consequence, that by the time the 
masses of ice had reached those latitudes, they must 
necessarily have discharged the entire balance of their 
freight, if they contained any. 

On the few remaining facts, which I shall notice in 
the present instance, 1 might repose in entire confi- 
dence ; deeming them, alone, sufficient to prove, not 
only the existence of a general current, setting from the 
north east to the south we&t, across the continent of 
America ; but that nearly the entire alluvial district, 


bordering the Atlantic shores from Long Island to the 
gulf of Mexico, was formed by the operations of this 

Istly. On almost all the rivers in America, that have 
a southerly course, and run any distance through an al- 
luvial formation, (that on the borders of the ocean ex- 
cepted,) we find from actual observation, and from 
Stoddard's Sketches, Drake's Picture of Cincinnati, 
Lewis and Clarke's, McKenzie's, Herriot's and other 
travels, two, and sometimes three, alluvial banks on 
each side.* Those which are next to the rivers, on 

* It is particularly worthy of remark, that the same circum- 
stance is observable in the great alluvial region of America, which 
bounds the Atlantic on the south ; and that of Asia, which bounds 
the Arctic sea on the north. 

The Abbe Chappe D'Auteroche, who visited Siberia in 1761, 
has taken particular notice of this fact. He describes the plains of 
Siberia, wbich extend to a great distance within the dominions of 
Russia, to be four hundred leagues in breadth, in their widest part, 
from south to north, and upwards of seven hundred leagues in ex- 
tent from west to east. Over this immense region he travelled se- 
ven hundred leagues. In this distance he observed three, and in 
some parts, four distinct plains, the height of which, above the sea 
he ascertained. 

Three of these plains he describes as being parallel with the ho- 
rizon. The third he observes, " makes an angle of about two de- 
grees and a half with the horizon at Tobolsky." And further, ' It 
rises more and more towards the south, and sinks towards the 
north." Or, in other words, as it approaches the Arctic sea. Abbe 
Chappe's Travels, page 156 and 32. 

The alluvial region of America will doubtless afford corresponding 
results, should any one undertake to make the necessary observa- 


each side, are, in general, from twenty to twenty-five 
feet above low water. The second, which are at a 
greater or less distance from the rivers, are from thir- 
ty to fifty feet above the first, and sometimes more. 

tions. But as no one has hitherto attempted it, that I know of, it 
is impossible for me to point out the number of plains with their 
extent and limits, that may be contained within this vast district. 
This much, however, I may venture to assert, from my own obser- 
vations, and from verbal testimony. 

The highest level of our alluvial district is that part, I believe, 
which joins upon the granite ridge, or range of primitive formation. 
At right angles from this range, or in a south east direction, it ex- 
tends to the distance of between twenty-five and thirty miles, 
nearly on the same level. From thence, on very good authority, 
there is a sensible difference in the height of the general level of 
the soil above the ocean. This extends to a similar distance, 
whence there is an obvious but gradual descent to the ocean. And, 
moreover, what seems worthy of further notice is, that the second 
range of plains or levels, seems to be, by far, the most abundant in 
fossil organick remains. Whether so or not, it is a subject by no 
means unworthy of a more particular attention. 

Since writing the above, I find the following interesting facts 
mentioned by Mr. Bartram in his travels through East and West 
Florida : 

4< In our progress from the sea coast, we rise gradually, by se- 
veral steps or ascents, in the following manner. First, from the 
sea coast, fifty miles back, is a level plain, generally, of a loose 
sandy soil, producing spacious high forests," &c. 

Secondly, * 4 We now rise a bank of considerable height, which 
runs nearly parallel to the sea coast, through Carolina and Geor- 
gia : the ascent is gradual by several flights of steps, for eight or 
ten miles, the perpendicular height whereof, above the level of the 


These two alluvial banks so uniformly accompanying 
each other, upon almost all rivers of any magnitude, 
where there is an alluvial formation upon their borders, 
constitute the only, yet unequivocal indications, at 
least, of two general deluges over this part of the con- 
tinent ; and to which I alluded in a former part of this 

I say general ; the one was probably such ; the other 
may have been partial ; that is, not rising to so great 
a height as to cover the highest mountains, or even the 
highest hills. These two deluges happened at two 
different epochs, probably, not very remote from each 

But the circumstances that favour the opinion of a 
north east and south west current is, that, in general, 
the alluvial banks on the north and east sides of the 
rivers are considerably the widest, with few excep- 

ocean, may be two or three hundred feet, and these are. called the 
sand nil's, when we find ourselves on the entrance of a vast plain, 
generally level, which extends west sixty or seventy miles, rising 
gently, as the former, but more perceptibly." 

Thirdly, " The next ascent, or flight, is of much greater, and 
more abrupt elevation, and continues rising by broken ridges and 
narrow levels, or vales, for ten or fifteen miles, when we rest again 
on another extensive nearly Ifvd plain of pine forests, mixed with 
various other forest trees, which continues west forty or fifty miles 
farther." Bartram's Travels, page 28, SO and SI. 

These plains are represented as being composed, (at the sur- 
face at least,) of sand and small gravel; and while their existence 
affords a powerful support to my opinion, they likewise prove the 
striking correspondencies that prevail in the general and promi- 
nent features of those two immense districts. 


lions, and these are mostly in the lower bank. This I 
attribute to the following cause. 

It is an established principle, and one that will al- 
most universally hold good, that when an auxiliary 
stream falls, either obliquely or at right angles, into a 
stream of equal or greater magnitude, the auxiliary 
branch will urge on its alluvion and deposite it, some- 
times to a considerable distance into the principal 
stream ; until overcome by the power of the latter, it is 
then swept away by the general current. This may 
be every day observed in rivers, creeks, brooks, and 
their auxiliary streams. Hence the conclusion, that 
the general current, while it was rising in height and 
increasing in rapidity, must naturally urge on, or force 
the currents of rivers further westerly and south- 
erly, and meeting with a partial check by the current 
of the latter, which must be supposed to rise in height 
and increase in rapidity, in a corresponding ratio, 
continued to deposite their alluvion upon their eastern 
and northern shores only, until the highest hills were 
inundated and the currents of rivers were merged in 
that of the general current ; after which the increas- 
ing quantity of its alluvion, meeting with no check, 
was swept across the continent and into the ocean. 

When I speak of rivers having been urged from 
their original and primitive courses or beds, by a con- 
tinued lateral force, I do not mean to infer that they 
were originally restricted to the same narrow limits 
that they in general now are ; very far from it : It 
must appear obvious to any person that is accustomed 


to travel with his mind awake, and his eyes open, that 
most of the rivers east of the Alleghany Ridge, and 
north of the alluvial district upon the borders of the 
Atlantic, must have once run through small, but 
beautiful lakes, interspersed at different intervals of 
their distances, from their sources to their influx ; in a 
manner similar to that of the St. Lawrence, which, in 
its course runs through Lakes Superiour, Huron, Erie 
and Ontario. But these numerous reservoirs, in whose 
tranquil surfaces, surrounding nature, in all her varied 
hues, has been a thousand and a thousand times reflect- 
ed, have long since been effaced and filled up with allu- 
vion, and that too most probably deposited by the cur- 
rent of which I am speaking. 

On the gradual subsidence of the general inunda- 
tion, the rivers, from necessity, being compelled to 
flow, resumed the several channels which they had 
previously occupied when overpowered by a superiour 
force, and where the alluvial deposites, being the least 
in quantity, afforded the least resistance to their 

Whether this may seem the most rational mode of 
explaining this phenomenon, I shall not, at present, 
insist ; but certain it is, that the alluvial banks, as I 
have before observed, on most of the rivers having a 
northerly and southerly direction; are considerably 
the widest on the Easterly and northerly side. On the 
Connecticut river, the alluvial banks on the east side 
are nearly twice the breadth of those on the west side, 
except in some instances, where, in the lower banks. 


the river has in the lapse of time varied its course, 
most probably from some local cause. 

On the Hudson river, above the high lands I believe 
the same may be observed. With respect to other 
rivers, I refer to the authors \vhom I have already 

2dly. It is a well known fact, that in digging for 
wells and other purposes along upon the northern 
borders of the great alluvial district, (and in some in- 
stances, perhaps, at a greater distance from the primi- 
tive range,) we find at the depth of forty or fifty feet, 
the remains of a variety of vegetable substances, and 
in some cases, in a high state of preservation. 

On Long Island, the remains of trees have been 
found at the depth of forty-five, and fifty feet.* I am 
likewise informed, that in New Jersey, Delaware, 
and in the city of Philadelphia, remains of trees are 
found at the same depth. 

The same thing occurs in different parts of Mary- 
land. In Baltimore, at the depth of forty-five or fifty 
feet, we find the remains of trees and their fruits, par- 
ticularly the black walnut, (luglans Nigra) in abun- 

In Virginia this fact is notorious, and I believe in 
all the states from Virginia to that of the Mississippi. 

In the western country beyond the Alleghany, re- 
mains of trees are said to be found at a great depth 

* See Bruce's Mineralogical Journal for Mitchell's account of 
Long Island, pages 132 & 162 -63. 


below the surface of the earth, and, in some instances, 
bearing evident marks of the axe that was used in 
felling the tree.* 

In Ohio, grape vines are found at the depth of forty 
feet below the surface. f 

Mr. Stoddard. in his Sketches of Louisiana, when 
speaking of the alluvial lands, on Black river, ob- 
serves, (( An opinion prevails that these and the 
other alluvial lands in the low country are at this time 
much more elevated than formerly ." This is fully 
supported by three known facts. The advances of the 
land into the sea; the existence of trees and other 
woody substances at a considerable depth under ground 
apparently deposited there by the waters ; and the an- 
nual formation of an alluvious stratum, by means of 
the expansion of the Mississippi and other rivers. "J 

In describing the Chickasaw Bluffs, and those at 
Natches, the river St. Catherine, at Fort Adams, and 
at Baton Rouge, he observes " Many of them exhi- 
bit the appearance of rock ; but their substance when 
carefully examined, is found to be extremely porous, 
and composed of hard indurated sand, by no means 
strongly combined, and easily broken in pieces. Others 
of them are solid banks of sand of various colours, inter- 
mixed with lamina of iron ore, ochre and argillaceous 
earths. At the bases of some of them, (whose height 

* British Spy, p. 29. t See Drake's Picture of Cincinnati, p. TO, 
J Stoddard's Sketches, page 199. 


he says are seventy-five, others more than two hun- 
dred feet,) numerous trees of various dimensions are 
found converted into stone, by the petrifying quality of 
the springs about them/'* 

Also, ^ large frees are often found from twenty to 
twenty-five feet UNDER ground, in some of the exten- 
sive bottoms, and horn four to six miles from the chan- 
nel. Add to this, the trunks of large trees at the 
same depth, appear in a horizontal position near the 
bases of the banks ; also in the sides of the banks new- 
ly caved in, trees in a perpendicular position are con- 
stantly seen, whose shafts above their roots are sunk 
from twenty to twenty-jive feet below the surface of 

the ground."f 

Mr. Bartram, in describing the cliffs or high banks 
below Natches, on the Mississippi, observes, From 
eight or nine feet below the loamy vegetable mould at 
top, to within four or five feet of the water, these cliffs 
present to view strata of clay, marie and chalk, of all 
colours, as brown, red, yellow, white, blue and pur- 
ple 5 there are separate strata of these various colours, 
as well as mixed or particoloured ; the lowest stratum 
next the water is exactly of the same black mud or 
rich soil, as the adjacent low cypress swamps, and 
above the cliffs we see vast stumps of cypress and 
other trees, which at this day grow in these low, wet 
swamps, and which range on a level with them. 
These stumps are sound, stand upright, and seem to 

* Stoddard's Sketches, page 382. t Page 383. 


be rotted off about two or three feet above the spread 
of their roots ; their trunks, limbs, &c. lie in all direc- 
tions about them. But when those swampy forests 
were growing, and by what cause they were cut off, 
and overwhelmed by the various strata of earth, which 
now rise near one hundred feet above, at the bank of 
the cliffs, and two or three times that height but a few 
hundred yards back, are inquiries perhaps not easily 

* Bartram's Travels, page 433. 


FROM all the cases which I have enumerated, together 
with many more that 1 could mention if it were neces- 
sary; it appears that those vegetable and other re- 
mains, are found either upon the soil on which they 
grew, or on the ancient bed of the ocean or rivers. 

Jn the state of Maine, it appears that they find, at 
the distance of twenty miles from the sea, and at the 
depth of twenty feet below the surface, " numerous bi- 
valve, and some univalve shells, now found on our sea- 
shore,'' enveloped in a stiff' blue clay, ** perfectly re- 
sembling that which is taken from the borders of creeks 
and bays of salt water, in its odour and other proper- 
ties." Besides these " rolled stones of granite, or 
gneiss with those little shells adhering which seamen 
call barnacles." 

In Baltimore, these substances are found upon a bot- 
tom resembling marsh mud. At Fort M'Henry, in 
sinking a well, in the Star Fort in 1814, the workmen 
came upon a mass of carbonated wood, being part of a 
tree, as is supposed, lying across the well, at the depth 
of fifty feet or more, in a boggy marsh. This is two 
miles south of the granite ridge, or northern border of 

the great alluvial district. 



In Virginia these substances are found in a stiff 
blue clay ; and even on the Mississippi, Mr. Stoddard 
says, when speaking of the Delta. " these are buried 
in a substratum of black earth, below the level of the 
ocean, and already begin to be decomposed, and con- 
verted into fossil fuel."* 

From hence, the obvious conclusion is, that at some 
one or more memorable epochs, the entire mass of al- 
luvial formation, under which these vegetable remains 
are found, with a few exceptions near the mouths of 
rivers, was deposited upon them, and that too, by a 
general inundation, that was agitated and propelled by 
a current, which raised the yielding soil from one 
place, and carried and deposited it in another. 

Let us now see how far this conclusion is supported 
by the facts which I have stated. 

The bivalve and other shells, found near Bruns- 
wick (S. Main) at the depth of twenty feet, together 
with < c rolled stones of granite or gneiss having bar- 
nacles adhering to them" are found only at, or near 
that depth. Now there being no appearance of any 
thing of the kind in the intermediate space between the 
surface and that depth, I am led to inquire, how we 
shall reconcile the opinion, that the alluvial deposites 
or districts were formed in the course of ages by the 
annual overflowing and deposites of rivers ? If they 
originated from tijis cause, we might very naturally 
expect to find univalve shells of certain kinds, (though 

* Stoddard 's Sketches, page 159. 



uot of barnacles,) and rolled stones of granite, or 
some other kind, in every layer or stratum, from the 
depth of twenty feet to the surface ; because these 
substances being found on land, may every year, be 
carried away by the currents, in the spring freshes or 
in ice, and deposited in regular successive layers with 
their alluvion : but this is not the case ; neither is it 
possible that it can be so ; because the banks of rivers, 
in a thousand instances, although composed entirely 
of alluvion, were never known to have been over- 

On the other hand, we find it equally as difficult to 
reconcile those circumstances to the opinion, that the 
alluvial and all other districts are the deposites from 
the sea, and that, on its gradual subsidence, they have 
risen to their present height above its surface : for if the 
various families of shell fish were in existence, at the 
time the deposites were going on, at the depth of twen- 
ty feet below the present surface, and particularly the 
barnacle which belongs exclusively to salt water, and 
is common, I believe, to every sea and latitude in the 
known world, we might reasonably expect to find them 
in every successive layer, from that to the surface. 
Neither is this the case. 

The latter, in particular, are found adhering to 
stones in a blue clay, that, in all probability, once form- 
ed the ancient bed of the ocean ; and which has been 
buried, with all its animal and vegetable exuviae, by 
an immense deposite of alluvion, brought from theland 
by an irresistible current. 


The same reasoning will hold good with respect to 
the deposites of vegetable exuviae in various parts of 
the United States ; for in not one instance, can I find 
that vegetable remains have been discovered lying be- 
tween a certain specified depth, (which is, on an ave- 
rage, upon the margin of the alluvial district, from 
thirty-five to forty feet,) and the surface of the ground. 

This being the case, all ideas of our alluvial dis- 
tricts having been formed by deposites from an annual, 
or, (which sometimes happens,) semi-annual inunda- 
tion of the lands by our rivers, is at an end, and for 
reasons already advanced. 

A very different opinion prevails with many I know; 
and among a host of others, is Mr. Stoddard, who in his 
interesting sketches, when speaking of the Mississip- 
pi, observes " The banks of the river are composed 
of alluvious strata, and in places where they newly 
cave in, the different layers are easily distinguished. 
The banks between the Ohio and Missouri, have gene- 
rally, in a low state of the water, an elevation of more 
than forty feet, and exhibit to the eye about nine hun- 
dred distinct layers. What conclusion results from 
this fact? Most certainly, that these alluvions banks 
have been accumulating during a period of nine hun- 
dred years ; and probably much longer, as the freshes 
since the first discovery of the country, have not risen 
over them, more than once in twenty years. No doubt 
the number of layers is precisely the same as that of 
the freshes."* 

* Stoddard's Sketches, page 383. 


Admitting this statement to have been perfectly cor- 
rect, let us examine it with a view to ascertain the pro- 
bability of the conclusions which are drawn. 

In the height of about forty feet, there are nine hun- 
dred layers, each of which is supposed to be the re- 
sult of an inundation, or overflowing of the banks. 
Now forty feet divided by nine hundred gives four 
eighths and |J of an inch, in each layer or deposite. 
Then let us suppose that the upper half only of the 
bank, or twenty feet, has been overflowed but once 
in twenty years, (which he says has been the case in 
their present state, "since the discovery of the coun- 
try/') it follows, since about half an inch is the amount 
of each deposite, that it would require the space of 
nine thousand six hundred years to have formed the 
upper half of the bank. 

But lest this should be considered too great a pro- 
portion, that has been so seldom overflowed, I will 
take only one fourth of the height (viz.) ten feet; and 
even this would require, at that rate, about four thou- 
sand two or three hundred years to have formed it, in- 
stead of nine hundred, the ^ime allotted for the forma- 
tion of the whole height, according to Mr. Stoddard's 

If we were to admit that these entire banks were \ 
formed by the overflowing of the Mississippi river, and 
that each layer was the result of an annual inundation, 
the whole of which requiring nine hundred, or even 
eighteen hundred years for their completion, the ques- 
tion very naturally presents itself, since Mr. Stoddard 


is unwilling to admit that the great valley of the Mis- 
sissippi was ever a lake,* what was the Mississippi 
doing for the space of about four thousand years pre- 
vious ? for we must admit that it has flown as long, 
perhaps, as that of any other river. Were there no 
alluvial deposites in those days ; no annual inunda- 
tions by long continued storms of rain, and by the 
melting of the snows ? Doubtless there were : but it 
is highly improbable that the present banks of the 
Mississippi river, or those of any other rivers, except 
at the mouths of some, were formed by their annual 
alluvious deposites. Neither is it probable, that the 
different strata which present themselves in those 
banks, were each the result of an annual deposite; 
for we find in the section of a hill upon the margin of 
the great alluvial district, on the Atlantic, where pro- 
bably no river has ever flowed, the same stratification, 
in parallelisms of one or two inches, as regular as the 
courses of brick in a wall. Examine those strata jn 
a perpendicular section of the hill, at right angles from 
the first section, and they appear undulating, tortuous, 
or having various degrees of declination ; so that all 
attempts to determine the time employed in their depo- 
sition and formation, is rendered abortive by this cir- 
cumstance alone. 

If the great alluvial district upon the borders of our 
Atlantic shores, and the alluvial banks of all our ri- 
vers were gradually formed by the annual deposites of 

* Stoddard's Sketches, page S8-J. 


alluvion from the overflowing of those rivers, we might 
reasonably expect, since it is well known, that in 
every spring and autumnal flood, from time immemorial, 
a great quantity of logs and drift wood is floated down 
their currents, and carried into the sea, or deposited 
in their beds, that we should find, particularly in the 
banks of rivers, some of their remains deposited in 
every foot of the alluvial formation, from the bed of the 
rivers to the highest point that is inundated : but this 
I believe is not the case. I have been zealous in my 
endeavours to obtain information on this point ; and in 
no one instance can I find, from the state of Maine to 
the Mississippi, that vegetable remains have been dis- 
covered between two or three feet below the surface, 
and about the medium depth of forty feet ; except in 
some swamps, where stumps and logs are sometimes 
found at the depth of four or five feet, buried, in the 
course of time, probably, by the decomposition of vege- 
table matter : and also in alluvial islands in the channels 
of rivers, where every foot of their depth, particularly 
of that part which receives the force of the current, dis- 
covers logs, brush- wood, bark, nuts, and leaves, pro- 
miscuously thrown together and buried by successive 
deposits of alluvion. 

3dly. In the great alluvial district of which I 
have been speaking, and which contains, beneath its 
surface, almost from one end to the other, an immense 
and highly interesting cabinet of natural history, there 
are found, besides deposites of vegetable substances, 
great quantities of fossil remains, of fishes of various 


species, of birds, and in particular of various kinds of 

A part of a jaw, with a tooth, of what is supposed to 
have belonged to the spermaceti whale has been found 
in Monmouth county, (New Jersey,) in the neighbour- 
hood of Sandy Hook, in an extensive deposite of marine 
shells : and doubtless many more have already, or will 
be found in various parts of the alluvial district in 
New Jersey, and also in Delaware. 

In Maryland, upon the eastern, and some parts of 
the western shore, there have been found the skeletons 
of whales, sharks, porpoises, and other large fish ; as 
also terrapins, and almost incredible quantities of fos- 
sil shells of various kinds, many of which are unknown 
to exist at the present day. 

These substances, with great numbers of the teeth of 
sharks and those of other fishes of various sizes, are 
sometimes dug up in the marie or shell pits, but more 
frequently washed out of the banks of rivers, at low 
water, and are exposed on the shores. Sharks teeth 
are found at St. Mary's (Maryland) three inches 
in length, some of which may be seen at Mr. Peale's 

At Choptank, a species of very large scollops, re- 
sembling the Pectens Magnus, subrufus, of Lister, are 
washed out of the banks, with barnacles of an extraordin- 
ary size attached to^hem, and which may likewise be 
seen in Mr. Peale's museum (Baltimore.) In Virginia 
also the carcasses of whales, of sharks of a great 


size, of porpoises, of terrapins, and shells of various 
kinds, in immense quantities, are founa in digging of 
pits or wells, or washed out of the banks of rivers, at, 
or near low icater mark, and in one instance fossil re- 
mains of a bird of a large size*. 

In North and South Carolina, similar discoveries 
have been made in one instance the skeleton of a 
shark, forty feet in length, was found nearly entire, 
some of the teeth of which are nearly four inches broad 
at their base, and may be seen in the cabinet of the 
Literary and Philosophical Society, in New York, 

The circumstances of the fossil remains of fishes of 
various kinds, being so widely distributed over such an 
extent of country, is calculated to excite, in the en- 
quiring mind, a degree of wonder and astonishment; 
while with many, it is viewed with a cold and inex- 
cusable indifference ; either because it so frequently 
occurs, and is so common ; or, with others still more 
enlightened, because occurrences of a similar nature, 
as is supposed, are frequent, and have long since been 
known to exist in different parts of the world. But if 
the subject were examined with due attention, and the 
various circumstances considered in all their bearings 
and relations, few would hesitate to acknowledge, that 
scarce a parallel case exists in the known world. 

How, or in what way, those fossil remains were 
brought and deposited in the manner and where they 

* See Philosophical Transactions, vol. iv, p. 457, and British py 
page 19, sixth edition. 


are, it is impossible to tell ; or, in endeavouring to ex- 
plain the secret, what method will bear most the sem- 
blance of, or approach nearest the truth, it is equally as 
difficult to say. 

Some have attempted a solution of the phenomenon, 
in a way that has obtained considerable credit ; while 
others have advanced opinions unsupported either by 
reason or analogy. 

But however plausible they may appear, it is not 
my intention, in the present instance, to discuss the 
merits of the former , much less am I disposed to take 
notice of the latter. Two circumstances, however, I 
must necessarily take into view, in explaining my 
own ideas of the subject. 

In the first place it is highly improbable that these 
fishes were floating alive, and naturally in their own 
element, and that they were caught or entrapped by a 
deposition of alluvion from the sea, in a natural state, 
and by which they were buried alive, and the alluvial 
district formed ; and for the following reasons. 

There are many points of the alluvial district, which 
are actually higher than many parts of the primitive 
district on its borders, and particularly of the granite 
ridge ; consequently, there ought to have been alluvial 
deposites of equal height upon the latter likewise 5 but 
this is not the case, 

Secondly, If this district was formed by deposites 
from the ocean, when at that height, why do we not 
find those fossil remains of fishes and other marine 
animals, throughout the whole depth of the alluvial 


formation, and also upon the margin of the primitive 
district, as well as at low water, or nearly on the pre- 
sent level of the ocean ? If fishes existed before this 
alluvial deposite, which must have been the case, as 
they are now found below it, in what appears to have 
been the ancient bed of the ocean, they must necessa- 
rily have existed during, as well as subsequently to, 
this deposite of alluvion : therefore we might reasona- 
bly expect to find them throughout the entire depth of 
this district ; but this is not the case. 

Thirdly, If the district in question were formed by 
deposites from the ocean, by which the fishes and 
other marine animals were buried ; why is it that we 
cannot discover any of their remains, within a consi- 
derable distance of the primitive district, or granite 
ridge, which must be allowed by all, to have been the 
ancient border of the ocean, and at present the northern 
boundary of the alluvial region ? 

From the best information that I can obtain, no re- 
mains of fishes, (those of shell fish excepted,) have as 
yet been found to the northward of the Chesapeake 
bay, within about twenty or twenty-five miles of the 
granite ridge. It is, I believe, at about the same dis- 
tance, that they are found in Maryland. In Virginia, 
they are found within a shorter distance ; and as we 
advance to the southward, the distance from the pri- 
mitive range seems to be still less. 

To what this circumstance can be owing, I am un- 
able to tell ; unless, as we advance towards the gulf 
of Mexico, the waters of this part of the district were. 


originally, deeper than farther lorthward ; therefore, 
they very naturally frequented the waters nearer the 
primitive shore. 

But, even admitting the truth of this supposition, it 
does not explain the cause of the detention of such 
numbers as are found, of various kinds ; nor the means 
that were employed to bury them in the situation, and 
at the depth in which they, at present, are discovered ; 
neither is it, at best, a matter of easy solution, upon 
principles that are wholly unexceptionable. 

There are, however, certain traits in the natural his- 
tory or character of fishes, that afford strong grounds, 
not only for a plausible, but a rational, hypothesis ; 
and one, that is, perhaps, as well calculated to unfold 
the truth on this point, as that of any other. 

It is a well known fact, that fishes of almost every 
description, are as easily disturbed, and discover as 
much anxiety or uneasiness, and are as easily affright- 
ed, by an unusual agitation of the element in which 
they move, as men and animals in our common at- 
mosphere during a gale of wind, or a hurricane. 

This is well known to sea faring men of observation, 
and many others. During a calm, at sea, thousands 
of fishes are often seen sporting leisurely in the lucid 
waves ; but the moment that a strong breeze of wind 
springs up, by which the surface of the sea is agitated, 
the a \ disappear, and perhaps none of them are to be 
seen ; but if there are, and particularly during a storm 
or gale of wind, their movements are quick, and dis- 
cover much agitation. 


They are also, in moderate weather, frequently seen 
in shoals, driving with surprising velocity through the 
water, from a point that indicates to seamen, a sure 
prognostication of an approaching gale of wind, or 
dreadful swell of the sea from that quarter. And are 
not the same characteristick habits, discoverable in al- 
most every species of the winged tribes ? Do we not 
see almost every individual of the feathered race dis- 
appear. at the threatning onset of a hurricane, to seek, 
in a safe retreat, a shelter from its destructive ravages ? 
with this exception, only that the hated Sheer-Water, 
in sportive gambols, fearlessly skims the maddening 
billows, while the ship-wrecked seaman, with envious 
gaze, beholds it in safety, mocking the foaming 
summits that every moment threaten him with death. 

Denon, in describing the approach of the Karasin, 
or hurricane in Egypt, observes " The yellow hori- 
zon shewed the trees on its surface of a dirty blue ; 
the flocks of birds were flying off before the clouds ; 
the affrighted animals ran loose in the country, follow- 
ed by the shouting inhabitants, who vainly attempted 
to collect them together again."* 

In the description of an approaching hurricane of 
dust at Lucknow (Hindostan) it is observed, " The 
birds were flying very high, making a terrible scream - 

The fishes that annually ascend our fresh water ri- 
vers, during the spring floods, discover the same cha- 
racteristick habits. 

* Vol. ii, ]>. 528, f Lord Valeria's Travels vol. i p !f,l. 


During the prevalence of a rapid current, when the 
fresh is at its height, accompanied by a violent north 
east wind, it is well known by fishermen that " the fish 
will not run" as it is termed ; they seek shelter under 
projecting points, and headlands, and in eddies where 
they are less disturbed. 

In some instances, when the waters are turbid with 
alluvion, they run into the small creeks and auxiliary 
branches of larger size, and not knowing their situa- 
tion on account of the water being so charged with mud 
(for fishes cannot see better in muddy water than man 
in a thick fog or smoke,) they pursue their course 
through a wide extended flood, which overflows the 
meadows and low grounds, into orchards and corn- 
fields, where, on the sudden falling of the water, they 
are often left in little ponds in low places. This is 
sometimes the case with shad, but more particularly 
with herrings, which have, in this situation, been caught, 
by thousands, with baskets and buckets. 

It is also said, that whales by coming too near the 
stream or current of the Maelstrom, are caught in its 
yawning vortices ; in which situation, it is impossible 
to describe the dreadful noise they make in their fruit- 
less struggles to extricate themselves from the inevi- 
table destruction that awaits them.* 

Admitting these facts, need we wonder, that while 
the whole Atlantic ocean was agitated by a current 

*See Pontoppidan's History of Norway, page 79, and Brook's des- 
cription of the Maelstrom. 


flowing with inconceivable rapidity to the south, that 
thousands of Sharks, of Porpoises and smaller fishes, af- 
frighted at the dreadful onset, should endeavour to flee 
from its threatening influence, and seek safety in the 
less troubled waters of the deep bay of Mexico ; or 
along under the ancient borders which skirted this ex- 
tensive gulf on the north ? Need we wonder, while, 
at this portentous epoch, avenging heaven was threat- 
ening universal ruin ; " when every living creature 
that creepeth upon the face of the earth" was soon to be 
destroyed : and man, the outcast, awaiting his hope- 
less doom, that the great Leviathan of the deep, hur- 
ried by a resistless current from his wonted haunts in 
the cold regions of the north, should seek peace and 
safety in this less troubled sea ? To me it appears by 
no means improbable ; and if we admit the supposition, 
it is easy to explain the cause of their being detained, 
and buried in such numbers where they are ; for as 
soon as the ocean had risen to such a height as to flow 
across the continent, the flood or current, being thick- 
ened with mud and earth which it had raised in its 
course, was carried into the bay or gulph of Mexico, 
by which they were involved in thick darkness, (to 
them,) and as the alluvion was deposited, they were li- 
terally deluged with mud, and buried alive where their 
remains are now found. 

This affords a satisfactory reason why the skeletons 
of fishes, that are found in this district, are almost en- 
tire, that is to say, the bones, though disjointed by 
time, are nearly all found together. 


All opinion is entertained by some, particularly those 
who believe that this district has been formed, in the 
course of time, by the alluvion thrown upon our coast 
by the gulf stream, that these were likewise thrown, 
either dead or alive, upon our coast, and subsequently 
buried by an accession of alluvion washed up by the 
ocean. But is it probable that the body of an animal 
can remain on the sea shore one or two weeks at most, 
exposed to an incessant agitation and abrasion by the 
billows of the ocean, without being completely disjoin- 
ted, and the bones scattered upon the beach ; particu- 
larly during the summer season ? Nay, I will ask if 
there is a point between any two rivers, from Cape 
Henry to the Mississippi, where there has been a suf- 
ficient actual increase of alluvion to bury the carcass of 
a whale within twenty years ? I doubt not ! and if 
so, will any person contend that the carcass of a whale 
could have remained, under such circumstances, one 
twentieth part of that time, without being completely 
dissected, bone from bone, when Bremontier, in his 
new and interesting " Kecherches sur le movement 
ties Ondes'' tells us, that the pebbles upon the sea 
shore, in many places, are, by the action of the surf, 
ground to the most " impalpable molecule (powder) 
insomuch that its specific gravity scarcely exceeds that 
of water, and is hence borne away with the tides into 
the sea, or, when the tides are at ebb, becoming dry 
upon the beach, is taken up by the winds and carried 
further inland in clouds of dust. 

Uuder such circumstances, it is impossible to admit 


that the district in question, could have been tormed 
by the alluvion washed up by the sea ; nor in any 
other way than by a current setting across the conti- 
nent of America, from the north east to the south west, 
or from north to south. This I hope will be made to 
appear satisfactory by the following facts and con- 

I have observed, that among other fossil remains, 
found in the alluvial regions, were those of quad- 

In New Jersey, fossil bones and teeth or grinders 
of the Asiatick elephant, have been found of an im- 
mense size.* 

On the eastern and western shore of Maryland, these 
remains have likewise been found. 

In digging a well in the star-fort of Fort M 'Henry, 
a tooth of the Mastodon (or Mammoth) was found 
at the depth of near sixty feet below the surface. 

On the eastern shore of Maryland, in Queen Ann's 
county, an enormous grinder of the Asiatick elephant 
was likewise dug up, on the plantation of Mr. Carmi- 
chael, enveloped in a stiff blue clay. This 1 have 
in my possession. 

Since the above grinder was discovered, I have re- 
ceived information from a very respectable source, 
that a pair of large horns of the deer kind were found, 

* For particulars relating to these, and a variety of other in- 
teresting facts of a similar kind, see the New-York edition of 
Cuviers Theory, by J)r. S. L. Mitchell. 


with (he carcase of a whale, in digging in the marie 
or shell pits on the eastern shore of Maryland. 

In the marie pits, near Easton (Maryland) fossil 
vertebral bones, apparently of quadrupeds, have been 
dug up, some of which are more than six inches 
in length, by about five in diameter : in others, of 
which I have specimens, the diameter is greater than 
the length. 

In the summ?r, I believe, of 1811, the bones of a 
mammoth were dug up on the banks of York river, 
(in Virginia.) from below low water mark, in the 

In digging the Santee canal in South Carolina, the 
bones of a mammoth were dug up, and are at 
present, it is believed, in the library at Charleston, 
together with other bones and teeth, which it is said 
resemble those of the horse ; but which more proba- 
bly belonged to a species of deer or buffaloe, dug out 
of the same canal. 

Now the circumstance of the fossil bones of quad- 
rupeds being found in an alluvial formation, below, at, 
and a little above, low water mark, in a district that 
has, beyond all possible doubt, been once occupied by 
the ocean, goes far to establish three very important 

The first is, these animals, not having be^n inha- 
bitants of the sea, could not have been washed up by 
the ocean and deposited where they are. 

* For a knowledge of this fact 1 am indebted to Dr. S. L. 
Mitchell, who, while in Congress, communicated it to me by letter. 

2dly. They being, or having been land animals, 
and not in (he habit of associating with whales, 
sharks, or porpoises, but being found with the re- 
mains of these animals, affords a very strong presump- 
tive evidence, that they must have been conveyed from 
the primitive soil, or what was the ancient continent, 
to where they are now found. 

In support of this, M. Cuvier, when speaking of 
fossil organic remains of quadrupeds found upon 
islands in the sea, says, " When they (the islands) 
contain any of the larger quadrupeds, these must have 
been carried to them from other countries."* 

3dly. Since these animals were the inhabitants of 
dry land, it is highly improbable that they would 
voluntarily leave that situation, and go the distance at 
which they are found from the original or primitive 
borders of the continent, and deposite themselves 
BELOW low water mark, and that too when, probably, 
the ocean still occupied it ; and since it is pretty plain- 
ly proved by the learned Cuvier, that some of these 
animals, as the mammoth, were extinct before mankind 
inhabited the earth, they must have been carried there 
by force ; and since no common means could have 
effected this operation, we are compelled to refer it to 
the operations of a general current that flowed from 
the north, f and by which, they, with the whole mass of 

* Cuvier's Theory, page 75. 

| There is reason to believe that M. Cuvier, at least suspected 
that some of the existing phenomena may have been produced by 

alluvial matter, were swept from the continent and de- 
posited along on the borders of the Atlantic coast. 

Such are the facts, and such appear to be the only 
rational inferences deducible from them. 

But whether the currents, so often mentioned in this 
essay, are to be considered as having originated from 
the fall of torrents of rain, in ceaseless succession, for 
the space of forty days and forty nights ; or, as is, by 
some supposed, from the approximation of a comet to- 
wards the earth ; or from the outlet of the waters con- 
tained in the centre of the antediluvion earth whe- 
ther they originated from the dissolution of the polar 
ices, under any possible circumstances ; or whether, 
in fact, the north pole icas the great focus, whence 
these currents issued, or not, it is impossible to de- 

It is a subject from which the human mind, in the 
eager pursuit of truth, must and will ever be re- 
pulsed : for the circumstances essentially important to 
its elucidation, are veiled in impenetrable mystery. 

We have before us, the book of inspiration ; and in 
it we are told of the universal deluge or flood, which 
by its operations, was to destroy every living thing 
that had been made, from off the face of the earth. 

this or a similar cause ; for in his remarks on fossil organick re- 
mains, he observes, " May it be concluded, that the transportation 
of these living organized bodies, if such a thing ever happened, 
has taken place from north to south, or from east to west ; or was 
it effrcted by means that irregularly scattered and mingled them 
together ?" (Theory of the Earth, page 66, Am. edition.) 


In the great volume of nature, we see its effects, 
which appear to be scattered over every region, or 
habitable portion of the globe ; and we are left free, 
to contemplate and trace them to their cause. 

These effects, so multiplied and various, so ob- 
viously plain and intelligible, inform us in a language 
that cannot be misunderstood, that in America, they 
were produced by currents which flowed across the 
continent from north to south ; and in Asia and a part 
of Europe, from south to north. 

To these facts, the attention of the philosopher and 
the votaries of science are earnestly invited. 

The interest which they are calculated to excite, 
will richly compensate for the trouble of an investiga- 
tion ; independently of the sublime emotions which 
the numerous and diversified objects of fossil organick 
remains, those " medals of creation" are calculated 
to inspire. 

But this is not all. By an attentive examination of 
these facts, we shall, not only aid and assist in the 
great work,* so happily begun and advancing, but be 
enabled to trace up, in successive gradations, and to 
comprehend the various physical changes that have 
taken place, since this earth has been rendered the fit 
habitation of organized beings. 

To attain this point, we may be considered as 
having arrived at the ne plus ultra of human sagacity 
and penetration, as it respects the science of geology. 

* See Parkinson's Organick Remains. 


For, although it is admitted that the Huttoniau theory 
is, in some instances, not without support ; and that 
the Wernerian theory, in its general principles ap- 
pears not only plausible, but highly probable ; yet, in 
the discussion of their merits, it may be asserted, with- 
out fear of contradiction, that he who attempts to ex- 
plain, on the principles of either, the infinitely varied 
phenomena that are presented to view, in the structure 
of the globe; or he who attempts to reconcile the 
equally numerous and varied anomalies, glaring incon- 
sistencies, palpable contradictions, and inexplicable 
facts, alike to those principles, will find himself, at 
last, involved in a labyrinth, so inconceivably intri- 
cate, that it will be impossible to extricate himself, ex- 
cept by plunging headlong, as many have already 
done, into infidelity ; or, in humble submission, to 
elevate his mind to the great author of creation, and 
to acknowledge his incapacity to comprehend the 
works of Him, 6e Whose ways are unsearchable and 
past finding out." 


Volcaniclc Agency. Very frequent are the instances 
in which we hear of whole districts, in this country, 
that are supposed to have been subjected to the opera- 
tions of subterranean fires, if not actually produced by 
them: and frequently we hear of masses of mineral 
substances being found, which are said to bear the un- 
equivocal marks of having been produced by intense 
heat. Hence the conclusion, that they have been 
ejected from some, now extinct, volcano. 

Among the many of this description, is that of the 
West River Mountain, (Conn.) which is represented, 
in the Annals of the American Academy, as well as in 
an American Geography, as being volcanick ; and from 
this place specimens have been preserved as the sup- 
posed lava of this extinct volcano ; but which on ex- 
amination, have proved to be nothing more than he- 
rn atitic iron ore.* 

This account was, probably, recorded at a period 
when much less was known, in this country, of mine- 
ral substances, than at the present time ; and particu- 
larly of volcanoes and their products. Hence, the 

* See Bruce's Mineralogical Journal, page 19. 


mistake is not so much to be wondered at, as that ma- 
ny persons, at the present day, should persist in con- 
tending that the mammellated and botryoidal hemae- 
tite are the real products of fire. 

Among the advocates for the existence and opera- 
tions of subterranean fires, earthquakes, extinct volca- 
noes, and their yawning craters, in this country, no 
one seems to be more prominent and strenuous than 
Mr. Volney.f 

Were we to rely upon the assertions of this author, 
we might take it for granted, that the principal part of 
the continent, east of the Mississippi, had been the 
great theatre of each and all of these physical evils ; 
for he not only points out the different districts where 
their effects are represented as being manifest ; but to 
their operations he attributes the " confusion in which 
the Atlantic or maritime regions are at present 
found ;"f a region or district, which, in point of order 
and regularity, in the course and extent of the great 
and prominent ridges ; of the uniformity and corres- 
pondence in the order and succession of the subordi- 
nate ranges, and of their respective materials, which 
may be traced in almost uninterrupted parallelisms 
from one end of the district to the other, may challenge 
a comparison in any known portion of the globe. 

This, however, is not all. He even attempts to de- 
fine the courses and limits of these hidden agents of 

* See Volney's Views of North America, page 97 to 101. 
t Page 99. 


destruction ; and says, " The line of this subterranean 
fire runs north west and south east, affecting strongly 
the direction of the sea and lake Ontario." The lat- 
ter of which, to cap the climax, he considers, on ac- 
count of its great depth, as bearing the most indubita- 
ble criteria of its having been the great focus of a 
volcano ; for he observes, " From these circumstances, 
the inference is clear, that the bed of the lake (Onta- 
rio,) is the crater of an extinguished volcano." And 
as a confirmation of this he further observes, " This 
conclusion is strengthened by the many volcanick sub- 
stances found upon its shores, and of which skilful 
eyes, would, no doubt, discover many other speci- 

What the nature and character of the substances are, 
of which the shores of Ontario abound, and which are 
said to bear the marks of volcanick origin, no one that 
1 know of, has, as yet, undertaken to give a descrip- 
tion ; neither are we better informed of the " numerous 
remains" of volcanoes, that are said, by the same au- 
thor, to exist on the Alleghany mountains. f 

If the lapis suillis or foeted carbonate of lime con- 
stituted the numerous remains, of which Mr. Volney 
speaks, he doubtless may have seen, on this ridge, the 
greatest abundance ; and which, it is believed, bears as 
close a resemblance to volcanick products, as that of 
any other that can be found there, since the whole 

* Volney's View of America, p. 99. t Do. page 100. 



ridge is represented, as being exclusively of a seconda- 
ry formation. 

Without attempting further comment upon the opi- 
nions of this Great Writer, it may be observed that 
when travellers or historians, however eminent their 
acquirements, or elevated their names and reputa- 
tion, attempt a description of the geology of a country 
and its minerals, and we hear them substitute the 
term " tale bank," or " bed of isinglass,"* for a gra- 
ni' ck ridge five miles in width and several hundred 
miles in length when, moreover, we hear them 
speak of " granite marble, ? 't an( l u calcareous gra- 
nite,":): we have much reason to suspect, that their 
knowledge of the subject is extremely superficial or 
inadequate ; or that they have acquired their informa- 
tion, on this subject, from some source out of the com- 
mon order ; or one that is not known and recognised 
by the geologists of the present day. 

The geology of this country, as well as that of al- 
most every other, presents numerous appearances that 
are calculated to mislead a superficial observer, and 
to induce a belief, that they were decidedly of volca- 
nick origin : while a more careful investigation, by a 
more experienced eye, would produce a contrary be- 

The Chevalier Lammanon was so firmly convinced 
that the trap formation of the Alps of Champsaur, 

* Volney's View, p. 100. f See Shaw's Travels. 
\ Ali Be^'s Travels. 


was of volcanick origin, that he wrote and published a 
work in support of his theory. 

But a more mature reflection and critical examina- 
tion of the substances, produced a conviction of his 
errours in a degree so forcible, that he not only sup- 
pressed but destroyed the whole edition, with the ex- 
ception of twelve copies.* 

Although it is very much doubted whether subter- 
ranean fires and volcanoes ever existed in this country, 
east of the Mississippi ; yet it will readily be ad- 
mitted that many instances have occurred, in which 
substances have presented themselves, bearing strong 
marks of their having been subjected to the opera- 
tions of intense heat ; and hence have been consider- 
ed as of volcanick origin. 

In a number of places in the secondary range which 
runs through the state of Connecticut, masses of this 
kind may be found. 

In the town of North-ford, I believe, numerous 
fragments of this description may be seen in passing 
along the road. They are composed of an extremely 
porous trap or whinstone, which actually appears to 
have been in a state of fusion ; but which, however, 
on a close examination, will not, from a variety of cir- 
cumstances, justify such a conclusion. Among these 
the following are not of the least importance. 

The blocks which 1 had an opportunity of examin- 
ing, were, probably, detached portions of the great 

* See St. Fund's Travels, vol. I. page 23. 


mass that forms the upper part of the ridge extending 
from New Haven, into Massachusetts, commonly 
called the West Mountain. This part of the ridge is 
composed of trap or whinstone. In some parts it as- 
sumes a columnar form, standing almost perpendicu- 
larly. In others, it is composed of enormous broken 
and shapeless masses of the same materials, slightly 
connected, and easily broken up ; and among which, 
may be found in abundance, splendid specimens of 
phrenite, zeolite, &c. particularly in the neighbour- 
hood of Simsbury. 

Among this latter kind of trap, a great quantity 
may be found, filled with small spherical masses of 
zeolite ; on being long exposed to the atmosphere and 
changes of weather, the zeolite is probably decom- 
posed and disappears, leaving a complete porous 
mass which much resembles the bulleuse lava, and as 
such, it is well calculated to impress a belief of its 
bavins; been, at least, modified by the agency of sub- 
terranean heat or fire. But all ideas however of this 
kind are dispelled, when we examine the structure of 
this mountain, and find, that its base for many leagues 
in breadth, is composed almost entirely of old red 
sand stone ; the most decided and unequivocal evi- 
dence, on the contrary, of its Neptunean origin. 

The part in particular on which the ridge of trap 
rests, is, in many places, considerably more elevated 
than the adjacent country, particularly at New Grate 
in the town of Granby, and having a dip or declina- 
tion, of from thirty to forty-five degrees to the east. 


Under these circumstances, it seems impossible that 
either the columnar, or irregular and porous trap can 
owe its origin to, or even be modified by, the agency 
of subterranean heat, while its substruction, the red 
sand-stone, discovers not the least possible indication 
of a similar agency. 

It is this important ridge or mountain, bounded on 
the east and on the west, by others composed of primi- 
tive and transition rocks, which renders the mineralogy 
and geology of Connecticut so highly and particularly 
interesting ; and, at the same time, gives to New 
H.iven a decided superiority over any other situation 
in the United States, for the cultivation of those two 

From Yale College, that fountain of literature, and 
where those two sciences are cultivated with the most 
happy success ; an individual, or the whole mineral- 
ogical class may, in the space of two hours enter 
upon the primitive range ; observe and examine 
through the various gradations and transitions, the 
order, structure, and arrangement of the various strata 
that compose it. 

From thence, in a short space of time, they enter 
upon the secondary district, and at the foot of the 
West Rock, (so called) the base of which is red sand- 
stone, they contemplate with mingled emotions of awe 
and pleasure, the abrupt and lofty battlements of colum- 
nar trap, whose mouldering fragments have, for ages 
past, been tributary to the soil below ; and on the sur- 
face of which, vast masses, burst off by the frost 


from the heights above, are still lying in undisturbed 

From thence they can ascend the height, and from 
its lofty summit, behold, in one extensive view, all the 
varieties of the most prominent and important features 
that are embraced in the science of geology. 

On the left, to the south east, is a range of hills, 
being, probably, the southern extremity of the East 
Mountains, so called, composed mostly of granite 
differently modified. 

Immediately on the left, to the east, is the east 
rock, which, like the height from which it is viewed, 
is secondary and composed likewise of different sub- 

On the right, to the west and south, is seen a 
range of bold hills, composed principally of am- 
phibolic rocks variously modified ; and also some 
others, which together, form an extensively interest- 
ing field of study to the geologist. Besides these, 
the districts which 1 have mentioned contain a very 
extensive variety of minerals common to these forma- 
tions, which render the district equally as interesting 
to the mineralogist. 

Immediately in front, and as it were at the feet of 
the observer, lies the beautifully extended plain on 
which New-Haven stands, which is perfectly alluvial. 

Under such circumstances, and possessing such 
superiour advantages; it may safely challenge a com- 
petition with any other situation in the United States, 
as being best calculated for a raineralogical and geo- 


logical school ; and, while conducted by one whose 
conciliatory manners, zeal, and unceasing exertions 
in the cause of science, are so universally known, 
we may safely predict that the time is not far dis- 
tant when it may vie with the Wernerian school, and 
become the Friberg of America. 


the different formations, 8fc. Hitherto, Geolo- 
gists, in giving a description of the different materials 
that enter into the composition of the globe, and also 
of its formation, have pretty much confined their views 
to two grand divisions, (viz.) the primitive and secon- 
dary; the first of these having a reference to such 
rocks as are destitute of organick remains ; and the 
last, to such as are composed in a greater or less de- 
gree of organick remains. In these, the subject of 
alluvial deposites, which is in itself, to a certain de- 
gree, a formation, is left entirely out of view, or if 
taken notice of, it is in connexion with all secondary 
formations. But in a careful examination of the sub- 
ject, I can see no impropriety in considering it as a 
distinct formation, and as justly entitled to the appel- 
lation of ternary, as the latter of the other two, to that 
of secondary. 

The idea of alluvial formations or deposites being 
considered as a third or ternary formation, and dis- 
tinct from the other two, may be objected to on the score 
of its being, in general, made up of materials already 


previously formed. The same may be said of secondary 
or shell lime-stone, and several other secondary rocks i 
and who can say that the several constituent parts of 
the primitive rocks were not formed, previously to their 
aggregation ? 

2dly. It may be objected to, on account of the diffe- 
rence in the several results, that are manifested in 
rocks of secondary formation, and those of alluvial 

3dly. It may be objected to, on the score, that while 
secondary formations are the results of a natural ope- 
ration ; alluvial formations are the results of accidental 
operations, consequently, differing materially in their 
essential characters. 

With regard to the first objection, the remarks which 
I have already advanced in reply, I consider quite 

In reply to the second, it may be necessary, in the 
first place, to observe, that by " the difference in the 
several results," I have a reference to the various ma- 
terials that enter into the composition of secondary and 
alluvial formations, and their different modifications. 
In this respect, it must be admitted that a very great 
difference exists, not only in their texture and composi- 
tion, but in the process of their formation. Yet as 
great as it is, the difference between alluvial and se- 
condary formations, is not greater than that between se- 
condary and primitive. 

To place the subject in a proper light, it may not be 
amiss to present a slight view of the two formations 



separately. Rocks of secondary formation are va- 
rious, but I shall only take notice of such as contain 
organick remains ; such as secondary or shell lime- 
stone, containing various species of shell-fish and other 
animals, completely changed in their nature, and, by 
being combined with carbonate of lime, formed into a 
compact or solid mass, and susceptible of being wrought 
into various shapes or forms, and of being converted to 
sundry useful purposes. 

Also, secondary gypsum, containing impressions of 
a variety of fishes > and animals ; likewise, seconda- 
ry slate, containing perfect impressions of fishes and of 
various vegetable substances, which, though changed 
in substance, have suffered no change in form. 

In these several rocks are often found different mi- 
neral substances, such as lead, zinc, &c. 

The alluvial formation is generally composed of 
sand, gravel, and rolled pebbles of different kinds. 

In this formation, notwithstanding its being, as I 
have observed, the result of an accidental operation, 
we likewise see the mineralizing powers exerted, 
though in a far weaker degree, and the process of new 
formations carried on, though upon a much smaller 
scale, and to a far less extent. 

In this formation, we find beds of bituminous wood, 
and coal ; petrified wood ; immense beds of variously 
coloured clays ; extensive mines or beds of fine argil- 
laceous, and bog iron ores ; beautiful crystals of sele- 
nite, &c. These and many other substances are found 
in place in various parts of the great alluvial district, 


on the Atlantic coast. The only alluvial rocks that 
are found in this district, are those of sand stone, 
which are evidently the results of an alluvial forma- 

In alluvial deposites, in almost every country, are 
likewise found, immense quantities of animal remains, 
though in a state very different from those which are 
found in secondary formations. 

I have remarked, that secondary formations are, ge- 
nerally, the results of a natural operation, or in other 
words, they are natural deposites from water, proba- 
bly, in a state of perfect tranquillity. And that allu- 
vial formations are the results of accidental operations ; 
for in almost all instances, they are amassed and form- 
ed by the operations of currents, which have been pro- 
duced by natural or accidental causes. 

I have also remarked that a great difference exists, 
not only in their texture and composition, but in the 
process of their formation. 

This is so striking, that while it constitutes a dis- 
tinctive characteristick between the two formations, it 
affords an interesting subject of inquiry, as to the prin- 
ciples, by which secondary and alluvial rocks, and the 
animal and vegetable substances therein contained, 
were solidified ; and also, the difference of time requir- 
ed in their productions. 

It is, I believe, a prevailing opinion with many, that 
almost all secondary rocks, as well as those of the pri- 
mitive kind, must have required a long and tedious 
process in their formation, by precipitations, crystali- 


zation, &c. and which must have occupied an immense 
period of time for their completion. 

How it may be with primitive rocks, I shall not at- 
tempt to say in the present instance ; but -a careful ex- 
amination of the structure of the secondary kind, which 
I have already mentioned, will by no means justify such 
an opinion. On the contrary, there are certain indica- 
tions in many of them, which justly warrant the belief, 
that their formation must have been inconceivably quick 
and rapid, and particularly those which contained the 
remains of organized bodies of fishes and other ani- 
mals, in a state of preservation so perfect, as to enable 
the naturalist to determine, on the slightest inspection, 
the class, order, and species, to which they severally 

This conclusion is drawn from the following cir- 
cumstances : 

1st. Fishes and other animals, found enveloped in 
solid limestone, plaster, or slate, and possessing their 
natural form and character, afford strong reasons to 
conclude, that had the precipitation and formation of 
the rock, or substance in which they are contained, 
been slow or gradual, the superincumbent weight must 
have had a great tendency to have destroyed their na- 
tural form, by compressing them, while soft and yield- 
ing, into a thin and almost shapeless mass. 

But this is not the case. We see innumerable in- 
stances in the sections of various kinds of secondary 
marbles of Europe, where different species of the 
tribes of molluscae and shell fish, are represented al- 
most as perfect, in every particular that relates to their 


form and structure, as when living ; except, that their 
substance is changed into perfect carbonate of lime, or 
like the substances which surrounds them. This is so 
common, and so often met with that it is unnecessary to 
mention any particular case. 

Sdly. Lapidified fishes have been found in numerous 
instances, and in various parts of the world, inveloped 
in gypsum and slate rocks ; possessing all their char- 
acters, as it respects their form, size, stripes, marks, 
spots, and even colours, in some specimens, so perfect 
as to enable the experienced naturalist to determine 
the species to which they belong almost at sight. 

"Petrified fishes have been discovered in solid 
rocks in the very attitude of seizing and swallowing 
their prey."* 

In a specimen obtained from Vestena Nuova and 
exhibited in the Museum of Natural History at Paris, 
'-is seen a pike which has died with another fish of the 
same species still in his throat. ?J f 

" Many of the fossil fishes found in the slates of La 
Bolca, have, from their state of preservation, been re- 
cognized as belonging, in particular, to those of the 
south sea."f 

" A workman, in attempting to square a stone, ob- 
tained by demolishing the Abbey of Vaucelles, split it 
into two parts ; one of which exhibited the impression 

* See Bakewell's Introduction to Geology, p. 442, 

- See Parkenson's Organick Remains, Vol. 3, p. 252. 
t See Shirwan's Geological Essays, p. 71. 

of a fish, and the other the fish in relief. The fish 
was examined by the professors of the College of 
Cambray, who repaired on purpose to the spot. It re- 
sults from their observations, that it is one of the most 
beautiful and best preserved ichthyolites ever found. 
It is from twenty eight to thirty one inches in length, 
and seven inches in breadth." 

" Every circumstance gives reason to think, that it 
belongs to the class of the abdominals, and that it is a 
salmon. The scales are of a violet colour mixed with 
yellow : a latteral line of a pale white, and nearer the 
back than the belly, traverses the whole body, and des- 
cribes on it a curve. The colours of the impression 
are the same as those on the relief."* 

" Our country hath lately afforded (says Mr. Jones) 
what 1 apprehend to be the greatest curiosity of this 
sort, that ever yet appeared. It is the entire figure of 
a Bream more than a foot in length, and of a propor- 
tionable depth, with scales, fins, and gills, fairly pro- 
jecting from the surface like a piece of sculpture in 
relievo, and with all the lineaments, even to the most 
minute fibres of the tail, so complete, that the like has 
not been seen before. It was taken from the stone 
quarries of Barrow in Linconshire, &c."f 

From these few cases of fossil fishes selected from 
many, so palpable and strikingly interesting in their 
kind, we may reasonably infer that their inhumation 

*Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine, Vol. 18, p. 371. 
tSee Parkinson's Organic Remains Vol. 3 p. 250. 


and the subsequent process of their petrification must 
have been the result of an operation as rapid in its 
progress as incomprehensible in its nature : for, sup- 
posing the substance, of which the rocks that contain 
petrified fishes, are composed, were to be precipitated 
or deposited from any menstruum, according to our 
ideas of that process, it is both morally and physically 
impossible for any dead animal substance to retain all 
its natural characters, a sufficient length of time to ad- 
mit the lapidification of the rocks and the animal sub- 
stance itself, without a material change or alteration, 
except, at a temperature but little short of the freezing 

Almost all dead animal bodies when entire, and par- 
ticularly fishes, will remain but a very little time in fresh 
water, without being subjected to three material chan- 
ges ; neither of which are discoverable, that I know of, 
in petrified fishes. 

In the first place, they all become more or less 
bloated, a mark which I have never seen mentioned as 
it respects fossil fish. This, however, would depend 
on the degree of temperature of the medium to which 
they may be subjected. 

Sdly. They very soon change in colour, and become 
of a pale white ; the eyes sink and assume a livid ap- 

3dly. Every part except the scales in fishes soon 
discovers a progressive state of dissolution, which 
tends rapidly to mutilate or destroy the characters 

essentially necessary to determine ^he species to which 
they belong. 

Neither of these marks, we may reasonably con- 
clude, are observable in the cases which 1 have quoted, 
for they are represented as being entire and perfect ; 
and some of them transformed or changed, while in the 
very act of seizing and enjoying their prey. 

It may be said, by some, that during the formation 
of those rocks, which contain the fossil remains of 
bodies so perfect, the earth was covered with salt wa- 
ter but, even if admitted, it is no better calculated to 
preserve those bodies from dissolution, than if subject- 
ed the same time and at the same temperature, to fresh 
water. The water of the Ocean, although salt, does 
not constitute a pickle by which animal substances can 
be preserved ; on the contrary, it is almost, if not equal- 
ly as unfavorable to the preservation of animal matter 
as that of fresh water. 

Hence the conclusion, that many of the secondary 
rocks, and perhaps some others, were, in their forma- 
tion, regulated by principles, or subject to laws that 
were instantaneous in their operations, and during 
which, the whole, mass of matter within the sphere of 
their action, whether stony, earthy, animal, or vegeta- 
ble, was suddenly changed into a solidified mass. 

That some invisible and incomprehensible means 
have been employed in this business, may be inferred 
from the opinions of several. 

The learned Cuvier, when speaking "of incrusta- 
tions" of bodies, observes, " But we have no evidence 

that the sea has now the power of agglutinating these 
shells by such a compact paste, or indurated cement, 
as that found in marbles and calcareous sand-stones, 
or even in the coarse lime-stone strata in which shells 
are found enveloped. Still less do we now find the 
sea making any depositions at all of the more solid 
and silicious strata which have preceded the formation 
of the strata containing shells."* 

It is believed by some, that volcanoes or subterra. 
nean fires have been powerful agents in the produc- 
tion of these phenomena ; and it is said of the speci- 
men of the pike that was found at Vestena Nuova, 
and now in the museum of natural history at Paris, 
that its instantaneous death is supposed to have been 
produced by a sudden volcanick irruption into the 
water, at the moment of its having swallowed its 


How far this opinion is entitled to credit, we are 
left to determine from the circumstance, that the Ves- 
tena Nuova contains thousands, and perhaps millions 
of fossil fishes of various kinds, in all situations, and 
at different depth in the rocks. Now it would have 
been, not only an unlucky, but truly a singular event, 
if so many myriads of them should have been caught 
by " a sudden volcanick irruption into the water" and 
preserved perfect and entire, until deposited in their 

* Cuvier's Theory of the Earth, page 34, London edition. 
t Parkinson's Organick Remains, vol. Hi. page 252. 


different situations in the rocks, and there retained 
until the whole mass was lapidified. 

JBut admitting that the pike in question, with all the 
others in the Vestena IS nova ; with those found in the 
slate of La Bolca, and in the copper slate pf Thurin- 
gia, which is full of them ; also those in the stink- 
stone slate of Oenigen ; and of Verona ; the black 
slate of Glacis ; of the white slate of Acihstedt, the 
plaster quarries about Paris, and numerous other 
places, together with the singular specimen of the 
bream and salmon which I have mentioned, was kill- 
ed by a sudden volcanick irruption into the water, it 
does not explain, by any means, the modus operandi, 
by which they were preserved perfect, until they, 
with the surrounding matter were changed into rocks 
and petrified masses. I do not wish it to be under- 
stood that in all the instances which I have enumerat- 
ed, the fishes are petrified ; in many they only present 
beautiful and accurate impressions. 

That thousands of fishes have been killed by sub- 
marine volcanoes, or by a discharge of electrick fluid 
from the depth of the ocean, there can be no doabt ;* 

* The following interesting facts are related by Mr. Salt as 
having occurred in his passage from Mosambique, to Aden near the 
straits of Babel mandel. * At one o'clock in the afternoon, when 
distant about five leagues from land, we met with a shoal of dead 
fish, many thousands of which lay floating on the surface of the 
water, and we continued to pass through them about Jive and thirty 
minutes, Bailing at the rate of tw<* leagues in the hour. Many of 
these fish were of a large size, and of several species, chiefly of the 

but to place them in the situation and order in which 
they are found, and to change their substance, with 
the surrounding matter, into solid stone, seem? to 
require the existence of laws, and the operation of 
agents of which no human mind has, hitherto, formed 
a just conception. 

AVhat were the principles of those laws, or the na- 
ture and character of the agents employed in the pro- 
duction of these wonderful phenomena, it would be 
not only hazardous but the height of folly, in the 
present instance, to attempt a definition Opinions, 
however, have been advanced on a subject intimately, 
if not immediately allied, and some of which are 
truly worthy of notice. 

La Place, in his " Exposition du systeme du 
monde, tome zd, page 301, in 8vo, asserts that the 
terrestrial globe, with the other planetary bodies has 
been formed by the concretion of an aeriform fluid 
emanating from the sun. 

Of this opinion, however, 1 have nothing to say, no 
further at least, than to observe, that from it, it is pie- 
genera sparus, labrus, and tetrodon. They bore the appearance of 
not having been long killed, from the freshness of their colour and 
the redness ot their gills. 

' In the evening we passed another shoal of dead fish, which had 
become quite white and putrid." Of the cause of the death of 
these fishes there can remain no doubt ; yet, Mr. Salt observes, 
; an otcurrecjce of t:is nature is extremely raie, especially in 
deep water, and 1 cannot in any way account for it.*' (Salt's Tra- 
vels, page 81.) 


slimed, Patrin conceived his ideas of the formation of 
many of the earthy and crystalline substances, ejected 
from volcanoes, which is not, however, by the opera- 
tion of heat, but, by the combination of various 
gaseous fluids, assisted, or modified by electricity. 

On this subject his reasoning is forcible, clear, and 
scientifick, and in many instances strengthened, by well 
attested facts, collected from the observations of several 
distinguised naturalists, as eminent for scientifick ac- 
quirements, as of sound philosophy. 

Among these, Buck, in an excellent memoir, has 
demonstrated, with every appearance of truth, that 
the leucites, so very abundant in the lavas and tufas of 
Italy, are of a formation subsequent to the ejectment of 
the lavas. 

Faber, and other enlightened naturalists are like- 
wise of the opinion, that those crystals were of a sub- 
sequent formation, to that of the ejection of the lavas. 

Mr. Thompson remarks, that he observed accicular 
crystals of augite, sublimed and adhering to the 
walls of a church, which was buried by the lava of 
Vesuvius in 1794. A circumstance that proves., incon- 
testibly, the formation of crystalline substances inde- 
pendently of the agency of water ; and most proba- 
bly by a combination of aeriform fluids. 

The interesting account which the learned Dolomieu 
has given of the volcano of Stromboli, in one of the 
^.olian isles, and Macalouba, near Agregente in 
Sicily, affords abundant proofs of the daily formation 
of earthy and stony substances, by the combination of 


aeriform, or gaseous fluids assisted, probably, by the 
operations of electricity.* 

A short time after Patrin hadread before the Natio- 
nal Institute his memoir or theory of volcanoes, Guyton 
Jllorveau, rendered to the Institute, at the setting of the 
6 floreal, Ann. 3, (26th April, 1800,) an account of va- 
rious experiments made under his own eyes, which 
proves, ist. < That lime is composed of azote, hydro- 
gen, and charbon." 

2d. " That Magnesia is composed of lime and azote, 
(i e.) of the same elements as lime, with a superabun- 
dance of azote." 

3d. " That Soda is composed of magnesia and hy- 

4th. " That Potash is composed of lime and carbo* 
nated hydrogen. "f 

Sir Humphrey Davy has, however, by a series of 
successful experiments, since proved what Humboldt 
and Lavoisier had long ago suspected of the earths in 
general, that, at least, some of them are composed of 
metallick oxids. 

This may possibly be true, with respect to all the 
earths, without invalidating in the least, the opinion 
that all earthy and metallick substances may have been 
formed by a combination of aeriform or gaseous fluids, 
modified or assisted by electricity. 

* Se* 3 ; his account of the Lipari Islands, pages 113 and 153. 
t Patrin, vol. V, page 223. 


Humboldt found by experiments, that the gas which 
he had collected in the mines contained iron in so- 

He likewise detected an earth in solution, in what 
is termed the electrick rain waters, f 

But waving all comments on the above experiments, 
and admitting the possibility of earthy and metallick 
substances being formed in the small way, or upon a 
small scale, by a combination of aeriform fluids, modi- 
fied or assisted either by electricity, or anj other agent, 
we hazard nothing in saying that similar results may 
be expected from the operation of the same agents up- 
on the large scale. Indeed, a careful and attentive 
view of the subject, at least, so far as relates to that 
class of rocks which I have mentioned, will justify the 
conclusion, that some analogous process must have been 
employed in the formation of those districts which con- 
tain, in the greatest abundance, and in an infinite va- 
riety, organick remains of animals completely lapidi- 
fied, and in a state of preservation so perfect, that eve- 
ry essential characteristick of their several species is 
still retained. 

Such a state of things seems, conclusively, to be in- 
compatible with the igneous, or humid process of for- 
mation, particularly the latter, and for reasons which I 
have already advanced. 

That a change of matter, or the formation of sub- 
stances, upon a scale so extensive, and, at the same 

* Patrin, vol. V, page 252. f Vol. V, page 255. 


time, so stupendous in its kind and appearance, should 
be produced by the operation or agency of either elec- 
tricity, or galvanism, separately or combined, seems, 
to our limited understandings, not only incomprehensi- 
ble, but both morally and physically impossible. 

But from the vague and imperfect knowledge which 
we at present possess, of the power and operations of 
those agents, particularly the former, w r e are incapable 
of forming an adequate conception of their operations 
and effects in the great scale of nature. 

Yet from the knowledge we have acquired of the 
subject, if we reflect upon the surprising results produc- 
ed by the operations of these two powerful agents, 
while, under the management and control of man, and 
which are daily made manifest to our senses, what 
may we not expect from them, when under the direc- 
tion and control of Omnipotence. Results the most 
stupendous and awful have been, but too often, wit- 
nessed in almost every part of the world, and such as 
to leave no doubt in the mind of any one, that others 
still greater and of a more novel kind, may have been 
the effects of their operations ; such as the formation of 
whole districts, which have suddenly risen, new form- 
ed, above the waters of the ocean, embracing in their 
limits, millions of organised bodies, that have been 
aught in the solidified mass. 


# general current having prevailed, $fc. Not only 
does this continent present abundant and undeniable 
proofs of the prevalence of currents, both impetuous 
and extensive, over its surface, but also that of al- 
most every other in the known world, that has been 
visited by men, capable of observing and tracing 
the effects of their operations. Yet. strange as it may 
appear, few indeed have ventured, after having point- 
ed out their effects to explain the cause of these cur- 
rents, the source from whence they flowed, the course 
which they pursued, or the periods of time at which* 
they probably may have existed. 

Had a Telas, Gmelin, Cronstedt, Faber, Pallas, 
Charpentier, Born, Werner, Arduino, l)e Luc, Saus- 
sure, Patrin, or a Dolomieu, turned their attention 
more particularly to this subject, they might have ren- 
dered still more important and essential services, to 
the science of Geology, by lifting the veil that ob- 
scures from our present view, the mysterious phenom- 
ena that are involved in this interesting subject, and 
thereby enabling us to contemplate it in a Light, more 
consistent with truth and philosophy. 


Had they, in their travels, sought after facts that 
point out the existence of once powerful currents which 
swept over islands and continents, lifted rocks from 
their firm foundation, and buried whole forests at an 
immense depth beneath the surface of new formed dis- 
tricts, that have been suddenly amassed by their op- 
erations, they would, long since have furnished us 
with numerous corresponding truths, which, on com- 
parison, would be found to harmonize with those of a 
similar kind, in every district of the globe, and ena- 
ble us to establish something like a rational theory or 
system by which to regulate our opinions, and direct 
our researches in those hidden and obscure operations of 
nature. Instead of which, however, their remarks on 
this head are few, vague, and unsatisfactory, and such as 
to afford but very little assistance in determining 
whether the currents which appear to have overrun 
different parts of the world, and the effects produced 
by them, were cotemporaneons with those that appear 
to have overrun our own continent. 

This being the case, I shall proceed to notice some 
of the facts that have been stated, relative to supposed 
currents, and their effects, with a view to see how far 
they correspond with similar facts observable in va- 
rious parts of the continent of America, (and which I 
have before mentioned) and also, to see how far they 
will warrant the inferences already advanced, relative 
to the cause of those currents, and the source or 
sources from which they flowed. 


The great and cautious Geologist Saussure, ob- 
served in various instances, indications of the destruction 
of mountains by inundations "that near the Rap- 
tindei, in Siberia, had evidently its sides torn off by an 

La Metherie supposes that the fresh water shells 
and remains of quadrupeds, about Paris, were deposi- 
ted in their present situation by marine currents. 

Among the numerous indications of the prevalence 
of currents which present themselves in almost every 
quarter of the world, no one offers a stronger evidence 
or proof of their existence and operations, than the im- 
mense deposites of fossil wood that are found at consid- 
erable depths in the earth, and in every country upon 
it. They not only afford the strongest proofs of the 
existence of currents, but they afford, at the same time, 
the most striking correspondencies in relation to the pe- 
riod or time in which they were, in general, deposited, 
and also of the means by which they were accomplished. 

In America, as I have before remarked, the depo- 
sites of fossil wood, are, upon an average, from 40 to 50 
feet below the surface ; and in many instances, below 
low water mark, in a bed of bluish clay, or mud, re- 
sembling sea bottom. Below this point, it is not pro- 
bable that trees could ever vegetate and arrive to ma- 
turity. The same or very similar facts will be found 
to exist in Europe, Africa, and probably Asia. 

It is stated that < l trees, much resembling the laurel 

* Kirwan's Essays, p. 380. 


and the olive were buried in almost the whole of the 
mouth of the red sea ; and which, during the ebb, were 
sometimes exposed and from the flowing in of the tide, 
were torn up."* This he observes is very astonishing ; 
since even higher up in the country no trees are to be 

Eratosthenes relates the same circumstance as ob- 
servable in the Persian sea.f 

De Boot remarks, that " near Bruges, in Flanders, 
upon digging to the depth of 30 feet, whole forests 
wore found ; the leaves and the trunks being so little 
altered, that the different species of the trees which 
had fallen yearly, might also be distinguished. "J 

Buffo n relates, on the authority of Rommazini, that 
for four miles round the town of Modena, on digging 
to the depth of twenty six feet, entire trees, as filberts 
with nuts upon them, and great quantities of branches 
and leaves are found, and at the depth of forty nine 
feet they came upon a second stratum of fossil wood 
and leaves, extending to the depth of sixty feet or more. 
This last or lowest stratum is probably the lowermost 
deposite of vegetable matter, and corresponds, not only 
with the preceding case, related by De Boot, but with 
numerous others of a similar kind that occur in Ame- 

Dr. Plott remarks, that at Wattington Park in Ox- 
fordshire, at the bottom of a pond, were found some 

* Strabon Geography, lib. 16. 

t Vide Parkinson's Or^anick Remains, vol. 1, p. 53. 

\ Vide Parkinson, vol. 1, .p. 55. 


tons of oak, and a pit being sunk fifty or sixty feet 
deep, many whole oaks were found, one of which was 
upright, and one also perpendicular, but inverted.* 

In Dr. Richardson's account of the fossil trees at 
Youle, in Yorkshire, it is said, that some of them are 
one hundred feet in length, and their tops all lie in one 

Similar remarks are made of the subterraneous trees 
of Hatfield Chase, by M. De la Pryme : " Infinite 
millions of trees and roots are found under the space of 
one hundred and eighty thousand acres of land, the 
tops of which trees commonly lay north east."f 

Subterranean forests have been described, by va- 
rious writers, as being found in numerous instances in 
different parts of the world. The Rev. W. JBorlase 
has given an account of subterranean trees found on 
the shores of Mounts bay, Cornwall. 

Another is mentioned as extending under the sea on 
the coast of Lancaster, between Liverpool and Pres- 
ton, ( England.)} 

Another at Sutton in Lincolnshire, (England. ) 

M. Jlutenreuth has discovered, near Canstadt, a sub- 
terranean forest of Palms, many of which, are two 
feet in diameter. Tf 

Mr. Rennell observes, that " when the great reser- 
voir was dug in the city of Calcutta, whole trees were 

* Dr. Plott, page 161., 

f Vide Parkinson's Organick Remains, Vol. I page 65. 

t See Bake well's Introduction to Geology, page 260. 

Oiganick Remains, vol. I. page 71 ^ Vol. 3, p. 429. 


found at a great depth."* These, and many more, 
are mentioned, but as nothing is said of the depth at 
which they are found below the surface of the earth, it 
is unnecessary to describe them, with a view to the 
correspondencies, which are observable between them 
and those of America. 

Were other proofs, of the existence and operations of 
currents, wanting, I might quote whole pages on the 
subject of deposites of fossil organick remains of ani- 
mals and vegetables, that are found in almost every 
country upon earth, and most of which, it is believed,, 
have been wafted by currents, and promiscuously de- 
posited with alluvion, &c. wherever they have been 
discovered ; but I shall dispense with any remarks on 
that head, and appeal to the opinions of those whose 
observations and experience entitle them to the highest 

Among others, Mr. Parkinson makes the following 
remarks ; " The fact, however, is, that although no 
(fossil) remains of man are found, the surface of the 
earth, which is inhabited by man, displays, even at the 
present day, manifest and decided marks of the mecha- 
nical agency of violent currents of water* Nor is 
there a single stratum, of all those which have been 
mentioned, which ,does not exhibit undeniable proofs 
of its having been broken, and even dislocated by some 
tremendous power, which has acted with considerable 
violence on this planet, since the deposition of the stra- 
ta even of the last formation."! 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 514. 

t Parkinson's Organick Remains, Vol. Ill, page 451, 


I shall, in the next place, proceed to notice the few 
remarks that have been made, relative to the course or 
direction, in which, it is supposed, these currents may 
have flowed, and also of the cause. 

In Cuvier's Remarks on the Environs of Paris, he 
observes, "A marked character of a great irruption 
from the south east is impressed on the summits, and 
in the direction of the principal hills." 

Mr. Carew observes, that " the Cornish tinners hold 
a strong imagination, that in the withdrawing of Noah's 
flood to the sea, the same took his course from east to 
west, violently breaking up, and forcibly carrying with 
it the earth, trees, and rocks, which lay any where 
loosely, near the upper surface of the ground. To 
confirm the likelihood of which supposed truths, they 
do, many times, dig up whole and huge timber trees, 
which they conceive, at that deluge, to have been over- 
turned and overwhelmed."* 

Mr. Kirwan has taken a much more enlarged, and 
extensive view of the subject, and seems to be decided- 
ly of the opinion, that the various changes, that appear 
to have taken place upon the surface of the globe, and 
which are believed to be the result of currents, have 
been produced by the operation of an " irruption of 
waters from the southern ocean/ 7 and further, that this 
irruption of the southern ocean was the cause, or con- 
sequence of the general deluge or Noatick flood. 

In support of the first part of the proposition, he ob- 
serves, " This is pretty evident, from such animals as 

* Carew's Survey of Cornwall, 1602, page 7. 


the elephant and rhinoceros being found, in great mas- 
ses, in Siberia, mixed with different marine sub- 
stances ; whereas, no animals, or other substances, 
belonging to the northern regions, have ever been 
found in southern climates." 

From the circumstance of the immense deposites, in 
Siberia, of the fossil remains of elephants, of rhinos- 
ceri, and other animals, peculiar to southern Asia, 
his conclusions are supported by a more than common 
degree of plausibility ; for certain it is, that an almost 
incredible quantity of the remains of those animals is 
found buried beneath the surface of the earth, in the 
high northern regions of Siberia. That they were ne- 
ver common to that climate, is pretty certain. That 
they never migrated there voluntarily, and so oppor- 
tunely as to be all destroyed at the same time, and all 
buried together, is equally as certain. That they were 
never carried there by the winds, is still more certain. 
But, that they were carried there by currents, and those 
too, flowing across the continent of Asia, is not only 
pla'^ible, but conclusive ; no other medium or means 
presenting itself by which a work, of such extent and 
magnitude, could have been accomplished; that of an 
absolute miracle excepted. 

With respect, however, to the conclusions of Mr. 
ICirwan, <" that by the breaking up of the fountains of 
the great deep, we are to understand, an irruption of 
waters from the southern ocean," by which the great 
rl -,( \va^ produced, for the purpose of purging the 
earth of its impurities, aud by which, with few excep- 


tions, almost every living thing upon its surface was 
not only destroyed, but annihilated, it is a very diffe- 
rent subject. But whether correct and true, or not, is 
more than any mortal living can ever prove. Never- 
theless, his views of the subject were dignified and 
sublime ; his researches were deep and extensive, and 
so intent was his mind upon this interesting topick, 
that he suffered it to be swept away by the resistless 
current, occasioned by the irruption of waters from the 
southern ocean, to attend to the frightful scene of bury- 
ing alive, by thousands, elephants and rhinoceri, 
without thinking of any other part of the world. 

What, let us ask, must or would have been the con- 
sequence of the waters of the southern ocean, leaving 
it, for the purpose of inundating or deluging every foot 
of earth upon the globe ? It appears to me to need no 
astronomical calculations to determine, that its conse- 
quences must have been worse, than that of the deluge. 

Had Mr. Kirwan been assisted by a knowledge of 
one-tenth part of the existing facts, that have a most 
intimate bearing on, and relation to the subject of cur- 
rents that are supposed to have been connected with 
the universal deluge ; had he bestowed a more minute 
and critical examination on these facts, and extended 
his views so far as to have embraced every continent 
upon the globe, in order to determine the relation and 
extent of their operations ; he might, with the half of 
his intelligence and sagacity, have discovered such a 
series of analogies and correspondencies, presenting 


themselves at every avenue, as would have enabled 
him to establish a theory, that should harmonize in all 
its parts, and carry with it in the highest attainable 
degree, the semblance of truth, if not the seal itself. 

As it is, his theory of the deluge, though plausible 
and supported by facts, in themselves highly interest- 
ing, is limited, imperfect, and destitute of that support 
which is necessary to enable us to clear up the exist- 
ing difficulties which present themselves, and in a 
*hape so formidable as to bid defiance to every attempt 
to reconcile them to his theory, consistently with the 
principles of truth and philosophy. 

For example. If the deluge, which was doubtless 
universal, was occasioned by an irruption of water 
from the Southern ocean, and which, in its course, 
swept from all the surface of southern Asia, the ani- 
mal exuvia, and deposited them on the borders of the 
Arctick sea, how does it happen that nothing of the 
kind has hitherto been discovered in the same, or simi- 
lar latitudes on the continent of North America ? 

On the contrary, the organick remains of animals 
appear to have been carried in a direction, from north 
to south across the continent of America, and deposit- 
ed, as in Siberia, in the alluvion on its most southern 

* It is not pretended, by any means, that all the animal remains 
are deposited in the alluvial region; it is well known that they are 
occasionally found in different parts of the country, as high as lat. 
11, perhaps higher, and particularly the remains of the mammoth. 

This conclusion is founded on the incontrovertible 
fact, that the remains of the elephant and mammoth 
are found deposited in the great alluvial district on our 
Atlantick coast, which never could have been caused 
by a current, flowing from the Southern ocean ; because 
in its course, following the direction of the Atlantick, 
no district or country presents itself, from which 
these animals could have been transported ; besides, 
if from that source, they would have been transport- 
ed still further over the continent, perhaps as far 
north as those in Siberia. 

Not only are the remains of these animals found by 
mere accident, in our alluvial district, and which in all 
probability are nearly as abundant as the remains of 
the elephant and rhinoceros in Siberia ; but the re- 
mains of the mammoth, which is an animal, beyond the 
shadow of doubt, peculiar to the high northern re- 
gions, are found beyond the great bay or gulf of 
Mexico, buried in alluvion on the continent of South 

This difficulty alone, seems to present an insupera- 
ble obstacle to the adoption of the theory of Mr. 
Kirwan ; that the deluge was occasioned by an irrup- 
tion only from the Southern Ocean. 

That a current may have flown from the Southern 
Ocean across the continent of Asia, is more than pro- 
bable ; the deposites of organick remains in the north- 
ern parts of Asia and Siberia, are demonstrative of 
such an event. That it may have been a consequence 
of the elevation of the waters of the ocean, for the pur- 


pose of inundating the entire globe, I am willing tu 
admit ; not only so, but I shall contend, that at the 
same time, and most probably from the same cause, a 
corresponding current flowed from the north pole, but 
with much greater rapidity, for the same end or in- 
tentions, and producing similar or corresponding 

It becomes necessary, in the next place, to explain 
the apparent inconsistency, seemingly attending the 
prevalence of two powerful currents flowing at the 
same time, in direct opposition to each other, in order 
to obviate any doubts that may be entertained as to the 
real existence of two such currents, and their simulta- 
neous operations. 

It will be recollected, that in the first part of these 
essays, I endeavoured to prove, by a variety of in- 
teresting facts that exist on the continent of North 
America, that a powerful current had flowed, at some 
remote period of time, over its whole surface from 
north east to south west, or from north to south that 
one of the many results of this current, was the for- 
mation of the great alluvial district, skirting our At- 
lantick coast. And also, that the focus or probable 
source of this current, was the Arctick sea or north 
pole. And further, in order to account for the cause 
of the elevation of the waters of the ocean, and the 
consequent currents that flowed over the continent, I 
assumed the grounds on which St. Pierre explained 
the cause of of the deluge, viz. to the melting of the 
polar ices not however with the view of advocating. 


the theory of St. Pierre, but to explain the probable 
results that must inevitably have grown out of this 
new order of things. Neither did I assume it, under 
the smallest degree of conviction, that the ices at the 
two poles, if they were to be suddenly and complete- 
ly dissolved, would be sufficient, in addition to the 
oceans, to inundate or deluge the earth completely ; far 
from it. But if the waters of the deluge did flow from 
these sources, it is more than j)rob able that the polar ices 
were dissolved and rendered tributary to this stupen- 
dous object; and that the same Almighty Power 
which governs the universe, could easily have increas- 
ed the quantity of water at these two focusses to a 
degree sufficient to deluge the world. 

That the deluge was decreed by the Almighty to 
accomplish the awful denunciations which he had pro- 
nounced against an impious race of men, there can 
remain no doubt. That it did take place with all its 
concomitant horrours is equally as certain. 

That to have elevated the waters of the ocean 
above the tops of the highest mountains in the world, 
must have been the result, only of a miracle, will not be 
denied. That to have accomplished this work by the 
incessant fall of torrents of rain, is by no means pro- 
bable, and for reasons which 1 have before advanced, 
in part, but which it may not be amiss to repeat : viz. 
The fall of rains would not, probably, have pro- 
duced the full and complete effect which was intended $ 
for as the waters of the ocean rose in height, the cur- 
rents from the surface of the land, and even from the 
mountains' height, would at last have been checked, 


as the tides of the ocean check the currents of rivers. 
Under such circumstances, thousands of districts 
would have retained their forest trees entire ; for rains, 
in continued and incessant torrents will never beat 
down forests, unless assisted by currents ; whereas, 
it is said in the appalling decree that every living 
substance that I have made, will I destroy from off the 
face of the earth." Hence, we are justified in the 
conclusion, that currents of inconceivable force and 
rapidity were not only consequences, but the most 
efficient agents in the fulfilment of this decree. 

That they flowed from the two poles of the earth 
is, after viewing all the exising facts, the most rational 
inference that can be drawn ; and in fact, one that 
scarcely admits of any other conclusion. 

Uuder these impressions, I shall proceed to obviate 
the apparent inconsistencies before mentioned, and to 
examine, still further, the probable consequences of 
these two powerful and opposite currents. 

I have observed, that from the north pole, there are 
but two outlets ; the one into the Pacific ocean 
through the comparatively, narrow channel of Bheer- 
ing's straits ; the other, through an immense channel, 
into the Atlantic ocean, between the coasts at Green- 
land and North Cape on the northern coast of Lap- 
land. And that these two outlets are situated almost 
diametrically opposite to each other, on the two sides 
of the globe. 

Under these circumstances, whether the waters that 
flowed from the north pole, were the results of the 


melting of the ices, or some other cause, it is immate- 
rial ; by far the greatest quantity of water flowed 
into the Atlantic ocean, and continued so to do, with 
increasing rapidity, until the continent was partly over- 
flowed by its waters, and those of the Arctick sea, no 
longer restricted by their natural boundaries, overrun 
the whole continent from north to south. 

At the same time, and from the same cause, and 
most probably too, for the same purpose, a correspond- 
ing current was flowing from the south towards the 
north pole ; but being unrestricted in its course and 
sphere of action, and at liberty to flow in any direc- 
tion, its force was weakened, and being opposed by the 
more powerful current of the Atlantic, which was lim- 
ited between three great continents, it was divided ; 
a part flowing into the Pacific, and the other into the 
Indian Ocean. As the water increased in quantity, 
the currents were also increased in rapidity, still, having 
no influence on the unequal current of the Atlantic, it con- 
tinued to urge its force into the Pacific, and Indian 
Oceans, Thus, while the current from the North Pole, 
through the Atlantic ocean, was overrunning all the 
continent of America, east of the Snowy or Kocky Moun- 
tains, and a part of Europe, the currents from the 
South Pole were overrunning all Asia and a part of 

It now remains to describe the operations of these 
opposite currents, and to point out their visible effects. 
But how vain, and how feeble the efforts, even of the 
utmost stretch of human imagination, in attempting to 


delineate, or even " trace the circumstances of the most 
horrible catastrophe to which the human, and all ani- 
mal species, and even the terraqueous globe itself, had, 
at any period since its origin been exposed."* 

From the comparatively few facts that I have been 
able to obtain from reading and from observation, I 
have endeavoured to prove, that a current had flowed 
from the north or north east, to the south or south west, 
across the continent of America, embracing in its course, 
nearly its whole breadth. 1 have there endeavoured to 
make it appear, that almost all the high northern regions 
of North- America display but little else, than a super- 
ficies of bare rocks, from which, the soil had been ta- 
ken by this overwhelming current, and carried across 
the continent, and deposited on the borders of the At- 
lantic ocean That by it, whole forests, together with, 
probably, all the animals that then inhabited the land 
were swept away, and deposited in the alluvion which 
had accumulated in low depressed places; but 
more particularly, in the great alluvial district at the 
south eastern extremity of our continent I have en- 
deavoured to prove that those districts of fossil 
wood and organick remains of animals, of different 
kinds, that are found at and below low water mark, are 
the result of the operations of this great current in 
its earliest stage, and before it had risen to the height 
of our ordinary mountains That the stones which had 
been for ages accumulating on the bottoms of our ri- 
vers, were driven from their beds and wafted over the 

* Se Kirwan's Essays, p. 54, 


country, or deposited in tlieir western and southern 
banks That facts of this kind are common in almost 
every part of America But throughout the whole of 
this immense space, not an instance occurs, that 1 can 
hear of, that will favour, in the least possible degree, an 
opinion that a current had flowed in a contrary direc- 
tion, (the present rivers excepted,) over any part or 
portion of our hemisphere. With Asia, however, it is 
not only different but directly the reverse ; the strong- 
est evidence of which, is that, which Mr. Kirwan has 
adduced in favour of his theory, (viz.) the immense de- 
posites of elephants and rhinoceri, mixed with marine 
substances, in Siberia These animals, it is well known, 
are, almost exclusively, inhabitants of the southern parts 
of Asia, from lat. 10 to 30 or 35 north ; that from 
their enormous size and clumsy form, they are render- 
ed extremely unwieldly, and, when exposed to the ope- 
rations of an irresistible current, must be among the 
first that fall victims to its fury Hence, the conclusion, 
that a current, flowing from the south pole, overrun the 
continent of Asia, and swept in its course these animals 
and buried them with the alluvion, in the high northern 
regions of Siberia. 

Numerous other circumstances, doubtless, exist in 
every country comprised within the limits of this great 
continent, which will apply with equal force as proofs 
of the existence and operations of a current from the 
southern ocean or south pole. 

But as yet, few travellers have visited these coun- 
tries with a view to the promotion of science and 


those who have, seem to have discovered but very lit- 
tle interest in this important subject, as scarcely any 
mention is made of facts that are connected with it. 

In Europe however, numerous facts have been ob- 
served by the votaries of science, particularly by geolo- 
gists, and mineralogists and also some in Africa, and 
which lead to the conclusion that they are, not only, 
the result of currents of water, but of currents flowing 
from the southern ocean, at the same time as those 
which overrun all Asia. 

These facts and results, I would explain on the fol- 
lowing principles. 

The currents from the south pole, as I have remark- 
ed, were principally thrown into the Indian, and Pa- 
cific Ocean ; that of the latter, in consequence of the 
continent of America stretching away to the N. West, 
was naturally thrown in a north westerly direction 
across the continent of Asia. The former being thrown 
into the Indian ocean and being influenced in its course 
by that of the Pacific ocean, together with New-Hol- 
land and the Islands in the China Sea, was likewise 
urged in a north westerly direction, and with all its 
force thrown into the bay of Bengal, the Persian Gulf 
and the Red Sea The countries in the neighbourhood 
of these last three seas, are probably among those that 
suffered most materially by these currents, in the early 
stage of the inundation ; for as the waters of the ocean 
were elevated, the numerous rivers which run an east- 
erly course, and are discharged into the bay of Ben- 
gal, and particularly the Ganges, were obstructed in 


their courses, and thrown back to inundate the whole 
country between it and the Arabian Sea. While 
the same operations were going on throughout 
all Arabia and Persia, the currents were driven with 
great force through the Red Sea into the Mediterra- 
nean without obstruction ; for it is more than proba- 
ble that the Isthmus of Suez did not exist at that time. 

Among the proofs to be adduced, in support of the 
currents from the Southern Ocean or South Pole, are 
the following. 

New Zealand, in a high southern latitude, presents 
an aspect similar to the high northern regions of Ame- 
rica, being almost destitute of soil, as would appear from 
the description given by Dr. Hawksworth " A pros- 
pect more rude, craggy and desolate than this country 
affords from the sea, cannot possibly be conceived; for 
as far inland as the eye can reach, nothing appears but 
the summits of rocks which stand so near together, that 
instead of valleys, there are only fissures between 

The south side of the Island of J ava, which was ex- 
posed to the operation of the currents, is high, broken, 
and rugged While the north side is low and of an al- 
luvious formation, and extending thirty miles or more 
into the country, where it begins to rise into hillsf. 

The island of Tongotaboo in the Pacific Ocean, ri- 
ses suddenly from the sea, on the south east coast; 

* See Cook's Voyage round the World, 
t Cook's Voyages. 


while the north west side is alluvions, affording plains 
and meadows Terre del Fuego, likewise, presents 
to view, an aspect which leads to the conclusion, that it 
has suffered by an agent, more general, if not more vi- 
olent in its operations, than the volcano that exists in 
one of its highest mountains Many other places dis- 
cover the most decided and unequivocal marks of the 
operations of dreadful currents from the southern ocean, 
and which, as in all cases of the kind, occasioned the 
most sensible effects in parts most exposed to its opera- 

The borders of the Red Sea seems, likewise, to afford 
proofs of the operation of these currents. 

As the waters of the Indian Ocean were probably ur- 
ged into this sea with inconceivable force and rapidity, 
the shelly tribes that had long held the undisputed pre- 
rogative of inhabiting its oozy bottom, were torn up and 
carried in a north westerly direction into the interior 
of Egypt Hence it is, that great quantities of shells 
of various species are distributed over the country, 
and mixed with the soils and sands of Egypt."* 

" Betwixt Suez and Cairo, likewise, " says Dr. 
Shaw, " and all over the mountains of Lybia, every 
little rising ground, and hillock that is not covered 
with sand, discovers great quantities of the Echini, as 
well as of the bivalve and turbinated shells, most of 

* These are doubtless the same as alluded to by Herodotus in 
book 2, chap. 12. 


which exactly correspond with their respective fa- 
milies still preserved in the Red Sea."* 

Similar facts and appearances occur on the northern 
shores of the Mediterranean, and the districts adjacent, 
likewise exposed to the force and operations of the 
same current, some of which have recently been taken 
notice of by Mr. Allen in his geological sketch of the 
environs of Nice. 

" The fissures 1 now talk of, " he says, " seem to 
have been formed after the consolidation of the breccia, 
already described, and are literally filled, in some 
places, with sea shells, of a species all now alive in the 
Mediterranean". (Page i^J 

In speaking of the shells in the clay, he says, " It is 
in this particular kind of clay that a considerable va- 
riety of shells are found, of kinds also which are all 
to be met with alive in the Mediterranean." (Page iy.J 
And of the shells found in the sand near the village of 
Trinity he further remarks, " If they can be got out 
entire, they afterwards retain a slight degree of hard- 
ness ; but even in their pulverulent state, they ex- 
hibit their varieties distinctly, and all I am told, are 
kinds now living in the Mediterranean. Indeed I 
have seen most if not all of them, in a recent state." 
(Page IQ.J 

Whence came these shells, but from the bottom of 
the Mediterranean, where their species are now living? 
And to what cause shall we attribute their removal, but 

* Shaw's Travels, p. 383. 


to the operations of a current setting in that direction, 
and by \vhich they were torn up from the bottom and 
thrown upon the surface of that kind of Valley, at the 
foot of the eastern slope of the Alps ? No appearances 
of the kind have ever, I believe, been taken notice of 
on the opposite shores of that sea ; neither have the 
shells, mentioned by Dr. Shaw, as being spread 
over Egypt, the families of which are still living in the 
Red Sea, ever been observed on the eastern borders of 
that sea, or the Arabian deserts. It is true Mr. Irwin 
mentions, that quantities of shells, are found in the de- 
sert near Mocha, but he likewise says, that they are 
the productions of the Ocean.* 

That the shells in both these instances were removed 
by the force of currents from the south, lhave no doubt, 
and this opinion is supported by similar facts, that oc- 
cur in other parts both of Europe and Asia, where not 
only like cases occur, but they seem decidedly, to have 
been produced by the same cause, and most probably, 
at the same time. 

In the immense deserts, at the northern extremity, 
of the Caspian Sea, numerous instances of this kind are 
to be seen, and of which Pallas has made particular 
mention in his travels in Russia. 

< We have" he observes, " the following incontes- 
tible proofs, that the Yaikian desert, as well as those of 
the Kalmuks, and the Wolga, have been formerly cov- 
ered by the waters of the Caspian Sea : first, the innu- 

Mrwin's Voyages, vol. 1 p. 18. 


merable shells that are scattered in every direction of 
these deserts, exactly resemble those of the Caspian sea, 
and are not to be met with in the rivers." Pallas' Tra- 
vels, vol. I. page 78. 

In speaking of the fossil shells on the banks of the 
Wolga, he says, " Several bivalve shells of the C as- 
pian sea are found in great numbers on the high banks 
of this river." Vol. L page 113. 

Near Yenatsevka, A quantity of decayed shells 
are every where found intermixed with this sand, and 
some Caspian muscles in a calcined state/"' Vol. I. 
page 118. 

In his description of the rolled pebbles and fossil 
shells at Arsagar, he observes, " This extensive base, 
and mountain itself, as far as the highest eastern knoll, 
are covered w r ith small, black and white lenticular 
pebbles, which must have assumed .that form under, 
water. On the summit of the ridge, I found the bi- 
valve shells of the Caspian sea, in a good state of pre- 
servation, a proof that the waters of this sea formerly 
covered the other Selenitick rocks, as well as this emi- 
nence, that rises from twelve to thirteen fathoms above 
its base." Vol. L page 14*. 

On the fossil shells near lake Byeloi Ilmen, he re- 
marks, " On this border of sand banks we observed 
many shells of the Caspian sea, though we had not met 
with any in the low country, either because they were 
covered over with mire, or entirely decomposed, or, per- 
haps, they had been drifted more towards the banks of 
the ancient sea." Vol. L page 307. 


Mr. Kirwan, in speaking of the shells in the deserts 
of Naryn and others more southern, between the Wol- 
ga and the Jaik or Ural, says, " The shells which 
abound in this extensive flat, exactly resemble those of 
the Caspian, and are different from those of the adja- 
cent rivers."* 

To what shall we look for the cause of these exten- 
sive deposites of fossil shells, that are peculiar to the 
Caspian sea, whilst nothing of the kind has ever been 
observed, that I can find, either on the west, the south, 
or the east side of it? If that sea has receded, as is 
pretended, or fallen below its ancient level, we might 
reasonably expect to find fossil shells, once peculiar to 
it, on all its borders, except where rocks exist ; but 
this is not the case. Whilst they abound in the banks, 
and in the neighbourhood of the Wolga, no mention 
is made of any thing of the kind near the mouth of the 
Oxus, or in its ancient course ; neither do I find any 
thing of the kind, as having been observed in the great 
desert between the Caspian sea, and the sea of Aral. 

That they were carried there by currents from the 
south, and deposited, is rendered still more probable, 
from the circumstance that in the same districts, the fos- 
sil remains of the elephant, &c. are found buried in the 
alluvion,! which is many degrees further to the north, 
than the countries to which they naturally belong, or 
which they have ever been known to frequent. 

* Kirwan's Essays, page 91. 

t See Pallas's Travels, volume I, page 108 and 115. 


As* the waters of the ocean increased in height, and 
the currents in rapidity, the countries adjacent to the 
Mediterranean were inundated, and the waters pro- 
pelled across the continent between the Alps, Pyren- 
nees, and other mountains, whilst the animal and vege- 
table remains of Hindostan, Arabia, and Africa, were 
borne across the country, and deposited in many 
places on the continent of Europe ; such as the ele- 

* As respects the geological appearances in the neighbourhood of 
the Caspian sea, and the sea of Aral, it is difficult, from the few facts 
that are given us on this subject, to determine, with certainty, what 
were the effects of that great revolution upon it and the surround- 
ing country. Yet, although the great extent of country, the Steppes, 
to the northward and westward of the Caspian sea, does not alto- 
gether favour the opinion, that the same currents have been instru- 
mental in producing the changes, which we are led to suppose it has 
undergone ; the country to the south east to a great distance affords 
many reasons to believe, that it has experienced material changes 
from the same cause ; and that the great desert of Khilva or Kiva, 
(once perhaps a part of the Caspian Sea,) is the result of its opera- 
tions. If we view the great ridge of Imaus on the east, extending 
to a great distance from south east to north west, and its subordi- 
nate ridges extending westerly a considerable distance ; and then 
view the great range of Sariphi Mountains, commencing near the la- 
titude 32 50', and running a similar course until meeting the Cas- 
pian sea, then turning north along its coast to latitude 42 or more, 
we shall see an immense valley, through which these currents must 
of necessity have flowed, and in which lies the great desert of Khie- 
va, extending from latitude 37 20' to beyond 42. This desert 
extends in breadth from the Caspian sea to the river Sihon, or Oxus. 
This river takes its rise in the Ghergistan Kuttore mountains, 
which run in a circular range from mount Seriphi on the west, 
to mount Imaus on the east. 


phant and rhinoceros, the bamboo and palm from Hiu- 
dostan ; the seal, &c. from Africa. 

These are mentioned as having been found in vari- 
ous places in France, Italy, and other districts on the 

The remains of the Hippopotamus, peculiar to the 
island of Sumatra, and Africa have been found in 

Some of the lower hills of the Appennines contain 
fossil bones of elephants, rhinoceri, whales, and dol- 

Jussieu discovered in a stone, which he found in the 
earth near the coal, at St. Chaumont en Lionnois, an 
impression which bore the exact resemblance to the 
fruit and seeds of the Abor-tristes of travellers. This 
tree, it appears, grows only in the Canaries, and at 
Malabar, on the coast of Coromandel.f 

The remains of the hyena, from the Cape of Good 
Hope, are found associated with those of the elephant, 
in the caverns of Gaylenreuth. 

Remains of this same animal (the hyena) are found 
too, associated with those of bears, which, at present, 
exist only in the north. 

" At what time," says M. Cuvier, ft was it, that 
the elephants, and hyenas of the Cape, of the size of 
our bears, lived in our climate, and were shaded by fo- 
rests of palms, and in which they took shelter in ca- 
verns, along with bears as large as our horsfts. )j f 

* Phillips's Geology, page 87 and 97. 
f Parkinson's Organick Remains. 
| Cuvier's Theory of the Earth. 


In the great coal district near Cologn, not only the 
trunks of trees, deprived of their branches, are found, 
but " nuts which are indigenous to Hindostan and 
China, and a fragment of a resinous guin are also found 
in it."* 

To the operations of these currents we may attribute 
the cause of the excavation of the rocks at Gibraltar, 
as mentioned by Major Imrie, " On the surface of the 
rock," he observes, "are seen pot-like holes, hollowed 
out by the attrition of gravel or pebbles, set in motion 
by the rapidity of rivers, or currents in the sea, some 
of the pebbles now remaining in them." 

From this phenomenon Mr. Imrie concludes, that 
f( however high the surface of this rock may now be ele- 
vated above the level of the sea, it has once been the 
bed of agitated watersS'-\ 

Admitting these facts to be true, do we hazard too 
much in saying, that, probably, at the same epoch, in 
which these holes were formed, the great and impor- 
tant event took place, which the ancients have so often 
mentioned, and of which so much has been said, (viz.) 
the disjunction of Europe and Africa by "the labours 
of Hercules" so called :f and by which a communica- 
tion was opened between the Mediterranean sea and 
Atlantic Ocean, at the straits of Gibraltar ? 

Whether this be true or not, it is worthy of remark, 
with respect to the excavations, or pot-like holes in 

* BakeweH's Introduction to Geology, page 197. 
t Parkinson's Organick Remains, vol. Ill, page 332 
\ See Natural History of Pliny, book 3. 


the rocks of Gibraltar 1 , that similar cases occur in dif- 
ferent parts of the world, and, I believe, at nearly the 
same elevation above the present level of the ocean. 

Mr. Mackenzie, in speaking of the portage of the 
Chaudiere des Francois, says, " It must have acquired 
the name of Kettle, from the great number of holes in 
the solid rock of a cylindrical form not unlike that cu- 
linary utensil." 

" At the bottom of them are generally found a num- 
ber of stones and pebbles.'' 

These holes are represented, as being upwards of 
ten feet above the present level of the water at its 
greatest height. And further "They are indeed to be 
seen along every great river throughout this wide ex- 
tended country."* 

M. Henry, after describing the carrying place of La 
Chaudiere Francois, and the excavations in the rocks, 
observes, " but the phenomenon is not peculiar to this 
spot, the same being observable at almost every carry- 
ing place, in the Otaouais." 

" Every where the waters appear to have subsided 
from its ancient level. "f 

On the Mohawk river, where it is supposed a dread- 
ful disruption of the rocks has taken place, at some 
unknown period of time, these cylindrical excavations 
in the rocks, are numerous and deep,J and afford the 

* Mackenzie's Travels, p. 37. 

t Henry's Travels, p. 31. 

\ See Clinton's Introductory Discourses, p, 52. 


most unequivocal proofs of the violent agitations of 
currents of water, at an elevation, much above the pre- 
sent bed of the river, and corresponding in height too, 
above the level of the ocean, very nearly with those in 
the rocks of Gibraltar. 

Facts so palpable, and at the same time so numerous 
and interesting in their kinds, are calculated to impress 
a belief in the existence and operations of currents, in 
every quarter of the globe ; and that too, far above 
the present level of the sea. 

So decided are many in this opinion, that they have 
not hesitated, to attribute the cause of these interesting 
phenomena, to the operations of currents, without know- 
ing or endeavouring to explain, by what means they 
were put in motion, or whence they probably originated, 

Faujas considers the fossil remains, found at the 
quarries of Montabussard, as having been brought 
from India, by the same revolution which has removed 
these remains of elephants, which are dug up in the 
north of Europe, in Italy, France and England. 

La Metherie supposes, that the fresh water shells 
and remains of quadrupeds, about Paris, were carried 
and deposited in their present situation, by the opera- 
tions of marine currents. And as before, M. Cuvier, in 
his remarks on the environs of Paris, says, that " a 
marked character of a great irruption from the south 
east, is impressed on the summits, and in the direction 
of the principal hills." 

Of these facts, there can remain no doubt ; almost 
every country in Europe and Asia affords similar ap~ 


pearances, and such as to justify the conclusion, that 
these mysterious and interesting phenomena, are at- 
tributable, exclusively to the force and operation of 
currents, that once overran every region and district 
of country, where such marks and appearances are pre- 
sented to view. 


Green ooze, or mud. From time immemorial it 
has been, and still continues to be a custom with 
mariners, to regard the soundings (so called) which 
they obtain, as indicative of a particular part or por- 
tion, or even a whole range of coast to which they are 
advancing qr along which they may be coasting. It is 
mentioned in the journals of most navigators, and by 
some historians ; and it will be found in, by far, the 
greatest number of cases, that at the depth of sixty 
fathoms, the bottom of the sea is composed of mud, or 
by some, ooze. 

Herodotus makes particular mention of this circum- 
stance, and observes, "Of this fact there exists 
another proof : if from a vessel bound to Egypt, the 
lead be thrown, at the distance of a day's sailing from 
the shore, it will come up at the depth of eleven 
fathoms covered with mud, plainly indicating that it 
was brought there by the water. 7 ' Book %, Chap. 5. 

Pocock observes that i( For seven or eight leagues 
from the land, they know by the sounding plummet if 
they are near Egypt, as within that distance it brings 
up the black slimy mud of the Nile, that settles at the 


bottom of the sea, which is often of great use in navi- 
gation ; the low land of this country not being seen 
afar off."* 

Dr. Shaw says, that at the distance of twenty leagues 
from the coast of Egypt the bottom is mud " so far 
at least, by sounding this mud is found to extend, j-" 

It is more than probable, that from ten to twenty 
leagues from either shore throughout the Mediterra- 
nean, a similar bottom will be found to prevail. But 
whether or not, it is very much a matter of doubt, if 
the mud, mentioned either by Herodotus or Dr. Shaw, 
(which was about the same distance from land) was 
ever carried there from the Nile. The sentiments 
which Dr. Shaw has expressed, seem to indicate doubts 
in his own mind on this point. ' Surely," says he, 
" the soil in Ethiopia (provided the Nile reacheth no 
further) must be of an extraordinary depth, in hav- 
ing, not only bestowed upon Egypt so many thousand 
annual strata, but laid the foundation likewise of a 
future addition to it in the sea to the distance of twen- 
ty leagues.'^ 

A similar inference is deducible from the expres- 
sions of Mr. Bruce, on finding mud by soundings at 
the distance of seventeen leagues west of Alexandria 
and which are as follows : 

u From this I inferred, that part of the assertion, that 
is the mud of the Nile, which is supposed to shew 
seamen their approach to Egypt, is mere imagination ; 

* Pocock's Travels, t Shaw's Travels, page 432. \ do. do. 


seeing that the point where we then were, was really 
part of the sea opposite to the desert of Barca, and 
had no communication whatever with the Nile." 

"On the contrary, the Etesian winds blowing all 
summer upon that coast, from the westward of north, 
and a current setting constantly to the eastward, it is 
impossible that any part of the mud of the Nile can 
go so high to the windward of any of the mouths of 
that river."* 

If we examine the bottom of the ocean with a view 
to its character, we shall find, that in almost every sea 
and latitude, at a certain depth, we have an oozy or 
muddy bottom. 

In support of this position, I might fill whole pages 
from the journals of different navigators in various 
parts of the world ; but the following are considered 
amply sufficient. 

In a voyage made by order of the King of France 
in 1771 and 1773, en divers parties de V Europe, de 
I'JLfrique, et de I'JLmerique pour Verifier I'utilite de 
plusier methodes et instruments serving a determiner 
la latitude, tc. par Verdun de la Creene, le Chevalier 
de Border, et Pingre Chancellor de Paris, we find 
the following report. 

Soundings on the coast of Spain. 

t( From the mole, the most eastern from the city 
(Cadiz) called point de St. Croix, at the distance of, 
from four to eight cables length, it is good anchorage, 
in six to eight fathoms, muddy bottom, v (fond de vase.) 

* Bruce's Travels, vol. I. page 85. 


At half a league, before entering the pass, and in 
the pass even, quite to the anchorage, we find from 
eight to six fathoms of water, bottom muddy sand." 
Vol. I. page 43. 

" In the lat. of the bay of St. Lucar and Sibeon, 
the bottom is a black mud/' (vase noir.) 

" In the lat. of Cadiz, the bottom is a brown mud 
and sand, mixed with mud. Page 46. 

" Near the Cape de Verd islands in ten and a half 
fathoms, the bottom is sand and corals." Page 131. 

" Near the island St. Jago the bottom is gravel and 
coral." Vol. I. page 164. 

On the coast of Newfoundland, from lat. 45 1 to 
46 50' the soundings are as follows : In twenty-eight 
fathoms, the bottom is coarse and fine sand and oursin, 
(sea hedge hog.) 

In 32 fathoms, do. do. do. 

In 38 fathoms, bottom rocky. In lat. 46 N. and in 
35 fathoms water, bottom composed of flint stones. 

In 42 fathoms, bottom is shells and flints. 

In eighty fathoms, the bottom is of black mud. 
Vol. L page 236. 

On the coast of Denmark, from lat. 64 50' the 
soundings are in 54 fathoms, a fine grey sand, flints, 
little shells and corals. In eighty-five fathoms the 
bottom is black mud. In lat. 63 50' at one hundred 
fathoms the bottom is a black mud." Vol. I. page 270. 

" On the coast of Norway, in lat. 58 50' and at 
one hundred and seventy-five fathoms, the bottom is a 


soft mud. In lat. 59 50 and at eighty-five fathoms 
the bottom is muddy." 

" In lat. 60 50' and as they approach the coast, 
the bottom, in seventy-five fathoms, is sand and gra- 
vel." Vol. I. p. 274. 

" On the coast of Jutland at a small depth, the 
bottom is sand and gravel. On the coast of Norway, 
on the contrary, the depth of water is considerable, 
and at the bottom, is of brown or black mud." 
Vol. 1. page S80. 

" At Copenhagen at eight fathoms, is sand and 
mud." Page 288. 

" In the German ocean, from lat. 53 50' to 57 50' 
the soundings at thirty fathoms was mud, on ap- 
proaching the coast, mud and sand, at twenty fa- 
thoms, the bottom sand and gravel," Vol. I. page 330. 

" On the coast of Spain and Portugal, at the dis- 
tance of three, four, and five leagues from Couron- 
ville, and at the depth of seventy, to seventy-five 
fathoms, the bottom was mud and some sand." 
Vol. II. page 13. 

" On the coast of Africa, from Cape Spartel, to 
Cape Blanc, near Assan, we find, from 28 to 30 
fathoms of water, a grey sandy mud." Vol. II. p. 33. 

" On the coast of Sale and Fredale, at the distance 
of, one mile and a half to two leagues or more, we 
find at 15, S0 ? 25 and thirty fathoms water, a bottom 
of rock. At 2| leagues the bottom is sand. From three 
to seven or eight leagues, and at from fifty to one hun- 
dred fathoms, the bottom is mud." Vol. II. page 37- 


Off cape Courtin, latitude 33 8' north, at two leagues 
or more, there is, at forty and fifty fathoms of water, a 
bottom of mud. Vol. II. page 39. 

Off Mogador, at a league from land, we have twenty 
fathoms of water ; at two leagues, bottom of rock ; and 
at three and four leagues, and more, and at thirty-five 
and forty fathoms of water, the bottom is mud, with 
sand.* Vol. II. page 40. 

I have been thus particular to give the different 
soundings, in order to show, that almost uniformly, as 
we recede from the coast and come into deep water, 
the bottom of the ocean is mud ; differing however in 
its characters, in different places, and seldom liable to 
change ; hence the importance of a knowledge of the 
various soundings to navigators, who well know, if 
they are skilful, when they approach a particular part 
of a coast or country, by this highly important crite- 

On the coast of West Florida and of Pensacola bay, 
in 60 fathoms water, we have a sandy bottom. At 
about five leagues from Mobile bay in 120 fathoms wa- 
ter, we have a bottom of mud and sand.f 

The soundings at a great distance to the eastward of 
George's banks, on the coast of America, and what is, 
I believe, called Boston channel, and at the depth of 
sixty or seventy fathoms, discover a muddy bottom, 
(or what is commonly called by mariners, green ooze,) 

* See Valentia's Travels, vol. II, page 261, &c, on the Sound- 
ings of the Red Sea. 

t See Mr. Darby's excellent map. 


mixed with innumerable little shell-fish. This ever 
has been, and continues to be the same, from the time 
our seas were first navigated to the present day. 

It is the same off Block Island channel, so called, 
gome degrees to the southward and westward, and con- 
tinues, with some variations, at a similar depth through- 
out a great portion of the Atlantic coast. 

From whence then comes the sand, by way of the 
sea, to form our great alluvial district or even the 
smallest part of it ? 

George's banks comprize a very great extent of a 
pure sandy bottom, and in some places, at low water, 
to the very great injury of navigation, not more than 
from three to five fathoms in depth, and subject, during 
a gale from the southward, to be dreadfully agitated 
and torn by the billows of the ocean ; yet not a bushel 
of this sand has ever been washed upon the coast due 
north, and west of it ; if there has, no alluvial forma- 
tion or accession to the coast is perceivable in those 

It may be said that George's banks are to the north- 
ward of the gulf stream, and consequently, beyond its 
influence. This is admitted ; but the Bahama banks, as 
well known as the latter, are constantly subject to cur- 
rents, and the agitation of the sea ; yet they remain, 
and ever have been, the same. Capt. Hiley says, 
" The water in this great bank, (the Bahama) in most 
places, appears as white as milk, owing to the white 
sand at the bottom gleaming through it, and is so clear, 
that an object, the size of a dollar, can easily be seen, 


lying on the bottom in four fathoms water, in a still 
tini'v'* Yet, as before, although subject to currents, 
and those sometimes strong too, not one particle of this 
sand is seen to move on the bottom, or mixed with the 
water, and carried away by the currents. 

Were we to admit that sand is thrown upon the 
shores of any country, by the sea, in a quantity, suffici- 
ent to form alluvial districts, we might expect to find 
similar results, by the operations of the winds and 
waves, in all large lakes ; more particularly such as re- 
ceive the waters and alluvion of a number of large ri- 
vers ; but this is seldom the case, although the waves 
in many lakes rise to a great height, and, during the 
prevalence of severe and long continued storms, rage 
with a fearful violence, that often appals the stoutest 
heart, whilst they seem to threaten a total disruption 
of their natural boundaries. 

There are many lakes and bays of very considerable 
extent, that afford no indications of alluvial formations, 
by the sand cast upon the shores by the waves ; and if 
we examine the subject attentively, it is by no means 
to be wondered at, for the bottom of most lakes, ex- 
cept where rocks prevail, is, like that of the sea, com- 
posed of mud ; and even in this there does not appear 
to be that wonderful and rapid accumulation, which 
some have supposed. 

Considerable changes have taken place in the lake 
Mseotis, and which have, most probably, been produc- 

* Riley's Narrative, page 25. 


ed by the depositions from the Borysthenes and Te- 
nais, which pass through a great extent of low alluvial 

It was from this circumstance that Polybius was in- 
duced to believe, that the entire filling up of the Maeo- 
tis, was no very distant event, (lib. iv. c. 5.) Yet says 
Mr. Rennell, *' The operation, however, is so slow, 
that it may reasonably be deemed a very remote event, 
at present, although nearly 2000 years have elapsed, 
since the date of his prediction. Polybius, it seems, 
was of the opinion, that in his time, this lake was not 
more than 15 to SO feet deep, generally ; but," says 
Mr. Rennell, " it is at present more than 30, and in 
the deepest parts, 40 to 48."* 

In the lake of Geneva, which has been, perhaps, as 
long known as that of almost any other, no material 
change I believe is observable, although subject to the 
operations of torrents, that rush into it with. inconcei- 
vable rapidity from the sides of the Alps. 

In the lake of Bala, in Wales, which is 13 miles in 
length and six in breadth, and through which runs the 
river Dee, Mr. Mkins could find no indications of 
alluvion, nor scarce any earthy particles. f 

The same is precisely the state of the Cumberland 
and Westmoreland lakes ; of Lock Lomond, in Scot- 
land ; of the Locarno, in Italy ; all well known for ages. 

Of the sea of Tiberias, or sea of Gallilee, or the lake 
of Gennessereth, which has been as long, if not lon- 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 69. 
t Atkins's Tour, page 24. 


ger known than that of any in the world, no apparent 
change has taken place ; neither is there any appear- 
ance of its heing filled up ; on the contrary, the water 
is represented as clear as the purest crystal, and the 
bottom covered with shining pebbles,* which never 
would have been the case, if the alluvion were constant- 
ly accumulating upon its bottom. 

Many similar cases could be mentioned, all tending 
to prove that very few instances occur, in whicli allu- 
vial districts have been formed, upon the borders of 
lakes, by the sand washed up by the waves ; and also, 
that the mud, of which the bottom of most lakes is com- 
posed, does not increase in quantity so rapidly as is 

These remarks are as applicable to bays and gulfs, 
of the sea, as to lakes. 

Mr. Klrwan observes, that "No part of the allu- 
vion of rivers is carried to any great distance into the 
sea. Mariners were accustomed for some centuries 
back, to discover their situations by the kind of earth 
brought up by their plummets, a method that would 
prove fallacious, if the surface of the bottom did not 
continue invariably the same."f 

In the Adriatic gulf, which is surrounded with ex- 
tensive and fertile regions in the highest state of cul- 
tivation, and the soil of which is tributary to the winds, 
rains, and mountain torrents, that are daily hurrying 

Clarke's Travels, vol. II, page 259. 
t Kirwan's Essays, page 440. 

It into this sea, we might expect to find an increase of 
alluvion upon its bottom ; yet the Abbe Fortis relates, 
that " urns which were thrown into the Adriatic more 
than 1400 years ago, instead of being covered with 
mud, were found in the same situation, as they could 
be supposed to have been, the first day of their fall to 
the bottom."* 

Hence, and from a variety of other circumstances, we 
may justly conclude that but a very small portion only 
of our alluvial coast, was ever formed by sand thrown 
upon the shores by the sea, for admitting that sand is 
suspended and wafted along by the gulf stream, a cir- 
cumstance which I am inclined to believe no man will 
admit, who has ever crossed that stream in different 
places, and given himself the trouble to notice the wa- 
ter, as soon as it was carried beyond the influence of 
that current, for instance to the northward of it, be- 
tween the gulf stream and the coast, and where there 
is no current, it immediately sinks to the bottom never 
to rise again ; for sand, or silex, of which the sand of 
our sea shores is formed, being specifically three times 
heavier than water, it is both morally and physically 
impossible, that it can be long suspended in that element, 
unless where there is a current of no inconsiderable 
force and rapidity to keep it suspended, and waft it 
along with the stream. Of this any person may be 
easily convinced, by examining the currents of our ri- 
vers, in any part of our country, and perhaps those of 
any other. 

* AbbeFortis'sTiavels, page 282. 


Liable to Decomposition. There is not, perhaps. 
a more prevalent opinion, or one more generally be- 
lieved, than that which relates to the universal ten- 
dency of every species of rocks to a slow, but pro- 
gressive state of disintegration, or decomposition. 
It is an opinion that has been long inculcated and re,- 
ceived, and so deeply impressed are many, with a 
belief of the fact, that they hesitate not, to assert, 
that the solid materials which constitute the body of 
this earth, are but the debris of a former world that 
has undergone the process of decomposition, and from 
which, our present globe is composed. 

Was it not that such an assertion is tantamount to 
a libel against the letter and spirit of Holy Writ 
and also the tendency of such a declaration to 
encourage scepticism aud infidelity, it might be suffer- 
ed to pass, with the idle winds unheeded and without 
comment or notice. But the tenor of such an hypo- 
thesis is too gross and improbable for belief, and de- 
serves the pointed animadversions of an abler pen 
than mine. 



The tendency, or liability of the several classes of 
rocks to decomposition, in a greater or less degree, ac- 
cording to their character and structure, is a subject, 
of itself, highly important, and sufficiently ample, if 
properly treated, for a copious volume. But it is not 
consistent with the plan of this work, nor the views 
with which 1 set out, to enter into a minute examina- 
tion of facts and opinions on this extensive and in- 
teresting topick. 

1 shall therefore content myself with endeavouring, 
by a few cursory observations and remarks, to prove 
that the decomposition of rocks is not a process so 
general and so rapid as many seem disposed to be- 

One of the principal circumstances that gave rise to 
the opinion, that our mountains are daily crumbling 
into dust, is, in part, the peculiar tendency of some 
imperfectly formed rocks to fall into decay ; but more 
particularly, the amazing quantity of alluvial de- 
posites that have, in time, accumulated at the mouths 
of numerous rivers ; and which, it is believed, are 
made up of the debris of decomposed rocks which 
have been washed by rains into creeks, thence into 
rivers, and by the rivers wafted to the sea and de- 

It is from this that Herodotus, Pliny and Aristotle, 
drew the inference, that Egypt was entirely the gift of 
the Nile. 


It is from this, that the Ethiopians assume to them- 
selves a share of credit, iu saying that Egypt is in- 
debted to them for its origin.* 

It is to this, that Peiresc and Colonne predicted 
that Venice would, one day, be united to the continent. 

To the same cause, Ifircker and others attribute the 
formation of the alluvial district at the mouth of the 
Tiber ; and to the same also, Piganiol imputes the for- 
mation of the alluvial grounds, by the Vidourle and 

From this cause, it is alleged, that the plains of 
llpussillon have been formed at the southern extremity 
of the Pyrennees,f and it is from this process, which 
is supposed to be in active operation in those moun- 
tains, that Louis the XIV. was led to observe to his 
little son, that the time would arrive, when the Py- 
rennees would be reduced to a level with the vallies, 
or in other words, that posterity would one day say, 
the Pyrennees no longer exist.f 

It is pretended by some, and I have even heard it 
alleged, that this was not the true intent and meaning 
of the expression of Louis to his son : but, on the 
contrary, (as at that time it was hoped and expected 
that Spain would one day be united to France,) that 
the Pyrennees would no longer exist as a boundary 
between the two countries. 

* Mineral de Pyrennees, by Palassau. 

t Palassau, Mineral de Pyrennees, page 302. J Do p. 87. 


tlowever that may have been, it seems more than 
probable, that in a familiar conversation on the pheno- 
mena of nature, Louis may have meant to convey to 
his son the idea, that by the changes of temperature 
the operations of heat and cold, promoting a decompo- 
sition of rocks ; and also by the operations of winds 
and torrents of rain, which convey the debris into the 
vallies ; the mountains would, at length, be reduced to 
a level with them. Be this as it may, it is not essen- 
tial to the subject in view. 

That almost every species of rock is liable to de- 
composition, in a certain degree, is admitted. That 
some are much more liable than others, is equally 
certain. That some kinds are subject to an entire de- 
composition, cannot be denied. But in order to deter- 
mine the degree, or tendency of the several kinds of 
rocks to decomposition, and the extent to which they 
are liable ; and also, the degree of influence which 
such a change may have had, in producing the won- 
derful results, that are supposed by many to have 
taken place, it is necessary to take a cursory view of 
the several kinds most prevalent, and of which the 
crust of our globe appears to be composed, in order 
that we may be enabled to form some correct ideas of 
the extent of this operation. 

Rocks, it is well known, are divided into the follow- 
ing classes, viz. primitive, transition, secondary or 
floetz, alluvial, and volcanick. These are again sub- 
divided into their several kinds. The different kinds 
of rocks arranged under the denomination of granite. 


are mostly composed of felspar, quartz, and mica. Of 
those three substances, the felspar and mica, are, from 
the character of their component parts, most liable or 
subject to decomposition : the former in particular, 
when it contains a portion of potash, as it sometimes 
does ; and the latter when exposed by itself to all the 
vicissitudes of temperature or weather But when the 
felspar is of the common kind, and free from potash 
or any other substance out of the common order, calcula- 
ted to promote a decomposition, and when the three sub- 
stances are perfectly combined, so as to form compact 
granite, or any of its subordinate divisions, as gneiss, 
sienite, mica slate, &c. but very little appearance of 
decomposition takes place, though exposed to the chan- 
ges of seasons for ages in succession, as I shall en- 
deavour to prove in the sequel. 

The only substance, then, that comes under the de- 
nomination of granite, most subject to decomposition, 
is the coarse imperfectly formed micaceous schistus, or 
schistose mica, in which the mica predominates, and is 
very commonly intermixed with sulphuret of iron, 
which, by its decomposition, promotes that of the 
whole mass. This substance commonly occurs 
among the strata of gneiss, and, except in some 
instances, is not very abundant. How little then 
can be derived from this source, towards the filling 
np of valleys, or the formation of alluvial dis- 
tricts ? More particularly so, since neither this, nor 
either of the other three classes of rocks, are subject 
to decomposition, except being actually exposed to the 


atmosphere. By this expression, I do not mean to de- 
ny that some of the simple component parts of rocks, 
are sometimes, when exposed to waters filtrating 
through the great mass, found in a decomposed state ; 
such may have been the case of kaolin, mica, and a 
number of other mineral substances ; but not being 
subject to the operations of wind, rains, &c. afford 
little or no addition or increase, to the subjacent dis- 
tricts, nor to alluvial formations. Among the second 
class of rocks, or those of the transition kind, we find 
that there are but two species which are peculiarly 
liable to decomposition ; (viz.) The porous, or imper- 
fectly formed trap, and Gray Wack. The aggregate 
proportion which these bear, to that of the general 
mass of rocks that are presented to view upon our 
globe, is comparatively small ; and although at first 
view we should be inclined to believe, from their struc- 
ture, that they are liable in an eminent degree, to decom- 
position, it will be found, on a close examination 
of the several circumstances necessary to be taken into 
view, in order to ascertain the fact, that the progress of 
decomposition, even of these rocks, is not so extensive 
and so rapid, as is generally believed. 

Among rocks of the third class, or those of secondary 
formation, and also those of the alluvial kind, which 
I am disposed to consider as of a ternary formation, 
the several kinds of red sand- stone, and the sand or 
free stone of mote recent formation, are those most sub- 
ject to decomposition. Of these the former do not con- 
stitute a very large proportion in the scale of rocks, 


and, although sometimes found in situations highly 
elevated, do not contribute so abundantly to the forma- 
tion of alluvial districts, nor, by decomposition even, to 
the increase of the soil which they often overhang. 
With the latter I am ready to admit, that from its in- 
compact and pulverulent texture, it is not only liable 
to be decomposed, but is rendered unfit, except in some 
instances, for the purposes of civil architecture. Yet 
however liable it may be to decay, it forms but a small 
integrant part in the great mass of rocks, and common- 
ly lies low and is mostly covered ; consequently con- 
tributes but little either in the formation of soil or al- 

Having briefly considered some of the rocks most 
liable to decomposition, it is necessary to take a slight 
view of such as are least subject to disintegration. Of 
these may be considered, 

Granite, Primitive trap, 

Gneiss, Do silicious slate, 

Sienite, Secondary lime stone, 

Compact mica slate, Green stone, 
Clay slate (argillite) Porphyries, 
Primitive lime stone, Quartzose rocks, &c. all 
which are the most predominant in the great scale of 
rocks, and most of which are employed in the various 
departments of civil architecture, sculpture, statua- 
ry, &c. 

Previous to entering into any remarks on the decom- 
position of these last mentioned rocks, it may not be 
amiss to consider what is the nature, or actual cause, 


or causes of the decomposition of rocks ; and the ex- 
tent to which we are to admit the term ; for it seems 
not unfrequently misapplied. 

The destruction of mountains or rocks, does not vir- 
tually imply the decomposition of either. 

Mountains and rocks may be broken down sudden- 
ly, or gradually by the following causes : First, by 
repeated shocks of an earthquake. In this instance, 
they are generally displaced in large masses, and often 
removed to a considerable distance from their original 
gisement, particularly so, on the sides of mountains. 
Secondly, rocks of a columniform structure, fissuratetl 
or stratified, are often displaced and thrown down, by 
the slow and imperceptible growth of vegetables, 
which annually shoot the fibres of their roots further 
and further into the open crevices, and by gradual ex- 
pansion, force, little by little, the ponderous mass from 
its balance, until it falls, frequently from an awful 
height, and with a tremendous crash. This is a pow- 
erful agent, not only in the disruption of rocks, but in 
the demolition of old towers and other buildings. 
Scarcely will it be believed that effects so astonishing 
could be produced by causes, in themselves so unim- 
portant and seemingly trifling. But numerous are the 
instances in which the ponderous materials of lofty tow- 
ers, antiquated abbeys, and splendid palaces, have, by 
slow and imperceptible gradations, been lifted, piece by 
piece, from the adhesive cement of their moss-grown 
walls, and tumbled, in promiscuous ruin, at their 


bases, where they remain, unimpaired and uninjured 
for ages, though exposed to all the vicissitudes of tem- 
perature ; and at the same time composed of the very 
materials as the rocks in the quarries, hills, or moun- 
tains, which are said to be rapidly progressing in a 
state of decomposition. This is a fact 1 wish may be 
kept in view. 

These effects may appear strange, but the fact is no 
less true, that a single tuft of grass, implanted upon the 
top of a wall of masonry, will, in time, if not disturb- 
ed, injure its texture and break up its materials. 
What then may we not expect, where the ivy and other 
vines are spreading their luxuriant branches over the 
deserted walls, and annually forcing their numberless 
little wedges or tendrils, into every hole and crevice^ 
and gradually expanding, and uniting their forces, in 
the destruction of the noblest works of man, who, with 
so much care, has reared them to increase his glory 
and perpetuate his fame. 

Thirdlv. Rocks of a description similar to those 
last mentioned and such as are composed of irregular 
and amorphous masses lying in a juxta position, yet 
imperfectly united, are liable to disruptions, to be shat- 
tered and broken down, not only by the two latter 
causes, but by the alternations of heat and cold, wet and 

Almost all substances, rocks and stones as well as 
other things, are, on exposure to heat, liable to ex- 
pansion in a degree proportioned to the degree of 
beat absorbed ; and to a shrinking on the reverse of 



temperature. This has a tendency to loosen the im- 
perfectly connected masses of rock thus exposed and 
to facilitate the admission of water, during heavy 
rains, into the crevices. When this occurs at the tem- 
perature of the freezing point, the water is congealed, 
and by its expansion, rocks of an enormous size, as well 
as smaller masses, have often been broken up from 
their lofty situations and tumbled to the mountain's 
base. This being annually repeated, through a lapse 
of ages, occasions, in numerous instances, an immense 
accumulation of debris at the foot of the mountains, 
which, by the annual growth and decomposition of 
vegetable substances, and the sand and dust, brought 
by the winds and deposited in the interstices, assumes 
somewhat of an uniform appearance, such, at least, as 
to induce a belief that the whole mass thus accumula- 
ted is the result of decomposition. 

But I can in no wise, view it as such. Were we to 
explore those new formed districts, by cutting a hori- 
zontal drift about midway up their sides, we should find 
the fallen masses lying, like the ruins of the ancient 
cities of Egypt, in promiscuous disorder, as unchanged 
in form and texture almost as when detached from the 
parent rock. This, therefore, cannot be called the 
result of actual decomposition; but rather the dis- 
ruption, or breaking up of rocks by accidental causes, 
which are by no means common to all. 

It now remains to consider the nature, causes, and 
extent, of the decomposition of rocks. 


The very terra decomposition ^implies, in my view 
of the subject, the entire reduction of a rock or other 
mineral substances, in whole or in part, to its integrent 
moleculae ; at least so far as to be susceptible of being 
carried away by the winds, rains, &c. 

* It may not be amiss to observe, that the word decomposition,. in 
this instance, is taken or used in a limited sense, that is, as differ- 
ing in some degree from that of disintegration. 

For example, a rock or mass of imperfectly formed gneiss, gra- 
nular lime-stone, dolomite, or sand stone, falling into small grains, 
may be said to have undergone the process of disintegration. But 
if the felspar which forms a constituent part of the gneiss, should 
fall into an impalpable powder or paste like substance, as is the 
case with petunze, when changed into kaolin, it may be said to 
have undergone a partial decomposition. 

The decomposition of a substance, is a very common expres* 
sion made use of to denote the wasting or gradual disappearance 
of some earthy or mineral substances. But the word decomposed, 
(whence decomposition) technically used, implies the resolving or 
dissolving of a mixed body, or in other words, the reduction of 
a body or substance, by some chemical or other process, to its 
elementary principles. 

Hence, it would never answer to be applied, in its full extent, in 
the destruction of mountains, the disintregration of rocks, or the 
wasting away and disappearance of earthy and mineral substances 
by which the common soil whence we derive our subsistence, is form- 
ed ; for the integrant moleculae of rocks, and of which we will sup- 
pose our soil to be composed, being alike subject to the operations 
of the same agent, would likewise be reduced to the elementary 
princi pies, and we should have no soil at all. 

This fact ought to be kept in view by those who so strenuously 
advocate the perpetual decomposition or utter wasting away of the 
solid materials, of which the crust of this globe is composed 5 an 
opinion as absurd and inconsistent, as unphilosophical. 

The cause or causes by which this change is produ- 
ced, may be considered as two fold, (viz.) the one che- 
mical, the other mechanical. 

One of the instances in which the decomposition of 
mineral substances occur, by chemical causes, is that, 
perhaps, of Kaolin, or rather Petunze, which, by the 
quantity of potash it may contain, attracts moisture to 
a degree sufficient to reduce the whole to the state of 
Kaolin or a paste like substance. 

Another instance is such as is mentioned by Denon, 
with respect to the mountains of the Lybian range, 
where the decomposition of the rocks is promoted, it is 
supposed, by the highly saline state of the air.* 

The decomposition of rocks is again, supposed to be 
occasioned by a kind of lixivium that is formed by the 
decomposition of vegetable substances, and which in- 
filtrates through the superincumbent soil down upon 
the rocks, producing thereby a kind of chemical de- 
composition, differing in some degree from the common 
process of disintegration. 

There are some instances which, at first view, are 
calculated to favour this opinion, and give to it a great 
degree of plausibility but a more general investiga- 
tion of the subject will not justify the conclusion. 

For example It has often occurred that the soil, or 
earth on the sides of mountains, being almost saturated 
with water, slides down, in immense bodies covered 

* Denon's Travels, vol. 2. p. 2d. 


with verdure, into the valleys below, leaving the rocks 
beneath, apparently in a state of decomposition. 

But this newly formed surface, composed of loose 
and confused fragments of imperfectly formed rocks 
and stones, mixed with earth, being exposed to the 
operations of rain and torrents of water, are hurried 
down the steep into the valley ; until at length, the 
firm and solid mass is exposed to view, and no longer 
exhibits those striking appearances of decomposition. 

Again, in digging a few feet into the earth over a 
bed of rocks, we come into a similar covering of the 
strata. As we descend, the mass becomes more and 
more compact, until we arrive at the solid and perfectly 
formed rocks. 

These, and many more, are instances, calculated to 
favour the opinion, that the decomposition of vegetable 
matter, through a lapse of ages, may have had a con- 
siderable influence in producing this apparent change. 
But if we cut through a hill where the earth is fifty or 
a hundred feet deep above the rocks, and through 
which no menstruum could have been infiltrated, of 
sufficient strength to decompose any mineral substance, 
we find tbe same appearances. 

Again. If we dig down to a small or great depth 
upon solid compact granite, lime-stone, and some other 
rocks, we find no such appearance, though but a few 
feet below the surface Besides it frequently happens 
that the soil from the sides of mountains, slides down, 
as before, and leaves the above mentioned rocks expo- 


sed to view in a solid mass, with little or no appear- 
ance of a superincumbent decomposed matter. 

Hence, it seems that this appearance in rocks, 
though similarly situated, is not general. Therefore 
could not have been the result of a chemical decompo- 
sition from the infiltration of any menstruum from 
the surface of the earth. 

The instances in which those appearances occur, 
seem to be mostly confined to stratified or schistose 
rocks ; and as they are thus found at various depths 
in the earth, I am disposed to consider it as the result 
of an imperfect formation a consequence of the min- 
eralizing powers acting with less force near the sur- 
face of the ridge of rocks, (though at a great depth in 
the earth) than below, where the deposition, or crystal- 
lization commenced. Of this, if we consider the for- 
mation of rocks as the result of deposition, or crystal- 
lization, we shall find analogous cases, sufficiently 
abundant in every chemical laboratory, to justify the 

The principal and most efficient cause then, of the 
decomposition of rocks, appears, without going into a 
further investigation of the subject, to be the following 
degrees of temperature, viz. moist, or wet and dry, 
heat and cold. 

The effects of these, on a variety of species of rocks, 
is too obvious and palpable to be denied. But how- 
few are they ? What proportion do they constitute 
of the great mass of rocks that compose the outer crust 



of this globe ? For I speak only of the rocks of our 
mountains and those near the surface of the earth, and 
not of those below the depth that have, as yet, been ex- 
plored. To what extent is the process of decomposi- 
tion carried, and what are the effects of those agents 
upon substances the most, as well as the least, suscep- 
tible of their operations ? 

To determine this question, it is necessary to exam- 
ine the nature and capacity of the substances to be act- 
ed upon, and the force or influence, which those agents 
are capable of exercising upon these substances ; and 
also the effects thereby produced. 

All mineral substances have the capacity of imbi- 
bing, or rather of absorbing heat, or calorick : some in 
a greater, and others in a less degree ; consequently, 
their constituent particles are more or less subject to 
expansion : by the abstraction of heat they are liable to 
a proportionate degree of contraction. Hence sub- 
stances of a foliated, or granular texture, when expos- 
ed to a high or low degree of temperature, and fre- 
quently alternated, lose, in part, their adhesive quality, 
become weakened, and are disposed to disintegrate. 
Thus, a hexadral prism of mica, when taken from a 
rock, or its gangue, appears like a solid prism ; sub- 
ject it repeatedly to the operations of heat, even of the 
sun, and cold, and the laminae will separate sponta- 
neously, so as to be perceptible. The same effect is 
produced upon several of the granular substances des- 
titute of cement : hence a gradual disintegration of the 
part exposed 5 but the several species of rocks liable. 


from this cause, to disintegration, are small in number 
and therefore extremely limited in these results. 

There are, likewise, a variety of mineral substances 
liable, from their structure, in a greater or less degree, 
to the absorption of water. Repeated exposure of sub- 
stances in this state, to the heat of the sun, is another 
cause of a slow disintegration ; but the most powerful 
agent in the decomposition of rocks, of any perhaps to 
which they are exposed, is the operations of cold, when 
it arrives at the freezing point. Very few of the in- 
compact or imperfectly formed mineral substances, 
when having absorbed a quantity of water, and being 
exposed to freezing, can resist the force of its opera- 
tions, nor long preserve their form entire. 

But even the effects of this agent, as powerful as it 
may be, are, nevertheless, limited ; and it is only on 
such rocks as are destitute of a cement, that it can ex- 
ercise its powers to a degree sufficient to destroy their 
texture, and cause a disintegration. Of this we have 
sufficient proofs in the effects which are produced on 
all mineral substances by its operation. A rock or 
stone having, by exposure to rains, &c. absorbed a 
quantity of water, and in that state exposed to in- 
tense cold, and repeatedly frozen, is gradually reduc- 
ed to sand or dust ; and in the following manner : 
The water absorbed by mineral substances, insinu- 
ates itself between all, the particles to a certain depth 5 
by freezing, it expands, and the cohesion of the par- 
ticles is thereby destroyed and broken up. As soon 
as the weather moderates so as to dissolve the ice, 


the stony particles being without support, separate 
from each other, and fall from the mass. This, it is 
universally admitted, is the manner in which the disin- 
tegration of rocks is produced, by the operations of 
cold, or by frost. 

Having ascertained the manner in which this agent 
acts in the decomposition of rocks, or other mineral 
substances, we are enabled by certain criteria, precise- 
ly to ascertain, the substances liable to its effects, and 
the full extent of its power and influence upon all mi- 
neral substances. 

For example, let a mass of sand stone, dolomite, or 
other substance, in the form of a cube of any dimension, 
be emersed in water, or subjected to rain, until the wa- 
ter has penetrated to the depth of one inch in every face 
of the cube ; then let the mass be exposed to a degree 
of cold, that shall freeze it to the same depth that the 
water has penetrated ; afterwards let the mass be sub- 
jected to a degree of heat, that shall operate uniformly 
upon each face of the cube, until the frost is removed, 
and the substance of the mass falls away to the extreme 
depth to which it was frozen. 

What sort of a figure will the mass represent under 
such circumstances ? Not, certainly, that of a regular 
cube; every point and angle thus exposed, will be 
rounded down, and if the operation be repeated, for in- 
stance, through a succession of seasons, the mass will 
become a sphere, and thus progress until reduced to a 
point, or completely dissolved. 



This is precisely the effect of frost or intense cold, 
upon all mineral substances susceptible of its opera- 
tions, and is that which constitutes one of the criteria, 
by which we are to determine the extent of its power, 
in the disintegration and decomposition of rocks. 

It may not be amiss to explain (though it can scarce- 
ly seem necessary,) the manner in which heat and 
cold or frost operate to reduce a cubick mass of stone, 
to that of a spherical form, 

It is, doubtless, well known, that when water is ap- 
plied to two or more sides of a rock in the form of a 
cube, or any other angular body capable of imbibing 
it, the water is gradually absorbed ; as it penetrates 
the mass from the two sides, it meets at the angles 
where it is thinest, and its force is then directed diago* 
nally towards the centre, where the particles of the 
substance are disposed to receive it, until, perhaps, it 
becomes saturated ; and that too to a greater distance 
from the point of the angle towards the centre, than 
from either of the two sides towards the centre. 

The operations of cold or frost, and heat, are exactly 
similar. When the cold is sufficiently intense to freeze 
the mass, to the depth at which the water has penetrated, 
the particles of the substance are, by the expansion of 
the water, broken up and displaced. As the cold is 
abstracted by the application or absorption of heat, 
which penetrates the mass in the same way or manner, 
a disintegration of the substances takes place, and ex- 
tends to the depth to which it was frozen. When this 
is finished, for the season for instance, the mass no 


longer presents a cube, but a figure materially reduced, 
and its corners or angles rounded and irregular. 
Thus if the process be frequently repeated, the cube 
will be reduced to a spherical form. 

These are decidedly the specifick operations of wet 
and dry, heat and cold, in the disintegration and de- 
composition of all rocks, and other mineral substances, 
susceptible of their effects. 

Of this fact we may, without going among the rocks, 
see a striking illustration in that of, what is called, a 
" slack burnt brick" exposed to their effects. In the 
course of two seasons, a brick of this description thus 
exposed, will be reduced from a parallelogram to an 
oblate elipsis 

A similar effect is produced by the operation of heat 
upon wood. Subject a piece of wood, in the form of a 
cube, or that of a triangle, to heat, until it be ignited, 
and the angles, from the same cause, are the first to be 
on fire ; and if it be alternately ignited, and the carbon 
removed to the depth at which it has penetrated, it will 
at length be reduced nearly to that of a sphere. 

Taking these facts for granted, let us see how far 
the several kinds of rocks, and, particularly, those of 
the primitive formation, are operated on or effected by 
those agents. 

1st. The old red, the ferruginous, and variegated 
sand stones, are considered among those that are liable 
to disintegration by frost, &c. 

If we examine these rocks in their natural or primi- 
tive situation, they frequently present appearances 

which favour the opinion that they have suffered, in 
course of time, a considerable diminution, and that 
from the accumulation of small irregular masses, and 
grains, apparently of the same substance, lying upon 
and about these rocks : but who can pretend to say 
that these are not the debris of the incompact or im- 
perfectly formed mass that served as the covering as 
it were of the rocks, and which being destitute of a ce- 
ment have fallen into sand. This part or portion, it is 
readily admitted, does not nor cannot resist the opera- 
tions of those agents. But do the great masses of 
these rocks, when perfectly formed, betray unequivo- 
cal signs of disintegration from this cause ? Are they 
all in the form of boulders with their corners rounded 
down as they inevitably must be if reduced by frost? 
On the contrary, are not their points and angles entire, 
presenting a rude and craggy surface ? I will venture 
to answer that in most instances they are so. If not 
however, why is it that masses detached from a ridge 
of this kind of rock, and employed in civil architec- 
ture, and exposed to all the vicissitudes of seasons 
and temperature, should remain uninjured and without 
any visible change, for an immense period of time, 
though equally subject to the pelting of rains, the ab- 
sorption of water, and the severity of the most in- 
tense cold and frost ? Perhaps it will be urged that 
materials of this kind employed in perpendicular 
walls, are not so liable to the effects of wet and cold, 
as when buried under ice and snow through a succes- 
sion of seasons : but why is it, that when employed 


in sepulchral monuments, and placed near the surface 
of the earth, they experience no material change. 1 
could easily refer to a number of church yards in the 
northern states, where monumental tables of these 
materials, consecrated to the dead, have lain for more 
than a hundred winters, buried in snow and ice ; yet 
every letter of their inscriptions remains unimpaired 
or almost as legible as when cut, except being covered 
with moss.* 

Surely the pious act of rearing these humble monu- 
ments, and sculpturing them with pathetick strains, in 
prose and verse, to portray and perpetuate the amiable 
qualities of our departed ancestors, could add nothing 
to the durability of the materials. How is it then, 
that this substance, when employed for useful purposes 
is rendered so much more capable of resisting the 
operations of times and seasons, than when lying in 
its original bed, where it is supposed to be fast crumb- 
ling down to sand and dust, to form, or at least to be- 
come tributary to the soil ? 

Certainly there must have been some deception in 
this business, or some mistake in the calculations that 
have been made on that subject, and which I shall 
notice in the sequel; for if letters inscribed upon it 
can remain exposed flat upon the surface of the 

* In describing the monuments in a church-yard at Dalmallj, in 
Scotland, it is said that " the most modern one of the number, on 
which was sculptured a crucifix, was judged to be 500 years old ; 
yet, though of steatite or lapis ollaris, was free from decomposi- 
tion." Travels of M. Faujas de St. Fond, vol. I. page 289. 

ground for an hundred years without any material 
change, it would not lose one inch in thickness during 
the period of a thousand years : consequently, if all 
the rocks upon the surface of this globe had been 
composed of these varieties of sand stone, equally 
exposed and liable to disintegration from the com- 
mencement of time, or for six thousand years, we 
should not, at present, have ten inches of soil from 
this source upon the face of the earth. 

Among the red sand stones, there is a species of a 
ferruginous slaty kind that is peculiarly subject to 
disintegration from the above causes. It occurs in a 
number of places in these United States, and perhaps 
in every other country : but mostly I believe in what 
are considered coal districts. 

It occurs in Frederick county (Maryland) on the 
Monocasy, near Pipe Creek, having a declination of 
about 40 or 45. It is also abundant in New-Jersey 
about New-Brunswick, on the Haritan river and else- 
where. It likewise occurs in Connecticut, running 
in a N. E. direction and crosses the Connecticut river 
between Suffield and Windsor. Also below, and in 
the town and city of Hartford. Where this rock is 
exposed to the weather, the covering or upper strata is 
particularly disposed to be broken up in small rhorn- 
boidal, or quadrangular laminae, which in some in- 
stances form a complete covering to, and screen the 
rocks below from the further operations of the weather, 
by their being below the limits of frost. There are 
some other kinds of the schistic rocks which, in like 


cases, present similar appearances, but which, not 
being of very great importance in the present view, I 
shall not take into further consideration. 

2dly. I shall proceed to examine the quartzose 
rock, compact mica slate, clay slate, primitive sili- 
cious slate, horn stone slate or the palaiopetre of 
Saussure, &c. 

These substances, it is well known, when compactly 
or perfectly formed, have each an alluminous or sili- 
cious cement, which gives to the substance such a 
degree of elasticity or firmness that, if they do absorb 
a small quantity of water (and small indeed it must 
be) they are capable of resisting the operations of cold 
and frost. Hence, the extent of disintegration with 
rocks of this description is very limited. This con- 
clusion however is drawn from the appearances which 
they generally present to view. That is, of being 
angular or sharp pointed, and extremely craggy. 

Where this is the case, it is highly improbable that 
they can have suffered any material loss by disintegra- 
tion : for, as before mentioned, it is next to impossible 
that this can take place, no matter what may be the 
agent employed, for the purpose, without the points 
and angles being reduced and blunted, thus gradually 
progressing to a rounded form. 

3dly. I shall consider the green-stone, (or diabase 
of Brogniart) the porphyritic rocks, some of the 
amygdaloids, &c. 

From all the opportunities which I have had of 
examining the^e tucks in place, and from the observa- 


tions that have been made by others on their structure 
and general character, I am disposed to consider them 
among those the least liable to decomposition or disin- 

The principal constituent part of the green- stone 
rock is hornblende. This substance often differs in 
its texture as well as in colour : but in general it may 
be considered impervious to water. The other con- 
stituent part is commonly felspar. This substance, 
as I have before mentioned, is, in some cases when 
combined with hornblende, subject to disintegration, 
which gives to the rocks the appearance of a slow, 
but progressive decomposition ; and that by reason of 
the spicula of hornblende projecting a little beyond the 
surface of the rock, thereby causing a harsh and 
rough surface. 

It not unfrequently happens, in digging through the 
earth upon a ridge of this rock, that we come upon a 
superincumbent mass, or stratum of a pulverulent, or 
apparently decomposed matter, having hornblende for 
its base ; and similar to that mentioned of gneiss and 
some other stratified rocks : but where this rock is 
presented to view perfectly formed there is but little 
reason to believe that it has suffered any material di- 
minution, or loss of substance from the period at 
which it was first formed to the present time : and 
this opinion is founded on the following circumstances. 

Hornblende, being impervious to water, cannot be 
liable to decomposition from any possible change of 
temperature, that of ignition excepted. In proof of 



this, the spicula, exposed upon the surface, preserve 
all their points and angles, and are the same in form 
as those which are found in the body of the rock, when 
broken open, and which were never exposed to the 
operation of any agent whatever since its formation. 
Besides, they not only preserve their form, but even 
their fine lustre in its pristine degree. Nay, more, 
when perfectly crystallized, and thus exposed in the 
surface of the rock, the terminal angles are preserved 
as entire as at the moment when formed. 

Another proof of the durability of the hornblende 
rock, or of hornblende which constitutes almost the en- 
tire mass, is, that in sienite it manifests not the smallest 
tendency to decomposition. This substance, it is well 
known, has been employed in every department of civil 
architecture, sculpture, and statuary, from the earliest 
periods of time; exposed to every possible change of 
temperature, and the operations of every active agent 
that could be formed by a natural process, among the 
accumulated ruins of ancient cities, yet it seems to have 
experienced no material change. 

In the next place, the greenstone, or amphibolic 
rocks (for they are not always green) wherever they 
are presented to view in mass or in place, appear to 
have preserved all their points and angles almost as 
entire as when fresh broken, although exposed to every 
extreme of heat and cold, that the climate in which 
they exist may have experienced. 

With this species of rocks may also be associated 
those of the amygdaloids, mandiesteins, or variolites, 



&c. the basis of which is a hornblende porphyry, or 
porphyritic hornblende. Of these the South Mountains 
(or blue ridge) abounds in Virginia, Maryland, Penn- 
sylvania, and, perhaps, throughout the whole extent of 
its range. The mamillary masses which they contain, 
are either quartz, felspar, or epidote, and in some in- 
stances other substances. These I have examined, in 
place, on different parts of the ridge, in Maryland and 
Pennsylvania, with scrupulous attention; and I have 
no reason to believe that they have suffered any more 
by decomposition, or that they are more liable to it, 
than any of the other rocks, in which hornblende is the 
predominant substance. This opinion is founded on 
the following facts which are observable in almost 
every instance where these rocks are presented to view. 

The little irregular and isolated masses of quartz 
and epidote, which enter into the composition of these 
rocks, seem to pervade the whole body of their sub- 
stance, and every surface that is exposed to view, ap- 
pears studded with them; some of which project an 
eighth, and some a quarter of an inch above the sub- 
stance in which they are enclosed. 

These pebbles of epidote and quartz, not being liable 
to decomposition by exposure, have retained nearly 
their primitive form, whilst the basis of the rock has 
experienced, in the course of time, a slight diminution, 
which gives to the pebbles the projection which I have 
mentioned. But that the rock has experienced no fur- 
ther decomposition, is obvious from there being few or 

HO appearances of cavities from which these glohular 
masses have fallen, from the want of support. 

Again, there are no appearances of these pebbles at 
the bottom or base of these rocks, at which they must 
have fallen, nor in their fissures, from whence they 
could not be removed by either winds or rain. More- 
over, I could find no signs of them in the little streams 
that glided slowly round the fragments that had fallen 
from the rocks above. 

But the most convincing proof that these rocks are 
not in a progressive state of decomposition, except in a 
very slight degree, is, that notwithstanding all the 
changes of temperature to which they have been ex- 
posed for ages, they retain all their points and angles, 
and every feature of a rude and craggy aspect, such, 
doubtless as nature first impressed upon them. 

4thly. The real porphyry also occurs upon this 
mountain, and some other rocks, which it may not be 
uninteresting to notice in this view. 

A very fine and beautiful porphyry occurs at Nichol- 
son's Gap, in Pennsylvania, about half way across the 
mountain, and immediately on the road. It is of a pale 
red, brown, and purple colour, handsomely spotted 
with crystals of felspar. 

This beautiful species of rock, in this, and I believe 
all other places, discovers but little, if any signs of de- 
composition. All the points and angles appear as 
sharp and entire as when first broken, although ex- 
posed in their present situation ever since they were 
formed. Nay, if we consider the firm and compact 

structure of this kind of rock, the nature of its mate- 
rials, and the exquisite polish of which it is suscepti- 
ble, we shall not be surprised that sculptured speci- 
inens of it have been preserved entire, amid the ruins 
of ancient cities, for three thousand years ; nor hesitate 
to admit, that if there be a substance in nature, capable 
of resisting the all-powerful influence of time, it is that 
of porphyry.* 

Among the variety of other kinds of rocks that com- 
pose this ridge of mountains, and which have in like 
manner withstood the changes of seasons and the in* 
tensity of frost, is one that is highly interesting in this, 
as well as a geological point of view. It is a species 
of sandstone with an argillaceous cement, occasionally 
striped and handsomely variegated with the oxid of 
iron. It has been remarked, that it occurs opposite to, 
or about eight or nine miles east of Hagerstown, Mary- 
land, t There is reason to believe, however, that it 
prevails at nearly the same elevation to a great extent. 
I have found that the top of the Sugar Loaf, a conical, 
high, and isolated mountain in Frederick county, Ma- 
ryland, about seven miles east of the South Mountain, 
is composed of this kind of sandstone. I also find it 
upon the highest points, only, of the same ridge in 
Pennsylvania ; so that in every instance it appears at 

* In describing some of the ruins of Egypt, Lord Valentia ob- 
serve-, ;< near it was a Marahout, the dome of which was supported 
by four jasper columns, t'-e polish of which was as perfect as on the 
daij they were finished." Vz\*r\t. Trav. Vol. III. 

t Cleaveland's Mineralogy, p. 624. 

the same elevation, preserving a horizontal line, and 
capping all the highest points of the ridge. The same 
kind of sandstone, it is believed, occurs again at the 
same elevation on the Laurel Hills: and it is more 
than probable that the sandstone mentioned by Mr. 
Cornelius,* as being found on the tops of the Cumber- 
land, Lookout, and Rackoon mountains, (Tennessee,) 
is of the same kind, and at a corresponding elevation. 
Whether so or not, it is at least an interesting geolo- 
gical fact, and worthy of attention. These rocks, 
wherever they occur upon the South Mountain, do not 
appear, at a distance, to possess any thing novel or 
strikingly interesting ; but when approached, or viewed 
from their base, they present an awful scene of confu- 
sion, disorder, and ruins. The masses, which are of al- 
most every dimension, from a cubic foot to that of some 
hundred tons weight, lie piled upon each other to a 
great height, and in every possible direction or posi- 
tion that can add sublimity and horrour to the view. 
Some of them are standing upright ; others of great 
length are poised upon a single point of a rock, and 
seem ready, by a small force, to be thrown down ; yet 
the united efforts of many hands have not been able to 
displace them. 

The circumstance which attaches to these rocks the 
greatest degree of importance in the present case, is 
that, notwithstanding they are of sandstone, exposed 
to the bleak winds of the north, and the combined 

* American Journal of Science. 


forces of frost and snow, they discover few or no signs 
of disintegration. I have examined them with particu- 
lar attention, and neither in their crevices, fissures, nor 
cavities, could I find satisfactory proofs of disintegra- 
tion : mot even in the chasms down between the rocks, 
some of which appeared ten feet deep, were any grains 
of sand to be seen ; on the contrary, their points and 
angles appear almost as sharp and entire as if recently 
broken up from the quarry. 

5thly. Having taken a cursory view of some of the pre- 
vailing; rocks that compose the crust of our earth, 1 shall 
examine, lastly, the several species that are considered 
as most abundant, and such as occupy the widest and 
most extensive range in the structure of this globe, viz. 
Granite, gneiss, sieuite, and limestone, including their 
several modifications. 

These likewise are believed to be in a progressive 
state of decay, and being most prevalent, must, of 
course, contribute most abundantly to the soil of the 
surrounding country. Nay, their decomposition is con- 
sidered as essential to the superincumbent soil, beneath 
ivhich they lie. This part of tbe subject is highly im- 
portant, and deserves a more critical examination than 
is consistent with my present views ; I shall therefore 
pursue the course at first pointed out. 

In the first place, let us inquire what are the sub- 
stances that compose these rocks? Granite, with its se- 
veral modifications, is composed mostly of quartz, 
felspar, hornblende, and mica ; the three first of which, 
when perfectly formed, may be considered as nearly 

impervious to water. The latter when combined with 
the former so as to form perfect compact granite, and 
its subdivisions, is therefore impervious to water. 

Limestone, with most of its modifications, being a 
homogeneous substance, is likewise, when compactly 
and perfectly formed, impervious to water. Or, if it 
be contended that either of those rocks is slightly sus- 
ceptible of the absorption of water, the cohesive power 
of its structure is such, that the most intense cold or 
frost does not, nor cannot promote its disintegration. 

Having demonstrated, I think, that the disintegra- 
tion of rocks in general, is not materially promoted by 
any chemical process, arising from natural causes, and 
which will apply in a particular manner to those of 
granite and limestone, I shall proceed to inquire whe- 
ther these tw T o species of rocks are really susceptible 
of disintegration from any natural cause and to what 

In assuming this ground, I do not mean to contend 
that granite has not, in some instances, been found evi- 
dently impaired in its structure, and apparently in a 
progressive state of decomposition. The beryl and 
apatite are both found near Baltimore, in a vein of 
loose granite, running through gneiss, and which is ea- 
sily broken up and crumbled to pieces ; but this is in 
consequence of its imperfectly formed structure : the 
quartz inclined to be granular; the mica in broad 
pieces ; the felspar in large crystals, or rhomboidal 
masses ; the whole unconnected and without any ce- 
ment. Through this the water has penetrated, and, in 

time, injured its structure. Such instances occur in 
many places. The piuite is found at St. Pardoux, in 
France, in a pulverulent granite, which is evidently 
injured in its structure by some of the causes which 1 
have mentioned ; but this, most probably, is nothing 
more than a vein, exposed in the great mass of more 
perfectly formed granite; and of this and the lime- 
stone rocks en masse, I would ask, in general terms, 
where are the instances that bear the unequivocal 
marks of a progressive decomposition? 

Dr. Hutton would have us believe that the moun- 
tains are in a progressive state of destruction, whilst 
their debris are carried away by the torrents into the 

Mr. Klrwan seems also to be of the opinion that 
they are decomposing, " by being corroded by air and 
moisture/' and hence concludes, that their summits 
were once much higher than at present.* Yet when 
combatting Dr. Hutton' s theory, he endeavours to 
prove that those which are composed of granite do not 
decay, t au( J refers to the remarks of Patrin, on the in- 
destructibility of granite, for support. 

Pallassau makes frequent mention of the disinte- 
gration of the rocks of the Pyrennees, which are 
mostly of granite and limestone ; and remarks that 
they are constantly yielding their materials, for the 
formation and extension of the soil in the valleys be- 

* Kirwan's E&says, p. 98. 
t Ibid, p. 436, 


low : yet in speaking of the granite through which 
runs the Garrone, he says, " This species of rock 
braves the injuries of time, and the continual action of 
the waters."* 

So prevalent is the opinion of the degradation of 
mountains, that some attempts have been made to as- 
certain the period of time requisite to accomplish their 
total destruction, or to reduce them to a level with 
their adjacent vallies. 

M. Gensanne has found by observations, which he 
pretends are unequivocal, that the height of the Py- 
rennees is lessened, by a gradual disintegration, or 
decomposition, at the rate of ten inches in a century. 
Upon this, supposing their height to be fifteen hundred 
fathoms above the level of the sea, he calculates the 
time necessary for their destruction, admitting the 
progress to be perpetual, to be that of a million of 

Believing it unnecessary to notice the opinions of 
any other authors, who are in favour of the decompo- 
sition of rocks, I will observe that it appears some- 
what singular that Mr. Kirwan should indulge the 
belief, when, from his own assertion, the Runic rocks 
"have withstood decomposition these two thousand 
years as their characters evince."} 

But on this point, I can see but little necessity for 
his having selected the Runic rocks as an instance of 

* Mineral des Pjrennees, page 248. f Do. 87. 
\ Kirwan's Essays, page 436. 


the indistructibility of granite, lime stone, and some 
other kinds. There are many instances in the British 
dominions, more immediately at hand, and equally as 
well, if not better adapted to the purposes of a critical 
examination, removing of doubts, and of deciding 
upon the fact, or of placing the subject in such alight 
as no longer to remain a theme of discussion. Of 
these, 1 will name Stone Henge, and other Druidical 
monuments which have withstood the operations of 
time through a period amply sufficient to have deter- 
mined whether or not, they are in a progressive state 
of disintegration, or decomposition. 

Whether they are of granite or not, I do not recol- 
lect, but the presumption is, that the circumstance of 
these enormous masses having been removed from 
their primitive bed and erected into a monument, could 
not lessen the tendency to decomposition if suscepti- 
ble of it ; therefore they are suitable objects on which 
to fix our attention and to regulate our opinions on the 
subject. If not, however, a single glance at the 
Giant's Causeway might have freed his mind, and 
that of every other person, from all doubts on this 
head, and left the matter at rest. 

There are monuments, en place, erected by the 
author of nature, and which, though not of granite or 
limestone, have resisted the combined efforts of time 
unaltered and unchanged. This at least is pre- 
sumed : for had they been susceptible of the opera- 
tions of any natural agent, or of those which are 
supposed to promote the decomposition of rocks, 


there is not a basaltick column in the county of Antrim, 
or any where else, whose surfaces are exposed to view, 
that would now present a single angle entire. Where- 
as, in this instance, the faces and angles are as perfect 
and as susceptible of actual measurement, as those of 
any crystal to which the Abbe Hauy has ever ap- 
plied his goniometer, though they have withstood the 
raging conflicts of the elements through a period of 
time, not to be ascertained by the records of man, but 
at least a lapse of ages frightful and appalling to the 
human mind.* 

With respect to the opinions and remarks of Pallas- 
sau, although he says it is evident that the Pyrennees, 
from the ocean to the Mediterranean, have been pro- 
digiously depressed by disintegration, since the epoch 
of their formation.! I could not have wished for bet- 
ter support, or stronger proofs of the stationary condi- 
tion of mountains, or rocks in general, than are to be 
found in his writings. 

Had he written expressly with the view of confirm- 
ing the opinions of Monnetfi who denies the universal 

* Of the basaltick columns near Glasgow, (Scotland.) it is said, 
" Its constituent moleculse are so intimately united to each other, 
that time and the severity of the climate, have not injured in the 
lea*t, either the faces of the prisms, which still preserve their 
hardness and colour, or the entire of the mass, which remains 
unaltered, and without any perceptible appearance of decay.* Fau- 
jas' Travels, Vol. I, page 312. 

t Mineral des Pyrennees, page 121. 

\ Monnet's Mineralogy, page Gi. 


degradation of mountains, he could not have better 
established the fact, and, at the same time, set aside all 
the calculations of Gensanne, than by several circum- 
stances related in his excellent and interesting work. 

For instance, in describing "the innumerable and 
enormous rocks of granite," which surround the mine- 
ral springs at Railliere, on the Pyrennees, he observes, 
that "the destruction of these masses of granite would 
require the work of an infinite series of ages, (siedesj 
if we judge them by the superb obelisks of granite 
erected in Egypt, more than three thousand years ago ; 
monuments which at this day embellish the city of 
Rome,* without having experienced any alteration."^ 

In the next place, in speaking of the city of Bag- 
neres, situated at the entrance of the valley of Campan, 
and the mineral springs of that name, he describes se- 
veral inscriptions discovered about the springs, as re- 
ported by Oienardj and which are considered as 
proofs, that the Romans were acquainted with, and fre- 
quented those baths ; and that by them the inscrip- 
tions were executed, when they invaded that country. 

u Among these, the stone," says Pallassau, " on 
which the following inscription is engraved, is to be 
seen, at this time at Bagneres, in the garden wall of 
M. Duzer." 

* One of these monuments, I presume, is the obelisk transport- 
ed from Egypt to Rome, by^Caius Csesar. Its height was a hun- 
dred cubits, or a hundred and fifty feet, and its diameter eight cu- 
bits, or twelve feet. See Sonini, vol. I, page 127. 

t Mineral des Pyrennees, page 143- 


A G H o N I, DEO. 





Besides these, a number of others were found of a 
similar kind at the baths de Luchon, or Bagneres de 
Luchon. These baths, it seems, enjoyed considerable 
celebrity, in the time of the Romans, as appears by 
the latin inscriptions which have been discovered 
about them. After the country was freed from the Ro- 
man yoke, this place was neglected, and by the falling 
of rocks, stones, and earth, these sources of health and 
comfort were buried beneath them. The buildings 
about them were likewise neglected, and fell to ruins. 
In more modern times, however, the city has been gra- 
dually rebuilt, and, at the same time, the inhabitants 
commenced the cutting of trenches by the side of the 
ancient baths, with a view to discover the source of 
the water, which, at that time, was discharged from 
among the rocks in small streams. 

In doing this, they discovered a number of marble 
monuments, or votive altars, executed in the Roman 
style, and with exquisite taste ; and on which were 
sculptured a variety of inscriptions in latin. No less 
than twelve of these inscriptions are given by Pallas- 
sau in his work. 

Moreover, at the Pene d'Escot, one of the most re- 
markable places in the Pyrennees, being a high and 

* Mineral des Pyrennees, page 192. 

230 ; 

very steep mountain, over which it is said that Julius 
Caesar cut a road through an opening or pass, which 
the Romans called Summum Pyrenaeum, to facilitate 
the communication with Spain, the following inscrip- 
tion has been discovered, and reported by M. Le Hoi, 
Engineer des Ports, et Arsenaux de la Marine. 





This inscription is represented as being a little ef- 
faced by time ; not however so much, but that M. Le 
Roi obtained from it a correct copy, and which Pallas- 
sau has published as copied.* 

From these facts, what is the inference to be drawn? 
What man in his sober senses will, on mature reflec- 
tion, pretend that the Pyrennees, or any other chain 
of mountains, are experiencing a degradation of ten 
inches, in a hundred years, or one twentieth part of it, 
by the disintegration of the rocks, while the simple 
characters of which those inscriptions are composed, 
and superficially cut in limestone, have remained ex- 
posed to the operations of all the agents to which rocks 
in general are liable, for more than eighteen hundred 
years, (if executed by the Romans of which there can 
be no doubt) without being effaced or materially injur- 
ed? Perhaps it will be urged, that they have remain- 

* Mineral des Pyrennees, page 80. 


ed a great portion of this time buried beneath rubbish, 
or the surface of the earth, and therefore not subject to 
the operation of the agents, which are supposed to pro- 
mote the decomposition of rocks. If this plea be ad- 
mitted, it establishes, incontestibly, a very important 
fact, viz : that the decomposition of rocks beneath the 
surface of the earth, is not promoted by any chemical 
agent, formed by the decomposition of vegetable or 
other matter upon the surface of the earth. Otherwise, 
in all probability, those inscriptions must have been 
totally effaced. 

In the present instance, however, it is not necessary, 
to confine our views to the inscriptions discovered at 
the Bagneres de Luchon. Let us examine that which 
was found at La Pene d'Escot, as reported by M. le 
Roi, Engineer, &c. 

This inscription is represented as being sculptured 
on a lime stone rock, of which kind this part of the 
mountain is composed ; and by the side of the road 
leading into Spain, through the forest du Pact, and 
which road is said to have been cut by Julias Cesar : 
since whose time, (being more than 18 hundred years,) 
this inscription has remained exposed to all the vicis- 
situdes of time and temperature, without a single letter 
being effaced, as is implied by the language of the 
author, who says, ^ les restes frun inscription en par- 
tie effacee par le terns."* From these circumstances 
then, the inference is very obvious and plain, that in- 

* Mineral des Pyrennees, page 80. 


stead of millions of years being required to complete 
the destruction of these mountains, according to the 
calculation of Gensanne, or to level them with the val- 
lies, it would require as many million of millions, up- 
on a moderate calculation. 

The few preceding remarks are intended to apply, 
more immediately, to the opinions advanced by Pallas- 
sau and Gensanne, relative to the disintegration of 
rocks, and gradual depression of the Pyrennees, but 
which, however, I considered equally applicable to 
every other chain of mountains, and the rocks of which 
they are composed, that can be found upon the surface 
of the globe. 

Where I to assume the instances in which rocks of 
various kinds, and such as are most prevalent, have 
been employed in the arts, from the most remote pe- 
riods of time, to prove the non- decomposition of those 
materials, and which, by the by, having experienced 
no change in composition or structure, by being remov- 
ed from their primitive situation, or from having re- 
ceived new forms by the hand of the artist, are cases as 
decidedly in point, and are as suitable criteria, on which 
to form an opinion on this subject, as if they still lay 
exposed on the mountains. Were I permitted to re- 
sort to the ruins of ancient cities, for monuments and 
monumental inscriptions, that have for ages resisted 
the agents of decomposition, and with which to com- 
bat the advocates for the disintegration of rocks, and 
the degradation of mountains, proofs the most palpable 
and convincing could be adduced to establish the facl, 

beyond all question, that such aii opinion is erroneous, 
or almost without foundation. 

The specimens of Roman sculpture, and the inscrip- 
tions discovered at Bagneres de Luchon and la Pene 
d'Escot, are appropriate and seasonable, and ought to 
have convinced Pallassau and Gensanne of the indes- 
tructibility of those materials, and of the errour of their 
opinions, respecting the gradual depression of the 

If, however, doubts should be entertained of the age 
of these specimens, or the authenticity of the facts, we 
need only examine the cities of Greece and that of Rome, 
to find instances enough of the ruins of theatres, trium- 
phal-arches, temples, and palaces, the existence and 
age of which, being registered upon the faithful pages 
of authentick history, are enough to set doubts at defi- 
ance, and convince the most sceptical, that the mate- 
rials of which they are composed, are proof against the 
insidious agents of time, though exposed to the full 
force of their operation for thousands of years. 

Among these may be seen the remains of massy 
walls, mutilated columns, and broken entablatures, on 
the friezes of which are sculptured inscriptions, and bas 
reliefs of exquisite workmanship ; yet as entire, or al- 
most as free from marks of decomposition, as when 
turned from the hands of the artist ; though they have 
lain mingled with rubbish, to be acted on by all the 
natural agents of destruction, for nearly or quite three 

thousand years. 


Amongst these ruins, which bespeak the pomp and 
luxury of ancient kings, we also find the same mate- 
rials, which compose the rocks and mountains, that 
are said to be undergoing the gradual process of disin- 
tegration and decay. Such as granite, sienite, porphy- 
ry, marble, verd-antique, serpentine, &c. 

Antique specimens of these materials are sometimes 
exhibited to our view, which fully demonstrate, that 
they have withstood the injuries of time for ages, and 
are yet unimpaired. 

It is not long since the busts of Niobe and Socrates, 
executed in red antique porphyry, and obtained from ' 
the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum, were offered to 
view in this city. These specimens of art, which dis- 
covered all the freedom and beauty of outline, that 
characterise the Roman and Grecian statuary, had ex- 
perienced no other injury, than a kind of etching upon 
the surface; although, in all probability, fifteen or 
eighteen hundred years had elapsed, since they were 
executed , for it is well known, that for several hundred 
years, the art of sculpturing in porphyry was totally 
lost or unknown. 

Specimens of this description, abound in almost all 
the museums and cabinets of Europe, and are of 
themselves, sufficient to prove the indestructibility of 
rocks, or materials of this kind, though exposed for 
ever so long a period to the injuries of time. 

Still, if stronger evidence should be required, there 
are innumerable examples in Asia, Africa, and parti- 
cularly in the ancient cities of Egypt ; the imperishable 


rains of which, that have lain for move than twenty 
centuries would, alone, require volumes to enumerate. 

Some of the very first objects that meet the eye, as 
we approach this celebrated country, attest the truth of 
what I have asserted. Dolomieu says that the rocks, 
which stood at the entrance of the port of Alexandria, 
have withstood the bufferings of the ocean, these two 
thousand years, and still retain, unaltered, their ancient 
form and integrity. 

The obelisk of Cleopatra, and Pompey's pillar, 
(the shaft of which is granite ; its base and capital of 
lime stone, or marble,) those objects of wonder and as- 
tonishment, exhibit few or no marks of decomposition^ 
and much less, of disintegration, although they have 
been standing thousands of years.* 

* With persons who may have read the interesting travels of Dr; 
Clarkeand particularly his remarks on the Alexandrian obelisks, or 
Cleopatra's Needles ; and also on the decomposition of granite, 
some doubts may still be entertained of the correctness of my 
views on the durability of granite, or, of its liability to disintegra- 
tion, or decomposition. 

Of Cleopatra's Needles he observes " They are covered with 
hieroglyphics, cut to the depth of two inches into the stone, which 
consists of red granite ; but, owing to a partial decomposition of 
the felspar, its red colour has faded toward the surface. A simi- 
lar decomposition has frequently hastened the decay of other an- 
cient monuments ; and it offers proof of a fact worthy the notice 
of persons employed in national architecture; namely, that granite 
is less calculated for works of duration, than pure homogenous 
marble, or common limestone. The action of the atmosphere con- 
duces to the hardness and durability of the two latter; but it 


The walls of Alexandria which defended its in- 
dustry and riches, still defend its ruins,"* yet the stones 
of which they are constructed, are not decomposed. 

never fails to corrode and to decompose substances where felspar 
is a constituent. Examples may be adduced of marble, after con- 
tinual exposure to air and moisture during two thousand years, 
still retaining the original polish upon its surface unaltered ; but 
granite, under similar circumstances, has not only undergone 
alterations, but, in certain cases, has crumbled and fallen into the 
form of gravel." Vol. III. page 170. 

In my remarks on the decomposition of granite, I have expressly 
admitted that, in certain cases, it is liable to disintegration, so 
much so that, in time, the whole mass will crumble and fall into 
sand and gravel 5 and of such, most probably, were the instances 
which he mentions as being seen among " the ruins of Alexandria, 
Troas, and over all the district of Troas in general." Ibid. 

\ have also admitted that, (whether in granite or porphyry,) if 
potash forms a constituent of felspar, as it does in some instances, 
it is apt to promote the disintegration and, perhaps, decomposition 
of the felspar. But the far greater part of the felspar that enters 
into the composition of granite, porphyry, &c. is not of this des- 
cription, and particularly that which forms a constituent part of the 
granite, qf which Pompey's pillar and the obelisks are composed. 
Hence we are led to infer, that the slight change which the felspar, 
in Cleopatra's Needles, had undergone in so many ages, (and 
slight it must have been indeed, since only its red colour had 
faded,) must have depended, in an eminent degree, on local cir- 

It is a well known fact, that monuments of art composed of 
these materials and placed upon the borders, or in the vicinity of 
the ocean or a sea, arid exposed to the saline vapours that are al- 

* Baron de Tott, volume II, part II, page 36. 


The twenty beautiful marble columns of Grecian 
workmanship, discovered by JViehbur at Bolbitine, 
no traces of which could be found recorded in the pages 
of history, and of which no traditionary legend, of the 

most constantly floating in the atmosphere, are more liable and even 
more subject to marks of decay or decomposition, than the same 
substances when placed in situations more remote from the sea. 
It is, doubtless, from this circumstance, that the parts of these 
monuments which are exposed to the air, and being situated not far 
from the port of Alexandria and the Mediterranean sea, have ex- 
perienced some change at their surfaces, which indicates a slight 
degree of decomposition ; while the parts not exposed, discover no 
marks of the kind. 

This conclusion is warranted by the remarks of Dr. Clarke 
respecting the attempt made to remove and transport one of these 
obelisks to England j in which he observes, " The work went on 
rapidly ; the obelisk was turned, and its lower surface" (which 
was buried in the sand and rubbish,) was found to be in a high 
state of preservation." Vol. III. page 170. 

This conclusion is, moreover, justified by another circumstance, 
equally, if not more interesting in its character, though of a like 
nature. It is the obelisk of Heliopolis, or pillar of On, supposed to 
be alluded to in Genesis, chapter xii. 8th, and xiii. 4th verses ; and 
of which Dr. Clarke, as well as Norden and SUaw, has given a 

" This superb monument," he says, " is the only great work of 
antiquity now remaining in all the land of Goshen ; standing on the 
spot where the Hebrews had their first settlement." Its height, ac- 
cording to Dr. Clarke, is between sixty and seventy feet : agreea- 
bly to Dr. Shaw, sixty-four feet. Its diameter, at its base, six feet ; 
and composed of one entire mass of granite. And farther it is ob- 
served, From the coarseness of the sculpture, as well as the his- 


half civilized Turks or Egyptians, could give any ac- 
count, are described as possessing all their beauty of 
proportion and symmetry, as well as exquisite style of 
execution, though exposed to aggravated scenes of vio- 
lence, and the destructive agents of time. 

tory of the city to which it belonged, there is reason to believe it 
the oldest monument of the kind in Egypt."* 

Now although this monument is, at present, situated at a consi- 
derable distance from the Mediterranean ; standing at a small dis- 
tance north east of Cairo, and above the head of the Delta ; it is 
highly probable, that for many centuries, it was as near the borders 
of the Mediterranean sea, as Cleopatra's Needles are at present ; 
consequently we might expect to find some change upon its surface, 
as well as upon that of the latter, and from the same cause. More- 
over, if we add to this, the amazing length of time, during which it has 
stood, ever exposed to the changes of times and seasons, we might 
reasonably expect, if granite be susceptible of decomposition, that 
we should find it literally mouldering and falling into dust. In- 
stead of which it only discovers marks of decomposition in the 
sides most exposed to the Etesean winds, that, for nearly half the 
year, sweep over the Mediterranean sea ; and to which this monu- 
ment, as well as Cleopatra's Needles, is constantly exposed, 

Dr. Clarke says "Each of its four sides exhibits the same cha- 
racters, and in the same order. Those which face the south have 
been the least affected by the decomposition of the substance in 
which they are hewn ; and it is from the southern side that the 
author's design is taken."! 

Whatever may have been the state of this interesting monu- 
ment, when examined by Dr. Clarke ; it seems that Dr. Shaw, who 
saw and made an accurate drawing of it about eighty years before, 
gives a different account of the state of it. He says u The obe- 

* Clarke's Travels, vol. Ill, page 68. | Do - vol. Ill, page 69. 


As we advance upwards on the borders of the Nile, 
frequent instances occur, in which models of Egyptian 
taste and Grecian excellence, wrought in granite, 
porphyry, and marble, appear to be struggling into 

lisks, which I have mentioned at Alexandria and Heliopolis, have 
been described hy various authors. 'The hierogliphicks upon the 
latter, (which are the same on all sides) are exceedingly fair and 
legible; and indeed the whole pillar is as entire and beautiful, as if 
it were newly finished. But the Alexandrian obelisk, lying nearer 
the sea, and in a moister situation, hath suffered very much ; espe- 
cially upon that side, ithichfaceth the north ward,"* 

It is by no means improbable that the Alexandrian Obelisks, 
from their proximity to the sea, and from the circumstance of their 
having been long prostrate upon the earth and among rubbish, may 
discover some signs of decomposition, and from this circumstance, 
most probably, Dr. Clarke has drawn the conclusion, that all gra- 
nite, or the felspar which forms a constituent of granite, is liable 
to decomposition. This inference, however, is doubtful, as will 
appear by a careful and more extensive examination of the 

The obelisks of Cleopatra, and Pompey's pillar, are composed 
of what is denominated Egyptian granite : (the gr.'inites durus ru- 
bescens of Linneus) of this kind, most of the granitical monuments, 
as well as other e(!ifices : in c'vi! architecture, in Egypt, are compos- 
ed, and were obtained principally from the same quarries, or 
range of mountains. 

Now although the Alexandrian obelisks exhibit some signs of 
decomposition, the pillar of On, or the obelisk of Heliopolis, 
which in all probability is of much greater antiquity, is still less so. 
The splendid ruins of the temple of Bahbeit, in Egypt, and which 
are described as being composed of three kinds of granite, discover 

* Shaw's Travels, page 412, 


birth, from hillocks of sand and ruins, and seem 
to say to the gazing traveller, save us from this womb 
of oblivion, and we shall survive the wreck of time ! 
With such examples, and with half ruined temples, 
the cities of Bubastis, Oxyrynchus, Memphis, Luxor. 
Tentyrse, Thebes, and many others are tilled ; the ma- 
no signs of decomposition, although the date of its construction, or 
the period of its execution is unknown. All the hieroglyphicks ap- 
pear in the highest state of preservation, and " nothing could be 
more admirably executed than the bas relievo of this part of the 
temple, which probably formed the front of the wings ; the polish 
remained perfect on the faces."* The three massive columns of 
granite with their capitals and entablatures,, discovered at Alexan- 
dria, " have resisted the ravages of time, and of the stilt more 
destructive caprice of the present masters of the country."t 

The two stupendous obelisks, described by Denon as standing 
at the entrance of Luxor, and which are of the same kind, or rose 
coloured granite, are, with all their figures, represented as entire 
and perfect. The quarries, likewise, from which the ancient 
Egyptians obtained the granite, for those and other stupendous 
works, exhibit traces of the ancient workmanship, " as fresh as if 
they had been left but the day before."! 

In this instance, no mention is made of the marks of decompo- 
sition of the felspar. Moreover, the beautiful obelisk, of the same 
granite, and which was removed by Caius Csesar, from Egypt to 
Rome, remains entire, ** without having experienced any altera-' 
tion/' although executed more than three thousand years ago. 

* Lord Valencia's Travels, Vol.. Ill, page 436. 
f Do. do do do 461. 

* Denon's Travels, Vol III, page 206- 

Pallassau, Mineral des Pyrennees, page 143- 

terials of which have resisted, alike, the process of de- 
composition for hundreds of centuries. 

Fragments, and entire specimens of sculpture, from 
the ruins of Carthage, are exhibited in the museums 
of almost every civilized country, yet notwithstanding 
their exposure for two or three thousand years, they 
betray few or no marks of the corroding agents of de- 

If we examine the gloomy recesses of the Catacombs 
at Necropolis, we find their walls, of granite, or lime- 
stone, sculptured with inscriptions and hieroglyphics 
which, though subject to the nitrous, or ammoniacal 
exhalations, arising from the remains of the dead, or 
the accumulated filth of jackals, and other animals, 
which, as well as man, seek safety and refuge in these 
silent retreats, have remained unhurt by the operatioa 
of any natural agent, although the date of their con- 
struction is at a period so distant, as to be almost as 
much involved in obscurity, as the births and names of 
the ghastly tenants, that are deposited in their dreary 

On such facts we might rest the final decision ; but 
our views of the subject must not be confined to a sin- 
gle district, however numerous and favourable the 
cases may be, which it affords ; since a difference of 
climate and other circumstances, may produce very dif- 
ferent results, in the opinions of some, even on the 
same materials. Let us cross over the Mediterranean, 
and examine the ruins of Telmcssus, an island in the 
gulf of Glaucus. 

Here again are the theatres and palaces, falling and 
mixing in promiscuous ruin, whilst the materials, com- 
posed of the several rocks which I have enumerated, 
have resisted the scourge of the elements, almost un- 
hurt or unchanged by decomposition. The most po- 
sitive and interesting proofs however, of their durabi- 
lity, are to be seen among the colossal tombs and 
mausoleums, excavated and formed in the solid rocks, 
upon the almost inaccessible heights of what may be 
truly and emphatically called " the everlasting hills,' ? 
fronting the sea or port of Macri. 

Here, while the eye wanders through the echoing 
recesses of these vast and gloomy chambers of death, 
the mind is carried back through a frightful lapse of 
ages, by the inscriptions at the entrance, which mark 
the period of their duration, their use, and for whom 

One of these, it seems, was prepared or built for the 
reception of Helen, (the grand daughter of Diogenes,) 
her son, and grand daughter. 

As Diogenes was born four hundred years before 
the Christian sera, it is more than probable, that this 
stupendous sepulchre had been constructed, more than 
twenty-two hundred years. Yet every letter of the in- 
scription is represented as entire.* 

Another of those tombs Dr. Clarice calculates, from 
the inscription, to have been constructed twenty four 
hundred and forty-one years ; yet not a letter appears 
to have been effaced, except in some few instances, 

* See Dr. Clarke's Travels, volume II, page 132. 

where, in all probability, it was occasioned by violence ; 
for if two or more letters were actually destroyed by 
decomposition, we have reason to believe that the 
whole inscription would have suffered alike : but it 
appears that this is not the case ; on the contrary, they 
are represented as having few or no marks of decom- 
position. The columns and sculptured ornaments 
which adorn their fronts, or sides, are described as 
possessing a peculiar freshness. 

" In those that were almost plain," says l)r. Clarke, 
" the hewn stone was as smooth, as if the artist had 
been employed upon wood, or any other soft substance. 
The exterior form of almost every one of them, cannot, 
perhaps, be better described, than by comparing them 
with a familiar article of household furniture, to which 
they have a great resemblance ; namely, the book-cases 
with glass doors, seen upon bureaus, surmounted by 
ornamental rail-work over the front and sides."* 

Not only were the ornaments and inscriptions free 
from marks of decomposition, but the grooves, which 
were cut with the greatest precision in the stones for 
the reception of the slabs, that constituted the doors, 
and which closed the entrances into those sepulchres, 
were almost as entire as when first executed. 

Leaving this, let us take a superficial view of the 
ruins of some of the cities of Palestine ; such as Jeru- 
salem, Galilee, and Napolose. 

Here again we find the ancient ruins of Jewish tem- 
ples and other works, of granite and lime stone, exc- 

* Dr. Clarke's Travels, vol. If, page 136. 

cnted long before the Christian sera, still uninjured by 
decomposition. Here also we find the tombs of the 
kings of Judah, of Joshua, of Zacharia, of Jehosaphat, 
of Absalom, of Joseph of Arimathea, of the "Virgin 
Mary, and the Sepulchre, (as identified by Dr. 
Clarice,} of our Lord and Master ; and a number of 
others, of which Dr. Clarice observes, '' It has never 
yet been determined, when those sepulchres were 
hewn, nor by what people. They are a continuation 
of one vast cemetery, extending along the base of all 
the mountainous elevations, which surround Jerusalem 
upon its southern and eastern sides ; and their appear- 
ance alone, independently of every other considera- 
tion, denotes the former existence of a numerous, flour- 
ishing, and powerful people."* 

These monuments, which carry us back to the ear- 
liest ages of time, and which are calculated to inspire 
the beholder with an awful reverence, have survived 
the attacks and vicissitudes of time, entire and un- 
changed. Even the very inscriptions are still preserv- 
ed in legible characters, and mostly free from marks 
of decomposition. Nay more, "These are monu- 
ments," says Dr. Clarice, " on which a lapse of ages 
effect no change : they have defied, and will defy, the 
attacks of time ; and continue as perfect at this hour, 
as they were in the first moments of their comple- 
tion." 'f 

Independently of these, there is still to be seen on 
the plain of liephidim, at the foot of Mount Sinai, 

* Clarke's Travels, vol. II, page 321. f Do. vol. II, page 281, 


the rock which Moses smote with his rod, and from 
which flowed springs of pure water.* 

"Here/* says Dr. Shaw, ''we still see that extra- 
ordinary antiquity, the rock of Meribah, which hath 
continued down to this day, without the least injury, 
from time or accidents. ? 'f 

Returning into Africa, we find upon the mountain? 
of Ethiopia and Abyssinia, the habitations of Cush, 
the grandson of Noah, and his descendants, chiselled 
out of the solid rocks, in the sides of the mountains, 
still entire and unaltered by time ;f and corresponding 
with the habitations of the ancient shepherds, cut in 
the rocks upon the mountains of Palestine. 

As another instance of the durability of rocks, we 
find, on examining the quarries, from which the an- 
cient Egyptians obtained the immense masses of gra- 
nite and marble, for the building of cities and temples, 
the marks of the holes that were drilled in the rocks, 
and into which, wedges or bolts of wood or iron were 
driven, as at this day, for the purpose of breaking up 
the mass ; and as fresh as when first exposed to the 
light of day. 

" All those of the neighbouring rocks," says M. 
Denou, ." whose surfaces are level, have been wrought 
in the same manner ; and the traces of the ancient 

' Kxodus, 17, 6. t Shaw's Travels, page 352. 

| See Bruce's Travels, vol. II, page 12, and Salt's Description 
of Abyssinia, in Lord Valentia's Travels, vol. Ill, page 250. 
6 See Clarke's Travels, vol. II. 

workmanship are preserved as fresh, as if they had 
been left but the day before.''* 

But one of the most important proofs of the indes- 
tructibility of those materials, and of their capacity to 
resist the united efforts of the agents of decomposition, 
are those situated upon the plains of Geeza, the Pyra- 
mids of Egypt. 

These awfully grand and stupendous monuments, 
which have set time at defiance, whilst they frown in- 
dignant upon the wrecks of ages, seem to say to the 
astonished spectator, leave us alone and unhurt, and 
we will survive the consummation of time, and enter 
afresh upon the verge of eternity. 

In order to place the subject of the decomposition 
of rocks, and particularly those last enumerated, in 
their proper light, I have, in this hasty and imperfect 
sketch, selected cases in which they have been em- 
ployed in civil architecture, sculpture and statuary, 
under the full persuasion that in this state or situa- 
tion, they are equally as much exposed to the changes 
of temperature and the agents of decomposition, as if 
they lay upon the mountains, or under the soil ; and 
hence, from the present shape and form of the mate- 
rials, being able to judge of their primitive form, or 
such as when delivered from the hands of the artist; 
and knowing the date of their execution and period 
of past duration, we are enabled to determine, with a 
sufficient degree of accuracy, the extent of the injury 

* Denon's Travels, vol. Ill, page 206. 


which they have sustained by decomposition, disinte- 
gration, or that of any other kind. 

From the view then which I have taken, and the 
facts which I have stated, (and facts, 1 trust, they 
mostly are) who can or will contend, that the moun- 
tains of our earth are becoming more and more de- 
pressed by the disintegration of the rocks of which 
they are composed ? Is it not evident that if the cal- 
culations of Gensanne were true, viz. that the .de- 
pression of the mountains, by the disintegration of the 
rocks, is at the rate of ten inches in a hundred years, 
one of the great plans of nature would have, long 
since, been defeated ? For is it not evident that the 
towering heights of Iraaus, of Taurus, of Libanus, 
of Atlas, of the .Alps, of the Pyrennees, of the 
Peak of Teneriffe, of the Andes, and many others, 
were intended expressly to be covered with eternal 
frost and snow, for the specifick purpose of modifying 
and tempering the heated atmosphere in those burning 
regions ? If so, it is obvious that, from a loss of ten 
inches in a hundred years, and admitting the age of 
the world to be, according to some, twelve thousand 
years, the height of the mountains would be between 
seven and eight hundred feet less than at first : con- 
sequently in many places, upon their heights, not a 
particle of snow or ice would now be seen. Therefore 
these countries would be left, to be almost set on fire 
by the insupportable heat of a vertical sun. 

Fortunately, however, it is not so. The Great 
Author of Mature intended it otherwise; and they 

are, and ever have been, the same in height, in all 
human probability, that they were from the com- 
mencement of time. This I think will appear from 
the following facts. 

1st. These heights, I believe, are at an elevation so 
great that neither animals nor vegetables have been 
known to exist upon them ; consequently the disinte- 
gration of the rocks could never have been occasioned 
by the decomposition of the latter. 

Sdly. There having been no variation of tempera- 
ture, such as heat and dry, or wet and dry, by which 
the particles of rocks were alternately expanded and 
contracted, thereby causing them to fall to pieces ; 
no disintegration could possibly take place from this 

3dly, and lastly. They having been ever clothed 
with perennial snow and ice, ever frozen and never 
thaived, no decomposition or disintegration could pos- 
sibly have been occasioned from this cause. There- 
fore they must, of necessity, have remained, as was 
intended, always the same from the period of their 
ultimate completion to the present day.* 

* To the kind attention of Dr. William Howard, of this city, 
\yholately ascended Mount Blanc, I am indebted for a fine speci- 
men of granite, obtained by himself from the rock en masse, at 
the hoary summit of that beacon of Aurora, the highest point in 

It is impossible to conceive any thing better calculated to con- 
firm tbe opinion which I have advanced, on the indestructibility of 

In relation to the cases which I have mentioned as 
existing in Egypt and other parts of Africa in the 
island of Telmessus, and in Palestine; it may be 
said that they are mostly situated in a climate where 
cold and frost, the most powerful agents in promoting 
the disintegration of rocks, are wholly inoperative : 
therefore it is not unreasonable to suppose that mate- 
rials of such a kind and in such situations may have 
withstood decomposition for an almost incredible 
length of time. 

In reply to this, I will observe that although I have 
restricted my views, as to the general mass of evidence 
on this subject ; yet I am not disposed to be partial, or 
to shrink from an examination of cases, or facts, that 
may occur in any parallel of latitude in the known 
world. I shall therefore assume a higher latitude, 
where intense cold alternates with heat of nearly an 
equal degree of intensity, in order to determine, to what 
extent they have the power to promote the disintegra- 
tion of rocks. 

The coast of Norway, for nearly nine hundred 
miles in length, is defended by an impregnable ram- 
rocks in similar situations, by the vicissitudes of temperature, or any 
other natural cause. 

This specimen of granite is composed of a beautiful white fel- 
spar, quartz, and hornblende ; each of which substances is in a 
perfect state of integrity, and the whole mass perfectly free from 
the smallest sign of decomposition, or disintegration; although from 
its situation, it has probably been gilded by the first tints of each 
diurnal sun for thousands of years. 



part of rocks, against which the whole of the Atlan- 
tic ocean from the pole is incessantly lashing its waves 
with inconceivable force. For seven months or more, 
these rocks are covered with ice, and frozen, perhaps, to 
the centre. Now there is no other way of resolving this 
ice, that I know of, but by the operation of heat, which 
commences about the beginning of April, or at the ap- 
proaching summer solstice, during which they are left 
bare and exposed. Yet although these changes have 
been annually repeated, probably for thousands of 
years, they discover few or no signs of decomposition. 
On the contrary, they are as free from it as that of a 
similar range which protects the coast of Brazil, in the 
torrid zone, for more than two thousand miles in 
length. This we are enabled \o determine by these 
facts alone, in which there is no deception; that is they 
are still craggy, angular and pointed. 

" By such a rampart (says Pont Oppidan) consist- 
ing of, perhaps, a million, or more, of massy stone 
pillars, founded in the very depth of the sea, the 
chapiters of which rise only a few fathoms above the 
surface, all Norway is defended to the west, equally 
against the enemy, and against the ocean." 

Mr. Heriot, in describing the country to the north of 
the river St. Lawrence, says that no country can pre- 
sent a more wild aspect ; that it is composed of rocks, 
and " cannot boast ^of an acre of soil capable of 
yielding any useful production."* 

* Heriot's Travels, page 58. 

Mr. McICenxie represents the whole coast of Labra- 
dor, and the country east of the lakes, or what is 
called East Main, as little else than an immense region 
of rocks and fresh water lakes, with a very scanty 
portion of soil, and which is still less in the interiouj 

Of the French river he says, as before mentioned, 
" There is hardly a foot of soil to be seen from one 
end of the French river to the other ; its banks con- 
sisting of hills of entire rocks." (Page 37.) 

Mr. Hearn confirms the report of McKenzie by 
saying, that neither the coast of Labrador and Hud- 
son's straits, nor the east coast of Hudson's bay have 
any herbage or trees upon them.f 

Of the Stony mountains lat. 68 14' north, he 
says, l6 No part of the world better deserves that 
name, as they appeared a confused heap of rocks 
and stones utterly inaccessible to the foot of man." 
Even of the whole of those regions inhabited by the 
northern Indians he says, "The land throughout 
that whole tract of country is scarcely any thing but 
one solid mass of rocks and stones, and in most parts 
very hilly, "f 

In all these cases, if I am correct in my views of the 
operations of the agents of disintegration and decom- 
position of rocks, there is but little or no appearance 
of a decay of the materials with such exceptions 

* McKenzie's Travels, page 427. f See Hearn, page 7. 
| Hearn's Journey, page 327. 

however as I have already admitted. The rocks are 
every where represented as being rude, angular, point^ 
ed and craggy, and often terrifick even to behold. 

If, according to some, the soil which covers the far 
greater portion of the earth, and which renders it the 
fit habitation of man, be owing to the gradual disinte- 
gration of rocks ; why is it that this portion of the 
globe, which probably embraces all the different for- 
mations which are known in geology, is so far behind 
every other in this respect ? If we examine the ex- 
tremes of temperature which prevail in those lati- 
tudes, and on which depends almost entirely the dis- 
integration of thft rocks, we shall find ample reason to 
believe that this part of the globe would have been 
the most abundantly fertilized of any upon earth. 
Yet it is destitute, notwithstanding its being for more 
than half the year frozen, as it were to the centre ; 
and during the other half or portion, it experiences 
the genial influence of the sun to a degree so great, as to 
produce, in the crevices of the rocks, the leafing, the 
budding, and the luxuriant blooming of the rose, as 
well as in any other part of the globe : still these 
rocks are naked and destitute of soil ; although they 
have lain exposed to all the revolutions of time pro- 
bably from the beginning of the world. 

Such being the facts, who will persist in advocating 
the opinion, that the height of our mountains is annual- 
ly and gradually decreasing, to be ultimately levelled 
with the vallies 5 or pretend that the soil which covers 


the face of the earth was produced by the disintegra- 
tion of rocks ? 

Such an opinion appears to me unfounded, both in 
natural, as well as moral philosophy, and seems to 
betray a want of attention to the plans of Omnipotence, 
as well as a neglect to allow Him, whose power is un- 
bounded,, and whose foresight is unerring, that degree 
of intelligence, homage, and credit, for his wisdom and 
providence, which might reasonably be claimed, if not 
awarded, by any one of our citizens : for who could 
expect, that a man would erect the frame of an elegant 
mansion, for the habitation and residence of his son, 
and compel him to live in it without a shadow of cover- 
ing, or the means of subsistence. 

The decomposition of rocks is a subject that has en- 
gaged the attention of many, and the opinions that have 
been offered seem mostly to agree, that the process, 
though depending on different causes, is universal. 

It would seem, however, that those opinions were 
calculated to favour particular views ; or, that they 
were regulated by some local circumstances, that would 
perhaps justify such a belief. Such, no doubt, there 
are. But a more general view of the subject, and a 
more critical examination of facts, which are offered in 
abundance in every quarter of the globe, will not fail 
to satisfy the most sceptical, that such a doctrine can- 
not be established, nor supported by reason or facts. 
This conclusion receives additional support and confir- 
mation, from the following remarks of Dr. Hu1ton } 
who, though one of the most strenuous advocates for 


the disintegration of rocks, and the degradation olj 
mountains, has very unwisely, or in an unguarded 
manner, advanced an opinion, which, if not a refuta- 
tion, militates very much against one of the fundamen- 
tal principles of his own doctrine. 

We have mountains in this country," says Dr. 
Hutton, " and those not made of more durable mate- 
rials, than what are common to the earth, which are 
not sensibly diminished in their height with a thousand 

" The proof of this are the Roman roads made over 
some of those hills.* I have seen those roads as dis- 
tinct 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 formed, "f 

In reply to this, professor Murray^ observes, "If in 
so long a period, the disintegration is so inconsidera- 
ble as not to be perceptible, what must be required to 
level those mountains with the gea ? Millions of years 
would not suffice." 

* The Abbe Fortis likewise makes mention of the remains of 
Roman roads, in his travels in Dalmatia. One in particular he des- 
cribes, as leading from Lika, across the country to Salona, and which, 
near Perussich, is quite entire, though, probably, of much grea- 
ter antiquity than those mentioned by Dr. Button. Abbe Fortis* 
Travels, page 524. 

f Theory of the Earth, vol. II, page 140. 

\ The reputed author of the " View of the Huttonian and 
Neptunian System," which see, page 55. 


The contemplation of the structure of the globe, and 
the various geological phenomena that are presented 
to view, have given rise to numerous opinions, and va- 
rious theories ; many of which, from their plausibility, 
are calculated to induce a belief that the whole fabrick, 
as far as relates to the nature, order, and arrangement 
of its materials, is not only the result of chance, but 
subject to its unlimited control. But we shall find, 
on a more general and attentive investigation of the 
subject, (and such is indispensably requisite 5 for 
opinions, founded on a superficial examination of 
local facts, will never constitute a theory, that will 
answer for the whole,) that the economy of this earth, 
and the regulation of its parts, are not governed by a 
chain of fortuitous circumstances, nor by the whims 
and caprices of ephemeral theorists ; but by infinite 
power and intelligence supreme. 


By no means so common and so extensive, tc. - 
This declaration will doubtless be considered as 
amounting almost to an insult, to the understandings 
of observing men ; or, at least, a flagrant dereliction 
from truth, and every principle of sound reasoning 
and of established facts 5 in proof of which the Uel- 
tas of the Po, the Arno, the Indus, the Tigris, the 
Ganges, the Mississippi, and many others, but parti- 
cularly the Delta of the Nile, will be considered as 
affording unequivocal and irrefragable evidence. 

I am fully sensible of the powerful force that stands 
arrayed against me, and of the numerous instances, in 
various parts of the world, where it is supposed that 
the Deltas of rivers have been formed exclusively by 
the alluvion brought down, in the course of time, by 
their currents, and deposited at their mouths : but I 
am not disposed to shrink from the contest, though it 
should end in defeat, since my only object is the deve- 
lopement of truth, by a fair and candid exposition of 

That Deltas have been formed at the mouths of ma- 
ny rivers, and, in some instances, to a very great 


extent, is a well known fact. Yet, on the other hand, 
there are many rivers of nearly an equal size and ex- 
tent, where there are no deltas, nor even the appear- 
ance of alluvial deposites. 

Indeed it is admitted by that indefatigable histo- 
rian, Major Lien nelly that " all capital rivers do not 
form deltas."* 

And further, Mr. R. observes, " However, the for- 
mation of such deltas, even by rivers of the first magni- 
tude, is by no means universal ; on the contrary, some 
of them terminate in deep inlets, or estuaries, instead 
of projecting forms : or, if the expression may be al- 
lowed, they terminate negatively, instead of positively. 
Of this class may be recorded the great rivers of the 
Amazons, Plata, and the Oronoko; besides many 
others, which bring down an equal quantity of matter 
of alluvion, with the Nile, the Ganges, or any other 
river that may form the most projecting delta."f 

Thus, finding that all great rivers do not, alike, pro- 
duce, or exhibit deltas at their mouths ; we have rea- 
son to believe that their formation is not the natural 
result of the deposition of alluvion, brought down by 
their currents, but rather of a combination of causes 
or circumstances: these I consider of three different 
kinds, viz : 

Istly. The alluvion of the river. 

2dly. That produced by the winds, and 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 481. t Do. page 483. 


Sdly. That occasioned directly or indirectly, by 
the labours of man. 

Under these circumstances I shall proceed to exa- 
mine the delta of the Po, a case as interesting in its 
kind, as that of almost any other, and on which much 
has been said, to prove that it is, almost exclusively, 
the result of the alluvion brought down by the current 
of that river, and deposited at its mouth. 

In order to determine the quantity and extent of the 
alluvion, naturally formed by this river, it is necessa- 
ry to ascertain, as near as possible, what were the si- 
tuation, and appearances at its mouth and in its vici- 
nity, when first known, and before the settlement and 
cultivation of the surrounding country. 

This it is difficult, nay impossible :, to determine with 
any degree of accuracy : we have, however, a datum 
afforded, which will enable us to form an opinion, suf- 
ficiently correct for our present purpose. It is that 
which relates to the city of Hatria, now Adria. 

M. de Prony, in his researches on the Hydraulick 
system of Italy, observes, We are, however, certain, 
that the city of Hatria, now called Adria, was former- 
ly situated on the edge of the coast ; and by this we at- 
tain a known fixed point upon the primitive shore, 
whence the nearest part of the present coast, at the 
Adige, is at the distance of 20,000 metres."* 

* Equal to 27.340 yards and 10 inches English measure, or fif- 
teen and a half miles, and sixty yards. 


At what period of time this city was founded, it is 
ot in my power to determine 5 nevertheless, it claims 
a rank of very high antiquity. 

M. de Prony observes, "The inhabitants of Adria 
have formed exaggerated pretensions, in many res- 
pects, as to the high antiquity of their city, though it if 
undeniably one of the most ancient in Italy, as it gave 
name to the sea (the Adriatic) which once washed its 

Whatever claims to antiquity may be asserted by 
the present inhabitants of the city of Adria, it is more 
than probable, that an immense period of time must 
have passed away, before the smallest marks of human 
industry could have been traced upon the borders of 
the Eridanus, or Po. If we extend our views over the 
wide space, that lies between the Adriatic sea, and the 
residence of the primitive inhabitants of our earth, and 
consider the slow progress of civilization and popula- 
tion, extending westerly towards the borders of the 
Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, we may reasonably con- 
clude, that not until the Phoenicians had extended their 
views of maritime commerce, to more distant regions 
down the Mediterranean, was the Adriatic sea even 
known, much less navigated, by any people then in 
existence. Hence we may suppose that a period of 
2000 years, and perhaps much more, had elapsed, be- 
fore the site, on which Adria was fixed upon for a 
commercial city, was known. At this period then, it 
appears, there was no such thing as a delta formed, or 
forming at the mouth of the Po, for they had establish- 


ed a (: fixed point upon the primitive shore, for the 
building of the city, and that too, on the edge of the 
coast of that sea, which once washed its walls."* This 
circumstance, (one that might naturally be supposed by 
every thinking mind,) rendered highly probable, dis- 
covers, on the part of the founders of that city, no com- 
mon degree of sagacity and foresight ; for had there 
been the commencement of a delta, that was annually 
increasing by alluvial deposites from the river, it would 
have betrayed a great want of judgment, in building a 
city at a point which, in the course of a century or two, 
must inevitably be left at some distance inland, and 
from the sea, where their commercial pursuits must 
naturally centre. 

As soon as the city had assumed a more respectable 
stand, in point of extent and population, and the busy 
hum of commerce had engaged the enterprising spirit 
of its inhabitants, we may date the probable commence- 
ment of the formation of its delta, and for reasons 

Hut what was the rate of its slow and gradual in- 
crease, during a series of ages, no means are left to 

" The most ancient notices," says M. de Prony, 
" that I have been able to procure respecting the situa- 
tion of the shores of the Adriatic, at the mouths of the 
Po, only begin to be precise in the twelfth century." 

At this period, which we will suppose to be more 
than three thousand years after the founding the city 

* M. de Proney's Researches. 


of Adria, the shore of the Adriatic had heen removed 
to the distance of about ten thousand metres* from it. 

This intrusion of the delta, will give an annual 
average increase of ahout ten feet and a half. 

But it must he recollected; that the increase of the 
alluvial formation, at first, was scarcely perceptible; 
and that its subsequent extension was almost in a geo- 
metrical proportion ; so that the gain of the last five 
hundred years, must have been, perhaps, nearly equal 
to the whole gain during the preceding period, as will 
appear in the sequel. 

Let us now examine the rapid increase of the delta 
at the Po, from the end of the twelfth century to that 
of the sixteenth, and so on, to see the proportion which 
the gain of the latter hears to the former, in order to 
determine whether it has heen produced by the allu- 
vion brought down by the current of the river. 

61 During four centuries," says M. de Prony, " from 
the end of the twelfth to that of the sixteenth, the al- 
luvial formation of the Po gained considerably upon 
the sea." 

The northern mouth, which had usurped the situa- 
tion of the Mazzarno canal, becoming the Ramo di 
Tramontana, had advanced in the year 1600, to the 
distance of twenty thousand metresf from the meridian 
of Adria; and the southern mouth, which had taken 

* Equal to ten thousand nine hundred thirty-six yards, or six 
miles and three hundred sixty-four yards. 

t Equal to twenty-one thousand eight hundred seventy -two 

possession of the canal of Toy, was then seventeen 
thousand metres (or eighteen thousand five hundred 
ninety- one yards,) advanced beyond the same point. 
Thus, the shore had become extended nine or ten thou- 
sand metres (or ten thousand nine hundred thirty-six 
yards,) to the north, and six or seven thousand to the 
south, (equal to seven thousand six hundred fifty-five 
yards.) " Between these two mouths there was for- 
merly a bay, or part of the coast less advanced than 
the rest, called Sacca di Goro. During the same period 
of foar hundred years, previous to the commencement 
of the seventeenth century, the great and extensive 
embankments of the Po were constructed ; and also, 
during the same period, the southern slopes of the 
Alps began to be cultivated. " 

From this, it appears that the extension of the delta 
at the Po, had increased, in the space of about four 
hundred years, nearly eight thousand yards ; a dis- 
tance nearly equal to eight tenths of what it had 
gained during the whole period, from the founding of 
the city of Adria to the twelfth century. An enor- 
mous disproportion, as must be admitted on all hands. 
But let us examine the subject a little further, in order 
to comprehend the full extent of this rapid increase. 

"The great canal, denominated Taglio de Porto 
Viro, or Podelle Fornaci, ascertains the advance of 
the alluvial depositions in the vast promontory now 
formed by the mouths or delta of the Po." 

"In proportion as their entrances into the sea extend 
from the original land, the yearly quantity of alluvial 


depositions increases in an alarming degree, owing" 
(in his opinion) "to the diminished slope of the streams, 
which was a necessary consequence of the prolonga- 
tion of their bed, to the confinement of the waters be- 
tween dykes, and to the facility with which the in- 
creased cultivation of the ground enabled the mountain 
torrents, which flowed into them, to carry away the soil. 
Owing to these causes, the boy called Sacca di Goro, 
was very soon filled up, and the two promontories, 
which had been formed by the two former principal 
mouths of Mazzarno and Toy, w ere united into one 
vast projecting cape, the most advanced point of which 
is now about thirty-three thousand metres* beyond the 
meridian of Adria; so that in the course of two hun- 
dred years, the mouths or delta of the Po, have gained 
about fourteen thousand metresf upon the sea.'"J 

Hence it appears, that the delta of the Po has gained 
upon the Adriatic sea, (by a rough calculation) in the 
last two hundred years, about eight miles and a half; 
almost twice as much as it had gained in the preceding 
four hundred years, from the end of the twelfth to that 
of the sixteenth century ; and more (in proportion as 
eight is to six,) than it had gained from the found- 
ing of the city of Adria to the twelfth century, a pe- 
riod, probably, of about three thousand years. 

*From nineteen miles seven furlongs and fifteen yards, to 
twenty miles four furlongs and three yards, English measure, 
f About eight miles and a half. 
t See Cimer'i Theory of the Earth, Amcr. edition, p. 2812. 

To what shall we attribute this surprising difference, 
this amazing disproportion? Not, certainly, to the al- 
luvion brought down by the current of the river Po. 
If its waters had been rendered turbid with mud or jil- 
luvion, from one end of the year to the other, for the 
space, of two hundred years, which is a case unheard 
of or unknown, we could scarcely believe, that it 
would afford a sufficient quantity to produce that dif- 
ference ; for it must be recollected, that as the delta 
advances into the Adriatic, or any other sea, the depth 
of the water is very much increased, and, particularly, 
when we advance to the distance of twenty-one miles 
from the shore ; at least it is so in most seas. 

M. de Prony has attempted to account for this rapid 
increase of annual deposites, by two causes. 

First, the cultivation of the southern slope of the 
Alps, and the districts on the borders of the Po, and, 
consequently, by the facility with which the moun- 
tain torrents, which flowed into the rivers, conveyed 
away the soil. 

It is very natural to suppose that these circumstances 
would tend much indeed, to increase the quantity of 
alluvion, since but very little is ever seen to be carried 
away from uncleared, or uncultivated lauds, although 
exposed to the full force of torrents of rain. 

In a country covered with forest trees, and a bed of 
leaves, or upon, land covered with a thick sward, the 
water, during a torrent of rain, .is seen to run off in 
all directions, almost as clear as it fell from the clouds. 
This may be observed, in such situations at all times 

during long continued and heavy rains; but if it should 
happen to collect in a point at the head of a valley, 
where the hanks are a little broken away, it is sure 
to increase the breach, and carry with it much sand 
or alluvial matter. 

With cultivated grounds, however, the case is ma- 
terially different ; and, in every instance, where the 
earth is newly broken up and exposed, it is liable to 
be carried away, both by wind and rain : every furrow 
of a corn field becomes a conduit, through the channel 
of which, the rain waters are conveyed away, satura- 
ted with alluvion, into larger streams, from thence into 
creeks, and from creeks into rivers to be wafted down 
their currents. 

Hence, it will readily be admitted, that the improve- 
ment and cultivation of districts on the borders of ri- 
vers, and in the vicinity of their embrochures, will 
have a tendency, under certain circumstances, to pro- 
mote the increase and extension of deltas, and to these 
we may, in a certain degree, attribute their annual 
gain in an increased ratio. 

To this last however, (viz.) the annual extension 
of deltas in an increased ratio, Mr. RenneU seems to 
be opposed, and on the subject of which, and the pro- 
gressive diminution of the soil of mountains, he makes 
the following observations. 

" We never fail to remark (says Mr. Rcnnell) on a 
survey of the naked summits of mountains, that the 
rain has in a course of ages, washed away the earth 

that covered them ; or, in other words, that there is 



a progressive motion of the finer particles of earth 
from the mountains, towards the valleys." 

" Admitting this to be true, and also that a propor- 
tion of it is swept away by the torrents : the longer 
the rivers continue to run, the less quantity of earth 
they must carry away with them ; and therefore the 
increase of the deltas and other alluvions of capital 
rivers, must have been more rapid in the earlier pe- 
riods of the world? s age, than now."* 

This, however, is evidently a mistaken opinion; 
for we may confidently assert, that the annual exten- 
sion of deltas or alluvial formations, is in an increas- 
ed ratio, proportionate to the improvement and culti- 
vation of the districts in their vicinities, and par- 
ticularly so in that of most maritime cities, situated at, 
or near, the mouths of rivers ; nevertheless, it does 
not depend, but in part, on the increased quantity of 
alluvion brought down by the currents of such rivers. 

I have remarked that the formation of deltas in 
general, depends on three causes : The first is that 
of the alluvion of rivers, so called, being that which 
is held suspended and brought down by their currents. 

This I shall proceed first to consider. 

The alluvion of all rivers, in the earlier periods of 
time, and even at the present, when they run through a 
country, overgrown with forest trees and covered with 
leaves, or a thick sward, that extends to the utmost 
extremity of their auxiliary branches, must necessarily 

* Rennell's Map of Hindoostan, page 257. 


have been comparatively small ; for we may observe 
at the present time, in deep forests during long con- 
tinued and heavy rains, the water running oft', as I 
have before remarked, into brooks that are scarcely 
rendered turbid by alluvion. 

As the waters increase and descend from one chan- 
nel to another, into the principal stream or river, its 
waters are elevated ; and its shores, by being softened, 
and in some instances excavated by currents, occasion 
the banks to break off and fall down. This, mixing 
with the current, adds to the quantity of alluvion, 
which is borne away by the rapidity of the flood. 
But a part, only, of this, as I have already stated, is 
wafted to a very great distance ; for as soon as the 
current is slackened, or checked in its progress, the 
silicious part, or sand, is precipitated to the bottom ; 
while the alluminous or clayey part, being much 
lighter, is held long suspended and carried to a greai 

In this I am supported by the opinion of that very 
acute observer Mr. Rennell, who says, "The mud 
and sand suspended in these waters, during this mo- 
tion, are deposited when that motion ceases ; or 
rather, they are gradually deposited as the current 
slackens : according to the gravity of the substances 
that are suspended"* 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 489, 


Hence it is, that we have sand bars, or alluvial for- 
mations below projecting points of land ; at, or near, 
and below the entrance of one river into another.* 

As soon as the current of a river receives the check 
of a strong and high tide, the sandy particles, how- 
ever little or great the quantity, are deposited at the 
bottom ; hence, it may be presumed, we have no 
deltas at the mouths of all our northern rivers, where 
the tides are strong and rise high. 

Here again I have the support of Mr. Rennell, who 
sometimes advances an opinion at variance with the 
theory which he is endeavouring to support. 

Speaking of the deltas of rivers he says, " Which 
rivers, having brought down with their floods, vast 
quantities of mud and sand from the upper lands, de- 
posite them in the lowest place in the sea ; at whose 
margin the current which has hitherto impelled them, 
ceasing, they are deposited by the mere action of 

With rivers, on the contrary, however large or 
smalL that fall into deep bays or gulfs, where there 
are but little or no tides to check the force of their cur- 
rents, as with the Mississippi, and the several rivers in 
the Gulf of Mexico ; the ^Nile, the Po, and other rivers 
that are disharged into the Mediterranean sea, the case 
is materially different, and it will be admitted that under 

* See Lewis and Clarke's Travels up the Missouri, 
t ReiincU'b Herodotus, page 484. 


such circumstances, the alluvion of rivers is rendered, 
in some degree, tributary to the formation of deltas ; 
but it is comparatively less, in relation to the Po > the 
Indus, the Nile, &c. than thnt occasioned, 2dly, hy 
the improvement and cultivation of lands, and also 
by the existence of sandy deserts in the vicinity of 
such deltas. 

The improvement and cultivation of lands, in al- 
mot all situations, on the borders of rivers, and at 
their mouths, renders the soil peculiarly liable to be 
carried away, both by rains and wind, into the rivers 
or sea ; which tends greatly to the increase of allu- 
vion, and the formation of sand bars, banks, and 
deltas ; the latter in particular is a powerful agent in 
this business, though but seldom, or but little attended 
to. Indeed the phenomena of winds, as they relate 
to this subject, seem not to have received that degree 
of attention which they justly merit, and which is re- 
quired by every principle of truth and sound philoso- 
phy. But a little attention and observation will sooii 
convince any person, susceptible of conviction, that 
the same phenomena accompany the winds, or currents 
of air, as do currents of water. If the current of a 
river flow majestically along, though at the rate of 
four or five miles in an hour, not a grain of sand is dis- 
turbed or lifted from the bottom ; for the current of 
water is often so clear, that we may see to the depth of 
one and even two fathoms ; nay, it is said from eight 
to ten fathoms in a clear day. If we trace up its 
auxiliary branches, even to the smallest brooks^ we 

find their currents flowing with a steady course, 
though in some instances with great rapidity, plunging 
over rocks and precipices, yet no alluvion or a grain 
of sand is seen to disturb the pellucid streams. If a 
rock, or an island obstruct its course, its current is 
changed. If it should pass through a strait, or be con- 
tracted by projecting points of land, its velocity is 
increased, yet it is steady in its course. The same, 
with some small difference, may be observed in the 
currents of air, or wind. 

On the contrary, when, by the melting of snows or 
the falling of rains, the waters rush in torrents into 
the auxiliary branches, and thence by latteral courses 
into the rivers, their currents are agitated, their 
velocity increased, the sand and alluvions matter is 
torn up and wafted away with their streams. 

If there be an island, or islands, or other obstruc- 
tions in its course, they occasion a counter current, or 
eddy at their lower extremity, where the current is 
slackened, and the alluvion is deposited ; and where 
there is an annual, and sometimes semi-annual recur- 
rence of these causes, and repeated for ages, need we 
wonder that shifting sand banks, bars, and islands, 
should be formed in the beds of rivers ? However it 
may be, the same results are produced by violent and 
unsteady, or variable currents of the air, or winds. 

If the winds rush, in unsteady and violent gusts, 
over the land, no matter from what quarter or point of 
the compass, not only the dust but even the sand is 
hurled into the air with the same facility as by a 


current of water, and wafted in clouds over the land, 
varying on its course, until meeting with some obstruc- 
tions by which its current is slackened, it immediately 
deposited its alluvion, (for it is nearly the same thing) 
to the leeward of whatever object may interrupt its 
course. Jt may be said, who does not know all this? 

But there is a variety of other phenomena of a simi- 
lar nature accompanying he operations of winds, one 
of which is particularly worthy of notice in the present 

It is, that when a river running through a country is 
confined for any considerable distance from its influx 
into the sea or bay, between high ridges of hills, or 
banks, there is a current of wind rushing down its 
course, differing one or two points from the general 
course of the wind that may be prevailing at the time, 
or blowing in nearly a corresponding direction. 

Thus if a river runs in a southerly direction, and the 
wind is blowing fresh from the north east, and raising 
the dust and sand in its course, when it meets with the 
current of air flowing down the river, under the circum- 
stances which I have mentioned, the same phenomena 
may be observed, as when the rapid currents of two 
rivers unite ; the sand and dust are whirled around in 
the most confused manner, and at last let fall upon the 
shore, and in the water, where, if the tide is setting 
towards the shore, the sand will be again thrown upon 
the beach. Hence it is, that we often see narrow pro- 
jecting points of sand at the mouths of rivers running 
through a sandy country. They may be observed at 

the mouths of rivers on the Chesapeak bay, and parti- 
cularly at the mouth of the Severn ; the current of 
which, during the heaviest rains, was, perhaps, never 
sufficiently strong and rapid to float the sand, of which 
the flat is composed at the entrance of that river, one 
mile ; and for reasons which it is not necessary to 
mention here. 

The increase of alluvion from this cause, may be 
thought to be very small, indeed ; and as bearing no 
comparison with that brought down by the current of 
rivers ; but it must be considered, that a recurrence of 
this cause may happen every week, or continue for a 
week. Whereas, rivers seldom bring down much al- 
luvion, except during the heavy autumnal rains, or the 
melting of the snows in the spring, which rarely occur 
more than twice in the year. 

Having briefly considered the phenomena of winds, 
and their operations in increasing the quantity and ex- 
ten^ion of alluvial formations, I shall proceed tu ex- 
amine, 3dly, that which is occasioned, either directly 
or indirectly, by the labours of man. 

That which is caused directly by the labours of man, 
is by dyking, filling up, &c. and that which is occa- 
sioned indirectly, is the accumulation of tilth and offals 
from a city, which, when it is a large and populous 
one, amounts, in the course of a few hundred years, to 
an inconceivable quantity. 

These may not be considered strictly as alluvion ; 
nevertheless, they both constitute powerful auxiliaries 
in the increase and extension of deltas, or made ground. 

where the means are resorted to, or otherwise afforded ; 
and such is the case with that of the Po, the Mile, and 
many other places in similar situations. 

As soon, almost, as a city is founded, at the entrance 
of a river into a bay or gulf, the inhabitants, in order 
to favour their commercial views, commence the ope- 
ration of w barfing, dyking, &c. as occasion may re- 
quire. If a part of the city happen to be on each side 
of the river, a corresponding course is pursued, and 
the river is not only confined to a less breadth, but is 
goon extended into the bay or guli, beyond its usual 
limits. The bed of the river, having no longer a de- 
scent, and the waters of the bay or gulf retaining the 
same height and level, the current of the river is 
checked ; the small quantity of alluvion that may have 
been suspended in its current above, is deposited ; the 
offals and washing of the streets of a city by rains, be- 
ing thrown into the river, are likewise deposited, and 
greatly increase the quantity. 

In a few years, as dyking and wharfing are ex- 
tended, the evil is found to increase ; for the wrters of 
the river, having a still greater distance to pass be- 
yond the original limits of the bay, where the river 
formerly discharged itself, are still more retarded, and 
only the lighter particles of alluvion are suffered to 
pass off into the bay or ocean. In this state of things, 
while the sources of alluvion are constantly augment- 
ing, in proportion to the increase of population, and 
the cultivation of the lands in the vicinity, the naviga- 
tion of the river is found to be obstructed, from the ele- 



ration of its bed by alluvion, and it becomes indisppfc- 
sibly necessary to remove it, for fear of worse conse- 
quences. This being thrown upon the dykes, helps to 
increase their extension and elevation, and also to in- 
crease the quantity of made ground. 

Thus, as these operations are continued and re- 
peated, the alluvion is found to accumulate in an in- 
creased ratio, and the bed of the river becomes ele- 
vated again, even above or higher than where the river 
formerly united with the bay, and there is no descent 
to carry off the water. The consequence is, that if 
the obstruction be not seasonably removed, and there 
occurs an unusual high tide, the waters or current of 
the river, defying opposition, makes a breach or more, 
through the dykes, and forms lateral canals or courses 
into the gulf. The earth or alluvion thus accumu- 
lated, either directly or indirectly, is conveyed still 
further into the gulf, and it becomes necessary to clear 
out the bed of the river, repair the breaches, and fill 
up -the new canals, in order to confine the river to its 
original bed, and secure the advantage of its naviga- 

Another consequence attending the division of the 
waters of a river by a breach, or irruption through its 
banks or dykes, is, that when the breach is repaired 
and filled up, at one or both extremities, the ground 
being on a descent from the river, or lower at a little 
distance than at its margin, small laguues or lakes are 

These, however, are, in a few years, filled up by 
the operations of rains upon the surrounding new made 
grounds, and that of the winds, which, in dry seasons, 
elevate the dust and soil in clouds, from high and ex- 
posed situations, and deposite them in those which arc 
tranquil and low. 

Thus the progressive work is continued through 
succeeding ages, deriving its materials from the sources 
which I have described, and forming new districts be- 
yond the ancient limits of the ocean, for the improve- 
ment, cultivation, and residence of man. 

To these causes we may look, for the formation of 
the delta of the Po, in support of which, 1 shall offer 
some of the remarks of M. de Prony. 

In speaking of the great canal, denominated Taglio 
di Porto Viro, or Podelle Fornaci, he observes : " In 
proportion as their entrances into the sea extend from 
the original land, the yearly quantity of alluvial depo- 
sitions increases in an alarming degree, owing to the 
diminished slope of the streams, which was a necessary 
consequence of the prolongation of their bed, to the 
confinement of the waters between dykes, and to the 
facility with which the increased cultivation of the 
ground enabled the mountain torrents which flowed 
into them to carry away the soil.* 

Here the increased cultivation of the grounds, which 
enabled the mountain torrents to carry away the soil, 
is considered as the principal source of the alluviou, 

* See Cuvier's Iheorj, Aaiericao edition, p. 181. 

by which the bed of the river or canals, was elevated, 
the currents retarded, in consequence of the diminish- 
ed slope, and the delta extended ; but is it not proba- 
ble that this source existed previous to the commence- 
ment of the twelfth century, when the average annual 
increase of the delta was only about ten feet and a 
half? It may be said that the cultivation of the sur- 
rounding country, at that period, was comparatively 
small and limited, (which by the by is much doubted) 
but admitting this to be the case, we will assume 
the period of four hundred years, or in other words, 
from the end of the twelfth century, to that of the 
sixteenth. Is it probable that the increased culti- 
vation of the neighbouring districts was such as to cause 
an annual average increase of twenty-five metres, or 
twenty-seven yards, one foot and one quarter of an 
inch, (more than eighty- seven feet) when the annual 
average increase, previous to the twelfth century, was 
only ten feet and a half ? 

Or is it possible that it could have been such, dur- 
ing the last two centuries, as to give an average in- 
crease of extension, to the delta, of seventy metres, 
equal to seventy-six yards, one foot seven inches and 
a half, or two hundred twenty-nine feet, seven inches 
and a half; a difference exceeding that of the preced- 
ing period by one hundred and forty-one feet, five 
inches annually ? To me it seems impossible. 

On the contrary, if we examine attentively the 
causes which I have mentioned; the nature and source 
of the materials, and the means employed in these 


operations, we shall not hesitate in acknowledging 
that they are amply sufficient, to effect the great and 
wonderful change which, in the course of time, has 
been produced at the mouth of the Po, without refer- 
ing it to the alluvion brought down by the current of 
that river and its auxiliary branches. 

In support of this, J. might add many interesting 
facts, all tending to prove that the operations of the 
winds and rain, on the cultivated grounds in the vici- 
nity of the mouth of the Po, and the direct labours of 
man immediately upon the new formed district, have 
been the principal cause of the increase and extension 
of the delta at the mouth of that river. 

It may be thought by some, however, that these two 
latter causes, are altogether insufficient, if they exist, 
to produce that difference ; and it may even be asked 
from whence came the materials to cause this surpris- 
ing change, since they are no where missed ? 

If I might be allowed to compare great with small 
things, or to reason from small to great things, I 
would answer by the following fact. 

We observe on some of the alluvial plains of the 
northern or eastern states, sometimes in the open 
ground, but more frequently in the depth of forests, 
a cluster of mounds, or pyramids of sand, which, in 
some instances, have the resemblance of a miniature 
encampment. They are the result of the labour and 
perseverance of a large species of the red and black 
ant, probably the Formica media rubra, and Nigra, 
of Ray, and which, in the warm seasons, when they 

are active and busy in their labours, cannot be ap- 
proached with impunity by any person. These 
mounds are generally of a serai -spherical form, and 
from five to eight feet in diameter, and from two to 
four feet in height. There are but few persons who 
would not say, on a slight examination of these 
mounds, and without being acquainted with the habits 
of these little animals, that it was impossible they 
could have been built or formed by such means with- 
out producing a correspondent depression of the earth 
in their immediate vicinity. Such, however, is not 
the fact. On the contrary they have been raised, to 
the above size, sometimes in the course of two or three 
years, by the industry and perseverance of these com- 
paratively minute animals, 

W hat may we not expect then from the labours of 
men, through a series of ages, when assisted in the 
work by such powerful auxiliaries as wind and rains ? 


G briefly examined the delta of the Po, I shall 
proceed to notice those of the Ganges and the Indus. 

Unfortunately, however, it so happens, that from 
the paucity of materials, it is difficult, nay impossible 
to give a true and correct exposition of the subject. 
But with such as we have, and a slight reference to 
analogy, we may hazard a decision that will not, per- 
haps, be much at variance with trnth. 

It is unnecessary, in the present instance, to describe 
the sources of the Ganges, the Boorampooter, and the 
Indus, or the magnitude, extent, and meanderings of 
their streams ; nor the different countries through 
which they severally flow. Suffice it to say, that the 
river Indus is equal in size to the Nile.* 

On the subject of its delta Mr. Rennell observes, 
" From these data, together with the aid of the chart 
of the coast, published by Mr. Dalrymple, it may be 
collected that the delta of the Indus is about 150 
British miles in length, along the sea coast : and about 
115 in depth, from the place of separation of the su- 
periour branches of the river, to the most prominent 
point of the sea coast, "f 

* See Renuell's Map of Hindostan, page 182. + Do. p. 181. 


The river Ganges is much larger than the latter, and 
receives, at no considerable distance from its original 
influx into the sea, the whole of the Boorampooter, 
likewise a very large and extensive river, from 
thence they flow, in one body into the sea, or Bay of 

" About 220 miles from the sea, (says Mr. Ren- 
well,) commences the head of the delta of the Granges, 
which is considerably more than twice the area of that 
of the Nile."* 

What the nature of the soil is on the borders of 
these rivers, it is not easy to determine. Most pro- 
bably, licwever, it is similar to that of most other 
countries, and composed of every kind. 

And as to the origin of their inhabitants, the com- 
mencement and progress of population, or the degree 
and extent of improvement and cultivation, in the 
earlier periods of time, it is perhaps impossible to 
ascertain with any degree of accuracy. Nevertheless 
it is highly probable that these countries were the first 
on which were bestowed the labours of men, as it is 
said they inhabited the borders of the Ganges, f and 
that these inhabitants were the first to inculcate les- 
sons on agriculture and practical husbandry. 

As population increased and extended to the east, 
the west, and the north, we may reasonably conclude 
that the improvement and cultivation of the lands wer 

* Rennell's Map of Hindostan, page 338. 
t See Kirwan's Essays. 


proportionably increased ; consequently contributing 
to the increase of the alluvial depositions at the 
mouths of those rivers. 

The next circumstance of importance that we have 
to examine in this case, is the nature, extent, and ope- 
ration of the tides, on the currents of those rivers. 

The river Indus, discharges its waters into the gulf 
of Scindi, on the eastern border, and nearly at the ex- 
tremity, or bottom of the Arabian Gulf. 

"The tide in the Indus/' says Mr. Rennell, " is 
perceptible at about sixty-five miles above its mouthy 
according to the information of Mr. Cullender, who 
resided a considerable time at Tatta, near the head of 
the delta of the Indus."* 

This, we have reason to believe, is true ; for it is 
said that the Red Rea. in about the same parallel of 
latitude, does not rise one foot perpendicular in the 
middle of the sea. 

" The rise of the tide, at new and full moon, is 
about three feet and a half at Suez," (here the waters 
are driven into a contracted part of the sea, at its ex- 
tremity, and compressed ; consequently raised higher 
than in the open sea, where it is broader.) *< but less 
than one foot in the mid le part of the Red Sea. At 
the entrance it is four feet."f 

Here too the tide waters of the sea are again com- 
pressed, at the straits of BabelniMndel, or between the 
coast of Africa and Arabia. So that if we admit the 

* Rennell's Map, p. xxiv. f Kennell's Herodotus, p. 476. 


tide to rise to the mean height of the two extremes, it 
would give only eighteen inches, or two feet, 

Admitting it to be nearly the same at the mouth of 
the Indus, we cannot suppose that the tide had any in- 
fluence in checking the current of that river, indeed, 
if Mr. RennelVs account be true, the tide, at present, 
does not extend up so high as the head of the delta, or 
the ancient mouth of the river, by fifty miles : for the 
delta being one hundred and fifteen miles from its head 
to its extremity, and the tide being perceptible only 
sixty-five miles from, or above its mouth, leaves a dif- 
ference of fifty miles. 

If, in this instance, Mr. Rennell meant that the 
tide was only perceptible, at the distance of sixty-five 
miles above the original or ancient mouth of the Indus, 
it would make some difference. But this, 1 have rea- 
son to believe, he did not, from what he says of the 

" In the Ganges the tides are perceptible at two hun- 
dred and forty miles up ."* 

Now the head of the delta of the Ganges being two 
hundred and twenty miles from the sea,f gives an ex- 
cess of the tides above the head of the delta, or- 
ancient mouth of the river, equal to twenty miles, 
which is highly probable, from the known height to 
Which the tide rises in those seas. This being the 
case, it must appear evident, that the tides had but lit- 
tie or no influence, in checking the currents of those 

* Kennell's Map of Hindostan, page xxiv. f Do, page 358, 


large rivers. Consequently the alluvion, which wai 
held suspended in their waters, was propelled to some 
distance beyond the month of the rivers into the gulf or 
sea ; and as the currents of the rivers were slackened, 
the alluvion was deposited ** hy the mere action of 

Here was the commencement of those deltas which, 
like that of the Po, were for ages scarcely perceptible. 
But as the beds of these rivers were elevated and ex- 
tended, the currents were still more retarded, and 
banks were formed and extended at their sides. 

Subsequently, on the occurrence of an unusual high 
tide, opposing and elevating the current of the river, 
it bursts its natural bounds, and makes an irruption 
through its banks, thus causing lateral branches, and 
carrying the alluvion still farther on, and in different 
directions. On the subsidence of the waters, the sands 
are exposed to the operations of the rains and winds, 
which in some instances have, iu the course of time, 
with the assistance of alluvial deposites from the river, 
filled up the canals or lateral branches. At a subse- 
quent period, and on a like occasion, other breaches, 
or irruptions are made through the banks, and new 
branches are formed. In this way the work gradual- 
ly goes on, until these new formed grounds, in time, 
become habitable. On being located, for the conve- 
nience of fishing or trade, and perhaps both, the inha- 
bitants commence the operation of dyking, with a view 
to secure themselves from the inroads of the sea, or the 
overflowing of the river, and every instance of this 

kind is the cause of an obstruction to the winds, and 
forms a nucleus, around which the dust and sand, which 
are wafted over these districts, are deposited, elevating 
and extending the ground, and thus, annually encroach- 
ing on the amcient limits of the sea. 

That this has been, in part, the nature and progress 
of the formation of those deltas, there can be no doubt; 
for they have been, from the earliest periods of time, 
and are still, inhabited ; for Mr. Rennell observes, 
when describing certain tides, or irruptions of the sea 
in those parts, which rush in with great violence, that 
the people, inhabiting the parts of the delta most ex- 
posed, are under the necessity of repairing, with their 
families, immediately to boats kept for that purpose, 
and in which they are compelled to stay, until the sub- 
sidence of the waters. Those who are so unfortunate, 
as not to secure their safety in boats, from the dreadful 
violence of these irruptions, called by the natives Bore, 
are inevitably swept away and perish.* 

But neither the alluvion brought down by those ri- 
vers, nor the labours of man can be considered in any 
other light, than as having contributed, in part, to the 
formation and extension of those deltas. 

Another more powerful auxiliary presents itself, as 
having afforded its constant aid, in the accomplishment 

* See Rennell's Map of Hindostan, page 229, on the sudden 
rise ol the tide- at the Indus ; in the gulf of Cambray and Cutch, 
and also at the Ganges. 


of this great work I mean the great and extensive de- 
serts, in the neighbourhood of these rivers. 

*< The province of Scindy," says Mr. Rennell, " in 
many particulars of soil and climate, and in the general 
appearance of its surface, resembles Egypt : the lowest 
part of it being composed of rich vegetable mould, and 
extended into a wide delta; while the upper part is a 
narrow slip of country, confined on the Persian side by 
a ridge, or ridges of mountains, and on the other by a 
sandy desert." 

Again, - Owing to this, (the want of rain,) and to 
the neighbourhood of the sandy deserts, which bound it 
on the east ; and not far removed from it on the north 
west; the heats are so violent, and the winds from 
those quarters so pernicious, that the houses are so 
constructed, as to be occasionally ventilated, by means 
of apertures on the tops of them, resembling the fun- 
nels of small chimneys."* 

Further, he says, " JL sandy desert bounds Scindy 
on the east, and extends the whole way from the terri- 
tory of Cutch, to the confines of Moulta ; being near 
five hundred and fifty miles in length, and from one 
hundred to one hundred and fifty wide.^\ 

If we take into view the situation of these barren 
deserts, rendered still more sterile by the intensity of 
a vertical sun, that blasts every effort of vegetation up- 
on these oceans of sand ; and their exposure to the vio- 
lence of the eastern Monsoons, which are, for more 

* Rennell's Map, page 182. f Do. page 183. 


than half the year, sweeping over these heated wastes, 
and raising the sand in clouds, and bearing it across 
the gulf of Scindy, and the mouth of the Indus, need 
we question the sources from which the materials were 
derived to form those deltas ? 

If we add to this the labours of man, upon these 
new forming districts, in dyking, and raising mounds, 
or oilier obstructions to the winds thus charged, need 
we, or can we pretend, that the alluvion of rivers is 
the source by which these deltas were formed and ex- 
tended, and that too in an increased ratio annually ? 
I presume not, and for a very obvious reason : Mr. 
Rennell observes, that "The mean rate of motion of 
the Ganges, is less than throe miles an hour in the dry 
months."* That of the Indus, and also the Booram- 
pooter,f is nearly the same. 

This, it must appear evident, is by no means suffi- 
cient to bear up and convey sand to any considerable 
distance. And as it is but once a year, and that, 
*< during the wet season, and whilst the waters are 
draining off from the in-undated lands/' the cur-* 
rents are accelerated in any considerable degree, we 
may reasonably conclude, that the alluvion derived 
from this source is comparatively small, to that which 
is supplied from the other two sources, (viz.) the direct 
or indirect labours of man, and the operations of winds, 
&c. on the cultivated grounds, and deserts, in the vici- 
nity of deltas. 

* Rennell's Map, p. 34-0. t Philosophical Transactions for 1781. 


OD this point I am again strongly supported by the 
remarks of Air; Rennell, who, in speaking of this 
subject, says : 

" And hence it may be supposed, that the state of a 
delta, is that of an iiu perfectly formed country, aud 
that the progress of matters towards completion, is, 
that of the river forming itself into one channel." 

66 That is, from a, mud bank, it becomes a marsh ; 
then a field intersected by drains, and deeply inundat- 
ed, at particular periods ; and finally a firm field, sub- 
ject to slight inundation <. but without any natural de- 
rivations from the river."* 

From whence then, I would ask, are the materials 
derived, that continue to elevate the delta, in some in- 
stances, far above the overflowing or inundations of 
the river? From the same sources, that have con- 
tinued to yield their materials from the commencement 
of the formation of a delta, and will continue so to do 
until their ultimate completion. 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 5H. 


IN the next place, I shall proceed to examine the 
clelta of the Nile. The land which, from a marsh, 
became the birth-place of emperours and kings, whose 
ephemeral sway was marked with despotick rule; 
and under whose reign, millions of vassal subjects 
dragged a miserable existence. That land, on the 
surface of which, numerous and splendid cities have 
been reared, whose sumptuous palaces and temples, 
with their gorgeous summits, were, from afar, seen 
towering in the air Whose sculptured walls, and 
massy columns, were richly wrought to glut the insa- 
tiable pride and pageantry of man. That soil, on 
which fostered genius shed her choicest gifts. That 
emporium of the arts that seat of science, whence 
Greece and Rome derived their boasted wisdom.* 
That once the wonder of the world. 

But this has since become the land, over which the 
frantick genius of war hath spread her baleful influence, 

* See Herodotus, Diodorus, Shaw, and others 



and into its bosom poured her sanguinarv hordes. Its 
cities were destroyed. Its temples and palaces de o- 
lished. Its monuments, laid prostrate. Its thrones, 
where once the golden sceptre swayed, erased. Its 
subjects left to mingle with the dust. Its arts fled 
Its science languished, and became extinct. And 
now but little left to greet the eye, sa\e an extended 
plain of mouldering ruins a scene of awe and desola- 

Thus, it remains an object of eager gaze to the 
anxious traveller. The burden of the poet's strains. 
The theme of historians and still the wonder of asto- 
nished man. 

Such has been, and such is now, the delta of the 
Nile, which has been considered, by almost every 
writer, tha I can find, as exclusively the gift of that 
almost peerless stream. 

While I revere the memory of the numerous au- 
thors who have written on this subject, from Strabo to 
the present time, 1 cannot help expres ing my sur- 
prise, that they should have, almost uniformly, adopted 
the same opinion, as to the formation of that delta, 
whilst there existed so many facts, staring each of 
them in the face, calculated at least to weaken or ren- 
der doubtful their opinions, if not tantamount to an 
absolute refutation of them. 

That I should presume to question the opinions of 
men of such high antiquity, and established reputation, 
may seem the result of obstinacy and scepticism ; op 
an instance of extreme heresy. But I trunt and lioye. 



for a more favourable opinion, when all the facts are 
fairly stated and duly considered. 

The first thing to be taken into consideration, in re- 
lation to the delta of the Nile, is the original state of 
that district, now occupied by the delta ; and the an- 
cient mouth, or point at which that river originally 
mingled its waters with those of the Mediterranean 

It seems that Herodotus learnt from the Egyptians 
that Menes was their first king ; and that in his time, 
all Jgypt, except the country of Thebes, was one con- 
tinued marsh. And that no part of the present land 
then appeared below the lake of Myris.* 

From this circumstance, without doubt, Herodotus 
was inclined to believe that the whole of lower .Egypt, 
or at least the part occupied by the delta, was once an 
arm of the sea.f 

It seems that Diodorus Siculus, was of the same 
opinion, as were also Pliny,$ Volney^ and Dr. 
Shaw, || And when all the circumstances which I 
shall endeavour to bring into view, are taken into con- 
sideration, it will appear highly probable ; and also, 
that at the period mentioned by Herodotus, " the whole 
of Egypt, except the province of Thebes, was one ex* 
tended marsh." 

* Herodotus Euterpe, chap, 4. 

t See Herodotus Euterpe", chap. 10. 

| Plin. Hist. Nat. lib- 2. cap. 85. 

Volney's Travels, p 34. 

(I Shaw's Travels, p. 330, and 437 


In the second place, it becomes necessary to examine 
the rate at which the current of the JSile generally 

On this subject, neither historians nor travellers have 
been sufficiently explicit. The conclusion, however, 
is, that, except at the period of its inundation, its cur- 
rent is in general rather sluggish.* 

M. Volney observes that in sailing up the Mile, 
"the declivity is so gentle, that the water does not 
flow faster than a league an hour."f 

Mr. Brown says that " Its motion is even slower 
than the Thames, and does not exceed three miles an 

We are not to conclude from this, however, that the 
rate of its motion is the same, generally, throughout its 
whole course. Nevertheless, it is represented as be- 
ing clear and unmixed with alluvion, except during its 
rapid increase and elevation. Mr. Irwin says " FOF 
a league or more from the bar, (of the Nile) the water 
retains its crystal hue and fresh quality, of which we 
convinced ourselves by an experiment."^ 

We are informed by travellers, that Abyssinia 
and the neighbouring part of Africa, are inundated 

* Who that beholds thee, Nile, thus gently flow, 
With scarce a wrinkle on thy glassy brow, 
Can guess thy rage when rocks resist thy force.*" Lucan. 

t Volney's Travels, page 13. 

\ Brown's Travels, page 63 to 66. 

Irwin's Voyage up the Red Sea, vol. II, page 99. 


frith rains during the months of May, June, and 

But it is not until ahout the month of July, that any 
difference is perceivable at Cairo. On the first of July, 
17 1 4, for instance, the water of the Nile was raised 
two inches. It continued to rise, alternating, however, 
from two to eight, until the 17th, when its rise was as 
bigh as fifteen inches. It again alternated, from the 
19th to the 26th, between fifteen and six inches per 
day. From the 27th to the 3 1st, its increase was ra- 
pid, from ten inches to forty-eight per day, amounting 
in all to a little more than fifteen cubits. f 

Now according to Denon's account, there was no ap- 
pearance of alluvion until the 17th ; for he says, " The 
Nile, after having risen for some time at the daily rate 
of two inches, came at length to an increase of a foot 
each day ; at which period, the water began to be mud- 
dy, which appears to shew, that the Nile, in its course, 
traverses some large lakes, whose limpid waters are 
forced down the stream by the torrents of rain, from 
the Abyssinian mountains, and that the discolouration 
of the Nile does not happen, till the arrival of these 
last in Egypt."J 

* It is said to continue even through August, and that it re- 
quires three weeks, after the commencement of the rainy season, 
before the effects of these rains are seen at the plains of Egypt, 
Lab'i'% History of Abyssinia. 

f Hiaw's Travels, pa^e 43 1. 

\ Denou's Travels, page 19. 


From these circumstances we may infer that, al- 
though the rains continue three months in Abyssinia, it 
is only during about two months that the rise of the Nile 
is rapid, and its current greatly accelerated ; in which 
time, no doubt, great quantities of alluvion were 
brought down by its current, and deposited at its 

3rdly. It is necessary to examine the tides of the 
Mediterranean sea, with a view to their influence on 
the current of the river. 

On this subject there seems to he a difference of 
opinion. Herodotus mentions the ebbing and flowing 
of the tides ; which, he observes " may be seen every 

Mr. Renndl says, that "the w r aters of the North 
Atlantic eternally flow into the Mediterranean."! 
This, he seems to suppose, is a consequence of the 
Mediterranean being lower than that of the Red Sea. 
But if " the waters of the North Atlantic eternally flow 
into the Mediterranean," it is almost impossible that 
there can be such a thing as an ebbing of its waters : 
but setting the question of the level of the Red Sea 
and Mediterranean a^ide, we can scarcely conceive 
tint the evaporation of the waters, from the intensity 
of heat, in those regions, can so far exceed the quanti- 
ties of water poured into that sea on all sides, as to 
occasion a current constantly setting in from the Atlan- 

* Po'ym 198. 

t Rennell's Herodotus, page 4-76. 

tic ecean. Therefore it must be admitted that, since 
there is an ebbing and flowing of the Atlantic of several 
feet at the straits of Gibraltar, there must be an ebbing 
and flowing of tides in the Mediterranean. Indeed it is, 
though barely, admitted by Mr. Rennell, who says, 
u It is a common idea, that there are no tides in the 
Mediterranean. Nor do they indeed rise, in any part 
of that sea, in a degree sufficient either to effect the 
usual purposes of laying ships on shore to careen ; or 
even in many places, so as to effect the senses of those, 
who are accustomed to view the ordinary rise and fall 
of tides, on the coasts of the ocean. But that a tide 
does exist is certain ; and that it rises five and six feet 
in particular places. "* 

This difference is owing to the following circum- 
stance. < The wave of tide," says Mr. Ren n ell, v <is 
suddenly opposed in front by the eastern coast of Tu- 
nis; and also compressed laterally by the island of 


He further says, that " Modern observations point 
out a rise of about five feet at Venice," the northern ex- 
tremity of the Adriatic gulf, " but only twelve or thir- 
teen inches at Maples, and at Euripus."} 

The Marquis de Chabert, during the time of his re- 
sidence on the coast of Africa in 17^6, observed that 
the tides rose three feet ; but the marks on the shore 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 647. f Do. page 657. 
| Do, Do. page 659. 


discovered a rise of five (french) feet, at the highest 

M. Volney says that the tide, at the influx of the 
Nile, rises a little more than three feet.f 

Admittiug the ordinary height of the tides, at the 
eastern extremity of the Mediterranean sea, to be two 
feet, or even three, we cannot suppose that it would 
have any material effect in checking the current of the 
Nile, particularly during the period of its inundation, 
when it is greatly accelerated. Hence we may reaso- 
nably infer, that the alluvion brought down by the 
Nile, was carried to a considerable distance beyond 
its mouth, and widely diffused in that ancient gulf or 
arm of the sea, and constituted one of the causes of the 
formation of the delta. It is to this cause, in part, 
that we must attribute the existence of an extended 
marsh, in the time of Menes. 

As to the commencement of this operation, it is, 
doubtless, coeval with the existence of the world ; or, 
at least, we may safely date it from the period at which 
the waters first subsided from off the face of the earth, 
and from the time rivers began to flow. As to the 
nature and progress of its formation, it differed in no 
material circumstance from that of the Po, the Arno, 
the Indus, the Ganges, or that of any other, situated 
where the tides do not rise sufficiently high, to check 
or control the current of the river. 

* H stoirede 1'Academie des Sciences, 1767. 
t Volney's Travels, page J37. 


4thly. I shall now examine the effect produced by 
the direct and indirect labours of man, in the formation 
and extension of this delta. 

The point at wjiich the waters of the Nile first 
united with those of the Mediterranean sea, was that 
at which the greatest quantity of alluvion was depo- 
sited, and, of course, the point where the bed of the 
river first began to be elevated. On the subsidence of 
the annual inundations of the rivers, its banks were, in 
the course of time, gradually elevated and extended 
on its borders. As soon as they had become suffi- 
ciently so, to admit of cultivation and improvement, 
they were probably located by the first inhabitants 

who established their residence in that region. 


Where this point was, or who the first inhabitants 
were, or what the degree of progress in improvements 
and civilization, it is not in my power to determine ; 
nor is it necessary, or essential to my purpose, in the 
present instance. It is sufficient to know, that Menes 
or Osiris, was, at least represented to be, the first 
king who reigned in Egypt ; and was, perhaps, the 
most zealous and active, in improvements of every 
kind, of any sovereign that may have preceded him ; 
though much may have been done before his time, as, 
according to Bishop Clayton, other kings had reigned 
before him in Egypt : and Diodorus says, that Mem- 
phis, (which was founded by Mmes,} was not built 
till eight generations after the building of Thebes, and 


and that the rise of Memphis, was the downfall of 

Be this as it may, Menes appears to have been the first 
who was engaged in raising mounds, digging canals,t 
and actually changing the course of the Nile,:): which 
formerly flowed along at the foot of the Lybian moun- 
tains, and which I shall notice in the sequel. 

This constitutes the sera from which we ought, pro- 
bably, to date the commencement of the formation of 
the delta, and also the point at which it began. 

Jlenes, in order to accomplish the above object, 
caused a bank to be constructed at the distance of a 
hundred stadia (two leagues and a quarter) from 
Memphis, towards the south, and by digging a new 
canal through the valley, between the Lybian moun- 
tains and those on the Arabian side, diverted th$ 
course of the Nile. 

A consequence of this new change was that, not- 
withstanding the great height to which the embank- 
ments were raised, by the immense, quantity of earth 
which was removed to form a channel for so large a 
river, the banks were subject, at every inundation of 
the river, to irruptions from the force of the waters, 
which caused breaches through the banks, carrying 

* Herodotus Euterpe, chap. 99. 

t Thi> was carried to such an extent in the time of Sesostris, 
that the Egyptians laid aside the using; of wheel carriages, which 
they had till then em ployed. Herodotus, book 2. 

\ Herodotus Euterpe, chap. 99. 


away the earth, and depositing it on the adjacent 
grounds ; thus threatening with defeat, the very object 
which Menes had in view, viz. the preservation of 
Memphis. Hence it is, that they were annually under 
the necessity of fortifying these mounds by filling up 
the breaches, and keeping them in repair. Herodotus 
says, " Even at this present period, under the do- 
minion of the Persians, this artificial channel is annu- 
ally repaired, and regularly preserved. If the river 
were here once to break, its banks, the whole town of 
Memphis would be greatly endangered.''* 

.Not only was this the practice long before, and in 
the time of Herodotus, but it has been regularly and 
necessarily pursued, from his time, to the dovvniall of 
Egypt, and even to the present time; and that too, 
perhaps, upon every inch of ground, from Memphis 
to the mouth of the Canopic branch. 

This attention was annually and necessarily in- 
creased : for as the prolongation of the embankments 
Was extended from the mouth of the river, into the 
gulf or arm of the sea, the descent of the river was les- 
sened, its current checked, and its bed gradually ele- 
vated by the deposition of alluvion, as at the Po, the 
Indus, &c. Consequently, in proportion as the bed of 
the river was elevated, so must have been the banks; 
for as nearly the same quantity of water flows annu- 
ally, it follows that the banks, unless raised in pro- 
portion, must be overflowed, and torn away. 

* Herodotus Euterpe, chap. 99. 


It must not be understood, however, that the eleva- 
tion of the bed of the river was occasioned, simply, by 
the deposition of the alluvion natural to the current. 
We are now to take into view the enormous quaiitity 
\vhich is supplied indirectly through the labours of 
man ; as the offals and rubbish of every kind that 
daily fall into it from Thebes, and other cities above, 
as well as from Memphis. This circa instance ought 
to be kept in view, as it respects all the cities, that 
were subsequently built on the borders of the Nile; 
an:l throughout the entire extent and formation of the 
delta. Thus, from the check opposed to the current 
of the river, the elevation of its bed, the annual inun- 
dations, the irruptions through its banks, the digging 
of canals, the cultivation of the grounds, thereby ex- 
posing them to the operations of the winds, which are 
almost constantly raising and shifting the soil, from 
one place to another, the low lands adjacent to the 
river were gradually filled up, and new districts 
formed for cultivation, and for the building of other 
cities ; which, as soon as commenced, formed another 
source from which the low grounds were filled up and 
extended by the direct and indirect labours of man. 
That is, by building and improving; and in the course 
of time pulling down and rebuilding, and that too 
through a series of ages. 

There are but few persons, perhaps, who would 
imagine that any material difference could be produced 
fro n this cause. But it must be recollected, that 
almost the entire quantity of materials employed in the 


building of those cities, was brought from the Lybian 
mountains, and from those of the Arabian side, in the 
vicinity of Cosier, on the Red Sea. The granite 
from the former, and the porphyry, jasper, and verd 
antique from the latter. 

Who then can possibly conceive the quantity of 
materials and rubbish supplied by the city of Mem- 
phis alone, which was one hundred and fifty furlongs 
in circumference ; almost equal to nineteen miles, or a 
little less than five miles square ? All must admit that 
it was enormous ; and when we consider that, accord- 
ing to Baron De Tott's account, there were nine thou- 
sand villages, and twelve hundred towns, in Egypt,* 
we shall not hesitate to say, that the direct and indi- 
rect labours of man, have had a great and powerful 
agency in this stupendous work. 

From this imperfect view, we may form a pretty 
correct idea, how new districts were formed and eleva- 
ted, and the land extended, until the Nile was divided 
into two branches, and the formation of the delta com- 
menced, which, as it increased, was cultivated and ex- 
tensively improved by the building of large cities. 
Since that time, the same course has been pursued, 
as at the commencement ; the same operations conti- 
nued, and the same rules and regulations observed, in 
relation to draining, djking, cutting canals, raising 
mounds and keeping them in repair; and that too, 

* Baron De Tott, p. 2 p 63. 


through a Ions; lapse of ages, as well with the delta as 
the districts on the opposite borders of the Nile. 

Dr. Shaw, who has been as particular on this point 
as almost any other author, has endeavoured to prove 
and that too by a diagram, that the whol* extent of 
territory which Egypt has, gained, in the course 
of time, is almost exclusively the result of the alluvion 
brought down by the Nile and gradually deposited. 
In this, the circumstances which he relates, and the 
arguments which he has advanced, are at variance 
with his theory, which, under existing circumstances, 
all the ingenuity and sophistry of man can never 

" Let the annexed figure (says Dr. Shaw) be a 

section of this valley, with 
a Niloscope placed in that 
part of it, where the Nile af- 
terwards directed its stream. 
For about the space of 
one or two centuries after 
the deluge, or till such time as the mud brought down 
by the inundation, was sufficiently fixed and accumu- 
lated to confine the river, we may imagine the bottom 
of this valley A B, (i. e. the whole land of Egypt) to 
have been entirely overflowed ; or else, being in the 
nature of a morass, was not fit to be either cultivated, 
or inhabited. Egypt therefore, at this time, was in a 
proper condition to receive the assistance of Osiris, 
who by raising mounds and collecting the icater into 
a proper channel, kept the river from stagnating, and 


thereby prepared the land for that culture and tillage 
which he is supposed to have invented. 

" But in process of time, the annual strata would 
raise the country as high as C, D. Whereby the 
ISile would not only be sufficiently confined within its 
own banks, but the superfluous moisture, also, that 
was left by the inundation, would be easily drained off. 

Agriculture therefore, and husbandry, would have 
now their proper encouragement ; and in this condi- 
tion we may conceive the country to have been at the 
building of Thebes ; the parts where Memphis and 
Zoan were afterwards founded, having not yet attain- 
ed a sufficient depth of soil to bring down a colony to 

till it. 


" Some centuries after, when Memphis and other 
cities of the lower Egypt were built, the banks, to- 
gether with the land on each side of them may be 
supposed to be raised as high as E, F, whereby a 
still greater height of water would be required to re- 
fresh them ; which in the time of Herodotus, was six- 
teen cubits. 

"Li this manner therefore, it may be presumed, that 
the foundation of the land of Egypt was first laid 
and afterwards augmented, the inundation bringing 
along with it, every year, an addition of soil, where- 
by, not only the land already made would be raised, 
but the soil would be likewise extended to the very 
skirts of the valley, the sea gradually excluded and 
consequently a foundation laid for new plantations.^ 


That the original site, on which both Thebes and 
Memphis were built, was such as has b en represent- 
ed, there can be no doubt. The authority which we 
has e. for the gradual increase and elevation of the land 
at those places, forbids our withholding assent to 
the truth of the reports which we have received on 
that, point. Nay more, if we extend our views back 
a few centuries more, our imaginations will represent 
those places to us covered at all times with water. 
And, however strange and absurd the idea may ap- 
pear, had not the labours of man been introduced to 
alter or defeat the plans of nature, we should not be- 
hold the frightful difference that is now presented to 

We might, if the formation of the alluvial grounds 
depended only on the alluvion of the river for its in- 
crease, see it somewhat elevated and greatly extend- 
ed, as in many places ; but not thrown up into mounds 
and high banks, suited to the building of cities and 
other works. 

" The meeting of two masses of fluid, (says Mr. 
Volney,) produces nothing but a mixture, from which 
a common level soon results." " Running waters 
level much more than they heap up."* 

With a view to the better understanding of this 
subject, I will examine some of the conclusions w r hich 
Dr. ftiuur has drawn from these premises. 

Volney's Travels, page 26. 


" That Egypt was raised and augmented in this 
manner, viz. by the inundation bringing along with 
it, every year an addifton of soil, whereby not only 
the land, already made, would be raised, but the soil 
would be likewise extended to the very skirts of the 
Valley, &c. appears from several circumstances. For, 
whereas the soil of other plain countries is usually of 
the same depth, here we find it vary in proportion to 
the distance from the river ; being sometimes near 
the banks more than thirty feet high, whilst at the ut- 
most extremity of the inundation, viz. at the skirts of 
the valley and next to the hills, it is not the quarter 
part of so many inches."* 

Now the waters which overflowed the valleys or 
lands adjacent to the banks, on each side of the river, 
were those which flowed round the extremity of the 
banks, at the mouth of the river, and up the valleys ; 
or such as were designedly drawn off from the river, 
through canals constructed for the purpose,! i nto t e 
valleys, with the express intention of irrigating the 
lands and profiting by the alluvion. 

The waters thus derived direct from the Nile, and 
charged with their full quantity of alluvion, naturally 
settled first upon the lowest ground ; as they increas- 
ed they became deeper, and the grounds remained 
longer submerged than the more elevated lands that were 
inundated but a short time; such as those from twenty 
to thirty feet high, and such as were but slightly over- 

* Shaw's Travels, page 439. f Do. page 441. 


flowed. Consequently the deeper the water, thus 
charged with alluvion, and the longer it remains upon 
lauds thus inundated, the greater must be the quan- 
tity of deposites, and the increase of their elevation. 
This fact is too palpable to need any comments. 

" Yet (says Dr. Shaw,) here we find it vary in. 
proportion to the distance from the river ; being some- 
times near the banks more than thirty feet high, whilst 
at the utmost extremity of the inundation, it is not a 
quarter part of so many inches." 

These facts alone, are amply sufficient to prove that 
the delta of the Nile and the plains of Egypt were 
never produced by the alluvion of that river. If any 
other were necessary, the following is no less con- 

"It may be presumed," says the Dr., " that all the 
cities of Egypt icer* originally built upon artificial 
eminences, raised for that purpose." Herodotus, from 
whom Dr. Shaw probably derived his information, 
says, "that during the reign of Sabacus, king of Ethi- 
opia, the ground on which the cities of Egypt stood, 
was more and more elevated by manual labour: and 
that, although they were somewhat raised under the 
reign of Sesostris, by the digging canals, they became 
still more so, under the Ethiopian."* 

Now if those were artificial eminences, they could 
not have been the results of annual deposites of alluvion. 
Further, " When the circumjacent soil came to be so 

Euterpe, pages 137 and 138. 



far increased, as to lie nearly upon a level with those 
cities, the inhabitants were then obliged to mound them 
round, or else to rebuild them. The former experi- 
ment seems to have been often repeated at Memphis, 
the want whereof hatli been the reason no doubt, why 
we are not sure, at present, even of the place where 
this famous city was founded.''* 

From the superficial remarks which I have made on 
the current of the Nile and its alluvion ; and also the 
effects of the tides of the Mediterranean, in opposing 
this current, together with the result of the direct and 
indirect labours of man in the formation of the delta of 
the Nile, and, I may add, the plains of Egypt, some 
general ideas may be formed of the respective agency 
of each, in this stupendous work. But in order to 
have a more comprehensive view, and correct ideas of 
the subject, it becomes necessary to examine lastly, 
the operations of the winds, and the agency which they 
may have had in producing, and presenting to view 
these phenomena of nature. 

The winds, that mostly prevail in those countries, 
are of two kinds the one called the Levant winds ; 
the other the Etesian winds. The first of these blow 
from the south east and east, varying sometimes to the 
north east, and blowing with great violence. Dr. Shaw 
says that at Algiers the east winds prevail from May 
to September.! 

These easterly winds, or Levanters, so called, when 
of long continuance, sometimes increase with such vio- 

* Shaw's Travels, page 439. f Do. p. 218. 


ience, that " the water is blown away to such a de- 
gree, from the coast of Syria and Phcenice, that several 
ranges of rocks, which in westerly winds, lie conceal- 
ed, do now become dry and leave exposed to the wa- 
ter fowl, the Urchins, Limpets, and such like shell- 
fish, as stick upon them."* 

He further says, " I observed, in the port of Lati- 
kea, that there was two feet less of water whilst these 
winds raged, than afterwards when the weather was 
moderate, and the winds blew softly from the western 

quarter.' f 

At the period of the autumnal equinox, the wind 
changes to the north and west, and is not only more 
frequent, but blows stronger. These are succeeded by 
the west and south west winds, " which prevail from 
November to February,'^ During their prevalence, 
as in almost all other latitudes, they are accompanied 
by violent gales, such as are described by travellers, 
when whole caravans are buried up in crossing the 

These latter winds are left to sweep, uncontrolled, 
not only over the wide expanse of the Mediterranean, 
but over the whole northern coast of Africa ; the de- 
serts of Saharra, Barca, Saccara, and Lybia, from the 
dry and desolated surfaces of which they are, in one 
place or other, almost constantly driving the sand in 
torrents, still farther on by each succeeding blast. 

* Show's Travels, p 361- t Do. p. 362, 

| Volney's Travels, page 200. 


The Levanters, or easterly winds, on the other hand, 
are driven from the Persian Gulf across the deserts of 
Arabia, (which in extent, says M. rolnry, are nearly 
equal to the Mediterranean,) and also across the Red 
Sea, and that part of the Arabian desert, which lies 
between the Red Sea and the Nile ; and are attended 
with the same or similar circumstances, as with the 
Etesian winds. 

To these powerful agents, which have been employ- 
ed, perhaps, trom the commencement of time, we may 
look for the principal cause of the great change, which 
has been made at the mouth, and on the borders of the 

In order, more fully to explain the nature of their 
operations, and the result of their agency, we will sup- 
pose, (what every candid mind, on a careful examina- 
tion, will admit to be true,) that the whole valley of 
Egypt, at least from the province of Thebes to the pre- 
sent influx of the Nile, was once, actually, a gulf or 
arm of the Mediterranean sea, and under the influence 
of the flux and re-flux of the same tides, which prevail, 
on the same meridian, in that sea. 

This being the case, it is impossible that ''the 
whole of Egypt, except the province of Thebes," 
could have been made one extended marsh, from the 
alluvion only of that river ; and that for the following 

* On this subject Lord Valentia observes, (i After having 
passed through the delta ; after having: examined its whole line of 
sea coast, and viewed both the great mouths of the Nile, I confess 


The tide of the Mediterranean, though moderate, 
operating, ill some degree, as a check to the current of 
the Nile, its alluvion would, as before, be deposited in 
a much greater quantity, where it received this check, 
as at A, than at any point below. Consequently, 
when the alluvion had increased by the deposition of 
successive strata, so far as to appear above water at A, 
the alluvion at B, a half a league, or league below, 
where the water is deeper, would remain as much be- 
low the surface of the water in the gulf or bay, as the 
difference in the depth of the water at those two points. 

Sdly. The depth of the water in the Mediterranean, 
at a little distance from the mouth of the Damietta ri- 
ver, or the ancient Phatmetic's mouth, is, at present, 
eleven fathoms in depth,* and admitting the depth of 
the Nile, below Thebes, to have been originally three 
fathoms, and the descent of the bottom of the gulf, from 
the one to the other, to have been in a direct line, there 
remains a difference of eight fathoms. If at about half 
this distance, as at Memphis, or opposite the lake 
Mceris, we divide the depth of the water, which is five 
and a half fathoms, it gives a difference of two and a 
half fathoms, in the depth of water from Thebes to 
Memphis. Under these circumstances, and without 

that I cannot discover a single argument in favour of the idea, 
that this fertile district has been formed by the mud of the river. 
Fur if, in ancient times, this had actually been the case, how hap- 
pens it, in these days, the same cause does not produce the same 
effect." Valentia's Travels, vol. Ill, page 44-8. 
* Rennell's Herodotus, pasje 487. 


having any reference to the influence which the tides 
may have had, in checking the current of the river, 
but, on the contrary, admit that as much alluvion was 
deposited at Memphis as at Thebes, we shall find, 
that when the successive deposites of alluvion were 
elevated to the surface of the water at Thebes, it would 
still remain two and a half fathoms, or fifteen feet be- 
low the surface at Memphis. And that when it had 
gained the height of two and a half fathoms above the 
river at Thebes, it would only have arrived at the sur- 
face of the water at Memphis. 

This inequality or disproportion, if it depended on 
the alluvion of the Nile, must necessarily have existed. 
Consequently, such a wide extended marsh, as is said 
to have spread over all Kgypt, except the province of 
Thebes could never have been produced, and that 
upon a uniform level, as the very name implies, by the 
alluvion brought down and deposited hy the Nile. 

Hence it follows, that the materials in this work 
must have been derived, in part from another source : 
and that, too in a quantity sufficient to fill up the dif- 
ference, whatever it might have been, in the depth of 
water between Thebes and Memphis, or any other 
two assumed points, in order to produce a level and 
widely extended marsh. 

These materials will be found to have been derived 
from the operation of, the winds on the desert of 
Arabia, which lies on the east side of the Nile, be- 
tween it and the Red sea, and the deserts of Lybia 
and Barca on the west. 


It will, perhaps, be said, that the valley or space on 
earh side of the river below Thebes is too narrow to 
afford a sufficient quantity of materials to cause any 
sensible difference, admitting it to be dry and barren. 

However that may be, it is said that the distance 
from the river to the hills is eighteen miles or " six 
leagues." making the valley twelve leagues in breadth, 
or thirty-six mi es, sometimes less ; and this too. near- 
ly all the way from the cataracts "* 

Besides this, a great portion of the Lybian range of 
mountains in this part of the country are represented 
as barren, and in a rapid state of decomposition. " I 
had seen (says Mr. Denon) two ranges since I left 
Cairo, without having been able to risk climbing any 
one of them. I found this, as I had supposed, a ruin 
of nature, formed of horizontal and regular strata of 
calcareous stones more or less crumbling, and of dif- 
ferent shades of whiteness, divided at intervals with 
large mammillated and concentric flints, which appear 
to be the nuclei, or, as it were, the bones of this vast 
chain, and seem to keep it together, and prevent its 
total destruction. This decomposition is daily happen- 
ing by the impression of the salt air, which penetrates 
every part of the calcareous surface, decomposes it, 
and makes it, as it were, dissolve down in streams of 
sand, which at first collected in heaps at the foot of 
the rocks, and are carried away by the winds, and en- 
croaching gradually on the cultivated plains and the 

* bhaw's Travels, page 341. 

villages, change them into barrenness and desolation."* 
" At twelve miles distant (says Mr. Bruce) there 
is a ridge of mountains, (near Grabba) of no con- 
siderable height, perhaps the most barren in the 

" There is not even the trace of any living crea- 
ture, neither serpent, lizard, antelope, or ostrich, the 
usual inhabitant of the most dreary deserts. "f 

In speaking of the mountains between the Nile and 
Red Sea, Mr. Bruce observes : 

"It was one of the most extraordinary sights I 
ever saw. The former mountains were of considera- 
ble height, without a tree or shrub, or blade of grass 
upon them ; but these now before us had all the ap- 
pearance, the one of having been sprinkled over with 
Havana, the other with Brazil snuff." f 

Hence it will appear that not only the plains of the 
valley, but the mountains themselves were yielding 
their supplies to this great work. For, their height 
not being great, the winds were wafted up their sides 
and over their summits, loaded with sand, to replace 
the wastes of the plains below. 

Having pointed out, and examined the sources of 
these supplies, I proceed to explain the effect of the 
winds, and the results of their operations, in promoting 

* Denon's Travels, voP. II. page 2. 
t Bruce's Travels, vol. I. paa;e 175. 

| Bruce's Travels, vol. I. page 190. See also AH Bey's Tra- 
vels, vol. II. page 136. 


the elevation and extension of the plains of Egypt u> 
their present limits. 

As soon as the newly formed lands became elevated 
above the surface of the water, sufficient to admit of 
improvement, and the inhabitants of Egypt began the 
work of digging canals or drains, raising mounds and 
dikes for the purpose of improving and cultivating the 
grounds, every work so raised became, in a degree, an 
obstruction to the winds ; and all the space contained 
within their limits, a depository for the dust and sand 
which were wafted by the winds from the mountains 
and across the plains, or from the deserts ; and more 
particularly so, as soon as vegetation began to cover the 
land ; for every plant became a nucleus around which 
the sand had collected and by which it was retained. 
The date, and lofty palm trees, when arrived to a suf- 
ficient height, contributed their share in arresting, 
holding fast, and screening from a further removal, the 
sands collected at their roots, and beneath their branch- 
es. "The plants, (says Mr. Denon) which are pro- 
duced, in the first place, by the new land, are three or 
four kinds of sea weeds, round which the sand throws 
itself up in heaps. From its surface they spring up 
afresh ; and subsequent decay furnishes a manure 
which favours the vegetation of reeds. These reeds 
give a greater elevation and a greater solidity to the 

* Denon's Travels, vol. I. page 169. 

This drifting of the sands had been in operation, 
probably, from the beginning of time, and bad con- 
tributed no small portion to the elevation of tbe bed, 
or bottom of this gulf to the surface of the water, and 
which was necessarily so, or the plains of Egypt, had 
they been formed of the alluvion of the river alone, 
would probably have remained to this day as barren as 
a slate roof, or the mountains in their vicinity. 

The alluvion brought down by the Nile, and most 
other rivers, as I have before remarked, is, in general 
composed of the alluminous, or clayey portion of the 
soil above, which, being light, is carried to a great 
distance, and, when deposited in a sufficient quantity, 
forms a slimy mud, such as that of the Nile is des- 
cribed to be, and which, most probably, differs but 
little from the slimy mud which is collected and form- 
ed by the same process, in all our docks and slips. 

' The mud, or alluvion of the Nile is represented as 
being " of an exceedingly light nature, and feels to 
the touch like an impalpable powder."* This is the 
character of clay when dry ; and such is the mud of 
the Nile, that when deposited in low places, and in a 
sufficient quantity ; or when dug out of the canals and left 
exposed to the intense heat of the sun ; it becomes 
hard, (unless tempered with sand,) and cracks open, 
as do almost all lands where clay predominates. 

Hence, the necessity, of its being tempered with 
sand to render it productive : and hence it is, with- 

* Shaw's Travels, page 432, 


out doubt, that tbe Egyptians are sometimes obliged te 
temper the soil by bringing sand to it.* 

But to return to the subject : as soon as advances 
were made in civil architecture, every effort had a 
direct tendency to promote and accelerate the eleva- 
tion and extension of the soil ; since every house, or 
binding, whether small or great, became an obstruc- 
tion to the winds, around which, the sands, during the 
windy seasons, were constantly accumulating. 

Nothing can be better calculated to strengthen this 
opinion, and enforce the truth of the fact, than the ob- 
servations of M Denon respecting Rosetta. 

" Its original compass," he says, " is ascertained by 
the sand banks, by which it is covered from west to 
south, and which have been formed by the walls and 
towers that serve as a nucleus to those accumulated 
heaps of sand."f 

When the lands had become sufficiently elevated to 
justify the founding of a city ; the first step to be 
taken, as we are informed by Dr. Shaw and others, 
was the raising an artificial eminence of a height and 
extent suited to the purpose ; and also a mound 
around the whole, to secure the city from the inunda- 
tions of the Nile. The city thus built, though se- 
cured from the overflowing of the Nile, and annual 
deposites of alluvion, was, nevertheless exposed to 
the drifting sands from the surrounding plains and ad- 
jacent deserts. But it may be presumed that, (as iu 

* Pocork's Travels, t Denon's Travel?, vol. I. page 140. 


many other cities which are sometimes inundated with 
sand) this was regularly removed, and the level of the 
primitive foundation of the city preserved ; whilst the 
neighbouring lands without the mounds were constant- 
ly gaining in height by the annual deposites of allu- 
vion, and sand brought upon them by the winds. 

When in the course of time, the lands became ele- 
vated to a height equal to the mounds, and the city 
threatened with destruction, by an inundation over 
them, the inhabitants were obliged to demolish the 
buildings, and raise the foundation of the city, and 
also the mounds, in order to secure their future safety. 

This, says Dr. Shaw, " seems to have been often 
repeated at Memphis," and no doubt with many other 
cities of Egypt ; but in particular with that of Bubas- 
tis. " When this city was rebuilt, and raised higher, 
to secure it from the inundation ; the temple, for the 
beauty of it, was left standing in its primitive situa- 
tion, and being therefore much lower than the new 
buildings, they looked down upon it from every part 
of the city."* 

This is a striking instance of the difficulties with 
which the ancient Egyptians had to contend, in this 
respect, and one that is calculated to prove that the 
formation of the plains of Egypt, and also the delta, 
did not depend so much upon the alluvion of the Nile, 
as upon the winds, as I shall endeavour to shew. 

* Shaw's Travels, p. 439. 


The city of Bubastis was situated on the left 
bank of the ancient Pelusiac branch, at the distance 
of about fifty miles above its mouth, and about the 
same distance below Memphis ; and also in nearly 
the same latitude as Menouf, likewise an ancient city 
situated between the Sebbenitic and Canopic branches. 
Hence, a considerable way below the head of the 

From these circumstances, and the slow progress of 
the new formation, we may infer that the founding of 
the city of Bubastis was of a much more recent date 
than that of Memphis, and other cities above. Con- 
sequently, it did not experience so many revolutions 
and changes as those of a much higher antiquity* 
However that may have been, we have no knowledge, 
that I can find, that Bubastis was ever re-elevated a 
second time.* Therefore it must have remained, at 
its downfall, like an immense excavation in a plain, or 
like a city in a valley, from the surrounding heights of 
which, the inhabitants " looked down upon it (the tem- 
ple) from every part of the city." 

Being thus formed and protected, it had probably 
remained secure from any inroads from the inundation 
of the Nile, until overthrown by hostile bands, or other 
causes, and deserted ; when, either through design, or 
the gradual elevation of the surrounding plains, the 

* Herodotus, in speaking of the temple, says that its situation 
had never been altered, although every other part of the city had 
been elevated. Kuterpe, p. 137, 138. 


waters of the Nile were let into it. From this time, 
we may date the commencement of the filling up of the 
great basin, in which that city stood ; but which, how- 
ever, could not, it is presumed, have depended on the 
alluvion of the Nile, and for the following reasons : 

When the waters of the Nile rested upon the plains 
of Egypt, ( was only during an inundation, that 
this could happen, and the waters flow into the city.) 
the elevation of the plains, by the deposites of alluvion, 
would increase nearly as fast as that of the basin of 

Consequently, it must have still remained an exca- 
vation or depression, below the plains of Egypt, which 
is not the case. On the contrary, it presents a level 
plain of sand, beneath the surface of which, perhaps, 
every vestige of the city is buried so deep, that who- 
ever wishes to contemplate or examine its ruins, and 
in particular its temple, will probably have to dig to 
the depth of thirty or forty feet below the present sur- 
face of the earth. 

Could we be made acquainted with the regular gra- 
dation and succession of events, from the building of 
Thebes, to the downfall of Egypt ; numerous other in- 
stances, and much more in point, would probably pre- 
sent themselves, to prove that the winds, by transport- 
ing the sands from the deserts, have been the principal 
agents in filling up, and extending the plains in the 
valley of Egypt. But enough still remains on the 
faithful pages of history, to convince the most scep- 
tical, of the truth of this fact. 


From these I shall select a few, as being not only 
favourable to my views, but conclusive in themselves, 
of the truth of my assertions. 

During the reign of Necos,* (the son of Psamme- 
tichus,) he commenced the cutting of a canal, leading 
from the Nile to the gulf of Suez ; and in the prosecu- 
tion of which, under Necos, no less than one hundred 
thousand Egyptians perished. It was afterwards con- 
tinued by Darius, king of Persia; and, according to Di- 
odorus^ finished by Ptolemy, the second of that name. 
This canal is said, by Pliny,$ to have been one hun- 
dred feet in breadth, by thirty in depth. Yet, strange 
as it may appear, few or no traces of it are now to b$ 
seen, except near the gulf of Suez, where it termina- 

That it has been filled up principally by sand, we 
may reasonably infer, from the circumstance of the de- 
sert through which it was cut, being almost entirely a 
vast plain of moving sand. Pliny says, that unless 
there are reeds stuck in the ground to point out the 
course or direction, across the desert, the way could 
not be found, because the wind blows up the sand, and 
destroys every trace of footsteps. $ 

This fact is corroborated by the remarks of M. 
Sonini, on the desert of Lybia. " There no road, 

* Herodotus Euterpe, chap. 158. 

Diodorus, lib. i. chap. 3. 
f Pliny, lib. vi. chap. 29. 
$ Pliny, lib. vi. chap. 29. See also Rennell's Herod, p. 453. 


no path remains to guide the traveller's course ; the 
impressions of his footsteps are effaced almost as soon 
as made, and billows of sand, raised by the impetuous 
winds, sometimes swallow him up."* 

Another canal, called Trajan's, was cut, leading 
from the Nile, near Cairo, to the gulf of Suez ; and 
also another, said to have been dug by Omar, still fur- 
ther down the river. These are all filled up, and 
have disappeared ; and that too, so far in the time of 
Cleopatra, that her ships were dragged across the isth- 
mus by land.f 

The ancient Pelusiac branch of the Nile, on which 
stood the city of Bubastis, has long since been de- 
serted by its stream, except during the height of the 
inundation of the Nile, some water flows in the slight 
depression which marks its former course. Several 
others, of smaller magnitude, have also disappeared, 
and no traces of them left. Mr. Volney says, " the 
canals which conveyed these (waters) were destroyed ; 
for in this shifting soil, they are rapidly choaked up, 
both by the action of the winds, and by the cavalry of 
the Bedouin Arabs. ?? J But the most important instance 
in this view, is that of the ancient bed, in which the 
Nile flowed at the foot of the Lybian range, before the 
time of Menes. 

This channel, in which the whole body of the Nile 
once flowed, is nearly filled up to a level with its 

* Sonini's Travels, vol. 2. p. 128. 
t See Life of Anthony. 
| Volney's Travels, p. 135. 

banks, although nearly one thousand yards in breadth ; 
and that too without much assistance from the alluvion 
of the Nile. 

On this subject, Mr. Rennell observes : " A proof 
of the length of time, required to fill up such a channel, 
(if ever it be completed at all) is, that the deserted bed 
just mentioned, remains visible, although the change 
happened before the foundation of Memphis. It must 
however be considered, that the mound, by preventing 
the free access of the Nile water, charged with its 
inud, has doubtless retarded the operation in this in- 
stance. "# 

The mound, of which Mr. 'Rennell speaks, is that I 
presume, which was raised by Menes to turn the course 
of the Nile. If so, we can scarcely suppose, that there 
was any access of the waters of the Nile into its an- 
cient bed, in that direction, much less a free access; 
for had the waters been suffered to flow through, or 
over that mound, in any degree, it would ultimately have 
made a breach through it, and defeated every purpose 
that was intended. Consequently, we may reasonably 
conclude, that but very little aid was derived from that 
source, in filling up the old channel, or, in fact, from 
any other, by deposites of alluvion ; for he says, (page 
5QJ with respect to the level of the sand hills through 
which the channels run, that they " are far above that 
of the present river, whose bed must once have been a 
vast deal lower than it now is. ?5 

* Rennell's Herodotu?, p. 5 ( <2. 


Hence, it is urged, that this ancient channel, which 
stretches along from south to north on the very borders 
of the deserts, and exposed to every blast that sweeps 
over their surfaces, has be^n tilled up by the sands 
brought by the winds, and deposited in its bed. 

The lake Mareotis is another instance, which in 
point of analogy, in this case, differs but very little. 
It is situated still further from the Nile to the west, 
and, if possible, more exposed to the drifting sands of 
the deserts, particularly those of the violent south- 
westerly gales. This lake, in the time of Strabo, 
formed an expanse of thirty miles. It is " now filled 
up, nearly to the level oT the country ; and the lakes 
by Canopus much in the same state."* 

That the sands of the deserts have been the princi- 
pal cause of this, as well as the elevation and exten- 
sion of the plains of Egypt, we may conclude from an- 
other circumstance. The lands on the west side of 
the ancient Sebennitic branch, or Damietta river, are 
represented as being more elevated and more perfectly 
formed, than the land on the eastern side of the delta, 
where there are still small lakes, and low grounds not 
yet filled up. 

This difference is attributed, by Mr. Rennell, to 
the discharge of a greater quantity of water by the 
Nile to the north and north west, than towards the 
eastern part of the delta ; consequently, a greater de- 

* Rennell's Herodotus, page 542. 


position of alluvion, which, in time, has produced this 

But I should impute it to a very diflerent cause. 
The winds that sweep over these trackless regions to 
the west, laden with sand, naturally let fall, or depo- 
site the greatest quantity at the immediate termination 
of the eastern borders of the deserts. As they were 
carried farther on, the quantity let fall would lessen in 
proportion to the distance passed over : so that, by the 
time they had reached the eastern side of the delta, 
(which at its base is sixty-one miles in breadth,) they 
would have deposited nearly, or quite all the sand thus 
brought from the deserts on the west ; in the same 
manner as a river that flows into the sea or a lake, 
deposites its alluvion in the greatest quantity immedi- 
ately at its mouth, and gradually diminishing as it ad- 
vances into the sea. And, in the same manner, as the 
sands taken up from the land by the winds, and car- 
ried over a bay or sea, arc let fall as the wind loses 
its force. 

Hence it is, most probably, that the eastern and 
lower part of the delta, which depends mostly on the 
sands brought by the easterly winds, or Levanters, 
across the Isthmus, or desert lying between the Nile 
and the Ked Sea, which is comparatively narrow, is 
lower and less perfectly formed, than the districts fur- 
ther west and nearer the deserts. 

From this view, we need not wonder why the lands 
on the lower and western part of Egypt, should be, 
more perfectly formed, and increase faster, than those 

on the lower and eastern part, nor by what means 
the ancient bed of the Nile has been filled up, and also 
the lake of Mareotis ; while those of Brulos, and Men- 
zala are more slowly progressing to the same, or a si- 
milar state. Neither need we wonder why the anci- 
ent Canopic branch, from the ancient Milesian wall, 
or the city of Deirut to the sea should be filled up, and 
a new channel formed ; since, besides what I have 
stated, Dr. Pocolce says, that " all the country here, 
(near the Canopic branch,) is a sandy desert ; it might 
be otherwise, when this branch of the Nile annually 
overflowed, but there being a ridge of low sandy hills 
running from north to south, near the Nile, it is possi- 
ble that the fruitful soil may have been covered with 
sand blown from these hills. The sand changes so 
often, that it would be difficult to find the way, if they 
had not built eleven pillars across the plain, which I 
conjectured might be about half a mile apart, in order 
to direct the way, which otherwise it would be difficult 
to find at such times, as the wind raises great clouds of 
sandy as it often does in Egypt."* 

It is, almost exclusively, to this cause, that we are 
to look for the extension of the land between Alexan- 
dria and the Canopic branch ; for Dr. Shaw observes, 
that there are few or no tokens of the Nile's inunda- 
tion, to be met with from Alexandria to Rosetta, the 
whole tract appearing to have been, originally, either 

* Pocoke's Travels, vol. I, page i3. 

a continuation of the sandy coast of Lybia, or eke 
an inland."* 

It is to this cause that many parts of Egypt, once 
rich and fertile, have already become barren and de- 
solate, whilst the whole space contained within its li- 
mits, is fast progressing towards that state, in which its 
inhabitants must experience all the horrours of a per- 
petual famine :f for the lands are becoming more and 
more elevated and extended, and when no longer over- 
flowed by the Nile, they must inevitably become as 
barren and unproductive, as the neighbouring deserts, 
which are now supplying the means of their des- 
truction. In speaking of the elevation of the soil of 
Egypt, Mr. Shaw observes, " Thus in process of time, 
this whole country may be raised to such a height, that 
the river will not be able to overflow its banks ; and 
Egypt, consequently, from being the most fertile will, 
for want of the annual inundation, become one of the 
most barren parts of the universe ."J 

"The ancient Egyptians," says M. Denon, " speak 
of this encroachment of the sand;;, under the symbol of 
the mysterious entrance of Typhon into the bed of his 
sister-in-law Isis ; an incest which is to change Egypt 
into a desert^ as frightful as those by which it is encom- 
passed ; and this great event will happen, when the 
Nile finds a lower level, through some one of the sur- 

* .Shaw's Travels, pae 339. 

t See Herodotus Euterpe, Chap. 14. f Do. page 441. 


rounding vallies, than the bed in which it now flows, 
and which is constantly getting lower. '** 

From Mr. Bruce, whose veracity can scarcely be 
doubted, we have the following opinion : " It seems 
to me, that soon, the greatest part of Egypt, on the 
side east of the ^ile, between Aichmim and Cairo, 
will be a desert ; not from the rising of the ground by 
the mud, as is supposed, but from the quantity of sand 
from the mountains, which covers the mould, or earth, 
several feet deep."f 

From this view, it must appear evident, that the 
operations of the winds on the deserts that skirt the 
valley of Egypt, both on the east and the west, have 
been the principal cause by which both the plains in 
the valley of Egypt and its delta have been formed 
and extended to their present limits. That these 
sources have existed, and the same process has been in 
operation, for nearly or quite four thousand years, we 
have the most unquestionable authority ; and we have 
the same reason to believe, that they were in full ope- 
ration for nearly two thousand years before. 

That they still exist, and are threatening the entire 
expulsion of the inhabitants of this once fertile region, 
we have the most respectable testimony from several 
travellers who have visited it, and from whose writings 
I shall take the liberty of transcribing the following 
extracts, as they are written in a style forcible and ex- 

* Denon's Travels, vol. F, page 370- 
t Bruce's Travels, vol. I, page 105. 


pressive, of the calamitous scenes that were exhibited 
to their views. 

<l From Media, or Passage," says Mr. Bruce, " ouv 
road lay through very dry sand, to avoid which, and 
seek a firmer footing, we were obliged to ride up to 
the bellies of our horses in the sea. If the wind blows 
this quantity of dust or sand into the Mediterranean, 
it is no wonder the mouths of the branches of the Nile 
are choaked up." 

All Egypt is like to this part of it, full of deep dust 
and sand, from the beginning of March till the first in- 
undation. It is this fine powder and sand, raised and 
loosened by the heat of the sun, and want of dew, and 
not being tied fast, as it were, by any root or vegeta- 
tion, which the Nile carries off with it, and buries in 
the sea ; and which many ignorantly suppose, comes 
from Abyssinia, where every river runs in a bed of 

Of the deserts on the west side of the Nile, Sonini 
observes : " Wretched is the situation of those who 
find themselves entangled in the vast sandy deserts 
with which Egypt is bordered ; intrepidity is then of 
no avail whatever ; and the most valiant armies may 
be thus overwhelmed with clouds of sand, which the 
wind drives impetuously along, may be stifled to 
death, and perish in despair. The atmosphere was 

* Bruce's Travels, vol. i. p. 20. 


on fire, and at the same time darkened by whirlwinds 
of dust."f 

" It is well known," says Mr. Rennell, " that tra- 
vellers differ exceedingly, in their reports of the di- 
mensions of the great pyramid, owing to the impossi- 
bility of measuring the sides of its base ; which are, in 
a great measure, covered with heaps of sandy drifted 
against them by the winds."$ 

In speaking of the changes of the delta, Mr. Volney 
observes, " these are not entirely owing to the Nile 
and the sea ; the wind itself is a powerful agent, 
which sometimes choaks up the canals, and drives 
back the river, as it has done at the Canopic branch. 
At others, it amasses the sand, and buries the ruins so 
that their very remembrance is lost. Mr. Niebhur re- 
lates a remarkable instance of this. While he was at 
Rosetta, in 176&, he discovered, by chance, under the 
sandy hillocks, to the southward of that city, several 
ancient ruins, and among others, twenty fine marble 
columns, of Grecian workmanship, without being able 
to learn any tradition even of the name of the place. 
This appears to me to have been the case with the 
whole of the adjacent desert. This tract, formerly in- 
tersected by large canals, and filled with towns, pre- 
sents nothing but hillocks of a yellowish sand, very 

t Sonini's Travels, vol. iif. p. 32. Also page 24, and 224, on 
the same subject. 

J Rennell's Herod, p. 360. 


line, which the wind heaps up at the foot of every ob- 
stacle, and which frequently buries the palm trees/'* 

In describing the obelisks at the entrance of Luxor, 
Mr. Denon observes, " the two obelisks of rose-co- 
loured granite, are still seventy feet above the ground ; 
and to judge by the depth to which the figures seem to 
be covered, we may reckon about thirty feet mure con- 
cealed from the eye, making in all one hundred feet 
for the heighth of these monuments. "t 

In their march towards Keneh, he again observes : 
" Our progress was interrupted by those particular 
winds, which, notwithstanding the sky is clear and 
unclouded, fill the air with so much sand, that it is 
neither day nor night J 

In describing the valley formed by Mount Kolsun, 
-and the Arabian mountains, he says, " 1 he mouth of 
this valley, towards the Nile, exhibits nothing but a 
dreary plain, the only cultivated part of which, is a 
narrow slip of land, on the bank of the river ; some 
vestiges of villages overwhelmed by sand, may be dis- 
covered, and they present the afflicting sight of daily 
devastation produced by the continual encroachment of 
the desert, on the soil inundated with sand." 

" Nothing is so melancholy to the feelings, as to 
march over these ruined villages ; to tread under foot 
the roofs of the houses, and the tops of the minerets ; 
and to think that these weie once cultivated fields, 

*VoIney's Travels, p. 24. 
t D'-TioiT'. ! ravels, vol. in. p. 188. 
\ Denon's Travels, vol. ii. p. 225. 



flourishing towns, and the habitations of man. Every 
thing living has disappeared ; silence is within and 
around every wall, and the deserted villages are like 
the dead, whose skeletons strike with horrour."* 

In the description of Oxyrinchus, once a famous 
city of Egypt, we have the following account : " Oxy- 
rinchus, once a metropolis surrounded by a fertile 
plain, two leagues off the Lybian range of hills, has 
disappeared beneath the sand ; and the new town has 
been obliged to retreat from this desolating invasion, 
leaving to its ravages house after house, and the inha- 
bitants must at last be driven beyond the canal Jusef, 
on the border of which they will still be threatened."^ 

In the general description of the inundation of the 
sands from the deserts, this author gives us the fol- 
lowing gloomy and distressing picture. 

" At more than ten leagues from Cairo, we disco- 
vered the points of the pyramids piercing the horizon 5 
soon after we saw Mount Katham, and opposite to it, 
the chain of hills which separates Egypt from Lybia, 
and forms a barrier to the banks of the Nile against 
the sands of the desert; but in this eternal conflict 
between this destructive scourge, and the beneficent 
river, the inundation of sand often overwhelms the 
country, changes its fertility to barrenness, drives the 
labourer from his house, whose walls it covers up, and 
leaves no other mark of vegetable life, than the tops of 

* Denon, vol. i. p. 191. 
t Denon, vol. i. p. 373. 


a few palm trees, which adds still more to the dreary 
aspect of destruction."* 

To this amount of evidence in favour of the opera- 
tion of the winds, in forming the plains of Egypt and 
its delta, who, when he considers that they have been 
the same, perhaps, from the beginning of time, will at- 
tempt to oppose the opinion, or pretend that the allu- 
vion only of the Nile, has been the cause of this great 
and wonderful change ? 

As well, almost, might we contend that the mould- 
ering remains of the millions of inhabitants, whose bo- 
dies have served to fatten the soil of Egypt for ages 
past, have been equally accessary to its formation. 
For it is not even necessary, under existing circum- 
stances, that the alluvion of the Nile should be taken 
into view, or that a river should flow, to produce a si- 
milar change. 

If we examine the borders of the Red Sea, and 
their relation with the deserts of Arabia, we shall 
find sufficient proof of this fact. 

The Arabian gulf or Red Sea, is bounded on the 
west, almost from one extremity to the other, by a range 
of mountains, from which, strange as it may appear, 
not a river is discharged into this sea, from the straits 
of Babel Maudel to the Isthmus of Suez.f On the 
western side of this sea, the water is in general deep 

* Denon, vol. i. p. 256. 

t See Bruce's Travels, vol. II. page 115. 


a rocky and uneven bottom, owing, probably, to 
the proximity of the mountains. 

On the eastern side it is bounded nearly throughout 
its whole extent, by the Arabian deserts, which are as 
barren, and unfit for the habitation of man, as those of 
any other in the known world. 

The shore on this side is in many places rocky, and 
the navigation generally difficult and dangerous, on 
account of the shallowness of the water and the innu- 
merable san ! banks, which prevail more or less, from 
Mocha to the northern extremity of this sea, through- 
out the whole of which distance, not a river, it is be- 
lieved, is known to flow into it.* 

It is supposed by many that this sea is fast retreat- 
ing, becoming less, or filling up ; or in other words, 
the land is encroaching on the sea ; and under existing 
circumstances it is by no means to be wondered at. 
If we consider the immensely extended regions over 
which the easterly monsoons are, for nearly half the 
year, sweeping, and driving the sand in torrents into 
this sea, we shall not be disposed to doubt the fact; 
nor at a loss to account for the innumerable sand banks, 
and shallowness of the water, all along its eastern 

To what extent these inroads have been carried 
along a great part of it, I have no means of ascer- 
taining. But that they ^ire constantly progressing and, 

* AH Bey's Travels, vol. II. page 185. 


most probably, have been ever since the sea existed; 
is certain.* 

Mr. liruce says, " On the opposite, or Arabian 
side, the sea coast of the Hejas, and that of the Te- 
lia ma, are all moving sands ; and the dry winter mon- 
soon from the south east blows a large quantity from 
the deserts, which is lodged among the rocks on the 
Arabian si !e of the gulf, and confined there by the 
north east, OP summer monsoon, which is in a contrary 
direction, and hinders them from coming over, or cir- 
culating towards the Egyptian side."t 

From this source, and in this manner the Arabian 
deserts are constantly advancing into that sea. 

At its northern extremity, where it is more frequented 
and better known by travellers, we have a more par- 
ticular account of the changes that have taken place. 

In speaking of the winds of the Arabian deserts, 
Dr. Shaie observes, " Of these the southerly ones are 
the gentlest ; though those in other directions are the 
most frequent ; and by blowing over a vast tract of 
this sandy desert, and bearing away the sandy surface 
along with them, make continual encroachments upon, 
the sea, and frequent changes upon the continent. 
From the same cause likewise, not only the harbour of 
Suez is, at present entirely filled up ; but the channel 
of the sea which extendeth two or three miles further 
to the northward, nay once, perhaps, reached as 

* See Rennell's Herodotus, p. 454 & 457. 

f Bruce's Travels, second edition, vol. If, page 122. 

far as Adjeroute (the Heroopolis, as it is supposed to 
be) is now dry at half ebb, though sometimes the sea 
floweth here near the heigth of a fathom."* 

To these winds, he further observes may be attri- 
buted the many billows and mountains of sand which 
are scattered all over those deserts. 

In a voyage of discoveries up the Red sea it is ob- 
served, "It is difficult to account for a narrow pas- 
sage between two lines of coral rock having continued 
for so long a period free for vessels, without having 
been filled up, either by a sea constantly breaking on 
its mouth, after having passed over sand banks, or by 
clouds of sand, which at one season of the year are 
borne towards it from the desert."^ 

Also, " It blew a gale from the east of north so 
that the mountains were, as usual on such occasions, 
concealed from our view by clouds of sand."$ 

It is to this cause that many places on the coast of 
Syria, and on the Mediterranean sea have been buried 
up, and every trace of them lost. Yet there are no 
rivers by which alluvion is deposited, to produce this 

Mr. Bruce observes that " All vestiges of old 
Tyre are effaced ;> the ports of Sidon, Berout, (Be- 
rytus) Tripoli, and Latika, (Laodicea ad Mare) are 
filled up by the accretion of sand; and not many 

* Shaw's Travels, page 378, 

t Valentia's Travels, vol. II. p. 286. J Do. vol. II. p. 315. 

See Shaw's Travels, page 331, on the ancient port of Tyre. 


days before my leaving Sidon,* M. de Clerambaut, 
consul of France, shewed me the pavements of the 
old city of Sidon, s^ven and a half feet lower than the 
ground on which the present city stands, and con- 
siderably further back in the gardens, near mount 

It must be observed, however, that in this instance 
Air. Bruce attributes the cause of this change to the 
operation of the Etesian winds on the current of the 
Nile, thereby causing it to flow round by the coast of 
Egypt and Syria, and by which " has been thrown a 
great quantity of mud, gravel, and sand, into all the 
ports of Syria." 

How to account for the apparent inconsistency in 
the remarks and conclusions of that enlightened 
author on this point, I am unable to tell. 

That the river Nile, the alluvion of which is a 
slimy mud, an impalpable powder, If should flow in 
a circuitous course, more than two hundred and fifty 
miles through a l^vel sea at a rate sufficient to cam- 
sand and gravel, and deposite them on the coast of 
Syria, and in such quantities as to bury cities and fill 

* On the filling up of ports and harbours by the drifting of 
sands, see Ali Bey's Travels, vol. I. page 235. On the same sub- 
ject, and the burying of towns and cities by the drifting of sands, 
see Capt. Riley's Narrative, pages 208, 229, 338, &c. 

t Bruce's Travels, vol. I. page 85. J Do. Do. 

See Herodotus. t See Shaw's Travels. 

ap their ancient ports, appears to me not only impro- 
bable, but unpiiilosophical, nay, impossible, 

Lest it should be thought that I have misunderstood 
this author's meaning, I shall transcribe his own 
words on this subject. 

" This every one knows is the effect of that east- 
erly current" (in the Mediterranean) " setting upon 
the coast, which as it acts perpendicularly to the 
course of the Nile, when discharging itself, at all, or 
any of its mouths, into the Mediterranean, must hurry 
what it is charged with on to the coast of Syria, and 
hinder it settling opposite, or making those additions 
to the land of Egypt which Herodotus has vainly 

If the reader will cast his eye over this part of the 
map of the Mediterranean sea, he will at once be able 
to judge how improbable such a conclusion must be : for 
admitting that, during the prevalence of the Etesian 
winds, a current sets up the Mediterranean, it can 
only flow, (since there is no outlet at the eastern ex- 
tremity of that sea,) round by the coast of Egypt and 
Phoenicia, and return again by the northern coast of the 

Now let us examine the probable effect of this cur- 
rent, on the two principal branches of the Nile. 

The course of the Canopic branch is almost in a 
north west direction, and nearly opposed to the current 
of the Mediterranean. But we will suppose, that the 

* Bruce's Travels, vol. II. page 85. 


current of this branch of the Nile is influenced by that 
of the sea, and turned aside ; instead of running per- 
pendicularly to the course of the branch, it must fol- 
low, or stretch along the coast of the -delta east of the 
branch, which is about north-east by east, until it comes 
to Cape Berelos or Brulos, when, instead of following 
the coast, it would inevitably be thrown off into the 
open sea, in the direction of the island of Cyprus ; the 
same as the gulf stream is thrown off from the Ameri- 
can coast by Cape Hatteras, and, in all probability, 
never unite its waters and allnvion, if it retain any, 
with that of the Sibennitic branch, or Damietta river. 
This is confirmed by the remarks of Mr Rennell, who 
says " Here it is proper to observe, that although the 
general current of the sea is to the east, along the coast 
of Egypt, yet that there is a counter current, from the 
Rosetta river, through the bay of Abouker, at whose 
point it falls into the general easterly current, which is 
thrown off from the coast by the projecting form of 
that point."* 

1 will next examine the Damietta river. Its course 
is in a north easterly direction, particularly, near its 
mouth. Now if the current of the Mediterranean flow- 
ed perpendiculy to this branch, its current must flow 
to the south east opposite the lake of Menzala, and so 
on by the coast of Syria ; in which case, not a handful 
of sand would have been deposited on that coast, by 
reasons of its running parallel with it only, and not 

* Rennell's Herodotus, pa^p 489. 


directly upon it. M. Volney observes, that " during 
the inundation, the Nile occasions a current along the 
whole coast of Syria, which extends from Gaza to Cy- 
prus : ?? * but he does not pretend, or hint, that it acts 
on the coast of Syria, or that it deposites a particle of 
alluvion on its shores. 

The probability is that the current of the Daraietta 
river, was but very little affected by that of the Medi- 
terranean, and that by reason of Cape Berelos stretch- 
ing out into the sea, throws the current of the latter off 
more to the north east, and would therefore leave the 
current of the Damiettato flow in the direction of Tyre, 
where, if it had retained any alluvion, (which for rea- 
sons that I have advanced is highly improbable,) it 
might have deposited some. But if it had struck the 
coast of Phoenicia in this direction, it must, from thence, 
have flowed parallel with the coast to the northward. 
How then shall we account for the situation of ancient 
Sidon, Tripoli, and Laodicea, the latter of which is 
one hundred miles north of Tyre, being all, nearly 
alike, buried with sand? Not, certainly, by the de- 
po^ition of alluvion of the Nile, since there are other 
sources but too well known, which have been, for more 
than forty centuries, almost constantly yielding their 
materials to bury those cities, through the medium of 
the winds sweeping over the deserts. 

The same change is constantly progressing upon the 
gulf of Suez,f where no river was ever known to flow. 

* Volney ' Travels, page 212. 

t See Pococke, page 132, ami ilennell's Herodotus, page 



The ancient city of Kolzoun, which, in the time of the 
Caliphs, stood at the head of the gulf of Suez, is en- 
tirely buried with sand, and at the distance of six 
miles, or two leagues, from the present head of the 
gulf. * This distance fe allowed for the retreat of the 
sea in seventeen centuries. 

It is a prevailing opinion with several, that the 
gaining of the land upon this sea, is occasioned by the 
current of the tides and waves, which throw the sand 
upon the beach, where it accumulates, and the sea 

On this subject M. Volney says, " The dock at 
Suez is ill adapted to repair such damages ; scarcely 
do they build a Cayasse in three years. Besides that, 
the sea, which from its flux and reflux accumulates the 
sand upon that coast, will at last choak up the entrance, 
and the same change will take place at Suez, which 
has already at Kolzoun and Arsinoe."t 

Mr. Rennell is likewise disposed to attribute this 
change to the same cause ; that is, to the operation of 
the tides, and strong south winds. J 

But why, let us ask, is not the same effect produced 
on the western coast of the Red Sea, by the sands that 
are borne, by the winds, almost from the Persian Gulf, 
across the deserts ; and the waves that are beating di- 
rectly upon it? No mention is here made of any 
thing of the kind* 

* Volney's Travels, page 
\ Rennell's Herodotus, p 

f Do- page 137. 
page 475. 


As to this change having been produced by the ope- 
ration of the tides ; who, when he considers that the 
tide, in the middle of that sea, rises but twelve inches,* 
can suppose that such an increase only will cause a 
current of sufficient force, to take up the sand, and 
drive it upon the beach ; when, as before, we may see, 
in rivulets, creeks, and rivers, the currents flowing at 
the rate of four or five miles an hour, yet not a particle 
of sand is seen to move ? 

Besides, admitting that a current of some force does 
prevail in that sea during flood tide, whence is the 
sand brought in a quantity sufficient to fill up the head 
of the gulf, and cause a retreat of the sea for six 
miles ?f The gulf of Suez is not represented as hav- 

* See Lord Vaientia's Travels, vol. II, page 274, and Ren- 
nell's Herodotus, page 4-76. 

t I have already remarked that, during, or immediately after 
the universal deluge, the Isthmus of Suez, in all probability, did 
not exist. The more this subject is examined, and the various cir- 
cumstances inseparably connected with it, the less reason I find to 
alter or change my opinion on that head. It is well known that it 
is a low level plain, rising but a very little above the level of the 
Mediterranean and Red Sea ; that it lies immediately between two 
deserts of great extent, over which the Etesian and Levant winds 
are sweeping, and bearing the sand away in torrents, directly 
across this isthmus, almost from one end of the year to the other. 

It is also well known, that it has actually made considerable 
advances upon the gulf of Suez or Red Sea, within a few centuries 
and in the course of time, most probably a distance of many 
leagues ; for when the French where in possession of Suez, their 
engineers discovered, at a little distance to the north of that place, 


ins; a sandy bottom. On the contrary it is called the 
Weedy Sea,* from the quantity and variety of marine 
plants, that grow upon its bottom, which is, in a large 
proportion, composed of mud. It is particularly wor- 
thy of notice, that Lord Valentia, in his voyage of dis- 
coveries up the Red Sea, found almost uniformly by 
soundings, and at various depths, a muddy bottom, and 
sometimes a stiff clay. f 

66 It has been thought more proper therefore/' says 
Mr. Shaw, " to translate Jam tiuph, the sea of weeds, 
or the weedy sea, from the variety of Algae, and Fuci, 
that grow within its channel, and at low water particu- 
larly, are left in great quantities upon the sea shore.";): 

some marshes, which extend for more than twenty-five miles, and 
are actually lower than the sea, though they are not overflowed, in 
consequence ol a iarge bar of *and, which has accumulated between 
them. ** Nothing, therefore." says Lord Valentia. "can be more 
probable, than that, in times so far back, as the departure of the 
Israelites, the sea itself extended to these marshes, and that since, 
the same gradual encroachments of sand from the desert, which 
have formed the Tehama iu Lower Arabia, have annihilated the 
sea in a place where it was so much narrower." Valentines Tra- 
vela, vol. III. page 356*. 

Moreover " There is every reason to believe that the Red Sea 
actually extended, in former times, twenty -five miles north of 
Suez." Do. Do. vol. III. page 359. 

* It was at Suez that Lord \ r alentia was enabled to enlarge his 
collection of marine plants. ' 1 also greatly increased my collec- 
tion of sea weed, w it k which the Red Sea abounds more than any 
other "Do. Do. vol. I/I. page 345. 

t Valentia's Travels, vol.11. 

\ Shaw's Travels, pages 349 & 387. 

If this fact be admitted, the probability is, that the 
influence which the waves, or the current of the tides, 
may have had on the bottom of a sea, or river, cover- 
ed with weeds, must be similar to that of the winds 
passing over lands, covered with weeds or grass ; very 
little sand would be disturbed. But whether little or 
much, where is the necessity of resorting to a cause so 
improbable and uncertain, while the operation of the 
winds on the surrounding sandy deserts, is so palpable 
and common to the view of every person, that is dis- 
posed to notice and examine their effects, and which 
alone are amply sufficient to produce, in time, all those 
changes, without the assistance of either waves or 
currents ? 

To substantiate this fact, it is not necessary to con- 
fine our views to the gulf of Suez, or the coast of Phoe- 
nicia. The same or similar changes have taken place, 
and are still going on upon the borders of the Cas- 
pian sea, and the sea of Aral, where there are no regu- 
lar tides and but few rivers. 

Professor Pallas observes that " All the countries 
on the northern part of the Caspian sea tend to prove 
that it has decreased, and probably continues to de- 
crease in a greater proportion than the Mediterranean 
and other seas."* 

Between the Caspian sea and that of Aral, lies an 
immense sandy desert, extending from south east to 
north west, nearly five hundred miles in length. The 

* Pallas's Travels in Russia, vol. I. page 79 or 80. 


northern extremity of this desert is bounded hy ttas 
Caspian, for nearly two hundred miles in extent, 
from west to east. This part of the sea, into which no 
rivers are discharged, is subject to perpetual inroads 
from the deserts, by the sand, that is driven in tor- 
rents by the south easterly winds, and deposited on its 

Through, or rather across this desert, the river 
Oxus once directed its course, and discharged itself 
into a gulf, upon the eastern side of the Caspian sea, 
near \liukisl ik. It continued to pursue this course 
until the year 1640, tf hen it assumed a different route, 
since which, its ancient bed has been filled up. 

" The southern and principal branch of the Oxus," 
(says Mr. Rennell,} which ran into the south east part 
of the Caspian, has deserted its bed; and according to 
JUbnlgazi Khan, the tract it ran through, from the con- 
dition of fertile and well planted fields, is become a 
sandy desert."* 

Whence, I would again ask, came these changes, 
but by the operation of the winds upon the sandy de- 
serts ? There are, 1 believe, no tides in the Caspian 
sea, to produce this effect : nor are there any rivers 
which are discharged into this sea at the northern ex- 
tremity of this great desert, to cause its retreat. Nei-r 
ther are we willing to admit that this gain of the land 
was occasioned by tne sand washed, or thrown up by 
the waves ; since in that case, as the winds blow in ail 

* K*nneil's Herod, p. 533. 

directions, and the waves are dashed upon the shores 
at all points, the effect must have been uniform through- 
out the entire borders of the Caspian sea. But this is 
not the case. It is only in the neighbourhood of 
sandy deserts, or districts, that we witness this ten- 
dency of the sands to accumulate/upon the beach, and 
gradually extending into the sea, thereby causing its 
retreat. Hence we are justified in the conclusion, that 
these changes are the result of the operations of the 
winds, upon the dry and exposed surfaces of sandy 

From this view, which might be extended to various 
other parts of the world, the inference is plain and 
unequivocal, that the ancient gulf, now occupied by 
the plains of Egypt, and the delta of the Nile, has 
been filled up to the present extent of the latter, by 
the agency of the three following causes : 

1st. The alluvion of the Nile. 

J^dly. The direct and indirect labours of man ; and 

3dly. The operations of the winds on the sandy de- 
serts in its vicinity. 

Having already taken notice of the rapid extension 
of the delta of the Po, since the year 1200, and that 
too in an increased ratio, particularly in the last two 
hundred years ; and also the causes, which will apply 
to that of the Indus, the Ganges, and almost all other 
deltas, I have omitted any remarks on this subject, as 
it relates to the delta of the Nile, presuming that 
every person who will give himself the trouble to ex- 
amine the facts, will find, that as the same causes have 


been, and continue to be in operation, governed by the 
same principles, and regulated b\ similar laws, the 
same results will naturally follow in the one case as in 
the other. 

It may not be amiss, however, to observe, in order 
to give a superficial view of the subject, that Damietta, 
which in the time of St. Louis, (A. D. 1243,) was a 
sea-port town, is now more than ten miles from the 

That Fooab, which a little more than three hundred 
years ago, was at the mouth of the Canopic branch, is 
now more than seven miles above it. And further, 
the land between Rosetta and the sea, has gained, in 
forty years, half a league.* 

From this it appears obvious, that the extension of 
the lands into the sea has been, and continues to be, 
in an increased ratio, proportioned to the distance 
from, or below Thebes, Memphis, or any other fixed 
point, on the river Nile. 

For instance, the increase of the land between Fooah 
and the Canopic mouth, in three hundred years, ex- 
ceeds the gain of five hundred and seventy-six years, 
(that is, from 1213 to the present time,) in proportion 
as thirteen and a half miles is to ten ; or nearly as nine 
is to seven. 

The increase or gain of land, in forty years, ex- 
ceeds that of three hundred, in proportion as eleven 
and a quarter miles is to seven. Lastly, the gain of 

* Shaw's Travels, p. 340. 



forty years, exceeds that of five hundred and seventy- 
six, in proportion as twenty-two miles is to ten ; 
shewing that the extension of the delta of the Nile has 
progressed, in an increased ratio, as well as almost all 
other cases of a similar kind. 


FROM the grounds which have been assumed, and the 
manner in which the subject of alluvial formations, 
and the deltas of rivers have been treated, and par- 
ticularly those of the Po, the Indus, the Ganges, and 
the Nile, it may reasonably be expected that some- 
thing will be said, on the delta of the Mississippi, or 
at least that part of the alluvial formation through 
which it passes, for more than two degrees of latitude. 
There are but few instances of the kind in the 
world that possess more interest, nor but few 
that afford a more extensive field for investigation, 
than this mighty sovereign of rivers, and the districts 
on its borders. At the same time, no instance occurs 
in which the subject appears to be involved in more 
profound obscurity, or is* attended with greater and 
more numerous difficulties in acquiring a correct 
knowledge of facts, than the one under consideration. 
That a very considerable increase and extent of 
soil and alluvial formations have been created at the 
mouth of this river, cannot for a moment be doubted. 
But where the original limits of the bay of Mexico 


were, on the north ; or where the primitive shores of 
the continent were, or the point at which this river 
originally discharged its waters into the sea or gulf, 
no mortal can explain. 

In this instance, we have no Osiris, nor no JWenes 
from whose time we can date the gradual advances of 
this district ; nor have we a Thebes or a Memphis, 
as fixed points, by which we can determine its annual 
increase or aggregate formation and extent. Neither 
have we the writings of a Pliny, a Herodotus, and a 
long list of other historians, to inform us of the primi- 
tive course of the river ; of its varied and multiplied 
changes ; of the gradual increase and extent of allu- 
vial deposites ; or of the successive events that have, 
in the course of time, occurred in its vicinity. All 
and every circumstance that relates to its history, have 
remained, during a long and fearful night of darkness ; 
wrapt in impenetrable mystery ; while through this 
period of ages this noble river has been left, unregis- 
tered upon the faithful records of .time, to pursue, in 
silent majesty, its devious course through the almost 
interminable regions of uncultivated wilds, where 
until the discovery of America, as far as we know, 
the footsteps of civilized man had never left an im- 

Under circumstances so unfavourable to the attain- 
ment of a correct knowledge of the changes that have 
taken place at or near the mouth of this river, it has 
remained since its discovery subject to the remarks 


and speculations of every person who might choose to 
express his opinion of the subject. 

Among the variety that has been advanced, but 
two oniy bear the semblance of probability, and those 
even are not without exceptions. 

The first is, that the alluvial region or districts in 
the vicinity of the Misssisippi, have been formed by 
the influence or operations of the gulf stream, which is 
(it is said) constantly wafting or transporting the 
sand into the bay of Mexico to be deposited upon its 

The second is, that it has been formed by the allu- 
vion brought down by the current of the Mississippi 
river and its auxiliary streams, and deposited near its 
borders, and at its confluence with the bay of Mexico. 

These two opinions I shall proceed to examine in 
order, in the first place, to see how far they are en- 
titled to credit ; and in the second, to ascertain to what 
extent we are to admit the agency of either. 

M. de Beaujour observes that " The alluvial zone 
is in general, of an equal level, rising insensibly to- 
wards the Alleghany ; and it appears to have been the 
work of the current of the Mexican gulf, which 
bathes the American coast from Florida point as far as 
Cape Cod, from which it afterwards diverges to run to 
the east towards the banks of Newfoundland."* 

On the subject of the alluvial zone, Mr. Volney ob- 
serves, " Whereas, proceeding southward from this 

* Sketch of the United States, page 45. 


(Long) island, we meet with nothing but a flat of pure 
sand; almost level with the ocean. This sand has evi- 
dently been left by the sea, and is traced to a consider- 
able distance inland.* 

And further, " Between this bank" (the granite 
ridge) " and the sea, the surface, in a breadth of from 
thirty to a hundred miles, is composed of sand, evi- 
dently deposited by the sea, which once flowed at the 
foot of this bank."f 

A similar inference may be drawn from the remarks 
of Mr. Stoddard, who says, " The eastern part of 
New Spain along the gulf, exhibits abundant proofs 
of similar advances ; owing, perhaps, to the constant 
accumulation of sand by the trade winds which is 
driven to the shore by the perpetual action of the 
waves in that direction."! 

Without offering any remarks, or even asking the 
simple question, whence comes the incredible quantity 
of sand thus supposed to have been brought by the 
gulf stream, to produce these wonderful changes at the 
mouth of the Mississippi, and in the bay of Mexico ; 
it is sufficient to observe, that enough has been said on 
the transportation of sand by currents, and of its spe- 
cifick gravity, when compared with water, to convince 
any person acquainted with the first principles of hy- 
draulicks, or the fundamental maxims of gravitation, 
that such extraordinary effects are physically impossi- 

* Volney's View of America, p?o;e 16. t Do. page 56. 
| Sketches of Louisiana, page 158. 


ble, even unrler the most aggravated circumstances by 
wliicb the gulf stream bas ever been known to be re- 
gulated. Hence it is taken for granted that no part 
or portion of the great alluvial region, upon any part 
of the Atlantic shores, nor of the shores of the gulf of 
Mexico were ever brought and deposited by the sea, 
or gulf stream; for with as much propriety might it be 
said that the great alluvial region skirting the north- 
ern borders of Siberia, and constituting the southern 
boundaries of the Arctic sea for more than seven hun- 
dred leagues from west to east, was formed by allu- 
vion brought from the North Pole, where not an inch 
of land is, at least, known to exist; for it is well 
known that currents are not wanting in the Arctic sea 
of sufficient rapidity, to produce much more extensive 
and surprising effects of the kind if it depended on 

Jt only remains to examine the second opinion, viz. 
that the alluvial lands in the neighbourhood, and at 
the mouth of the Mississippi river, have been formed 
by the alluvion brought down by that river and its 
auxiliary streams. 

That an almost inconceivable quantity of alluvion is 
annually borne away by the current of that river, there 
cannot remain the least shadow of doubt ; but that the 
lands to the extent that many are inclined to believe, 

* For an account of which see Linschotten's Voyage to Waygat's 
Straits, vol. IV. page 204-. and Wm. Barent's account of the voyage 
of the Dutch East India Company. 


were formed by it, is by no means probable ; there- 
fore cannot be admitted, while there exist facts that 
will warrant a very different opinion. 

In order to a more correct view, or a more perfect 
knowledge of the subject, it is a matter of no small 
importance that all the existing circumstances should 
be carefully examined, and duly weighed, that we may 
be enabled to judge whether, in the first place, the 
lands in question were all formed by the alluvion of 
the Mississippi river, or not ; or secondly, to what ex- 
tent we are to admit its agency in this extensive work. 

.In the examination and discussion of these ques- 
tions, I am well aware of the disadvantages under 
which a person labours, who has never seen the 
smallest part or portion of the Mississippi river, or of 
its auxiliary branches ; much less any portion of the 
alluvial districts upon their borders. But from the 
well known facts that exist, I am not disposed to 
shrink from the investigation, under an apprehension 
that popular prejudices cannot be overcome nor made 
to yield to the force of conviction, where truth stands 
pre-eminent; nor to relinquish the pursuit from fear of 
a difference of opinion, since it is not expected, nor in- 
tended to establish a decision from which there is no 

It must appear obvious to every one that the only 
object in view in the present instance is the develope- 
ment of truth. To this end, I shall first take notice 
of the tides in the gulf of Mexico, with a view to 


the influence which they may have on the current of 
the Mississippi river. 

It is, I believe, pretty well known, and generally 
understood, that the tides in the gulf of Mexico rise 
but very little, except during the prevalence of violent 
north east or south east storms, or gales of wind. 
The principal authority which we have for this, is that 
of Mr. Stoddard, which has been already quoted, 
page 88. On this subject he observes, " The differ- 
ence between the highest and lowest stages of water in 
the Balize, is about three feet." And moreover, 
66 The tides have but little effect on the water at Xew 
Orleans ; they sometimes cause it to swell, but never to 
slacken its current.-'* 

Hence, when we take into view the amazing quan- 
tity of water that flows in that river, and the force and 
velocity of its current, which bears down almost ail 
opposition, the conclusion is very obvious, that the 
alluvion which may be, at any time, suspended in its 
waters, must be carried and deposited at, or in the 
neighbourhood of its confluence with the bay of 
Mexico ; except when its banks are no longer capable 
of retaining its waters, and they are free to overflow 
and inundate the neighbouring country. From these 
facts we might reasonably infer that this river would, 
from the earliest periods of time, have been pushing 
forward and depositing its alluvion farther and farther 
into the sea, presenting to view, at the present time an 

* Sketches of Louisiana, page lo4. 


extensive peninsula, stretching into the sea, far be- 
yond the borders of its neighbouring coasts, or the 
original and primitive shores of the ocean : this, 
however, is not altogether the case. But it may he 
asked, what means the long strip of land extending 
beyond a line drawn from Bastien Bay to Black Lake, 
to the head of the present delta, or where the river is 
divided into three branches, a distance of about thirty- 
five miles in a straight line ; and to the extremity of the 
land at the South Pass, about forty-seven miles ? 

I am perfectly willing to admit the existence of this 
strip of land, and that it has been formed princip<illy 
by the alluvion deposited from the waters of the Mis- 
sissippi river. But before I proceed to answer this 
question, it is necessary in order to come at truth in 
this case, to take a view of the whole ground, and the 
various circumstances necessarily attending it. 

To the persevering industry and exertions of Mr. 
Darby, we are principally indebted for the means by 
which to form something like correct ideas of the sub- 
ject under consideration. In his map of the Missis- 
sippi Territory, we find laid down an immense tract of 
alluvial lands, projecting into the gulf of Mexico, 
more than sixty miles beyond a right line drawn from 
the entrance into Mobile bay, or Pensacola river, to 
the mouth of the Sabine, or Mermentau river, which 
line corresponds very nearly with that of the coast 
generally; that is, east and west of the Mississippi 
river. This projection of land, with the little islands 
adjacent, as represented, form a pretty correct segment 


of a circle of nearly ISO . Through or across the 
eastern portion of this segment of land, the Missis- 
sippi river runs ; but which, in its course from New 
Orleans to near Fort St. Philip, does not embrace one 
quarter of this alluvial district or projecting segment. 
Now with all the gain of this river by alluvial depo- 
sites, and the extension of lands which it has for ages 
been pushing forward into the sea, the extreme point 
of land at the Balize does not, it is believed, extend 
so iar, due south, into the gulf of Mexico, as the land 
at the mouth of the river Lafourche, or the land oppo- 
site the east end of the island Grand Caillou. 

1 have admitted that the strip of land beyond the 
mouth of Bastien bay, to that of Black Lake has been 
formed by alluvial deposites from the Mississippi 
river. 1 now beg leave to ask by what means was the 
projection of land formed between the east end of 
Grand Isle, and the entrance of Atchafalaya bay ? 

The Mississippi river does not approach the mouth 
of the river Lafourche, in any direction, within almost 
fifty miles, and at no point below New Orleans, not 
within seventy miles of the land opposite the east end 
of Isle Grand Caillou. 

It may be, and doubtless is attributed to one, or all 
of the following causes. 

In the first place, it may be said that during the in- 
undation of the Mississippi at some remote period, its 
current, from the pressure above, was urged into the 
channel of the river Lafourche, overflowing the coun- 
try to the right and left, and depositing its alluvion 


in proportion as its current was checked by the waters 
in the bay of Mexico. 

2dly. It may be alleged that the same or similar 
operations have been carried on upon the whole course 
of the Atchafalaya river; or that, without confining 
our view to either of those rivers, the Mississippi 
river by its annual inundations, which overflow all 
that part of the country, has in the course of time, 
formed this district of alluvial lands that now projects 
into the bay of Mexico so far beyond the general line 
of sea coast. 

In reply to the first supposition, (viz.) that the Mis- 
sissippi during the period of its annual inundations, 
may have assumed the channel of the river Lafourche, 
if the fact be even admitted, it seems highly impro- 
bable that the alluvial depositions on the borders of 
the river Lafourche, and at its mouth, should be so 
very abundant, during the period of its inundation, as 
almost to keep pace with that of the Mississippi, at, 
and near its present influx, and where these operations 
are unremitting for nearly or quite three fourths of the 
year. Nay, the circumstance seems so unlikely, and 
so void of support, that we ought to hesitate to admit 
it, even if there were no other source, or means left, 
by which to explain the cause of this phenomenon. 

Bdly. The same remarks will apply with equal 
force to that of the river Atchafalaya. Moreover we 
may add, if it be admitted that any portion of the 
Mississippi, flows through the channel of this river 
during the annual inundation, and by which the allu- 


vial district has been formed and extended, the quan- 
tity of alluvial deposites ought to have been much 
greater and extended much farther into the gulf than the 
lands at the mouth of Lafourche ; because the former 
is a much larger stream than the latter, and runs 
through a greater extent of country ; but this is by no 
means the case ; for the alluvial lands at the mouth 
of the Atchafalaya, where it enters the bay of 'that 
name, do not project so far into the bay of Mexico, by 
about twenty-five miles, as the lands at the mouth of 

To this we may add, that if the alluvial deposites, 
by which these lands were formed, were acquired 
from this source ; we might reasonably suppose that 
Atchafalaya bay which is more than twenty miles in 
length, from east to west, and about twelve miles in 
bread 'h, and in many parts, fifty feet deep, ought to 
have been filled up, and the river discharging itself 
immediately into the gulf, as does the Lafourche, and 
as did the Mississippi, at the head of the present 

From this view, the advocates for the formation of 
this immense section of land, or segment of a circle, 
which is equally as appropriate, by alluvial deposites 
from the overflowing or inundations of the Mississippi 
river, seem to derive but a very precarious support, at 
best, from these sources. 

It may be further alleged, that the formation of the 
lands that project into the gulf of Mexico, and through 
which the Mississippi runs, has been owing in part 


to the following causes. It has been imagined, and 
is, at present believed by some, that the course of the 
Mississippi, was once through the river Atchafalaya 
into the bay of that name. By others, that the Mis- 
sissippi had its course for a time through the river 

If we examine the various turnings and windings 
of tliis river, from its entrance into the Mississippi 
Territory, to New Orleans, we shall be ready to ad- 
mit that it may have run in any, and all directions 
through the country ; for in that distance, the whole 
channel or current of the river may be said to run in 
every possible direction, or in that of every known 
point of the compass. 

But there are circumstances which lead to the con- 
clusion that its general course has never varied much 
from that in which it now runs, since the subsidence of 
the general deluge ; and moreover that it has never 
run in the direction, nor through the channel of the 
Atchafalaya river, or that of Lafourche : and for the 
following reasons. 

If the Mississippi had ever occupied the channel or 
bed of the Atchafalaya, for any considerable length of 
time, we have every reason to believe that it would 
have filled up Lake Chetimaches (with which and the 
Atchafalaya there is a communication at present, at 
the north end, and across which and Lake Palourde 
that river now runs,) with alluvion. Not only so, but 
we have still greater reason to believe that Atchafalaya 
bay, into which the Mississippi river must have dis- 


charged its waters, as the Atchafalaya now does, must 
have been entirely effaced by alluvial deposes, but 
which is not the case ; on the contrary, the Atchafalnya 
bay is, at least, represented to be, as before, fifty feet 
in depth, in some parts of it. 

Another circumstance of no small importance, must 
be taken into view in this case. If the Mississippi 
river had ever followed the course of the Atchafalaya 
river, or that of Lafourche, to which the same reason- 
ing will apply to a certain extent, we should still be 
able to trace its channel in both instances > throughout 
its whole course ; for it is next to impossible, that a 
river so deep, and of such uncommon magnitude as that 
of the Mississippi, should, by any cause whatever, as- 
sume a new channel, and relinquish entirely the old or 
primitive one, without leaving traces never to be ef- 
faced. Of this, we have ample and unquestionable 
proof, in a number of instances, on the Mississippi 
river, where, at some period of time, it has cut across a 
neck of land, and left its original channel which, in all 
probability, will never be entirely obliterated. In- 
stance the Fausse Riviere, Lake Concordia, Lake St. 
John, Lake St. Joseph, Lake Providence, and Grand 
Lake, all of which were, without doubt, the ancient 
channels of the river, and all within the Mississippi 

If these are not sufficient proof, we have only to 
look to the ancient bed of the Nile, which runs along 
at the foot of the Lybian range. This channel, al- 
though deserted for some thousand years, and subject- 


ed if not to alluvial deposites from water, to deposites 
of sand, that are swept in torrents from the deserts, 
still exhibits traces of its ancient course, and breadth.* 

Mr. Darby has intimated, that from the number of 
large rivers that flow over the inclined plane from the 
west, into the Mississippi river, and the comparatively 
few and small ones that flow into it on the east, there 
seems to be a tendency in the Mississippi to incline 
more eastwardly, and to range along the eastern 

But it is not to be inferred, from this remark, that 
Mr. Darby is of the opinion that the Mississippi river 
ever has, or ever will, run in a different channel : on 
the contrary, he observes, " The bed of the Missis- 
sippi, like that of all other rivers, is the deepest valley 
in the country through which it flows. ^Nothing can 
have less foundation, on principles of sound philoso- 
phy, than the common notion of the liability of the 
Mississippi to desert its channel. There exists no 
data in the country, to substantiate this opinion."} 

Hence, the conclusion is, that the immense alluvial 
region, and more particularly that portion of it which 
extends so far into the gulf, between Barataria and 
Atchafalaya bays, was never formed exclusively by de- 
posites of alluvion from the waters of the Mississippi, 
either directly, or indirectly : for, to what has been 

* See Rennell's Herodotus. 
t S< j e Darby's Louisiana, p. 42. 
t Darby's Louisiana, p. 136. 


said on the subject of that river having followed the 
course of either the Atchafalaya, or Lafourche, it may 
be added, that if it had ever run into the channel of 
either of those streams, it would have borne along and 
deposited its alluvion, beyond the adjacent shores, 
forming a projection into the gulf, the same, or similar 
to that through which the river now runs, from Fort 
St. Philip to the Balize. But this is not the case. 

Mr. Stoddard, whose opinions I have already quo- 
ted, seems to consider it as having been formed of ma- 
terials deposited principally by the Mississippi, and 
which " have been rolled from the sources of the great 

Mr. Darby, however, seems to entertain a very diffe- 
rent belief, or at least, that these alluvial regions were 
not formed exclusively by deposites of alluvion from 
the Mississippi. He, who has seen and observed, 
perhaps, every portion of this territory, and examined, 
with a discriminating eye, the various phenomena that 
are presented to view, has ventured, unawed by popu- 
lar opinion, and unbiassed by preconceived notions 
of physical facts, to assert an opinion more consistent 
with truth, though at variance with most others that 
have been advanced on this subject. 

From a view of the existing facts, he plainly saw it 
was impossible that the districts on the borders of the 
Mississippi could have been formed alone by that river. 
This conclusion, however, is drawn from the following 

* Stoddard's Sketches, p. 184. 



remarks: "That the revolutions that have changed 
the very face of nature in Lower Louisiana, have not 
entirely been the effect of alluvion, appears almost de- 
monstrable, from an inspection of the banks of Red 
river, which are intermixed with marine shells,"* 

Now as Lower Louisiana is here spoken of general- 
ly, it may be said that the banks of the Red river, do 
not strictly come within the limits of what is consider- 
ed the delta of the Mississippi. 

This is admitted ; but in speaking of the tendency of 
the Mississippi river, to range along the eastern bluffs, 
he again observes ; " But a change of bed, could never 
have been the sole cause of the exemption from inun- 
dation, of places that are now twenty or thirty feet 
above the highest water, that were evidently once pe- 
riodically submerged."! 

Moreover, in speaking of the lands in Ouachitta, 
Red, Teche, and other rivers, he further observes, 
" We may pronounce those lands to have been, to a 
great depth below the present surface, the product 
of alluvion, and that in distant and remote time, a 
large bay, reaching from the eastern to the western 
bluffs, penetrated the continent in the direction of the 
Mississippi. This bay has been filled above the 
ordinary level of the water, by accretion of soil. 
The whole delta bears evident marks of this revolu- 
tion. But the slope along the western bluffs, be- 
ing raised above, not only the common level of the sea, 

* Darby's Louisiana, p. 48. 
t Darby's Louisiana, page 48. 


but above the influx of tbe tide, and the highest annual 
flood, must have acquired an addition of matter from 
some other store of materials, or has been elevated by 
other causes." Page 102. 

The existence of these facts, and the deductions 
which Mr. Darby has drawn, and which, by the by, 
have been but very seldom taken notice of, are too 
plain and palpable, to admit of the least shadow of 
doubt : viz. that alluvial or other lands, being above 
the highest tides of the sea, and the annual or semi-an- 
nual inundations of rivers, cannot owe their formation, 
to deposites of alluvion from either. It is a circum- 
stance by which I have endeavoured to prove, that the 
great alluvial region on our Atlantic coast, was never 
formed by the sea or rivers, and it is an argument made 
use of by Baron de Tott to prove that cape Beleros, oil 
the coast of Egypt, was not formed by the alluv ion of 
the Nile, as is generally supposed : and one I trust, 
that will stand the test of the most scrupulous investi- 
gation, without the slightest fear of weakening its va- 

Taking this fact for granted, and knowing at least 
from respectable authority, that lands of this descrip- 
tion extend a very considerable distance south of the 
thirtieth degree of latitude, or below New Orleans, 
lands, over which the Mississippi has no control, and 
with which it has not, and, perhaps, never had any di- 
rect communication, we may reasonably ask, to what 
source then are we to look for the cause, by which this 
extensive district has been formed ? 


Mr. Darby believing, without doubt, that it could 
not, as before, have been formed by the Mississippi, 
has suggested the following idea, "May not this re- 
volution have drawn its causes from a change in the 
earth's centre ? May not the time have existed, when 
the Canadian lakes discharged the whole or part of 
their column down the Mississippi ? 

" How very small difference in the inclination of the 
plane, from lake Michigan, towards the Mexican gulf, 
would produce the most extraordinary changes ?"* &c. 

Having already introduced the subject of a change 
of the earth's axis, in speaking of the cause of the ge- 
neral deluge, or Noatick flood, it is unnecessary and 
inexpedient to offer any remarks or opinions, on that 
head, in the present instance. I shall therefore proceed 
to observe, that having endeavoured to prove, that the 
great alluvial region on oar Atlantic coast, and of 
which a large portion of the delta of the Mississippi is 
unquestionably a part, has been formed by the opera- 
tion of currents flowing, probably, from the Arctic sea 
or Noth Pole, across the continent of America, 1 trust 
I may again appeal to the same source, for the cause in 
part of the phenomena in question, without being sus- 
pected of too great a fondness for innovation, or an un* 
due partiality for a favourite theory. 

The numerous facts that have been adduced in favour 
of such a revolution, and a change in the configuration 

* Darby's Louisiana, pa^e 42. 


Of this continent, by this cause are sufficient, it is pre- 
sumed, to warrant the conclusion, that they are found- 
ed in truth and the premises correct. 

Taking these for granted, no person will pretend 
that the alluvial regions in Lower Louisiana, and par- 
ticularly on the Mississippi river, below the thirtieth 
degree of latitude, were exempt from the operations of 
this general current ; on the contrary, no one, it is be- 
lieved, will hesitate to admit, that this part or portion 
of the country, and also the whole valley of the Mis- 
sissippi must have been, not only the principal theatre, 
of its action, but most liable to the full force of its ope- 

I have observed that as the waters of the deluge 
overran the continent, being at first confined between 
the great chains of mountains, the soil and earth were 
torn up, and transported to the borders of the sea, and 
deposited ; that in this manner the whole alluvial re- 
gion was formed. >iow ? if it be admitted, that any 
part or portion of this region was formed in this way 
and by this cause, it follows of course that, whether an, 
extensive estuary once existed at the mouth of the Mis- 
sissippi or not, the whole of the alluvial region from 
Natches,* to the line of coast extending direct from 
Pensacola bay, to the mouth of the Colorado river, 
must have been formed in the same way, at the same 
time, and by the same means. There is no other source 

* Spe Mr. M-riur< *s Geologic)! c*<art, or Beaujours* map of 
America, ID his Sketches of the United States. 


to which we can look for the probable cause of the for- 
mation, and extension of an alluvial region so vast, and 
so very far above the highest tides of the sea, or the 
overflowings or inundations of any river. 

On the strength of this supposition, I may venture to 
explain the manner in which, during the same revolu- 
tion, the alluvion was urged forward into the gulf or 
bay of Mexico, thereby forming the extensive segment 
of a circle, lying between the meridian of Cat Island, 
and Grand Pass into Vermillion bay, as laid down in 
Mr. Darby's map, which, it is believed, is the most ac- 
curate of any before published. 

It may be presumed, on an examination of the Mis- 
sissippi river, and its numerous tributary streams, that 
whether the general deluge was occasioned by an in- 
cessant fall of rain for forty days, and forty nights, or 
from some other cause, the Mississippi river, from th3 
commencement, must have been pre-eminently conspi- 
cuous in its operations, in forming the alluvial region 
on its borders, and at its confluence with the bay of 
Mexico, at least within the line of coast already de- 
fined. Not only so, but from the increasing strength 
of its current, and the amazing quantity of alluvion, 
suspended in, and borne away by its waters, before 
the continent, generally, was overrun by currents, its 
alluvial deposites, during this period, must have been 
in advance of the adjacent coast. If these facts be ad- 
mitted as being possible, or probable, what may we not 
conclude, if the actual source of the current was that 
of the North Pole ? In this case, as I have already 


remarked, the Arctic sea, defying all bounds, overran 
its* ancient limits, and uniting its waters with those of 
Hudson's bay, lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan, 
urged their united forces into this immense valley, the 
actual channel of which is the Mississippi river. 

In such a state of things, which is, by no means, 
improbable, who, that is endowed even with the most 
transcendant energies of the human mind, can form 
any adequate conceptions of a scene so awfully sub- 
lime, and so tremendous in its operations ? Or who, 
that has witnessed the effects of an incessant and co- 
pious fall of rain for twenty-four hours, will not admit 
that the alluvion, with which the waters were doubtless 
saturated, must have been propelled by such a force, 
beyond the limits of the adjacent coast, so as to form a 
projection similar to the one under consideration ? But, 
it will be said perhaps that as the floods rose, so as to 
overflow the ordinary mountains, the currents of all ri- 
vers were merged in that of one vast sea, which, during 
its prevalence, must have deposited its alluvion on the 
sea coast and adjacent shores of rivers, as well as at 
their mouths ; thereby making, with some local excep- 
tions, one uniform line of coast. 

It will readily be admitted, that there is some de- 
gree of plausibility in this remark. But it must be re- 
collected, that the same operations that were going on 
in the great vallies, in the channels and at the mouths 
of rivers, from the commencement of the universal de- 
luge, to the period at which continents were nearly 
submerged and overrun by a general current, were re- 

siimed, or, in other words, continued, after the waters 
of the flood had so far subsided, that the continents 
were but partially inundated, and the waters confined 
to great and extensive vallies, through which rivers 
run ; and these too, by the continued draining of the 
lands, which had been long saturated with water ; in- 
stances of which may be witnessed, on the subsidence 
of every spring and autumnal flood of our rivers : and 
also, to the disruption of the sides of deep and exten- 
sive reservoirs, formed by nature, upon elevated lands, 
and upon the tops of mountains, through which the wa- 
ters that were collected during the flood, and left on its 
subsidence, rushed with overwhelming force, bearing 
away every moveable thing, and particularly the soil, 
to add to the currents of rivers already turbid with al- 

It is to this source that we may reasonably look for 
the cause by which this immense district has, at least 
in part, been formed and projected into the bay of 
Mexico, so far beyond the adjacent coasts. 

In order to establish this point, it is necessary that 
all the existing facts and circumstances, relating to the 
geology and topography of this region, should be exa- 
mined and brought into view. These it is difficult, 
nay, impossible, to have access to, being, in part, be- 
neath the surface ; and the remainder but superficially 
known, or if examined at all, it has not been with a 
view to the subject in question. 

Now the difficulties under which a person must la- 
bour, who is endeavouring to elucidate a point that is 


involved in doubt and obscurity, without these advan- 
tages, must appear obvious to every intelligent mind. 
But, when the motives and the object are kept in view, 
it is hoped that a suitable indulgence will not be with- 

Notwithstanding the disadvantages which have 
been stated, there are two facts on which, from their 
actual existence, and unequivocal character, I shall 
risk the final decision. 

The first is, that lands which are higher than the 
overflowing or inundation of the river, or the tides of 
the sea, could not, as before, have been formed by ei- 
ther. Of such, the district in question abounds. This 
conclusion, however, is drawn from the remarks of Mr. 
Darby, who observes, The following line includes 
all the territorial surface upon which the sugar cane 
has as yet been attempted, in the state of Louisiana. 
Beginning at the Rigolets, and running through Lakes 
Pouchartrain and Maurepas, and up the Amite and 
Iberville rivers to the Mississippi ; thence up the lat- 
ter stream, including the settlements at Point Coupee, 
and Fausse Riviere ; thence west to Opelousas ; and 
thence including the Teche and Jltchafalaya to their 
mouths ; thence along the coast of the gulf of Mexico, 
to the place of beginning." 

Now if the lands included within the above limits, 
(the superficies of which amount to more than two- 
thirds of the district under consideration,) are suscepti- 
ble of the cultivation of the sugar cane, and particu- 
larly that portion which li^s *< along the coast ot the 



gulf of Mexico. " we have reason to believe, that they 
are above the overflowing of the tides of the sea. or the 
inundations of the river ; consequently, they could not 
have been formed and elevated to their present height, 
exclusively by either, although much may have been 
done in this work, by the latter. 

A circumstance that has had considerable influence 
in establishing a belief that the delta of the Missis- 
sippi, so called, has been formed by that river, is, that 
its banks, and those of almost all the subordinate 
streams and bayous, are highest next to the rivers, 
where the greatest quantity of alluvion was deposited, 
and thence gradually descending, as they recede from 
them. That the banks are higher immediately upon 
the river, than at a distance, is unquestionably true; 
JBut that they were formed and elevated by deposites 
of alluvion from the currents alone, is doubtless an 
errour; for we find, upon almost all rivers running 
through alluvial districts, or having alluvial banks, 
however high they may be elevated above the water, 
or the highest inundations, that they have always a 
greater or less descent from the river. This may be 
seen on the banks of many rivers, and which, being 
thirty or forty feet above low water, were never known 
to have been overflowed. 

In order to comprehend the subject more fully, it 
may not be amiss to examine the process by which 
they are formed. 

It is believed, that when a river passes beyond the 
limits of the coast, and discharges itself into an open 


bay, or sea, it becomes diffused with the general mass. 
As the volume or current of the river is urged forward, 
the waters at the two sides leave the main body of the 
current, and their force is slackened or checked by the 
resistance of the surrounding medium, and the grosser 
parts of the alluvion, which, till then, were held sus- 
pended, are let fall ; while the finer, or alluininous 
parts, are still suspended and conveyed further on. 
By the frequent repetition, or long continuance of this 
process, lateral banks are elevated and extended be- 
yond their ancient limits, until they are raised nearly 
to the highest point at which the tides, or water of the 
river ever rise. 

On the subsidence of an annual inundation, or the 
tides, these banks are left above the water, while the 
grounds, at a few rods distant, where there is, per^ 
haps, a lagoon or pond, is ten feet lower. On the suc- 
ceeding annual or semi-annual inundation, the water in 
the river rises to the height of twelve inches above 
the new forming bank ; flows into the adjacent pond, 
or lagoon, and fills it up. Now, admitting that the 
waters in the river were charged with alluvion, what 
kind of result ought we to expect, on the subsidence of 
the water? The answer appears obvious, that if there 
be ten feet of water in the pond, or lagoon, or on the 
grounds adjacent to the river, and only one foot on the 
newly formed bank, and the waters of the river alike 
saturated with alluvion, we ought, for every deposits 
of one inch on the bank, to find ten inches in the la- 
goon, or adjacent grounds ; consequently, by a repeti- 


tion of this process, for a series of years, the grounds 
adjacent to a river would be brought up to a perfect 
level with the banks, by the time that they cease to be 
overflowed. But is this the case ? I answer no ; not, 
perhaps, in a solitary instance. On the contrary, the 
banks continue to increase in height until they are ele- 
vated so far above the highest inundation as seldom, 
if ever to be overflowed, while the lands adjacent con- 
tinue low, and are, perhaps, annually inundated. 

This state of things will be found to exist on many 
of the rivers in America, on all the deltas of which I 
have taken notice, and particularly that of Egypt ; of 
which Dr. Shaw has said, '< For whereas the soil of 
other plain countries is usually of the same depth, here 
we find it vary in proportion to the distance from the 
river, being sometimes near the bank more than thirty 
feet high, whilst at the utmost extremity of the inunda- 
tion, (viz ) at the skirts of the valley, and next to the 
hills, it is not the quarter part of so many inches."* 

Whatever may have been the opinion of Dr. Shaw, 
respecting the fact above quoted, it may be remarked, 
that it is not peculiar to the banks of the Nile, nor the 
valley of Egypt ; on the contrary, it is almost univer- 
sal in all alluvial districts, on the borders of rivers, 
and the cause of which may be accounted for, or ex- 
plained in the following very easy and rational man- 
ner, viz : by the operations of the winds, sometimes 

* Shaw's Travels, page 439, for remarks on this passage, see 
pages 304 and 305. 

assisted by the growth of vegetables: the former of 
which it carefully observed and particularly examin- 
ed, together with the operations of currents, it may be 
asserted with safety, that there is not a spit, sand bar, 
sand-bank, flat, or alluvial island, the formation, mo- 
dification, or changes of which may not be accounted 
for, by the operation of one or the other of these agents, 
either separately or combined. This, however impro- 
bable and unimportant it may appear, is of the utmost 
consequence in all hydraulic researches, and particu- 
larly in military architecture, where it becomes neces- 
sary to erect fortifications on the borders of alluvial 
districts, or in situations liable to changes. 

The process by which alluvial banks are more and 
more elevated by Vegetation, and more especially by 
winds, is nearly as follows 

When a newly formed bank or banks, are elevated 
by successive deposites of alluvion, to the height at 
which the annual inundations of the waters rise, they 
are, on the subsidence of the waters, left exposed to the 
operations of the winds, which, however small the 
elevation may be above the water, will soon produce 
some change ; for the wind in passing over an uni- 
form surface, as that of a river, lake, &c. and meet- 
ing with an obstruction, is elevated in the same 
manner as the current of water in a rivulet, where 
it meets with an obstruction in its course. If the 
wind be so strong as to raise the sand, when it first 
meets the obstruction, or strikes this sand bank, it is 
carried over and at a little distance beyond the sum- 
mit of the bank, before it is let fall, on the opposite 

side ; because the wind in its course, not conforming to 
the inequality, or course of the bank, or other obstruct- 
ing medium, forms, on the leeward side, a kind of eddy, 
into which the sand, being much heavier than air, is 
immediately deposited. 

If the winds change in an opposite direction, the 
same operation is continued, until the sand is at last 
heaped up in a ridge of a pyramidal shape, on the top 
and sides of which, vegetation at length springs up, 
and serves to increase the obstruction, and detain the 
sand. Subsequently, other successive strata of allu- 
vion are annually deposited, at the base of the bank. 
This is, in the same manner, afterwards hurried by 
the winds towards the summit, where it is, in part, 
detained by the growth of vegetables. Thus it con- 
tinues to be elevated, while the neighbouring low 
grounds experience the trifling augmentation of an an- 
nual deposite of alluvion, from the waters that over- 
flow them. 

At length the violence of the current of the river, 
or the beating of the waves against the bank, breaks 
down a portion, and forms a somewhat inclined or per- 
pendicular front, against which the winds are more 
directly apposed. Should they prevail with more than 
ordinary force or strength, or should they blow either 
obliquely, or at right angles across the river loaded 
with dust, or should they even, by their force against 
this upright bank, raise a torrent of dust, it is elevat- 
ed into the air, and deposited more immediately on the 
margin of the bank next the river. 


This operation is carried on upon all broken and 
sandy banks, from the lowest to the highest; but it 
may be seen and observed, to the best advantage, upon 
high perpendicular banks, such as prevail higher upon 
the Mississippi and other rivers, in the Mississippi 

Here the wind, in crossing the river, either oblique- 
ly or at right angles, strikes forcibly against the bank, 
and is immediately elevated with its dust and sand 
into the air ; in passing over the bank, it forms an arch 
of about one hundred and twenty degrees of a circle, 
before it is brought into the general current of air, so ae 
to sweep along the surface of the ground again. Be- 
neath this arch, or current of air, is a kind of eddy, 
into which the sand and dust, that is suspended and 
floating over the banks, is let fall, in the same manner, 
as alluvion is deposited by a current, that falls into an 

It is in this way and by this process, that the allu- 
vial banks of almost all rivers, have been raised and 
kept higher than the land at a distance from the river ; 
and it is, doubtless, to this source that we may look for 
the cause, in part, of the elevation of the banks of the 
alluvial region under consideration. 

Should any doubts exist of the correctness of this 
view, a more satisfactory and a more beautiful illustra- 
tion of the fact may be witnessed, almost every winter, 
by the drifting of snow : in which all the phenomena 
are regulated by the same laws, and governed by the 
same principles. 


In this instance, so familiar to every person, it is 
well known that every object which is opposed to the 
winds, so as to obstruct its current, causes it to be ele- 
vated ; so that in passing over the obstruction, to min- 
gle again in the general current, this arch is formed, 
proportioned, as in all cases, to the velocity of the 
wind, the height of the opposing object, arid the angle 
which it forms with the horizon. 

Through, and beneath this arch, the snow, being 
specifically much heavier than air, is deposited and 
forms a drift. As soon as this drift or bank has risen 
sufficiently high to oppose the winds, a perpendicular 
front is soon formed, against which the wind is for- 
cibly hurried, and being elevated into the air is swept 
over the drift, depositing beneath the arch, or in the 
eddy, and on the top of the drift, the snow that is ele- 
vated by it. In this way the drift is raised in front, 
and gradually descending to the level of the surround- 
ing mass. 

Waiving for the present, any further remarks on this 
particular part of the subject, which, though interest- 
ing in itself, may be considered a kind of digression, 
I shall proceed to an examination of the second fact. 

Among the proofs of the operations of currents, that 
have overran this continent, and probably every other, 
the existence of fossil organick remains, at a great depth 
in the earth, and particularly of wood, has already been 
frequently mentioned in this work. It becomes neces- 
sary, however, in the present instance to bring it again 
into view, and in a particular manner to invite atten- 


tion to it, as constituting one of the criteria, by which 
we are enabled to form correct notions of the changes 
that have taken place in almost all alluvial regions, 
and particularly the one under consideration. 

Independently of the many places that have been 
pointed out, where fossil remains of wood are formed ; 
it is mentioned by Mr. Bartram and Mr. Stoddard,* 
as being abundant in several places on the Mississippi 
river, at, and below low water, and at a great depth 
below the surface of the lands. These remains may 
be traced in many places, and to a great distance in the 
Mississippi valley ; but in no instance, that I know of, 
are, they to be seen- between the lower deposite or 
stratum, and the surface of the earth; at least, at any 
place above New Orleans. 

To what extent towards the mouth of the Missis- 
sippi river this stratum of fossil wood is to be found, 
I am unable to say ; but if respectable verbal testi- 
mony may be relied on, it may be traced to a great 
distance below New Orleans. But whether this be 
true or not, it is mentioned that in a canal lately dug 
by the Baron de Carondolet, between Lake Ponchar- 
train and the Mississippi, "a substratum of black 
earth was discovered, mixed with the remains of 

The existence of a stratum of fossil wood, in this 
and many other places, below low water, and in situa- 

* See Bartrara's Travels, and Stoddard's Sketches, 
t Volney's View, page 61. 



tions where, without doubt, the sea or ocean once pre- 
vailed, and where living forest trees could never have 
existed, leads us at once to the conclusion, that in the 
onset of some great revolution, these trees were torn 
up, and hurried beyond the ancient boundaries of the 
ocean, and deposited upon or near its bottom. And 
that, moreover, during the same revolution and by the 
same cause, the immense districts of alluvial grounds, 
that have been formed over them, and in which, no 
organick remains of the kind are to be seen, were also 

That to whatever point or distance we find this sub- 
stratum of fossil wood to extend,* below New Orleans, 
so far, it is presumed, this district was formed and ex- 
tended, by the same cause, and at the same time that 
the great alluvial region was formed below Natchez, 
extending from Long Island to the Colorado river. 

These conclusions are grounded on the following 
facts. In the first place, there exists an almost perfect 
correspondence in the situation and depth of this sub- 
stratum of fossil wood, wherever it has been found, 
tluuughoutthe alluvial region on the coast of America, 
as well as in other parts of the world ; which is a 
strong proof that, in general, it was deposited at the 
same time. 

&dly. Between -the surface of the ground and this 
substratum of fossil wood, and within the limits just 
mentioned, no intermediate layer or deposite of wood, 
has been found, with the exception of, perhaps, a 
solitary limb or piece of wood. Such is the case 


throughout the alluvial zone, and, it is believed, a 
great portion of that part of the delta of the Missis- 
sippi, which projects into the gulf of Mexico. 

3dly. In almost all situations, upon the borders and 
at the mouths of rivers, where alluvial districts are 
forming by annual deposites of alluvion from such 
river, and in which great quantities of drift wood is 
annually or semi-annuully floated down its current, we 
find the deposites of organick remains,, whether of 
trees, shrubs, or other vegetable substances, corres- 
ponding with the annual deposites of alluvion, in 
regular succession. 

Hence the plain and only inference is, that to what- 
ever distance below New Orleans, or south of a line 
drawn from Vlobile bay, to the mouth of Mermeutau 
river, this substratum of organick remains may be 
found to exist with a superincumbent mass of alluvion, 
in which there are no fossil remains of wood, and 
over which neither the inundations of the river nor the 
tides of the sea ever flow, so far it is believed this 
district could never have been formed by the alluvion 
of the Mississippi, or that of any other river. 

It may have been, and doubtless, will be said that 
these conclusions are drawn from false premises that 
the facts stated, though they exist, are by no means 
uniform, or general. That fossil remains of wood are 
or niay be found in numerous places, far above New Or- 
leans, and in many parts of the delta, at any depth below 
the surface. That during the period of the inundation, 


a large portion of this region is overflowed, and con- 
stantly becoming more elevated by annual deposites 
of alluvion, &c. 

That fossil wood may be found in many places in 
this district, and at various depths below the surface, 
is by no means improbable. In speaking of deposites 
of fossil wood, in the early part of this work, it has 
been admitted that remains of wood are sometimes 
found in marshes, or low sunken places, at the depth 
of several feet below the surface : but this does not in- 
validate the assertion that an uniform, general, and 
extensive deposite of fossil wood may exist at a still 
greater depth, throughout the district, and, at the same 
time, be the result of a very different cause. 

It will likewise be admitted that at certain seasons 
of the year, a very large proportion of this part of th* 
country is actually inundated, and by which there is an 
annual increase of soil by alluvial deposites. Neither 
does this prove that the very districts thus annually 
inundated, and which are becoming more and more 
elevated by deposites of alluvion, may not have been 
formed by the operations of a current, flowing from the 
Arctic sea, or Hudson's bay, through the valley of the 
Mississippi : for it does not follow, that because they 
are in this age annually overflowed, they have always 
been thus deluged. On the contrary, it may be safely 
alleged, that the time has been, and that too, proba- 
bly, long since the Christian JEra, when the same 
lands that are now annually inundated, were elevated 
above the overflowings of the Mississippi, and other 


i-ivers ; when they were left dry, and covered with a 
luxuriant growth of herbage, and forest trees waving 
high in air. When the inhabitants, who erected the 
Tumuli and mounds, discovered by Mr. Darby on the 
Teche river, were free to roam, at large, unawed and 
unrestrained by the floods, that now annually flow at 
their bases.* 

To attempt to establish these facts would necessa- 
rily lead to the discussion of points, foreign to the in* 
tentions and plan of this w r ork ; and in which no mo- 
tives could induce a participation, save the wish to 
promote the cause of truth, and the comfort and hap- 
piness of that part of the human family, whose destiny 
it may be to inhabit, and improve this portion of the 
country, which holds out such flattering prospects, of 
the easy acquirement of rapid fortunes, by the rich and 
almost spontaneous products of its luxuriant soil. 

These, it is hoped, will be a sufficient excuse for 
offering some reasons, for the opinions which 1 have 
advanced, more especially since in this subject, the 
welfare of, not only, the present, but future genera- 
tions may be deeply involved. 

Whether the lands that are, at this period of time, 
annually inundated by the overflowing of the Missis- 
sippi, were formed by deposites of alluvion from its 
w aters, or not, is not the question in the present in- 
stance. It is whether the lands that are now inun* 

* See Darby's Louisiana, page 117. 


dated, were, at any period of time, less so than at 

To determine this point, it is necessary to inquire 
into, and examine what was the ancient state and con- 
dition of the Mississippi river, as it respects its con- 
fluence with the bay of Mexico, and what it now is. 

It is pretty well known, and generally admitted, 
that the ancient southern boundaries of the continent, 
on the Mississippi river, did not extend far below Nat- 
ches. That by some revolution in the economy of the 
earth, a very great increase of territory has been form- 
ed, and added to the continent, extending from Nat- 
ches to a line, having a bearing south westerly, and in- 
tersecting the thirtieth degree of latitude at New- 
Orleans, and, perhaps, much farther. 

This fact being admitted, we are left to conclude 
that the ancient mouth of the Mississippi was at or 
near Natcbes.* That in consequence of the addition 
of territory, the Mississippi had to pass through an ex- 
tent of country more than two degrees beyond its an- 
cient point of discharge into the sea. Consequently 
through a district, having but little descent, as must 
appear evident from a view of the land on its borders 
therefore its current must necessarily have been retard- 
ed in proportion to the diminution of slope in the in- 

* In order to comprehend this fact, it is necessary to consult 
the mnp of the United State?, in which the alluvial zone and other 
formations are clearly laid down. 


clined plane, and distance which it had to run, and 
aio the resistance of the tides in the gulf of Mexico. 

These were, doubtless, considerable ; but when we 
consider that the Mississippi river was then confined 
within high banks, and propelled by the same irresist- 
ible force into the ocean, and over a distance much 
less than at present ; need we hesitate to say, that the 
lands on the western borders of what is called the 
delta of the Mississippi were not only previously 
formed, but seldom overflowed, and that not until the 
inundations of the river had arrived to its greatest 
height ? 1 presume not. If, however, it is contended 
that the waters in the Mississippi have probably been 
always the same in quantity, and that, consequently, it 
has always risen to the same height, attended by the 
same results, as respects the inundation of the neigh- 
bouring districts : let us examine a little farther, and 
compare the present state of things with the past, in 
order to see whether .this opinion will bear the test of 
a plain and impartial investigation. 

Let us suppose that the Misissippi river, instead of 
discharging its waters at a point corresponding with 
the general line of sea coast, as at New Orleans, was 
by the formation and extension of alluvial grounds, 
conveyed so far beyond its ancient limits as to dis- 
charge itsejf at some indefinite point, on a line from 
Black Lake to Bastien bay, which is distant from New 
Orleans forty miles, in a direct line. 

Now as there is not the least possible doubt, that 
the sea once flowed at New Orleans, and that the Mis- 


sissippi once discharged itself at that point, it follows, 
since it is sufficiently evident that the sea has not di- 
minished in height, that the Mississippi must, in every 
inch of that distance have urged its way through or in 
opposition to the ocean or bay of Mexico, through 
which distance, being upon the level with the waters 
in the gulf, there is not the least possible descent. 
This is not all : the tides it is well known, do actually 
rise so as to check the current in the Atchafalaya 
river, as far up as the great raft* which lies west of, 
and is on the same parrallel of latitude, as New Or- 
leans. If is equally well known that the tides like- 
wise rise in Lake Borgne, Lake Ponchartrain, and 
even in the river Iberville, all of which are on the 
east, and north of New Orleans.! 

This being the case, will any one pretend that the 
tides, but for the current of the Mississippi, would not 
rise above New Orleans? I presume not. Conse- 
quently, in addition to the diminished slope in the in- 
clined plane, or want of descent, the resistance of the 
waters of the bay of Mexico in their natural state and 
elevation, and against which this river has to force its 
way ; is also the resistance of the tides through an ex- 
tent of more than ninety miles. 

It will, doubtless, be said that the force of the cur- 
rent of the Mississippi is such, that the tides do not 
exercise any power or influence over it, so far at least, 
as to occasion any difference in its velocity ; and this, 

* Darby's Louisiana, page 73. f Do. Do. page 131. 


perhaps, because Mr. Stoddard has said, "The tides 
have little effect on the water at New-Orleans ; they 
sometimes cause it to swell, but never to slacken its 

But does it follow that the current is not checked at 
the distance of twenty, or even ten miles below, be- 
cause it does not appear to be slackened at New- 
Orleans? I must reply, by no means. It is, at times, 
and under certain circumstances, materially slacken- 
ed at the distance of twenty miles below that city, 
and doubtless from the causes which I have mention- 
ed : and if checked at that distance, it must necessari- 
ly be proportionately so at New-Orleans. That this 
is the fact, is obviously implied by the remark, which 1 
have just quoted, viz : " They (the tides) sometimes 
cause it to swell." 

If then the tides cause the river or current to swell 
at New-Orleans, can a proof more positive be requir- 
ed, that it is at the same time slackened ? I answer no. 
If nevertheless it be still doubted, what shall we say 
to the following, "Heavy winds," says Mr. Stod- 
dard, " roll in the water from the gulf, and cause sud- 
den rises of the river, in some instances, equal to a 
spring freshet "-\ 

In this instance, can it be supposed, that the water 
of the bay of Mexico is actually driven by the winds 
up to New-Orleans, so as to occasion the elevation of 
the current of the Misssissippi ? No one, it is pre- 
sumed, will answer in the affirmative. 

* Stoddard' Sketches, page 164. t Do. page 164. 



The fact is, the long continued or high southern or 
south eastern winds, cause the tides to rise so high, 
as to impede the discharge of the waters of the Mis- 
sissippi into the gulf, consequently a reflux, which is 
" in some instances equal to a spring freshet." Will 
any one hesitate to admit, that, in this instance, the 
current of this river was checked, retarded, or slacken- 
ed ? and if in this instance, does it not follow, that it is 
proportionately slackened in the common tides, that 
cause the river at New-Orleans, to swell? I answer, 

From this view it appears, in the first place, evi- 
dent, that when the Mississippi river discharged its 
waters at the original or primitive point, where there 
was a natural slope, and no obstruction to its current, 
the lands in its neighbourhood were but slightly and 
seldom overflowed. Thus, when the lands on its bor- 
ders and its banks, through which it runs, were, by 
some cause, projected into the gulf, to the distance of 
forty miles south of New-Orleans, the resistance which 
I have mentioned was such as to cause a reflux, parti- 
cularly, during the spring freshets ; and such as to 
occasion an inundation of the lands adjacent. 

If then the prolongation of the Mississippi into the 
gulf of Mexico, to the distance of forty miles, will pro- 
duce this change, what may we not expect, when we 
find it extended into the gulf to the distance of fifty 
miles farther, or about ninety miles, in a right line, 
from :Vew-Oi'leans to the extremity of the land at the 
south pass ? Need we be surprised that, under cer- 

tain circumstances, the Minds should "roll in the 
water from the gulf, and cause sudden rises of the 
river, in some instances, equal to a spring freshet." 
Need we, or can we hesitate to admit, that the lands 
adjacent to the Mississippi which, at some remote pe- 
riod of time, were exempt from the overflowings of 
that river, should, under present circumstances, be an- 
nually inundated ? Let us extend our views of the 
subject, and for a moment contemplate the scene, 
which must occasionally be extended over nearly the 
entire surface of this immense district. 

1 have hitherto only taken into consideration, the 
probable results arising or growing out of the changes 
in the Mississippi. It becomes necessary to bring in- 
to view, some of the subordinate streams, that have a 
material bearing and influence in this business, and 
which flow through this part of the country. 

The Lafourche, Atchafalaya, and Teche rivers, 
have each experienced, from some cause, a conside- 
rable extension or prolongation into the gulf, as well 
as the Mississippi ; and each of them from their slug- 
gish movements, together with the Sabine, Calcasa, 
Mermentau, and Vermillion rivers, are subject, from 
the operations of strong southerly gales, to a re-flux 
proportionate to that of the Mississippi. 

When the currents of all these rivers experience this 
check, and that of the Mississippi, from the same 
cause, and at the same time, is thrown back, so as 
to equal a spring freshet, what can we expect but an 
inundation of the country to a great distance ? And, 


moreover, if this should occur at the time of the annual 
inundation, or spring freshets, need we wonder that 
great and important changes should be going on,* in 
many parts of this territory, by the annual operations 
of conflicting currents ? That lands, which at some 
distant and unknown period of time, were, probably, 
inhabited, and on which mounds or tumuli have been, 
erected, should experience such a change, that " Not 
even a village of savages could have existed through- 
out the year, within several miles of this place." 

" The spot where they (the tumuli) are situated, is 
more dreary and sunken than any part of the swamp, "f 

^Need we hesitate to admit that, under such circum- 
stances, alluvial deposites should be yearly accumulat- 
ing upon lands, previously formed and once, probably, 
exempt even from partial inundations by water ; and 
where the stately oak and lofty cypress were at liberty 
to shoot up, and arrive at maturity, undisturbed and 
uninjured by the inroads of that element ; but whose 
naked trunks are now standing leafless and dead, sur- 
rounded by water in the midst of lagoons ?J 

It appears that in this case no one can long remain 
in suspense, or, for a moment, cherish a single doubt. 

It is this view of the subject that led to the remark, 
that in it the welfare and happiness of, not only the 
present, but future generations are deeply involved. 

A few observations illustrative of this fact, although 
not strictly connected with the general views of this 

* Darby's Louisiana. t Do. p. 118. \ Do. p. 31. 


Work, will not, it is hoped, be considered unseasona- 
ble or inexpedient. 

In attempting this, it is not intended to bring into 
yiew all the circumstances, that are connected with the 
subject, as it would unavoidably increase the number 
of pages, which has already exceeded the limits pre- 

From what has been said, it must appear obvious, 
that the Mississippi river, has, at different epochs, 
discharged its waters into the gulf of Mexico, at dif- 
ferent points in its course, as at New-Orleans, &c. but 
principally, and more probably, not far from the head 
of Black Lake, or about fifty miles above the efflux of 
that river at the Balize. From this point, at least, to 
its present termination, it may be said to flow through 
a self-created channel. 

The consequences resulting from this extension of 
the banks into the gnlf, have already been taken no- 
tice of; but as these results do not depend, exclusively 
upon the prolongation of the river, and its banks, it is 
necessary to examine another circumstance, intimate- 
ly connected with the subject, and by no means of the 
least importance. 

I have observed, that as the banks of a river are ex- 
tended into a bay or gulf, beyond its original point of 
discharge, either by artificial means, or by deposites of 
alluvion, its current is checked or retarded in propor- 
tion to the distance, which it has to pass beyond tide 
water, or the level of the bay or gulf, and the alluvion 
which icas suspended by the current, is deposited at 


the bottom. By this process, the bed or channel of the 
river becomes more and more elevated, until there is 
no longer any descent, and the capacity of the channel 
is insufficient to retain its waters. Hence, in common 
tides, a considerable reflux : but in violent storms, or 
gales of wind, a reflux that overflows the surrounding 
country, causing disruptions of its banks at some point 
or points, that will afford a descent of its waters into 
the sea. 

This has been, and will continue to be universally 
the case with all rivers, whose point of discharge has 
been extended into a bay, or gulf, beyond that of their 
original or primitive efflux. 

This has been one of the principal agents in the 
formation and extension of the deltas of the Po, the 
Indus, the Ganges, and the Nile ; and also in the fre- 
quent disruptions of their banks, thereby forming low 
sunken places, or lagoons of stagnant waters, the 
never-failing sources of pestilence and disease, among 
the innocent and unsuspecting inhabitants who may be 
situated within reach of their poisonous exhalations. 

It was by this cause that the bed of the Nile was 
elevated so far above the adjacent vallies, that it be- 
came necessary to attend with the greatest diligence, 
to preserve the banks in repair, lest, by the force of the 
waters, a breach should be made, and the whole coun- 
try be inundated.* And it is this which may be said to 
be in full operation, at this time, on the Mississippi, at 

* See remarks on the delta of the Po, Indus, and Nile, chap. ,13. 


least from Fort St. Philip to the Balize, above which 
it has already laid the foundation for, and actually 
formed the first delta that, in all probability, ever 
divided the current of that river. 

When it is considered that all the lands on the bor- 
der of the Mississippi, below Baton Rouge, are called 
the delta, this assertion may be viewed as a strange de- 
reliction from truth, and in direct opposition to the ge- 
neral opinion of, what is considered, an established 

A careful examination, it is believed, will, never- 
theless, convince any one, that however strange it may 
appear, it is not without some foundation ; and for the 
following reasons : 

Agreeable to Mr. Darby's map, there is not a point 
from New Orleans to Fort St. Philip, where there are 
manifest indications of an actual delta, formed by a se- 
paration or division of the current of the river. On 
the contrary, there are a number of places by which it 
can be proved, that such a thing never could take place 
without producing a state of things very different from 
the present. 

But these I shall not, at this time, attempt to dis- 
cuss; but content myself with a view of the distance 
from Fort St. Philip to the head of the present delta. 

From this Fort to the point of the delta, the distance 
is about twenty-five miles, in a right line. Through 
this extent, the whole current of the Mississippi river 
passes between two banks of land, the mean breadth 
of which, inclusive, is only six miles. This being the 
case, caii any person suppose that if the current of the 


river had ever been divided, so as to form a delta, at 
any point between New-Orleans and Fort St. Philip, 
that branches of it would not now exist at Plaquemine 
bend, or Fort St. Philip, through Bayou Madrigas on 
the east, and Bayou Liard on the west? Can any per- 
son believe, that if the river had ever been divided at 
this point, or at any other between it and the efflux of 
the river, that it would not have produced the same or 
similar effects, that it has at the different branches that 
are now formed ; where, instead of a strip of land 
twenty-five miles in length, with a mean breadth of 
only six, the extreme points of land at the east and 
west branches, which form the base of a triangle, the 
apex of which is the point of the delta, are distant forty- 
two miles ? I can scarce believe an answer necessary. 

Hence, when we find that the currents of the rivers 
Po, the Indus, the Ganges, and particularly the Nile, 
may be said to have disputed every foot of ground 
with the deltas, and in which they have been driven 
before them, as with the Nile, where the delta has re- 
treated from Memphis to the distance of many leagues 
below ; the conclusion is, that the present is the first 
and only delta formed by the Mississippi river. 

This opinion, however novel and highly improbable 
it may seem, will appear much less doubtful, when we 
examine some of the prominent features peculiar to 
this river, and on which many of the existing pheno- 
mena of that region materially depend. 

The most important and only one, that I shall bring 
into view in the present instance, is that of its current 


It is well known, or at least generally believed, that iu 
point of magnitude, in all respects, the river Mississippi 
has not its equal upon this globe. That in no one, 
(the St. Lawrence exccpted,) is there an equal quan- 
tity of water discharged into the ocean, in the same 
given time. 

Hence, from the amazing torrent that is, in ceaseless 
motion, poured into the gulf, and this urged on or pro- 
pelled by an almost equal volume of water, that is, 
descending an inclined plane of three thousand miles 
in extent, and accelerated too by numerous auxiliary 
branches, some of which are nearly of an equal length, 
it has for ages literally forced its way in defiance of the 
waters of the gulf and the tides of the sea, to the head 
of the present delta, without having experienced a 
check sufficient to cause the depositing of its alluvion, 
and the elevation of the bed of the river to a height suf- 
ficiently great, to occasion the overflowing of the river 
and lateral branches. 

Here, as if jealous of her rights, the parent ocean 
opposed its bold career, and turned aside its force. 
The consequences have been the formation of deltas, 
that are annually increasing and extending, and which 
will, one day, prove a source of evils more to be feared 
by the inhabitants of these fertile regions, than those 
which may flow from any other earthly source. 

few, perhaps, are disposed to view the subject in 
this light. It has, nevertheless, excited the well- 
grounded apprehensions of many and to it the atten- 
tion of the community at large, at least, in that portion 



of the country, has been called by the observations 
and remarks of Mr. Darby. But whether his judi- 
cious opinions and well-meaning efforts, will have the 
effect, of exciting the spirit, and calling into action the 
exertions of the people of that country, to avert the 
evils with which they may be threatened or whether 
the plan which he has suggested is the most eligible, 
or most likely to prove effectual, (for pretty certain it 
is, that the thing is practicable, and the means ex- 
tremely obvious ;) or even, whether it is the duty ex- 
clusively incumbent upon them, without any aid or as- 
sistance from the General Government, who must have, 
see, and feel, an interest in the security, welfare and 
prosperity of that country, or not, would betray an in- 
excusable presumption in me to declare.^ 

This much, however, 1 may venture to assert, with- 
out infringing, I trust, the least important rules of pro- 
priety ; that if the subject be not seasonably and effec- 
tually attended to by either one or the other; the in- 
habitants of the districts on the borders of the Missis- 
sippi, will, if not in the present, at least in future ge- 
nerations, experience the visitations of an enemy more 
fearful in its consequences, and more to be di-eaded, 
than the sanguinary hordes of a Packenham An 
enemy that, in the midst of plenty, cheerfulness and 
comfort, will lay waste both towns and cities, and 
spread desolation through the land ; arid which the 
united forces of the country, aided by the hardy vete- 
rans of Tennessee, with the victorious Hero of Or- 
leans at their head, can never repel or subdue. 


As facts are essentially important in all researches 
instituted for the promotion of science ; the following 
AGENDA, or SELECTION OF QUERIES, is respectfully 
recommended to the attention of Geologists, Mineralo- 
gists, and other persons of correct observation, as be- 
ing intimately connected with the subjects contained in 
this work, and calculated to aid and assist in all future 
researches of a similar kind. 


1st. What is their mean height, and what their 
course or direction ? 

Sd. Is one side of a range of mountains, or hills, 
more abrupt, steep, and broken, than the other ? If so, 
which side is it, " and to what point of the compass is 
it opposed ?"* 

* Question by the London Geological Society. 


3d. If a steep and craggy appearance present itself 
on one side of a mountain, does it face an extensive 
valley through which runs a river, large or small ? If 
so, what is the direction of its current, and the greatest 
height to which such river has been known to rise, 
from rains, melting of snows, &c. ? 

4th. If such river exist, is its general course through 
the middle of the valley,\or does it run any distance 
near the foot of the mountain ? 

5th. If a river pass either obliquely or at right an- 
gles through the mountain, where rocks are presented 
to view, to any considerable height above the water, 
are there any appearances of the operations of currents 
upon the rocks, above the greatest height that such 
river has been known to rise ? If so, what appears to 
have been the direction of such currents ? This may 
be easily determined by the following remarks : 

1st. The parts, or points of rocks, against which the 
currents were opposed, will present a smoother sur- 
face and more worn than the side which looks down 
the stream, or against which the current was not op- 

gdly. Pot-like holes, formed in the rocks by the op- 
eration of currents, are often observable in situations 
far above the present level of any streams in their vi- 
cinity. A careful examination of these, will enable 
the observer to determine the course of the current by 
\vhich they were formed and by the following 
marks : The side over which the current flows into 
the hole, is generally shelving under, on the up-stream 


side. This is occasioned in the following manner: 
When the current is propelled into the pot-like hole, 
the pebbles which are already within it, are driven 
with considerable force against the up-stream side. If 
they occasionally fail into the current, w hen it strikes 
against the lower or down- stream side, they are forci- 
bly thrown back again, and thus kept playing against 
the upper side, by which means the hole becomes 
shelving under. Lastly, the sand and pebbles that 
are occasionally driven out. produce, by abrasion upon 
the down- stream side, an ewer-like process or gutter, 
which is very perceptible in many of them. 

6th. If there are any appearances of a part or por- 
tion of the side of a mountain having slidden down to 
its base, what appears to have been the most probable 
cause of its removal ? and what its original height 
above the mountain's base ? And moreover, is there 
any narrow 7 , but extensive valley or channel through 
subordinate hills, and through which a current may 
have run, directed against a point where such portion 
of earth, or rocks, have slidden off? If so, what is its 
breadth, extent, and direction, in relation to the ridge, 
or range of the mountain ? 

7th. Are there any rallies, or gaps, that intersect a 
range of mountains, either strait or circuitous? and 
what is the greatest probable height of the highest 
point in such ralley or gap, above the mountain's base ? 

8th. Are there any appearances of the operations of 
currents in such rallies, either in the earth or upon the 
rocks that may be exposed ; and above the height at 


which the streams that at present flow in them ? If so, 
at what height ahove the bottom of the vallies do they 
run, and what appears to have been the direction of 
such current ? 

9th. Are there any considerable quantities of allu- 
vial grounds, where the waters of such vallies are dis- 
charged into the vallies adjacent to the mountains ? 
and have they increased materially within the memory 
of man ? If so, what is their extent, and probable in- 
crease, annually ? 

10th. Are there to be found on the tops or sides of 
mountains, composed principally of granite, or primi- 
tive limestone, detached masses of transition, or se- 
condary rocks, out of place ? If So, on which side of 
the mountain are they found, and at what Jieight above 
its base ? And also, of what size, description, or cha- 
racter, are such masses ; at what distance are such 
rocks found in place, and in what direction from the 
masses so found ? 

The same remarks are applicable to mountains, the 
rocks of which are of a different order, (viz.) 

llth. Are there to be found on transition mountains, 
masses of secondary rocks ? on which side, and at 
what height ? At what distance, and in what direction, 
are rocks of the same kind found in place ? 

lth. On a range of mountains of secondary forma- 
tion, are there to be found masses of primitive rocks 
such as granite, or those of transition ? &c. &c. 



1st. Are they generally level, or broken and inter- 
rupted ? If of the former kind, do they appear to be 
composed in any degree of alluvion? This may be 
determined by several means. 1st. By the nature of 
the soil, being either of sand, or gravel, and differing 
materially from that at the bases, and on the sides of 
adjacent mountains. 2dly. By ditching, canaling, 
sinking wells and other works, by which the structure 
and character of the earth beneath the surface is ex- 
posed to view. If composed of alternate layers of 
sand, clay, and pebbles, in horizontal, inclined, or un- 
dulating strata, with occasional deposites of fossil 
wood, or organick remains, it may reasonably be consi- 
dered as alluvial. If on the contrary, it is of an uni- 
form texture, and presenting none of the above marks, 
it may be considered as not having been disturbed, and 
as original. 

2d. If the earth, thus exposed, appears stratafied 
and horizontal, what is the order in which they occur, 
and to what depth has this appearance been known to 
extend ? 

3d. If the strata are inclined and undulating, or 
ware-like, what is the dip or inclination of such strata, 
and what the general direction of their dip ? 

4?th. If pebbles occur in such strata, are they in 
aids, or nests like, or uniformly distributed to any 


considerable extent ? Are they rolled, or rounded, and 
of what size ? 

5th. Are they uniformly of one kind in substance, 
or different ; and what are the kinds ? 

6th. Are there rocks of a similar substance, in place, 
at any distance from them, and what is the distance 
and direction ? 

7th. if the rallies are broken and interrupted, is it 
by spurs of mountains, ridges of rocks, or isolated 
hills, composed in a greater or less degree of pebbles ? 

8th. If of spurs of mountains extending to any dis- 
tance into the valley, are there any appearances on ei- 
ther side, of the operations of currents which may have 
been opposed to, or set against them ? If so, what are 
the appearances, and on which side of the spurs in re- 
lation to the compass, are they ? 

9th. If interrupted by ridges of rocks, of what kind 
are they, and in what direction do they run in relation 
to the valley, and do they discover any marks of abra- 
sion by the operation of running water, &c. ? 

10th. If interrupted by isolated hills, composed 
mostly, or in part, of rolled pebbles, what is their cha- 
racter, and are there rocks of the same substance in 
place, in any direction from such collection of peb- 
bles ? If so, what is the direction from such hills, and 
at what distance ? 

llth. If such accumulation of pebbles are to be 
found in a valley, are there any deep and extensive ra- 
vines, vallies, or gaps, in the neighbouring mountains, 
or hills, through which a violent current may have ran. 


and by which such pebbles may have been transported 
to some distance in the low grounds, where they are 
found ? If so, in what direction are the vallies from 
the pebbles thus collected, and at what distance ? 

llth. If it is reasonable to suppose that the pebbles 
so collected, may have been transported from the 
mountains by a current, or currents, and they are 
throicn up into hills, or small eminences; it is a fair 
conclusion, that the currents by which they were trans- 
ported, were checked or opposed in their course, by 
opposite or lateral currents from other directions. To 
determine this, it is necessary to examine whether 
there are any deep vallies or gaps, through the moun- 
tains or hills, on the opposite side of the valley, where 
such pebbles are found, and through which currents 
may have flowed in a direction opposite to the first. 

This fact may be often observed in the high and 
sudden rise of waters, by heavy rains, melting of 
snows, &c. In order, however, to obtain an accurate 
view, and correct information on this point, it is neces- 
sary to examine the subject from an elevated situation; 
as on the side or top of a mountain, from which the 
eye can take in at one view, all the narrowings and 
widenings of the great valley ; the sinuosities of the 
mountains ; and the cross cuts or gaps of the mountains, 
that open into the great valley or vallies. 

12th. If from such a view, there should be found 
vallies, or gaps, through the opposite range of moun- 
tains, what is their breadth, extent, course, and di- 
rection, in relation to the accumulated* masses of peb 


bles, or other substances differing from the common 
earth ? 

13th. If transverse vallies occur (so called by Saus- 
sure, in contradistinction to longitudinal vallies, which 
are such as have an extensive range between two 
parallel ridges or mountains,) are there any appear- 
ances of the operations of currents from the lateral 
vallies ; such as hillocks of sand, pebbles, boulders, 
or rocks, at or near the junction of the transverse with 
the longitudinal valley ? If so, in what direction do 
the transverse vallies run, and on which hand do the 
deposites appear ; whether on the right or left ? 

14th. " If the lateral valleys, which terminate at a 
principal valley, as the branches of a tree at its trunk, 
correspond or not ; or, in other words, whether the 
branches of that trunk are opposite or alternate?" 

" The answers to these two questions are very im- 
portant, for the solution of this question : whether the 
valleys have been excavated by currents of the sea?" 

15th. If a valley, on one side of a range of moun- 
tains, appears to be underlayed with rocks, primitive 
or secondary ; stratified or unstratified ; horizontal or 
inclined, are the rocks, if any, in the valley on the op- 
posite side of the mountain or range, of the same kind, 
and arranged in the same^ order, so as to afford any 
reason to believe that they underlay the mountain? 
This is a question of no small importance to the geo* 


I6tb. If a valley occurs, of great or small extent, 
surrounded by hills or mountains, is there reason to 
believe that it was ever a lake ? If so, what are the 
reasons ? 

47th. If it is supposed that in such a situation, a 
lake ever existed, what are the most probable means by 
which it was filled up ? 

18th. Is there one, or more, natural openings through 
the surrounding hills or mountains, at a small elevation 
above the present level of the valley ? If so, of what 
description are those openings, and in what direction 
in relation to such valley ? 

19th. If there are no openings of the above descrip- 
tion, are there any appearances of a disruption of the 
hills or mountains, that surround such valley ? If so, 
what are the appearances, and' on which side, or sides 
of the valley are they ? 

20th. If there are appearances of a disruption of the 
hills &c. by water, (which must be supposed, if the 
lake was filled up with alluvion.) what is the most pro- 
bable cause of its having been put in operation ? 

21st. Are there any appearances of a neighbouring 
valley, which may have, likewise, been a lake, and at 
a higher elevation than the first ? If so, what are the 
appearances ? 

22d. In this valley, where a lake is supposed to 
have existed, are there any detached masses of rocks, 
either rounded or angular, buried in the earth, mixed 
with the soil, or distributed over the surface of the 
ground ? If so, of what description are they, and in 


what direction, and at what distance, are rocks of the 
same kind found in place ? 

23d. In digging into the earth in such a situation, 
are there to be found organick remains of vegetables : 
or those of animals?, either land or sequatick? 

34th. If of vegetables, or fossil wood, of what de- 
scription are they ? 

25th. If of land animals, are they of a species that 
are indigenous, foreign, or of such as are extinct ? 

26th. If of sequatick, are there analogous to be found 
living? If so, where are they to be found, and of what 
kinds are they ? 

27th. Are such remains found only at a certain 
depth ? or are they distributed generally through the 
alluvial mass ? If the former, at what depth are they 
found ? 

28th. In a situation where it is supposed, a lake 
once existed, is the surface of the valley generally 
level ? or is there a gradual descent from one side, or 
end, to the other ? If the latter, in what direction is 
the descent ? 

89th. What is the probable height of such a valley, 
or valleys, above the level of the ocean ? 


1st. " What is the extent of their course, and their 
inclination from their sources to their mouth." (Saus- 
sure.) Do they discharge their waters immediately 
into the sea, or bay ; or into a gulf, or arm of a bay ? 



2d. Is the country through which they run, gene- 
rally mountainous or hilly? or is it low and flat? 

3d. Wbat is the mean rate at which the current ge- 
nerally flows ? 

4th. What is the highest rate at which the current 
of a river flows, in any part of its course, for any con- 
siderable distance, during, or at nearly low water ? 

5th. Is the water of a river or rivers, clear and 
transparent to any considerable depth, during the win- 
ter and summer months ? 

6th. If the current of a river is rapid, for any dis- 
tance, in those seasons, does there appear to be any al- 
luvion mixed with the water ; or sand moving upon 
the bottom P 

7th. If the course of a river is between two ranges 
of mountains, with extensive meadows, or intervales 
on its borders, are they rocky or alluvial ? 

8th. If alluvial, what is the mean height of the 
banks ? 

9th. Are they steep and broken, or gradually de- 
scending towards the water ? 

10th. If 'high and broken, what are the appearances 
which they present ? 

llth. Are there any appearances of fossil wood, or 
other organick remains to be seen in the banks, and 
of what kind are they ? 

12th. If in such banks organick remains are to be 
seen, are they af, or below low water mark, or gradual- 
ly distributed in the earth from the water to the top of 
the banks ? 


Ou many large rivers, and, in some instances, on 
smaller ones, there are two and sometimes three allu- 
vial banks on each side, except where the river passes 
through a mountainous district. On this important 
subject, it may not be amiss to offer a few remarks 
previous to proposing any interrogatories. 

The lands immediately bordering upon a river, and 
which form the first bank on each side, are generally 
considered as the intervales or meadows, and, if allu- 
vial, have generally a gradual descent from the river 
for a half a mile, and from that to two miles or more, 
where there commences another bank or range of hills, 
likewise of alluvion, from twenty to sixty feet or more 
in height. This second tract of country or land, gene- 
rally extends to the foot of the mountains, and varies in 
breadth from one to several miles. 

These two, and sometimes three banks or tiers of 
alluvial land, have been distinctly mentioned by seve- 
ral travellers, as occurring on many rivers ; but no parti- 
cular description has hitherto been given. of them, that 
1 can find, neither have any remarks been offered that 
are calculated to make us acquainted with their histo- 
ry, or the cause of their formation. In a geological 
point of view, they are extremely interesting and im- 
portant ; so much so that, on a careful examination of 
the order of their arrangement, in relation to the river 
on which they lie, and the adjacent mountains or hills, 
and their internal structure, no one will hesitate to ad- 
mit, that they distinctly point to two important epochs 
or events, that have taken place upon this globe, and 


by which they were probably formed. It is from this 
view, that I am induced to invite the attention of the 
naturalist more particularly to them, and to propose the 
following questions for his observance. 

13th. Whenever two or three alluvial banks, of the 
above description occur, what is the course of the river 
through the entire extent of such district? 

1 mention " such district/' because in some cases, a 
spur of a mountain, or ridge of rocks, crosses a valley, 
breaks off at a river, and interrupts the extension of 
those alluvial banks, and also occasions a bend or dif- 
ference in the course of the river, below which the al- 
luvial banks occur again, &c. 

14th. What is the mean breadth of the first inter- 
vales, or alluvial banks next to the river, and what 
their height? 

15th. What is the mean height and breadth of the 
second alluvial banks, on each side of the river ? 

16th. Do they ascend or descend towards the moun- 
tains or hills ? 

17th. Of what do those districts appear to be com- 
posed, at a small depth below the surface, and to the 
greatest depth to which they have been explored? 

18th. Of the component parts, which is the most 
predominant; sand or clay, &c. ? 

19th. Do springs of water occur, at the foot of the 
second alluvial banks generally ? 

20th. Have mineral springs been known to occur in 
those districts, and what are their properties? 


21st. Are they resorted to as such, and are they 
perpetual ? 

22d. In digging for wells, and other purposes, in 
the second alluvial plain, has an instance occurred in 
which it has been carried below the level of the lower, 
or first intervale on the river ? If so, what were the 
appearances ? 

23d. Were there any appearances of fossil wood, or 
other organick remains to he seen, particularly on a 
level with the first bank or alluvial district ? 

2 1th. Are there to be found in the earth upon the 
second plain, irregular masses or boulders of rocks, 
out of place ? 

25th. If so, are they exclusively confined to the up- 
per plain, or are they alike distributed in the earth, 
both in the first as well as second bank? 

26th. Of what description are they, and in what di- 
rection, and at what distance are rocks of the same 
kind found in place P 

27th. Have beds of salt or fresh water shells, or 
shell- marie, been found in either of those banks ? If 
so, which bank is it, and of which kind of shells, and 
at what depth are they found ? 

28th. Are there rocks, shells, &c. to be found in the 
alluvial banks on both sides of a river, or only on one 
side ? If the latter, which side is it? 

29th. Are the alluvial banks or intervales on one 
side of a river, generally of a greater breadth than 
those on the, opposite side ? If so, on which side do 


those of the greatest breadth lie, and what is the diffe- 
rence from those on the opposite side ? 

30th. If a river has a southerly course, from any 
point, between north west and north east, and after 
running through a mountainous or rocky district, en- 
ters upon a district entirely alluvial, are there to be 
found in the latter district, masses of rocks and rolled 
pebbles of the same description as those through 
which the river passes above ? If so, how far do they 
extend in the alluvial soil ? 

31st. Are the pebbles uniformly distributed through 
the soil, on both sides of a river, or are they more 
abundant on one side than the other ? 

3Sd. If, as before, a small river has a southerly 
course, through a rocky district of country, and in its 
descent, receives an auxiliary branch from an easterly 
direction, are not rolled pebbles more abundant, in the 
south and west bank of the principal stream, in the di- 
rection of the auxiliary branch ? 

33d. Wherever rolled pebbles prevail on the bor- 
ders of rivers, creeks, &c. ; are they not found in 
greater quantities on the banks on the south side, than 
in those on the north ? 

84th. Wherever pebbles are found, as above, do 
they not diminish in size, as we recede from the river 
or creek ? 

35th. Where auxiliary branches pass through a 
rocky district, and discharge their waters into a river 
on the east, or north and east side, are rolled pebbles 
found at their mouths in greater quantities than else- 



where ? If so, are there like quantities found at the 
mouths of auxiliary branches, running through similar 
districts, and discharging themselves on the west, or 
north west side of a river ? 

36th. If a river has a southerly course, and an aux- 
iliary branch falls into it on the west side, on which 
side of the branch are the alluvial banks the highest ? 
and in particular, where there are two alluvial banks. 

37th. If a river discharges itself into the sea, how 
high does the tide of the latter rise at that place ? 

38th. At what rate does the tide, at half flood, flow 
up the river, and to what extent does it check the cur- 
rent of the river ? 

39th. If there are deltas at the mouths of rivers, 
what are their lengths, breadths, and heights, above 
the level of the sea ? 

40th. Are they ever generally or partially overflown 
by the tides of the sea, or freshes of the rivers ? 

41st. What are the appearances of their banks ? 

43d. To what extent have they been known to in- 
crease, within the longest known period? 

43d. Are they covered with forest trees ? If so, of 
w r hat kind and size are they, and how near do they 
approach the sea? 

44th. Are there any sandy districts or deserts in the 
vicinity of such deltas ? If, so, how are they situated; 
and what are their lengths, breadths, &c. ? 



1st. "What their shape and extent, with the na- 
ture, height, and general appearance of the hills or 
mountains, by which they may be bounded." (London 
Geological Society. 

2d. " The degree and direction of the inclination or 
slope?" (Ibid.) 

3d. If plains, or alluvial districts, occur on the mar- 
gin of a lake or lakes, on which side are they, and are 
their corresponding plains or districts on the opposite 
side, or in any other direction on the borders of the 

4th. If wells, canals, or other excavations, have 
been made in such districts, to what depth have they 
been carried, and what are the appearances that are 
presented to view ? 

5th. Are fossil trees found in digging in such dis- 
tricts ? 

6th. If so, at what depth below the surface do they 
occur, and are they found only at a certain depth, or 
occasionally distributed from the surface to the bottom 
of a well, canal, &c. ? 

7th. If trees are thus found in the earth, do they ap- 
pear to be thrown together promiscuously ; or do the 
tops appear to lie in one direction, as is the case at 
Yule, in Yorkshire, England ? 

8th. Are organick remains of animals found in such 
situations ? If so, at what depth, and of what kind arc 
they ? 

9th. Are there found, beneath the surface, in such 
districts, rolled or angular masses .of rocks ? If so, in 
wiiat direction, and at what distance, does the same 
kind occur in place ? 

10th. Is it reasonable to suppose, that such districts 
could have been formed by the operations of any river 
that at present flows, or may have flown, in the vici- 
nity of such districts ? If so, wliat must have been its 
course ? 





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