Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Moses; and that, as I fhall hereafter fhew, the days of the creation, and particularly the firft, are probably not to be measured by ours. From these they may take the time which they may still think neceffary for the completion of operations, which, they will however own, are not to be calculated by the powers of feeble man.

From this impartial review of the feveral fyftems of modern fyftematic philofophy, and the curfory obfervations I have made on them, you will, I think, Sir, find that their very basis is either founded on dubious, mistaken or perverted facts, or in many points directly contradictory to the only well-known, fundamental laws of nature; that the conclufions drawn from partial, controvertible, or real facts are generally hafty, and by no means convincing. Hence, whatever may be thought of the Mosaical narration, and of the most antient traditions of mankind, according with it in every main point, they are not yet overturned by any fyftem hitherto broached, claiming fuperior and much less unrestricted confidence. If the brief account of the creation and deluge given us in Genefis is yet infufficiently explained to these fublime philofophers, should it even still remain inexplicable in all its parts, and should we yet find it difficult to adapt to it the actual phenomena of this earth, the question still will be, whether its veracity or our infufficient knowledge of nature is to be controverted?

2

NOTES

NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS

ΤΟ

LETTER IV.

(a) Page 283.

How

is it poffible, fay many of these philofophers, to give the smallest credit to an author who tells us of fo many miraculous facts, which we declare to be impoffible, because they are contrary to nature? If the laws of nature are the will of God, they must be, like him, immutable. Such are the fophifms of thefe fublime reafoners: but plain common fense, at least as valuable as their logic, can easily conceive that the free author of a work disposed to answer one general end, may, yet without absurdity, momentarily alter the direction of fome part of it to ferve a particular purpose, without breaking into his firft defign. But in whofe favour, continue they, could these infringements on the general laws of nature be permitted? Is it credible that it fhould be for the most infignificant, the most unworthy, and the vileft race that ever crawled upon; the earth? The national vanity of this Jewish writer is ftill more absurd, and more impertinent, than that of the Egyptians. But does that vanity appear like theirs in perpetually exalting his nation above all others? Whilft he tells them that they are the predestined inftruments in the hands of God, to preferve his name to future nations, does he aim to exalt their origin above that of other men? On the contrary, he for ever lays before them their forlorn 3 C 2 and

[ocr errors]

and defenceless ftate, from which they were raifed, not by their own pr vers, but by the hand of God. He fhews them to be one of the laft and fmallest branches of then exifting nations; and takes away from them, as well as from the rest of mankind, every filly pretenfion to a divine or very dif tant origin. He expofes to them the fignal favours they had received, and reminds them of the marvels operated for them, of which they had them. felves been witneffés. It is not to their merits thefe are attributed, but to promises made to fome of their ancestors for the happiness of future generations. To them he fpares not the bittereft reproaches on their stiff-necked indocility. In the face of fo many prodigies their frequent difobedience is no less extraordinary than the miracles themfelves. It is no lefs fingular, that a nation should have preferved with fo much veneration a book which bears fuch hard teftimonies against it, and which places the great body of the people in the rank of the most vile and moft deteftable of men. All these fingularities are as marvellous, and as contrary to the common workings of the human mind, as the miracles which Mofes reports are incompatible with the common laws and order of phyfical nature. At least, if Mofes, like fome other legiflators, the better to fubjugate his people, and to make his laws received, had deceived an ignorant nation by illufive prodigies, he certainly did not flatter it on its origin, and for the times anterior to Abraham, he could have no intereft in falfifying the traditions commonly received. These traditions are confirmed by thofe of two nations yet existing, the Tartars and Arabs, separated from one another by immense tracts of country, and which, like the Jewish nation, have alone preserved their races without mixture. With the first of these the people to whom Mofes addreffed himself never had the smallest intercourse or relation.

(b) Page 284.

Mr. de Maillet, or Telliamed, who has left us many valuable obfervations on the formation of valleys, and on the concretion of ftony substances, and whom, though Mr. de Buffon has borrowed much from his ideas, it must be obferved, he never mentions, is a ftriking example how far a man of fenfe

fenfe may be misled by systems. Seduced by his aquatic fyftem, and by the productive powers of water, he at laft feems to have really perfuaded himfelf that men might have been originally fish. To fupport his fyftem Mr. de Buffon afferts, that all the higheft chains of mountains are fituated towards the line, and in the direction of the equator, or at leaft deviating only 23 degrees from it; and, to confirm it, caufed maps to be drawn by Mr. Buache. These are made for the fyftem, and not for the globe. In fact, as the Abbé Rofier remarks, fo far from the highest eminences of the earth lying near the equator, the most immenfe known plains are fituated either under it, or on each fide of it. In Africa the deferts of Nigritia and fuperior Ethiopia, the fandy plains of Caffreria, of Monemugi, and Zanguebar; from its eastern coafts to the Sunda Islands, a fea of 1500 leagues; from the Moluccos and New Guinea to Peru, an ocean of 3000 leagues; and another from America to the western coafts of Africa, occupy the torrid zone. The two high mountains of Cimborafo and of Pitchinqua under the line are only an exception without confequence, as the great chain of the Andes, inftead of running in its direction, ftretch almoft directly fouth. The immenfe plain between the Orinoco and the river of Amazons is a further contradiction to this affertion. All the great chains moreover diverge from the equator either to the north-eaft or to the fouth-weft. If it is admitted that the axis of the globe was inclined at the deluge, many great chains will then appear to have been, at the first creation, either under the line then concen- trical with the zodiac, or not more than 25 degrees diverged from its direc-tion. In that cafe, the present formation of mountains would not fo greatly militate against the fuppofition of this great naturalift, that the centrifugal force muft not only have elevated towards the equator the general furface of the earth, but have occafioned its higheft protuberances to run in that direction. According to my ideas, however, as the greatest part of the furface of the earth was overturned and diflocated at the deluge, very little : of this former very probable arrangement can now be expected to appear. In fact, we must always force the real truth to bend it to this fuppofition. Even by changing the pofition of the poles 23 degrees, the Alps, mount a

Krapack,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Krapack, the Caucafus would ftill be found too diftant; whilft the high mountains of Canada and Norway, the elevated platform of Siberia, and. of the defert of Chamo, would yet fwerve ftill more from the equator. In his first writings Mr. de Buffon, with much more ingenuity, has destined the highest mountains, whofe greatest chains cut the equator obliquely in diverging 25 degrees, to be the counterpoises which balance the two continents. Thus we fee does this philofopher forcibly bend all nature to his predetermined opinions. He is no lefs apt to fuffer himself to be deluded by the observations favourable to his fyftem, fent to him by fubaltern candidates for the honour of being named in his writings. On fuch grounds he roundly afferts, that the whole chain of the Vofges is composed of granite, or of hard free-ftone. It may be so on the fide of Lorrain; but I can answer for it that in Alface, in the part of the great chain from St. Odille to the Banc de la Roche, the whole of those mountains, from their feet to their fummits, are formed of a stone compofed of large and fmall pebbles cemented by a coarfe fand. The Banc de la Roche is alone of granite; after which, in the principality of Salm, the fame nature of rock begins again. Ia that branch which runs from Phalfburgh to Schirmeck, and to the Donau, including that mountain, the highest of all the Vofges, excepting a few quarries of purer and finer red, or reddifh fand ftone, and fome interfperfed of lime ftone, the fame remarkable kind of rock presents itself. every where. From the like unfaithful reports, he affirms that the mines of St. Marie aux Mines have been worked to the depth of 200 toifes below the level of the Rhine: he fhould have faid, no doubt, 200 toifes below the entrance of their fhafts on the high mountain of Giromani, far removed -from the Rhine. The levels or drains which have been made to draw off the waters from thofe mines are yet, as I was well informed in the country, far above the roots of that mountain. These mines are in great part abandoned, because the expence of making new drains, as yet very practicable, would exceed the probable profits. No fire engines have ever been employed; which, however, must have been necessary, had the works been ever pushed a fingle inch below the level of the plain, or of the river many miles

diftant

« AnteriorContinuar »