Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

-of

many documents. These effects are certainly the most striking. Sometimes, in the course of years, we see the shore give way, and the sea sweep off tracts of land which formerly were cultivated and dwelt upon. A man who has seen his field vanish before his eyes, and even his habitation disappear, long remembers this disaster, which he cannot separate from the idea of the Ocean. Even men of science, geologists and geographers, when treating of the Ocean, have preferred to speak of its destructive power. There is no work of Geology in which mention is not made of the destructive action of the sea, as one of the causes which sensibly modify the form of the land. The history of certain countries Holland, for example — is a struggle between man and the Ocean ; it is probable that without this struggle, which has stimulated the national activity, this people, now placed under such unfavorable conditions, would never have attained their present power and well-being.

But in addition to these hostile and destructive influences of the Ocean, there are others, which, though less striking because slow and gradual in their action, are not less but much more important. We wish to speak of those accumulations of materials on certain parts of the shore, which form flats, fill up bays, obstruct the coast, and thus render the navigation difficult. This slow but powerful action of the sea, which has been called its constructive action, in opposition to its destructive force, may be observed on the shores of all the continents, but especially where the coast is composed of movable materials. The influence of this constructive action is not limited to the shores, where the sea and land come in contact, but makes itself felt to a considerable distance from the land, in the basins and shoals whose existence has been verified by the maritime surveys. A similar action is going on throughout the whole length of the coast of the United States, and if its effects are not well known, it is because the phenomenon is on so grand a scale, and, having the whole Ocean for its stage of action, its time must be proportionate to the extent of its field of operation.

In a country composed of movable materials, - like the coast of the United States, or of the north of Europe, - if any one were to compare the form and structure of the coast with the form and contour of the bottom of the adjacent sea as it appears from the surface when the sea is calm, and as it appears, on a larger scale, from the soundings, he cannot fail

[ocr errors]

to be struck with the remarkable similarity. There are the same peculiarities, the same contrasts, the same undulations, with the ridges, the valleys, the table-lands, and the plains; so that the observer is naturally led to the conclusion that the land has formerly been covered with water. This conclusion nowhere presents itself more forcibly than in the vicinity of low lands like Long Island and the Keys of Florida, and it is generally, and, as it were, instinctively admitted.

The means which Nature puts in action in her submarine constructions are of a various character, and deserve a particular and special attention. In the tropical seas, where life is so intense, it is the Polypes, that is to say, small and often microscopic beings, who take charge of these gigantic constructions. The Keys of Florida have, for the most part, been formed by their agency. In the temperate or cold regions where animals do not exist, the arrangement of the submarine constructions is more particularly the work of physical agents, of currents and tides. This is a subject of the highest importance, which has not received all the attention it deserves. It is quite recently that it has, for the first time, been made the subject of some investigations on our own shores. We hope to return to this matter on some other occasion ; at present, we go no further than merely to mention, as a general fact, the striking resemblance which exists between the form and direction of the tides and the distribution of those oceanic constructions which we designate by the terms banks and shallow basins.

We shall form an idea of the importance of those oceanic agencies if we consider that the submarine structures attributed to their influence are not confined merely to the vicinity of the shore, but extend to a considerable distance from it. A proof of this is furnished by the vast banks which are found at the northeastern extremity of the American continent, by the basins of Newfoundland, by Green Bank, by Sable Bank, etc., etc. If all parts of these great banks, as we must believe, are formed of movable materials, like the sand-banks nearer the shore, it is evident that their structure and their mode of formation are of the highest importance in the study of similar deposits which at the present time are above water, and which, at an earlier period, have been formed and elevated in the same manner by the agency of the Ocean. One day, perhaps, the mass of movable materials which we are acquainted with under the name of submarine basins, will rise from the bosom of the Ocean, after having long been the abode of a marine population, to serve as a dwelling place for the tribes of earth ; then the geologist of those future ages, going about with his hammer and pick-axe in hand to explore the bosom of this new land, will perhaps be a prey to the same doubts and the same uncertainties as ourselves, and experience the same delights, while they find in those new domains, in a soil at present in the process of construction, some new fact, some relations hitherto unperceived, which permit them to connect their epoch with former ages, and in those new realms to discover the same infinite Providence which in our time and all preceding ages has presided over the destinies of our globe.

Thus, to comprehend the structure and the form of the soil we inhabit, we are obliged to go back to the Ocean. There in the great deep, which is the laboratory of continents, unhappily our knowledge of the form and the connection of the different submarine elevations, is exceedingly imperfect. Hitherto the minds of men have been preoccupied to such a degree with the idea that they are dangerous to navigation, that we may say of them what the old poets were wont to say of the infernal regions, that they were more dreaded than known. However, we have reason to hope that the pilgrims of the sea, who follow one another with so laudable a zeal along the shores of the two continents, - thanks to the liberal and enlightened ideas which begin to prevail with governments,

- will not fail to initiate us more and more into the mystery of those grand operations which take place in silence at the bottom of the sea.

In another article, we will make a more detailed investigation into the agencies of Nature in these oceanic constructions, and applying these principles to the configuration of the soil, we will show what has been done by the Ocean in the formation of the continents, and what is due to mere telluric causes. ART. III. - The History of England, from the Accession of

James II. By T. B. MACAULAY, Esq. London. 1848–9. 2 vols. 8vo.

PERHAPS there is no period in the annals of mankind of more interest to Englishmen and Americans than the one comprised in the plan of Macaulay's history, from the accession of James the Second till near the present time, and certainly no one standing in so much need of a good historian. We know of no good history of England for the last one hundred and sixty years, since the termination of Hume’s. When it was understood that Macaulay had undertaken bis work, it was a subject of general congratulation. All were pleased that so important and difficult a work had fallen to the lot of perhaps the only man of the age who was supposed to have the learning and genius required for the task.

Mr. Macaulay is well known as the most popular and able reviewer of the present or perhaps of any past time. Many of his articles in the Edinburgh Review are of permanent value, and have been republished here in a separate work. There may be articles in that Review that display more profound and exact knowledge in some departments, but there are none so eagerly sought for, none that combine so much varied and extensive information on subjects of general interest, presented in so popular and captivating a style.

It is rare that any man combines so many essential qualifications and so many accidental advantages for writing a history of England. In addition to great learning and talent as an author, he is eminently a practical man, well acquainted with the world and its affairs. His public life for many years as a member of Parliament and a part of the time one of the Ministry and of the Cabinet, has made him intimately acquainted with politicians and statesmen, and given him an opportunity of knowing from his own experience how the business of government is carried on. We believe, too, that he had the reputation of being one of the best speakers in the House of Commons, and combines the powers of speaking well and writing well, so rarely found united since the days of Cicero.

This work is more entertaining, and contains more of what we wish to know, than any other history of the times; though it appears to us that the author is sometimes liable to the charge of prolixity, and dwells too long in illustrating a propo

sition and in narration and description. The characters of eminent men are delineated with great skill and much life, but are sometimes drawn out to an immoderate length.

He seems desirous to give a view so full and complete of every part of his subject, as not only to prevent the possibility of being misunderstood, but also to save the reader all the trouble of thinking or making any conclusions for himself. Nothing can be more opposite to the manner of Tacitus, though they agree in one respect - in fondness for point and antithesis.

His style is clear and pointed, as well as beautiful and brilliant. Perhaps the splendor is not always genuine, and sometimes, contrary to the rhetorical maxim, resembles that of tinsel rather than the brightness of polished steel.

The extent and minuteness of his knowledge of facts are indeed wonderful, and we know not where to find any thing like it in any readable English history. His impartiality, a quality so essential to the historian, in his account of the different religious sects and political parties, is very conspicuous. The Church of Rome and the Church of England, Presbyterians, Independents, and Quakers, are brought in review before him, and their errors and faults exposed with a bold and unsparing hand. We think he endeavours to preserve the same impartiality between the Cavaliers and Roundheads, and the Whigs and Tories. But we imagine that the zealous partisans of all the religious sects will be dissatisfied with his account of their conduct and principles, and that no political party will be entirely satisfied, unless it be the moderate, aristocratic Whigs.

If we were to object at all to his views of parties and sects, it would be that he may not have done full justice to the religious or political principles of the Independents, the only sect of that day that seems to have had any just notions of religious freedom or toleration. It was the Independents alone who prevented the Presbyterians, at the termination of the Civil War, from establishing a system of religious intolerance and persecution as odious as that from which they had just been delivered. Cromwell, Vane, Selden, and Milton were for liberty of conscience and toleration in religious worship. The Presbyterians wished to succeed the ecclesiastical tyrants whom the joint arms of the Independents and Presbyterians had recently overthrown. Milton had just reason to complain that

" New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large."

« AnkstesnisTęsti »