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come involved in an universal cloud, spreading PART I. obscurity and confusion over every object. It is evidently, therefore, of the very highest concernment, that, in seeking for that certainty of fact, we should make choice of the guide competent to conduct us to it with the most perfect security.
Unfortunately it happens, that Two guides present themselves to us, at the outset of this pursuit, to importune and claim our confidence, which two guides are directly contradictory to each other; so contradictory, indeed, that whichever of them be true, the other must of necessity be absolutely and fundamentally false: these are, the Mineral and the Mosaical Geologies. The latter of these, is of very great antiquity; and rests its credit, for the truth of the historical facts which it relates, upon a record pretending to divine revelation; and acknowledged as such, by the uninterrupted assent of some of the best and wisest of mankind, for upwards of three thousand years. The former, is of very recent origin; and can hardly be said to have existed, in a state approaching to maturity, for much more than half a century. This guide does not, indeed, pretend to oppose any record to that of the other; but it aspires to establish a series of historical facts, by induction from chemical principles newly discovered, which
PART I. it affirms, disclose evidence of truth superior to CHAP. I. any that is presented in the professedly historical document, and which must, therefore, qualify the credit which that document is entitled to receive.
To extricate themselves from the labour and embarrassment of choosing between two such different and adverse parties, some inquirers have attempted to employ them both; and with that view have endeavoured, by various schemes of accommodation, to effect a reconciliation between them. But, the result has always been, that which must ever attend measures of undue compromise and concession, perpetual inconsistency in the progress, and ultimate failure in the issue. There can be no real reconciliation between positive contradictories, no compromise between truth and falsehood; and therefore, since the generality of inquirers have exclusively followed one or other of these two guides, it is manifest, that one division of them must have been drawn into an error of the most extensive and injurious operation: for, as Cicero long since "pronounced, labi, errare, nescire, decipi, et "malum et turpe ducimus;" and there are few subjects on which the force of this maxim falls more heavily than on this.
this dilemma, there is only one course
which wisdom will counsel, or reason sanction; PART I. and that is, to bring the pretensions of the two opponents fairly to an issue, by applying them both to some common and agreed test, by the decision of which we may be able to ascertain the validity of each,—and thus, át length, determine conclusively, which of them is true, and which is false.
And the task is not so difficult as it might at first sight appear, from the voluminous mass of geological disquisition, the intricacy of the subjects which it embraces, and the hard words with which it has entrenched itself. We have no necessity to embroil ourselves with all the multitudinous details of that disquisition we need only to extract the root, or fundamental principle, on which the bodies of the two geologies severally rest; to apply each to that common test; and afterwards to abide by the one whose superior validity shall be established by the authority of that criterion.
To extract the root or fundamental principle of the new geology, is become a very easy operation, in consequence of the systematic order which it has at last acquired. It has now assumed a form of complete symmetry; and presents itself to our view in the unity of a well-compacted structure, with root,
PART I. trunk, and branches. We have, therefore, only to direct our attention to the root, without pursuing the process of the trunk, or the ramifications of the branches: such as is the quality of the root, such also will necessarily be that of the process and ramifications which derive their substance and vitality from it.
Although many skilful and eminent writers have contributed their assiduous labours to the edification of this science, yet it perhaps owes its fairest and most finished form to a recent French geologist, who, in the execution of his elaborate work, has displayed equal ability and integrity of mind. For, although he has applied the powers of a superior genius to advance the progress of his science, and although he has given to those powers all the impulse of an enthusiastic ardour, inspired by the grandeur of his subject, yet he has, at the same time, affixed to his treatise this honourable and upright profession: "My sole "object is to propagate the truth; and I should
see with satisfaction any work which should "establish it, even if it should overturn any "of the assertions which I have believed,
or which I still believe, to be true. It was
not a desire to maintain or to gain converts "to a system, that induced me to take up "my pen. I positively adopt none; and if,
"in treating of mineral masses and strata, PART I.
" I appear to follow an hypothesis with respect
"to the mode of their formations, it is, because "such a method of proceeding appeared to "me simple, and well adapted for representing facts, and connecting them together: much "in the manner of those philosophers, who, though they are not convinced of the existence of a magnetic fluid, yet suppose it, in "order that they may be the better able to "describe what takes place in the different "phænomena of magnetism 1."
And, that this profession was as sincere as it is positive, this respectable writer affords many proofs; and especially when, though attached to the Neptunian geology of Werner, he yet relinquishes its doctrine with respect to the cause of the basaltic formations of Saxony, in these terms: "The facts which I had just witnessed spoke too plainly; the truth was too manifestly exposed before my eyes; I must either have absolutely resisted "the testimony of my sight, not to perceive "it, or that of my conscience, not to declare it." To such a dissertator we can, with confidence, address an argument which equally seeks
'D'AUBUISSON, Traité de Géognosie, tom. i. Disc. Prel.,
Ib. tom. ii. p. 603.