Page images
PDF
EPUB

fon's fyftem. It is not to be conceived in what manner the waves of the fea, after having raifed up a quantity of fand, earth, ftones and fhells, fhould depofit them again in parallel and horizontal beds. The laws of hydroftatics do not appear to admit of the poffibility of any fuch method, and still much lefs of the existence and action of those torrents at the bottom of the feat; which the French Naturalift conceives to penetrate the ftrata of the mountains formed there, and, opening a paffage through, to divide them into hills and vallies.

In rejecting, however, the imaginary caverns of De Buffon and Hollman, our Author does not admit of thofe terrible volcanos of the Abbè Moro; which he thinks inconfiftent with that regularity of strata, mixed with innumerable marine animals, obfervable over the face of the whole earth, and even in places very diftant from any volcanos, and deftitute of the fmalleft veftige of their explofion. Again, he obferves, that in veins of fand, marle, chalk, marble, and flate, we find no indication of a burnt foil, or of combustible substances; but rather of a sediment difpofed by the agitation of the fea. At the fame time, he remarks that he never hath met with any marine substances or animals in a ftratum of cinders, pumice-ftone, or burnt flint.

For thefe reasons Mr. Rafpe concludes that the hypothefis of Ray, as represented by Moro, and imputing the origin of all kinds of mountains to fubterraneous conflagrations, and earthquakes, is falfe and defective. He conceives, notwithstanding that this fyftem, as improved by Dr. Hooke, has a great deal of probability. Thus he imagines that the ftrata, of which the fhell or furface of the earth is compounded, were originally formed at the bottom of the fea, by the conftant agitation of the waters and the continual production of plants and shells: after which, the fubterraneous explofions and earthquakes, breaking through the bottom of the fea, not only formed banks, hills and fubmarine mountains of its broken parts, but frequently raised it up together with its incumbent ftrata, in fufficient quantity to form islands and dry mountains.

[ocr errors]

. At other times, he conceives, the preffure of the water occafions it to break through into the cavities, thus made by previous eruptions that, at others again, the violence of the fubterraneous explosions is fo great as to remove fuch mountains from one place to another; while the heat of the fubterraneous fires

It has been afferted by many, particularly by Doctor Tozzetti, an ingenious Florentine, that the fea is much calmer, or has lefs motion, at the bottom, than in any part nearer the furface.

is

[ocr errors]

is fo intenfe as to melt, calcine, or convert the adjacent fubftances into stone.

Against this hypothefis, Meff. de Buffon and Hollman have railed two confiderable difficulties. The one is, that the production of new mountains and islands is too rare a phenomenon to fupport fo general a theory. In reply to this objection, Mr. Rafpe fhews that fuch inftances are not fo rare and uncommon as is generally imagined; remarking that, altho' our observations are not fo general and numerous as could be wished, yet it is incontrovertible that there have been fome iflands newly gene-: rated in the fea, and that the continent which we inhabit, was anciently fubmarine. Now it is but reasonable to prefume, continues he, that both have been generated by the fame cause.

1

. This conclufion, indeed, is affected by the fecond objection of the Naturalifts above-mentioned, and particularly Mr. de' Buffon, who affirms that the mountains and iflands thus newly formed are not compofed like others, of parallel ftrata; but are compounded of an irregular intermixture of heterogeneous materials. In answer to this, Mr. Rafpe obferves, that he fhould be glad to know which of thofe iflands and mountains Mr. de Buffon actually examined, and on what authority he founds fuch an affirmation. At the fame time, he affirms, and that, upon unquestionable information, that fome of thele modern iflands have their regular ftrata and mountains like thofe of our continent. In the ifland of Santorin, for example, the mountain of St. Stephen confifts of fine white marble that burns into excellent lime; a certain proof that fuch part of the island hath never been expofed to the intense heat of fubterraneous fires. Tour nefort and Coronelli both corroborate the truth of this circumftance. In the Memoirs of the Academy of Sciences for the year 1708, we have a description of a rock, or ifle, in the neighbourhood of Santorin, that appeared for the firft time in the preceeding year. Tournefort and Spon exprefly affert alfo that the inland of Delos produces marble and granate.

On these, and other facts of the like nature, related on good authority, Mr. Rafpe proceeds to illuftrate the hypothefis he has adopted. He laments, however, the want of a fufficient number of obfervations and experiments, to confirm it in fo inconteftible a manner as he could wifh; and he recommends the making accurate obfervations on fuch iflands as have appeared in the prefent century, as well thofe which arofe in the ArchipeJago in 1707, as thofe near the Azores in 1720. In concurrence with this examination, he recommends alfo the profecu tion of the researches, begun by Marfigli, Donati, and Sloane into the nature of the bottom of the fea.

Lettres

Ii 4

Lettres écrites de la Montagne. Par J, J. Rouffeau.

Letters written from the Mountains. By Mr. Rousseau. 12mo. Printed at Amsterdam 1764, and imported by Becket and De Hondt.

[ocr errors]

TH

HERE are few countries in Europe, where religion hath not served as a pretext for the oppreffion of individuals, and the fubverfion of public freedom. In ancient times, when the characters of magiftrate and priest were united in the fame. perfon, it is no wonder the cause of God was fo intimately. blended with that of tyrants. At prefent, indeed, the characters are frequently divided, and the magiftrate hath got the upper hand of the pricft. Their mutual importance, however, depends fo much on their union, that it is matter of little furprise to see them reciprocally fupport the pretenfions of each other to tyrannize over the confciences, and trample on the natural privileges of mankind.

It is fomething ftrange, nevertheless, that, while religious toleration feems to be gaining fome ground under the government of arbitrary monarchs, and in countries where ecclefiaftical authority is ftill held to be infallible, we fhould fee perfecution erect its ftandard under governments that owe their very existence to liberty of confcience, and a zeal for the natural rights of a free people! It is very certain that the nature of civil polity, and the genuine fpirit of Chriftianity, were never fo generally known as in our own times. To what motive, then, can we impute that univerfal indifference and inactivity which prevails in almost all nations, with regard to the encroachments which the prerogative of the magiftrate daily makes on the privileges of the people? Is it that the spirit of true phi lofophy, and of genuine Christianity, induces men to bear patiently with political evils, rather than to exert themselves to remove them? Certain it is, that people are generally more zealous in a wrong cause than in a right one, and that fanaticism and errour have been productive of more daring attempts, and greater revolutions in ftates, than ever were occafioned by the fimple dictates of religion and truth. However commendable may be a zeal for truth, it is feldom that truth alone infpires it. We cannot help thinking, indeed, that even Mr. Rouffeau himself hath appeared always too warmly attached to his own opinions; a circumftance that carries with it a fhrewd fufpicion, that he is either mistaken in his favourite doctrines, or that his paffion for fingularity hath greatly animated his zeal for truth. Be this, however, as it may, it is with fome fatisfaction we find the cafe of this opprefied and perfecuted republican fo greatly

intereft

intereft the tolerating and difinterested part of most nations in Europe. The love of power is too natural, and the abuse of it too habitual, for us to expect that perfons actually concerned in the administration of states, fhould approve the fentiments or conduct of a Writer, who hath taken so much pains to inftruct the common people of all nations, in the science of Government, and the fundamental principles of Society, Implicit obedience to magifterial authority, is to be exacted only by means of fuch myfterious state-craft, as keeps the fubject ignorant of the imbecillity or iniquity of thofe who require it. Again, it is much less to be expected that the inferiour order of tyrants, the ecclefiaftics, who, to preserve a fubordinate power, pay the moft fervile obedience to their temporal fuperiours, fhould be backward in animating the perfecuting spirit of their masters. With churchmen allo, of whatever persuasion, it appears ever to have been held as a maxim, that fchifm is worfe than infidelity; an heretic difturbing the form and difcipline of religion (about which only they are folicitous) much more than a downright infidel. If this be not the cafe, how comes it that a Spinoza, an Hobbes, and others of the fame stamp, have lived unmolested and publifhed their Writings without interruption, in those countries, where mere Arians and Anti-trinitarians have at times been fo feverely chastised *? When_the famous Mr. Whifton was turned out of his profefforship at Cambridge, on account of his, fcruples refpecting the divinity of our Saviour, it was whimfical enough to fee his place fupplied by a fucceffor who hardly believed in any Saviour at all. We are told, in the Scriptures, refpecting the severity of the Law, that if a man offend in one point he is guilty of all; but we cannot help thinking it a little hard to treat fuch offenders worse than those who profeffedly kick the law out of doors. Yet this appears to be the rock on which our Author hath fplit. He muft needs be a Christian truly, and of the reformed religion; at the fame time profeffing fuch different tenets as feparately taken, might juftly have denominated him, according to his enemies, an infidel, or a Roman Catholic. If a man

Thus Jews, Turks, and Infidels, have been long permitted to publish their writings freely in Holland, where Mr. Rouffeau's Emilius however has been fuppreffed. There was an inftance, indeed, fome years ago of the Dutch intolerance; but this was in a fingular case.. Atheists were permitted to write against the Being of a God with impunity; but it feems that one Bakker, a Minister of the Church, took it into his head to write against the existence of the Devil. This was ftriking at the root of the craft. The Clergy, to a man, took the alarm; and though poor Bakker denied the existence of a Devil in the other world, they foon convinced him of his errour, by playing the Devil with him in this.

[blocks in formation]

were in ever fo fair a way for heaven, it is contrary to the very profeffion of fome ecclefiaftics to fuffer him unmolefted to purfue his journey, if his path be an hair's breadth out of a parallel with theirs. In the mean time they all very quietly permit people to take a contrary road, thro' as many turnings and windings as they pleafe. Thus we find, among our miffionaries for promoting Chriftian knowlege in the west, that more pains are taken and more rejoicing made for the conversion of one diffenting fchifmatic to the epifcopal Church in NewEngland, than for the converfion of ninety-nine poor Indian heathens to Christianity in the wilds of America. This being notoriously the cafe, both the political and religious motives of Mr. Rouffeau's perfecution, are very evident. What effect the fpirited remonftrances he hath made in the Letters before us, may have on his perfecutors, we know not; but this is certain, that this state of his cafe, and his animadverfions on the unprecedented severity of the prosecutions carried on against him, are worthy the attentive perufal of all who are in any degree folicitous about the prefervation of their civil and religious liberty. What has happened at Geneva may happen elfewhere; for Minifters both of the State and of the Church, are the fame in all countries." I confefs," fays our ingenious Author, in the advertisement prefixed to thefe letters," that the fubjects of them are very unimportant to the public. The conftitution of a petty Republic, and the oppreffion of a mean individual, the detection of minifterial injustice, and the refutation of a few fophifms, will poffibly attract an inconfiderable number of Readers; but if the fubjects themselves are mean, the objects to which they have a relation are great, and worth the attention of every man of probity. Setting Geneva and Rouffeau out of the queftion, I plead the cause of religion, of liberty, and of juftice: and who is there above being interested here!"

In the first letter, our Author curforily mentions the extraordinary proceedings of the Council of Geneva, in condemning his writings without citing him to any perfonal appearance, or hearing the defence he might have to make for himself; but it would be too tedious a talk to purfue either his relation or remonstrances, ftep by step, through these letters, as he has obferved no certain method or connection. We fhall therefore content ourselves with a general intimation of the subject of each, and the felection of fome of the most striking paffages interfperfed throughout the whole.-In antwer to the accufation laid against him, and charging him with attempting to fubvert religion, he avers, that, fo far from attacking the genuine principles of religion, he hath done his utmost endea-,

« PreviousContinue »