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by the collision of flint and steel. That at first it was surrounded by gross vapours, which cooling and condensing in process of time, constituted, according to their densities, earth, water, and air ; which gradually arranged themselves, according to their respective gravities, round the burning or vitrified mass that formed their centre.
Hutton, on the contrary, supposes that the waters at first were universally paramount; and he terrifies himself with the idea that the earth must be eventually washed away by the force of rains, rivers, and mountain torrents, until it is confounded with the ocean, or, in other words, absolutely dissolves into itself.--Sublime idea! far surpassing that of the tender-hearted damsel of antiquity, who wept herself into a fountain; or the good dame of Narbonne in France, who, for a volubility of tongue unusual in her sex, was doomed to peel five hundred thousand and thirty-nine ropes of onions, and actually ran out at her
before half the hideous task was accomplished.
Whiston, the same ingenious philosopher who rivalled Ditton in his researches after the longitude, (for which the mischief-loving Swift discharged on their heads, a most savoury stanza,) has distinguished himself by a very admirable theory respecting the earth. He conjectures that it was originally a chaotic comet, which, being selected for the
abode of man, was removed from its eccentric orbit, and whirled round the sun in its present regular motion; by which change of direction, order succeeded to confusion in the arrangement of its component parts. The philosopher adds, that the deluge was produced by an uncourteous salute from the watery tail of another comet; doubtless through sheer envy of its improved condition; thus furnishing a melancholy proof that jealousy may prevail even among the heavenly bodies, and discord interrupt that celestial harmony of the spheres, so melodiously sung of by
But I pass over a variety of excellent theories, among which are those of Burnet, and Woodward, and Whitehurst; regretting extremely that my time will not suffer me to give them the notice they deserve-And shall conclude with that of the renowned Dr. Darwin. This learned Theban, who is as much distinguished for rhyme as reason, and for good-natured credulity as serious research; and who has recommended himself wonderfully to the good graces of the ladies, by letting them into all the gallantries, amours, debaucheries, and other topics of scandal of the court of Flora, has fallen upon a theory worthy of his combustible imagination. According to his opinion, the huge mass of chaos took a sudden occasion to explode, like a barrel of gunpowder, and in that act, exploded the sun-which, in its flight, by a similar convulsion, exploded the earth-which in like guise exploded the moon-andthus, by a concatenation of explosions, the whole solar system was produced and set most systematically in motion.*
By the great variety of theories here alluded to, every one of which, if thoroughly examined, will be found surprisingly consistent in all its parts, my unlearned readers will perhaps be led to conclude, that the creation of a world is not so difficult a task as they at first imagined. I have shown at least a score of ingenious methods in which a world could be constructed; and I have no doubt, that had any of the philosophers above quoted the use of a good manageable comet, and the philosophical warehouse, chaos, at his command, he would engage to manufacture a planet, as good, or, if you would take his word for it, better than this we inhabit.
And here I cannot help noticing the kindness of Providence, in creating comets for the great relief of bewildered philosophers. By their assistance more sudden evolutions and transitions are effected in the system of nature, than are wrought in a pantomimic
* Darw. Bot. Garden. Part 1, cant. l. 1, 105.
exhibition, by the wonder-working sword of harle. quin. Should one of our modern sages, in his theoretical flights among the stars, ever find himself lost in the clouds, and in danger of tumbling into the abyss of nonsense and absurdity, he has but to seize a comet by the beard, mount astride of its tail, and away he gallops in triumph, like an enchanter on his hippogriff, or a Connecticut witch on her broomstick, " to sweep the cobwebs out of the
It is an old and vulgar saying, about a “ beggar on horseback," which I would not for the world have applied to these reverend philosophers: but I must confess, that some of them, when they are mounted on one of those fiery steeds, are as wild in their curvettings as was Phæton, of yore, when he aspired to manage the chariot of Phæbus. One drives his comet at full speed against the sun, and knocks the world out of him with mighty concussion; another, more moderate, makes his comet a kind of beast of burden, carrying the sun a regular supply of food and fagots; a third, of more combustible disposition, threatens to throw his comet, like a bombshell, into the world, and blow it up like a powder magazine; while a fourth, with no great delicacy to this planet and its inhabitants, insinuates that some day or other his comet-my modest pen blushes while I write it-shall absolutely turn tail upon the world and deluge it with water-Surely, as I have already observed, comets were bountifully provided by Providence for the benefit of philosophers to assist them in manufacturing theories.
And now, having adduced several of the most prominent theories that occur to my recollection, I leave my judicious readers at full liberty to choose among them. They are all serious speculations of learned men-all differ essentially from each other and all have the same title to belief. It has ever been the task of one race of philosophers to demolish the works of their predecessors, and elevate more splendid fantasies in their stead, which, in their turn, are demolished and replaced by the air-castles of a succeeding generation. Thus it would seem that knowledge and genius, of which we make such great parade, consist but in detecting the errors and absurdities of those who have gone before, and devising new errors and absurdities, to be detected by those who are to come after us. Theories are the mighty soap-bubbles with which the grown-up children of science amuse themselves; while the honest vulgar stand gazing in stupid admiration, and dignify these learned vagaries with the name of wisdom. Surely Socrates was right in his opinion, that philosophers are but a sober sort of madmen, busying themselves in things totally incomprehensible, or which, if they could be comprehended, would be found not worthy the trouble of discovery.
For my own part, until the learned have come to an agreement among themselves, I shall content myself with the account handed down to us by Moses; in which I do but follow the example of our ingenious neighbours of Connecticut; who at their first settlement proclaimed, that the colony shoặld be governed by the laws of God-until they had time to make better.
One thing, however, appears certain—from the unanimous authority of the before quoted philosophers, supported by the evidence of our own senses, (which, though very apt to deceive us, may be cautiously admitted as additional testimony,) it appears, I say, and I make the assertion deliberately, without fear of contradiction, that this globe really was created, and that it is composed of land and water. It farther appears that it is curiously divided and parcelled out into continents and islands, among which I boldly declare the renowned ISLAND OF NEW YORK will be found by any one who seeks for it in its proper place.
And now the infant settlement having advanced in age and stature, it was thought high time it should receive an honest Christian name, and it was accordingly called New-Amsterdam. It is true there were some advocates for the original Indian name, and many of the best writers of the province did long continue to call it by the title of “ The Manhattoes,” but this was discountenanced by the authorities, as being heathenish and savage. Besides, it was considered an excellent and praiseworthy measure to name it after a great city of the old world; -as by that means it was induced to emulate the greatness and renown of its namesake-in the manner that little snivelling urchins are called after great statesmen, saints, and worthies, and renowned generals of yore, upon which they all industriously copy their examples, and come to be very mighty men in their day and generation.
The thriving state of the settlement and the rapid increase of houses gradually awakened the good Olofse from a deep lethargy, into which he had fallen after the building of the fort. He now began to think it was time some plan should be devised on which the increasing town should be built. Summoning, therefore, his counsellors and coadjutors. together, they took pipe in mouth, and forth with sunk into a very profound deliberation on the snbject.
At the very outset of the business an unexpected difference of opinion arose, and I mention it with much sorrowing, as being the first altercation on record in the councils of New-Amsterdam. It was a breaking forth of the grudge and heartburning that