« ZurückWeiter »
The first society of the kind in this country was the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge, which was founded in 1769; its principal promoter was Dr. Franklin :*. it has published six volumes of transactions. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was incorporated in Massachusetts in 1780; and the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences was established in 1799. All these institutions have given to the world several useful and interesting memoirs. The United States Military Philosophical Society was founded at West Point, in this state, in 1802, by Colonel Williams, Chief of the Corps of Engineers, and Military Academy. The whole corps of engineers were the original members, and its number has been increased by the admission of others from different parts of the United States. This attempt to diffuse science has been attended with remarkable success, and was worthy of the gentleman who inherits the investigating mind as well as the blood of Dr. Franklin. The Travels and Discoveries of Pike, the History of Louisiana by Stoddard, the Code of Martial Law by Macomb, a Treatise on the Organization of Artillery by Morton, several important military memoirs by the president of that institution, and the system of maritime defence adopted, and now visible in our harbour, may be considered as emanations from it.
Such associations are productive of great individual and collective benefit: they stimulate the mind to exertion, produce emulation, and form habits of observing with accuracy, and of reading with attention ; they elicit powers that would otherwise lie dormant, and collect knowledge that would otherwise be scattered. Science, like fire, is put in motion by collision." The communion of cultivated minds must always
See Note F. Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester.
have a benign influence on knowledge; and the experience of a century and a half bears testimony to this truth.
The objects of The Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York being coextensive with the principal branches of human knowledge, an unbounded prospect of investigation lies before us. It would be an Herculean task, far transcending my powers, and occupying too much time, to point out those desiderata in science which ought to be supplied, and to indicate those improvements and refinements which ought to be engrafted into our literature; but it may not be unimportant, with respectful deference, and in a very concise manner, to invite your attention to those objects of inquiry which refer to the peculiar situation of this country, which have been little attended to, or entirely neglected, and which, on account of their peculiar importance, deserve and demand
In the first place, the geology of our country is almost unknown, and few attempts have been made to elucidate it. William Maclure has, indeed, applied the Wernerian system to the United States, has undertaken to divide the country into regions of primitive transition, flætz, and alluvial rocks, and has, upon this plan, delineated those different formations in a geological map of the United States. He has not noticed any volcanic formations, probably from an opinion that none exist. Dr. Mitchill, in a report made to the Agricultural Society, has divided the state into
The granite country,
The lime stone,
The sand stone, and
and has designated the different regions in which those divisions exist.
Volney, borrowing the ideas of Mitchill without acknowledging the obligation, has applied this theory to the United States at large; and his geological division consists of
The granite region,
The region of sand stone,
The region of sea sand, and
The region of river alluvions.
He has, in one instance, departed from Dr. Mitchill's arrangement by substituting a region of sea sand for a schistic region.*
These are the principal attempts which have been made to illustrate our geology, and although entitled to merit, they are imperfect, and, probably, to a considerable extent fanciful. Amid the thirty-eight different substances which Maclure has mentioned as composing the different formations, the others have designated but five; and although I presume that the denomination given to a particular region is only intended to indicate that the principal rocks or substances are of the kind from which the appellation is derived, yet it must be obvious, that in such an extent of country it is utterly impossible to arrive at such a conclusion without the most minute and scrutinizing surveys. It is difficult to distinguish and ascertain the different kinds of formations; it requires considerable practical knowledge to discriminate between matter purely inorganic, and its mixture with organic substances; and as strata of different as well as of cognate species are not only piled upon each other, but are frequently buried in the bowels of the earth, there is great difficulty in forming just conclusions. This science, and the
* See the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 6.-Transactions of the Society of Arts held at Albany, vol. 1.; and Volney's View of the United States.
kindred science of mineralogy, have been almost entirely uncultivated with us; and when we consider their immense importance, and the extensive investigation which they open, we must be convinced that we ought to devote more than ordinary attention to their cultivation.
The aspect or physiognomy of our country is certainly marked by striking and extraordinary characters. The Hudson is the only river in the United States where the tide passes through the alluvial primitive transition and into the flætz formation. In the east we have an ocean of salt water. In the west we have fresh-water seas of immense extent: there is every indication, not only of the recessionof lakes, but also of their total exsiccation:* hence we have three kinds of alluvial formations: one arising from the retreat of the ocean, another from the subsidence or extinction of lakes, and another from the overflowing, retreat, and change of rivers. Marine and vegetable substances are to be found, particularly in the western parts of the state, embedded in sand-stone, or in silicious or calcarious stone; and, besides evidently recognising in them aquatic animals which are well known to us, we perceive a great number of unknown ones, that must be pelasgian or oceanic, and which must have derived their location from the general submersion of the earth. The cornu ammonis has been found near Albany, about which there is a diversity of opinion; some supposing that it is the horn or bone of some animal, while others consider it a native fossil.† All these indications support the Neptunian theory; but there are several circumstances which denote the agency of an igneous principle. Volney, indeed, supposes that Lake Ontario occupies the crater of a volcano; and it is 'believed
that the drowned lands in Orange county exhibit, in many places, strong evidences of volcanic eruptions.
Our principal metals are iron and lead; of inflammable fossils we have made no discoveries of any consequence, although there is, ne doubt, plenty of coal. Lime, marble, marl, flint, gypsum, slate for building, clays for manufacturing, and ochres of various kinds, have been discovered in great quantities. Salt springs exist in Onondaga, Cayuga,. Seneca, Ontario, and Genesee counties; and there is reason to believe that vast strata of fossil salt, commencing at Onondaga, as the most. easterly point, run west through this state, the back parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, under the bed of the Mississippi river, and finally may be traced in the remotest wilds of Louisiana. A bed of gypsum begins in the town of Sullivan, in Madison county, and branches in a western direction; it is very wide, and its depth has not been ascertained: it appears in several places in the towns of Sempronius, Manlius, and Camillus ; . but its main body seems to pass through Aurelius, and near the outlets of the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and Phelps Town in Ontario county, and finally it is visible at Grand River in Upper Canada.* The value of these saline and earthy substances is incalculable: several millions of bushels of salt can be easily made in this state, and three millions are imported in ordinary times. Gypsum formerly came to us in small quantities from France, and our supplies have been derived, for a long time, from Nova Scotia. It has created a new era in agriculture: under its influence the wilderness and the solitary place become glad, and the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose. We have not only
*-See Note I.