« PreviousContinue »
same people. The same species of animals, are also found in the contiguous regions. The bear, the wolf, the fox, the hare, the deer, the roe-buck, and the elk, frequent the forests of North America, as well as those in the north of Europe.
Other discoveries have proved, that if the two continents of Asia and America be separated at all, it is only by a narrow strait. From this part of the old continent also, inhabitants may have passed into the new; and the resem. blance between the Indians of America, and the eastern inhabitants of Asia, would induce us to conjecture, that they have a common origin. This opinion is adopted by the celebrated doctor Robertson, in his History of America. The more recent and accurate discoveries of that illustriyous navigator, Cooke, and his successor Clerke, have brought the matter still nearer to a certainty.
The sea, from the south of Behring's straits, to the cres. cent of isles between Asia and America, is very shallow. It deepens from these straits (as the British seas do from those of Dover) till the soundings are lost in the Pacific Ocean ; but that does not take place but to the south of the isles. Between them and the straits is an increase from 12 to 54 fathoms, except only of St. Thaddeus-Noss, where there is a channel of a greater depth.
From the volcanic disposition, it has been judged probable, not only that there was a separation of the continents at the straits of Behring, but that the whole space from the isles to the small opening, had once been occupied by Jand; and that the fury of the watery element, actuated by that of fire, had, in some remote times, subverted and overwhelmed the tract, and left the islands to serve as monumental fragments.
There can be no doubt that our planet has been subject to great vicissitudes since the deluge: ancient and modern historians confirm this truth, that lands are now ploughed, over which ships formerly sailed ; and that they now sail over lands, which were formerly cultivated : earthquakes have swallowed some lands, and subterraneous fires have thrown up others: the sea retreating from its shores, has lengthened the land in some places, and encroaching upon it in others, has diminished it'; it has separated some territories, which were formerly united, and formed new bays and gulphs.
Revolutions of this nature happened in the last century. Sicily was united to the continent of Naples, as Eubæ a now the Black sea, was to Bæotia. Diodorus, Strabo, and other ancient authors say the same thing of Spain, and of Africa; and affirm, that by a violent irruption of the ocean upon the land between the mountains of Abyla, and Calpe, that communication was broken, and the Mediterranean sea was formed. Among the people of Ceylon, there is a tradition, that a similar irruption of the sea, separated their island from the peninsula of India ; the same thing is believed by those of Malabar, with respect to the Maldivian isles, and by the Malayans, with respect to Sumatra.
The count de Buffon is certain, that in Ceylon the earth has lost 30 or 40 leagues, taken from it by the sea. The same author asserts, that Louisiana has only been formed by the mud of rivers. Pliny, Seneca, Diodorus, and others, report innumerable examples of similar revolutions.
In the strait which separates America from Asia, many islands are found, which are supposed to be the mountainous parts of land, formerly swallowed up by earthquakes : which appears the more probable, by the multitude of volcanoes, now known in the peninsula of Kamtschatka. It is imagined, however, that the sinking of that land and the separation of the two continents, has been occasioned by those great earthquakes, mentioned in the history of the Americans : which formed an æra almost as memorable as that of the deluge. We can form no conjecture of the time mentioned in the histories of the Toltecas, or of the year 1. Tecpatl, when that great calamity happened.
If a great earthquake should overwhelm the isthmus of Suez, and there should be at the same time, as great a scarcity of historians, as there were in the first age of the deluge, it would be doubted in three or four hundred years after, whether Asia had ever been united by that part to Africa ; and many would firmly deny it.
Whether that great event, the separation of the conti: nents, took place before, or after the population of Ame. rica, it is impossible to determine ; but we are indebted to the above-mentioned navigators, for settling the long dispute about the point from which it was effected. Their
observations prove, that in one place the distance between continent and continent is only thirty-nine miles ; and in the middle of this narrow strait, there are two islands, which would greatly facilitate the passage of the Asiatics into the New World, supposing it took place in canoes, after the convulsion which rent the two continents asun. der. :. It may also be added, that these straits are even in the Summer, often filled with ice; in winter frozen over, so as to admit a passage for mankind, and by which quadrupeds might easily cross, and stock the continent. But where from the vast expanse of the north-eastern world, to fix on the first tribes who contributed to people the new continent, now inhabited from end to end, is a matter that has baffled human reason. The learned may make bold and ingenious conjectures, but plain good sense cannot always accede to them.
As mankind increased in numbers, they naturally protruded one another forward. Wars might be another cause of migrations. No reason appears, why the Asiatic north might not be an officina vivorum as well as the European. The overteeming country to the east of the Riphean mountains, must have found it necessary to discharge its inhabitants: the first great increase of people were forced forwards by the next to it; at length reaching the utmost limits of the Old World, found a New one, with ample space to occupy unmolested for ages; till Columbus, in an evil hour for them, discovered their country; which brought again new sins and new deaths to both worlds. It is im. possible, with the lights which we have so recently receive ed, to admit, that America could receive its inhabitants (that is, the bulk of them) from any other place than eas. tern Asia. A few proofs may be added, taken from the customs or dresses, common to the inhabitants of both worlds. Some have been long extinct in the old, others remain in both in full force.
The custom of scalping, was a barbarism in use with the Scythians, who carried about them at all times this savage mark of triumph. A little image found among the Kalmucs, of a Tartarian deity, mounted on a horse, and sitting on a human skin, with scalps pendant from the breast, fully illustrates the custom of the ancient Scythians,
as described by the Greek historian. This usage, we well know by horrid experience, is continued to this day in America. The ferocity of the Scythians to their prisoners, extended to the remotest part of Asia. The Kamtschatkans, even at the time of their discovery by the Russians, put their prisoners to death by the most lingering, and excruciating torments ; a practice now in full force among the aboriginal Americans. A race of the Scythians were named Anthropophagi, from their feeding on human flesh: the people of Nootka sound, still make a repast on their fellow creatures.
The savages of North America have been known to throw the mangled limbs of their prisoners into the hors rible caldron, and devour them with the same relish as those of a quadruped. The Kamtschatkans in their marches never went abreast, but followed one another in the same track: the same custom is still observed by the uncultivated natives of North America. The Tungusi, the most numerous nation resident in Siberia, prick their skins with small punctures, in various shapes, with a needle; then rub them with charcoal, so that the marks become indelible: this custom is still observed in several parts of South America. The Tungusi use canoes made of birch bark, distended over ribs of wood, and nicely put together : the Canadian, and many other primitive American nations, use no other sort of boats. In fine, the conjectures of the learned, respecting the vicinity of the Old and New World, are now, by the discoveries of late navi. gators, lost in conviction ; and in the place of an imaginary hypothesis, the place of migration is almost incontrovertibly pointed out.
This vast country extends from the 80th degree of north latitude, to the 54th degree of south latitude; and where its breadth is known, from the 35th to the 136th degree west longitude from London, stretching between eight and nine thousand miles in length, and in its greatest breadth three thousand six hundred and ninety: it embraces both hemispheres; has two summers and a double winter, and enjoys almost all the variety of climates, which the earth affords.' It is washed by two great oceans : to the eastward it has the Atlantic, which separates it from Europe and Africa; to the west it has the Pacific or Great
South Sea, separating it from Asia. By these seas it carries on a direct commerce with all the other three parts of the World.
Next to the extent of the New World, the grand objects which it presents to view, must forcibly strike the eye of an observer. Nature seems here to have carried on her operations upon a larger scale, and with a bolder hand, and to have distinguished the features of this country by a peculiar magnificence. The mountains of America are much superior in height to those in the other divisions of the globe. The most elevated point of the Andes in South America, according to Don Ulloa, is twenty thousand two hundred and eighty feet, above the level of the sea ; which is at least two thousand one hundred and two feet, above the peak of Teneriffe, which is the highest known mountain in the ancient continent.
From the lofty and extensive mountains of America, descend rivers, with which the streams of Europe, Asia, or Africa, are not to be compared, either for length, or for the vast bodies of water, which they pour into the ocean. The Danube, the Indus, the Ganges, or the Nile, are not of equal magnitude, with the St. Laurence, the Missouri, or the Mississippi, in North America ; or with the Maragnon, the Orinoco, or the La Plata, in South America.
The lakes of the New World are not less conspicuous for grandeur than its mountains and rivers. There is nothing in the other parts of the globe which resembles the prodigious chain of lakes in North America; they might with propriety, be termed inland seas of fresh water ; even those of the second or third class, in magnitude, are of larger circuit (tlie Caspian sea excepted) than the greatest lake of the ancient continent.
Various causes have been assigned for the remarkable difference between the climate of the New continent and the Old. The opinion of the celebrated Dr. Robertson, on this subject, claims our attention. “ Though the utmost “extent of America towards the north, be not yet disco6 vered, we know that it advances nearer the pole than “either Europe or Asia. The latter have large seas to the “ north, which are open during part of the year; and even 6 when covered with ice, the wind that blows over them