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Theory of the Earth, by James Hutton, [1788 and 1795], at





By the present theory, the earth on which we dwell is represented as having been formed originally in horizontal strata at the bottom of the ocean; hence it should appear, that the land, in having been raised from the sea, and thus placed upon a higher level, had been of a different shape and condition from that in which we find it at the present time. This is a proposition now to be considered.

In whatever order and disposition the hard and solid parts of the land were at the time of its emerging from the surface of the sea, no provision would have then been made for conducting the rivers of the earth; therefore, the water from the heavens, moving from the summits of the land to the shores, must have formed for themselves those beds or channels in which the rivers run at present; beds which have successively changed their places over immense extents of plains that have often been both destroyed and formed again; and beds which run between the skirts of hills that have correspondent angles, for no other reason but because the river has hollowed out its way between them.

In this view of things, the form of our land must be considered as having been determined by three different causes, all of which have operated, more or less, in producing the present state of those things which we examine. First, There is a regular stratification of the materials, from whence we know the original structure, shape, and situation of the subject. Secondly, There are the operations of the mineral region, some of which have had regular effects upon the strata, as we find in the veins or contractions of the consolidated masses; others have had more irregular effects, but which may still be distinguished by means of our knowing the original state and structure of those masses. Lastly, There are operations proper to the surface of this globe, by which the form of the habitable earth may be affected; operations of which we understand both the causes and the effects, and, therefore, of which we may form principles for judging of the past, as well as of the future. Such are the operations of the fun and atmosphere, of the wind and water, of the rivers and the tides.

It is the joint operation and result of those three different causes that are to be perceived in the general appearances of this earth, and not the effects of any one alone; although, in particular places of the earth, the operation peculiar to each of these may be considered by itself, in abstracting those of the others, more or less. Thus there are several views in which the subject is to be examined, in order to find facts with which the result of the theory may be compared, and by which confirmation may be procured to our reasoning, as well as explanation of the phenomena in question.

Next: Chapter I. Facts in confirmation of the Theory of Elevating Land above the Surface of the Sea