nature rarely hesitated as to the means. His courage was sullied with cruelty, the cruelty that flowed equally, strange as it may seem, from his avarice and his religion; religion as it was understood in that age, the religion of the Crusader. It was the convenient cloak for a multitude of sins, which covered them even from himself.

The Castilian, too proud for hypocrisy, committed more cruelties in the name of religion than were ever practised by the pagan idolater or the fanatical Moslem. The burning of the infidel was a sacrifice acceptable to Heaven, and the conversion of those who survived amply atoned for the foulest offences. It is a melancholy and mortifying consideration that the most uncompromising spirit of intolerance the spirit of the Inquisitor at home, and of the Crusader abroad should have emanated from a religion which preached "peace upon earth and good-will towards man"!

What a contrast did these children of Southern Europe present to the Anglo-Saxon races, who scattered themselves along the great northern division of the Western Hemisphere! For the principle of action with these latter was not avarice, nor the more specious pretext of proselytism; but independence, — independence religious and political. To secure this, they were content to earn a bare subsistence by a life of frugality and toil. They asked nothing from the soil but the reasonable returns of their own labor. No golden visions threw a deceitful halo around their path, and beckoned them onwards through seas of blood to the subversion of an unoffending dynasty. They were content with the slow but steady progress of their social polity. They patiently endured the privations of the wilderness, watering the tree of liberty with their tears and with the sweat of their brow, till it took deep root in the land and sent up its branches high towards the heavens, while the communities of the neighboring continent, shooting up into the sudden splendors of a tropical vegetation, exhibited, even in their prime, the sure symptoms of decay.

It would seem to have been especially ordered by Providence, that the discovery of the two great divisions of the American Hemisphere should fall to the two races best fitted to conquer and colonize them. Thus the northern section was consigned to the Anglo-Saxon race, whose orderly, industrious habits found an ample field for development under its colder skies and on its more rugged soil; while the southern portion, with its rich tropical products and treasures of mineral wealth, held out the most attractive bait to invite the enterprise of

the Spaniard. How different might have been the result, if the bark of Columbus had taken a more northerly direction, as he at one time meditated, and landed its band of adventurers on the shores of what is now Free America.


THE parties closed with the desperate fury of men who had no hope but in victory. Quarter was neither asked nor given; and to fly was impossible. The edge of the area was unprotected by parapet or battlement. The least slip would be fatal; and the combatants, as they struggled in mortal agony, were sometimes seen to roll over the sheer sides of the precipice together. The battle lasted with unintermitting fury for three hours. The number of the enemy was double that of the Christians; and it seemed as if it were a contest which must be determined by numbers and brute force, rather than by superior science. But it was not so. The invulnerable armor of the Spaniard, his sword of matchless temper, and his skill in the use of it gave him advantages which far outweighed the odds of physical strength and numbers. After doing all that the courage of despair could enable men to do, resistance grew fainter and fainter on the side of the Aztecs. One after another they had fallen. Two or three priests only survived to be led away in triumph by the victors. Every other combatant was stretched a corpse on the bloody arena, or had been hurled from the giddy heights. The loss of the Spaniards amounted to forty-five of their best men; and nearly all the remainder were more or less injured in the desperate conflict. The victorious cavaliers now rushed towards the sanctuaries. Penetrating into their recesses, they had the mortification to find the image of the Virgin and Cross removed. But in the other edifice they still beheld the grim figure of the Mexican Idol, with his censer of smoking hearts, and the walls of his oratory reeking with gore, not improbably of their own countrymen. With shouts of triumph the Christians tore the uncouth monster from his niche, and tumbled him, in the presence of the horror-struck Aztecs, down the steps of the teocalli. They then set fire to the accursed building. The flame speedily ran up the slender towers, sending forth an ominous light over city, lake, and valley, to the remotest hut among the mountains. It was the funeral pyre of paganism, and proclaimed the fall of that sanguinary religion which had so long hung like a dark cloud over the fair regions of Anahuac.

[ocr errors]



SIR CHARLES LYELL, an eminent English geologist, was born in 1797, and lived in the enjoyment of full intellectual vigor until the early part of 1875, when he died. He ranks among the foremost of scientific discoverers and writers of the present century. His best-known works, The Principles of Geology, The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, Travels in North America, and its sequel, A Second Visit to the United States, have been widely read in this country, and valued for their candid views of American institutions, and for the vast fund of geological information which they contain. His style is well suited to scientific composition, and invests his books with a charm which is rarely found in works of such solid character.


THERE are many swamps or morasses in this low, flat region, and one of the largest of these occurs between the towns of Norfolk and Weldon. We traversed several miles of its northern extremity on the railway, which is supported on piles. It bears the appropriate and very expressive name of the "Great Dismal," and is no less than forty miles in length from north to south, and twenty-five miles in its greatest width from east to west, the northern half being situated in Virginia, the southern in North Carolina. I observed that the water was obviously in motion in several places, and the morass had somewhat the appearance of a broad inundated river-plain, covered with all kinds of aquatic trees and shrubs, the soil being as black as in a peatbog. The accumulation of vegetable matter going on here in a hot climate, over so vast an area, is a subject of such high geological interest, that I shall relate what I learnt of this singular morass. It is one enormous quagmire, soft and muddy, except where the surface is rendered partially firm by a covering of vegetables and their matted roots; yet, strange to say, instead of being lower than the level of the surrounding country, it is actually higher than nearly all the firm and dry land which encompasses it, and, to make the anomaly complete, in spite of its semi-fluid character, it is higher in the intcrior than towards its margin.

The only exception to both these statements is found on the western side, where, for the distance of about twelve or fifteen miles, the streams flow from slightly elevated but higher land, and supply all its abundant and overflowing water. Towards the north, the east, and the south the waters flow from the swamp to different rivers, which

give abundant evidence, by the rate of their descent, that the Great Dismal is higher than the surrounding firm ground. This fact is also confirmed by the measurements made in leveling for the railway from Portsmouth to Suffolk, and for two canals cut through different parts of the morass, for the sake of obtaining timber. The railway itself, when traversing the Great Dismal, is literally higher than when on the land some miles distant on either side, and is six to seven feet higher than where it passes over dry ground near to Suffolk and Portsmouth. Upon the whole, the center of the morass seems to lie more than ` twelve feet above the flat country round it. If the streams which now flow in from the west had for ages been bringing down black fluid mire instead of water, over the firm subsoil, we might suppose the ground so inundated as to have acquired its present configuration. Some small ridges, however, of land must have existed in the original plain or basin, for these now rise like low islands in various places above the general surface. But the streams to the westward do not bring down liquid mire, and are not charged with any sediment. The soil of the swamp is formed of vegetable matter, usually without any admixture of earthy particles. We have here, in fact, a deposit of peat from ten to fifteen feet in thickness, in a latitude where, owing to the heat of the sun and length of the summer, no peat-mosses like those of Europe would be looked for under ordinary circumstances.

In countries like Scotland and Ireland, where the climate is damp, and the summer short and cool, the natural vegetation of one year does not rot away during the next in moist situations. If water flows into such land it is absorbed, and promotes the vigorous growth of mosses and other aquatic plants, and when they die the same water arrests their putrefaction. But, as a general rule, no such accumulation of peat can take place in a country like that of Virginia, where the summer's heat causes annually as large a quantity of dead plants to decay as is equal in amount to the vegetable matter produced. in one year.

There are many trees and shrubs in the region of the Pine Barrens (and the same may be said of the United States generally) which, like our willows, flourish luxuriantly in water. The juniper trees, or white cedar, stand firmly in the softest part of the quagmire, supported by their long tap-roots, and afford, with many other evergreens, a dark shade, under which a multitude of ferns, reeds, and shrubs, from nine to eighteen feet high, and a thick carpet of mosses, four or five

inches high, spring up, and are protected from the rays of the sun. When these are most powerful, the large cedar and many other deciduous trees are in full leaf. The black soil formed beneath this shade, to which the mosses and the leaves make annual additions, does not perfectly resemble the peat of Europe, most of the plants being so decayed as to leave little more than soft black mud, without any traces of organization. This loose soil is called sponge by the laborers; and it has been ascertained that when exposed to the sun and thrown out on the bank of a canal where clearings have been made, it rots entirely away. Hence it is evident that it owes its preservation in theswamp to moisture and the shade of the dense foliage. The evaporation continually going on in the wet, spongy soil during summer cools the air and generates a temperature resembling that of a more northern climate, or a region more elevated above the level of the


Numerous trunks of large and tall trees lie buried in the black mire of the morass. In so loose a soil they are easily overthrown by winds, and nearly as many have been found lying beneath the surface of the peaty soil as standing erect upon it. When thrown down, they are soon covered by water, and keeping wet, they never decompose, except the sap-wood, which is less than an inch thick. Much of the timber is obtained by sounding a foot or two below the surface, and it is sawn into planks while half under water.

The Great Dismal has been described as being highest towards its center. Here, however, there is an extensive lake of an oval form, seven miles long and more than five wide, the depth, where greatest, fifteen feet; and its bottom consisting of mud like the swamp, but sometimes with a pure white sand, a foot deep, covering the mud. The water is transparent, though tinged of a pale brown color, like that of our peat-mosses, and contains abundance of fish. This sheet of water is usually even with its banks, on which a thick and tall forest grows. There is no beach, for the bank sinks perpendicularly, so that if the waters are lowered several feet, it makes no alteration in the breadth of the lake.

Much timber has been cut down and carried out from the swamp by means of canals, which are perfectly straight for long distances, with the trees on each side arching over, and almost joining their branches across, so that they throw a dark shade on the water, which of itself looks black, being colored as before mentioned. When the boats

« VorigeDoorgaan »