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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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2171. DELUGE, Voltaire's Shell theory and.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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2171. DELUGE, Voltaire's Shell theory and.—

M. de Voltaire has suggested a third
solution of this difficulty (Quest Encycl. Coquilles ).
He cites an instance in Touraine,
where, in the space of 80 years a particular
spot of earth had been twice metamorphosed
into soft stone, which had become hard when
employed in building. In this stone, shells of
various kinds were produced, discoverable at
first only with the microscope, but afterwards
growing with the stone. From this fact, I suppose
he would have us infer that, besides the
usual process for generating shells by the elaboration
of earth and water in animal vessels,
nature may have provided an equivalent operation,
by passing the same materials through the
pores of calcareous earths and stones; as we
see calcareous drop-stones generating every day
by percolation of water through limestone and
new marble forming in the quarries from which
the old has been taken out; and it might be
asked, whether it is more difficult for nature to
shoot the calcareous juice into the form of a
shell, than other juices into the form of crystals,
plants, animals, according to the construction
of the vessels through which they pass?
There is a wonder somewhere. Is it greatest on
this branch of the dilemma; on that which supposes
the existence of a power of which we
have no evidence in any other case; or on the


Page 251
first, which requires us to believe the creation
of a body of water, and its subsequent annihilation?
The establishment of the instance, cited
by M. de Voltaire, of the growth of shells unattached
to animal bodies, would have been that
of his theory. But he has not established it.
He has not even left it on ground so respectable
as to have rendered it an object of inquiry to
the literati of his own country. Abandoing
this fact, therefore, the three hypotheses are
equally unsatisfactory; and we must be contented
to acknowledge that this great phenomenon
is as yet unsolved. Ignorance is preferable
to error; and he is less remote from truth who
believes nothing, than he who believes what is
Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 276. Ford ed., iii, 118.