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Taxation of government securities.. 476 United States banks in census report. 381
& mineral products of 553
money in a new way 581
157 Venezuela, duties on imports in..... 484
Wheat growing in Canada......... 456
crop for 1862 in England and
PETROLEUM, OLD AND NEW.
0. A. W.
PETROLEUM belongs to an extensive family, ancient as the hills, and honorable in history, whose surname is Bitumen. It has mixed and mingled with earthy matters, with fluids and with gases, till there's a fine tribe of half-bloods indeed, and it is hard work to tell who's who. In a pure state, however, they may be confined to four varieties. The most solid, which varies from the hardness of stone to the elasticity of india-rubber, is bitumen proper; the next in density, more plastic and pitchy, is asphaltum; the third, a thick fluid, is Petroleum; the last and most liquid is naptha. It takes a good many chemical formulas to express the precise component parts of each variety. Scientific people, who know so much more than the rest of us, dote upon whole battalions of initial letters, each with a little fraction tied to its heel; but if they had been out of school ever so many years, and had not studied much but life since, and that in a limited edition, they would be satisfied, as we are, with knowing that the substance in question contains a great amount of carbon, a sprinkling of hydrogen, a breath of oxygen, and sometimes the merest suspicion of nitrogen.
The difference between the most solid and most liquid forms, is so slight, chemically, as to be bardly worth mentioning, the temperature of the air, and the length of time for which they have been exposed to it, changing their consistency very greatly. They are found in widely separated locali. ties all over the world, and are almost invariably associated with springs of sulphurous or salt water, and with jets of carburett hydrogen gas. In some places they ooze slowly through the soil in scanty drops, or exude through fissures in the rocks; in others, they bubble up in quiet springs, or spout out from their subterraneous reservoirs with the vebemence of a fountain. As they spread away from the point of egress they cool and harden, until they frequently become entirely solidified, from which it may be inVOL. XLVII.-NO. I.
ferred that all the masses of bitumen found upon the surface of the earth, or within its depths, were once in a liquid state.
The very earliest record we have of a bituminous district, is in the ac. count of the Vale of Siddim, now sunk beneath the waves of the Dead Sea, with its four flourishing cities. It is said to bave been full of "slime pit-," so that when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were pursued by the four kings of the East, they fled there and perished. It may be that the doomed cities themselves were built with the asphaltic cement, so much used in those early times, and that this, with the bituminous nature of the soil about them, rendered the whole valley a ready prey to the ravages of the avenging flames: for when the fiat of destruction had gone forth, and “ Abram arose and looked toward the land of the plain, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” Volcanic action devastated the fair valley, and sunk it into the earth, and the Dead Sea covered it like a vast shroud.
Modern pilgrims to the Holy Land, are not satisfied like those of old, with bringing back a scollop-shell or a branch of palm; they return with whole coffers of curiosities, conspicuous among which are the peculiar Greek rosaries and ornaments made in the convents at Jerusalem, out of hardened pieces of asphaltum, from the shores of the Dead Sea. The asphaltum is found in profusion upon the barren margin of the sea, or floating in its dense, bitter waters. On the southern shore are chasms and pits tilled with slimy, half-fused bitumen, where unwary travelers have been lost. Hardly a vestige of vegetation can be seen upon the blighted soil, and mountains and plains are alike dreary and death-like. It is a wilderness of sand and salt, rock and asphaltum; the desert is all about it, and there is no human habitation near, except the desolate convent of Mar Saba, whose mournful bell tolls a nightly requiem for the souls of four cities.
The era of the first use of bitumen, dates back several hundred years before the record of its existence in the Vale of Siddim. The builders of the Tower of Babel used bricks made of clay, and "slime for mortar.” A little below the heap of ruins supposed to be those of the half-built Tower, upon the right bank of the Euphrates, are the celebrated Fountains of Is. Here the Petroleum has bubbled up, brown and oily, from the time of the food to the present day, cooling as it leaves the fountain, till it congeals into asphaltum. Alexander, and Travan, and Julian, in turn wondered at this marvel of nature. It was from this source, without a doubt, that the builders of Babel gathered their slimy mortar, and the Babylonians made from it an imperishable cement, with which all their amazing works were built. The walls of Babylon were made with it, those mighty walls, which enclosed two hundred and twenty-five square miles of land, and the population of a little planet; they were nearly a hundred feet thick at the base, so broad on the top that eight horses abreast could run there, and as tall as two Niagara Falls. Nebuchadnezzar was the great builder-king of ancient history ; bis skill designed and carried out the marvelous temple of Belus; he hemmed in the encroaching waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, with dykes of solid masonry; he built a reservoir, one hundred and forty miles in circumference, and made a vast canal broad and deep as a river and five hundred miles long, which stretched from the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf. All these were laid and cemented with the imperishable asphaltum. With this too, he built the royal palace, indulging his kingly fancy with a house six miles in circumference, and inclosed by three walls.
It was an extravagant fancy, even for a king, and the royal husband had hardly satisfied it, when the royal wife took a fancy too. Queen AmyTIS wanted a garden; she was tired of the dull plain of Shivar; her homesick heart went back to Ecbatana, the mountainous home of her childhood, and she longed for something that resembled it, something high and verdurous, a pleasure ground upon a hill. Petted women will have expensive fancies at times. CLEOPATRA's pickle of pearls was an acrid folly, and Catherine's ice-palace a frigid absurdity, but the caprice of Queen A Mytis was only a good impulse carried a little too far. The unperverted heart turns as naturally to a garden, as the heliotrope turns to the sun. Occasionally one finds in a city a stony-hearted wretch calling himself a man, who admires the intricacies of a Belgian pavement, especially at the corners, more than the mosaic of the most radiant parterre. Such a monster should not be suffered to run at large in an unsuspecting community; he should be drowned in a gutter, or hung from a derrick, or sent into quarantine, for he is a foe to civilization, to morality, and to religion. When the work of creation was done, did not the Lord God himself plant a garden and place therein two guileless souls, to delight in its beauty, and to guide its growth? And when through disobedience punishment became necessary, was it not a part of that punishment that the erring ones were sent out of the garden into a land that brought forth thorns and thistles ? Queen Ametis wanted a garden, and the king said she should have one. It was built within the palace walls. There was never seen such a pleasure ground as this ; vast nuinbers of pillars arched and vaulted, cemented with the indestructible asphaltum, which made whole columns like one stone for strength, sustained terrace after terrace, each higher than the one before it, till the last stood four hundred feet from the ground. Upon these various platforms were planted exquisite oriental shrubs, fragrant flowers, and waving palms; a great pyramid of verdure, which looked at a distance like a symmetrical mountain in the last excellence of culture. Artificial irrigation was a pet science among the ancients, and water for the garden was raised by machinery from the Euphrates four hundred feet below. Ametis was content with her mountain garden ; people came from distant nations to see them, and even the self satisfied Greeks, who always thought wisdom would die with them, acknowledged them to be worthy of a place among the wonders of the world. When Belshazzar had succeeded to the kingdom of his grandfather, and was feasting a thousand of his nobles in the very palace that NEBUCHADNEZZAR had built “ by the might of his power for the glory of bis majesty," while they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and of silver, in the same bour came forth fingers of a man's hand and wrote upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace. That was the last night of the last medean king. AmyTIS and NEBUCHADNEZZAR are names of the past ; the gardens and great works of masonry, with all their adm rers, crumbled into common dust centuries since; but still about the ruins of Babylon are found scattered fragments of the aucient bricks, and num. berless pieces of the asphaltum, in which they were laid, as untouched by time, as when they were first gathered upon the cool edges of the Fountain of Is.
The Babylonians were not alone in their use of bituminous substances ; for the Egyptians, if they employed them less largely, used them more perpetually and more strangely. ' These Ethiops must have been an extremely eccentric people ; square in their features, crooked in their morals, and ut
terly zig-zag in religion. Their spiritual state was quite obscure; they ordained priests of polywogs, and offered oblations to blue-tailed fies, with serene joy at their own piety. Among many other peculiarities of doctrine, they appear to have had a violent prejudice against allowing dust to return to dust, under the impression that the disembodied spirit, came back to its earthly tenement, after a lapse of years. From this belief, arose the practice of embalming the dead, in which process great quantities of bitumen were used. Not only was every human being that died embalmed, but also all the animals, reptiles, and insects that were considered sacred.
To comprehend in any measure the enormous amount of material required by this universal custom, we must remember the swarming popula: tion of Egypt; the average number of persons to the square mile, was greater that the densest population of modern times. Memphis, where six dynasties of kings flourished and declined through a thousand years, was a nation by itself; and Thebes was even greater—its area covered twenty-two miles, vast tide of life flowed daily in and out of one hundred gates, and its armed men went out to battle in time of war, in bands of twenty-five thousand through every gate. The mountains about Thebes, especially Gornoo, are tunneled in every direction, with the once gorgeous sepulchers of the Theban kings, and the plainer ones of the multitudes.
In those days, there was a large class of men trained to the trade, skillful and shrewd, who drove a thriving business in embalming. They kept patterns of coffins, and models of mummies, preserved with more or less elegance, which they showed to their patrons. The bereaved customer de. cided upon the style of embalming, and the number of coffins, according to his affection and the state of bis purse. A three hundred dollar mummy would be neat, but not tasteful; eight hundred dollars paid for one that was stylish ; twelve hundred dollars secured something decidedly rich, and one at fifteen hundred dollars was gorgeous. They paid their money and took their choice. The first step of the process of embalming, was to hook the brains out at the nostrils with a crooked iron, and the subsequent proceedings are unpleasant to describe. It is enough for a people that does not practice the art, to know that the body was disembowelled with care, its contents preserved with tenderness, its cavities filled with preparations of spices and petroleum, and that it was then exposed to a certain degree of heat, which sent the resinous exhalations into every fiber and tissue. To be thoroughly embalmed, an Egytian must undergo nearly as many contrary experiences as a London chronometer before it is pronounced infallible. He was beated and cooled, soaked and dried, shaken up and allowed to settle; he was bound in linen bandages from a quarter to a half a mile long, according to his rank, varnished with Petroleum, gilded on the end of his nose and the tips of his toes, laid in a coffin with a beetle at the top and a lizard at the bottom, and lo! a first chop mummy. Nothing could be more soothing to sorrowing friends ; the consciousness of possessing the best gotten up mummy of the season could not fail to alleviate the deepest grief. The dear departed was carried to the tomb of his ancestors, and set up against the wall to await the return of the soul. A number of sacred vases surrounded him, (containing the contents aforesaid,) which constituted a private and limited anatomical museum of his own, where he might have the felicity of gazing through ages at all those disagreeable internal arrangements which nature was so respectable as to conceal during life. So they have been waiting, waiting all these years, for the recreant spirit to return,