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light and descend from thence to the surface of the water, in a similar manner, as when a lighted candle is held so as to touch the smoke of a candle just blown out, the smoke will take fire, and the fire will descend and light up the candle. This was demonstrative evidence, that what was called setting the river on fire, was setting the inflammable air on fire, that arose out of the mud.
I mentioned this experiment to Mr. Rittenbouse of Philadelphia the next time I went to that city, and our opinion on the case was, that the air or vapour that issued from any combustible matter, (vegetable or otherwise) that underwent a dissolution and decomposition of its parts, either by fire or water in a confined place, so as not to blaze, would be inflammable, and would become flame whenever it came in contact with flame.
In order to determine if this was the case, we filled up the breach of a gun barrel about five or six inches with sawdust, and the upper part with dry sand to the top, and after spiking up the touch hole put the breach into a smith's furnace, and kept it red hot, so as to consume the saw-dust; the sand of consequence would prevent any blaze. We applied a lighted candle to the mouth of the barrel; as the first vapour that flew off would be humid, it extinguished the candle; but after applying the candle three or four times, the vapour that issued out began to flash; we then tied a bladder over the mouth of the barrel, which the vapour soon filled, and then tying a string round the neck of the bladder, above the muzzle, took the bladder off.
As we could not conveniently make experiments upon the vapour, while it was in the bladder, the next operation was, to get it into a phial; for this purpose, we took a phial of about three or four ounces, filled it with water, put a cork slightly into it, and introducing it into the neck of the bladder, worked the cork out, by getting hold of it through the bladder, into which the water then emptied itself, and the air in the bladder ascended into the phial; we then put the cork into the phial, and took it from the bladder. It was now in a convenient condition for experiment.
We put a lighted match into the phial, and the air or vapour in it blazed up in the manner of a chimney on fire: we extinguished it two or three times, by stopping the mouth of the phial, and putting the lighted match to it again; it repeatedly took fire, till the vapour was spent, and the phial b'ecame filled with atmospheric air.
These two experiments, that in which some combustible substance (branches and leaves of trees) had been decomposed by water, in the mud; and this, where the decomposition had been produced by fire, without blazing, shews, that a species of air injurious to life, when taken into the lungs, may be generated from substances, which in themselves are harmless.
It is by means similar to these, that charcoal, which is made by fire without blazing, emits a vapour destructive to life. I now come to apply these cases, and the reasoning deduced therefrom, to account for the cause of the Yellow Fever.*
First:—The Yellow Fever is not a disorder produced by the climate naturally, or it would always have been here in the hot months; the climate is the same now, as it was fifty, or an hundred years ago; there was no Yellow Fever then, and it is only within the last twelve years, that such a disorder has been known to America.
Secondly:—The low grounds on the shores of the rivers, at the cities, where the Yellow Fever is annually generated, and continues about three months, without spreading, were not subject to that disorder in their natural state, or the Indians would have forsaken them; whereas, they were the parts most frequented by the Indians in all seasons of the year, on account of fishing. The result from these cases is, that the Yellow Fever is produced by some new circumstance not common to the country in its natural state, and the question is, what is that new circumstance?
It may be said, that every thing done by the white people, since their settlement in the country such as building towns, clearing lands, levelling hills, and filling up vallies, is a new circumstance, but the Yellow Fever does not accompany any of these new circumstances. No alteration made on the dry land produces the Yellow Fever, we must therefore look to some other new circumstance, and we come now to those that have taken place between wet and dry, between land and water.
The shores of the rivers at New York, and also at Philadelphia, have on account of the vast increase of commerce,
* The Author does not mean to infer that the inflammable air, or Carburretted Hydrogen gas, is the cause of the Yellow Fever; but that perhaps it enters into some combination with Miasm generated in low grounds, which produces the disease.
and for the sake of making wharfs, undergone great and rapid alterations from their natural state, within a few years; and it is only in such parts of the shores, where those alterations have taken place, that the Yellow Fever has been produced. The parts where little or no alteration has been made, either on the East or North River, and which continue in their natural state, or nearly so, do not produce the Yellow Fever—the fact therefore points to the cause.
Besides several new streets gained from the river by emhankment, there are upwards of eighty new wharfs made since the war, and the much greater part within the last ten or twelve years; the consequence of which has been, that great quantities of filth or combustible matter deposited in the muddy bottom of the river contiguous to the shore, and which produced uo ill effect while exposed to the air, and washed twice every twenty-four hours by the tide water, have been covered over several feet deep with new earth, and pent up, and the tide excluded. It is in these places, and in these only, that the Yellow Fever is produced.
Having thus shewn, from the circumstances of the case, that the cause of the Yellow Fever is in the place where it makes its appearance, or rather, in the pernicious vapour issuing therefrom, I go to shew a method of constructiug wharfs, where wharfs are yet to be constructed, as on the shore on the East River, at Corlder's Hook, and also on the North River, that will not occasion the Yellow Fever, and which may also point out a method of removing it from places already infected with it. Instead then of emhanking out the river and raising solid wharfs of earth on the mud bottom of the shore: the better method would be to construct wharfs on arches, built of stone; the tide will then flow in under the arch, by which means the shore, and the muddy bottom will be washed and kept clean, as if they were in their natural state without wharfs.
When wharfs are constructed on the shore lengthways, that is without cutting the shore up into slips, arches can easily be turned, because, arches joining each other lengthways, serve as butments to each other, but when the shore is cut up into slips there can be no buttments; in this case wharfs can be formed on stone pillars, or wooden piles planked over on the top. In either of these cases, the space underneath will be commodious shelter or harbour for small boats, which cau go in and come out always, except at low water, and be secure from storms and injuries This method, besides preventing the cause of the Yellow Fever, which I think it will, will render the wharfs more productive than the present method, because of the space preserved within the wharf.
I offer no calculation of the expence of constructing wharfs on arches or piles; but on a general view, I believe they will not be so expensive as the present method. A very great part of the expence of making solid wharfs of earth, is occasioned by the carriage of materials, which will be greatly reduced by the methods here proposed, and still more so were the arches to be constructed of cast iron blocks. I suppose that one ton of cast iron blocks, would go as far in the construction of an arch, as twenty tons of stone.
If, by constructing wharfs in such a manner, that the tide water can wash the shore and bottom of the river contiguous to the shore, as they are washed in their natural condition, the Yellow Fever, can be prevented from generating in places where wharfs are yet to be constructed, it may point out a method of removing it, at least by degrees from places already infected with it, which will be, by opening the wharfs in two or three places in each, and letting the tide water pass through; the parts opened can be planked over, so as not to prevent the use of the wharf.
In taking up and treating this subject, I have considered it as belonging to natural philosophy, rather than medicinal art: and therefore I say nothing about the treatment of the disease, after it takes place; I leave that part to those whose profession it is to study it.
New York, June 27,1806.
ON LOUISIANA, AND EMISSARIES.
The latest news from New Orleans, in a letter from Major Claiborne, dated New Orleans, August 29th, says, " It is now within a few minutes of the time when letters must go to the Post-Oface. I have waited to give you some information from Natchitoches, in case any should arrive, but no dispatches are received from Governor Claiborne, nor do we hear any thing more of (the Spanish) Governor Taxoa and his nine hundred men.
The city of New Orleans is in perfect tranquillity, and the inhabitants thereof, and oftlie country (Louisiana} continue to enjoy good health."
Carpenter's Emissary Paper asserted a few days ago, that terrible discontents existed in Louisiana, and that Buonaparte would avail himself thereof, and seize upon that country. The man who asserts and circulates false reports ought to be prosecuted. The press is free for the discussion of principle but not for lying.
Pierpont Edwards has taken the liars and alarmists of Connecticut in hand, and I hope he will not let those of New York escape.
We have in all our cities and sea-ports, a considerable number of men, chiefly dry good merchants, who are parties or agents of British merchants; these men want to embroil us with France and Spain, and there is no lying they will stick at to promote it; but they had better pack themselves off, for if liuonaparte should come, as they predict, and ought to be afraid of, he will trim their jackets, and make them pay theexpence; and as to Carpenter, his nose will go to the grindstone. But the fellow, if caught, will turn informer and impeach his employers. "Here," he will say, "is my list of subscribers, fall on them. I will shew you where they live, and where their property is.
The continual abuse and blackguardism in Carpenter's paper against France and Spain ought not to be permitted. If he must do it, let him go back to his own country and do it. France has always behaved with honour to the United States, and we are perfectly easy on that score. It was by her aid we drove off the British invaders in the revolutionary