* Of devouring fire. l. 212. The first and most important discovery of mankind seems to have been that of fire. For many ages it is probable fire was esteemed a dangerous enemy, known only by its dreadful devastations; and that many lives must have been lost, and many dangerous burns and wounds must have afflicted those who first dared to subject it to the uses of life. It is said that the tall monkies of Borneo and Sumatra lie down with pleasure ruond any accidental fire in their woods; and are arrived to that degree of reason, that knowledge of causation, that they thrust into the remaining fire the half-burnt ends of the branches to prevent its going out. One of the nobles of the cultivated people of Otaheita, when Captain Cook treated them with tea, catched the boiling water in his hand from the cock of the tea-urn, and bellowed with pain, not conceiving that water could become hot, like red fire.
Tools of steel constitute another important discovery in consequence of fire; and contributed perhaps principally to give the European nations so great superiority over the American world. By these two agents, fire and tools of steel, mankind became able to cope with the vegetable kingdom, and conquer provinces of forests, which in uncul∣tivated countries almost exclude the growth of other vegetables, and of those animals which are necessary to our existence. Add to this, that the quantity of our food is also increased by the use of fire, for some vegetables become salutary food by means of the heat used in cookery, which are naturally either noxious or difficult of digestion; as potatoes, kidney-beans, onions, cabbages. The cassava when made into bread, is perhaps rendered mild by the heat it undergoes, more than by expressing its superfluous juice. The roots of white bryony and of arum, I am informed lose much of their acrimony by boiling.
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