AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE AMONG THE INDIANS OF NORTH-AMERICA, AND A COMPARATIVE VIEW OF THEIR DISEASES AND REMEDIES, WITH THOSE OF CIVILIZED NATIONS. Read before the AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, held at PHILADELPHIA, on the 4th of February, 1774.
I RISE with peculiar diffidence to address you upon this occasion, when I reflect upon the entertain|ment you proposed to yourselves from the eloquence of that learned member, Mr. CHARLES THOMPSON, whom your suffrages appointed to this honor after the delivery of the last anniversary oration. Unhappily for the interests of literature, his want of health has not permitted him to comply with your appointment. I beg therefore that you would forget for a while, the abilities necessary to execute this task with propriety, and listen with candor to the efforts of a member, whose attachment to the society, was the only qualifi|cation that entitled him to the honor of your choice.
Page 10 THE subject I have chosen for this evening's enter|tainment, is
I SHALL first limit the tribes of Indians who are to be the objects of this inquiry, to those who inhabit that part of North-America which extends from the 30th to the 60th degree of latitude. When we exclude the Esquimaux, who inhabit the shores of Hudson's bay, we shall find a general resemblance in the color, man|ners, and state of society, among all the tribes of In|dians who inhabit that extensive tract of country.
CIVILIANS have divided nations into savage, bar|barous, and civilized. The savage, live by fishing and hunting. The barbarous, by pasturage or cattle; and the civilized by agriculture. Each of these is connect|ed together in such a manner that the whole appear to form different parts of a circle. Even the manners of the most civilized nations partake of those of the savage. It would seem as if liberty and indolence were the Page 11 highest pursuits of man; and these are enjoyed in their greatest perfection by savages, or in the practice of customs which resemble those of savages.
THE Indians of North-America partake chiefly of the manners of savages. In the earliest accounts we have of them, we find them cultivating a spot of ground. The maize is an original grain among them. The different dishes of it which are in use among the white people still retain Indian names.
IT will be unnecessary to show that the Indians live in a state of society adapted to all the exigencies of their mode of life. Those who look for the simplicity and perfection of the state of nature, must seek it in systems, as absurd in philosophy, as they are delightful in poetry.
BEFORE we attempt to ascertain the number or history of the diseases of the Indians, it will be neces|sary to inquire into those customs among them which we know influence diseases. For this purpose I shall,
- First, Mention a few facts which relate to the birth and treatment of their children.
- Secondly, I shall speak of their diet.
- Thirdly, Of the customs peculiar to each of the sexes. And,
- Fourthly, Of those customs which are common to them both*.
Page 12 I. Of the birth and treatment of their children.
MUCH of the future health of the body depends up|on its original stamina. A child born of healthy pa|rents always brings into the world a system formed by nature to resist the causes of diseases. The treatment of children among the Indians, tends to secure this hereditary firmness of constitution. Their first food is their mother's milk. To harden them against the ac|tion of heat and cold (the natural enemies of health and life among the Indians) they are plunged every day in cold water. In order to facilitate their being moved from place to place, and at the same time, to preserve their shape, they are tied to a board, where they lie on their backs for six, ten, or eighteen months. A child generally sucks its mother till it is two years old, and sometimes longer. It is easy to conceive how much vigor their bodies must acquire from this simple, but wholesome nourishment. The appetite we sometimes observe in children for flesh, is altogether artificial. The peculiar irritability of the system in infancy, for|bids stimulating aliment of all kinds. Nature never calls for animal food till she has provided the child with those teeth which are necessary to divide it. I shall not undertake to determine how far the wholesome qua|lity of the mother's milk is increased by her refusing the embraces of her husband, during the time of giv|ing suck.
Page 13 II. THE diet of the Indians is of a mixed nature, being partly animal and partly vegetable; their animals are wild, and therefore easy of digestion. As the In|dians are naturally more disposed to the indolent em|ployment of fishing than hunting in summer, so we find them living more upon fish than land animals, in that season of the year. Their vegetables consist of roots and fruits, mild in themselves, or capable of being made so by the action of fire. Although the interior parts of our continent abound with salt springs, yet I cannot find that the Indians used salt in their diet, till they were instructed to do so by the Europeans. The small quantity of fixed alkali contained in the ashes on which they roasted their meat, could not add much to its stimulating quality. They preserve their meat from putrefaction, by cutting it into small pieces, and ex|posing it in summer to the sun, and in winter to the frost. In the one case its moisture is dissipated, and in the other so frozen, that it cannot undergo the putrefactive process. In dressing their meat, they are careful to preserve its juices. They generally prefer it in the form of soups. Hence we find, that among them, the use of the spoon preceded that of the knife and fork. They take the same pains to preserve the juice of their meat when they roast it, by turning it often. The efficacy of this animal juice in dissolving meat in the stomach, has not been equalled by any of those sauces or liquors, which modern luxury has mix|ed with it for that purpose.
THE Indians have no set time for eating, but obey the gentle appetites of nature as often as they call them. After whole days spent in the chase or in war, they often commit those excesses in eating, to which long abstinence cannot fail of prompting them. It is com|mon Page 14 to see them spend three or four hours in satisfying their hunger. This is occasioned not more by the quantity they eat, than by the pains they take in mas|ticating it.
III. WE come now to speak of those customs which are peculiar to the sexes. And, first, of those which belong to the WOMEN. They are doomed by their husbands to such domestic labor as gives a firmness to their bodies, bordering upon the masculine. Their menses seldom being to flow before they are eighteen or twenty years of age, and generally cease before they are forty. They have them in small quantities, but at regular intervals. They seldom marry till they are above twenty. The constitution has now acquired a vigor, which enables it the better to support the con|vulsions of childbearing. This custom likewise guards against a premature old age. Doctor Bancroft ascribes the haggard looks—the loose hanging breasts—and the prominent bellies of the Indian women at Guiana, en|tirely to their bearing children too early*. Where marriages are unfruitful (which is seldom the case) a separation is obtained by means of an easy divorce; so that they are unacquainted with the disquietudes which sometimes arise from barrenness. During pregnancy, the women are exempted from the more laborious parts of their duty: hence miscarriages rarely happen a|mong them. Nature is their only midwife. Their labors are short, and accompanied with little pain. Each woman is delivered in a private cabbin, without so much as one of her own sex to attend her. After wash|ing herself in cold water, she returns in a few days to her usual employments; so that she knows nothing of those accidents which arise from the carelessness or ill Page 15 management of midwives, or those weaknesses which arise from a month's confinement in a warm room. It is remarkable that there is hardly a period in the in|terval between the eruption and the ceasing of the menses, in which they are not pregnant, or giving suck. This is the most natural state of the constitu|tion during that interval; and hence we often find it connected with the best state of health in the women of civilized nations.
THE customs peculiar to the Indian MEN, consist chiefly in those employments which are necessary to preserve animal life, and to defend their nation. These employments are hunting and war, each of which is conducted in a manner that tends to call forth every fibre into exercise, and to ensure them the possession of the utmost possible health. In times of plenty and peace, we see them sometimes rising from their be|loved indolence, and shaking off its influence by the salutary exercises of dancing and swimming. The In|dian men seldom marry before they are thirty years of age: They no doubt derive considerable vigor from this custom; for while they are secured by it from the enervating effects of the premature dalliance of love, they may ensure more certain fruitfulness to their wives, and entail more certain health upon their children. Tacitus describes the same custom among the Germans, and attributes to it the same good effects.
Page 16 AMONG the Indian men, it is deemed a mark of heroism to bear the most exquisite pain without com|plaining; upon this account they early inure them|selves to burning part of their bodies with fire, or cutting them with sharp instruments. No young man can be admitted to the honors of manhood or war, who has not acquitted himself well in these trials of patience and fortitude. It is easy to conceive how much this contributes to give a tone to the nervous system, which renders it less subject to the occasional causes of diseases.
IV. WE come now to speak of those customs which are common to both sexes: These are PAINT|ING, and the use of the COLD BATH. The practice of anointing the body with oil is common to the sa|vages of all countries; in warm climates it is said to promote longevity, by checking excessive perspiration. The Indians generally use bears grease mixed with a clay, which bears the greatest resemblance to the co|lor of their skins. This pigment serves to lessen the sensibility of the extremities of the nerves; it more|over fortifies them against the action of those exha|lations, which we shall mention hereafter, as a con|siderable source of their diseases. The COLD BATH likewise fortifies the body, and renders it less subject to those diseases which arise from the extremes and vicissitudes of heat and cold. We shall speak here|after of the Indian manner of using it.
THE state of society among the Indians excludes the influence of most of those passions which disorder the body. The turbulent effects of anger are con|cealed in deep and lasting resentments. Envy and ambition are excluded by their equality of power and Page 17 property. Nor is it necessary that the perfections of the whole sex should be ascribed to one, to induce them to marry.
IT is remarkable that there are no deformed In|dians. Some have suspected from this circumstance, that they put their deformed children to death; but nature here acts the part of an unnatural mother. The severity of the Indian manners destroys them†.
FROM a review of the customs of the Indians, we need not be surprised at the stateliness, regularity of features, and dignity of aspect by which they are cha|racterized. Where we observe these among our|selves, there is always a presumption of their being accompanied with health, and a strong constitution.
HAVING finished our inquiry into the physical customs of the Indians, we shall proceed now to in|quire into their diseases.
Page 18 A CELEBRATED professor of anatomy has asserted, that we could not tell by reasoning a priori, that the body was mortal, so intimately woven with its tex|ture are the principles of life. Lord Bacon declares, that the only cause of death which is natural to man, is that from old age; and complains of the imper|fection of physic, in not being able to guard the prin|ciple of life, until the whole of the oil that feeds it is consumed. We cannot admit of this proposition of our noble philosopher. In the inventory of the grave in every country, we find more of the spoils of youth and manhood than of age. This must be attributed to moral as well as physical causes.
WE need only recollect the custom among the In|dians, of sleeping in the open air in a variable cli|mate—the alternate actions of heat and cold upon their bodies, to which the warmth of their cabbins exposes them—their long marches—their excessive exercise—their intemperance in eating, to which their long fast|ing, and their public feasts naturally prompt them; and, lastly, the vicinity of their habitations to the banks of rivers, in order to discover the empire of diseases among them in every stage of their lives. They have in vain attempted to elude the general laws of mortality, while their mode of life subjects them to these remote, but certain causes of diseases.
FROM what we know of the action of these poten|tiae nocentes upon the human body, it will hardly be necessary to appeal to facts to determine that FEVERS constitute the only diseases among the Indians. These fevers are occasioned by the sensible and insensible qualities of the air. Those which are produced by cold, are of the inflammatory kind, such as pleurisies, Page 19 peripneumonies, and rheumatisms. Those which are produced by the insensible qualities of the air, or by putrid exhalations, are intermitting, putrid, and in|flammatory, according as the exhalations are combined with more or less heat or cold. The DYSENTERY (which is an Indian disease) comes under the class of fevers. It is the febris introversa of Dr. Sydenham.
THE Indians are subject to ANIMAL and VEGE|TABLE POISONS. The effects of these upon the body, are in some degree analogous to the exhalations we have mentioned. When they do not bring on sudden death, they produce, according to their ma|lignity, either an inflammatory or putrid fever.
THE SMALL POX and the VENEREAL DISEASE were communicated to the Indians in North-America by the Europeans. Nor can I find that they were ever subject to the SCURVY. Whether this was ob|viated by their method of preserving their flesh, or by their mixing it at all times with vegetables, I shall not undertake to determine. Doctor Maclurg ascribes to fresh meat an antiseptic quality*. The peculiar customs and manners of life among the Indians, seem to have exempted them from these, as well as all other diseases of the fluids. The leprosy, elephantiasis, scurvy, and venereal disease, appear to be different modifications of the same primary disorder. The same causes produce them in every age and country. They are diversified like plants by climate and nou|rishment. They all sprung originally from a moist atmosphere and unwholesome diet: hence we read of their prevailing so much in the middle centuries, when Page 20 the principal parts of Europe were overflowed with water, and the inhabitants lived entirely on fish, and a few unwholesome vegetables. The abolition of the feudal system in Europe by introducing freedom, in|troduced at the same time agriculture; which by mul|tiplying the fruits of the earth, lessened the consump|tion of animal food, and thus put a stop to these dis|orders. The elephantiasis is almost unknown in Eu|rope. The leprosy is confined chiefly to the low countries of Africa. The plica polonica once so common in Poland, is to be found only in books of medicine. The venereal disease will probably in a few years cease to be a tax upon unlawful embraces. The small pox is no longer a fatal disorder, when the body is prepared for its reception by a vegetable re|gimen. Even the plague itself is losing its sting. It is hardly dreaded at this time in Turkey; and its very existence is preserved there by the doctrine of fatalism, which prevails among the inhabitants of that country. It may serve as a new and powerful motive against po|litical slavery to perceive, that it is connected with those diseases which most deform and debase the hu|man body. It may likewise serve to enhance the bles|sings of liberty, to trace its effects, in eradicating such loathsome and destructive disorders*.
Page 21 I HAVE heard of two or three cases of the GOUT among the Indians, but it was only among those who had learned the use of rum from the white people. A question naturally occurs here, and that is; why does not the gout appear more frequently among that class of people, who consume the greatest quantity of rum among ourselves? To this I answer, that the effects of this liquor upon those enfeebled people, are too sudden and violent, to admit of their being thrown upon the extremities; as we know them to be among the Indians. They appear only in visceral obstructi|ons, and a complicated train of chronic diseases. Thus putrid miasmata are sometimes too strong to bring on a fever, but produce instant debility and death. The gout is seldom heard of in Russia, Denmark, or Po|land. Is this occasioned by the vigor of constitution peculiar to the inhabitants of those northern countries? or is it caused by their excessive use of spirituous liquors, which produce the same chronic complaints Page 22 among them, which we said were common among the lower class of people in this country? The similarity of their diseases makes the last of these suppositions the most probable. The effects of wine, like tyranny in a well formed government, are felt first in the ex|tremities; while spirits, like a bold invader, seize at once upon the vitals of the constitution.
AFTER much inquiry, I have not been able to find a single instance of MADNESS, MELANCHOLY, or FATUITY among the Indians; nor can I find any ac|counts of diseases from WORMS among them. Worms are common to most animals; they produce diseases only in weak, or increase them in strong constitutions*. Hence they have no place in the nosological systems of physic. Nor does DENTITION appear to be a disor|der among the Indians. The facility with which the healthy children of healthy parents cut their teeth, among civilized nations, gives us reason to conclude that the Indian children never suffer from this quarter.
THE Indians appear moreover to be strangers to diseases and pains in the teeth.
THE employments of the Indians subject them to many accidents; hence we sometimes read of WOUNDS, FRACTURES, and LUXATIONS among them.
HAVING thus pointed out the natural diseases of the Indians, and shown what disorders are foreign to them; we may venture to conclude, that FEVERS, Page 23 OLD AGE, CASUALTIES and WAR are the only na|tural outlets of human life. War is nothing but a distemper; it is founded in the imperfection of politi|cal bodies, just as fevers are founded on the weakness of the animal body.—Providence in these diseases seems to act like a mild legislature, which mitigates the se|verity of death, by inflicting it in a manner the least painful upon the whole, to the patient and the survi|vors.
LET us now inquire into the REMEDIES of the In|dians. These, like their diseases, are simple, and few in number. Among the first of them we shall men|tion the POWERS of NATURE. Fevers we said for|merly, constituted the chief of the diseases among the Indians; they are likewise, in the hands of nature, the principal instruments to remove the evils which threaten her dissolution; but the event of these efforts of nature, no doubt, soon convinced the Indians of the danger of trusting her in all cases; and hence in the earliest accounts we have of their manners, we read of persons who were intrusted with the office of phy|sicians.
IT will be difficult to find out the exact order in which the Indian remedies were suggested by nature, or discovered by art; nor will it be easy to arrange them in proper order. I shall however attempt it, by reducing them to NATURAL and ARTIFICIAL.
To the class of NATURAL REMEDIES belongs the Indian practice, of abstracting from their patients all kinds of stimulating aliment. The compliance of the Indians with this dictate of nature, in the early stage of a disorder, no doubt, prevents in many cases, their Page 24 being obliged to use any other remedy. They follow nature still closer, in allowing their patients to drink plentifully of cold water; this being the only liquor a patient calls for in a fever.
SWEATING is likewise a natural remedy. It was probably suggested by observing fevers to be terminated by it. I shall not inquire how far these sweats are essential to the crisis of a fever. The Indian mode of procuring this evacuation is as follows: the patient is confined in a close tent, or wigwam, over a hole in the earth, in which a red hot stone is placed; a quantity of water is thrown upon this stone, which instantly involves the patient in a cloud of vapor and sweat; in this situation he rushes out, and plunges himself into a river; from whence he retires to his bed. If the remedy has been used with success, he rises from his bed in four and twenty hours, perfectly recovered from his indisposition. This remedy is used not only to cure fevers, but to remove that uneasiness which arises from fatigue of body.
A THIRD natural remedy among the Indians, is PURGING. The fruits of the earth, the flesh of birds, and other animals feeding upon particular vegetables, and above all, the spontaneous efforts of nature, early led the Indians to perceive the necessity and advantages of this evacuation.
VOMITS constitute their fourth natural remedy. They were probably like the former, suggested by na|ture, and accident. The ipecacuana is one of the many roots they employ for this purpose.
Page 25 THE ARTIFICIAL REMEDIES made use of by the Indians, are BLEEDING, CAUSTICS, and ASTRIN|GENT medicines. They confine bleeding entirely to the part affected. To know that opening a vein in the arm, or foot, would relieve a pain in the head, or side, supposes some knowledge of the animal oecono|my, and therefore marks an advanced period in the history of medicine.
SHARP stones and thorns are the instruments they use to procure a discharge of blood.
WE have an account of the Indians using something like a POTENTIAL CAUSTIC, in obstinate pains. It consists of a piece of rotten wood called punk, which they place upon the part affected, and afterwards set it on fire; the fire gradually consumes the wood, and its ashes burn a hole in the flesh.
THE undue efforts of nature, in those fevers which are connected with a diarrhoea, or dysentery, together with those haemorrhages to which their mode of life exposed them, necessarily led them to an early disco|very of some ASTRINGENT VEGETABLES. I am uncertain whether the Indians rely upon astringent, or any other vegetables, for the cure of the intermitting fever. This disease among them probably requires no other remedies than the cold bath, or cold air. Its greater obstinacy, as well as frequency among our|selves, must be sought for in the greater feebleness of our constitutions; and in that change which our coun|try has undergone, from meadows, mill-dams, and the cutting down of woods, whereby morbid exhala|tions have been multiplied, and their passage rendered more free, through every part of the country.
Page 26 THIS is a short account of the remedies of the In|dians. If they are simple, they are like their elo|quence, full of strength; if they are few in number, they are accommodated, as their languages are to their ideas, to the whole of their diseases.
WE said formerly that the Indians were subject to ACCIDENTS, such as wounds, fractures, and the like. In these cases, nature performs the office of a surgeon. We may judge of her qualifications for this office, by observing the marks of wounds, and fractures, which are sometimes discovered on wild animals. But fur|ther, what is the practice of our modern surgeons in these cases? Is it not to lay aside plasters and ointments, and trust the whole to nature? Those ulcers which re|quire the assistance of mercury, bark, and a particular regimen, are unknown to the Indians.
THE HAEMORRHAGES which sometimes follow their wounds, are restrained, by plunging themselves into cold water, and thereby producing a constriction upon the bleeding vessels.
THEIR practice of attempting to recover DROWN|ED PEOPLE, is irrational and unsuccessful. It con|sists in suspending the patient by the heels, in order that the water may flow from his mouth. This prac|tice is founded on a belief, that the patient dies from swallowing an excessive quantity of water. But mo|dern observation teaches us, that drowned people die from another cause. This discovery has suggested a method of cure, directly opposite to that in use among the Indians; and has shown us that the practice of suspending by the heels, is hurtful.
Page 27 I DO not find that the Indians ever suffer in their limbs from the action of COLD upon them. Their mokasons*, by allowing their feet to move freely, and thereby promoting the circulation of the blood, defend their lower extremities in the day time, and their prac|tice of sleeping with their feet near a fire defends them from the morbid effects of cold at night. In those cases where the motion of their feet in their mokasons is not sufficient to keep them warm, they break the ice and restore their warmth by exposing them for a short time to the stimulus of cold water.†
WE have heard much of their specific antidotes to the VENEREAL DISEASE. In the accounts of these antivenereal medicines, some abatement should be made for that love of the marvellous, and of novelty, which are apt to creep into the writings of travellers and physicians. How many medicines which were once thought infallible in this disorder, are now reject|ed from the materia medica! I have found upon in|quiry, that the Indians always assist their medicines in this disease, by a regimen which promotes perspiration. Should we allow that mercury acts as a specific in de|stroying this disorder, it does not follow that it is proof against the efficacy of medicines which act more me|chanically upon the body.‡
Page 28 THERE cannot be a stronger mark of the imper|fect state of knowledge in medicine among the Indians, than their method of treating the SMALL POX. We are told that they plunge themselves in cold water in the beginning of the disorder, and that it generally proves fatal to them.
TRAVELLERS speak in high terms of the Indian ANTIDOTES to POISONS. We must remember, that many things have been thought poisonous, which later experience hath proved to possess no unwholesome quality. Moreover, the uncertainty and variety in the operation of poisons, render it extremely difficult to fix the certainty of their antidotes, to them. How many specifics have derived their credit for prevent|ing the hydrophobia, from persons being wounded by animals, who were not in a situation to produce that disorder! IF we may judge of all the Indian antidotes to poisons, by those which have fallen into our hands, we have little reason to ascribe much to them in any cases whatever.
I HAVE heard of their performing several remark|able cures upon STIFF JOINTS, by an infusion of certain herbs in water. The mixture of several herbs together in this infusion calls in question the specific efficacy of each of them. I cannot help attributing the whole success of this remedy to the great heat of the water in which the herbs were boiled, and to its being applied for a long time to the part affected. We find the same medicine to vary frequently in its suc|cess, according to its strength, or to the continuance of its application. De Haen attributes the good ef|fects of electricity, entirely to its being used for seve|ral months.
Page 29 I HAVE met with one case upon record of their aiding nature in PARTURITION. Captain Carver gives us an account of an Indian woman in a difficult labor, being suddenly delivered in consequence of a general convulsion induced upon her system, by stop|ping for a short time her mouth and nose, so as to ob|struct her breathing.
WE are sometimes amused with accounts of Indian remedies for the DROPSY, EPILEPSY, COLIC, GRA|VEL and GOUT. If, with all the advantages which modern physicians derive from their knowledge in ANATOMY, CHEMISTRY, BOTANY and PHILOSO|PHY; If, with the benefit of discoveries communicat|ed from abroad, as well as handed down from our ancestors, by more certain methods than tradition, we are still ignorant of certain remedies for these diseases; what can we expect from the Indians, who are not only deprived of these advantages, but want our chief motive, the sense of the pain and danger of those dis|orders to prompt them to seek for such remedies to relieve them? There cannot be a stronger proof of their ignorance of proper remedies for new or difficult diseases, than their having recourse to enchantment. But to be more particular; I have taken pains to in|quire into the success of some of these Indian specifics, and have never heard of one well attested case of their efficacy. I believe they derive all their credit from our being ignorant of their composition. The influ|ence of secrecy is well known in establishing the cre|dit of a medicine. The sal seignette was an infallible medicine for the intermitting fever, while the manu|factory of it was confined to an apothecary at Rochelle; but it lost its virtues as soon as it was found to be composed of the acid of tartar and a fossil alkali. Dr. Page 30 Ward's famous pill and drop ceased to do wonders in scrophulous cases, as soon as he bequeathed to the world his receipts for making them.
I FORESEE an objection to what has been said con|cerning the remedies of the Indians, drawn from that knowledge which experience gives to a mind intent upon one subject. We have heard much of the per|fection of their senses of seeing and hearing. An In|dian, we are told, will discover not only a particular tribe of Indians by their footsteps, but the distance of time in which they were made. In those branches of knowledge which relate to hunting and war, the In|dians have acquired a degree of perfection that has not been equalled by civilized nations. But we must re|member, that medicine among them does not enjoy the like advantage with the arts of war and hunting, of being the chief object of their attention. The phy|cian and the warrior are united in one character; to render him as able in the former, as he is in the latter profession, would require an entire abstraction from every other employment, and a familiarity with ex|ternal objects, which are incompatible with the wan|dering life of savages.
THUS have we finished our inquiry into the dis|eases and remedies of the Indians in North-America. We come now to inquire into the diseases and re|medies of civilized nations.
NATIONS differ in their degrees of civilization. We shall select one for the subject of our inquiries which is most familiar to us; I mean the British na|tion. Here we behold subordination and classes of mankind established by government, commerce, ma|nufactures, Page 31 and certain customs common to most of the civilized nations of Europe. We shall trace the origin of their diseases through their customs, in the same manner as we did those of the Indians.
I. IT will be sufficient to name the degrees of heat, the improper aliment, the light dresses, and the pre|mature studies children are exposed to, in order to show the ample scope for diseases, which is added to the original defect of stamina they derive from their ancestors.
II. CIVILIZATION rises in its demands upon the health of women. Their fashions; their dress and diet; their eager pursuits and ardent enjoyment of pleasure; their indolence and undue evacuations in pregnancy; their cordials, hot regimen and neglect or use of art, in child-birth, are all so many inlets to diseases.
HUMANITY would fain be silent, while philosophy calls upon us to mention the effects of interested mar|riages, and of disappointments in love, increased by that concealment which the tyranny of custom has imposed upon the sex*. Each of these exaggerates the natural, and increases the number of artificial diseases among women.
III. THE diseases introduced by civilization extend themselves through every class and profession among Page 32 men. How fatal are the effects of idleness and in|temperance among the rich, and of hard labor and penury among the poor! What pallid looks are con|tracted by the votaries of science from hanging over the "sickly taper!" How many diseases are entailed upon manufacturers, by the materials in which they work, and the posture of their bodies! What monk|ish diseases do we observe from monkish continence, and monkish vices! We pass over the increase of ac|cidents from building, sailing, riding, and the like. War, as if too slow in destroying the human species, calls in a train of diseases peculiar to civilized nations. What havoc have the corruption and monopoly of provisions, a damp soil, and an unwholesome sky, made in a few days in an army! The atchievements of British valor at the Havannah, in the last war, were obtained at the expence of 9,000 men, 7,000 of whom perished with the West-India fever*. Even our mo|dern discoveries in geography, by extending the em|pire of commerce, have likewise extended the empire of diseases. What desolation have the East and West Indies made of British subjects! It has been found upon a nice calculation, that only ten of an hundred Europeans, live above seven years after they arrive in the island of Jamaica.
IV. IT would take up too much of our time to point out all the customs both physical and moral,Page 33 which influence diseases among both sexes. The for|mer have engendered the feeds of diseases in the human body itself; hence the origin of catarrhs, jail and miliary fevers, with a long train of contagious dis|orders, which compose so great a part of our books of medicine. The latter likewise have a large share in producing diseases. I am not one of those modern philosophers, who derive the vices of mankind from the influence of civilization; but I am safe in assert|ing, that their number and malignity increase with the refinements of polished life. To prove this, we need only survey a scene too familiar to affect us: it is a bedlam; which injustice, inhumanity, avarice, pride, vanity, and ambition, have filled with inhabitants.
THUS have we briefly pointed out the customs which influence the diseases of civilized nations. It remains now that we take notice of their diseases. Without naming the many new fevers, fluxes, haemorr|hages, swellings from water, wind, flesh, fat, pus and blood; foulnesses on the skin from cancers, leprosy, yaws, poxes, and itch; and lastly, the gout, the hysteria, and the hypochondriasis, in all their variety of known and unknown shapes; I shall sum up all that is ne|cessary upon this subject, by adding, that the number of diseases which belong to civilized nations, accord|ing to Doctor Cullen's nosology, amounts to 1387; the single class of nervous diseases form 612 of this number.
BEFORE we proceed to speak of the remedies of civilized nations, we shall examine into the abilities of NATURE in curing their diseases. We found her active and successful in curing the diseases of the In|dians. Is her strength, wisdom, or benignty, equal to Page 34 the increase of those dangers which threaten her dis|solution among civilized nations? In order to answer this question, it will be necessary to explain the mean|ing of the term nature.
BY NATURE, in the present case, I understand nothing but physical necessity. This at once excludes every thing like intelligence from her operations: these are all performed in obedience to the same laws which govern vegetation in plants and the intestine motions of fossils. They are as truly mechanical as the laws of gravitation, electricity, or magnetism. A ship when laid on her broadside by a wave, or a sudden blast of wind, rises by the simple laws of her mecha|nism; but suppose this ship to be attacked by fire, or a water-spout, we are not to call in question the skill of the ship-builder, if she is consumed by the one, or sunk by the other. In like manner, the Author of nature hath furnished the body with powers to pre|serve itself from its natural enemies; but when it is attacked by those civil foes which are bred by the pe|culiar customs of civilization, it resembles a company of Indians, armed with bows and arrows, against the complicated and deadly machinery of fire-arms. To place this subject in a proper light, we shall deliver a history of the operations of nature in a few of the diseases of civilized nations.
I. THERE are cases in which nature is still suc|cessful in curing diseases.
IN fevers she still deprives us of our appetite for animal food, and imparts to us a desire for cool air and cold water.
Page 35 IN haemorrhages she produces a faintiness, which occasions a coagulum in the open vessels; so that the further passage of blood through them is obstructed.
IN wounds of the flesh and bones, she discharges foreign matter by exciting an inflammation, and sup|plies the waste of both with new flesh and bone.
II. THERE are cases where the efforts of nature are too feeble to do service, as in putrid and nervous fevers.
III. THERE are cases where the efforts of nature are over-proportioned to the strength of the disease, as in the cholera morbus and dysentery.
IV. THERE are cases where nature is idle, as in the atonic stages of the gout, the cancer, the epilepsy, the mania, the venereal disease, the apoplexy, and the tetanus.*.
V. THERE are cases in which nature does mischief. She wastes herself with an unnecessary fever in a dropsy and consumption. She throws a plethora upon the brain and lungs. She ends a pleurisy and peripneu|mony in a vomica, or empyema. She creates an un|natural appetite for food in the hypochondriac disor|der. And lastly, she drives the melancholy patient to solitude, where, by brooding over the subject of his infanity, he increases his disease.
WE are accustomed to hear of the salutary kind|ness of nature in alarming us with pain, to prompt us to seek for a remedy. But,
Page 36 VI. THERE are cases in which she refuses to send this harbinger of the evils which threaten her, as in the aneurism, scirrhus, and stone in the bladder.
VII. THERE are cases where the pain is not pro|portioned to the danger, as in the tetanus, consump|tion, and dropsy of the head. And,
VIII. THERE are cases where the pain is over-proportioned to the danger, as in the paronychia and tooth-ach.
THIS is a short account of the operations of na|ture, in the diseases of civilized nations. A lunatic might as well plead against the sequestration of his estate, because he once enjoyed the full exercise of his reason, or because he still had lucid intervals, as nature be exempted from the charges we have brought against her.
BUT this subject will receive strength from consi|dering the REMEDIES of civilized nations. All the products of the vegetable, fossil, and animal kingdoms, tortured by heat and mixture into an almost infinite variety of forms; bleeding, cupping, artificial drains by setons, issues and blisters; exercise, active and passive; voyages and journies; baths, warm and cold; waters saline, aërial and mineral; food by weight and measure; the royal touch; enchantment; miracles; in a word, the combined discoveries of natural history and philosophy, united into a system of materia medica, all show, that although physicians are in speculation the servants, yet in practice they are the masters of nature. The whole of their remedies seem contrived Page 37 on purpose to arouse, assist, restrain, and controul her operations.
THERE are some truths like certain liquors, which require strong heads to bear them. I feel myself pro|tected from the prejudices of vulgar minds, when I reflect that I am delivering these sentiments in a society of philosophers.
LET us now take a COMPARATIVE VIEW of the diseases and remedies of the Indians, with those of ci|vilized nations. We shall begin with their diseases.
IN our account of the diseases of the Indians we beheld death executing his commission, it is true; but then his dart was hid in a mantle, under which he conceal|ed his shape. But among civilized nations we behold him multiplying his weapons in proportion to the num|ber of organs and functions in the body; and point|ing each of them in such a manner, as to render his messengers more terrible than himself.
WE said formerly that fevers constituted the chief diseases of the Indians. According to Doctor Syden|ham's computation, above 66,000 out of 100,000 died of fevers in London about 100 years ago; but fevers now constitute but a little more than one-tenth part of the diseases of that city. Out of 21,780 persons who died in London between December 1770 and Decem|ber 1771, only 2273 died of simple fevers. I have more than once heard Doctor Huck complain, that he could find no marks of epidemic fevers in London as described by Doctor Sydenham. London has under|gone a revolution in its manners and customs since Doctor Sydenham's time. New diseases, the offspring Page 38 of luxury, have supplanted fevers; and the few that are left, appear so complicated with other diseases, that their connection can no longer be discovered with an epidemic constitution of the year. The pleurisy and peripneumony, those inflammatory fevers of strong constitutions, are now lost in catarrhs, or colds; which instead of challenging the powers of nature or art to a fair combat, insensibly undermine the constitution, and bring on an incurable consumption. Out of 22,434 who died between December 1769 and the same month in 1770, 4594 perished with that British disorder. Our countryman, Doctor Maclurg, has ventured to foretel that the gout will be lost in a few years, in a train of hypochondriac, hysteric and bili|ous disorders. In like manner, may we not look for a season when fevers, the natural diseases of the hu|man body, will be lost in an inundation of artificial diseases, brought on by the modish practices of mo|dern civilization?
IT may not be improper to compare the PROGNOSIS of the Indians, in diseases, with that of civilized na|tions, before we take a comparative view of their re|medies.
THE Indians are said to be successful in predicting the events of diseases. While diseases are simple, the marks which distinguish them, or characterize their several stages, are generally uniform and obvious to the most indifferent observer. These marks afford so much certainty, that the Indians sometimes kill their physicians for a false prognosis, charging the death of the patient to their carelessness, or ignorance. They estimate the danger of their patients by their degrees of appetite; while an Indian is able to eat, he is looked Page 39 upon as free from danger. But when we consider the number and variety in the signs of diseases, among ci|vilized nations, together with the shortness of life, the fallacy of memory, and the uncertainty of observation: where shall we find a physician willing to risk his re|putation, much less his life, upon the prediction of the event of our acute diseases? We can derive no ad|vantage from the simple sign, by which the Indians estimate the danger of their patients; for we daily see a want of appetite for food in diseases which are attend|ed with no danger; and we sometimes observe an un|usual degree of this appetite to precede the agonies of death. I honor the name of HIPPOCRATES: But forgive me ye votaries of antiquity, if I attempt to pluck a few grey hairs from his venerable head. I was once an idolater at his altar, nor did I turn apostate from his worship, till I was taught, that not a tenth part of his prognostics corresponded with modern ex|perience, or observation. The pulse*, urine, and sweats, from which the principal signs of life and death have been taken, are so variable in most of the acute diseases of civilized nations, that the wisest physicians have in some measure excluded the prognosis from being a part of their profession.
I AM here insensibly led to make an apology for the instability of the theories and practice of physic. The theory of physic is founded upon the laws of the animal oeconomy. These (unlike the laws of the mind, or the Page 40 common laws of matter) do not appear at once, but are gradually brought to light by the phaenomena of diseases. The success of nature, in curing the simple diseases of Saxony, laid the foundation for the ANIMA MEDICA of Doctor STAHL. The endemics of Hol|land* led Doctor BOERHAAVE to seek for the causes of all diseases in the FLUIDS. And the universal pre|valence of the diseases of the NERVES, in Great-Bri|tain, led Doctor CULLEN to discover their peculiar laws, and to found a SYSTEM upon them; a system, which will probably last till some new diseases are let loose upon the human species, which shall unfold other laws of the animal oeconomy.
IT is in consequence of this fluctuation in the prin|ciples and practice of physic, being so necessarily con|nected with the changes in the customs of civilized na|tions, that old and young physicians so often disagree in their opinions and practices. And it is by attending to the constant changes in these customs of civilized na|tions, that those physicians have generally become the most eminent, who have soonest emancipated them|selves from the tyranny of the schools of physic; and have occasionally accommodated their principles and practice to the changes in diseases†. This variety in Page 41 diseases, which is produced by the changes in the cus|toms of civilized nations, will enable us to account for many of the contradictions which are to be found in authors of equal candor and abilities, who have writ|ten upon the materia medica.
IN forming a comparative view of the REMEDIES of the Indians, with those of civilized nations, we shall remark, that the want of success in a medicine is oc|casioned by one of the following causes.
FIRST, our ignorance of the disorder. Secondly, an ignorance of a suitable remedy. Thirdly, a want of efficacy in the remedy.
CONSIDERING the violence of the diseases of the Indians, it is probable their want of success is always occasioned by a want of efficacy in their medicines. But the case is very different among civilized nations. Dissections daily convince us of our ignorance of the seats of diseases, and cause us to blush at our prescrip|tions. What certain or equal remedies have we found for the gout, the epilepsy, apoplexy, palsy, dropsy of the brain, cancer and consumption? How often are we disappointed in our expectations from the most certain and powerful of our remedies, by the negli|gence or obstinacy of our patients! What mischief have we not done under the belief of false facts (if I may be allowed the expression) and false theories! We have assisted in multiplying diseases.—We have done more—we have increased their mortality.
Page 42 I SHALL not pause to beg pardon of the faculty, for acknowledging in this public manner the weaknesses of our profession. I am pursuing truth, and while I can keep my eye fixed upon my guide, I am indiffe|rent whither I am led, provided she is my leader.
BUT further, the Indian submits to his disease, without one fearful emotion from his doubtfulness of its event; and at last meets his fate without an anxi|ous wish for futurity; except it is of being admitted to an "equal sky," where
UNDER all these disadvantages in the state of medi|cine, among civilized nations, do more in proportion die of the diseases peculiar to them, than of fevers, casualties and old age, among the Indians? If we take our account from the city of London, we shall find this to be the case. Near a twentieth part of its inhabitants perish one year with another. Nor does the natural increase of inhabitants supply this yearly waste. If we judge from the bills of mortality, the city of London contains fewer inhabitants, by several thousands, than it did forty years ago. It appears from this fact, and many others of a like nature, which might be adduced, that although the difficulty of sup|porting children, together with some peculiar customs of the Indians, which we mentioned, limit their num|ber, Page 43 yet they multiply faster, and die in a smaller proportion than civilized nations, under the circum|stances we have described. The Indians, we are told, were numerous in this country before the Europeans settled among them. Travellers agree likewise in de|scribing numbers of both sexes who exhibited all the marks of extreme old age. It is remarkable that age seldom impairs the faculties of their minds.
THE mortality peculiar to those Indian tribes who have mingled with the white people, must be ascribed to the extensive mischief of spirituous liquors. When these have not acted, they have suffered from having accommodated themselves too suddenly to the European diet, dress, and manners. It does not become us to pry too much into futurity; but if we may judge from the fate of the original natives of Hispaniola, Jamaica, and the provinces on the continent, we may venture to foretel, that, in proportion as the white people mul|tiply, the Indians will diminish; so that in a few cen|turies they will probably be entirely extirpated*.
IT may be said, that health among the Indians, like insensibility to cold and hunger, is proportioned to their need of it; and that the less degrees, or entire want of health, are no interruption to the ordinary bu|siness of civilized life.
Page 44 TO obviate this supposition, we shall first attend to the effects of a single distemper in those people who are the principal wheels in the machine of civil society. Justice has stopt its current, victories have been lost, wars have been prolonged, and embassies delayed, by the principal actors in these departments of govern|ment being suddenly laid up with a fit of the gout. How many offences are daily committed against the rules of good breeding, by the tedious histories of our disorders, which compose so great a part of modern conversation! What sums of money have been lavish|ed in foreign countries in pursuit of health!* Families have been ruined by the unavoidable expences of me|dicines, and watering places. In a word, the swarms of beggars which infest so many of the European coun|tries, urge their petitions for charity chiefly by argu|ments derived from real or counterfeit diseases, which render them incapable of supporting themselves†.
BUT may not civilization, while it abates the vio|lence of natural diseases, increase the lenity of those that are artificial, in the same manner that it lessens the strength of natural vices by multiplying them? To answer this question, it will only be necessary to ask another: Who would exchange the heat, thirst and uneasiness of a fever, for one fit of the cholic or stone?
THE history of the number, combination and fashi|ons of the remedies we have given, may serve to humble the pride of philosophy; and to convince us Page 45 that with all the advantages of the whole circle of sci|ences, we are still ignorant of antidotes to many of the diseases of civilized nations. We sometimes sooth our ignorance by reproaching our idleness in not in|vestigating the remedies peculiar to this country. We are taught to believe that every herb that grows in our woods is possessed of some medicinal virtue, and that heaven would be wanting in benignity if our country did not produce remedies for all the different diseases of its inhabitants. It would be arrogating too much to suppose, that man was the only creature in our world for whom vegetables grow. The beasts, birds and insects, derive their sustenance either directly, or indirectly from them; while many of them were pro|bably intended from their variety in figure, foliage and color, only to serve as ornaments for our globe. It would seem strange that the Author of nature should furnish every spot of ground with medicines adapted to the diseases of its inhabitants, and at the same time deny it the more necessary articles of food and cloath|ing. I know not whether heaven has provided every country with antidotes even to the natural diseases of its inhabitants. The intermitting fever is common in almost every corner of the globe; but a sovereign re|medy for it has been discovered only in South-Ameri|ca. The combination of bitter and astringent substan|ces which serve as a succedaneum to the Peruvian bark, is as much a preparation of art, as calomel, or tartar emetic. Societies stand in need of each other as much as individuals: and the goodness of the Deity remains unimpeached when we suppose, that he intended me|dicines to serve (with other articles) to promote that knowledge, humanity and politeness among the inha|bitants of the earth, which have been so justly attribu|ted to commerce.
Page 46 WE have no discoveries in the materia medica to hope for from the Indians in North-America. It would be a reproach to our schools of physic, if mo|dern physicians were not more successful than the In|dians, even in the treatment of their own diseases.
DO the blessings of civilization compensate for the sacrifice we make of natural health, as well as of natural liberty? This question must be answered un|der some limitations. When natural liberty is given up for laws which enslave instead of protecting us, we are immense losers by the exchange. Thus, if we arm the whole elements against our health, and render every pore in the body an avenue for a disease, we pay too high a price for the blessings of civilization.
IN governments which have departed entirely from their simplicity, partial evils are to be cured by nothing but an entire renovation of their constitution. Let the world bear with the professions of law, physic, and divinity; and let the lawyer, physician and divine yet learn to bear with each other. They are all necessary, in the present state of society. In like manner, let the woman of fashion forget the delicacy of her sex, and submit to be delivered by a man-midwife*. Let her snatch her offspring from her breast, and send it to repair the weakness of its stamina, with the milk of a ruddy cottager†. Let art supply the place of nature Page 47 in the preparation and digestion of all our aliment. Let our fine ladies keep up their color with carmine, and their spirits with ratafia; and let our fine gentle|men defend themselves from the excesses of heat and cold, with lavender and hartshorn. These customs have become necessary in the corrupt stages of society. We must imitate, in these cases, the practice of those physicians who consult the appetite only, in diseases which do not admit of a remedy.
THE state of a country in point of population, temperance and industry, is so connected with its dis|eases, that a tolerable idea may be formed of it, by looking over its bills of mortality. HOSPITALS, with all their boasted advantages, exhibit at the same time monuments of the charity and depravity of a people*. Page 48 The opulence of physicians, and the divisions of their offices, into those of surgery, pharmacy and mid|wifery, are likewise proofs of the declining state of a country. In the infancy of the Roman empire, the priest performed the office of a physician; so simple were the principles and practice of physic. It was only in the declension of the empire that physicians vied with the emperors of Rome in magnificence and splendor*.
I AM sorry to add in this place, that the number of patients in the HOSPITAL, and incurables in the ALMSHOUSE of this city, show, that we are treading in the enervated steps of our fellow-subjects in Britain. Our bills of mortality likewise show the encroachments of British diseases upon us. The NERVOUS FEVER has become so familiar to us, that we look upon it as a natural disease. Dr. Sydenham, so faithful in his history of fevers, takes no notice of it. Dr. Cad|wallader informed me, that it made its first appear|ance in this city about five and twenty years ago. It will be impossible to name the CONSUMPTION with|out Page 49 recalling to our minds the memory of some friend or relation, who has perished within these few years by that disorder. Its rapid progress among us has been unjustly attributed to the growing resemblance of our climate to that of Great-Britain. The HYSTERIC and HYPOCHONDRIAC DISORDERS, once peculiar to the chambers of the great, are now to be found in our kitchens and workshops. All these diseases have been produced by our having deserted the simple diet, and manners, of our ancestors.
THE blessings of literature, commerce, and religion, were not originally purchased at the expence of health. The complete enjoyment of health is as compatible with civilization, as the enjoyment of civil liberty. We read of countries, rich in every thing that can form national happiness and national grandeur, the diseases of which are nearly as few and simple as those of the Indians. We hear of no diseases among the Jews, while they were under their democratical form of government, except such as were inflicted by a su|pernatural power*. We should be tempted to doubt Page 50 the accounts given of the populousness of that people, did we not see the practice of their simple customs pro|ducing nearly the same populousness in Egypt, Rome, and other countries of antiquity. The empire of Chi|na, it is said, contains more inhabitants than the whole of Europe. The political institutions of that country have exempted its inhabitants from a large share of the diseases of other civilized nations. The inhabitants of Swisserland, Denmark, Norway* and Sweden, en|joy the chief advantages of civilization without having surrendered for them the blessings of natural health. But it is unnecessary to appeal to ancient or remote nations to prove, that health is not incompatible with civilization. The inhabitants of many parts of New-England, particularly the province of Connecticut, are strangers to artificial diseases. Some of you may remember the time, and our fathers have told those of us who do not, when the diseases of PENNSYLVANIA were as few and as simple as those of the Indians. The food of the inhabitants was then simple; their only drink was water; their appetites were restrained by labor; religion excluded the influence of sickening passions; private hospitality supplied the want of a public hospital; nature was their only nurse, tempe|rance their principal physician. But I must not dwell upon this retrospect of primaeval manners; and I am too strongly impressed with a hope of a revival of such happy days, to pronounce them the golden age of our province.
Page 51 OUR esteem for the customs of our savage neigh|bours will be lessened, when we add, that civilization does not preclude the honors of old age. The pro|portion of old people is much greater among civilized, than among savage nations. It would be easy to de|cide this assertion in our favor, by appealing to facts in the natural histories of Britain, Norway, Sweden, North-America*, and several of the West-India islands
THE laws of decency and nature, are not necessarily abolished by the customs of civilized nations. In many of these, we read of women among whom nature alone still performs the office of a midwife†, and who feel the obligations of suckling their children, to be equally binding with the common obligations of morality.
CIVILIZATION does not render us less fit for the necessary hardships of war. We read of armies of ci|vilized Page 52 nations, who have endured degrees of cold, hun|ger and fatigue, which have not been exceeded by the savages of any country*.
CIVILIZATION does not always multiply the ave|nues of death. It appears from the bills of mortality, of many countries, that fewer in proportion die among civilized, than among savage nations.
EVEN the charms of beauty are heightened by civi|lization. We read of stateliness, proportion, and fine teeth† and complexions in both sexes, forming the principal outlines of national characters.
THE danger of many diseases, is not proportioned to their violence, but to their duration. America has advanced but a few paces in luxury and effeminacy. There is yet strength enough in her vitals, to give life to those parts which are decayed. She may recal her steps. For this purpose,
Page 53 I. LET our children be educated in a manner more agreeable to nature.
II. LET the common people (who constitute the wealth and strength of our country) be preserved from the effects of spirituous liquors. Had I a double por|tion of all that eloquence which has been employed in describing the political evils that lately threatened our country, it would be too little to set forth the nume|rous and complicated physical and moral evils which these liquors have introduced among us. To encoun|ter this hydra requires an arm accustomed like that of Hercules, to vanquish monsters. Sir William Temple tells us, that in Spain no man can be admitted as an evidence in a court, who has once been convicted of drunkenness. I do not call for so severe a law in this country. Let us first try the force of severe manners. Lycurgus governed more by these, than by his laws. "Boni mores non bonae leges," according to Tacitus, were the bulwarks of virtue among the ancient Germans.
III. I DESPAIR of being able to call the votaries of Bacchus from their bottle, and shall therefore leave them to be roused by the more eloquent twinges of the gout.
IV. LET us be cautious what kind of manufactures we admit among us. The rickets made their first ap|pearance in the manufacturing towns in England. Doctor Fothergill informed me, that he had often ob|served, when a pupil, that the greatest part of the chronic patients in the London Hospital were Spittal-field weavers. I would not be understood, from these facts, to discourage those manufactures which employ women and children: these suffer few inconveniencies Page 54 from a sedentary life: nor do I mean to offer the least restraint to those manufactories among men, which ad|mit of free air, and the exercise of all their limbs. Perhaps the abstraction of spirituous liquors, and a pure air, might render sedentary employments less un|healthy in America even among men, than in the po|pulous towns of Great-Britain.
THE population of a country is not to be accom|plished by rewards and punishments. And it is happy for America, that the universal prevalence of the pro|testant religion, the checks lately given to negro sla|very, the general unwillingness among us to acknow|ledge the usurpations of primogeniture, the universal practice of inoculation for the small-pox, and the ab|sence of the plague, render the interposition of govern|ment for that purpose unnecessary.
THESE advantages can only be secured to our coun|try by AGRICULTURE. This is the true basis of na|tional health, riches and populousness. Nations, like individuals, never rise higher than when they are ig|norant whither they are tending. It is impossible to tell from history, what will be the effects of agricul|ture, industry, temperance and commerce, urged on by the competition of colonies, united in the same ge|neral pursuits, in a country, which for extent, variety of soil, climate, and number of navigable rivers, has never been equalled in any quarter of the globe. A|merica is the theatre where human nature will proba|bly receive her last and principal literary, civil and mi|litary honors.
BUT I recall myself from the ages of futurity. The province of Pennsylvania has already shewn to her sister Page 55 colonies, the influence of agriculture and commerce upon the number and happiness of a people. It is scarcely an hundred years since our illustrious legisla|tor, with an handful of men, landed upon these shores. Although the perfection of our government, the healthi|ness of our climate, and the fertility of our soil, seem|ed to ensure a rapid settlement of the province; yet it would have required a prescience bordering upon di|vine, to have foretold, that in such a short space of time, the province would contain above 300,000 inha|bitants; and that near 30,000 of this number should compose a city, which should be the third, if not the second in commerce in the British empire. The pur|suits of literature, require leisure and a total recess from clearing forests, planting, building, and all the com|mon toils of settling a new country: But before these arduous works were accomplished, the SCIENCES, ever fond of the company of liberty and industry, chose this spot for the seat of their empire in this new world. Our COLLEGE, so catholic in its foundation, and ex|tensive in its objects, already sees her sons executing offices in the highest departments of society. I have now the honor of speaking in the presence of a most respectable number of philosophers, physicians, astro|nomers, botanists, patriots, and legislators; many of whom have already seized the prizes of honor, which their ancestors had allotted to a much later posterity. Our first offering had scarcely found its way into the temple of same, when the oldest societies in Europe turned their eyes upon us, expecting with impatience to see the mighty fabric of science, which like a well built arch, can only rest upon the whole of its materi|als, completely finished from the treasures of this un|explored quarter of the globe.
Page 56 IT reflects equal honor upon our society and the honorable assembly of our province, to acknowledge, that we have always found the latter willing to encou|rage by their patronage, and reward by their liberality, all our schemes for promoting useful knowledge. What may we not expect from this harmony between the scien|ces and government! Methinks I see canals cut, rivers once impassable, rendered navigable, bridges erected, and roads improved, to facilitate the exportation of grain. I see the banks of our rivers vying in fruitful|ness with the banks of the river of Egypt. I behold our farmers, nobles; our merchants, princes. But I forbear—Imagination cannot swell with the subject.
I BEG leave to conclude, by deriving an argument from our connection with the legislature, to remind my auditors of the duty they owe to the society. Pa|triotism and literature are here connected together; and a man cannot neglect the one, without being destitute of the other. Nature and our ancestors have comple|ted their works among us; and have left us nothing to do, but to enlarge and perpetuate our own happiness.