A brief history of epidemic and pestilential diseases; with the principal phenomena of the physical world, which precede and accompany them, and observations deduced from the facts stated. : In two volumes.
Webster, Noah, 1758-1843.
Page  151

SECTION V. Historical view of pestilential epidemics, from the year 1500 to the year 1600.

THE comet of 1500 was followed by an excessively severe winter in 1501, to which succeeded a summer of great heat and drouth in 1502. In this latter year the plague carried off 500 persons daily in Brussels; the city was soon abandoned, the streets were overgrown with grass, and the roofs of houses with moss.


Skenkius' Obs. p. 748.

De Pauw vol. 1. 85, mentions a desolating plague in China in 1504. In the same year, the malady prevailed in Ireland.

In 1505 appeared a comet; and another in the following year, in which also was an eruption of Vesuvius, which was succeeded by a severe winter. Pestilential diseases were univer|sal. A fatal spotted fever overspread Europe in this hot, moist summer. The plague raged in Lisbon and London was severely visited by the sweating disease.


Short vol. 1. Smith's Cork p. 34. Osorio's Hist. of Portugal. Fracastor, de Contagione.

In 1508 a great earthquake convulsed Italy and Germany. In 1509 a shock demolished a part of the walls of Constantino|ple, with many buildings, and the loss of 13,000 lives: After which the plague almost dispeopled the city.

These events commenced a distressing period. In 1510 there was an eruptin of Heckla, and universal catarrh or severe influ|enza in Europe. This was called in France cocoluche, from the practice of covering the head of the patient with a cap. It was preceded by a series of moist weather.

In 1511 appeared a comet; another in 1512 and a third in 1513. In 1511 the plague prevailed in Verona, and in 1513 a Page  152 malignant fever or dysentery, which covered the body with black spots. Bleeding was pernicious; cupping and actual cau|tery were successful.

In 1514 cats perished by an epidemic pestilential disease, says Fernelius; and the plague was in Tournay; while a mor|tal distemper raged among the cattle in England.

In 1515 a malignant catarrh or throat distemper in Holland seized persons suddenly, and if not cured, in a few hours, fell on the lungs and terminated in death in one day. In this year and the next appeared comets, and Germany suffered universally by inundations.

To these disasters succeeded a severe winter in 1517, followed by a very hot summer. Corn was in great abundance, but the sweating plague made great havoc in London, and so malignant a murrain raged among cattle, that ravens and dogs which fed on their carcases, swelled and died.

This deadly sweating plague was preceded, in the spring of the year, by an epidemic inflammation of the throat, so virulent as to destroy life in a few hours. The malignity of this disease has rarely, if ever been equalled in modern times. It seems to have been merged in the sweating plague, about midsummer. Authors relate that half the people of England perished with these diseases.—The disease in the throat seems to have been of an inflammatory diathesis, as early bleeding and purging were the only successful remedies.

In 1518 the plage visited Lisbon, and the sweating disease prevailed in Brabant.


Short vol. 1. 206—7. Smith's Cork, 34.

In 1521 appeared a comet, followed by a cold winter. In|undations are said to have overwhelmed, in this year, 72 vil|lages and 100,000 people. England suffered by dearth and sick|ness, and in 1522 the plague visited Munster in Ireland, and the continent.—The winter following was distressingly severe.

Pestilential fevers prevailed in 1524 and 5. The mortality in London alarmed the people, and the terms were on that ac|count, adjourned. In 1527 appeared a comet, and one in each year, for six years in succession. In 1527, the wetness of sum|mer Page  153 injured the grain, a severe famin ensued, and many of the poor were starved to death. This year is noted for a great hail storm in Italy.

In 1528 the spotted fever, that almost infallible precursor or companion of the plague, broke out in all parts of Europe; the plague in Italy, and the sweating disease in London with dread|ful mortality, terminating in death in six or seven hours. The same disease prevailed in Cork.

In 1529 the sweating disease seized Amsterdam, raging a few days with great mortality, and passing rapidly to other places.

In 1530 was an eruption of Etna, and an earthquake in Lis|bon demolished 1400 houses. In 1531 was another eruption of Etna, the sweating plague raged in Germany, and pestilence, in some form, was almost universal.—A great hail storm, the same year.


See Skenkius' Obs. Smith's Cork 35. Short vol. 1. Maitland's Hist. London.

Fracastor informs us that the petechial fever of 1528 was preceded by a mild winter and southerly rainy weather, together with inundations in spring, and unusual darkness. He observes, that appearing in many places, it must have had a common cause.


De Contagione, p. 160.

The last remark is verified by modern observations. The petechial fever is an almost infallible forerunner of the plague in the Levant, in Italy and other countries. It may be laid down as an axiom, on this subject, that altho the appearance of this fever is not always and certainly followed by the plague, yet that the plague, in most parts of the east, is always preceded by a petechial fever.

In 1533 there was a volcanic eruption in South America, but I have no account of the diseases of that year.

In 1534 the plague was in Narbonne.

In 1535 there was a terrible plague in Cork.

In 1538 appeared a comet, which was preceded by eruptions of Etna in 1536 and 7 and a hard winter. In 1539 another comet and in 1541 a third.

Page  154In 1538 a mortal dysentery raged all over Europe, as also in the following year. The preceding summer had been moist, and an acute fever, with violent pain about the heart, delirium, moist and black tongue, anthraces and buboes, had been epi|demic. But Fernilius remarks that the unusual dysentery of 1538 and 9 could not be ascribed to any visible cause in the seasons.

In 1538 also was a violent earthquake at Puteoli, near Na|ples and Vesuvius, where there was an immense eruption of fire. This year the plague raged in Constantinople, and in 1539 was still more destructive.

In 1539 the drouth in Ireland was excessive—and nearly dried up the river Lee at Cork.

In 1540 there was a terrible drouth. In England a pestilen|tial ague and a dysentery were epidemic and mortal. Another eruption of Etna happened this year, and the next year a comet.


Short, vol. 1. Mignot's Hist. Turkish Empire, vol. 2. p. 4.

In 1541 the plague raged in Constantinople.

The year 1543 was very wet and cold, and a great mortality among cattle. In 1542 the plague was in Geneva. In 1543 it raged in London in winter. In 1545 there was an eruption of Etna. The plague again raged in Geneva, and all over Eu|rope a pestilential epidemic, called the Troup Gallant, which seized chiefly the young and robust, with a mortality nearly equal to that of the true plague, of which it seems to have been the precursor. Patients had a violent pain in the head, heat in the kidneys, universal lassitude, continual watchings ending in frenzy, or drowziness ending in lethargy; and worms rising into the throat, with danger of suffocation. Bleeding was the only remedy; then detergents and cordials. The disease terminated on the 4th or 11th day. Charles, duke of Orleans, died of this disease at a monastery in Abbeville.

In 1547 the plague prevailed in most parts of Europe, as in Ireland and in Germany; and in 1548 in London. Here my labors begin to receive aid from that accurate and elegant histo|rian Thuanus, who, in lib. 4, describes the disease as it prevail|ed in Saxony. "Such was its violence that all other distem|pers gave way to it or ran into it. Most of the soldiers in the Page  155 Emperor's army were seized. They experienced a most intole|rable pain from the heat of the head; the eyes were swelled and fiery; the tongue bloody; respiration difficult and breath fetid; vomitings of bilious matters frequent; finally the body became livid, with pimples here and there scattered over it, which bred worms. Death took place the second or third day."

During this year great rains inundated Tuscany. Locusts in 1547 were unusually numrous.


Short, vol. 1. Thuanus, lib. 1. and 4. Univ. Hist. vol. 37. Smith's Cork. p. 40.

This pestilential period was long and severe. In 1548 the plague was in London. A contagious peripneumony prevailed over Europe, with spitting of blood and difficulty of breathing. In 1549 the plague prevailed in Prussia and Portugal.

In 1550 a comet in March, and the same year an eruption of Etna and Lipari. The summer was very rainy and the win|ter dry. In 1551 the earth was deluged with rain, and infinite damage was done by floods. The catarrh was epidemic in France. An epidemic pestilential fever raged all over Europe, and the sweating sickness in London. The plague followed in various parts of Europe. In 1552 it raged in Misena, and the patient discharged blood by the pores for three days before death. In 1553 the same distemper raged in Paris, with extreme mor|tality, and to appease the wrath of heaven, many heretics were burnt.

At the same time, pestilence spread over Hungary and Tran|sylvania for two years and suspended the operations of war. This year also there was an earthquake from the Elbe to Saxony.


Thuanus, lib. 12. Skenkius' Obs. p 766.

In 1554 there was an eruption of fire in Iceland and in the same year appeared a comet. In 1555 the summer was exces|sively rainy, and fevers were very mortal in England and France.

In 1556 a comet and a drouth; the fevers of the last season raged with augmented violence; as also the spotted fever and confluent malignant small pox.

This year there was an eruption of Etna, and in China a large district of country was sunk by an earthquake, with all its inhabitants, and became a Lake. These phenomena indicated Page  156 a great disorder in the elements and introduced most deadly epi|demics.

In 1557 a comet; an inundation of the Tyber; and a vio|lent catarrh was almost universal. The cough was severe, and pain in the side, difficulty of breathing and fever attended. In general bleeding the first or second day was successful; but in a small town near Madrid, bleeding was fatal, and 2000 patients died after venesection.

In Alemar this epidemic assumed the form of a sore throat; 2000 persons were seized almost instantly in October, of whom 200 died. Forestus ascribes it to a vapor, for it was preceded by thick clouds of an ill smell.

In 1556 the plague raged in Vienna.

In 1557 a violent plague broke out in a small inland village between Delph and the Hague in Holland—an instance of its origination at a distance from a sea-port; and it spread over the country, in June. This disease was preceded by meteors in the air, and attended with abortions. Such was the mortality, that the poor fought for coffins for their dead relations. In Delph only, died 5000 of the poor. It continued through the winter to May 1558.

In the same summer pestilential fevers raged with great mor|tality in France, Holland and other countries.

In de Thou's history of his own times, vol. 2. 227, we have an account of the spotted, or petechial fever, which appeared in Spain in 1557, which was nearly as mortal as the inguinal plague. He calls it a "new disease" and unknown to the an|cients. The spots differed from the florid pimples of the purple fever. It was putrid, malignant and much resembling the plague, but "did not carry so pestilent a contagiousness." It as called in Spain the "puncticular disease." Innumerable people perished by it that year. The same fever in Florence "was succeeded by a violent plague," which had raged on the Tuscan coast.

In 1558 appeared a comet. The summer was excessively hot and the winter very cold. Dysenteries raged in France, and in Holland semitertians, which affe••ed principally the rich, Page  157 as the plague, the last year, did the poor. In some places quar|tan agues were fatal, and malignant fevers, in others.

Violent tempests and inundations are mentioned, this year and the last. In 1558 died Charles V. emperor of Germany.


Short vol. 1. Van Swieten vol. 16. p. 23. Maitland's Hist. Lond. Univ. Hist. vol. 27. 373.

In 1560 a comet, and a dearth of corn in England.

In 1562 and 3 the plague spread over Europe. It broke out in 1562 among the English soldiers, who were sent to garrison New-Haven in France. The next year it raged in London and carried off 20,000 of its inhabitants. Authors say, the sold|iers from New-Haven introduced it into London; but who in|troduced it into New-Haven, we are not informed.

The truth is, this terrible disease appeared in most parts of Europe about the same time. In Frankfort, Nuremberg, Mag|deburgh, Hamburgh, Dantzick, and in the vandalic maritime towns, Wismar, Lubick, Rostock and others, perished by com|putation 300,000 persons in the year 1563.—This disease also raged in winter, for Thuanus mentions the death of Castalion, a literary character of that age, by the plague at Basle in January.

This year was remarkable also for earthquakes. In Sept. was a violent one in England, especially in Lincoln and other northern parts. In January the river Thames was agitated by preternatural fluxes of the tides, which forced back the natural tides, three times. In winter, severe cold rendered that river passable as a highway.

The same year earthquakes were felt in Illyrica, and Dalma|tia, and Catana suffered a great loss of lives.

In 1564 a comet appeared, and remarkable northern lights, or meteors, and a destructive inundation of the Thames.


Short vol. 1. Maitland's Hist. Lond. Thuanus. Strype's Life of Archbishop Parker, 131.

In 1564 epidemic quinsies were very mortal, and in some places, the spotted fever or the plague.—In winter came on as severe a frost for two months as was ever known.

This epidemic quinsy was a species of angina maligna, and fa|tal as the plague. It spread over Europe.

In 1565 ace was afflicted by pestilential epidemics, in Page  158 which bleeding and purging were fatal. The next year appeared the plague in Lyons.—Charles IX. demanded of the physicians the best mode of treatment, and they all decided against vene|section. —One fourth of the inhabitants of France perished.

In 1566 the spring was rainy and the harvest dry. The Hungarian fever broke out in the Emperor Maximilian's army, and as authors affirm, the soldiers, when disbanded, spread it all over Europe, with great mortality. This disease invaded the patient at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, with slight cold and shiver|ering for about fifteen minutes. This was followed by intense heat, and intolerable pain in the head, mouth and stomach, so that the slightest touch of the bed clothes, made the sick utter shrieks: The pain in the mouth and stomach being the pathog|nomonic symptoms of the disease.—The thirst was unquencha|ble, and a longing for wine, which was fatal, if taken. The tongue was dry and lips chopt. Delirium came on the third day. A critical looseness and deafness were favorable—Swel|lings behind the ears were frequent. The most miserable crisis was, tubercles on the top of the foot, which, if neglected, ended in mortification. Many suffered amputation. Spots, like flea bites, appeared on the body, and if livid or black, they were fatal symptoms. Copious bleeding, on the first seizure, was, of all remedies, the most successful.


Skenkius' p. 770. Short vol. 1.

In the year 1567 was an eruption of Etna, and in Tercera, one of the Azores, fire burst from a lake on the top of a hill, and the water released from its bed, rushed down and swept away part of a settlement below. In 1568 a spotted fever raged in Paris, in which prostration of strength rendered bleeding fatal. The winter of 1567 was very severe, and the summer excessively dry.

In 1569 appeared a comet.—The spotted fever in this year became epidemic in Europe, raging for three years with great destruction. The plague was in London. Short remarks that this spotted fever "in several places turned to the plague, and where the plague raged, it turned to this fever."—Indeed this spotted fever was a milder form of the pestilence, raging as it Page  159 usually does, for some time, before the glandular plague appears. In this period, it was the herald to announce one of the most general plagues that Europe ever knew. The petechial fever prevailed principally from 1569 to 1574, interspersed with the real plague, in a few places; and the real pestis followed it, with mortal rage, and prevailed for three or four years.

In 1570 a most dreadful earthquake in Chili, S. America, destroyed many villages and buried the inhabitants in their ruins. This is the first occasion I have of introducing America in this history.


Ulloa b. 8. ch. 7.

Thuanus, whose authority is very respectable, and who was cotemporary with this period, relates that in 1570 the dikes in Holland were broken by a swell of the ocean, and that 400,000 people were overwhelmed in the floods. He says further that similar phenomena were observed, that year, in different places over the whole world. Reggio, Florence, Venice and Modena felt severe shocks of earthquake in 1571, and Ferara was laid in ruins.

The summers of 1570 and 71 were moist and warm; and in geneal the seasons were similar for the two succeeding years. The winters were rigorous. Fluxes, measles, worms and semi|tertians were epidemic in many places. In 1572 appeared a comet or new star, very bright and clear, larger than Jupiter, in the constellation of Cassiopeia, behind her chair. It was stationary for 16 months and by degrees evanished. The winter succeding was remarkable for hard frost and deep snow. The author of Observations de Physique et de Medicine, says, that all maladies in France in 1572 turned to epilepsy and palsy.

This year the plague raged in Poland; and at Basle a malig|nant fever, chiefly fatal to men of robust constitution.

In 1574 the petechial fever, which had spread mortality over Europe, especially in Italy and Spain, began to change into the usual form of the plague. This disease made its appearance in London, in a small degree, in October and November of this year.

In 1575 the plague appeared in many parts of Europe, and Page  160••ged with incredible mortality for three years. It was reported in Italy to have been imported into Verona and Venice, from Trent. Such was the current vulgar opinion. But men of sci|ence hold the disease to be generated in cities from the filthiness of private dwellings, and not to be produced by the position of the stars or malignant constitution of the air.

The truth was, the disease in Italy first appeared in Trent, an inland town, far from the sea—another instance in which the advocates of importation from Africa or the Levant are silenced. Philosophy disdains to look abroad for the cause of an epidemic, when the strongest of all causes exist in the place. Trent is situated in a valley, on the bank of the Adige, a river which often overflows the adjacent low lands; and after the flood re|cedes, the place is sometimes so sickly that the people are com|pelled to retire to the neighboring hills. Strong local causes therefore account for the first appearance of the plague in that city. The general contagion of the atmosphere, which had produced spotted fevers and other deadly diseases all over Eu|rope for four years preceding, was aided by the local unhealthi|ness of Trent, and here appeared first, the crisis of the pesti|lence, or plague. See the description of that country in Zim|merman on Air.

The disease almost depopulated Trent in 1575, and became mortal in the neighboring Venetian territories. This mortality however was only the forerunner of greater evils. The disease indeed subsided in winter, and the people supposed its violence to be past. They might have known otherwise, had they atten|ded to the progressiveness of the malady, and the certain indi|cations of its increase.

In 1576 the disease appeared in Venice; and as it carried off a few people at first, in scattered situations, opinions were, as usual in all such cases, divided as to the nature of the distem|per. In this state of the public mind, two eminent physicians, Mercuriale of Foli, and Capavacca of Padua, undertook to assert the disease not to be pestilential. The senate, observing the controversy among the Venetian physicians, as to the nature of the distemper, listened to the two foreigners, who declared Page  161 they could cure it, and put a stop to the removal of the diseased from the city. By this means, says the historian, the distemper was obviously increased; and it raged with terrible fury, till it carried off 70,000 of the citizens, with fifty-seven valuable physicians and surgeons. The two foreign physicians were dis|missed, with applauses for having preferred the good of Venice to their personal safety.

This account from Thuanus deserves particular notice. We here see the same doubts about the nature of the disease on its first appearance, which prevail in all similar cases—as in Mar|seilles in 1720—in London in 1665—and in America, with respect to the yellow fever, which is only another form of plague. The source of all these doubts and controversies, which have so often embarrassed the citizens and disgraced the faculty, is, the progressiveness of the pestilence. The malignant diseases preceding, slide into the glandular plague so gradually, that phy|sicians themselves do not know precisely when the distemper should lose the name of malignant fever and take that of plague. Sydenham honestly confesses that, in 1665, he did not know whether the malignant disease which appeared in May and be|came epidemic, just before the plague, was the real plague or not. And the truth is, that the disease often assails people, in a few scattering cases, at the beginning of a plague, with a mor|tality equal to the true pestis, and without the distinctive marks of plague, the glandular tumors.

These facts will hereafter, with careful observation, obviate all controversies at the beginning of pestilential diseases; and they will decide infallibly all questions relative to the domestic or foreign origin of such maladies.

This pestilence was severely felt in Padua, Milan, Cremona and Pavia. Vicenza, which escaped this year, was visited the next, with equal severity.

Dr. Mead is puzzled to know why Vicenza, which lies be|tween Verona and Padua, should escape the plague, in the year when both those cities were infested; and yet the next year, should suffer equally with her neighbors, when they were exempt from the calamity. He finds some difficulty in accounting for Page  162 the conveyance of the infection from one to another, without communicating it to the intervening city. This subject will be considered in a subsequent section; I will only here remark, that nothing is so fatal to truth and science, as for a man of popular talents to espouse an erroneous theory, and then strive to bend facts to its support.


See Thuanus, lib. 62. Shenkius, 756. Short, vol. 1.

In 1575 multitudes of flies and beetles were found in Eng|land, and in 1576 an earthquake was experienced.

In November 1577 appeared a comet of surprising magni|tude, with a long coma—and most terrible tempests accompani|ed its approach. In 1578 another comet, and in 1579 an erup|tion of Etna. In 1578 were earthquakes in England.


Short, vol. 1.

In the great pestilence of the preceding ten years, not only Europe, but Asia was laid waste. So general and severe was the disease that the operations of war, in the Turkish empire, were suspended. Messina in Sicily lost 40,000 inhabitants—and Europe must have lost in ten years, by the pestilence under the various forms it assumed, one third, or more probably one half her people.

In this period we see all the extraordinary operations of nature united. Comets, earthquakes, in Europe and S. America tem|pests, volcanoes, unusual animals, excessive floods from rain or an extraordinary intumescence of the ocean all mark an extreme agit|ation or disorder of the elements.—The vast comet of 1577, the year when the plague was at its height, was calculated to ap|proach within 840,000 miles of the earth. Upon the Newton|ian principles of the power of attraction, the influence of that body on the earth must have been prodigious.


Encyclop. art. Astronomy.

In this year appeared in Moravia a new disease, evidently dis|tinct in its symptoms from any known malady, and which Thu|anus has described.

This also was the year in which a sudden disease seized the court and attendants at the Oxford assizes in England. Early in July, while the court was sitting, "there arose, says Stowe, amidst the people such a damp that almost all were smothered— Page  163 very few escaped, that were not taken at that instant. The ju|rors died presently—after which Robert Bell, Lord Chief Ba|ron. There died in Oxford 300 persons—and sickened there, but died elsewhere, more than 200 from the 6th to the 12th of July. After which died not one of that sickness, for one of them infected not another, nor died thereof any one woman or child."


Chronicle, p. 681.

This sudden catastrophe is ascribed o a damp or vapor. But there is no need of resorting to such a cause. The atmosphere, during the period under consideration, was not furnished with the power of supporting animal life, in as ample a manner as it usually is.—This is evident, from the universality of mortal epi|demics. In this state of the atmosphere, a multitude, crouded into a court room, in the hot month of July, must speedily des|troy all the respirable air, and death must ensue. That the prin|cipal cause was not only local, but sudden, is demonstrated by the circumstance, that no infection accompanied the diseased. Had the cause of their illness been long in operation, it would have produced in the body that species of poison, which is nox|ious to persons in health. Persons, suddenly deprived of life, as by damps in wells or the fumes of charcoal, communicate no infection.

It is suggested by some writers, that this disease was occasion|ed by an infected prisoner, who was brought from jail into court; but Stowe does not mention this circumstance. And it is possible the catastrophe might have been owing to a sudden discharge of mephitic vapor.

Scarcely had the last period of pestilence come to a close, when another series of maladies succeeded, and nearly in the or|der of those last described.

In 1580 appeared a comet on the 10th of October which was visible for two months. The preceding summer was very moist and rainy, and about the rising of the dog-star, came on a cold dry north wind. In June began an epidemic catarrh in Sicily, which spread over Europe. In July, it was in Italy; in Au|gust, in Venice and Constantinople; in September, it extended over Hungary, Bohemia and Saxony; in October, on the Bal|tic; Page  164 in November, in Norway and in December, in Sweden, Poland and Russia.—Its symptoms were nearly the same, as in this country, but the disease was more violent and fatal.—In Rome, died of it 4000 people—in Lubec, 8000; at Ham|burgh, 3000; and multitudes in other places. It appears to have been attended with more fever than in ordinary cases—The fever was continual for four or five days, with a pain in the head, straitness of the breast and cough—it terminated in profuse sweating.—In general bleeding and purging were found to be prejudicial.


Riverius, lib. 17.

In this year and about the time, when the catarrh had over|spread Europe, broke out in Grand Cairo, one of the most des|olating plagues ever known. Prosper Alpinus, who lived in that age, reports the number of deaths, from November 1580, to July 1581 to have been 500,000. It will be found on ex|amination that the plague, in a series of pestilential and epidemic diseases, appears in Egypt, before it does in Europe and Amer|ica, and is nearly cotemporary with the catarrh, angina or other precursor of the pestilence in more northern latitudes. This fact deserves notice. The plague which followed the catarrh in Europe, did not appear in many places, perhaps in none except in France, in the year 1580.—In northern latitudes, the malig|nity of the epidemic constitution does not appear, till the second or third year, after its commencement in catarrh or measles.

In Paris however the plague raged in 1580, the same year it appeared in Egypt, and carried off 40,000 people, mostly of the poorer sort; and at the same time, it prevailed in many of the neighboring towns, especially, says Thuanus, "at Laon in Vermandois, which city is in a position exposed to a hot sun, in which died 6000."

The historian further remarks, that the "crops that year were plentiful, and the sky serene; so that it was thought the disease was produced rather by the influence of the stars, ab astrorum impressione, than by the malignity of a corrupt air." This is another proof that a state of air, as described by Hip|pocrates, is not always the cause of pestilence.

Page  165Altho this malady broke out in France in 1580, yet it had been preceeded by the catarrh. The historian remarks, that the catarrh was not so much dreaded for its mortality, tho many died of it, as for the astonishing rapidity with which the contagion spread from place to place. It seized the lower spine of the back with a chill, horrore; to this succeeded gravedo, a dull pain in the head; and universal languor or debility, resolvens membra, loosening or unhinging the joints. If the crisis was not favora|ble in five days, the disease terminated in a fatal fever.


See Thuanus and Riverius, also lib. 17.

In 1580 considerable earthquakes were felt in Belgium, at Cologne and about the Mediterranean. The same shocks were felt in various parts of England, but Short places them under the following year. The German sea was agitated, and a great swel|ling of its waters was observed.


See Thuanus, lib. 71, 72. Short, vol. 1. p. 260.

In 1580 also, the marshes in Essex, and some parts of Kent in England, were laid waste by mice, which were so numerous as to destroy the herbage, and a murrain among cattle succeeded.

In this year was issued a proclamation of Queen Elizabeth, upon the representation of the Mayor and Aldermen of Lon|don, prohibiting any new house to be built within three miles of the gates of the city, and more than one family to reside in a house. The reasons assigned for the prohibition are connected with this subject. The increase of London had long been con|sidered as an evil, by swelling the head too large for the body, and several attempts had been made to restrain the increase. The resort of people to the city from the country was held to be prejudical to agriculture.

But the proclamation states further, that "such great multi|tudes of people, brought to inhabit in small rooms, whereof a great part are very poor, yea such as must live by begging, or by worse means, and they heaped together, and in a sort, smoth|ered with many families of children and servants, in one house or small tenement, it must needs follow, if any plague or popu|lar sickness should, by God's permission, enter amongst those multitudes, that the same would not only spread itself, and invade Page  166 the whole city and confines, but a great mortality would ensue the same, and the infection be dispersed through all other parts of the realm."

In this paper, we observe some powerful causes of pestilence in London to be explained—and events showed how little good was done by the interference of authority with private rights, and an attempt to check, by positive prohibitions, the natural growth of towns. This proclamation, like all which had pre|ceded it, was useless. The city increased, and the plague con|tinued to ravage it, until the good providence of God arrested the evil, by a general conflagration, and men had become wise enough, to build large, airy houses, and keep them clean.


Maitland's History of London.

In 1582 a remarkable tepest is mentioned, and a comet in May. A severe earthquake was felt in South-America, and a small city near Lima was destroyed.


Ulloa's Voyage, vol. 2. b. 7.

In 1583 several concussions of the earth were experienced in England, and the plague appeared in London. At the same time it appeared in Germany or Holland; as Diemerbroeck mentions this as a pestilential year. The following winter was severe. In Rome there was a famin.


Maitland's Hist. Lond. Short, vol. 1.

In 1585 in spring appeared very malignant pleurisies. In 1586 Thrace was overrun with locusts, and the plague raged in Hungary, Austria and Turkey. A comet appeared in each of these years, and in 1586 Lima in South-America was nearly ruined by an earthquake. See Ulloa, from whom my accounts of earthquakes in Spanish America, are all taken.

In 1587 a very cold spring, but a plentiful year in most coun|tries. The plague raged in Flanders, which was almost depopu|lated by disease, war and famin. In some parts, the wild beasts took possession of the houses. Dogs ran mad, and did no small mischief, and fields were covered with weeds and bushes. The catarrh appeared in England, this year, but how extensively, I am not informed. An eruption of fire in Iceland is recorded under the same year.

Page  167In 1589 the English fleet, returned from Portugal, with the Hungarian fever, says Short, and introduced it into England. What an influence have names, and what mischief is done by ignorance and false philosophy! The Hungarian fever! As tho this fever had been a native of a particular soil, and transplanted from country to country, like a fruit-tree. Names are not al|ways harmless. The name, Sudor Anglicus, given to the sweat|ing plague, because it appeared first in England and was at first peculiar to Englishmen, has led the moderns to suppose, the dis|ease to have been limited to England or to Englishmen, altho it repeatedly spread over all Europe. In the same way, the insect which injures wheat in America, was ignorantly called the Hes|sian fly, and altho the animal was never known in Germany, yet people believe, that, like yellow fever, it was imported. It is thus that ignorance gives currency to an improper name, and the name in turn assists to propagate and perpetuate an error.

The truth, in regard to diseases, is, that they often assume peculiar symptoms; such as are not usual. These are not prop|erly new diseases, but modifications of common fever, proceed|ing from the infinite variety of that cause of sickness, which I denominate general contagion, and which Sydenham called the Epidemic Constitution of the air. This or other causes are per|petually diversifying the symptoms of diseases; so that physicians are often at a loss whether to call a disease by an old or new name. Wherever the peculiar causes first exist, there will the peculiar symptoms of disease first appear—and when similar causes exist in other places, the same symptoms will attend the disease.

In 1590 multitudes of people perished by famin. A comet approached the system, the winter was cold, a violent earth|quake convulsed Hungary, Bohemia and Vienna; near the lat|ter place, the earth emitted an offensive smell. The drouth was extreme. The Azores were shaken by an earthquake, and a tempest in September threatened to overwhelm them in mass.

In 1591 universal catarrh in Europe was a prelude to most destructive pestilence. It is singular also that the plague broke out in Narva and Revel, in Livonia, on the gulf of Finland, in the 59th degree of latitude, and raged through the succeeding Page  168 cold winter. Six thousand persons perished in Revel. As to its origin, the great Thuanus could not decide whether it was "a belli incommoditatibus, sive caeli inclementia," from the dis|tresses of war, or intemperature of the air. There could have been no suspicion of a foreign origin.


Thuanus, lib. 100.

Cotemporary with the catarrh was a malignant spotted fever in Trent. A distressing famin caused a great mortality in Italy.

In 1591 the plague began to show itself in Italy, but attended with peculiar symptoms. A fever, little infectious, seized the head, inducing delirium, and in many patients, was attended with fluxes and flatulent bowels. It terminated fatally on the tenth day. The remedy was bleeding "Secta vena capitis, quae in brachio est, aliisque a capite manantibus," says Thuanus. It attacked chiefly men between the ages of 30 and 50; but was fatal to few women. It raged in Umbria, Tuscany, Romagne and Lombardy, sweeping away, in some towns, almost every man. From August to August, it was computed that 60,000 persons perished.


Thuanus, lib. 102.

In 1592 the petechial fever spread over Florence, with a ma|lignity that entitled it to the name of plague. It was most fatal to the nobles.

In England the drouth in this and the former summer was extreme. The Thames was fordable at London. The plague appeared in Shropshire in the west, and carried off 18,000 cit|izens in London. Persia suffered much by an earthquake in the same year.


Short, vol. 1. Sims on Epid. Mem. Med. Soc. vol. 1. Mitland's Lond.

In the same year a furious pestilence prevailed in Candia. It appeared in spring, increased till July and then abated. On its first appearance, all infected and suspected persons were removed to a distant hospital, but without effect. The disease continued to spread—a proof that it was an epidemic. In September, it was supposed to be extinguished; but in October, it broke out with fresh violence, and the diseased were confined to their houses—a useless and pernicious regulation. The city lost 20,000 inhabitants.

Page  169In 1594 was a severe winter. The years 1594, 5 and 6 were very rainy in England and Germany. Crops failed, and in Hungary, the famin was extreme.

In 1596 appeared a comet. Violent earthquakes shook dif|ferent countries, and several cities in Japan were swallowed up.

In 1596 and 7 prevailed in Cologne, Westphalia and other parts of Germany, a singular disease, which authors ascribe to the famin which had preceded. It was a malignant fever, which was attended with convulsions and raving madness, or delirium. Sometimes the convulsions were attended with little or no fever. The patient was contracted into a knot or ball by the violence of the convulsions, or extended to full length, like a dead body— sometimes the extension of the body was succeeded by a con|traction in the same paroxism. The particulars respecting this disease do not fall within the plan of this history, but may be found in Short, vol. 1.

In 1597 appeared a comet, and the same year the catarrh was again epidemic. Malignant fevers, accompanied with worms in youth, were predominant also, and the plague was in Juliers and Geneva. A dearth in England. The winter of 1597 was se|vere, as was that of 1599.

The summers of 1598 and 99 were remarkably dry, and swarms of fleas, gnats and flies abounded. Tertians, with pe|techiae, were frequent, and continual fevers which yielded to bleeding and purging, or went off with a bilious diarrhea.— Small-pox and measles were also epidemic.

These diseases, as usual, were the precursors of a very dis|tressing plague, which, in the autumn of 1598, raged in Lon|don, Litchfield, Leicester and other places in England. It even broke out in the small towns in Wales and the northern counties, as in Kendal in Cumberland, where died 2500—in Richmond, where died 2200—at Carlisle which lost 1196 in|habitants; and at Percrith which lost 2266.


See Camden's Britannia.

In 1598 Pegu, in Asia, was depopulated by famin, and Con|stantinople was almost stripped of its inhabitants by the plague. Page  170 Seventeen princesses, sisters of the Sultan, Mahomet III. died in one day. To arrest the progress of this mortality, cannon were fired and aromatics burnt in all parts of the city; but with what success the historian does not inform us.


History of the Turkish Empire.

In Italy an inundation of the Tyber injured Rome.

In 1599 the spring was cold and dry; the summer hot and rainy, with great floods. A very mortal distemper raged among cattle in Italy. In Spain and Lisbon died 70,000 people of the plague. In some places, a fatal dysentery prevailed.


Short, vol. 1. Sims on Epid.