SECTION VII. Historical view of pestilential epidemics from the year 1701 to 1788.
THE year 1701 appears to have been excessively dry in America. Dr. Rush relates that during the dry summer of 1782, a rock in the Skuylkill appeared above the surface of the water, on which were engraven the figures 1701. How little do men suspect the value of this inscription! To this alone I am indebted for the fact of extreme drouth in that year—and the fact is among the proofs of an extraordinary evaporation, before dis|charges of fire and lava from volcanoes. In 1701 was an erup|tion of Vesuvius; in 1702 of Etna. It will hereafter appear that a similar dry season in 1782 preceded the great eruption of Heckla in 1783. Indeed it is a general fact, and as far as I can learn, such seasons seldom occur, except during the approach of comets, or antecedent to volcanic eruptions.
This was a pestilential period. In 1701 Toulon lost two thirds of its inhabitants by the plague, and the Levant was se|verely affected about the same time. See the bills of mortality for Augsburg, Dresden and Boston.
In 1702 appeared a comet; Etna discharged its fires, and in Boston raged a malignant small-pox, attended, in many cases, with a scarlet eruption, which was mistaken for the scarlet fever. It appears from Fairfield's diary that this disease appeared in June and was at first mild, not fatal to any of the patients. In August died one patient—in September it became very mortal, and in this month was attended with a "sort of fever called scarlet fever." In October, many died of the "fever and the small-pox, and it was a time of sore distress," on which account the general court sat at Cambridge. In December "the fever Page 217 abated;" but the small-pox continued to be mortal, till the month of February 1703, when it began to subside.
I have already remarked that eruptive diseases seem to belong to one family. Physicians will observe •he alliance in their symp|toms; but I would observe that the progressiveness in this disease of 1702 and the variations in its symptoms, prove it to have been an epidemic, and not the effect of mere infection, or spe|cific contagion.
In this year also the drouth was extreme. In New-York ra|ged the American plague, which was said to have been imported from St. Thomas's. By the accounts, this was more fatal than any disease since that period. It was called the "Great Sick|ness" and hardly a patient survived. On account of it, the assembly was held at Jamaica on Long-Island.
Smith's Hist. N. York, p. 104. Journals of Assembly, vol. 1. 151.
Such were the epidemics in America which followed the in|fluenza of 1698—malignant pleurisies in 1698—plague in 1699 and in 1702, with virulent small-pox—all of unusual severity. Let the reader compare these facts with the accounts from Eu|rope and the bills of mortality.
The winter of 1702-3 was variable—severe frost and great snows, with intervals of warm weather. In spring catarrh prevail|ed in England, followed by a sickly summer, with earthquakes.
In January and February 1703 were severe shocks of earth|quake in Rome, Naples and other parts of Italy. In October a memorable tempest or hurricane, which did great damage at sea, and injured buildings on land.
In 1704 the summer was very dry, and a most malignant spotted fever raged in Augsburg and in Prussia. Flies were in great abundance, and there was an eruption of Vesuvius. The last eruption of the volcano in Teneriffe was in this year, since which it has discharged smoke, but no fire.
Note. A late arrival from Teneriffe brings an account of the bursting forth of a volcano, in June last, which continued, till the vessel left the island in August.
In December 1705 were many most violent tempests and in|undations. The tide rose in the Loir in France 25 feet beyond Page 218 its usual height. Half of Limerick in Ireland was laid under water. These storms indicated the approach of a comet, which appeared in the following year.
In 1706 coughs and coryzas prevailed, and dysentery fatal among children.
A small shock of earthquake was felt in America in 1705.
In 1707 appeared another comet and subterranean fire was uncommonly agitated. Vesuvius discharged fire, and a new island was thrown up in the Archipelago, with an earthquake and volcano. The seasons in this and the following year were variable.
Buffon's Nat. Hist.
In November 1708 began a most severe and universal catarrh in Europe, which was speedily followed by a series of pestilen|tial diseases. Of this catarrh, of the seasons, and the plagues that followed we have from Europe very correct accounts; but, with the utmost industry, I cannot learn whether the catarrh extended to America.
The explosion of subterranean fire in various places in 1707 seems to have been the commencement of this period; altho there was a plague in the eastern parts of Europe, most of the preceding years from 1700. A meteor passed over England, near the mouth of the Thames, July 31, 1708, a few months before the catarrh.
The winter of 1708-9 was the severest that had happened, af|ter 1683-4. But it appears that the catarrh commenced two months before the severe cold began. At least this epidemic appeared in the north of Europe, as early as November; whereas the autumn was one of the mildest, till January, that was ever known. Then the weather changed sudde•ly to most severe cold and continued for a number of weeks.
Short, vol. 1. Lancisius, p. 194 and seq.
This catarrh is carefully described by Lanci•ius as it appeared in Italy. In Rome it commenced in January, but increased afterwards, as the cold abated. It began with coryza, rheumata and slight cough, and was attended with pains in the breast, angina, pleurisies and peripneumonies, which prevailed greatly in the spring, among those who neglected the cough, or used a full diet.
Page 219Symptoms of this catarrh were, lassitude, fever with chills, wandering pains in the breast, continued cough, hard pulse, flame-colored or turbid urine, spitting of blood and difficult res|piration. The cheeks were red and the body suffured with a yellow color, like that of the jaundice.
Persons shut up in prison, escaped the disease.* Fewer wo|men than men were afflicted, and persons in easy circumstances, who could take care of themselves, suffered less than the poor. Many recovered by means of sweats or hemorrhagy at the nose, or discharges from the bowels, or copious discharges of urine, or by all these evacuations, accompanied by spitting a thick phlegm. Venesection was beneficial, especially in robust consti|tutions. On dissection, the precordia appeared of a reddish color, extending to the diaphragm—and discolored by spots of blackish thick blood—polypusses were discovered in the great ves|sels of the heart.
This disease did not entirely disappear till June.
In the summer of 1708 preceding the severe winter and ca|tarrh, gnats appeared in prodigious swarms.
The winter of 1708-9 killed fruit-trees, vines and corn. After this excessive cold, multitudes of people died of apoplex|ies, and others were seized with vertigoes, arthritics, pleurisies, inflammatory fevers of all kinds, and consumptions. This se|verity of cold extended over America as well as Europe, in the same winter.
A pestilence raged in the north of Europe from the years 1702 to 1711, of which we have an account in Philosophical Transactions, No. 337.
Baddam's Memoirs, vol. 6. p. 5.
It has been observed already that the plague raged in the Le|vant, in the first years of the present century. In 1702, the same year, it will be noted, in which the terrible small-pox raged Page 220 in Boston and bilious plague in New-York, the plague broke out in Poland, near Pickzow, soon after an unfortunate battle be|tween the Swedes and Saxons. No suggestion appears that the disease was caught by infection from a distant country, nor that the fetor of dead carcases was supposed to generate the distem|per. On these important points we are left in the dark. All that is recorded is, that it first began near Pickzow in Poland, soon after a battle. It spread in 1703, 4 and 5 over Poland, and into parts of Hungary and Russia, sweeping away vast num|bers of inhabitants. In 1706 we hear nothing of it. In 1707 it broke out in Warsaw, with great mortality. In 1708 it ap|peared in Thorn, and parts of Polish Prussia.
This approach of the disease alarmed the people of Dantzick —public prayers were ordered in the churches—all commerce and communication with infected places were forbid—no mer|chandize from infected or suspected places was permitted to enter the city, and the magistrates neglected no measure that could guard the public safety. All travellers and strangers were strict|ly examined, and none permitted to enter without sufficient proofs that they came from healthy and uninfected places. These and other strict regulations were enjoined in July 1708; but notwithstanding these precautions, "the distemper gradually insinuated itself, for in March 1709, there died out of one dis|trict in the old town seven persons, and another person, being ill, was sent to the hospital, where the disease soon spread." Dr. Gottwald, the author of this account, visited the hospital on the 16th of the same month, and found many persons ill—"some had buboes, others carbuncles, others gangrenous ulcers, which he could not determin to be pestilential, but which he judged to be symptoms, if not of the plague already commenced, at least of something, but little inferior to it, and certain forerunners of that destructive distemper."
In the preceding account, we observe the utter insufficiency of laws and regulations to prevent the introduction of the plague into cities; and the uncertainty of physicians at first as to the nature of the disease. The facts stated prove the disease to have been generated on the spot, and to have been progressive from Page 221 malignant fevers to the real plague. I have no bills of the mor|tality in Dantzick for the preceding years, but if any such are on record, it will appear, that the approach of the plague was indicated in that city by malignant diseases and increased mortal|ity, for some months or perhaps a year or two preceding.
The disease spread slowly at first, but in July and August be|came general—it was at its height in September, and gradually declined till the close of the year. The number of victims was nearly 25,000.
From the very accurate history of this pestilence by Dr. Gottwald, the following circumstances are to be collected.
1st. That the distemper first made its appearance in a part of the old town, called Raumbaum. What its situation is, may be seen in Busching; a part of the city built on a stream which falls into the Vistula—low of course—a place of business, and its streets dirty.
2d. The disease, after its first appearance, lay lurking for a long time, in the suburbs of the city, and its progress was not perceivable, for two or three months. This corresponds with its phenomena in London and other places; and proves that cold or favorable weather suspends or checks the action of the pestilential principle.
3d. It was most fatal to the poor—people in good condition mostly escaped. The same was observed at Copenhagen in 1711.
4th. Its decrease was gradual, as well as its increase.
5th. Many of the inhabitants, tho they took never so much care to avoid the distemper, kept at home, suffered no infected person to approach them, and used all manner of preservatives, "yet caught the infection."
6th. The disease was preceded, in 1708, by extraordinary numbers of spiders. The same presage has been observed on other occasions.
7th. While this distemper was raging, on the 11th of Au|gust, an offensive mist was observed, like a thick cloud, but of short duration. It returned in the afternoon, from the north|west, so thick as to darken the air. Its color was that of the effluvia from the •ffervescence of the oil of vitriol with oil of tartar, a blackish yellow.
Page 2228th. In the beginning of October appeared over the city a blue fiery globe or meteor, which came from the north west, in the night, shot towards the town rapidly, illuminating the city, and fell to the south.
9th. Crows, sparrows and other birds did not make their ap|pearance during the pestilence.
In 1708 and 9 the plague desolated Livonia. In 1710 the disease appeared in Sweden; 30,000 persona perished by it in Stockholm, and other parts of the kingdom did not escape. Historians relate, that in the latter part of the last century and beginning of the present, the sweating sickness and great plague in Sweden destroyed several hundred thousand lives, in conse|quence of which Sweden is less populous than formerly.
Williams's Obs. vol. 1. p. 638. Universal Hist. vol. 35. 458.
In 1710 also the territory of Lithuania was ravaged by pes|tilence.
In 1711 Copenhagen lost 25,000 citizens by the same mal|ady.
It is proper to remark how extensively pestilence prevailed af|ter the great catarrh and terribly severe winter of 1709.
Nor did America escape the operation of the general princi|ple. A body of troops under Gen. Nicholson, destined to co|operate with a fleet from England, in the reduction of Canada, e•camped near Wood Creek in the province of New-York, and in July and August were attacked with a distemper which made dreadful havoc and obliged them to decamp. Some of the men died as if they had been poisoned. This circumstance gave rise to a report which Charlevoix gravely relates, that the In|dians had poisoned the water of the creek, by throwing into it all the skins of beasts they had taken in hunting. The disease was probably the lake fever or a malignant dysentery. This happened in 1709.
Hutch. Hist. Mass. vol. 2. 179.
England also felt the influence of the same general principle, as appears from the bill of mortality for 1710. In France, England and the Low Countries raged a catarrhous fever to Page 223 which was given the name of Dunkirk rant. In some places prevailed a spotted fever, as at Norwich.
Short on Air. Baddam's Mem. vol. 6. 70, 72.
In 1712 prevailed catarrh in Europe, with sore throats. Whether catarrh prevailed in America also, I can obtain no in|formation. The seasons in England were excessively wet, and corn was rotten or mildewed. The winter was severe, there was an eruption of Vesuvius and an earthquake. From these circumstances, I suspect the approach of a comet, but have found no account of any.*
Short, vol. 2. 8.
In October 1712 commenced a mortal sickness in the town of Waterbury, in Connecticut, which raged for eleven months. It was so general that nurses could scarcely be found to tend the sick. What the disease was, I am not informed; but not im|probably it was that species of putrid pleurisy, which has so of|ten made dreadful havoc in America.
Trumbull's Hist. of Connecticut, 386.
In the same year, prevailed a sore throat in London, accom|panied with dizziness and pain in the limbs.
In 1713 prevailed the measles in America, cotemporary with epidemic pestilence in Europe.
In 1712 and 13, the plague was epidemic in Vienna, Hun|gary, Stiria and other eastern countries. This disease was pre|ceded by the spotted fever, which gradually changed to plague. At the same time, whole countries were overrun with insects.
Short, vol. 2. 10.
In England prevailed a fever which Mead has pronounced to have been of the same kind, as the sweating sickness in the six|teenth century.—He says it was imported from Dunkirk, but how it came to be in Dunkirk, he does not inform us.
During these calamities among men, the beasts of the field did not escape. A fatal distemper among cattle broke out in 1711 and raged with such violence, in Italy, as almost to destroy the species. It spread for three or four years, and horses perished by a similar pestilence. The writers who describe the disease, Page 224 represent it as a kind of plague; and all agree that it sprung from a single infected cow from Dalmatia. How this cow be|came infected, they do not inform us. The truth is the disease was an epidemic, tho very infectious; and that it did not ne|cessarily originate in infection, is proved by its appearing in many other parts of Europe.
The disease began with rigors, which were followed by vio|lent fever, with eruptions like those of the small-pox, and ter|minated in five, six or seven days.
Baddam's Mem. vol. 6. 72. Lancisius p. 154.
In 1714 began in Europe a series of dry summers. This year was rather sickly in England, and cattle also perished by an infectious distemper.
In 1715 the small-pox and measles were epidemic in England. In the same year, Plymouth in Massachusetts lost 40 of its in|habitants by a malignant disease, but no particulars are known.
Hist. Col. vol. 4. 129.
In 1716 the winter was excessively severe, and a fair was held on the Thames. The rivers in Europe, even in Italy, were covered with ice.
Short, vol. 2. 17.
In America, the 21st of October O. S. was so dark that peo|ple used lighted candles. Lima, the same year, was shaken by an earthquake.
Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 1. 244. Ulloa. Lima.
In 1717 appeared a comet, and there was an explosion of Vesuvius. Holland and Germany suffered severely the same year by inundations. In America the winter was terribly se|vere, and remarkable for "prodigious storms of snow," says Mr. Winthrop of New-London in a letter to Dr. Mather, Hist. Col. vol. 2. 12. One hundred •heep belonging to that gentle|man were buried in the snow on Fisher's Island, and 28 days af|ter, were dug out, when two of them were found alive; and they both lived and thrived. The snow was accumulated over them to the height of sixteen feet.—This snow storm is distin|guished in the Annals of America, as by far the greatest ever known.
Page 225This year was remarkable also in America for the death of many old people, says
Hutchinson's Hist. vol. 2. 223.
In Europe catarrh was prevalent, and malignant small-pox among children. At Underwald in Switzerland prevailed a tertain, so violent as to destroy life at the second attack. The plague made its appearance in some part of the Turkish domin|ions.
See Short, vol. 2. 20, and Lady Montague's Letters.
In 1718 the winter was cold in Europe, the season in Eng|land hot, and a comet was seen. The plague advanced.
See Short, vol. 2. and Russel's Hist. Aleppo.
In 1719 malignant fevers were prevalent in many parts of Eu|rope, marking a pestilential principle of great extent. The win|ter of 1719-20 in America was very cold.
In these last years raged malignant pleurisy in Hartford, in Connecticut, with great mortality.
In March 1719 an immense meteor passed the heavens, illu|minating the earth and bursting with a tremendous report. Its diameter was calculated by Dr. Halley at a mile and a half.
At this time the plague appeared in Aleppo, and carried off by report 80,000 people. Russel agrees that this disease came from the north, altho he has given us few particulars. It raged, as usual, for two or three years.
Hist. of Aleppo—passim.
In 1718, 19, 20 and 21, says Dr. Rogers, the greater num|ber of those who lived near the slaughter-houses at Cork, died.
In 1720 happened the last great plague in Marseilles, on which occasion has been published "Traité de la peste," a treatise in quarto, by Chicoyneau, under the sanction of the French king, in which great efforts are made to prove the disease to have been imported from the Levant.
The proofs of importation stand thus. "Capt. Chataud left Said in Syria in January 1720, with a clean patent. The plague was not then in Said, tho it broke out soon after. On the passage, several persons died, and the physicians at Leghorn, where the ship stopped, pronounced their disease to be "a ma|lignant pestilential fever."
Page 226The ship arrived at Marseilles, and some persons who had concern with the goods, died in May. The suspected goods were subjected to fifteen days retreat and purification—they were forbid to be introduced into the city—the porters were shut up; but all regulations were fruitless. In June, deaths appeared in the city with distinctive marks of the plague."
On such flimsey evidence do the sticklers for the sole propa|gation of the plague by infection, ground all their assertions res|pecting the disease at Marseilles!
But it happens in this case, as in most similar instances, that the pretended proofs of infection carry refutation in the very face of them.
In the first place, it is an acknowledged fact, that at the time the ship left Said, the plague had not appeared in that port, or town. It was at Aleppo and in other places far distant in 1719, but had not broke out in Said. How, in the name of reason, could men or goods be infected, when the disease did not exist in the place?
To overcome or rather to evade the force of this objection, the writers on the subject are compelled to resort to supposition. They say it is possible, the plague might have been in the place, tho not known or generally admitted. And here rests their whole argument!
It is true, that some of the seamen or passengers died on the passage, with a malignant pestilential fever. But in this case, the malady originated on board the ship—and the infection is not traced to the Levant ports. There is an end of the chain—the disease began without infection, on board the ship, as malignant fevers have done in thousands of other ships.
Again, it is admitted by Dr. Mead himself, p. 255, that from the time of the sailors' death, after the ship arrived, it was full six weeks before the disease was known in the city of Mar|seilles; a circumstance that renders it nearly impossible that there could have been any propagation of the distemper by infection. To remove this objection, the advocates of infection again resort to supposition. They suppose it possible some latent seeds of the disease had been concealed in goods, or clothes—and such ridic|ulous suggestions are made the grounds of assertion.
Page 227But what completely refutes all these idle suppositions, is, that we have full evidence, that the plague in Marseilles was generat|ed in the city, and gradually arose from milder diseases. In the beginning of the "Traitè de la peste," it is stated from Mon. Didier and not denied, that "the preceding year 1719 was a barren year—the corn, the wine and the oil, were defec|tive. The heat of spring was excessive and followed by great rains, with westerly winds—the fruits were bad. In this year a pestilential fever appeared in Marseilles, of which many died, and in some, appeared buboes, carbuncles and paroitides."
Here we observe facts that always exist, before the plague, and which demonstrate the uniform operations of the laws of nature. The year 1718 began to exhibit malignant diseases in greater numbers than usual. In 1719 the plague broke out at Aleppo, and in the north and west of Europe, malignant fevers became in many places, epidemic and pestilential. In 1720, the pestilential state of the air, arrived at its crisis in Marseilles. The pestilence in Europe exhibited a regular progress, from or|dinary typhus fever to the plague. A fatal small-pox and spot|ted fever prevailed in Piemont.
To demonstrate this fact, the reader will only turn to the bills of mortality in London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Dresden, &c. for the years under consideration, and observe every where the effects of a general unhealthy state of air, in the increase of the number of deaths.—The bills of mortality in Boston and Phila|delphia also prove this state of air to have extended to this coun|try; and the malignancy of it seems to have abated in America after 1721, in which year the small-pox was very mortal in Boston.
The accounts of diseases in America, at this period, are few and imperfect. Tradition has preserved the memory of desola|ting sickness, at various times and in various places, some of which, I suspect, refer to this period, but I am not able to as|certain the dates, with any certainty.* By accident however, Page 228 I am able to determin positively the pestilential state of air in America in 1720. A genuine letter is extant, from Thomas Hacket of Duck Creek, now in the state of Delaware, dated April 10th 1720, in which he states that a mortality prevailed in that place, which exceeded that in London in 1665, and al|most depopulated the village. I have seen the letter in possession of Dr. Rush.
In 1721 there was an eruption of a volcano in Iceland. A dreadful dysentery raged in Upper Saxony.
In 1720 there was a great earthquake in China, and in 1721 shocks were felt in the Mediterranean, by Dr. Shaw who was then on his travels to the east.—In October 1720, fire arose out of the sea near Tercera, one of the Azores, and a small island arose.
Buffon's Nat. Hist.
In 1722, the seasons were cold, wet and rainy. In August happened a most violent storm in Jamaica and S. Carolina. In May an earthquake in Chili.
The winter of 1722-3 was cold and dry in England. In 1723 appeared a comet, and on the 24th of February, O. S. a mighty tempest which is recorded among the memorabilia of America. The wind blew violently from the southward, then veered suddenly to the eastward and northward, bringing in a tide which rose two or three feet above the Long Wharf in Boston, and flowed over all the lower part of the town, filling cellars and destroying property to a great amount. Immense damage was sustained in all the maritime towns.
See Mather's letter. Hist. Col. vol. 2. 11.
The confluent small-pox raged in England See the London bill of mortality for 1723. Dysenteries, pleurisies and other inflammatory complaints prevailed in the different seasons.
The bilious plague prevailed in Barbadoes, said to be import|ed from Martinico. We are not informed from whence it came into Martinico. In these accounts of infections, we are not led to the end of the chain.
In the same year 1723 prevailed in many parts of the colony of Rhode-Island, a fatal disease called the "burning ague." It was particularly fatal, near Providence, between Pautucket Page 229 and Pautuxet. In proportion to its patients, no disease in A|metica, was ever more mortal. It did not prevail in a large town, but in villages, and perhaps the clearing of some neigh|boring swamps might have been one cause of the disease. The year however was less healthy than usual. A disease of the same name is noted once or twice in ancient history. See the year 1001.
The year 1724 in England was mostly wet and cold; the whooping cough prevailed; but the year was generally healthy.
The summer of 1725 was also wet and cold in England. In January a severe frost produced many inflammatory complaints. In this year happened violent earthquakes in South-Amer|ica, and eruptions from two volcanic mountains in Iceland. I have no account of the weather and diseases in America. I only learn from an old gentleman, that one of the winters be|tween 1722 and 1725 was called, "the hard winter."
The winter of 1726-7 was changeable in England, but mostly cold with great snows. Remitting fevers prevailed in summer and inflammatory, in winter, which swelled the bills of mortal|ity to an unusual degree. At the same time the plague raged in Egypt.
The same winter in America was milder than usual—the sum|mer of 1727 was very hot and dry. See Dudley's account of the great earthquake.
Philos. Trans. and Museum, vol. 5. 363.
In 1727 appeared a comet—an explosion of fire took place from Vesuvius and a volcano in Iceland. The interior counties of England were shaken by an earthquake; and on the 29th of October of the same year happened one of the most extensive and violent earthquakes ever known in America. A malignant dysentery was epidemic in Bern. In America, the summer was very hot.
Short, vol. 2. Van Troil on Iceland. Williams on Earthquakes. Memoirs of American Academy. P•nnant's Arctic Zoology. Zimmerman on dysentery. Phil. Trans. 437. Baddam's Mem. vol. 10. 110.
This was a sickly year; see the bills of mortality for London and Amsterdam, Boston, Philadelphia Christ's Church and Dub|lin. The prevalent diseases in London were fevers of a malig|nant Page 230 type. What the disease was in Philadelphia, I know not; but the greatest mortality was in February, March and April.
In 1728 putrid fevers were frequent—the summer was cold in England and the following winter severe. The year 1727 was unproductive; corn in England was scarce and the scarcity continued into this year. An eruption of a volcano in Iceland and the plague in Egypt marked this year, 1728. The eruption in Iceland continued till 1730.
This year, 1728, the summer weather in South-Carolina was unusually hot and dry. The earth was parched and the springs exhausted. In August a violent hurricane occasioned an inun|dation, which spread over the low grounds and did incredible damage to the wharves, houses and corn fields. The streets of Charlestown were covered with boats; the inhabitants were driven to the upper stories of their houses; twenty-three ships were driven ashore and thousands of trees were levelled. The same season, the bilious plague raged in Charleston with great mortality.
Hist. of S. Carolina, vol. 1. 316.
In 1729 appeared a comet, and in autumn a universal catarrh in Europe, and perhaps over the globe. This was preceded by measles. It seized with a slight chill, a slow fever, weari|ness, continual hoarseness, pain of the head, and difficulty of breathing. The suddenness of the attack was astonishing, and it proved fatal to many aged and phlegmatic people. Many pleurisies and peripneumonies followed. Its first appearance was in Poland, Austria and Silesia, and it marched over Europe in five months. At the close of this epidemic in 1730, Vesuvius discharged its contents of fire.
In this year 1729 the plague was in Aleppo, and it will be seen that the bills of mortality in the north of Europe exhibit a sickly state, through a period of many years at this time. The measles prevailed in America, and in Farmington, Connecticut, a malignant pleurisy.
The summer of 1729 was in most parts of England, very wet, in other parts, dry; but this made no difference in the prevalence of the catarrh. The small-pox was very frequent in England.
Page 231This year also is remarkable for the first appearance of the yellow fever or black vomit at Carthagena, in South-America, where it made dreadful havoc among the crews of the fleet un|der Don Domingo Justiniani. The same fate attended the crews of the galleons under Lopez Pintado in 1730.
Ulloa, vol. 1. p. 44.—Lond. 1772.
The winter of 1729-30 was very mild in Europe. There was a small eruption of Vesuvius in 1730 and in Iceland, and an earthquake in South-America, on the 8th of July totally de|molished the towns of Conception and Santiago, in Chili. This dreadful calamity was soon followed by an epidemic disease which swept away greater numbers than the earthquake.
Ulloa, vol. 2. 235, 257.
The plague was in Cyprus about this time, and was preceded by an earthquake.
In January 1729, the rivers and canals in Holland were cov|ered with ice, from 12 to 20 inches thick. Measles and angi|nas prevailed, and in autumn the small-pox made great havoc.
Bad. Mem. vol. 9. 314 and sequel.
It will be observed that these eruptive diseases in Holland were cotemporary with the measles in America, and the malig|nant pleurisy in winter, which was the predominant symptom of a pestilential constitution of air, in America, until the year 1761.
The winter of 1730-31 was very severe in Europe.
It appears from the bills of mortality in Boston and Philadel|phia, that the years 1730 and 31 were sickly. What the mal|ady was which swelled the mortality in Christ Church to double the usual number in 1731, I am not informed; but the greatest mortality happened in March and April. The small-pox was the disease which augmented the bill in Boston in 1730.
In 1731 the small-pox spread in New-York, and occasioned an adjournment of the legislature in September.
Journals, vol. 1. p. 633.
In 1732 appeared a comet, and in America the following winter was very severe, continuing from the middle of Novem|ber to the end of March. In Europe, the winter was mild.
Douglas Sum. Short on Air.
Lima in South-America was shaken, this year, by an earth|quake; Page 232 a shock was experienced also in England; and in No|vember the same was experienced in Canada and New-England. On the 9th of August happened a remarkably dark day.
See Douglas, and Professor Williams Mem. Am. Acad.
In this year, the plague prevailed at Tripoli, Sidon and Da|mascus; and the American plague at Charleston, S. Carolina.
Lining's letter. Edin. Essays, vol. 2.
Towards the close of the year, in October, commenced in America a severe universal catarrh, which appeared in Europe also in December. It spread over all Europe, in the beginning of 1733, and probably over the earth, as it was experienced at the isle of Bourbon, in the Indian Ocean.
Mem. of Dr. Hunt of Northampton, and the Medical pub|lications in Edinburgh.
This epidemic seems to have been the precursor of the most pestilential period of this century. The summer of 1733, in England, was dry and pleasant. The winter following was very mild. The plague raged at Aleppo.
The scarlatina appeared in Edinburgh; and the chin cough also began in England in 1734, continuing to prevail in 1735.
This period also was noted for meteors. In June 1734, a ball of fire passed through two opposite windows of a steeple at Air, in Scotland, broke one end of the bell-joist, and descended to the earth, without doing further harm. A boy in the neigh|borhood was killed by another ball of fire.
Sinclair's Stat. Ac. of Scotland, vol. 1. 96.
On the 2d of February 1735, Popayan in S. America, was nearly ruined by an earthquake.
The summer of 1735, was very wet and cold. In Europe in 1734 commenced a slow putrid fever. An anginous fever be|came epidemic among children, and quinsies or swellings of the throat, with contagion, and great mortality. Small-pox of a malignant kind prevailed at the close of the year. The pestilen|tial state of the air is said to have affected birds, which died in the cages. Canine madness prevailed.
Short, vol. 2. Van Swieten, vol. 16. p. 56.
In 1735, prevailed a spotted fever of a fatal kind, and other Page 233 malignant disorders, with hydrophobia. In Scotland, the mea|sles became epidemic, and fevers of a bad kind.
Essays and Obs. Edin. Phil. Transac. vol. 4. H•ham, vol. 1.
Earthquakes were felt in England in 1734 and 1736.
In 1736 and 7 a fatal ulcerous sore throat and malignant perip|neumonies, prevailed in France.
In 1735 or 6, three or four thousand people, in the Orkney Islands, perished with famin. The scarcity there in 1782 and 3 was also deplorable, but none perished.
Sinclair's Scotland, vol. 7 497.
While these epidemics were prevailing in Europe, America felt the pestilential state of air. In May 1735, in a wet cold season, appeared at Kingston, an inland town in New-Hamp|shire, situated in a low plain, a disease among children, commonly called the "throat distemper," of a most malignant kind, and by far the most fatal ever known in this country. Its symptoms generally were, a swelled throat, with white or ash-colored specks, an efflorescence on the skin, great debility of the whole system, and a tendency to putridity.
It first seized a child, who died in three days. In about a week afterwards, three children, in another family, at a distance of four miles, were successively seized and all died on the third day. It continued to spread, and of the first forty patients, not one recovered.
In August, it appeared at Exeter, a town six miles distant. In September, it broke out in Boston, fifty miles distant; altho' it did not appear in Chester six miles west of Kingston, till Octo|ber. —It continued its ravages, through that year into the next, and gradually travelled southward, almost stripping the country of children. Very few children escaped, for altho' the disease was very infectious, yet its propagation depended very little on that circumstance. It attacked the young in the most sequester|ed situations, and without a possible communication with the sick. It was literally the plague among children. Many families lost three and four children—many lost all.
In some places, this distemper was more fatal than in others— Page 234 country towns suffered more than populous cities. And it should be here remarked, that the virulence of this species of disease seems at times to be greatly augmented by cold and wet weather —it is most mild in cities where the air is, in a degree, correc|ted of its rigor and moisture.—To this observation however there are exceptions.
Scorbutic people and those who lived on pork, and of course the poor, suffered most. In some families, it was comparatively mild—in others it was malignant like a plague. This disease gradually travelled westward and was two years in reaching the river Hudson, distant from Kingston, where it first appeared, a|bout 200 miles in a strait line. It continued its progress west|ward, with some interruptions, until it spread over the colonies. Few adults were affected; its principal ravages were among per|sons under age, or rather under puberty. For many years after it was epidemic, it frequently broke out in different places with|out any apparent cause, but did not spread—a striking proof that such diseases will not become epidemic by the sole power of in|fection, but that some general cause must aid its propagation, or it will perish in its cradle. This is probably true of every species of pestilential disease.
From an elderly lady of great observation in New-Haven, I have learnt that persons who, recovered of this distemper, were subject, all their lives, to sore throat and quinsies, and what is perhaps more remarkable, that few or none of them have lived to be old. It is at least apparent, in the sphere of her observa|tion, that those persons have died at an earlier age than others. These facts are striking proofs how much the whole system, and especially the seat of the disease, was impaired in strength and firmness, by that distressing malady. A gentleman still living, who was affected with the same disease in 1742, informs me that his constitution has never recovered from the shock it received from that malady.
The invasion of this distemper was gradual, and for some time before its attack, children appeared to languish. It was not always attended with great prostration of strength, for per|sons Page 235 were often walking, an hour or two before their death. The same happened in the angina of 1794.
See further particulars in Colden's account. Medical Obser. and Enq. London, vol. 1. 211. and in Belknap's Histo|ry New-Hampshire, vol. 2. 118.
Diseases among cattle in New Hampshire marked this period.
In 1736, and during the rage of the ulcerous sore throat in America and in England, the plague made terrible havoc in E|gypt —authors relate that Cairo lost 10,000 persons in a day.— In Nimeguen raged a malignant dysentery.
In 1737 while the angina maligna was spreading over the northern parts of America, the bilious plague prevailed in Vir|ginia. In England and Scotland, the measles broke out and prevailed in 1735 and 6, cotemporary with the angina in Amer|ica. Dr. Short relates that the first person seized was a woman in her child-bed illness.
At the same time prevailed miliary fevers in Cornwall, ac|companied with glandular swellings. Coughs, defluxions and catarrhs were frequent. A pestilential disease in Devonshire swept away cattle and swine.
In 1737 a very severe influenza invaded both hemispheres. It commenced in November.
In 1737 also appeared a comet; Constantinople was shaken and Smyrna half destroyed by an earthquake. A small shock was felt in Boston. In October of this year, a storm or hurri|cane in the East-Indies, destroyed 20,000 vessels of different sizes, and 300,000 people. There was a great eruption of Ve|suvius in the same year. In Iceland also was an eruption be|tween 1730 and 1740, but the year is not specified.
See Gent. Mag. and Tablet of Memory, art. Storms.
A most singular meteor in the same year, followed by a very severe winter.
This pestilential constitution did not produce the same diseases in England, as in France and America. The fatal ulcerous sore throat was cotemporary in America and in France in 1737; but that disease did not appear, in its formidable array, in Eng|land until 1742. In 1734-5 appeared its sister-malady, the scarlet fever in Edinburg; but it subsided; and the epidemic Page 236 took the form of measles of a bad type, with hoarseness, defluxions and catarrh. The catarrh prevailed also in Barbadoes in the close of this year and beginning of the next, and in New-England was a great death of fish and water fowl.
In 1738 sudden deaths, vertigoes and apoplexies followed the preceding epidemics in England. The plague raged at Ockza|kow, at Barbadoes, and in New-Spain the pestilence was so gen|eral and mortal, as to threaten the country with depopulation.
In 1739 the small-pox prevailed in New-York, and some dysenteries, but I hear of no remarkable occurrences in this year; except that angina maligna appeared in England in a few sporadic cases, but did not spread at that time; and an infect|ious fever prevailed at Charleston.
Journals N York Assembly, vol. 1. 756. Fothergill's ac. Sore Throat.
A comet was seen in 1739, and the winter following in Eu|rope was the severest known since 1716 or perhaps since 1709. The cold continued till June and was succeeded by a dry season; then a wet, cold autumn. A dearth succeeded in Scotland, and measles spread over America.
In England spread the whooping cough in December 1740. The small-pox prevailed and in 1741 that disease, with the spot|ted fever were very mortal.
See the London bills of mortality.
In Bristol and Galway, in Ireland, the fevers fell little short of the plague.
Huxham, vol. 2. Short, vol. 2.
It was computed that in 1740 and 41, Ireland lost 80,000 people by famin, dysentery and spotted fever.
Rogers on Epid.
Amsterdam experienced the same pestilential constitution.
See the bills.
Not less remarkable were the seasons in America. In 1740-41, a year later than in Europe, the winter was of the severest kind. Many cattle perished for want of food.
Journals of N. York Assembly, vol. 1. 799, 804.
During this winter measles prevailed in Connecticut. The American plague appeared in Philadelphia and Virginia. In Scotland many perished by famin.
Sinclair's Scot. vol. 6. 433.
Page 237Don Ulloa relates an opinion among the Spaniards in South-America, that in 1740, the black vomit was first introduced into Guayaquil by the galleons from the south seas. They aver the disease not to have been known there, anterior to that year. It was most fatal to seamen and foreigners, but the natives did not escape. Here we have a new source of yellow fever!
In 1742 the ulcerous sore throat of a malignant kind appear|ed in England, and continued to prevail more or less for many years, and in 1745 became very infectious.
See Short, vol. 2. and Fothergill's Works.
The summer of 1742 in England was dry.
In America, the same angina prevailed in 1742. From 1740 to 1744 pestilential diseases prevailed in all parts of the known world.
In Syria, the winter of 1741-2 was very severe. In March began an acute fever in Aleppo, attended with a severe pain in the right hypochondrium. The plague had previously shown it|self on the sea coast. In April, says Alex. Russel, some reapers brought the infection into the neighbourhood of Aleppo. In the city, no notice was given of the plague, till the 18th of May; but on strict enquiry, it was found that cases had occur|red before that time. Whether the "reapers" introduced the fomites into the city, the author does not inform us.
The distemper made no great havoc in this season. It abated in July, and nothing is said about infection, till November, when a few more cases occurred. In February 1743 a few cases ap|peared and in March an alarm was given. It was more general in this year, but disappeared in 1744.
When the disease subsided in Aleppo, it was followed by di|arrhaeas and dysenteries with petechiae; and some obstinate in|termittents.
In December 1742 and January 1743 were earthquakes with great snows, violent rains and frost.
In 1742 a mortal fever prevailed at Holliston in Massachu|setts, in which died Mr. Stone, the minister and fourteen of his congregation. In this year was seen a comet.
In the spring of 1743; a smart shock of earthquake convul|sed Page 238 Sicily, Naples and Malta. A catarrh prevailed at the same time. These were the precursors of the dreadful plague which raged, in the following summer, at Calabria, Reggio, and es|pecially at Messina in Sicily, where perished 46,000 inhabitants out of 72,000. The summer was violently hot, and dysentery prevailed in other parts of Italy.
At the same time, New-York was severely afflicted by the bil|ious plague, where died, in one season, 217 of the inhabitants —a considerable number for the population of that day.*
I know not what diseases prevailed in Boston, but the bill for that year shows it to have been sickly.
The year 1743 was distinguished for a tremendous eruption of fire at Cotopaxi, a mountain in the province of Quito, five leagues north of Latacunga; all the neighboring villages were ruined by floods from the melted snows of the mountain. The eruption was repeated in 1744.
Ulloa, vol. 1.
Venice suffered by an inundation in 1743, and the year was remarkable for violent storms, at Boston, Jamaica, and in many countries.
In December 1743 appeared a comet of distinguished magni|tude, which was visible till February of the following year. This was probably the same which appeared in 1401, and in both instances attended with pestilence.
In 1744 severe catarrh spread over Europe. It was at Rome in February; at London in March; and in a few weeks per|vaded England.
Page 239In June of this year, was an earthquake of considerable vio|lence in New-England.
In 1745 Lima was shaken by an earthquake. An infectious fever broke out among the troops employed in the expedition to Louisbourg. A similar fever prevailed at Boston; and how far the health of the town was affected by the returning troops, I am not informed. This was a time of general sickness.
In Charleston prevailed the infectious yellow fever, while Egypt and Smyrna were suffering the ravages of the plague. The bilious plague prevailed, at the same time, in New-York.
In this year, the town of Stamford in Connecticut was se|verely distressed by a malignant dysentery, which swept away seventy inhabitants out of a few hundreds. The disease was confined to one street.
The year 1746 was probably still more unhealthy. An earth|quake laid Lima and Calao in ruins. The concussion began on the 28th of October, about six hours before the full of the moon; and at intervals, the shocks were repeated for four months, in which time they amounted to four hundred and fifty. During these convulsions, fire burst forth in several places of the distant mountains. Many days before the shocks began, hollow rumbling noises were heard in the earth, at times resembling the discharge of artillery. Similar sounds continued for some time after the earthquake.
See the melancholy tale in Ulloa, vol. 2. 83.
Albany was, in this year, visited by a malignant disease called by Colden, a nervous fever; and by Douglas, the yellow fever. From an old citizen, who was living in 1797, my friend Dr. Mitchell obtained the following particulars relative to that disease. The bodies of some of the patients were yellow—the crisis of the disease was the ninth day; if the patient survived that day, he had a good chance for recovery. The disease left many in a state of imbecility of mind, approaching to childishness or idio|cy; others were afterwards troubled with swelled legs.
The disease began in August, ended with frost, and carried off forty-five inhabitants mostly men of robust bodies. It was said to be imported.
Page 240As this was unusual disease in Albany, ingenuity was occu|pied to find out its origin. It was reported that a like disease pre|vailed in New-York, and that it had been imported in a vessel from Ireland. Nervous, yellow fever imported from Ireland! Such are the vulgar tales that disgrace this age of science and philosophy. From what fairy land were imported the malignant diseases, which every where swelled the bills of mortality in the same year?—Not that I would insinuate that diseases of a certain kind are not infectious. A pestilential fever originated in the Chebucto fleet, under the Duke D'Anville, which landed an ar|my on our shores in this same year, and one third of the Indians who visited the cantonments, died. There the disease subsided, without becoming epidemic.
But what I severely reprobate is, the disposition of men to trace all the evils of life to a foreign source; when the sources are in their own country, their own houses, and their own bo|soms.
A similar disease raged, the same year, among the Mohegan Indians.
See the postscript at the end of the volume.
At Zurich in Switzerland and in Saxony prevailed a very ma|lignant dysentery. Indeed for a number of years, at this peri|od, dysentery was epidemic in many parts of Europe and A|merica.
In 1747 prevailed epidemic catarrh in America and Europe. In the same year the bilious plague prevailed in Philadelphia.—In 1748, in Charleston. The same years were sickly in Boston.
In 1747 appeared a comet, and Etna, which had been quiet more than forty years, commenced her discharges of fire and lava. In the West-Indies, a tremendous hurricane laid waste the Islands.
Two comets appeared in 1748; the winter was severe, and two or three excessively hot and dry summers succeeded. In England the summer of 1747 was very dry. In 1748 a fast was appointed in Massachusetts on account of the drouth.
In England the angina maligna continued its ravages with in|creased mortality. The same malady prevailed in France in 1749, and there was an earthquake at London. The 18th of Page 241 June was a noted hot day, and Mars was as near to the earth as her orbit will permit.
Almanack for 1749.
In 1749 the dysentery and nervous long fever visited many towns in Connecticut with distressing mortality. Waterbury sus|tained a loss of about 130 of her inhabitants principally by dysen|tery. Cornwall, then a new settled village, on high mountains, lost twenty of her citizens. Hartford was severely visited with in|termittents, for the last time. The summer was very dry, and locusts or grass-hoppers overrun the fields and devoured the her|bage.
Douglas, vol. 2. 208.
I am authorized to say that the terrible dysentery in Woodbu|ry did not appear to be very contagious—it excited great alarm; every one avoided the sick, if possible; but many who lived re|mote and never came near the sick, were seized, and suddenly died.†
In 1749 and 50 the dysentery, according to Zimmerman, made great havoc in the Canton of Berne. It is remarkable that this formidable disease should be thus prevalent in both hemispheres at the same time, and for a series of years. About this time measles prevailed in America.
In 1750 appeared a comet, and the summer was excessively hot. In Philadelphia, the heat raised the mercury to 100 deg. by Farenheit. The plague carried off 30,000 people in Fez, and one third of the inhabitants of Tangiers.
Violent tempests marked this year, in America, and an unu|sual swell of the Severn in England. Earthquakes happened in England, Jamaica, Peru, Leghorn, Rome, Sicily and Lapland.
At Beauvais, 50 miles from Paris, broke out a pestilential dis|ease, called la Suete, resembling the sweating sickness, termina|ting fatally in three days.
See Gent. Magazine.
At Bethlem in Connecticut raged a mortal fever, which swept away between thirty and forty of the inhabitants. The exci|ting cause was supposed to be the exhalations from a swamp which Page 242 had been drained. It is not improbable that this might have aid|ed the general principles of disease.
Med. Repos. vol. 1. p. 523.
The winter of 1750-51 is mentioned as extremely severe in America. Vesuvius discharged fire and lava, in 1751, and on the 7th of March, a most dreadful tempest at Nantz in France, destroyed 66 ships, with 800 lives. On the same day, a tempest at Jamaica did damage to the amount of a million of dollars. A storm at Cadiz on the 8th of December destroyed 100 sail of shipping. On the Adriatic coast was an earthquake.
In this year Constantinople lost 200,000 inhabitants by the plague.—The preceding winter was cold in Turkey, and the old people predicted a severe plague from the quantity of snow that fell in Constantinople. This prediction was founded on long observation; and I am able to confirm the justness of it, by discovering that those years which produce the most violent ac|tion or discharges of electrical fire, generate most snow, hail and cold.
Chenier's Morocco vol. 2. 275.
In America the spring flights of pigeons were unusually large. The dysentery was epidemic and mortal, in the same year, at Hartford and New-Haven; probably in many other places.— With this fatal dysente•y prevailed a mortal angina for several years. The same concurrence of these diseases will be mention|ed under the year 1775.
In England, the summer of 1751 was cold and wet; and a mortal distemper prevailed among horses and cattle, in most parts of the country. In Cheshire died 30,000 cows. In Glasgow the seasons were very sickly.
Great and uncommon inundations occurred in the same year, in France, England and Scotland. In Cork the water was three feet deep in the midst of the city.
The dysentery and ulcerous sore throat were very fatal, this year in Guilford.
In 1752 the summer in South-Carolina, and probably in all parts of America, was distinguished for intense heat. The ther|mometer, for nearly twenty days successively, varied between Page 243 90 and 101.—The effects of this heat were visible in a number of sudden deaths by apoplexies. There were some cases of bad fever, but no epidemic. In September a violent tempest laid the city under water. The dysentery was still prevalent in the north|ern parts of America.
Museum, vol. 3. 316 and sequel, Dr. Chalmera.
In Ireland prevailed angina of such a malignant type, as to kill the patient sometimes in eight or ten hours. See Rutty on weather. The plague raged in the East.
An. Reg. 1766. 100.
In this year Adrianople was nearly destroyed by an earthquake. In Hinsdale, on Connecticut river, in the state of New-Hamp|shire, was an eruption of fire from a volcanic mountain, called west river mountain.
Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 1. 316.
In America the winter of 1752-3 was long and severe.
I have no account of any general epidemic in 1753; but particular places were visited with distressing sickness. A singu|lar instance of a local pestilence occasioned by vapor deserves to be related.
In autumn 1753 after a dry season, arose in Rouen, the chief city of Normandy, a thick fog, with the smell of sulphur, which increased to that degree, that in the evening, lights could not be distinguished at any considerable distance. It did not wholly disappear, till the next day. It was more dense in some streets than in others.
In three or four days after, began an epidemic sickness which seized both sexes, with chills, lassitude, loss of appetite, slight pains in the arms and legs. These symptoms were followed by bilious looseness, nausea and vomitings. Most patients bled at the nose, frequently in small quantity. The head-ache then be|came violent, with a small, hard pulse—a high fever followed. The region of the stomach and hypochondria was tumefied; this symptom was succeeded by a tension of the belly—and a slight delirium followed. The tongue was brown or black, but moist; sometimes with green ulcers or apthae. The patient died the 5th, 7th, or 11th day; but not in every case. Some were Page 244 thirty, or forty days in recovery; many were left with a puffi|ness of the face, hands and legs.
In some other parts of France appeared peripneumony and in|flammation of the pericordium, which was called a new disease.
Phil. Trans. vol. 49.
In December 1753 and January succeeding, the small town of Holliston, in Massachusetts, lost forty-three of its citizens, by a fever. The disease began with a violent pain in the breast, or side, not often in the head; then succeeded a high fever, but without delirium. The critical days were the 3d, 4th, 5th, or 6th. Some of the patients appeared to be strangled to death. The town contained no more than 80 families.
Hist Collections, vol. 3. 19.
The winter of 1753-4 in Europe was very cold. In 1754 was a great eruption of Vesuvius which lasted several weeks, and violent earthquakes in England, Constantinople, and Amboyna, in the Eastern Ocean. The heavens appeared to be in a flame, and Egypt, which rarely feels earthquakes, was severely shaken, and 40,000 of the inhabitants of Cairo, perished in the ruins of two thirds of the city.
The gangrenous sore throat was very mortal in Ireland, and prev•lent in England. See Rutty on weather. The same spe|cies of angina was, at the same time, very fatal in America.
See Belknap's Hist. N. Hampshire, vol. 2. 121.
In Maryland, the earth was deluged with excessive rains, and intermittents were unusually obstinate.
Gent. Mag. 1755.
At this time there were two or three very mild winters in America. In 1754-5 and 1755-6 sloops sailed from New-York for Albany in January and February. Smith's Hist. N. York, 82. In this instance, America is an exception to the general rule, that severe winters extend over both hemispheres, about the time of great volcanic eruptions. The severity was limited to the other continent.
The year 1755 was remarkable for violent earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions from Etna and the mountains in Iceland. In April, Quito in South-America was demolished.
Portugal had suffered for three or four years, most excessive Page 245 drouth, by which all springs were exhausted. But the year 1755 was rainy. On the first of November, a tremendous con|vulsion laid Lisbon in ruins, with the destruction of 50,000 lives. This shock was felt on the whole Spanish coast, and 10,000 people perished on one of the Azor•s. In Mitelene, an island in the Archipelago, 2000 houses were destroyed. The day preceding this concussion was remarkable for a haze or vapor that obscured the sun.
On the 18th of November, America sustained a violent and extensive shock; but its effects were not very calamitous. The fish in the ocean did not escape without injury. Two or three whales, and multitudes of cod were seen, a few days after, floating on the surface of the water.
In the remarkable year 1755, the most prevalent epidemics seem to have been angina maligna, and catarrh, which spread over France and England. The angina maligna was very mor|tal in some parts of America. In one town on Long-Island, two children only, under twelve years of age, survived.
M. S. of Mr. Reeve.
In this year also prevailed a petechial fever in Ireland, and according to Baron de Tott, Constantinople lost 150,000 in|habitants by the plague.
See his Memoirs, Fothergill on sore throat and Rutty on weather.
The winter of 1756-7 in Syria was excessively severe; the fruits were destroyed, olive-trees, which had withstood the weath|er for fifty years, were killed, and thousands of poor people per|ished with cold.
Lon. Mag. 1764.
In the following summer, crops failed, a dearth ensued, and so severe a famin that parents devoured their own children; the poor from the mountains offered their wives for sale in market, to procure food.
This winter was also very severe in Europe. In 1756 ap|peared a comet and there was an eruption in Iceland. A mete|or was seen in France, and earthquakes were experienced in va|rious places.
Page 246In 1756-57 the catarrh was very prevalent in America, fol|lowed by an earthquake in July. This catarrh preceded the same eipidemic in Europe by one year.
In 1758 catarrh spread over Europe, and the plague began to show itself in Egypt and Smyrna. In November, a large meteor was seen in Great-Britain, and is described by Sir John Pringle in the Philosophical Transactions.* In this year also, the pe|techial fever, the precursor of the plague, began to show itself in Aleppo.—The summer in America was extremely hot.
Letter of Gov. Ellis, Museum, vol. 5. 151.
In 1759 appeared two or three comets; and in November a most tremendous eruption of Vesuvius. In August was an earthquake at Bourdeaux—and one at Brussels. The winter following 1759 was excessively cold in both hemispheres. In Leipsic, centinels froze to death; and in South-Carolina, the snow covered the earth to the depth of nearly two feet. In England, the cold was less severe.
The year 1759 was memorable for violent earthquakes, in Syria. Buildings were demolished and Damascus was buried in ruins. The shocks were repeated for many weeks. In Novem|ber, Truxillo in Peru was swallowed up by means of an earth|quake. It will be observed that this happened in the month, when Vesuvius was in eruption. These great phenomena an|nounced a general and severe pestilence, and the effects of the general principles of disease were soon felt over Europe, Asia and America. Annual Register, 1761. 96 and passim. The earthquakes in Syria were preceded by drouth and followed by excessive rains.
See Russel on the plague at Aleppo and Volney's Travels.
In 1759 the plague began to appear in Cyprus, and at Acre and Latakia on the Syrian coast. In Copenhagen raged small-pox with great mortality.
In New-England were shocks of earthquake in February, at Boston and Portsmouth. An, Regis. 1759. 88. In Au|tumn an unusual tempest and tide at Nova Scotia.
Page 247In America, cotemporary with the commencement of the plague in Egypt, appeared the measles, in 1758, and the year 1759 appears, by the American bills of mortality, to have been very unhealthy. The predominant diseases were the measles and dysentery. M. S. le••er from Dr. Betts of Norwalk. The measles appeared in 1758, but was most extensive in 1759. This is an instance of the prevalence of dysentery and measles in the same year.
In this year also th• scurvy, an endemical disease in Canada, was unusually mortal.
Lind, p. 26.
At Bombay, a meteor of extraordinary brightness was seen on the 4th of April, 1759.
After the severe winter of 1759-60, happened in America, a snow storm on the 3d of May, when the apple-trees were in blossom. The disposition of the elements to generate snow and hail, during pestilential periods, has already been remarked. M. S. of Mr. Whitman. The spring of 1760 in America was very dry.
In 1760 earthquakes were repeated in Syria, and the plague appeared at Aleppo, Jerusalem and Damascus. It continued to extend and increase, until the summer of 1762; after which it declined. In Holland and Belgium were small shocks of earth|quake —preceded by flashes of light. Annual Register 1760. 70. Russel on the plague at Aleppo. Indeed earthquakes were felt in most parts of Europe.
Cyprus, which had been free from pestilence for 30 years pre|ceding, lost 20,000 inhabitants by the malady. On the first appearance of the plague in Egypt, the magistracy published as ordinance to prevent the introduction of the disease by infection; but it was of no use. The disease was preceded, as usual, by a petechial fever.
In England, the summer of 1760 was dry and autumn wet. In this year occurred another discharge from Vesuvius.—A comet was seen in January, and a distemper made great havoc among horses in and about London. Annual Register 1760. 67. Immense damage was sustained by tempests. Ibm. 73.
Page 248The principles of disease in 1760 began to exhibit themselves in the West-Indies, and the ordinary fever of the climate assum|ed new and malignant symptoms, with contagion.
Lind, p. 126.
In this year also the northern parts of the American conti|nent, which had been 〈◊〉 by measles, began to feel more se|verely the violence of the epidemic constitution.
In November, the town of Bethlem was assailed by an in|flammatory fever, with symptoms of typhus, which in the c•urse of the following w•ter, carried off about 40 of the inhabi|tants. The disease as extremely violent, terminating on the 3d or 4th day; in some cases, the patient died within 24 hours of the attack. It seems to have been that species of winter fever, which occurs in pestilential periods, mentioned under the year 1698. During this epidemic, a flock of quails flew over the chimney of a house, in which were several diseased persons, and five of them fell dead on the spot. This was thought ominous; but was a natural event, which may rationally be ascribed to de|leterious gas emitted from the chambers of the sick.
Med. Repos. vol. 1. 524.
This disease was ascribed to the draining of the pond or swamp, mentioned under the year 1750. But to this explana|tion, there are strong, if not insuperable objections.
First. The fever began in November; but this is the month when the marsh fevers of our climate disappear. I doubt whether the effluvia from marshes ever act upon the human body, so as to produce disease, without a greater degree of heat than Con|necticut ever experiences in the month of November. Cold puts an end to all marsh fevers, but this disease continued to in|crease in December, and did not cease till late in the winter.
Secondly. This disease was called a malignant pleurisy; but marsh effluvia are not known to produce fevers of that descrip|tion. They are common on high, as well as on low grounds, as I can prove by facts in America.
Thirdly. There is no necessity of resorting to marsh exha|lations for the source of this malady. The same species of fever prevailed in that winter and the spring following, in many other parts of Connecticut, where no marsh existed. In Hartford it Page 249 carried off a number of robust men, in two or three days from the attack.* In North-Haven it attacked few persons, but ev|ery one of them died. In East-Haven died about forty-five men in the prime of life, mostly heads of families. The same disease prevailed in New-Haven among the inhabitants, and stu|dents in college.
It is obvious then that this was an epidemic, very well known in sickly periods, and not dependent on local causes. From Dr. Trumbull of North-Haven I have the following remarks on the disease.
The blood was very thick and sizy; often issuing from the nose and sometimes from the eyes. The inflammation was vio|lent, and soon produced delirium. The most robust bodies were most liable to the disease. A free use of the lancet, in the early stages of the disorder, was the only effectual remedy; where the physicians were afraid to bleed, the patients all died.† This malady prevailed from November 1760 to March 1761.
I cannot learn that this species of inflammatory fever, has ever been epidemic in the northern parts of America, since this period. But it is a common winter fever, in the Carolinas, af|ter sickly summers; and in the northern states, sporadic cases of it occur with all its formidable symptoms. Instances will be hereafter mentioned. It is the pestilence of winter, and rarely, if ever appears, except when pestilential epidemics are current in summer. And I am not without suspicions that the debility occasioned by marsh effluvia in summer may predispose the system to that fever in winter, tho not necessary to produce it.
In March 1761 was a small shock of earthquake in New-England, and the same occurred in Iceland, Hamburg, Syria, England and South-America.
Page 250In the winter and spring of 1761 a severe influenza attacked the northern parts of America. In Bethlem it was cotemporary with the fever just mentioned. In Philadelphia it prevailed in the winter, and in Massachusetts, in April. From Dr. Tufts, a respectable practitioner of medicin in Weymouth, I have the following description of the disease.
"The distemper began in April, and in May ran into a ma|lignant fever, which proved fatal to aged people. It spread over the whole country and the West-India islands. It began with a severe pain in the head and limbs, a sensation of coldness, shiverings succeeded by great heat, running at the nose, and a troublesome cough. It continued for eight or ten days, and generally terminated by sweating.
In May, the aged who had before escaped, were seized with an affection like a slight cold; this, in a day or two was fol|lowed by great prostration of strength, a cough, labo• of breath|ing, pains about the breast, praecordia, and in the limbs, but not acute. The countenance betrayed no great marks of febrile heat. The matter expectorated was thin, but slimy. As the disease advanced, the difficulty of breathing encreased; the ex|pectoration was more difficult; the matter thrown off more viscid; at length the lungs appeared to be so loaded with tena|cious matter, that no efforts could dislodge it, and the patient sunk under it.
This disorder carried with it bilious appearances—the coun|tenances of some patients were of a yellowish hue. In some, there was an appearance of indifference or insensibility; and at night, a slight delirium."
M. S. letter from Dr. Tufts.
In the spring of 1761 earthquakes were felt in many parts of Europe. See an account of them in An Register, 1761. 92. Shocks also were felt in the Azores and West-Indies. These agitations were precisely cotemporary with the epidemic catarrh in America. Scarcely any country escaped the convulsions of nature. During the pestilence in Thessalonica, shocks were felt almost every day. Ibm.
In the summer of 1761, I am informed, the infectious bilious fever prevailed in Charleston, but I am not possessed of the details. Page 251 In May happened a most extraordinary typhon or whirlwind, which swept Ashly river to its bottom. Five vessels were sunk and eleven dismasted. Annual Register, 1761. 93. In Italy a woman was killed by a sudden eruption of vapor under her feet. Ibm. 95. The summer in America was very dry.
In the spring of 1762 the influenza was epidemic in Europe. It appeared at Edinburgh in April in a few cases; at Dublin in May; and in June was general and severe. It was therefore a year later than in America.
Essays and Obs. Edinburgh. Rutty on weather. An. Reg. 1762.
In March was an earthquake in Ireland, and in autumn a con|siderable shock in Spain. On the 11th of June was seen a me|teor, pas••g from north to south, which met a dark cloud and exploded. Another as large as the moon, and bright as the sun descended slowly on the 4th of December, and dissipated.
Annual Register, 1762.
In 1762 appeared a comet, and in America the heat and drouth exceeded what was ever before known. From June to September 22d, there was scarcely a drop of rain, almost all springs were exhausted, and the distress occasioned by the want of water was extreme. The forest trees appeared as if scorched.
The winter following was equally remarkable for severity, both in Europe and America. The Thames was a common highway for carriages, and the poor perished in the streets of London.
Lond. Mag. 1763. Annual Register, 1762.
In America the snow fell on the 8th of November and con|tinued till about the 20th of March. These extraordinary phe|nomena were followed by an eruption of Etna in 1763, of three months continuance.
In the extremely hot summer of 1762, the bilious plague pre|vailed in Philadelphia. The same disease swept away most of the troops in the expedition to Havanna. The plague raged in Constantinople and in Syria; while the yellow fever spread mor|tality in Bengal.
In this year the plague in Aleppo came to its crisis. In 1760, died about 500 persons; in 1761, 7000, and in 1762, 11000; after which year it subsided.
See Patrick Russel, Hist. of that plague.
Page 252The bills of mortality will best show how severely the princi|ples of disease were felt in London, Amsterdam and Dublin in 1762 and 3.
No part of the earth seems to have escaped a share of unusual mortality in the period between 1759 and 1763. In the latter year, the bilious plague in Bengal carried off 800 Europeans and 30,000 natives. Lind, p. 82. In the year preceding, a vio|lent earthquake occurred at Chitacong in the territories of Bengal.
An. Reg. 1763. 60.
On the 19th of October 1762, happened a remarkably dark day at Detroit, and the vicinity. While at dinner, the inhabi|tants found it necessary to use candles. The darkness continued, with little interruption, during the whole day.
Phil. Trans. vol. 53. p. 63. Mem. Amer. Acad. vol. 1. 244.
During this pestilential period, fatal diseases carried off the cattle on the continent of Europe, and Toulon lost one third of its inhabitants by an epidemic.
An. Regist. 1761. 161.
The summer of 1763 was a moist and unkindly season. In August the Indians on Nantucket were attacked by the bilious plague, and between that time and February following, their number was reduced from 358 to 136. Of 258 who were af|fected, 36 only recovered. The disease began with high fever and ended in typhus, in about five days. It appeared to be in|fectious among the Indians only; for no whites were attacked, altho they associated freely with the diseased. Persons of a mixed blood were attacked, but recovered. Not one died, ex|cept of full Indian blood. Some Indians who lived in the fam|ilies of the whites, escaped the •isease; as did a few that lived by themselves on a distant part of the island. I am informed, by respectable authority, that a similar fever attacked Indians on board of ships, at a distance of hundreds of leagues, without any connection with Nantucket.
In December of the same year, the Indians on Martha's Vine|yard, distant eight leagues from Nantucket, were invaded by a like fever; not a family escaped, and of 52 patients, 39 died.
In this instance, disease discriminated as nicely between the Whites and Indians, as in 1797, it did between men and cats, Page 253 and as exactly as the plague in Egypt, between the Israelites and Egyptians.
Some suspicions were suggested that the disease at Nantucket might have been received from a ship which put in there, with sick passengers, from Ireland bound to New-York; but there is no foundation for this opinion, as the disorder broke out be|fore the arrival of the ship.
See Phil. Trans. and Lond. Mag. 1764. Hist. Collections, vol. 3. 158. M. S. of Moses Brown.
In 1764, just after this fatal pestilence among the Indians, a large species of fish, called blue fish, thirty of which would fill a barrel, and which were before caught in great numbers, on ev|ery side of Nantucket, suddenly disappeared, to the great loss of the Inhabitants.—Whether they perished or migrated, is not known.
Hist. Col. 3. 158.
In Europe, the year 1763 was remarkable for diseases among various species of animals. In Denmark, an epidemic catarrhal disorder affected horses. In Madrid, a pestilence among dogs swept away multitudes—900 died in one day. In Genoa, the poultry perished in a similar manner. In Italy, horses and swine fell victims to the pestilential principle. In France, horses and mules; in Sweden, sheep, horses and horned cattle perished under the influence of the general cause.
Rutty on Weather.
The summer was remarkable for hail storms, one of which totally ruined 36 villages in Maconnois in France. See the ac|count of these and of the earthquakes in that year in An. Regis. Chronicle. Hail stones fell of sizes from three to ten inches in circumference. These storms were numerous and many fire balls fell in various parts of England and a globe of fire was seen in Sweden.
These hail storms occurred during or near the time of the e|ruption of Etna. In 1764 was another eruption of Etna. In most parts of Europe and America, this period of pestilence ap|pears to have closed with the years 1762 and 3. But in Naples spread a malignant fever in 1764, preceded by famin, by which disease it was supposed 200,000 people perished. The disease Page 254 was marked by petechiae and glandular tumors and was a mild species of plague. The season was excessively hot, and the bil|ious plague prevailed in Cadiz. Lind, 189. 122. An earth|quake occured in Portugal and Siberia. In the February follow|ing occured a degree of cold, rarely known in England. The mercury in Farenheit fell to 7 deg. and in one place, within the ball. An. Reg. 1765-66. A remarkable high tide in China in May swept away a whole city. The cause is not mentioned.
To the epidemics above mentioned, succeeded a series of dys|enteries, in the hot summers of 1765 and 6. In 1765, the ma|lignant dysentery raged in Berne and other parts of Switzer|land, in Suabia and Austria. The invasion was, in many cases sudden, says Zimmerman, without any preceding symptom; but more generally its approach was indicated by chills, lassitude and other premonitory signs. In its progress, it exhibited most of the symptoms of the yellow fever of America. It was pre|ceded by a putrid fever, which yielded to the dysentery in June.
See Zimmerman on Dysentery.
This epidemic was followed by violent and malignant pleuri|sies; a circumstance that marks its alliance with the pestilential fever of America, and probably of all temperate climates, which is also succeeded by pleurisy or peripneumony in winter.
In 1765 were many earthquakes in Italy, and Sweden, and a volcanic eruption at Truxillo in Spanish America. Dysentery prevailed in Scotland, and intermittents in Pennsylvania and Georgia, were universal.
In 1766 the summer was every where hot and in Europe ex|cessively dry. In Germany, the Rhine was lower than in the terrible drouth of 1476, and in many places, was forded. In Scotland, the people were compelled to kill their cattle for want of fodder. The heat and drouth produced great hail storms, and in autumn, were followed by inundations, one of which at Montauban, in France, swept away 1200 houses. Terrible tem|pests marked the year, and in the West-Indies, those hurricanes which lay the islands waste, and are recorded among the memo|rabilia of the climate. In August, the planet Mars was nearer Page 255 to the earth, by two millions of miles, than it had been for many ages, and in the spring appeared a comet.
The winter preceding this remarkable summer, was extremely cold in Europe. At Ratisbon, Reaumur's thermometer was two degrees lower, than in the noted year 1709, and birds per|ished with cold. At Naples, the snow lay in the streets, to the depth of 18 inches, and Vesuvius began to discharge smoke, the harbinger of an explosion. At Lisbon, Reaumur's ther|•ometer was 3½ degrees below the freezing point, and at Mad|rid, people skated on the ice.
These remarkable phenomena preceded and attended a gene|ral discharge of fire and lava, from the three well known volca|noes, Etna, Vesuvius and Heckla, which took place in 1766. This is one of the few instances on record, in which these vol|canoes have been in eruption, nearly at the same time. The eruption of Heckla continued from April to September. These phenomena account for the excessive drouth in Europe.
See Sinclair's Scotland. Annual Register, 1766.
In this year 1766 was an earthquake in New-England, and a violent shock at Constantinople. Vegetation failed in some parts of Europe and America, and grain was very scarce in Italy, Great-Britain and the Carolinas. In 1767 a million sterling was paid in England for imported grain.
An. Reg. 1768. p. 101.*
The winter of 1765-6 was not severe in America and there was little snow; but in this remarkable period, as in many oth|ers, the severity of the seasons commenced in Europe one year before it did in America. The winter of 1766-7 was terribly severe in both hemispheres. The cold was as intense as in 1740; the Rhine at Cologne became a bridge of ice, and supported laboring artificers, as in 1670. In Italy, •he poor crouded to the cities for aid, and perished with cold. In Russia, both rich and poor perished. The wolves became ravenous, entered towns and destroyed people. In England, the larks took refuge in hay-carts and the market; the snow fell to the depth of many feet and buried thousands of sheep. In America, the cold was Page 256 very severe, and at Brandywine, the mercury fell in Farenheit to 20 deg. below cypher—an unexampled degree of cold in that latitude. In January happened a thaw, which broke up the riv|ers in Connecticut, and left scarcely a bridge over the rivers. The cold in France in 1767-8 was more severe than in 1740 and within a degree of that in 1709. In Constantinople snow and hail fell as late as March 16.
See An. Regis. 1767. p. 52, 53, 54, 76. 1768. p. 58, 101.
Every thing indicated uncommon agitations in the elements. Pages would be necessary to enumerate the tempests and hail storms of these years. In January 1769 fell two fire balls in England; one of them on Tower hill. At Amiens, a man his wife and his horses were killed by a discharge of subterrane|ous vapor. A violent storm in Virginia on the 11th of Septem|ber tore up trees, stranded ships and demolished houses; Bag|dadt was almost ruined by an earthquake, and Cuba was desola|ted by a hurricane in 1768. An. Register, 1769. 67. 146. These last years in England were rainy.
In 1767 epidemic catarrh prevailed in Europe, and diseases among horses in New-England and Ne•-Jersey. The summer was remarkable for hail storms; Cephalonia was ruined by an earthquake, and Vesuvius, from this year to 1777 never ceased to discharge smoke, and frequently scoriae, stones and cinders.
An. Reg. 1767. 142, 151. Encyclop. art. Vesuvius.
In 1768 vast multitudes of caterpillars devoured the grass in the fields at Northampton, in Massachusetts.
The summer of 1768 was hot, but I have no account of the diseases in America in this and the preceding year, ex•ept of a disorder in the head and throat among horses.
Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 1. 529.
In 1769 the summer was very hot, and in autumn appeared a comet with a vast coma. Venus passed over the Sun's disk on the 3d of June; there was a small earthquake in New-England and a great tempest. Among the diseases in America is men|tioned a fatal angina in Boston, and other towns, but I am not furnished with its history. The same distemper prevailed in 1770, and in Jamaica occasioned considerable mortality.
Muscum, vol. 1. 35, 430.
Page 257In Holland 32,000 cattle perished by a pestilential distemper. An. Reg. 1769. 166. Great sickness prevailed at Rome. Ibm. In America some cases of canine madness were observed. The meastes prevailed in America, but I have no details of its origin and progress. The dysentery was epidemic and fatal in 1769.
In July 1770 appeared also a comet. There was an eruption of Vesuvius in 1770, and another in 1771. Flames issued from Heckla in 1771 and 72, but no lava. An earthquake was felt in New-England in 1771, and Italy was repeatedly shaken. On the 17th of July was seen a meteor or fire ball.
These two years were distinguished by the most terrible earth|quakes, storms, rains and inundations, accounts of which fill the gazettes of those years. In 1770 the floods in England, Holland and France exceeded any that could be recollected. In France the vintage was greatly injured. In 1771 the terri|tory of Honduras was wasted by locusts and famin.
An. Reg. p. 163.
In 1771 great rains continued to occasion floods. In Vir|ginia, a flood in the Rappahannock filled the warehouses and ruined the tobacco, which occasioned public prayers to be or|dered. Similar inundations happened in Germany.
There were earthquakes in Hispaniola, St. Maure, England, and in Ternate, a Molucca island, where was an eruption of fire.
Gent. Magazine. An. Regis. 1770, passim 1771. 120.
In 1771 a mortal distemper swept away great numbers of foxes in America.
Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 1. 529.
In Italy the harvest failed, and in Sardinia, Holland, Flan|ders, and some parts of England, the cattle were swept away by an infectious disease. The number of cattle that perished in Holland, was stated, in Sept. 1771, to amount to 171,780.
An. Regis. 1771. 147.
In Constantinople raged the plague in 1770; and one thousand bodies were, for some time, buried daily. In 1771 this malady prevailed in Poland and Russia, and 200,000 people perished, The number that died in the Russian dominions was 62,000.
An. Regis. 1772. 155.
Page 258In the East-Indies the disorders in the elements at this period produced still more deplorable effects. The excessive heat and want of rain, which usually precede or attend the approximation of comets and volcanic eruptions, occasion a failure of crops in countries, where the grain which is the principal food of the in|habitants, depends on water from inundation. Such is the fact in India and in Egypt, where rice is the great article of food.
The heat and drouth of 1769 cut short the rice crops in the territories of the Ganges. The consequence was a famin, which, in 1770, destroyed incredible numbers of the natives. The streets were filled with dead carcases, and such numbers were thrown into the river, as to render the water and the fish unfit for use.
In 1771 disease was added to the calamities of the miserable inhabitants, a million of whom were supposed to perish by the bilious plague.
See Encyclopedia, Art. Bengal.
In 1770 the atmosphere at Calcutta was filled and clouded with flies of a large kind, which never descended to the earth, but came so near that they could be distinguished with glasses. It is remarkable that the appearance of these animals was cotemporary with the millions of worms which overra• the northern districts of America. Encyclop. Article Bengal. The Bramins mentioned that a similar phenomenon occurred a|bout 150 years before, which must have been during the pestilence among the Indians in America from 1618 to 1622. At this time also began a disease among the potatoes in Scotland, which has been gradually extending itself to this time. The leaves con|tract and shrivel; and just below the surface of the earth, there appears on the •alk a scar of some length, or groove corroded through the rind, of the color of ocher. The fruit on the roots is small and of an unpleasant taste.
Sinclair's, Scot. 2. 187.
In 1771 anginas, in some parts of America, occasioned a considerable mortality.
Register of deaths in New-Haven.
Catarrh prevailed in 1771, but was epidemic in America in 1772. The winter of 1771-2 was very severe in Europe. In Page 259 America the month of March 1772 was distinguished for great falls of snow, beyond what was ever before known. In Bohe|mia, it was computed that 168,000 persons perished in that year by epidemic diseases. An. Reg. 152. A tempest in China de|stroyed 150,000 lives in Canton River.
An. Reg. 1773. p. 10•.
In 1770, cotemporary with the clouds of flies in India and a most fatal pestilence among men and cattle in Europe, appeared in America a black worm about one inch and a half in length, which devoured the grass and corn. Never was a more singular phenomenon. These animals were generated suddenly in the northern states of America, and almost covered two or three hundred miles of country. They all moved nearly in one direc|tion, and when they were intercepted by furrows, in plowed land, they fell into them in such numbers as to form heaps. They sought shelter in the grass, a hot sun being fatal to them. They disappeared suddenly about the close of June and beginning of July.
New-England Farmer, Art. Infect.
This species of worm has been seen at other times, and in 1791, in great multitudes. No account can be given of their origin and they seem not to have regular periods of return. In July 1791, the late governor Huntington, a gentleman of care|ful observation, informed me, he had exposed some of these an|imals to a hot sun on a dry board, and in a few hours, found them dissolved into mere water. They seem to be generated by some elementary process, and to be the harbingers of pestilence; at least they have preceded diseases in America.
In February 1772 prevailed in America epidemic catarrh.
M. S. letter from Dr. Tufts.
In this year, the measles appeared in all parts of America, with unusual mortality. In Charleston, S. Carolina, died 8 or 900 children.
Public prints, Oct. 1772.
A mortal fever prevailed also in Wellfleet on Cape-Cod, which proved fatal to forty of its inhabitants. Hist. Col. vol. 3. 118. The mortality in Bohemia has been mentioned, and the sickness in London appears by the bill of mortality.
Page 260This year, 1772, was distinguished for a great hurricane in the West-Indies, like those of 1766 and 1780.
An. Reg. 1772. 140.
The anginas of the preceding year continued to prevail in 1772.
The winter of 1772-3 was moderate in England, but on the continent more severe. In February, occurred in America, a remarkable day, still known by the name of the cold Sunday.
This year, 1773, was in general sickly. In America, the mea|sles finished its course and was followed by disorders in the throat. After the measles left the patient, came on a secondary fever, which, in some cases, proved fatal. Those who survived, lay ill a long time, troubled with an excessive expectoration. It seem|ed as if the patient discharged the amount of his weight.
But the most mortal disease, was, the cynanche trachealis or bladder in the throat. In general, there was little canker, but an extreme difficulty of breathing; the patient being nearly suf|focated with a tough mucus or slime, which no medicin could attenuate of discharge, and which finally proved fatal. All med|ical aid was fruitless, and scarcely a child that was attacked in some towns, survived.
This disease was speedily followed, in some places by the dys|entery of a peculiarly malignant type, occasioning mortification on the third day. This disease was prevalent and very fatal in New-Haven and East-Haven, in Connecticut, and in Salem, Massachusetts.
M. S. letters from Dr. Trumbull and Dr. Holyoke.
In Philadelphia, the measles appeared in March, attended with efflorescence about the neck; at the same time, catarrh which could hardly be distingushed from the measles.
Rush's Works, vol. 2. 238.
Cotemporary with these diseases in America, were the small-pox and a fatal fever in some parts of Scotland, and a plague which carried off 80,000 people in Bassora, a town in Persia, near the Euphrates.
In this year, an earthquake sunk the town of Guatimala in New-Spain.
The year 1774 was more healthy than the preceding; but the scarlatina anginosa began to show itself in Edinburgh, and in Page 261 some parts of America, especially at Philadelphia. On the 4th of May was a fall of snow.
Rush, vol. 1. 94, and the British Med. Publications in that year.
The winter of 1774-5 began on the continent of Europe with unusual severity. The rivers in Germany were frozen, early in December, and there was deep snow at Bologna in Italy in October. But in England, the winter was not severe—an in|stance which is sometimes observed in both hemispheres, that cold and falls of snow run in veins.*
An. Register, 1775. 87. and 1774. 173.
In 1775 happened a great eruption of fire from a volcano in Guatimala. An. Reg. 136. The summer was remarkable for thunder and lightning.
A halo and mock suns were observed in England, and a me|teor in America. In Sweden and England, the summer was dry. In Holland happened a great tempest and high tide, Nov. 14th.
An. Register, 172.
In 1775 prevailed in England epidemic catarrh, preceded by mild serene weather.
In America prevailed cynanche maligna, with considerable mortality. It seems to have invaded all the northern parts of America, and in many places it continued to be current with dysentery for three years. This was the case in Middletown on Connecticut river. In other places, it disappeared in the winter following.
M. S. letter from Dr. Betts. Registers of the first society in Middletown.
This pestilential period seems to have commenced with the great agitations of the elements in 1769 and 70, and to have been first displayed in the drouth and f•min in India, the plague in Turkey, and the insects and distempers among cattle in Eu|rope and America; to which may be added anginas. The pro|cess was marked by a comet, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tempests, with measles, influenza and angina, and a series of most fatal dysentery closed the period.
Page 262In 1775 an eruption of water took place from mount Etna, and Lipari, a neighboring island, discharged fire.
Encyclopedia, art. Volcano and Lipari.
In this year began or very much increased the mildew of oats in Montquitter in Scotland. About the beginning or middle of August, the plant assumes a fiery red color; then black spots burst forth near the roots, and ascend to the fibers that support the ear; circulation then ceases, and the grain advances no fur|ther in maturity. Sometimes it yields a little fruit; at other times none. This disease of the oats still continues to be very injurious to the parish; but in 1789, a year of unusual commo|tion in the elements in the north of Europe, as will hereafter be related, it spread to a greater extent than was ever before known. This phenomenon has been a subject of great research among farmers and philosophic men; but no satisfactory cause has yet been discovered.
Sinclair's Stat. Acc. of Scotland, vol. 6. 131.
It is remarkable that the prim in America began to decay and perish about this period; and near the same time, the wheat insect first appeared on Long-Island.
I would just observe that the disease among the oats, and the death of the prim, with the wheat insect, may be new phenom|ena in the natural world; or certain revolutions which unusual causes may have induced in animal and vegetable life.
About this time, for the year is not recollected, there was an eruption of fire at Derby, in Connecticut, a few rods from Nau|gatuck river; the only instance ever known in that place. It happened on a steep bank where it made a large excavation in the earth, throwing trees and stones to some distance. A light was seen on the spot in the evening before the explosion. It was accompanied with a loud report, and some fossil substances were ejected, which were analized by Dr. Monson of New-Haven, and found to contain arsenic and sulphur.
In 1775 also perished a bed of excellent oysters in the har|bor of Wellfleet, on Cape-Cod, twenty leagues south of Boston. These oysters had been in great plenty, and furnished the in|habitants with no small portion of food; but in this year from Page 263 some unknown cause, they sickened and perished, and have never since grown in that harbor.
Historical Collections, vol. 3. 119.
During this sickly period also, the oysters on the shores of Connecticut were in an unhealthy state, and sometimes excited vomiting in those who ate of them.
It is remarkable also that in 1776 the lobsters in the vicinity of York-Island, all disappeared. This event has generally been ascribed to the firing of cannon in the summer of that year. But the place where they lived being many miles from the British shipping, this explanation is not satisfactory. It is more proba|ble that they perished, or abandoned the ground, on account of the bad state of their element.
The winter in 1776 was severe in Europe. The cold ex|ceeded that of 1740. In Denmark the sound was frozen and crossed on sledges. The Thames was also frozen.
An. Register, 1776. 114.
The summer of 1776 in America was hot and in the northern states rainy. The dysentery was prevalent in all parts of the country, and was terribly fatal to the American troops in New-York and at Ticonderoga. I was at Mount Independence in October, and witness to the ravages of the disease. Of thirteen thousand troops, it was said that one half were unfit for duty.
It has been customary to ascribe the prevalence of this mortal disease to infection spread by the soldiers who returned home from the armies. It is certain that the disease was thus introdu|ced into particular families; but infection was the smallest among the causes of the epidemic. In most places, it originated with|out any communication from the army; and I was a witness of such instances. The disease was the effect of a particular state of the atmosphere, aided by the seasons.
To prove how unfounded is the opinion that the disease ori|ginated in the army alone, and spread from that as from a focus, it will be sufficient to mention two facts. The first is, that this epidemic commenced in 1773, two years before the war, in which year it was more malignant and fatal, in some places, than in any subsequent year. Witness New-Haven, East-Haven and Salem in Massachusetts.
Page 264In 1775 a remarkable fact occurred. About one hundred men belonging to Danbury, in Connecticut, went to join the army on Lake Champlain; they performed their duty and all returned in good health. While they were absent, the dysen|tery invaded the town and carried off more than one hundred of the inhabitants. In this instance, not a soldier returned from the army, until the disease had subsided.
The second fact is, that the same disease has before raged gen|erally in this country, with all its horrors, in time of peace. Witn•ss the epidemic at Georgetown in Maryland in 1793, at Derby in 1794 and at New-Haven in 1795. In an especial manner, I ought to mention the distressing dysentery, between 1749 and 1753, a time of profound peace, when not a soldier was seen in the country; a period when the disease was as mor|tal and as general, as between 1773 and 1777. A like epi|demic prevailed in many countries in Europe at the same time.
I have also taken pains to enquire of physicians in the country, as to the propagation of this disease from the army, and am in|formed that the disease was as fatal in villages where no inter|course was had with the troops, as where there was intercourse.
The acquiescence of all descriptions of men, learned and un|learned, in the opinion that epidemic diseases are to be ascribed solely to infection or specific contagion, has proved extremely injurious to philosophy and to medicin.* The disease is infec|tious, but it originates in any place, in particular seasons, whether in peace or war; and ends at the command of the elements and seasons. It ceased at the close of 1777 in the army as well as country, and without any effort which had not been made in pre|ceding years. It may be observed further that the dysentery was and always is, most prevalent among old people and chil|dren who have least intercourse with the sick, especially in the country, where no artificial causes of disease exist.
Page 265In 1777 there was a small earthquake in the interior of Eng|land, and the London bill of mortality was higher than usual. A volcano in Ferro discharged discolered water, but no lava. The measles appeared in some parts of America, the same year.
The summer of 1778 was excessively hot in America, and fevers of a typhus kind were frequent. In Philadelphia an in|fectious bilious fever marked the summer and autumn after the British army left the city. Rush, vol. 3. 162. In general how|ever the year was more healthy than the preceding summers.
In 1778 the plague was severe in Constantinople. It was pre|ceded by a great earthquake at Smyrna. An. Reg. 1778. In the same year an epidemic angina was mortal at Manchester in England.
In the beginning of the winter succeeding 1778, there occur|red some cold weather; but the latter part was the mildest ever known. In February 1779, many people along the river Con|necticut plowed their fields; and in Pennsylvania the peach blos|somed. The summer succeeding was one of the healthiest ever known in America.
In August 1779 happened a most tremendous eruption of Ve|suvius; and about the same time, the ships of Capt. Cook, then in a high northern latitude between Kamschatka and America, were covered with ashes which were supposed to be discharged from a volcano on the neighboring continent. In the succeeding winter, Tauris, the capital of Persia, was laid in ruins by an earthquake.
See Encyclopedia, art. Vesuvius, Cook's voyage, 1779.
The winter following these eruptions and commotions was, in America, the severest that had been known since 1741. From Nov. 25th to the middle of March, the cold was severe and al|most uninterrupted. The following was the state of the mercu|ry in January by Farenheit's scale—at Hartford in Connecticut, lat. 41. 44.
|January, 1— 2 deg.||19—13 below 0|
|2— 7 below 0||20— 5|
|3—14||21— 6 below 0|
|5— 6||23— 9 below 0|
|7— 9||25—16 below 0|
|8— 1 below 0||26— 6 below 0|
|9— 5||27— 2 below 0|
|10—19||28— 8 below 0|
|11—26||29—20 below 0|
|13— 8||31— 4 below 0|
|14— 9||February, 1— 2|
|16— 10||3— 0|
|18—12||5— 8 below 0|
Mean temperature in January at sunrise 4 deg.—almost 20 de|grees below the temperature of the same month in ordinary win|ters.
See Connecticut Courant, January 1780.
Not only all the rivers, but the harbors and bays in the Uni|ted States, as far southward as Virginia, were fast bound with ice. Loaded sleds passed from Staten-Island to New-York; the sound between Long-Island and the main land was frozen in|to a solid highway, where it is several miles in breadth. Ches|apeek bay at Annapolis, where the breadth is 5 and an half miles, sustained also loaded carriages.—The birds that winter in this climate, as robbins and quails almost all perished; and in the succeeding spring, a few solitary warblers only were heard in our groves.
The snow was nearly four feet deep, in Atlantic America, for at least three months. The winter was severe in Europe also; and on the 14th of January, the mercury at Glasgow fell to 46 deg. below 0.
Page 267On the 19th of May 1780 occurred a day of singular dark|ness, in New-England, and it was perceived, in a smaller degree, as far south as New-Jersey. The heavens were obscured with a vapor or cloud of a yellow color or faint red. The cloud which occasioned the principal darkness, passed over Connecticut about the hours of 9 and 10, and continued till after twelve. In the greatest obscuration, a candle was necessary to enable persons to read. For some days before, the atmosphere was fil|led with vapor.
Mem. Amer. Acad. vol. 1. 234.
On the same day that this lurid vapor overspread several hun|dred miles of country in America, Etna began to discharge lava from a new mouth, between two and three miles from its crater. The lava divided into three streams of a quarter of a mile in breadth, and in a few days ran fourteen miles. Violent earth|quakes accompanied and followed the eruption. The coinci|dence of these events, in point of time, well deserves notice. The great discharges from Vesuvius and a volcano in the Arctic regions in 1779, the terrible earthquakes, severe cold and erup|tions of fire that followed, may perhaps lead us to a rational so|lution of the phenomenon of the dark day—which has not hith|erto been explained.
Courant, Oct. 24, 1780.
The plague broke out in Smyrna in the spring of 1780 but I have no account of its progress.
The spring was cool and dry, and catarrhous complaints were prevalent among children, says Dr. Rush, vol. 1. 123. The summer following was hot,* and a bilious remittent was epidem|ic in Philadelphia, accompanied with such acute pains in the back, hips and neck, as to obtain the name of the break-bone-fever.
In the midst of summer, but I do not recollect the precise time, appeared the most singular halo about the sun which I ever beheld. I wrote a particular description of it, at the time, which is mislaid, and therefore I shall not attempt to describe it Page 268 from recollection.—Haloes are among the most certain forerun|ners of tempestuous weather.
On the 2d of October the leeward West-India islands expe|rienced a most dreadful hurricane; and on the 11th the wind|ward islands were almost laid waste by a similar calamity. Bar|badoes which is least subject to these tempests, was laid desolate; and it was estimated that 6000 souls perished. Houses, planta|tion-buildings, wharves, piers, shipping were all overwhelmed in one general ruin. It is said that, during the tempest, some of the islands experienced an earthquake. Courant, Dec. 12, 1780. Jan. 9, 1781 and Jan. 23, 1781. As hurricanes are occa|sioned by discharges of electricity, some trembling of the earth almost always attends those which are violent, and flashes of fire are visible. Indeed the atmosphere appears to be a sheet of fire. Similar discharges of electricity attended the tempestuous earth|quake that destroyed Nicomedia in 358—that which defeated Julian's attempt to rebuild Jerusalem in 362—the hail-storm in Egypt, in the time of Moses—and that which happened at Man|tua in 1785, to be hereafter related.
The canker-worm made extensive ravages in this period; but I cannot state their rise and decline in different parts of the coun|try. The winter of 1780-81 exhibited nothing worthy of par|ticular notice.
In the spring of 1781 prevailed the influenza, or epidemic catarrh. It began with a severe pain in the head, prostration of strength, coldness and chills, the pulse not quick nor tense. The pain in the head lasted about twenty-four hours, and was succeeded by a pain in the side, not pointed nor acute, extend|ing to the hips, accompanied with a soreness, and resembling a rheumatic pain. The cough was troublesome, full, and the mat|ter discharged of the glandular kind, not well concocted. Res|piration was difficult, and a considerable defluxion on the lungs. In a few cases, the disorder terminated in 7 or 8 days; but usu|ally not till the 13th or 14th; altho the patient was seldom con|fined to his bed. The disease left a sore•ess and weakness in the side, which continued after the strength was recovered. Vene|section had little effect on the pain in the side. Epispastrics ap|plied to the part gave relief. The disorder was seldom fatal, but Page 269 its effect were very visible in the multiplied cases of pulmonary consumption, in the following year.
M. S. letter from Dr. Tufts.
In the summer following no particular phenomena occurred; the elements were in their usual state, so far as my information extends; and in general the country enjoyed good health. A malignant fever prevailed, in some degree, in New-York, but excited no great alarm.
One year after this influenza in America, the same disease pervaded the eastern hemisphere. Its progress was from Siberia and Tartary westward; and it reached Europe in April and May 1782: I have no account of its course in America, but it seems to be probable, that it took its direction from America westward, and passing the Pacific in high northern latitudes, invaded Asia and Europe from the east. This must have been the case, if the epidemic in Europe was a continuation of that in America. For an account of this epidemic, see the publications of that year.
In 1782 happened considerable earthquakes in Calabria, du|ring which the mercury in the barometer in Scotland sunk within the tenth of an inch of the bottom of the scale, and the waters in many locks in the highlands were greatly agitated.
Sinclair's Statistical account of Scotland, vol. 6. 622.
In Britain the summer was universally wet and cold, and crops failed, in consequence of which a distressing dearth afflicted Scot|land in the following year.
In America also the summer was cool. Two or three torna|does happened in Vermont and New-Hampshire, with deluging rains, and in one place hail of enormous size—the gazette ac|counts say, pieces of ice were found of 6 inches in length.
The latter part of summer was excessively dry. In New-Jer|sey, a cedar swamp of 20 miles in length and 8 in breadth, taking fire by accident, was totally consumed. The fire penetrated among the roots to the depth of 6 feet.—Corn, grass, and the very forests withered. The air was loaded with a thick vapor, for some days in September.*
Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 1. 356. Courant, Oct. 8, 1782.
Page 270In autumn happened the violent tempest which dispersed the English fleet from the West-Indies, and in which two or three of the French ships, taken by Admiral Rodney, foundered.
The winter of 1782-3 was more variable than usual; and extreme drouth cut short the crops in the West-Indies.
Courant, May 20, 1783. Mem. Amer. Acad. vol. 1. 360.
On the morning of the 5th of February 1783, a thick vapor or fog was observed over the island of Sicily, indicating the agit|ation of the element of fire or electricity; and about 12 o'clock, a violent shock of earthquake laid many houses in ruins. This was but a prelude to more terrible calamities; for about seven o'clock P. M. a tremendous shock laid in ruins the greatest part of Messina, Calabria and many towns and villages. From 30 to 40,000 persons perished in the ruins. On subsequent days, many shocks were felt, but of less violence. During the con|vulsions on the 5th, flames were seen to issue from the neighbor|ing sea.
Courant, June 3, 1783, &c.
On the evening of the 10th, a dense fog or vapor spread over some parts of New-England, having the smell of burnt leaves. The ground, at the same time, was covered with snow.
Mem. Amer. Acad. vol. 1. 361.
About this time, for the gazette accounts are not particular as to the month, commenced a most distressing famin in the Car|natic, which afterwards extended to most of the European set|tlements in the East-Indies. At Madras hundreds of the na|tives perished daily, and the streets were filled with dead bodies. The cause was a four years drouth; for during the approach of comets, and the action of subterranean fire in other parts of the world, that country is subject to excessive drouth, as happened in 1769 and 70.
Courant, June 24, 1783, and July 1, Dec. 5, 1785.
In the evening of the 29th of March the heavens were illu|minated with a most splendid lumen boreale.
The summer of 1783 was variable in the northern parts of America; in England, it was hot.
In June commenced a most formidable discharge of lava from Mount Heckla in Iceland, which continued till the middle of Page 271 August. The country around the mountain was covered with burning fluid, to the extent of 40 miles, and in some places, to the depth of 40 feet. The lava spread over 3600 square miles.
Previous to this eruption, all the springs and streams of water in the neighborhood had been dried up; a sure forerunner of the discharge of fire; and for some months before the eruption, the atmosphere over the island was filled with a dark, bluish, sul|phurous vapor or cloud, which was stationary in calm weather, but which was sometimes dispersed by winds, and spread over Europe. See Encyclopedia, article Iceland. During this erup|tion, a new island was thrown up, at some distance from Iceland. On the 18th of August, soon after the eruption of Heckla ceas|ed, an immense meteor or globe of fire shot through the heav|ens, from north to south, passing the Orkneys and the island of Great-Britain, and bursting with a loud report.
Encyclop. art. Iceland. Sinclair's Scot. vol. 6. 623.
A part of the summer was excessively hot in America. No less than thirty persons in Philadelphia, killed themselves by drinking cold water. Many putrid fevers were the consequence of the heat in various parts of the country; as also tornadoes and thunder gusts of unusual violence, with hail of uncommon size, in all parts of America. Rarely indeed has so much in|jury been done by hail in the same space of time.
On the 31st of May a large meteo• or fiery globe was seen at Richmond in Virginia, shooting from north to south. It burst with a heavy report. It will be remarked that this meteor oc|curred about two weeks before the eruption of fire from Heckla, but while the fires or electrical causes were in agitation, as ap|pears from the cloud of vapor, that was suspended over the island.
Courant, Sept. 2, and June 24, 1783, and Aug. 5, and 12.
During the immense discharges of fire and lava from Heckla, all parts of Europe, Great-Britain, Italy, Sicily, France and even the Alps were overspread with a haziness in the atmosphere. This caused universal consternation, as a similar appearance had preceded the earthquake in Sicily on the 5th of February. The churches were crouded with supplicants. The French astrono|mer La Lande attempted to quiet the popular fears, by ascribing the phenomenon to a superabundance of watery particles in the Page 272 earth, from the moisture of the preceding year, which were then exhaled by the summer heats. But this solution is not satisfact|ory. It was more probably the smoke from Heckla, wafted by northerly winds and dispersed over Europe, in an attenuated form.
Courant, Oct. 28, 1783, and Nov. 11th, and 25th. Franklin's Meteorol. Observ. Museum, vol. 1. 473.
It is still more probable that this vapor was the effect of in|sensible discharges of electricity, combined with aerial substan|ces; as in Sicily on the 5th and in America on the 10th of February.
In October occurred tremendous gales of wind and high tides which did no small damage in the seaports of the United States. The first, on the 15th and 16th, occasioned the highest water at New-Haven, which had been known in 40 years. Many other tempests occurred in September and October; and from Vermont to Georgia, the gazettes were filled with accounts of disasters from the violence of the winds and rains.
Courant, October 21, 1783.
On the 29th of November, a considerable shock of earth|quake was felt in all the northern states; and New-York expe|rienced two or three shocks in the morning of the next day.
Some of the West-India islands were severely shaken, about the same time, and especially on the 4th of December.
Courant, Dec. 16, 1783. March 9, 1784.
In autumn 1783 some parts of Europe were deluged with continual rains, and at Rome 5 or 6000 children died of the small-pox. About Grenoble raged an epidemic fever.
A distemper among the cattle in Derby in England, occasion|ed no small alarm, and a royal proclamation was issued enjoin|ing certain precautions to prevent the propagation of the disease.
Cotemporary with these convulsions of nature, was a most desolating plague in Egypt, the Grecian Isles, Dalmatia, Con|stantinople, Smyrna and in the Crimea. It is not possible, with the general accounts given of such an epidemic, in the public prints, to state, with any precision, its origin and progress in the east. It is mentioned to have appeared in Smyrna, in the spring of 1783, and it certainly raged in Constantinople, and many Page 273 other parts of Turkey in the following summer, as well as on the north of the Euxine.
Courant, Jan. 17, 1784. July 6. Sept. 21, and 28, 1784.
In Egypt the same disease committed most terrible ravages in 1783-4 and 5. It began in November 1783. To this calami|ty was added a severe famin; the inundation of the Nile, in the summer of that year, having proved insufficient. So severe was the plague, that in the winter after 1783, fifteen hundred dead bodies were carried out of Cairo in a day; and the plague and famin of that and the succeeding year, was supposed to car|ry off one sixth of the inhabitants of Egypt. See Volney's Travels, vol. 1. 192 and 3, and Courant, Oct. 28, 1783, and Oct. 17, 1785, in which it is said that in Cairo 3000 perished in a day in April, 1785.
We have then an exact general view of the phenomena which introduce and accompany pestilence in Europe, Africa and Asia —terrible earthquakes and eruptions of volcanoes; excessive drouth in America, India and Egypt, failure of crops and famin —meteors, great heat and deluges of rain, in other countries. Let us now see what followed these abovementioned agitations of the elements, in our country.
See Courant, April 27, 1784, and Jan. 27, 1784, and June 8.
In August 1783, the scarlatina appeared in Philadelphia and in September it became epidemic. It appeared about the same time in Salem, in Massachusetts. It was in Charleston, South-Carolina in 1784, in which year, it appeared in the interior of the northern states, as in Vermont and New-Hampshire, and in Middletown, on Connecticut river. It continued to prevail about five years; but was not severe in general and many towns wholly escaped its attacks.
Rush, vol. 1. 141. Museum, vol. 2. 562. Mem. Amer. Acad. vol. 1. 369. Belknap's Hist. New-Hampshire, vol. 2. 121. Register of deaths at Middletown.
In 1787 the cynanche maligna was epidemic at Northampton, in Massachusetts.
M. S. letter from the Rev. Mr. Williams.
The measles appeared in America in 1783; at Salem as early Page 274 as May. I find it in all parts of America, in that year, but cannot trace the progress of the epidemic.
During this period neither dysentery nor pestilential autumnal fevers made any considerable ravages in America, as far as I can learn; except at Fell's-Point in Baltimore, where the bil|ious pestilential fever occasioned a mortality in 1783. Many sporadic cases of a similar fever appeared in various parts of the country, and almost a whole family in New-Jersey perished by it in the autumn of that year. Fortunately however the consti|tution of the elements was corrected, without producing its most fatal effects. Even the scarlet fever, with the exception of a few places, was less malignant than it has been in the last period.
This pestilential constitution was felt also in the north of Eu|rope. The scarlatina broke out in Edinburgh in the winter of 1782-3, a few months before it did in America; but of its progress I have no account. It appears to have been epidemic in London in 1786; so that its period was of about the same duration as in America. The cotemporaneousness of this species of disease in Great-Britain and America, deserves particular no|tice.
In December happened a fog in Amsterdam of such density as to occasion complete obscurity for three hours in the middle of the day. It was not possible for persons to find their way in the streets, and many passengers and some carriages fell into the canals.
Courant, March 9, 1784.
The severity of the winter succeeding these phenomena, both in Europe and America, corresponded with their extraordinary number and violence. The weather was less uniformly cold than in 1780, but the frost, in some parts of the winter was most intense. The following was the state of Farenheit's ther|mometer, at Hartford.
|February 10th, 1784,||19 deg. below 0.|
|February 15||12 deg. below 0.|
On the 20th of January was discovered a comet in Pisces, which was involved in a luminous atmosphere. It was visible about four weeks.
The severe cold commenced early; the Delaware at Philadel|phia was closed at the beginning of December, and continued bound with ice till the middle of March; notwithstanding a re|laxation of cold and a heavy rain in January. The gazettes state that such intense cold had not been known in that city, since 1750-51.—The Missisippi was reported to be covered with ice, as far south as New-Orleans. At the breaking up of winter, the thaw was sudden, and immense bodies of ice, floating down the rivers, which were greatly swelled, spread ruin along the low lands on their banks. Great damage was sustained on the banks of the Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Potomack and James rivers.
Courant, May 11, 1784. Feb. 24. March 30. April 11.
In Europe, the winter was no less severe—an instance in which a severely cold winter in Europe coincided in time, with the same in America. It may be remarked also that this win|ter was just one century after the coincidence of like events; the winter of 1683-4 being equally severe in both hemispheres.
In 1783-4 the river Liffey in Ireland, the Thames in Eng|land, and all the rivers in the interior of Holland, were cover|ed with solid ice. In Holland, the ice gave way about the first of March, and the rivers being greatly swelled, the adjacent country was inundated, with immense loss of lives and property. The river Waal, near Nimeguen, broke through its dikes and overwhelmed 34 villages. The Rhine from Cologne and Man|heim, exhibited similar scenes of devastation.
Courant, April 27, 1784, and May 18.
In January a terrible tempest spread desolation along the coast of France from Rochelle to Bourdeaux; vessels at sea shipwreck|ed, and houses on land blown down. This happened on the night of the 17th. Its violence extended along the coast of Spain and Portugal. An earthquake accompanied this hurri|cane. Page 276 The coast of Italy did not escape, and so high was the swell of the ocean, that fish were lodged on the houses in Syra|cuse.
Courant, May 18, 1784, and June 1.
This remarkable tempest happened just before the appearance of the comet.
The spring was wet and cold; and repeated snows fell in April.
The heat of some part of the succeeding summer in America was extreme. The following observations were made at Hart|ford.
See Courant, June 29.
|June 44th at 2 P. M.||97 deg. by Farenheit.|
|25 2 P. M.||96|
|26 at sunrise,||80|
|at 10 A. M.||96|
|at 2 P. M.||100|
|at 3 P. M.||101|
|at 4 P. M.||100|
|at 10 P. M.||80|
|27 at sunrise,||82|
|at 7 A. M.||91|
This extreme heat, as usual, produced most violent hurricanes or thunder gusts, with hail of unusual size. In May, pieces of ice fell in South-Carolina of nine inches in circumference. On the 17th of August the southern part of Connecticut was swept by a tornado, which levelled trees and buildings and did great in|jury. The beginning of summer was very dry; but frequent powers afterwards refreshed the earth, and good crops succeeded.
Courant, August 10, 1784. August 24 and 31. See also Ap|pendix to a Sermon preached at Hartford on the death of Is|rael Seymour, who was killed by lightning.
A great eruption of Vesuvius happened on the 10th of May. Sickness prevailed in Leghorn and other parts of Europe. The plague raged this year also at Smyrna, Constantinople and in Dalmatia. Spolatro was nearly dispeopled. The heat in Eu|rope was great and Hungary was overrun by locusts, which de|voured the fields of grass and corn. A severe earthquake at the Page 277 same time, shook the country of Armenia, and its vicinity, and a town was demolished with the loss of 6000 inhabitants, on the 21st of July. The plague raged also in the regency of Tunis on the African coast.
Courant, Aug. 31. Supplement to do. Nov. 9.
On the 30th of July a tremendous hurricane laid waste a con|siderable part of Jamaica, sweeping away buildings, canes, fruit|trees and overwhelming all the shipping in the harbors.
Courant, Sept. 28, 1784, and Oct. 26.
In October, according to the public prints, Barbadoes was se|verely shaken by an earthquake.
On the 25th of November was a very violent tempest from the N. E. and S. E. by which means, a most extraordinary tide was brot into our harbors from the St. Lawrence to New-York, and probably further to the south. Great injury was sustained by loss of shipping, and of property stored near the wharves.
Courant, Dec. 7, 1784.
The great rains swelled Connecticut river to the height of usu|al spring floods.
A meteor was seen in New-England on the evening of De|cember 13, 1784, passing rapidly from south-east to north-west, and bursting with a loud report.
The winter following exhibited nothing very worthy of re|mark. In Europe it was colder than usual, and in America, it produced great snows, the melting of which in the spring swelled Connecticut river to an unusual height.
On the 13th of March 1785, there was an eruption of fire in the river Majaro, in the province of Palermo, in Sicily, which occasioned a large chasm in the earth.
Courant, July 4, 1785.
In America canine madness began to rage and spread in all parts of the northern states. The gazettes of 1785 abound with accounts of the dreadful effects of this singular disease. It will be remarked that epidemic madness of dogs is one of that se|ries of diseases which belong to every pestilential period. When|ever the human race are generally afflicted with epidemics, the canine species rarely escape the effects of the general principle; and not unfrequently foxes, wolves and other wild animals, ex|perience Page 278 its malignant effects, and run mad. In 1785, the scar|latina anginosa was prevalent in the northern states. This was in the midst of the period, and almost every gazette announced some new case of hydrophobia.
See Courant, Aug. 1, 1785. Aug. 8 and 29.
The wheat-insect, which has been ignorantly and improperly named the Hessian Fly, committed uncommon ravages in this year. The precise time when this insect originated, is not ascer|tained, probably about the year 1776, or a year or two earlier. Little notice was taken of it, for two or three years. In 1780, Mr. Underhill of Long Island lost his wheat crops by the in|sect; and in subsequent years, it penetrated into New-Jersey, travelling, according to common opinion, about 15 or 20 miles in a year. In 1785, it occasioned unusual destruction of wheat —and such was the alarm in England, for fear it should prove infectious, and be introduced into that country, that the King is|sued a proclamation dated June 25, 1788, prohibiting the im|portation of American wheat.—This event excited no small un|easiness in America, especially in the states, whose staple is wheat. Whereupon the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania re|quested the opinion of the Agricultural Society, as to the man|ner by which that insect is propagated. To this request, the So|ciety returned for answer, their decided opinion that it is the plant alone which is injured by the insect; that the grain is sound and good, and that the insect is not propagated by sowing wheat which grew on fields infected with it.
See Museum, vol. 4. 244. Am. Magazine.
The prohibition by the King and Council of Great-Britain was deemed a judicious precaution; but was the fruit of an error that pervades the world, respecting the powers of infection and contagion. The opinion of the Agricultural Society is well foun|ded, but it remains for time and the force of truth to convince the people of Philadelphia, that the yellow fever can no more be transplanted and rendered epidemic by infection, than the wheat-insect. Both are diseases, originating where they have a suitable aliment, and ceasing to exist, when that aliment fails.
The prohibition of the British government was repealed the next year; under the apprehension of a dearth.
Page 279The summer of 1785 was excessively dry in France and Eng|land and fevers very prevalent in France. In Holland such a drouth could not be recollected by the oldest man living. The canals, rivers and wells were almost totally exhausted. In the first part of summer, there was not a drop of rain for three or four months, and cattle were fed upon the leaves of the trees. The drouth was nearly as severe in the West-Indies.
Courant, August 8, 1785, and 29th—also Sept. 12 and 19.
In North-Carolina, the fields were overrun with bugs, which threatened a destruction of the grain.
Courant, August 29, 1785.
The summer contained some excessively hot days in America, as well as in Europe.
Courant, Sept. 5.
On the 25th of August happened in the West-Indies one of the most dreadful hurricanes ever known, and equal to that of 1772 or that of 1780. This tempest was preceded by very sultry heat, and the phenomenon called looming, by which distant ob|jects at sea appear to be raised higher or brot nearer than at other times, I have often noticed this singular effect of the powers of refraction in the air, previous to storms, of which it is the usual forerunner. Guadaloupe, St. Croix and the other wind|ward islands were laid desolate by this tempest. On the 27th of August, the leeward islands suffered a similar calamity. On the 24th of September, an easterly storm brought into the riv|ers in the southern states, as high a tide as ever was known.— Norfolk was inundated, with great loss.
Sickness was very general in many parts of the United States. The scarlatina was prevalent, and the gazettes mention a pre|cinct in Ulster in which died almost every child under six years of age. Many adults also fell victims to this or other maladies.
See Courant, Oct. 3, 1785, and Oct. 10.
On the 9th of August happened a memorable tempest at Mantua, in Italy, and the neighboring country. The wind was a hurricane, and accompanied with rain and hail-stones of the weight of 18 ounces. The accounts state that visible flames issued from the earth, and scorched people's legs and clothes; other accounts mention that the fire ran along on the Page 280 surface of the earth. The reader will call to mind the relation of the like fact, in the terrible hail-storm which constituted one of the ten plagues of Egypt in the reign of Pharaoh.
Courant, Nov. 28, 1785.
The autumn was uncommonly sickly in Jamaica. Kingston was a general hospital.
Courant, Jan. 30, 1786.
On the 9th of October there was an uncommon darkness in Canada; while the atmosphere was of a siery luminous appear|ance. This was followed by squalls of wind and rain, with se|vere thunder.
On the 15th occurred a still greater obscurity, succeeded also by lightning, thunder and rain.
On the 16th the morning was calm and foggy. At 10 o'clock arose a wind from the east, which partly expelled the fog; and soon after, commenced the darkness of midnight. The people dined by candle-light. Soon after the darkness fell a meteor or fire-ball.
See Mem. Am. Acad. vol. 2, and the Gazettes of that month Courant, Dec. 12, 1785.
A slighter degree of obscurity on the 15th extended over New-England: but the 16th was a fair day.
The year 1786 exhibits fewer of the great phenomena of nature, than the preceding year; but it commenced with a de|gree of cold rarely known in this country. State of the ther|mometer at Hartford,
|Jan. 17 at sunrise,||14 deg. below 0.|
|18 do.||20 do.|
|19 do.||24 do.|
|at 2 P. M.||3 above 0.|
|20 sunrise,||17 below 0.|
The frost of the whole winter was however far less severe than in 1784. The summer following was cool.
One or two violent tempests occurred during the summer, par|ticularly one on the 23d of August, which passed over Wood|stock, in Connecticut, with fatal violence.
Page 281The scarlet fever and hydrophobia continued to prevail in this year.
The plague prevailed on the Barbary coast; and several thou|sand people in Carthagena and Malaga, in Spain, perished with yellow fever.
Town's Travels, vol. 3.
In June 1786 was a smart shock of earthquake in the north of England. In August a second shock of considerable extent. In January 1787 a shock was felt in Scotland, on the night pre|ceding which, a piece of ground, near Alloa, on which was a mill, suddenly sunk a foot and a half. The waters of rivers receded and left their channels dry, before the concussion.
Sinclair, vol. 6.
The winter of 1786-7 began early and with great severity.— On the 28th of November, the temperature at Hartford was at 10 deg. by Farenheit, through the day. At sunrise on the 29th, it was at cypher; and the cold continued to be extreme for two weeks. It did not rise above the freezing point till the 13th of December. The cold then abated, but the winter, on the whole, was more severe than usual. Courant, Dec. 4, 11 and 18. The winter was also severe in Europe.
The sore throat was fatal in some parts of the eastern states. One man in Newton, Mass. lost three children after 30 hours illness.
Courant. Feb. 20, 1786.
The plague continued to prevail on the Barbary coast, and in this winter and the spring following seventeen thousand inhabi|tants of Algiers perished. It made great havoc also in the do|minions of Morocco, as it did in Aleppo.
M. S. of Mr. O'Brien. Courant, April 16, 1787 and July 33.
The wheat-insect continued its ravages in the United States.
Two or three violent tornadoes are recorded to have occurred in the summer of 1786—one at Wethersfield, which overset a house and killed several persons; and another at Northborough in Massachusetts.
About the close of August a celestial phenomenon of a sin|gular kind appeared at Portsmouth, New-Hampshire. A small Page 282 light cloud was seen, from which issued repeated reports, like the bursting of crackers, or an irregular discharge of musquetry— supposed to be the explosion of a meteor or succession of meteors. The wind was high at north-west, with flying clouds.
Courant, Sept. 10, 1787.
A dreadful hurricane almost destroyed the settlements at the bay of Honduras on the 2d of September. The hurricane was followed by fatal diseases.
About the close of 1787 Vesuvius discharged a large quantity of lava. In the same year was an eruption of Etna, in the month of July.
A most extraordinary tempest and inundation desolated the Coromandal coast on the 20th of May. Whole towns were overwhelmed, and more than 10,000 people perished.
Courant, May 26, 1788, and Aug. 4.
This year was in general healthy in America and in the north of Europe. In some towns in New-England prevailed angina, but it was not general.