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forcibly reminded me of the well-known story of the fly on the coach-wheel) was pleased to say, he never in his life met with a set of gentlemen less competent to their situation than the Bank Directors, I will venture to assert, that that respectable body has always contained too much common sense ever to have believed for a moment that they had the power of raising the value of their notes, or even the guinea or sovereign, to the value of bullion, when above the Mint indenture price, by any legitimate means whatever. They (the Directors) contracted their issues, to lessen their liability to be called on for cash ; the effect of which was, to oblige persons wanting coin for the illegal purpose of melting and exporting it, to draw it in small sums from the circuland of the country in the best way they could. In short, I am decidedly of opinion that a paper is preferable to a metallic currency, because it has the power of adapting itself to the wants of the country, whatever they may be, and is wholly free from foreign influence, which never can be the case with coin ; but, as there seems to be a most unaccountable prejudice in favor of the latter, and it accords with the usages of other countries, I have taken the liberty of suggesting the necessity of an alteration in our Mint regulations, before resorting finally to Cash payments. In the foregoing sentence I have used the words unaccountable prejudice, and I might have added ingratitude also ; for I feel perfectly satisfied in my own mind that no human means have contributed so much to bring the long and arduous contest in which we have lately been engaged to a happy termination, as Paper credit.
I have the honor to be,
FACTS AND INFERENCES,
RESPECTING THE CAUSES, PROPER AND ADVENTITIOUS,
PESTILENTIAL DISEASES ;
PROOFS OF THE NON-EXISTENCE OF CONTAGION
IN THESE MALADIES :
INTENDED FOR THE USE OF
THE SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
POR ENQUIRING INTO THE
Walidity of the Doctrine of contagion,
IN THE PLAGUE, &c.
IN FEBRUARY, 1819;
AND PRESENTED TO THEM, BUT NOT HITHERTO PUBLISHED.
BY CHARLES MACLEAN, M.D.
LECTURER ON THE DISEASES OF HOT CLIMATES TO THE
HONORABLE EAST INDIA COMPANY.
SUMMARY OF FACTS AND INFERENCES
CAUSES OF PLAGUE,
Importance of' the Subjeci. Considering that, upon a knowledge of the cause, depends that of the means of prevention, of every disease; that epidemic diseases are more numerous, and more destructive to mankind, than all other maladies put together ; and that the mortality and misery, incidental to these diseases, are multiplied, in an almost incredible ratio, in consequence of the belief in contagion, as their cause ; it cannot but be of the highest importance, or rather of indispensible necessity, to determine, whether these additional calamities be inevitable dispensations, to which it is our duty with resignation to submit, or evils, depending upon error and delusion, which it is in our power to remedy.
That they are entirely of this latter description, it is my purpose here to shew.
SECTION II. Definition and names of Epidemic Diseases. Epidemic are general diseases, produced by such causes as are capable of simultaneously operating, upon any given portion, or the whole, of a community; and of affecting, in a similar manner, the same persons, repeatedly.
But epidemic diseases may, as when their causes are but partially operating, be occasionally confounded with affections, which are essentially sporadic: and contagious general diseases, as
small-pox when it affects for the first time a community (although even then it never attacks simultaneously, but is always propagated in a certain succession) may be occasionally confounded with those which are essentially epidemic.
In the former case, however, the malady may be easily distinguished, by ils possessing all the other properties of an epidemic: in the latter, by its possessing none of these properties, except diffusion.
Epidemic diseases, then, consist of every variety of morbid affection, in every degree of intensity, and on every scale of diffusion, which can be produced by the causes to be mentioned wu the next section, from the slightest catarrh, or common cold, occurring in one or a few individuals, to the most severe pestilence, pervading a whole community.
The principal maladies of this class are such as have usually been distinguished by the appellations of plague, yellou-fever, sudor anglicanus, typhus, ship, hospital, and jail-fevers, and dysentery.
In order to obviate cavil, I have in this enumeration omitted scarlet-fever, and scurvy, the epidemic of the sea, as well as many others. But this cannot affect my general conclusions : for, every disease, according to the laws which it obeys, must at last be ranked in the class to which it belongs, whether epidemic, contagious, or sporadic. The list of Hippocrates includes, fevers of every kind, as continual, whether mild or ardent, intermittent, whether quotidian (diurnal and nocturnal), semitertian, perfect tertian, quartan, quintan, and nonan; chronicals, and erratics; dysenteries, diarrhæas; quinseys; heripneumonics; palsies ; erisipelas; and even ophthalmies and hæmorrhages. This list Í am by no means disposed to curtail. The higher degrees of epidemics are denominated pestilences.
SECTION III. Of the Causes of Epidemic Diseases. Epidemic diseases, according to their definition, can only be produced by such causes as are capable of simultaneously acting upon any given portion, or the whole, of a community, and of affecting, in a similar manner, the same persons repeatedly
In the former respect, they differ from diseases, which are strictly and essentially sporadic: in the latter, from those general diseases wbich depend upon a specific contagion.
Diseases then, in respect to their causes, appear to be distinguished by the hand of Nature into epidemic contagions, and sporadic. Upon this distinction depends the difference in respect to the means of their prevention.
The principal causes of epidemic diseases may be resolved into :-
1. Noxious qualities of the atmosphere.
5. The consequences of the belief in contagion, as a cause of epidemic diseases.
Those included under the first four beads, may, for distinction, be denominated proper; those under the last head, adventitious causes.
Proper Causes of Epidemic Diseases.
1. AIR. Air being of all the agents which act upon the living body, that which exercises the most diffusive influence; it is, in a pure state, the most efficient in maintaining health, and in an impure state, in producing disease. We are therefore justified by reason, no less than by universal experience, in considering the latter as a principal, or rather the chief cause of epidemic diseases.
It was the opinion of Hippocrates, that almost all diseases depend upon the air. He believed that wisdom was communicated to the brain by the air ; that it prompts the brain to thought. Marsinelli, in commenting upon this text, observes, that the brain is first of all affected by wholesome or unwholesome air. Accordingly, affections of that organ, as delirium, are incidental to epidemic diseases. The exhilarating or depressing effects of a pure or an impure atmosphere, are the subject of the daily experience of every individual. Its qualities are even presumed to have a permanent influence upon the state of the intellectual faculty; and the vivacity or dulness which distinguish the inhabitants of certain countries, appear to be, in some measure, with reason, attributed to this source,
It is to the general qualities of the atmospheric air, considered in its relation to the living body, or as an exciting power,
that these salutary and noxious effects are to be attributed, whether these qualities be determined by the course or velocity of the winds; the nature of the soil; the vicinity of marshes, woods, minerals, metals, salts, volcanos; the breaths of animals; vegetable exhalation; animal putrefaction; the influence of earthquakes,comets, and planets; or other circumstances, which, although to us unknown, are perfectly in the ordinary course of nature.
Besides the express authority of Hippocrates, (surely to be pre