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creased, as much as theirs to whom I mentioned them: nor could I, without great variety and evidence of facts, ever have been induced to suspect, that, in all sorts of ailments whatsoever, it might relieve or cure, which at first sight may seem incredible and unaccountable; buton maturer thought will perhaps appear to agree with, and follow from, the nature of things. For it is to be noted, that the general notion of a disease seemeth to consist in this, that what is taken in, is not duly assimilated by the force of the animal economy ; therefore it should seem whatever assists the vis vitæ may be of general use in all diseases, enabling nature either to assimilate or discharge all unsubdued humours and particles whatso
But the light or ether detained on the volatile oil, which impregnates tar water, being of the same nature with the animal spirit, is an accession of so much strength to the constitution, which it assists to assimilate or expel whatever is alien or noxious.
A L E T T E R
USEFULNESS OF TAR WATER IN THE PLAGUE.
WOEREIN ALSO IT IS CONSIDERED,
WIIETIIER TAR WATER PREPARED WITH THE DISTILLED ACID OF TAR, SHOULD BE PREFERRED TO THAT MADE IN THE COMMON WAY, BY MIXING TAR WITH WATER, AND STIRRING THEM TOGETHER.
LETTER TO T-P--, Esq.
You observe in a late letter of yours, that I had formerly hinted, tar water might be useful in the plague, and desire to know the reasons whereon my opinion was grounded, and that I would communicate my thoughts at large on the subject; I am the more willing to satisfy you in this particular, as the plague now raging in Barbary hath in some measure alarmed the public, and I think it may not be amiss to contribute my mite of advice towards averting or lessening the present danger; and, as fear begets caution, to possess my countrymer with an apprehension of this the greatest of all temporal calamities, sufficient to put them on their guard, and prepare them against the worst that can happen.
A learned physician of our own observes, that the plague does not visit these Britannic islands oftener than once in thirty or forty years, and it is now above twice that time since we felt the hand of the destroying angel.
It is also the opinion of physicians, that the infection cannot spread, except there is a suitable disposition in the air to receive it; the signs of which are wet summers, leaves and fruits blasted, an unusual quantity of insects, epidemical distempers among the cattle, to which I presume may be added long easterly winds, all which signs seem to have discovered themselves pretty plainly in the course of this present year.
Beside these natural forerunners of a plague or pestilence in the air, it is worth observing, that a prognos
may be also made from the moral and religious disposition of the inhabitants. Certainly that the digitus dei (the ri Ociov of Hippocrates) doth manifest itself in the plague, was not only the opinion of mankind in general, but also in particular of the most eminent physicians throughout all ages down to our own. How far we of these islands have reason to expect this messenger of Divine vengeance, will best appear if we take a view of the prevailing principles and practices of our times, which many think have long called aloud for punishment or amendment.
Analogy and probability prevail in medicine: these are the proper guides where experience hath not gone before. I knew that tar water was useful to prevent catching the small-pox, and consequently that its nature was contrary to the taint or venom producing that distemper, and therefore I concluded, that it might be usefully applied to cure the same, though I never heard nor knew that it had been applied to that purpose, and the success answered my hopes.
In like manner, having known the virtue of tar water in preserving from epidemical infection, I conceive in general it may be useful for the cure of distempers caused by such infection. Besides, being very well assured that tar water was sovereign in the cure of all sorts of fevers, I think it not unreasonable to infer, that it may prove a successful medicine for the plague, although I have never known it used in that distemper, forasmuch as the plague with all its symptoms may
be considered as a species of fever, and hath been actually considered as such both by Hippocrates and Sydenham, not to mention others.
Having observed surprising effects of tar water in the most deplorable cases, for instance, pleurisies, smallpox, spotted and erysipelatous fevers, I am induced to entertain great hopes of its success in pestilential fevers or plagues ; which are also confirmed, by its operating