Page images
PDF
EPUB

lence; it will be the focureft method to fok all the goods, and even the ship fometimes ; cfpecially if any on board bave died of the disease.

Nor ought this further caution to be omitted, that when the contagion has ceafed in any place by the approach of winter, it will not be safe to cpen a free trade with it too soon; because there are instances of the distemper's being stopt by the winter-cold, and yet the iceds of it not deftroyed, but only kept unactive, till the warmth of the following spring has given thom new life and force.

Thus in the great plague at Genoa about fourfcore years ago, which continued part of two years, the first summer about ten thousand died, the winter following hardly any ; but the summer after no less than fixty thousand, Likewise the last plagie at London appeared the latter end of the year 1664, and was stopt during the winter by a hard frost of near three months continuance; so that there remained no farther appearance of it till the ensuing spring *. Now, if goods brought from such a place should retain any of the latent contagion, there will be danger of their producing the fame mischief in the place to which they are brought as they would have caused in that from whence they

[ocr errors]

Came.

But, above all, it is necessary, that the clandestine importing of goods be punished with the utmost rigour ; from which wicked practice I should always apprehend more danger of bringing the disease, than by any other way whatsoever.

There are, I think, the most material points, to which regari is to he had in defending ourselves aHodges de peste.

gainst contagion from o:her countries. The particule, lar manner of putting these directions in execution, as the visiting of Mips, regulation of lazarettocs, &c. I leave to proper officers, who ought fometimes to be assisted herein by able physicians.

[blocks in formation]

Of stopping the progress of the plugue, if it florile

enter our country.

HE next consideration is, what to do in cale,

through a miscarriage in the public care, by the neglect of officers, or otherwise, such a calamity should be suffered to befall us.

There is no evil in the world, in which the great rule of resisting the beginning, more properly takes place, than in the present case; and yet it has unfortunately happened, that the common steps formerly taken have had a direct tendency to hinder the putting this maxim in practice.

As the plagne always breaks out in some particular place, it is certain, that the directions of the civil magistrate ought to be such, as to make it as much for the interest of infected families to discover their inisfortune, as it is, when a house is on fire, to call in the assistance of the neighbourhood: whereas, on the contrary, the methods taken by the public, on fuch occasions, have always had the appearance of a severe discipline, and even punishment, rather than of a compassionate care ; which must naturally make the infected conceal the disease as long as was possible. The main import of the orders illued out at these K 2

times

times was * ; as soon as it was found, that

any

house was infected, to keep it shut up, with a large red crofs, and these words, Lord, have mercy upon us, painted on the door ; watchmen attending day and night to prevent any one's going in or out, except such physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, nurses, searchers, &c. as were allowed by authority; and this to continue at least a month after all the family was dead or recovered.

It is not easy to conceive a more dismal scene of misery than this : families locked up from all their acquaintance, though seized with a dificmper which the most of any in the world requires comfort and afsistance ; abandoned it inay be to the treatment of an inhumane nurse, (for such are often found at these times about the sick); and strangers to every thing but the melancholy sight of the progress death makes among themselves : with small hopes of life left to the survivors, and those mixed with anxiety and doubt, whether it be not better to die, than 10 prolong a miserable being, after the loss of their best friends and nearest relations.

If fear, despair, and all dejection of spirits, dispose the body to receive contagion, and give it a great power, where it is received, as all physicians agree they do ; I do not see how a disease can be more enforced than by such a treatment.

Nothing can justify such cruelty, but the plea, that it is for the good of the whole community, and prevents the spreading of infection.

But this upon duc * Vid. Direclions for the cure of the piague, by the col. lege of physicians; and crders by the lord mayer and aldermen of London, publihed 1663.

consideration terrors than

consideration will be found quite otherwise: for while contagion is kept nurfed up in a houfe, and continually increased by the daily conquests it makes, it is impoffible but the air should become tainted in foe, minent a degree, as to spread the infection into the neighbourhood upon the first outlet.

The thutting up houses in this manner is only keeping so many fominaries of contagion, sooner or later to be dispersed as broad: for the waiting a month, or longer, from the death of the last patient, will avail no more than keeping a bale of infected goods unpacked; the poison will fly out, whenever the Pandora's box is opened.

As these measures were owing to the ignorance of the true nature of contagion, fo they did, I firmly believe, contribute very much to the long continuance of the plague, every time they have been practised in this city; and, no doubt, they have had as ill effects in other countries.

It is therefore no wonder, that grievous complaints were often made against this unreasonable usage; and that the citizens were all along under the greatest apprehenfions of being thus fhut up. This occafioned their concealing the disease as long as they could, which contributed very much to the enforcing and spreading of it: and when they were confined, it of ten happened that they broke out of their imprisonment, either by getting out at windows, &c. or by bribing the watchinen at their doors; and fometimes even by murdering them. Hence in the nights, people were often met running about the streets, with hideous shrieks of horror and despair, quite difracted either from the violence of the fever, or from the terrors of mind, into which they were thrown by the daily deaths they saw of their nearest relations.

In these miserable circumstances, many ran away; and when they had escaped, either went to their friends in the country, or built hats or tents for themfelves in the open fields, or got on board ships Lying in the river. A few also were saved by keeping their houses close from all communication with their neighbours *

And it must be observec', that whenever popular clamours prevailed so far, as to procure fome release for the sick, this was remarkably followed with an abatement of the difeafe. The plague, in the year 1636, began with great violence; but leave being given by the king's authority for people to quit their houses, it was observed, that not one in twenty of the well persons removed fell fick, nor one in ten of the sick died t. Which single instance alone, had there been no other, should have been of weight ever after to have determined the magistr acy against too strict confinements. But besides this, a preceding plague, viz. in the year 1625, affords us another instance of

very

remarkable decrease upon the discontinuing to shut up houses. It was indeed fo late in the year before this was done, that the near approach of winter was doubtless one reason for the diminution of the disease which followed : yet this was so very great, that it is at least past dispute, that the liberty then permitted was no impediment to it. For this opening of the houtes was allowed of in the beginning of September : and whereas the last week in August, there died no less

* Vid. A journal of the plague in 166;. by a citizen. London, 1722. + Dilccerle upon the air, by Tho. Cock.

а

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »