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swampy land, as well as putrid exhalations, render particular situations very unhealthy, from the changes they produce in the air, occasioning, in the night, cold damps and close, heavy fogs, especially after a sultry day. This cold, damp air most sensibly affects our feelings, if we descend in the night-time from high, elear land to the springy borders of open swamps and meadows. The sickly state of several families who have lived in a certain house in this place appears to me a striking demonstration of the baneful effects of cold springs and putrid exhalations. Since this house has been inhabited, which is upward of sixty years, it has been observed that there has been no considerable space of time that all the family have been in health. For a considerable number of years, which the present owner lived in it, some of the family were almost continually complaining or confined with acute or chronic disorders, but, removing with his family, ten or fifteen years ago, near the sea, they soon recovered, and have since enjoyed very good health. Two young, healthy families have since occupied it in succession, but were soon affected with similar disorders, which were principally of the throat, breast, and viscera. The situation of the house very evidently points out the cause of the remarkable unhealthiness of its inhabitants. It stands on the north side and very near the foot of a considerably high hill, nearly covered on the top and north part with tall wood, the northern declivity moist and springy. North and west of the house is a small plain of forty or fifty yards extent, bounded by low, springy, and swampy land. On the east a low swamp extends from very near the house to a pond of stagnant water, at a small distance. The current of air in the lowland is much obstructed and confined by the neighboring hills and woodland.
But the surprising effects which a luxuriant vegetation may produce on putrid and noxious air may contribute much in rendering particular situations the more healthy. The quantity of moist exhalations may indeed be increased, but, if the free passage of the air be not obstructed, the situation may become more wholesome. Dr. Priestly, you are sensible, has proved, by a number of experiments, that air rendered noxions by the breath of animals, or by putrefaction, is restored, by vegetables growing in it, to a state fit for respiration, and the support of animal life. This discovery may be improved, both for the continuance and restoration of health.
renders spring and summer so much more healthy than autumn and winter. In the course of the last eleven years, with us, by far the greater part that have died of acute, inflammatory, or putrid diseases have died between the first of August and the last of February. And in those years, when any disorder was epidemic, which has not been often, it has been in the course of those months. More of those, indeed, who died of a pulmonic consumption, which has been the most fatal disease with us, expired in the months of April and June than in any of the other months in the year.
It certainly must be a discovery of very great importance to know in what periods of life we are in the greatest danger of an attack from particular diseases and from what causes they originate. The investigation of such a matter will doubtless be attended with difficulty, but such advantages may be derived from it that the smallest prospect of success will justify the attempt. Very little can be expected from observations made in one or two small parishes, but it appears to me, beyond all doubt, that in our country towns much greater numbers of people die of consumption between the ages of 10 and 60 than of any other disorder. In this parish near one-half that have died between those ages died of consumptions. The cause and the treatment of this disease, which proves fatal to such great numbers in the period of life when all the powers and faculties of body and mind are in the most vigorous state, highly concern both the Patient and Physician, and call for the most critical attention. Were faithful registers of mortality and diseases, for some considerable space of time, collected from the several towns in this Commonwealth, with other collateral information respecting the situation, air, water, and employment of the inhabitants, they might afford very important instruction, and lead to many useful inquiries and discoveries. It would evidently appear what situations are the most healthy, what diseases are most prevalent in different places and at what different periods of life, and the difference of expectation of life in one place compared with another. But the establishment of such registers can never be expected, unless the Legislature should think it an object wortly their attention.
If little is to be immediately expected from such registers while we are in an infant state, and none of our towns crowded with inhabitants, yet, from a consideration of the increasing popularity of this Country, the probability that in time we may have many populous manufacturing towns, it is obvious that a very early establishment of them may become of great utility and importance.
I hope, however, you will receive such information from different parts of the country as to be able to proceed in your present plan. Dr. Holyoke informed me, a few days ago, that he was preparing an account of births, deaths, and diseases in the town of Salem for the last year, which he proposes to communicate to the American Academy, and which, we are certain, will be done with great accuracy. It is to be wished that medical gentlemen, in general, would attend to this matter, as they alone are able to give us just accounts of diseases. I am, sir, with much esteem, Your very humble servant,
[To General Lincoln, Secretary of War.]
IPSWICH, May 18, 1783. Sir:-The several Committees, appointed by the American Academy at their last meeting, met at Cambridge, on the 25th of last March. Upon examining the papers on file, they were happy to find a greater number that may be worthy of publication than was expected, and proceeded to agree on a number of articles, which I have the honor of communicating to you.
The greater part of the communications on file belong to our department, and Mr. Parsons agrees with me in opinion that many of them can not fail of meeting the approbation of the public. But as the literary character of this State abroad is greatly concerned in the first publication of the American Academy, papers for this volume ought to be selected with the utmost care and attention. Our greatest deficiency seems to be in essays upon observations and experiments on the natural productions of this Country. Improvements in the various branches of Agriculture, and those useful arts which will advance our internal wealth and the happiness of our citizens, will be of greater public utility than matters of mere science, and ought, doubtless, to be the first objects of our attention.
We have a report that a gentleman in Philadelphia has discovered a vegetable production that effectually cures cancers, which have long been the opprobrium of the medical art, and that this remedy has received the approbation of the physicians of the first character in that city. If this be fact, and a description of the plant can be obtained, though the method of preparing and applying it in this particular case should be kept a secret, it may prove a valuable acquisition. Botanical descriptions, likewise, of any rare or valuable vegetable productions, will be considered of importance.
Your letter, with the sentiments of your friend on the growth of plants, communicated by the Hon. General Warren, affords me great pleasure. The principles of vegetation seem still to remain among the arcana of science, but hypotheses that can be supported by observation and experiment may lead us to a more certain knowledge of the operations of nature in the vegetable kingdom than has ever yet been ascertained. I could wish we might be favored with further communications from that very ingenious gentleman. I should consider it a favor, if there be no impropriety, to be informed of his name and place of abode.
Such communications as you shall judge of importance, I doubt not, you will readily make, before the collection for this volume is closed.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the highest esteem, sir, Your most obedient and humble servant,
, M. CUTLER. Hon. BENJ. LINCOLN, Esq.
P. S.-I am desired to ask the favor of you to inform me whether the Philosophical Society at Philadelpha propose soon to publish another Volume of Transactions.
[From General Lincoln.]
PHILADELPHIA, June 12, 1783. Reverend Sir :-I have been honored with the receipt of your favor of the 18th ult. I should have had the pleasure of answering it before, had I not been prevented by an absence from the city.
I am fully in opinion with you that the literary character of the State of Massachusetts abroad will be greatly concerned in the first publication of the American Academy, and that papers for this volume ought to be selected with the utmost care and attention. I wish, therefore, a greater length of time had been given for the collection of facts and the arrangeof them before we entered seriously on a publication. I think this might have been done without incurring even a suspicion of inattention, or the least want of that spirit of research from which alone great discoveries may be expected, as we have, from the establishment of the Society, been involved in a war destructive of that repose essential to those useful investigations, the promotion of which was the laudable design of the institution.
I find, by the articles agreed on the 25th March, that the committees are to examine the several communications belonging to their respective departments, and select therefrom such as they may approve of for publication.
The task assigned the committee is arduous. I feel the embarrassments I should be under in executing the trust, were I placed in their situation, and although I might enter on the business with good intentions, yet I should be disposed to swell the volume, lest a too partial publication should discourage people from making further communications, as they might feel themselves hurt by the omission; and I might also be led to it by considering in too favorable a light the communications of those gentlemen whose characters I greatly revere, and for whom I have contracted the highest esteem and affection.
I have seen Dr. Martin, the gentleman who has discovered