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Dr RICHARD MEAD.
A DISCOURSE on the PLAGUE.
To the Right Honourable
JAMES CRAGGS, Esq;
One of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State.
S I R,
I Most humbly offer to you my thoughts concerning the prevention of the plague, which I have put together by your command. As soon as you were pleased to signify to me, in his Majesty's absence, that their Excellencies the Lords Justices thought it necessary for the public safety, upon the account of the sickness now in France, that proper directions should be drawn up to defend ourselves Vol. II. B from from such a calamity; I most readily undertook the task, though upon short warning, and with little leisure r I have therefore rather put down the principal heads of caution, than a set of directions in form.THis book having at first been written only as a plan of directions for preserving our country from the plague *, was then very short and concise. An act of parliament being immediately after made for performing quarantines, &c. according to the rules here laid down, it passed through seven editions in one year without rny alterations. I then thought proper to make some additions to it, in order to shew the reasonableness of the methods prescribed, by giving a more full description of this disease, and collecting some examples of the good success which had attended such measures, when they had been put in practice. At the some time I annexed a short chapter relating to the cure of the plague; being induced thereto by considering how widely most authors have erred in prescribing a heap of useless and very often hurtful medicines, which they recommend under the specious titles of antidotes, specifics, and alexipharmacs : hoping that the great resemblance which I had observed between this disease and,the smallpox, would justify my writing upon a distemper which I have never seen.
The first, which relate to the performing quarantines, <bc. you, who are perfectly versed in the history of Europe, will fee are agreeable to what is practised in other countries, with some new regulations. The next, concerning the suppressing infection here, are very different from the methods taken in former times among us, and from what they commonly do abroad; but, I persuade myself, will be sound agreeable to reason.
I most heartily wish, that the wise measures the government has already taken, and will continue to take, with regard to the former of these, may make the rules" about the latter unnecessary. However, it is fit, we should be always provided with proper means of defence against so terrible an enemy.
May this short essay be received as one instance, among many others, of the care you always shew for your country; and as a testimony of the great esteem and respect, with which I have the honour to be,
S I R,
Tour most obedient, and
Indeed the small-pox is a true plague, though of a particular kind, bred, as I have shewn all pestilences are, in the seme hot Egyptian climate, and brought into Asia and Europe by the way of commerce; but most remarkably by the war with the Saracens, called the holy war, at the latter end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth century f. Ever smce which time the morbific feeds
.* See the dedication, f Vid. Huet. de rebus ad eum pertinentitn % pag. 23.
of it have been preserved in the infected cloaths and the furniture of houses; and have broken out more or less in all countries, according as the hot and moist temperature of the air has savoured their spreading and the exertion of their force. The measles is likewise a plague sui generis, and owes its origin to the fame country.
I have now revised my little work once more: and though I cannot find any reason to change my mind as to any material points which regard either the preventing or the stopping the progress of infection; yet I have here and there added some new strokes of reasoning, and, as the painters say, retouched the ornaments, and heightened the colouring of the piece.
The substance of the long presace to the last edition is as follows.
I have insisted more at large upon the infection of this disease, than I could ever have thought needful at this time, after Europe has had experience of the distemper for so many ages: had 1 not been surprised by the late attempts of some physicians in France to prove the contrary, even while they have the most undeniable arguments against them before their eyes. In particular, I cannot but very much admire to see Dr Chicoyneau, and the other physicians, who first gave us observations on the plague, when at Marseilles, relate, in the reflections they afterwards published upon those observations, the case of a man who was seized with the plague, upon his burying a young woman dead of it, when no one else dared to approach the body; and yet to see them ascribe his disease, not to his being infected by the woman, but solely to his grief for the loss of her, to whom he
had had made love, and to a diarrhœa which had been some time upon him *. No question 'out these concurred to make his disease the more violent ; and perhaps even exposed him to contract: the infection: but why should it be supposed, that he was not infected, I cannot imagine, when there was so plain an appearance of ,it. 1 am as much at a loss to find any colour of reason for their denying iufection in another case they relate, of a young lady seized with the plague, upon the sudden sight of a pestilential tumour, just broke out upon her maid; not allowing any thing but the lady's surprise to be the cause or her illnels -f.
The truth is, these physicians had engaged themselves in an hypothesis, that the plague was bred at Marseilles by a long use of bad aiiment, and grew ib fond of their opinion, as not to be moved by the most convincing evidence. And thus it mostly happens, when we indulge conjectures instead of pursuing the true course for making discoveries in nature.
I know they imagine this their sentiment to be abundantly confirmed from some experiments made by Dr Deidier J upon the bile taken from persons dead of the plague: which having been either poured into a wound made on purpose in different dogs, or injected into their veins, never failed, in many trials, to produce in them all the symptoms of the pestilence, even the external ones of bubo's and carbuncles. One dog, upon which the experiment succeeded, had been known, for three months before, to devour greedily the corrupted flesh of infected persons, and pledgets * Observations sur la peste de Marseille, p. 38. 39. 40. f Ibid. p. 113. t Vid. Philos. Trans. N° 370.