Page images

lcnce; it will be the securest method to fink all the goods, and even the ship sometimes; especially If any on board have died of the disease.

Ncr ought this further caution to be omitted, that when the contagion his ceased in any place by the approach of winter, it will not be safe to open a free trade with it too soon; because there are instances of the distemper's being stopt by the 'winter-cold, and yet the ieeds of it not destroyed, but only kept unactiye, tiil the warmth of the following spring has given them new life and force. Thus in the great plague at Genoa about fourscore 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 sixty thousand. Likewise the last plague at London appeared the latter end of the year i 664, 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 wiil be danger of their producing the same mischief in the place to which they are brought as they would have caused in that from whence they 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 ol bringing the disease, than by any other way whatsoever.

These are, I think, the most material points, to which regard is to he had in defending ourselves a* Hodges de peste.

gainst contagion from other countries. The particular manner of putting these directions in execution, as the visiting of ships, regulation of lazaretroes, &c. I leave to proper officers, who ought sometimes to be assisted herein by able physicians.

C H A P. II.

Os stopping the progress of the plttgue, if it should enter our country.

rX^HE next consideration is, what to do in case, -*- through a miscarriage in the public care, by the neglect of officers, or otherwise, such a calamity should be suffered to besall us.

There is no evil in the world, in which the great rule of resisting the beginning, more properly takes place, than in thje 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 plague 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 samilies to discover their misfortune, 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 such occasions, have always had the appearance of a severe discipline, and even punishment, rather than of 3 compassionate care ; which must naturally make the infected conceal the' disease as long as was possible. The main import of the orders issued 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 cross, 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 seene of misery than this: samilies locked up from all their acquaintance, though seized with a distemper which the most of any in the world requires comfort and assistance; abandoned it may 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 lo 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 fee 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 due

* Vid. Directions for the cure of the plague, by the college of physicians; ?.nd orders by the lord mayor and aldermen of London, published 1665.

consideration consideration will be found quite otherwise: for while contagion is kept nursed up in a house, aad continually increased by the dailvvconquesls it makes, it is impossible but the air should become tainted in so er minent a degree, as to spread the infection into the neighbourhood upon the first outlet. The shutting up houses in this manner is only keeping so many seminaries of contagion, sooner or later to be dispersed abroad: for the waiting a month, or longer,, from tho death of the last patient, will avail no more than keeping a ball of infected goods unpacked; the poison will fly out, whenever the Pandora's box is opeiir ed.

As these measures were owing to the ignorance of the true nature of contagion, so 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 apprehensions of being thus shut up. This occasioned 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 often happened that they broke out of their imprisonment, either by getting out at windows, &c. or by bribing the watchmen at their doors; and sometimes even by murdering them. Hence in the nights, people were often met running about the streets, with hideous shrieks of horror and despair, quite distracted either from the violence of the fever, or from the

terrors 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 themselves 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 observed, that whenever popular clamours prevailed so far, as to procure some release for the sick, this was remarkably followed with an abatement of the disease. 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 sick, nor one in ten ot the sick died f. Which smgle instance alone, had there been no other, should have been of weight ever after to have determined the magistracy against too strict confinements. But besides this, a preceding plague, viz. in the year 1 62 5, affords us another instance of a very remarkable decrease upon the discontinuing to shut up houses. It was indeed so 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 houses 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 1665. by a citizen". London, 1722. \ Discccrse upon the aii, by Tho-. Cock.


« PreviousContinue »