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wholly unsupported by evidence. Neither is it necessary that any imputation should rest on the memory of Dr. Treat, the healthofficer. He saw the mariners after they had been long affected by the fever-and-ague, and perhaps with some fever upon them at the time; and from the yellowness of the skin, common to the advanced state of that disease, especially in hot climates, might be easily induced to suppose it a remittent. This, however, is mere conjecture, and not necessary to be admitted, since the fact of the men having been sick seventeen days, previous to their embarking for our coast, is ample proof that they could not have been affected by the fever which prevailed, and was so mortal here. And what confirms the truth of this opinion, is, that persons were taken with the distemper about this time, in other parts of the city, who had no connection with the brig Zephyr, nor with any other vessel, and whose illness may be satisfactorily accounted for, from their situation in other respects. An instance of this kind fell under my own observation, the last of July; several similar cases have been related to me; and one, if I am not misinformed, occurred in the New York Hospital, where the disease was distinctly marked, before Dr. Treat's illness. The following statement of facts, too, will convince every candid mind, that we ought to look at home for the cause of this fever.
• The ship Connecticut came to Fitch's wharf, about the twentieth of July; I think it was the twenty-first. She had just arrived from some part of England, and the people were perfectly healthy. No vessel suspected of being infected came to this wharf during the season ; though the ship William, suspected of infection, lay at the next wharf, at the distance of about two hundred feet. And Mr. Fitch gives the most positive assurance, that all the articles in his store, at this time, were in good condition. At this wharf, the ship Connecticut continued till after the middle of August. The owner was employed about the ship a great part of the day ; but ate and slept in an airy part of the town. The people of the ship either stayed on board or
at public houses near by. On the evening of the twenty-fifth of July, the owner was seized with the fever; I saw him first on the twenty-seventh; he had good accommodations, was in a favorable part of the town, in the third story of the house, and recovered, after an illness of about ten days, which was never very dangerous, though the attack was severe. About this time, one of the mates, the steward, and two mariners, of the ship Connecticut, were seized in the same way, and with the same symptoms, as the owner. They continued in the ship, or its neighborhood, and all died. I did not see them, but was informed by the owner, that the mate, in particular, vomited large quantities of blood, and expired delirious.
* Three persons, who were in Mr. Fitch's store, were taken sick, and two died, of this fever. One sickened on the twenty-sixth of July, one on the sixth and the other on the ninth of August. It was common for all these persons to sit several hours in the morning in the store, with empty stomachs, inhaling the effluvia of the night. One of the first persons who died of the fever, was one who lived at the head of the wharf, and had been confined for many months with a rheumatic complaint.
* In a communication to the writer, Mr. Fitch says: 'I am positive that the disorder has originated from local causes, because it has
appeared in this quarter, at the same season, for several years past : the cause why it has, is to me mysterious; but what appears to me most probable, is the central situation, and the motion of the tides. The tide of food sets directly into these wharves; collecting all the vapors and effluvia of the city. The situation of the ground, between Water and Cherry streets, is rendered noxious by raising Waterstreet, and confining the stagnant waters. The emptying of tubs into the head of the docks, instead of the end of the wharves, although not peculiar to this part of the city, is a horrible nuisance; particularly in time of sickness. The ponding of water, by running a bulkhead athwart a dock, and leaving the vacancy for years, to be filled up with every species of filth and putridity, is an object worth your attention.'
On the whole, (continues the diary,) though I am not prepared to maintain that infectious diseases, and the yellow fever among others, may not be, and have not been, imported, and thus spread over parts of our country; yet this is the most that can be allowed to the countenancers of the doctrine. For after all, the testimony of numerous facts, furnishes clear, indubitable, and decisive evidence, that other and peculiar circumstances must concur with such importation, to effect any general distribution, circulation, or influence of the disease. Frequent instances have occurred, nay do occur every year, of persons returning from the West Indies, sick with the yellow fever; languishing for some time in the houses of their parents or friends; recovering or dying; attended by numbers, during their illness ; their very clothes, when they have died, afterward worn by their relations; and yet no ill effects following therefrom; and it is a well-established fact, in many instances, during our fever, and especially during that of Philadelphia, in 1793.
• The whole, therefore, that can be granted, or ought to be assumed, by those who maintain the disease which prevailed in New York in 1795, to have been imported, is, that infection may be brought into any place, (and therefore into this city,) from abroad ; that, under certain circumstances of the place, where it is introduced, it becomes very active and destructive; but that when these circumstances do not exist, however the person immediately affected — if it be introduced by a sick person may suffer, it is harmless, so far as the general health of that place is concerned. If the subject were viewed in this light, as most assuredly it ought to be, the question of importation, or non-importation, would sink into its merited insignificance; the efficient cause, the causa sine qua noi, of such fevers, would be clearly discerned, as depending on local circumstances, capable of being wholly changed, the absolute madness of farther delay, in effecting such a change, would be distinctly and deeply felt ;
becoming spirit would animate the citizens; and suitable exertions speedily place us beyond the possibility of being subjected to a misfortune similar to that which has been already sustained. For it is inconceivable, that the nature and extent of the evil should be understood, and the remedy not be applied. And a comparatively slight and temporary sacrii ce of property would render this city in reality, what the m staken policy or pride of some of its inhabitants now falsely represents it, as healthy as any in the world ; and leave nothing VOL. XIII.
to fear, either from the fevers of the Indies, or the plague of the Levant.'
Our journalist, in relation to the question whether the fever was epidemic or contagious, writes as follows : Every person conversant with the practice of physic in New York, knows that a fever, generally of the remittent or continued kind, and variously denominated by medical writers, prevails in this city, to a greater or less degree, every year; perhaps I may say throughout the year; but, certainly, in every part of it, except the winter, and particularly from July to December; its greatest height being in the months of August, September, and October. The violence of this disease is increased or diminished by constitutional peculiarities, and by the particular situation of the patient in respect to air, temperature, etc., etc. Its universality, likewise, may be considered as dependent, in a degree, on the same causes. Circumstances, peculiar to some situations or individuals, occasion it to prove mortal, with high marks of malignity, in certain instances, almost every year.
That an extension of these peculiarities, so as to make them common to the citizens generally, would produce the same effects on the many as on the few, seems hardly controvertible. Now this appears to me to have been the case, in the present instance; and I have no doubt of the identity of the fever which then raged here, with that which has prevailed here in former years; and consider it only as a higher grade of the same disease.
* If by the question it is meant to inquire, whether the well became affected with the fever, in consequence of the contact of a sick person, or the clothing of a sick person, or from the performance of the offices of friendship, charity, and meniality, to those who were sick, I answer, that no such cases have come to my knowledge ; whereas numerous instances of such contact, and such communication, fell under my observation, and have been related to me, from which no ill effects proceeded. A number of persons, not less than ten or twelve, removed with the fever on them from New York to Stamford, forty miles ; but no person in Stamford, beside them, ever had the disorder. Mr. Fitch, the gentleman mentioned in the preceding letter, attended the young men who had the disease with him, and to use his own words, “lodged in a bed warm with the effluvia of the body of the young man who died at his house,' and nevertheless, he had no fever. Dr. Treat, according to the health committee, and of bis physicians, died of the very worst degree of the fever; yet he communicated it to nobody.
* A patient of Dr. Dingley's, in Ferry-street, who was seized with the disease, without any previous communication with a sick person, as early as the seventeenth of August, and who died with it, communicated it to none of his attendants. And the same is true of several other patients of the same gentleman. The writer of some ingenious strictures on Dr. Mitchell's pamphlet, remarks, in a note subjoined to his first paper, that he has, in common with many of his fellow-practitioners, indulged, without the smallest ill eject, a much more frequent intercourse with his patients in this disease, than usual, etc.' And the doctor himself, though he admits the possibility of such fevers
becoming contagious, or being propagated by contact, etc., expressly denies the fever of 1795 to have been so.
• But there would be no end to an enumeration of similar facts; I shall only add, therefore, that I made use of no precaution, whatever, in respect to such communication with patients ; that I have been for more than two hours shut up in a small room, with a person laboring under the worst symptoms of the fever; have watched several nights, and performed the most servile offices, with a near friend, who was sick with it; and never sustained the least inconvenience from such exposures.* I might superadd to all this, the testimony of another physician, who, in proof the uninfectious nature of the fever, affirmed that he had ‘had thirty patients with it, and had taken the breath of all of them.'
· But perhaps the advocates for the contagious or infectious nature of the disease under consideration, do not mean to confine the meaning of the term contagion to that substance, whatever it is, which is generated in an unhealthy body, and by application to a sound body, excites in it a similar unhealthiness. They may mean to describe, or designate, by that structure, constitution, or vice of the atmosphere, which disposes to or excites disease. If so, they are in fault; for they employ the same term to designate two different facts. But let us not dispute about words. Perhaps the following statement of my opinions, will lead us to the formation or attainment of some more accurate notions on this point.
Owing to a variety of causes, I suppose the atmosphere of NewYork to have become vitiated, in 1795, to an uncommon degree: that there was either an unusual absence of that principle necessary to support healthy life, or an extraordinary concentration, diffusion, or quantity, of some other, unfriendly to healthy life. From the operation of one or other of these states of the atmosphere, and of the causes above-mentioned, generally, I suppose a predisposition on the bodies of the residents in this city, greater or less, according to the situation and other circumstances of individuals, was formed in the citizens, generally; to the fever which prevailed here, that year. With some persons, this condition of the atmosphere of itself might be sufficient to produce in them the disease. But ordinarily, I believe, the aid of some cause, which should disturb the regularity of the distributions or functions of the body, was required to bring the system into a state of febrile action. Such, for instance, as intemperance in eating or drinking, sudden fright, fatigue; or indeed, any considerable irregularity in what systematics call the non-naturals. This condition of the atmosphere, I suppose, acquired strength daily, as the season advanced ; or in other words, the power of the atmosphere to predispose to the fever, was increased, as the season moved onward. I say to predispose, for I suspect it seldom of itself produced the disease, after that had attained its height, in those who remained here constantly. Although on persons coming into the city from
* It is worthy of remark, that the writer subsequently fell a victim to the yellow fever, caught in rendering generous aid to a stranger-patient, laboring under the disease, in its worst forms. The contagion, however, was doubtless owing to local
abroad, it doubtless operated with much greater force in many cases than on the citizens at any time. This is easily accounted for, from the known effects of custom. The systems of those who continued here, became habituated to the influence of the atmosphere; and while those who came here from the country, with ruddy faces, sank down in death, the pale and yellow beings who stalked through our streets, derided disease, and pursued their customary occupations. But to return from this digression.
• Not only am I convinced of the accuracy of the preceding ideas, but I have no doubt that this vice of the atmosphere was rendered still greater by exhalations from the bodies of the sick. It is a point well established in medicine, that the air of a room is rendered unsuitable for respiration, if a number of healthy persons are obliged to breathe it over several times, without the admission of fresh air from without. So injurious is such a confinement, in respect to air, to the human body, that it has, in numerous instances, produced terrible febrile diseases. And if such effects arise from the repeated breathing over of the same, or nearly the same air by healthy persons, we should naturally conclude, as is the fact, that such repeated respiration, especially when united with the constant exhalation from the bodies, by the sick, must be still more pernicious to health. There may be persons, the balance of whose health is so tremulously sensible to every external influence, as to preponderate to the side of disease, on the slightest impulse of its causes. With such, the mere contact of a sick person, or a transitory exposure to the efluvia arising from a sick body, may be sufficient to produce fever; and instances of this kind may have happened, in the course of the fever in question. Such cases, however, must have been extremely rare, if there were any; and no one has ever come to my knowledge. But with regard to fevers produced by such a state of the air, as above described, even when aided by the mixture of human efluvia, arising from sick bodies, if these are to be called diseases of contagion, and the cause which excited them contagion, so likewise may all other fevers, on the same principle, continued, remitting, intermitting fevers, be called contagious, and their causes, as marsh, miasmata, etc.
, contagion. Now to such a use of terms I have not the least objection.
If, however, in speaking of the fever of 1795, the epithet contagious be meant to express that it was communicated by contact, etc., like the small-pox, meazles, and plague, I must repeat, I see no good reason for admitting this to have been the fact; but I think there is just ground for a belief that the fever was never excited in this way. But if, on the other hand, the term contagion be meant to convey an idea of the influence of the atmosphere to predispose to, or produce disease ; whether that influence arise from the abstraction, or addition, of a principle, or be distinct from human effluvia, or combined with it, there appears no reason for denying the fever of 1795 to have been contagious.'
Several vivid passages from the diary, descriptive of the more remarkable symptoms of the disorder, are subjoined. They will be of interest to the general reader, and doubtless valuable, in other respects, to gentlemen of the medical profession : 'The fever of 1795 was generally sudden in its access ; so much so, in some instances, as to