Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

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of conversion ? And if imagination be added to intelligence, have
we not all the conditions of vital experience ? If the whole be
suffused with emotion, a state of transport is possible. The his
tory of St. Charles or of St. Francis might easily be reproduced
among infidels, for all the higher degrees of conviction are
included in such supremacy. There is heroism in it ; there may
be martyrdom. Self-forgetfulness, self-denial, self-crucifixion
follow, each in its order, each according to disposition. The
delight of consecration belongs to those who know it. The vision
of the saint is within the reach of expectation. This faith in
reason lends wings to the feet, and bears men toward the empy
rean. Let a man begin by paying his debts, and he will never
end. Before he has paid all his debts, his debts of honor, of
love, of gratitude, he will be ripe for canonization. We shall
have to tie weights to his ankles in order to hold him down to
the earth. It may be thought that the majority of mankind
would not attain to any degree of this high state without the
aid of their present religious belief. But the majority of man
kind do not attain to it, as it is ; do not try to attain to it, do
not believe in it, rather doubt the desirableness of being insane
after this fashion, more than doubt if any such condition of
experience is attainable by rational means ; and it might be well
to drive believers from their refuges into the open air of ration
alism, which is, at least, bracing and wholesome. It is something
to know one's deficiencies ; it is commonly the first step toward


any moral advance. The faith that hides people from them
selves is no advantage ; it may, on the contrary, be a grave
disadvantage, even to such as have nothing else.

Is not this an illustration of the value of substance over
form f The Church of Rome, trusting to its seven sacraments,
which covered the whole expanse of human life and were pre
sumed to convey the supernatural grace of God, was satisfied
when people joined its communion, availed themselves of its
aid, went to mass, attended confession, performed such other
ecclesiastical duties as were required, and, beyond the probing
of the confessional, was not disposed to make inquisition into
the interior state of the soul. This left the natural bent of the
constitution comparatively free to follow its own destiny. The
danger was lest people who had little spiritual aspiration might
think they had made effort enough when they had gone through
the prescribed round of exercises, and might give rein to their
animal propensities without remorse or shame, taking for granted
their security in the possession of the good offices of the church.
This peril was exemplified in the private history of even popes
and priests, to say nothing of ordinary men and women. The
Protestant churches, urging the necessity of personal faith in
the Redeemer, stimulated to the utmost every tendency toward
religious elevation, and made the most of every heavenward
wish $ but they incurred the risk of confounding natural with
spiritual impulses, of promoting a morbid habit of self-examina
tion, of persuading saints that they were sinners and sinners
that they were saints, and of thereby inflicting hideous suffer
ings on sensitive spirits. These dangers have been frequently
indicated, so that it is unnecessary to dwell on them here, and
everybody who is at all familiar with the biography of either
ministers or laymen has had abundant evidence of the reality of
them. The earlier Unitarians were too incessantly occupied with
controversial questions to formulate any definite belief on this
subject 5 but they were good Protestants in substance, and had
no doubt in regard to the need of divine grace for carnal men.
Their tendency, however, though they did not suspect it, was
toward naturalism ; and when this was arrived at, under the
name of transcendentalism, an effort was made to extract from
simple human nature all spiritual possibilities, and to substitute
development for conversion, moral progress for moral regenera
tion, the spontaneous unfolding of the soul for its creation by


superhuman forces, allowing temperament to color experience.
There were no such enthusiasts for spiritual perfection as the
transcendentalists. They were persuaded that the highest at
tainment was within the reach of every-day humanity, and
they persevered in their faith in spite of tremendous discourage

The danger, for an instant, seemed to be from an excessive
enthusiasm. There was enthusiasm, even fanaticism, in the
Romish Church, but it was confined to a small number of sen
sitive souls who were excited by the promise of celestial felicity.
Protestantism, taking religious exaltation out of the domain of
natural impulse and limiting it to an elect few, confined within a
small compass the explosive forces of the overheated mind.
The safest organization in Christendom is probably the Episcopal
Church, for it is a combination of what is best in the Romish
and Protestant systems, and in it is applied a gentle heat like
that which Sir Kenelm Digby thought so efficacious in awakening
to life the ashes of flowers. I allude, especially, to the so-called
" Broad Church," whose welcome to every kind of culture, whose
indifference to the current topics of theology, and whose spiritual
conception of the Christ entitle it to be ranked among the edu
cators of the generation. The stimulus applied to human nature
by the first transcendentalists led immediately to enterprises for
the reconstruction of society that were characterized rather by
zeal than by wisdom, the history whereof is written in many
books, the noise whereof filled the air forty years ago. Since
then that enthusiasm has died away. The new doctrine was too
subtle for the average intellect to grasp, the new demand was
too lofty for the average conscience to meet, and an ebbing tide
is visible where formerly the channels were full. The " Religion
of Humanity ". now threatens us with a species of fanaticism
under another shape, namely, that of self-immolation in the
service of mankind. The theory of " altruism " the devotion
to others points directly to sacrifice as the duty of the
individual, and inflames the dispositions of- the generous of
heart. But the generous of heart are not many, and this
impulse is soon spent.

The temptation, however, is almost irresistible to compress
"humanity" within the lines of a particular era, to make a
short episode in the history of a country identical with the
moral experiences of the race, and to confound an incidental


administration of affairs with the permanent order of a govern
ment; hence an accession of passionate feeling that would be
impossible to any broad, historical view. In the immensities of
time all convulsions die speedily away, and an infinite calm
reigns over the surface of the great deep ; but they who attempt
to navigate the shallows are exposed to tempests. Reading
Stepniak's " Underground Russia " I was deeply impressed by
the heroism of the men and women whose conduct is described
there. These were people who regarded all religion as a de
grading superstition, who believed in neither immortality nor
God, who held no high ideal of personal attainment in this
world, who were not mystics or dreamers of any sort, but were
simply disciples of an absolute nothingness; yet they mani
fested a power of consecration greater than the sainted Romans
displayed, thus proving again, if more proof were needed, that
the grand qualities of the hero and the saint are independent of
creed. The narrower these Nihilists were, the more intense
was their earnestness, the more consecrated and deadly their
resolves. The broad stream flows slowly, but may be navigated.
The compressed water is too violent to be crossed by boat or

But there are exceptions to the general rule of apathy which
prevails among mankind at large. It cannot be said that the
majority of men are fanatics or enthusiasts. How to stir the
inert mind of the community is still the problem ; how to set
the multitude thinking, how to bring in the day when one
cares that he do not cheat his neighbor, and so may change his
market-cart into a chariot of the sun. The Church of Rome
has done what it could through the fidelity of its priests, the
eloquence of its divines, the examples of its holy men and
women j the Protestant churches have made prodigious efforts
through their preachers and pastors, and through the energy of
" revivals." But all this is of very little efficacy, to say nothing
of the strained, unnatural character of the improvement gained.
The object to which the modern world bends its efforts is the
elevation by rational, human means of the ordinary faculties of
mankind, the calm, steady, serene progress of society. This
process of education is going forward faster than most suspect.
The consciousness of imperfection, the painful sense of imbe
cility, the craving for increased opportunity, the demand for
more privilege, are symptoms of a general discontent pointing
VOL. cxxxix. NO. 335. 25


to fresh reformations. The aspect of human misery, the bitter
struggle for existence on the part of large numbers in every
town, the feeling of injustice on the part of many, are acting
as sharp spurs to produce a change of moral as well as of
material condition. The spread of education, the diffusion of
intelligence by the press, the multiplication of libraries, add every
year to the sum of mental forces, and increase the balance of mind
over matter. The practical knowledge required in the useful
arts, the economies demanded in the home, the growing senti
ment of repugnance toward intemperance, the diminishing power
of vice in influential quarters are all signs of a rising humanity.
Art is becoming an ideal element. The study of science is in
teresting the people. The opening of galleries and gardens will,
in due time, shut up a great number of dram-shops. A taste
for unseen things will, it may be hoped, one of these days, extend
from the cultivated class to the uneducated. One may even anti
cipate the era of religious exaltation, when the solemn order of
the universe, the procession of law, the absolute reign of har
mony, the power of wisdom and love in great souls, will fasci
nate living minds and touch spiritual natures that are now
asleep. Should that hour ever arrive we shall hear less of
" conversion " and more of advancement ; less of " supernatural
grace," but more of the natural possibilities of man to arrive at
the highest states.



YELLOW FEVER has been the subject of some of the most vio
lent controversial storms that have ever ruffled the surface of
medicine. Whether the fever was contagious or non-contagious,
whether it was imported or bred on the spot, whether it was a
peculiar kind of specific fever, or only a severe form of malarial
fever, these are some of the questions that have been hotly
debated, and nowhere more hotly than among the medical men
of Philadelphia, in the life-time of the great Dr. Benjamin Rush.
It is now possible to look at these controversies in the perspec
tive of history, and fortunately it is possible for most of the
Atlantic cities of the United States so to regard the disease
itself. The discussions as to its nature and origin and its mode
of conveyance are no longer in the acute stage of violent and
irreconcilable antagonisms. The air is cleared, and the chaos
has fallen into something like order; and if there are still
various hypotheses of the origin of the fever, there is almost
complete agreement as to all its associated circumstances, or its
natural-history characters among the species of disease. No
single work has contributed so much to the modern disentangle
ment as the two volumes of elaborate inquiry and dispassionate
statement brought out by Dr. La Roche, of Philadelphia, in 1855,
a work that reflects the highest credit on American scholarship
and research.

But, although Dr. La Roche has carefully gone over the
whole ground, and sifted and scrutinized everything that has
turned up, through sixteen hundred closely printed pages, it
appears to my humble judgment that he has somehow never
caught the sparkle of the gem that he was seeking for. The
secret of yellow fever, it seems to me, is contained in the almost
forgotten essays of Audouard. La Roche quotes the title of
these among the innumerable other books and pamphlets ; but I



find nowhere in his pages any evidence that he had mastered the
facts of Audouard's argument, or duly weighed its conclusions.
Dr. Audouard failed to secure the imprimatur of the French
Academy of Sciences for his various essays on yellow fever, and
the neglect of them is one more illustration of the fact that the
world is too busy to form its opinion at first hand on a question.
My attention to Dr. Audouard's theory of yellow fever was first
attracted by finding it described in Prof. Hirsch's well-known
treatise on Geographical and Historical Pathology, which was
then coming out in English, as eine der dbenteuerlicTisten Hypo-
theseis. Stimulated rather than deterred by this damaging
epithet, I procured the book from the library of the Royal
Medico-Chirurgical Society of London. The library owed its
copy to the mindfulness of the author himself, according to
an autograph letter pasted within the cover, and bearing date,
April 11, 1825.

Dr. Audouard 7 s letter, a folded quarto sheet, now yellow
with age, is a well-written appeal to academical medicine in
England to give its best attention to the very serious facts that
he had discovered when inquiring officially into two of the
Spanish epidemics of yellow fever in 1821 and 1823. At Bar
celona and Passages respectively, in these years, it had struck
him with peculiar force that the fever had issued from the holds
of ships that had been employed in carrying negro slaves from
the west coast of Africa to Havana, and had returned to Spain
with "West Indian produce.

" Cette conf ormite d'origine dans deux cas diff&rens, me porta a faire des
recherches a la faveur desquelles j'ai trouve le moyen d'expliquer tout ce
qui, jusqu' a present, avait ete obscur et inexplicable. . . Ces memoires
contiennent des idees nouvelles auxquelles je n'en doute pas, vous ne
refuserez pas votre attention ; et si elles vous paraissent propres a seconder
les vues de votre gouvernement relativement a la traite des noirs, vous vous
en expliquerez franchement afin de vous montre" favorable a 1'humanite
d'une double maniere, savoir ; en travaillant a abolir 1'esclavage des noirs, et
en preservant la race blanche de la fievre jaune qui est le resultat de ce trafic "

Like every one who trusts to ideas making their way by their
inherent force, Dr. Audouard was much too sanguine when he
wrote : " Je n'en doute pas, vous ne refuserez pas votre atten
tion." It soon became apparent, as I proceeded to glean the
" idees nouvelles,' 7 that not one officer or fellow of the society in
all those years had taken the trouble to cut the leaves. The fact


was, the terrible yellow-fever epidemics that ravaged the Spanish
ports and threatened the rest of Europe in the beginning of the
century were already over, and Europe was all the more ready
to forget its danger from the Western pestilence in its preoccu
pation with a new enemy, the cholera. But the interest in
yellow fever is still real for the Western Hemisphere, and it
seems to me to be desirable for both theory and practice that
Dr. Audouard's facts and reasoning should receive full attention.

If we take a sketch-map of the world and color on it the
places where yellow fever has been most prevalent at one time
or another, we shall find that they group themselves in a very
significant manner. The whole continent of Asia, the cradle of
so many great pestilences, takes no share ; Africa does not con
cern us, except for two or three small spots on the western
coast; no part of Europe has to be colored in, except certain
ports of Spain and Portugal. Our spots of color are nearly all
on the American side of the Atlantic, and they are but minute
points on the coast. Yellow fever is a pestilence of certain ship
ping-places, and particularly of their harbors, wharves, and
sailors' quarters. Now and then it has penetrated beyond the
sea-port or the banks of a navigable river, as in the great epi
demics in Spain in the beginning of the century ; but the cir
cumstances were those of exceptional virulence of the poison
and exceptional panic among the people, and they serve rather
to show how remarkably uniform the behavior of yellow fever
has been, on the whole. While Barbadoes and Antigua have a
healthy climate, Bridgetown and English Harbor have been
notorious for the epidemic of yellow fever. It is not all Cuba,
but Havana ; not all Hayti, but Port au Prince ; not Martinique,
but Port Royal j not South Carolina, but Charleston ; and not
Pennsylvania, but Philadelphia.

Putting together these singular facts of geographical distri
bution, and adding what we know of history, we are led to
the conclusion that the ports of yellow fever are mostly the old
ports of debarkation in the slave-trade, the first authentic epi
demics having occurred shortly after the first arrivals of slave-
ships in the West Indies. The pestilence first showed itself at
Bridgetown in 1647, twenty years after the English began to plant
there ; and we know from an authentic document that in 1650
there were at that place flourishing sugar-plantations well stocked
with negroes. The " new disease" took every one by surprise. It


was " an absolute plague, very infectious and destroying/' says Mr.
Vines, writing to Governor Winthrop, of New England, " inso
much that in our parish there were buried twenty in a week,
and many weeks together fifteen or sixteen." Mr. Vines thought
it was a punishment for the sins of the people, that it was u the
Lord's heavy hand in wrath " ; and Captain Ligon, who came out
from England while it was raging, believed that it was somehow
connected with the arrival of ships. The " Pere Dutertre w says
it was " une peste jusqu'- alors inconnue dans les isles,'' and that
it carried off one-third of the inhabitants of St. Kitts in eighteen
months. During the two centuries following, it has become
endemic at many ports, and these are the places at which slave-
ships have either discharged their negroes, or gone in ballast or
with merchandise on the round voyage. The one considerable
exception is the Peruvian coast, where yellow fever appeared
first in 1853. I am prepared to deal with that exception and
with others, if space permitted ; but it must suffice to say here
that the people of Callao, for some reason, blamed the arrival of
filthy ship-loads of Chinese coolies, who had suffered terribly
from dysentery ; that the Chinese in Lima are said to be almost
as much protected against yellow fever as the negroes on the
Atlantic side ; and that the Chinese coolie trade, from 1847 to
1856, was carried on by " ships badly equipped and overcrowded,
and on their voyages they reproduced all the horrors of the ' mid
dle passage' in the old African slave-trade." (" Encyclopaedia
Britannica," Article " Coolie.")

If the association of yellow fever with the ports of debarka
tion of the slave-trade were absolutely invariable, I should
regard it as a suspiciously neat result. A certain small margin
of exception is a healthy sign in any hypothesis. The broadly
impressive fact remains that yellow fever has been, both in place
and in time, a close attendant on the slave-trade ; that it has
followed its rise and its decline at a given place, although it has
survived longer at some points than at others ; and that its
exacerbations have coincided with the most lawless period of
the traffic. What is the meaning of this association between the
importation of slaves and yellow fever at the ports of debarka
tion, between the horrors of the "middle passage" and the after
horrors of the landing-place ? It is no other than the ancient
association between filth and fever ; but there is something quite
peculiar both in the filth and in the fever.


In the first place, we have to observe that negroes on board
slave-ships do not appear to have suffered from yellow fever.
Whether any part of the enormous mortality among the white
crews of slavers was due to yellow fever, we never shall know.
These things were kept conveniently dark, and it took all of
Clarkson's persistence to find out that there was any excessive
mortality at all. What took place on board slave-ships on the
" middle passage" is now as far beyond the reach of exact research
as the slave-trade itself is beyond the possibility of revival. But
we have several interesting experiences, or undesigned experi
ments, of the contact of white men with a shipful of negroes,
which happened under circumstances that could compromise no
one, and have been authentically entered on the medical record.
One of these occurred to the late Dr. James Copland, author of
the " Dictionary of Practical Medicine," and it sufficed, along
with observations made subsequently, to start Dr. Copland's
mind in the train of reasoning that Audouard was to follow
independently a few years later. He says :

" A small vessel, in which I was a passenger, was anchored, in May, 1817,
a short distance from Sierra Leone ; and the ship's boat, with four of the crew,
was "bringing me on board, when, a tornado suddenly overtaking us, we took
shelter on board a ship recently brought into the harbor full of slaves, and
near which we were at the time. The men belonging to the boat took shelter
down between decks. I remained under a small poop on the quarter-deck.
All these men in two or three days were seized with this distemper [yellow
fever], the vessel having just put to sea, and I escaped. The sick men were
constantly kept on deck, free ventilation was enforced, and every possible
precaution used, and no more were attacked. The organization of the negro,
and the more extensive functions of the skin of this race as an excreting
organ, give rise to the most offensive and foul state of the atmosphere when
numbers of this race are confined in a limited space, and particularly in a
humid and warm atmosphere. Indeed, nothing can be imagined more
nauseous and depressing than the respiration of the air so contaminated ;
and it may further be admitted that it so affects the organic nervous system

and the blood as to develop this pestilence The above fact, these

considerations, and various occurrences or outbreaks of this distemper after
communications with slave-ships that have come to my knowledge, induce
me to attach some importance to this source of the evil, and to suggest that
some endeavor should be made to ascertain the amount of credit it may

deserve If this opinion as to the probable origin of the infectious

poison be not admitted, there is certainly none other deserving greater con
fidence, and we are left entirely in the dark as to the earliest origination of
the mischief."

Dr. Copland's suggestion of direct contact with a crowd of
negroes goes only a little way, as he was himself aware; it


needed the somewhat different observations of Audouard (which
Copland would seem not to have heard of even in 1858) to
furnish a theory of yellow fever that would be wide enough for
all the facts. But, before I come to that subject, I shall give
two other instances, collected from the naval medical history of
the period, to set beside Copland's. The Regalia, British trans
port, was employed in 1815 in carrying black recruits from the
Guinea coast to the West Indies. When on the coast the health
of the ship had been excellent, but during the voyage much sick
ness, chiefly of the dysenteric kind, occurred among the blacks.
Thereupon yellow fever broke out with great malignancy, attack
ing all on board except the blacks, who, from first to last, were
exempt from the specific fever. The case of the Regalia is well
known, and it used to be quoted as showing that yellow fever
was only a form of malarial fever, the malarial miasm in this
case having come from a quantity of green wood that had been
shipped at Boa Vista. The green- wood theory was always im

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 33 of 60)