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and she had no great quantity in the right: but what remained was as good milk
as could be desired in a nurse. The poor woman seemed perfectly honest and
artless, and even tended strongly to dotage.

^ Letter from the Rev. Mr. John Clayton, afterwards Dean of Kildare in
Ireland, to Dr. Grew, in Answer to several Queries relating to Firginia, sent
to him hy that Gentleman, A. D. l687 *• N°454, p. 143.

Having observed many mistakes in people's notions of Virginia, when speak-
ing of the natives, which have arisen from the want of making a distinction in
their expressions, when they speak of the English or whites, born there,
thence called natives ; and the aborigines of the country ; Mr. C. therefore
notices, that when he speaks of the natives in general, he means only the

As therefore to the 1st query : — ^Their wiochist, that is, their priest, is ge-
nerally their physician ; and is a person of the greatest honour and esteem
among them, next to their king, or to their great war-captain.

2. Nature is their great apothecary, each physician furnishing himself, ac-
cording to his skill, with herbs, or the leaves, fruit, roots, or barks of trees ;

• This may serve as a sequel to the accounts of Virginia formerly given by Mr. Clayton. See these
Transactions, N" 201, 205, 206, 210.— Orig.


of which he sometimes uses the juice, and sometimes reduces them to powder,
or perhaps makes a decoction of them.

3. Though every one, according to his skill, is a sort of doctor, as many
women are in England, yet their priest is peculiarly styled their physician, to
be consulted on greater emergencies. The rules of the descent of whom, as to
families, Mr. C. does not know ; for they are a sullen close people, and will
answer very few questions.

4. They reward their physician with no certain fees, but according as they
bargain for Wampampeake skins, or the like. If the patient be an English-
man, they will agree for a match-coat, or a gallon or two of rum, or so
forth, according to the nature of the cure. Sometimes the priest will sell his

5. Their king allows no salary ; but every one that in any nature can serve
his prince, is ready to do it, and to do it gratis.

6. They have no consultations, their practice being merely empirical. They
know little of the nature or reason of things. Ask them any question about
the operation of a remedy, and, if in good humour, perhaps they will reply,
It cures ; otherwise they will shrug their shoulders, and you may ask 40 ques-
tions, and not know whether they understand either the thing, or what it is
you say to them.

7 . They pay a certain deference of honour to their priest or wiochist, whose
person they hold sacred ; but they have no laws that bind them to it. In gene-
ral, the will of their prince stands for reason and law.

8. The means by which they convey their art to posterity, Mr. C. takes to
be this. They lodge in their wiochisan houses, i. e. their temples, certain
kinds of reliques, such as men's skulls, some certain grains or pulse, and se-
veral herbs, which are dedicated to their gods ; viz. the skulls in memory of
their fights and conquests : the pulse by way of thanks-offering for their pro-
visions ; and the herbs, on the same account, for some special cure performed
by them. For when any one is cured by any herb, he brings part of it, and
offers it to his god ; by which the remembrance of this herb and its virtue are
not only preserved, but the priest also thus becon)es best instructed, and skilled
in the art of medicine. For otherwise, they are very reserved of their know-
ledge, even among themselves. Often when they are abroad hunting in the
woods, and fall sick, or receive any hurt, they are then forced to make use of
any herbs nearest at hand, which they are not timorous in venturing on, though
they know not their virtue or qualities. And thus, by making many trials and
experiments, they find out the virtues of herbs ; and by using simple remedies*
they certainly know what it is that effects the cure.

VOL. viii. U u


9. They are generally most famed for curing of woimds, and have indeed
various very good wound-herbs, as an herb commonly called Indian-weed,
which perhaps may be referred to the valerians, and be said to be platan i foliis.
They use also the gnafalium Americanum, commonly called there white plan-
tain. As to our plantain, or the heptapleuron, they call it the Englishman's-
foot, and have a tradition, that it will only grow where they have trodden, and
was never known before the English came into this country. The most famous
old physician among the Apomatic Indians, used mostly an herb, the leaf of
which is much like self-heal in winter. It makes a good salve, only it fills a
wound too fast with flesh. The great success they have in curing wounds and
sores, seems mostly to proceed from their manner of dressing them ; for they
first cleanse them, by sucking, which, though a very nasty, is doubtless the
most effectual and best way imaginable ; they then take the biting persicary,
and chew it in their mouths, and thence squirt the juice into the wound, which
they will do as if it were out of a syringe. They then apply their salve-herbs,
either bruised or beaten into a salve with grease, binding it on with bark and

10. The distempers among the English natives, are, scorbutical dropsies,
cachexies, lethargies, seasonings, which are an intermitting fever, or rather a
continued fever with quotidian paroxysms. These are now rarely sharp, but
show themselves in a lingering sickness. The griping of the guts mostly dry
and when the tormenta ventris cease, they generally shoot into the limbs, and
fix there, in a terrible sort of gout, taking away the use of the limbs. Thus
they will pine away to skin and bone, so that their joints will seem dislocated,
and their hands utterly crippled. Sore throats, which the last year were very
frequent, and deemed infectious, running generally through whole families,
and, unless early prevented, became a cancerous humour, and had effects like
the French-pox. Likewise pains in the limbs, which seemed to proceed partly
from the same humour floating up and down the body. These pains are very
severe, mostly nocturnal ; for while they walk, if they have the use of their
limbs, they feel the least pain. The oil of a fish called a drum, was found very
effectual to cure these pains, and restore the limbs.

There are three sorts of oils in that country, the virtues of which might not
perhaps be found despicable ; the oil of drums, the oil of rattle-snakes, and the
oil of Turkey bustards. The oil of sassafras-leaves may be deservedly considered
too, for they will almost entirely dissolve into an oil. But to return. There is
another sort of distemper, which seems to be the lepra Graecorum. And it
may perhaps be no bad conjecture, that this chiefly proceeds from their feeding
so much on a delicate luscious sort of pork. Among the Indians they have a


distemper called the yaws, and is nearly related to the French-pox ; which, it
is said, they cure with an herb tliat fluxes them.

11. The Indians mind neither the pulse nor urine, only judge by the com-
mon most remarkable symptoms : and some pretend to form a judgment from
the countenance, and are fond of being thought physiognomists.

12. Mr. C. never could find, that they practised blood-letting. They purge
much with several sorts of roots of their own country growth, and vomit fre-
quently with various herbs. They sweat boldly and excessively, and after a very
strange manner ; for they have their sweating-stoves always on the bank of some
river ; whence they rush forth in the height of their sweat, and run into the
water, where they wash and bathe themselves very plentifully. They use no
blistering-plasters, but are exquisite at cupping. As the East Indians use
moxa, so these burn with punk, which is the inner part of the excrescence or
exuberance of an oak. When they design to give a purge, they make use of
the following herbs : puake-root, i. e. solanum bacciferum, a strong purge, and
by most deemed poison. The roots of tythymal. of which there are two sorts ;
the one flore minimo herbaceo, the other flore albo. The flower of this last is
small, but large in comparison with the other : they are repentes, and grow in
old manured grounds. They chiefly make use of the latter of these, and it is a
most excellent purge, though it sometimes vomits. It is a quick, but moderate
worker enough ; and has this peculiarity, that it opens the body in the gripes,
when other more violent purgatives will not move it. There is another herb,
which they call the Indian purge. This plant has several woody stalks growing
near 3 feet tall, and perfoliat : it bears yellow berries round about the joints.
They only make use of the root of this plant. They use also the small fleur de
lis, whose virtues seem not yet half known, for it has some extraordinary qua-
lities : it does not grow above a hand high, it flowers in March, and is very
fragrant. They use also some sort of the apocynums ; particularly that which
he thinks Gerard calls vincetoxicum Americanum , for there are several sorts of
apocynums ; he thinks 1 3 or 1 4, but they are not all purgative.

They have likewise several sorts of herbs for vomiting ; one of which is a little
sort of squills. They likewise take the leaves of a certain curious odoriferous
shrub, that grows in the swamps, which Mr.C. takes to be the lesser sassafras ; they
bruise them in water, and then express the juice, which they drink warm. The
Indian interpreter prized it much, as excellent physic, and said they found it a
very sovereign remedy. The name the Indian gave it was wisochis, which is
their general word for physic.

13. The rest of their Materia Medica consists of herbs, of which they have
great plenty, and seldou» prescribe any thing else. Mr. C. collected above

V u a


300 several sorts, that were no European plants ; but he mentions at present
only the most remarkable. And first, the sassafras tree, whose root is well
enough known. It shoots forth its blossoms in March, which are yellow, and
grow in little bunches like grape flowers, and which, when gathered and picked
from the husky bud, make a curious preserve. Most sassafras trees blossom,
few bear berries, but those that do are generally very thick. They are shaped
much like those of dulcamara, but are of a black colour, and very aromatic.
The gum-tree, which he refers to the species of plane-trees, and distinguishes
it by its fig-like leaf, only more sharply dented. Its leaf smells much like a
lemon. The practice is to beat the tree, and then peel off the bark, and so
scrape the gum, which has virtues like turpentine, but more astringent and
drying. This they usually mix with their common turpentine, which is whiter
and more butter-like, than the Venice or Chios turpentine. The further me-
thod of preparing this medicine is this : they expose it to the sun on paper,
where at first it rather seems to melt, but it will afterwards grow hard ; they
then beat it to a powder, and administer it. They use much the young buds
of the populus, sive tulippa arbor, a vast large tree, extraordinarily spacious,
bearing flowers about April, much like tulips ; its leaves are large, smooth,
and well-shaped, which, together with the flowers, render the tree exceedingly
beautiful. It bears its seed coniferous, and is an excellent opener of obstruc-
tions. The sorrel-tree bears a leaf something like a laurel, in taste much re-
sembling lujula. They use it in fevers, and it seems with good success. This
tree grows plentifully on the south-side of James river in Virginia. The swamp,
plum-tree, the wood of which they calcine, and make into charcoal, which
they beat to a powder, then mix it with grease, and make an ointment of it,
with which they anoint the body, and foment it very much, thus curing the
dropsy ; for it opens the pores to that degree, that the water runs down their
legs. Among their herbs, Mr. C. had nearly 40 several sorts shown him, as
great secrets, for the rattle-snake-root, or that kind of snake-root which is
good for curing the bite of the rattle-snake ; but he has no reason to believe,
that any of them are able to effect the cure.

He mentions a herb, though unknown, yet worthy to be brought from Vir-
ginia. It is the herb called there angelica, but which Mr. C. takes to be liba-
notis vera latifolia Dodonaei. It grows generally on a rich sandy ground, on a
declining brow, that faces the rising sun ; the root shoots deep into the earth,
sometimes 3 feet, is very tender, and easily broken, of a white or rather cream-
like colour ; and being lactescent, yields a little milk, thick and yellow as cream ;
a very early plant. It seldom flowers or seeds under 5 years growth. The
leaf is much like our wild angelica, only thinner, and more the colour of awil-


low-green. Those that seed, have a fistulous stalk about the thickness of
dill, a white umbelliferous plant ; the seeds are much like angelica-seed, but
from the fragrancy of the root, and its being peculiarly bearded, he styles it
a iibanotis. It stops the flux, and cures it surprizingly. Again, it often
loosens and purges the bodies of those that are bound, and have the
gripes, especially if it proceeds from cold ; and it prevents many unhappy dis-
tempers. He has known it give I'l or 15 stools, whereas it will not move a
child in health. He thinks it the most sovereign remedy the world ever knew
in the griping of the guts, and admirable against vapours. It is sudorific, and
very aromatic, and will not be concealed ; for wherever it is mixed, it will have
the predominant scent. It is mostly caUed by those who know it in Virginia, by
the name of angelica.

There is another root of the species of hyacinths ; the leaves are grass-like,
but smooth and stiff, of a willow-green colour, and spread like a star on the
ground ; from the middle shoots a tall long rush-like stem, without leaves, near
2 feet high ; on one side grow little white bell-flowers, one above another.
The root is black outwardly, but brown within. It is bitter, and probably it has
much the same virtues as little centaury. Some call it ague-grass, others ague-
root, others star-grass. There are several others whose virtues are by no means
despicable ; such as the chrysanthamum platani foliis, whose root is very useful
in old pains, the sciatica and gout. It is a large herb, grows bet^veen 5 and 6
feet tall. There are likewise many others, which bear some analogy to the
European plants, such as Solomon's seal, wood-sage, much better than the
English ; which the Indians use much for infusions, and which they take as
we do diet-drink. Little- centaury, red, white, and yellow, &c. However,
he could never find above 12 or 14 plants, natives of that country, that agreed
perfectly with any of our European plants, but what had some notable differences,
if they were not rather to be reckoned a distinct genus.

13. There go traditions of their having an art to poison their darts ; but
Mr. C. could never find any solid grounds for that report. He has observed,
that in those countries, on an ill habit of body, the least scratch is dangerous ;
and that, for all the care that can be taken to prevent it, it often turns into a
very desperate ulcerous sore. And as persons engaged in long marches are
liable to many accidents, which mjy contribute to an ill state of health, when
a slight wound in battle has then proved mortal ; this he apprehends to have
been the cause, why the physician has rather chosen to attribute the death of his
patient to the poison of the dart, than the want of skill in himself.

14. As to their morals, they are simple and credulous, rather honest than


otherwise, and unpractised in the European art of lying and dissimulation ;
but as to the brutal passions, they are sottish and sensual as the beasts of the field.

15. They are almost always either eating or sleeping, unless when they go
a hunting. At all hours of the night, whenever they awake, they go to the
homing-pot, that is, maze dressed in a manner like our peeled wheat ; or else
a piece of venison barbecuted, that is, wrapped up in leaves, and roasted in the

16. They drink little besides succahannah, that is, fair water, unless when
they can get spirits, such as rum, from the English, which they will always
drink to excess, if they can ])ossibly get them ; but do not much care for them
unless they can have enough to make tl^m drunk ; and it seems they wonder
much at the English for purchasing wine at so dear a rate, when rum is much
cheaper, and will make them sooner drunk.

17. They use tobacco much, which they smoke in short pipes of their own
making, having excellent clay, which Mr, C. tried in making crucibles, which
he could not discern were inferior to the German. They make also neat pots
of the same clay, which will endure the fire for ar)y common uses.

J 8. They have no opium, though in some old fields on York river, there
grow poppies perhaps of no despicable virtue. In fevers, and when their sick
cannot sleep, they apply the flowers of stramonium to the temples, which has
an effect like laudanum. It is asserted, that when the soldiers were sent over
to quell the insurrection of Bacon, &c, being at James-town, several of them
went to gather a sallad in the fields, and finding great quantities of a herb
called James-town weed, they gathered it; and by eating it plentifully, were
rendered foolish, as if they had been drunk, or were become idiots. Dr. Lee
likewise assured Mr. C. that the same accident happened once in his own family ;
but that after a night or two's sleep, they recovered.

19. Their sports are dancing: tlieir games are playing with straws, which as
he was not perfectly acquainted with, he found it hard to describe; he can
therefore only tell how it appears to a spectator: they take a certain number of
straws, and spread them in their hands, holding them as if they were cards,
then they close them, and spread them again, and turn them very suddenly,
and dextrously. Their exercise is hunting, that is, shooting with a gun, or
with bow and arrow, in which they excel. Their women work, plant the corn,
and weave baskets or mats.

20, Several have been very old; seemingly without any remarkable difference
between them and the English natives. If the English live past 33, they gene-
rally live to a good age ; but many die between 30 and 33.


21. Mr. C. has been told, that one of their famous wiochists prophesied,
that bearded men, for the American Indians have no beards, should come and
take away their country, and that there should none of the original Indians be
left within a certain number of years, he thinks it was 150. This is very cer-
tain, that the Indian inhabitants of Virginia are now very inconsiderable in
number; and seem insensibly to decay, though they live under the English
protection, and have no violence offered them. They are certainly no great

22. Though they are sluggish by nature, and slow of speech, yet their me-
thod of expression seems vehement and emphatical, and always attended with
strong gesticulations. They are generally well proportioned, and for the most
part are rather taller than the English. They have all either a very dark brown
hair, that may well be called black, or a jet-black, all lank.

An Experiment, to prove that Water, when agitated by Fire, is vastly more
elastic than Air in the same circumstances. By the late Rev. John Clayton,
Dean of Kildare in Ireland. N" 454, p. l62.

Mr. Clayton having contrived a curious digester, in which bones could be
easily dissolved in a very short time, he performed some trying experiments
with it. In a small one having included about a pint of water, and, about §ij
of a marrow-bone, he placed the vessel horizontally between the bars of the
iron grate, about half way into the fire; and in 3 minutes time he found it
raised to a great heat; on which he thought to have taken it out of the fire,
lest it should have burst. For he remembered, that the screws of a digester,
made after Mr. Papin's method, giving way, the head flew one way and the
screws and irons another, with such violence, that the head having struck a
brick, cut a piece quite out of it; which was one reason for his contriving a
digester in this way, that the screws cannot possibly start, but that the vessel
would sooner break in any other part. On a sudden however it burst, as if a
musquet had been discharged. A maid that was gone a milking, heard it at a
considerable distance; the servants said it shook the house. The bottom of the
vessel, that was in the fire, gave way; the blast of the expanded water blew
the coals quite out of the fire, all over the room ; for the back of the fire-range
was made just like an oven, so that circulating in it, it brought out all the coals
at the mouth. Ail the vessel together flew in a direct line across the room, and
striking the leaf of a table, made of an inch oak plank, broke it all in pieces,
and rebounded half way of the room back again. He could not perceive any


where in the room the least sign of water, tliough he looked carefully for it,
and had put a pint into the digester, save only that the fire was quite extin-
guished, and every coal belonging to it was black in an instant.

But to confirm the elasticity of water, or to show, at least, that there is a
much stronger elastic force in water and air, when jointly included in a vessel
than when air alone is inclosed, he made the following experiment: he took
two §vj phials, into the one he put about §v of water, or better, and so corked
it as well as possible; the other he corked in the same manner, without putting
any thing into it. He inclosed them both in his new digester, four-fifths being
filled with water; when the heat was raised to about five seconds, he heard a
considerable explosion, and a jingling of glass within the vessel, and shortly
after another explosion, but not so loud as the former; whence he concluded,
that both the phials were broken. He then let the digester cool leisurely, and
the next day he opened it; both the corks were swimming on the top of the
water, but only one of the phials was broken, viz. that one into which he had
not put the water.

Again, having had some very strong phials made, to make some peculiar
experiments, he took one of them, and having filled it about a quarter full
with water, and corked it very well, he set it in a square iron frame, with a screw
to keep down the cork, and keep it from flying out. He then put it into a
digester, four-fifths filled with water; which being heated to a due height;
when opened, he found the cork forced into the phial, though the cork was so
very large, that it amazed several who saw it, to conceive how it was possible
for so large a cork to be forced into the bottle. Hence it manifestly appears,
that the pressure in the digester, in which was proportionally more water, and
less air, was stronger than the pressure within the phial, in which was propor-
tionally more air and less water.

Then Mr.C. reasoned thusalsoof the two former phials : thattheair in the phial,
in which was included no water, making not a proportionate resistance to the
ambient pressure in the digester, in which was a considerable quantity of water,
the cork was forced inward with such violence, that it, together with the water,
dashed the phial in pieces; but that in the other phial, in which there were five-
sixths of water, the inward pressure in the phial being greater than the ambient
pressure in the digester, in which were only four-fifths of water, the cork was
forced outward ; and that the small difference between the proportionate quan-
tity of water and air in the phial and in the digester, being only as four-fifths
to five-sixths, was the reason, not only why the bottle was not broken, but
also of the faintness of the explosion.




Of a Girl, three Tears old, who remained a quarter of an Hour under Water
without drowning. By John Green, M. D. Secretary of the Gentleman s
Society at Spalding in Lincolnshire. N° 454, p. 1 66.

Online LibraryRoyal Society (Great Britain)The Philosophical transactions of the Royal society of London, from their commencement in 1665, in the year 1800 (Volume 8) → online text (page 39 of 85)