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manuscript, both on a subject you and I frequently conversed upon with concurring sentiments, when I had the pleasure of seeing you in Dublin. I have since had the satisfaction to learn that a disposition to abolish slavery prevails in North America, that many of the Pennsylvanians have set their slaves at liberty, and that even the Virginia Assembly have petitioned the king for permission to make a law for preventing the importation of more into that colony. This request, however, will probably not be granted, as their former laws of that kind have always been repealed, and as the interest of a few merchants here has more weight with government, than that of thousands at a distance.
Witness a late fact. The gaol distemper being frequently imported and spread in Virginia by the ships transporting convicts, occasioning the death of many honest, innocent people there, a law was made to oblige those ships arriving with that distemper to perform a quarantine. But the two merchants of London, contractors in that business, alleging that this might increase the expense of their voyages, the law was at their instance repealed here. With great esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, etc.,
TO WILLIAM DEANE
LONDON, 11 April, 1773. DEAR SIR:-Miss Martin that was, now Mrs. Blacker, being about to return to Dublin, I cannot
omit the opportunity it gives me of chatting a little with one whose conversation afforded me so much pleasure and instruction while I was there.
I know of nothing new here worth communicating to you, unless perhaps the new art of making carriagewheels, the felloes of one piece, bent into a circle and surrounded by a hoop of iron, the whole very light and strong, there being no crossed grain in the wood, which is also a great saving of timber. The wood is first steamed in the vapor from boiling water, and then bent by a forcible machine. I have seen pieces of wood so bent of six inches wide, and three and a half thick, into a circle of four feet diameter. These, for duration, can only be exceeded by your iron wheels. Pray, have you completed that ingenious invention?
What is become of honest Mr. Ketilby? Does he go on with his printing schemes, or has he got into some better employment?
They tell us here that some person with you has discovered a new moving power, that may be of use in mechanical operations; that it consists in the explosion of iron tears chilled suddenly from the melting state in cold water. That explosion I have often seen in drops of glass with wonder, understanding it no more than they did in the time of Hudibras, who makes a simile of it, which I repeat, because it is probably so long since you read it:
“Honor is like that glassy bubble,
May I ask you if you know any thing of the application of this power, of which I have not at present the smallest conception?
I have completed my stove, in which the smoke of the coal is all turned into flame, and operates as fuel in heating the room. I have used it all this winter, and find it answers even beyond my expectations. I propose to print a little description of its use and construction, and shall send you a copy.
I hope Billy and Jennie continue, and always will continue, as happy as when I knew them. My best wishes attend them, being as ever, with sincere esteem,
TO M. DUBOURG
Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to life those who appeared to be killed by lightning, demonstrate equally your sagacity and your humanity. It appears that the doctrines of life and death in general are yet but little understood.
A toad buried in sand will live, it is said, till the sand becomes petrified, and then, being enclosed in the stone, it may still live for we know not how many ages. The facts which are cited in support of this opinion are too numerous and too circumstantial not to deserve a certain degree of credit. As we are
accustomed to see all the animals with which we are acquainted eat and drink, it appears to us difficult to conceive how a toad can be supported in such a dungeon; but if we reflect that the necessity of nourishment which animals experience in their ordinary state proceeds from the continual waste of their substance by perspiration, it will appear less incredible that some animals in a torpid state, perspiring less because they use no exercise, should have less need of aliment, and that others, which are covered with scales or shells, which stop perspiration, such as land and sea turtles, serpents, and some species of fish, should be able to subsist a considerable time without any nourishment whatever. A plant, with its flowers, fades and dies immediately if exposed to the air without having its root immersed in a humid soil, from which it may draw a sufficient quantity of moisture to supply that which exhales from its substance and is carried off continually by the air. Perhaps, however, if it were buried in quicksilver it might preserve for a considerable space of time its vegetable life, its smell, and color. If this be the case, it might prove a commodious method of transporting from distant countries those delicate plants which are unable to sustain the inclemency of the weather at sea, and which require particular care and attention. I have seen an instance of common flies preserved in a manner somewhat similar. They had been drowned in Madeira wine, apparently about the time when it was bottled in Virginia to be sent hither (to London). At the opening of one of the bottles at the house of a friend where I then was three drowned flies fell into
the first glass that was filled. Having heard it remarked that drowned flies were capable of being revived by the rays of the sun, I proposed making the experiment upon these. They were, therefore, exposed to the sun upon a sieve which had been employed to strain them out of the wine. In less than three hours two of them began by degrees to recover life. They commenced by some convulsive motions of the thighs, and at length they raised themselves upon their legs, wiped their eyes with their forefeet, beat and brushed their wings with their hind feet, and soon after began to fly, finding themselves in Old England, without knowing how they came thither. The third continued lifeless till sunset, when losing all hopes of him, he was thrown away.
I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a method of embalming drowned persons in such a manner that they may be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to any ordinary death the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine with a few friends till that time, to be then recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But since in all probability we live in an age too early and too near the infancy of science to hope to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection, I must for the present content myself with the treat which you are so kind as to promise me of the resurrection of a fowl or a turkey-cock.
I am, etc.,