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were established as merchants. Many days had not elapsed after his arrival in that city when a ship which was consigned to their firm brought with it the infection; and the first news which reached us of our poor acquaintance was that the yellow fever had broken out in his brother's house, and that he, they, and the greater part of the household were dead. There was every reason to fear that the pestilence would extend into Portugal, both governments being, as usual, slow in providing any measures of precaution, and those measures being nugatory when taken. I was at Faro in the ensuing spring, at the house of Mr. Lempriere, the British Consul. Enquiring of him upon the subject, the old man lifted up his hands, and replied in a passionate manner which I shall never forget, “ O Sir, we escaped by the mercy of God,..only by the mercy of God!" The Governor of Algarve, even when the danger was known and acknowledged, would not venture to prohibit the communication with Spain till he received orders from Lisbon; and then the prohibition was so enforced as to be useless. The crew of a boat from the infected province were seized and marched through the country to Tavira : they were then sent to perform quarantine upon a little insulated ground, and
the guards who were set over them, lived with them, and were regularly relieved. When such were the precautionary measures, well indeed might it be said, that Portugal escaped only by the mercy of God! I have often reflected upon the little effect which this imminent danger appeared to produce upon those persons with whom I associated. The young, with that hilarity which belongs to thoughtless youth, used to converse about the places whither they should retire, and the course of life and expedients to which they should be driven in case it were necessary for them to fly from Lisbon. A few elder and more considerate persons said little
upon the subject, but that little denoted a deep sense of the danger, and more anxiety than they thought proper to express.
The great majority seemed to be altogether unconcerned; neither their business, nor their amusements were interrupted; they feasted, they danced, they met at the card-table as usual; and the plague (for so it was called at that time, before its nature was clearly understood) was as regular a topic of conversation, as the news brought by the last packet.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
And, what was your own state of mind?
Very much what it has long been with regard to the moral pestilence of this unhappy age, and the condition of this country more especially. I saw the danger in its whole extent, and relied on the mercy of God.
SIR THOMAS MORE. In all cases that is the surest reliance: but when human means are available, it becomes a Mahommedan rather than a Christian to rely upon Providence or Fate alone, and make no effort for his own preservation.
Individuals never fall into this error among you, drink as deeply as they may of fatalism; that narcotic will sometimes paralyse the moral sense, but it leaves the faculty of worldly prudence unimpaired. Far otherwise is it with your government; for such are the notions of liberty in England, that evils of every kind, physical, moral, and political, are allowed their free range. As relates to infectious diseases, for example, this kingdom is now in a less civilized state than it was in my days, three centuries ago, when the leper was separated from general society; and when, although the science of medicine was at once barbarous and phantastical, the existence of pest-houses showed at least some approaches towards a medical police.
They order these things better in Utopia.
SIR THOMAS MORE. In this, as well as in some other points upon which we shall touch hereafter, the difference between you and the Utopians is as great as between the existing generation and the race by whom yonder circle was set up. With regard to diseases and remedies in general, the real state of the case may be consolatory, but it is not comfortable. Great and certain progress has been made in chirurgery; and if the improvements in the other branch of medical science have not been so certain and so great, it is because the physician works in the dark, and has to deal with what is hidden and mysterious. But the evils for which these sciences ‘are the palliatives, have increased in a proportion that heavily overweighs the benefit of improved therapeutics. For as the intercourse between nations has become greater, the evils of one have been communicated to another. Pigs, Spanish dollars, and Norway rats are not the only commodities and incommodities which have performed the circumnavigation, and are to be found wherever European ships have touched. Diseases also find their way from one part of the inhabited globe to another,
wherever it is possible for them to exist. The most formidable endemic or contagious maladies in your nosology are not indigenous; and as far as regards health therefore, the ancient Britons, with no other remedies than their fields and woods afforded them, and no other medical practitioners than their deceitful priests, were in a better condition than their descendants, with all the instruction which is derived from Sydenham and Heberden and Hunter, and with all the powers which chemistry has put into their hands.
MONTESINOS. You have well said that there is nothing comfortable in this view of the case: but what is there consolatory in it?
SIR THOMAS MORE. The consolation is upon your principle of expectant hope. Whenever improved morals, wiser habits, more practical religion, and more efficient institutions shall have diminished the moral and material causes of disease, a thoroughly scientific practice, the result of long experience and accumulated observations, will then exist, to remedy all that is within the power of human art, and to alleviate what is irremediable. To existing individuals this consolation is something like the satisfaction you