“The whole of the foregoing conclusions combine into one, — which may now be affirmed generally, and not only of particular districts, — THAT WETNESS OF THE SOIL IS A CAUSE OF PHTHISIS TO THE POPULATION LIVING UPON IT.”
The reporter terminates with these remarks: “Until the end of my own inquiry I was in complete ignorance of Dr. Bowditch’s researches. I should not insist on this point, except for the purpose of giving to the conclusions which Dr. Bowditch and myself have obtained the additional weight that they deserve from having been arrived at by a second inquirer wholly ignorant of and therefore unbiassed by the work of the first.”
It seems to us that no unprejudiced mind, when remembering that this law has been thus proved to exist in this country and in Great Britain, and recalling this second fact that most of the places where consumptives resort are dry, and those they avoid are rather moist than dry, can hereafter doubt that sufficient proof is thereby given of the existence of a general law acting over large extents of country, and probably over the entire world.
This law certainly acts over wide extents of country, or within the narrowest districts of New England. There are even single homesteads in Massachusetts which for more than half a century, as actual statistics prove, have felt its influence, and others within a radius of a fraction of a mile upon which, owing to location merely, it scarcely ever has appeared to have any effect. Two or three generations have been cut down in the former houses, and more will continue to be cut down, unless the inmates become convinced that no parent ought to attempt to bring up children in defiance of this natural law any more than he would attempt to do so in defiance of the laws of gravity or of combustion.
Children will leave such homesteads hereafter, as they quitted them heretofore, and recover health only to fall back again if they return under the blighting influences of the consumption-breeding soil on which is placed the home of their childhood. We have known nearly one whole family thus cut down one after the other, and all ignorant of the essential cause of their disease. Finally, the youngest, as he grew up towards manhood, began to fail as his brothers and sisters had failed before. He wisely inferred that death to him was in the house; that something, he knew not what, prejudicial to his race existed there, and that he was doomed unless he forsook the spot. Acting on this just assumption, he left, and wholly recovered, and lived in other parts to a green old age.
We know of two families in Massachusetts of whom the following story may he told. Two healthy brothers married two healthy sisters. Both had large families of children. One lived on the old homestead, on the southern slope of one of the numerous beautiful and well-drained hills in that vicinity. The whole house was bathed all day long in sunlight, and consumption did not touch any of the young lives under its roof. The other brother placed his house at a very short distance off, but upon a grassy plain, covered all summer with the rankest verdure. In its front was a large open common. In the centre of this, water oozed up from between the split hoofs of the cows, as they came lowing homeward at evening, and the barefooted boy who was driving them used to shrink from the place, and preferred to make the circuit of its edge rather than to follow the lead of his more quiet comrades. Back of the house was a large level meadow, reaching to the very foundations of the building. Through this meadow sluggishly crept the mill-stream of the adjacent village. Still further, all these surroundings were enclosed by lofty hills. The life-giving sun rose later and set earlier upon this than upon the other fair homestead. Till late in the forenoon, and long before sunset left the hillside home, damp and chilling emanations arose from the meadow, and day after day enveloped the tender forms of the children that were trying in vain to grow up healthily within them. But all effort was useless. Large families were born under both roofs. Not one of the children born in the latter homestead escaped, whereas the other family remained healthy; and when, at the suggestion of a medical friend who knew all the facts we have told, we visited the place for the purpose of thoroughly investigating them, we thought that these two houses were a terribly significant illustration of the existence of this all-powerful law. Yet these two homes had nothing peculiarly noticeable by the passing stranger. They were situated in the same township and within a very short distance one from the other, and scarcely any one in the village with whom we spoke on the subject agreed with us in our opinion that it was location alone, or chiefly that, which gave life or death to the inmates of the two.