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of necessity, were required to mend their medical and surgical education, or be expelled the naval service ; and those who now offered themselves as candidates for examination, were gentlemen of more extensive information, owing to the rank and respectabi. lity which had thus been assigned them in the British navy.
Sea-scurvy, by far the greatest calamity that ever visited the British fleet, had long been on the wane; and, at the beginning of the last French war, made its farewell visit. Since that time, the diseases which have continued to thin our ranks, have been chiefly of the inflammatory kind : viz. fevers, inflammations of the lungs and their membranes, consumptions, &c.
Indeed, the long list of inflammatory complaints had become most formidable in those days, in consequence of the difference of opinion that then existed amongst practitioners, respecting the treatment of such diseases. A small party admitted that bleeding and other antiphlogistic measures were necessary, yet had not sufficient confidence in the means they recommended to carry them into practice; and the more numerous party totally exploded depletion, and trusted to mild cathartics and antimonial remedies.
Such conflicting modes of practice were as painful to the practitioner, as detrimental to his patients; and, what between the cavil of party, and dilatory measures, great numbers were allowed to be swept off by the powerful arm of inflammatory disease.
Happily, however, for humanity, and for the British navy, one of the present Medical Commissioners' (then the principai Examiner at the Transport Board) saw the magnitude of the evil arising from such contrary and dilatory practice ; and from the high public situation he held, was enabled to impress on the minds of the young medical gentlemen (whose professional tenets were reviewed by him), the great propriety of early and prompt antiphlogistic means; not only in all the different species of phlegmasia, but, also, in certain types of fever.
Such principles, from their success, as well as from the high authority by which they were stamped, soon became disseminated, and, ultimately, universally adopted; and in the present day, such inflammatory diseases are cured with nearly a mathematical certainty, by almost every surgeon in the navy:
This revolution in the treatment of inflammatory complaints ranks next, in point of consideration, to the subjugation of seascurvy; it has already saved some thousands of seamen to their country, and ought to be accompanied by a corresponding gratitude to the indefatigable labors of this distinguished individual.
“ A wise physician, skill'd our wounds to hcal,
Is more than armies to the Public Weal." It would be unpardonable to pass unnoticed, even in this short survey, the very popular and scientific works of Dr. James Johnson :-His “ Essay on the Influence of Tropical Climates, more especially the Climate of India, on European Constitutions,” &c. stands like a beacon for the direction of the medical officer on oriental service, while his other works are equally important to the home practitioner.
The late preference held out by the Commissioners for Victualling His Majesty's Navy, to such as may have graduated at the different universities, cannot fail to have the most beneficial tendency, by exciting more vigorous exertions on the part of the young medical officer; and, in this way, the best interests of the navy have been advanced.
In taking, thus, a rapid survey of the revolution which has lately been effected in nautical medicine, it will appear that sea-scurvy has been almost totally exterminated in our fleets ; that the treatment of inflammatory diseases is now so well understood, that they are generally soon cut short, or subdued ; and that some of the most formidable diseases within the Tropics, such as fever, dysentery, and liver complaints, have become, at least, manageable, under the salutary directions of certain tropical writers.'
Yet, owing to the existence of certain long-established and pernicious regulations with regard to WASHING DECKS, and the sudden vicissitudes to which sailors are exposed in consequence, this class of men is rendered peculiarly liable to repeated attacks of inflammatory disease. And it is to be, moreover, lamented, that such diseases, even when subdued, have a strong tendency to weaken the constitution, and render the individual more liable to the invasions of chronic affections and consumption afterwards—the two great scourges of the British navy at the present day.”
It is with a view, therefore, of being the means of removing some of the existing causes of such inflammatory complaints, that this Essay has been written ; for every one will admit, that the prevention of disease (when it can be effected) is better than its cure.
· See Dr. Wm. Burnett's (one of the Medical Commissioners) most excellent “ Practical Account of the Mediterranean Fever ;" see, also, Dr. James Johnson's Essay already mentioned, and Bampfield on Tropical Dysentery.
2 The principal part of the obituary of the royal navy, at present, takes place at our great naval hospitals, whither the men are usually sent with chronic disease or consumption, after having been frequently attacked, and worn down by the acute forms.
Before finishing these proemial observations, I have to remark, by the way, that while the medical department of the royal navy has thus been making the most rapid march towards perfection, the advancement of naval discipline and naval tactics has not been less conspicuous in the executive.
Within these last ten years, corporal punishments have been reduced to a very limited extent, without any concomitant bad effect; and the cidevant customs of black-listing, black-holding, and burnishing of bolts, bars, and cannon-balls, have all been entirely exploded.
The young gentlemen who have lately entered the navy as midshipmen, have received a most appropriate education for the service, either at the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, or elsewhere, which not only renders them more eligible at their entry, but, also, furnishes them with a store of elementary information, which may be turned to the advancenient of nautical science hereafter.
The theory of gunnery is now much better understood among sailors than it was formerly; and the practice of fencing, lately introduced into the Royal Marine Corps, has rendered them a most formidable body of men.
Furthermore, clothing has been better suited to the different climates; and pensions for wounds or servitude have been granted to seamen, regulated by the most liberal principles. Thus, it is most gratifying to observe how the health and interest of British seamen have lately been promoted by their generous countrymen, in a strong feeling of attachment, accompanied by pecuniary rewards for past services. Is there a Briton who can for a moment forget the blessings that have been enjoyed for centuries, under the safeguard of our brave tars ?-and who can look with apathy on a class of men to whom we are indebted for our riches and commerce in war and peace, and who are our only safe and permanent bulwark in the trying hour of invading hostility ? Can we neglect a body of men whose energy increases with the raving of the storm, and whose constant practice and highest pride is to show the greatest dexterity in the most imminent danger? Never shall we abandon the brave tar who mounts with alacrity on the quivering shroud, when
“O'er his head the rolling billows sweep." Besides, our gallant “sons of the waves" have not been less celebrated in human than “ elemental war;" for, when the united powers of Europe were in league against us, British seamen most undauntedly stood forward to wield our naval thunderbolts, and hurl destruction on our most malignant enemies; then, the victorious peals of our artillery resounded from one extremity of the
globe to the other then, the British Aag, triumphant, waved her red lion o'er all watery space.
But, alas ! good and glorious actions are soon forgotten, or swept away in the current of passing events, inasmuch as this humorous and thoughtless class of men are too often seen in the most unfavorable point of view, spending their holidays on shore; when they commonly indulge in drinking, and make use of loose and indecorous language, leaving the very worst impression on the mind of the public respecting their general character, and rendering themselves an easier prey to a gang of harpies, who lurk in all our sea-ports.
British seamen, however, are a class of men to whom any general character may be given by their superiors, from the very best to the very worst. They have long and justly been esteemed for a disinterested generosity towards others in distress; and self-interest and personal safety have always been thrown aside, when wanted by their country.
“ Alike to him each climate and each blast,
The first in danger, in retreat the last.”. In concluding these introductory observations, I think it proper to remark, that no particular ship or officer has been kept in view; but a fair and general statement of the evil has been attempted to be given, and its concomitant bad effects pointed out.
It is, therefore, against the system of washing decks I have to enter my most solemn protest, hoping my humble efforts may call the attention of the scientific world to a fuller investigation of the subject, and that the opinions here set forth may stand or fall according to their merits,
Of the baneful Influence of so frequently Washing Decks
on the Health of British Seamen.
“ Ex aquâ oritur aër, ex aëre mdrbus." The bad effects of humidity in our habitations, and moisture in the atmosphere, have been mentioned by almost all physicians of all ages, as being highly prejudicial to the human constitution. Heat and cold themselves, in warm-blooded animals, are, in a great measure, regulated by the different changes the skin and lungs are capable of performing, in order to preserve a uniform degree
of animal heat; and, hence, the most sudden transition is frequently not attended with any bad consequence.'
But moisture, when applied to the surface of the body, has the power of robbing it of a large portion of its heat, and leaving the extremities of the vessels, which terminate there, in a weakened and paralysed state, thereby rendering them less vigorous in resist ing the impressions of passing vicissitudes.?
Besides, moisture, when applied to the lungs and capillaries on the surface of the body, always produces cold, owing to the large quantity of heat it requires to convert water into vapor ; and, in this way, the size of the blood-vesselson these extensive surfaces becomes lessened, whereby the balance of the circulation is destroyed, by being directed chiefly to the main trunks in the interior. The course of the blood being thus confined more to the centre, its impetus there will, in consequence, become increased or deranged; and when there is the least disposition to disease in any internal organ, it is evident how much it will be aggravated, by thus receiving the sudden shock of the circulation from the surface to the centre. Indeed, it is by the injudicious application of water, that three fourths of all the diseases in the navy are induced.
It excites inflammations of every species and degree, from the simple catarrh to the severest pneumonia, and generates complaints of every kind, from the mildest functional derangement, to the most hopeless organic disease.
On board of His Majesty's ships, where several hundred people sometimes live together in so small a space, much attention to cleanliness and ventilation becomes absolutely necessary; and every Englishman, " from the prince to the peasant," is ready to exclaim, “ Cleanliness is next to godliness," and this is frequently the motto under which the advocates for diurnal irrigation take their stand; forgetting, that water, like wine, may be misused; and that it is easy and common to convert the greatest blessing into the veriest curse, by misapplication.
Science, however, has always been slow and wavering in its march, and every age and profession have their prejudices; and it is common to shake off one class, only to embrace another.
Thus, under the oscillation of public opinion, I am aware of the great difficulty there will be in attempting to effect any change on a system that has been long established : for, in endeavoring to introduce any improvement, a necessity is naturally implied, and
" In passing from the cabin to the open air, and vice versa, the men were in the habit of undergoing a change of from 80° to 120° without any inflammatory disease being produced. -Parry's Voyage to the Arctic Circle.
2. “It has been remarked before, that an animal might be frozen tu death in the midst of summer, by repeatedly sprinkling ether on him."