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Obituary for the Year ending September 30th, 1832.
69 This man having no disease, died helpless and de
crepit, as of old age. 13th, John Francis,
15 Peritoneal Inflammation and Dropsy. Came in with
the disease. 31st, Isaac Burton,
27 Typhus Fever. Was always feeble and blind from
in with these diseases, and was unable to perform any useful labor.
Massachusetts State Prison, Monday, 30 min. of
A. M. August 6, 1832. To His ExceLLENCY LEVI LINCOLN.
Sir,—The unprecedented and extraordinary sick, ness, which has so suddenly visited a grent number of the inmates of this Institution, has prompted me to send an Express to your Excellency,who will bear with him a Report from the Physician of this Establishment, (who has recommended the mode of conveyance adopted.) The first case which made its appearance, was about 3 P. M. yesterday-and being myself on a visit within the Solitary Prison-I ordered the man to the Hospital, and sent immediately for the Physician. Other cases rapidly presented themselves, and continue up to within a half hour past, and received the immediate attention of Doctor Walker and several Physicians from this town and the City, who had called in by particular request. It affords me great pleasure to inform your Excellency, that every Officer has been prompt, active, and attentive during the whole of the trying scene, and that every thing within the Prison is conducted with great order and regularity. I shall embrace an early opportunity to advise your Excellency further upon the subject.
Praying that your Excellency will excuse the very hasty and imperfect manner in which these communications are prepared, will, with the most profound respect, subscribe myself your Excellency's most respectful
Warden Mass. S. P.
To His Excellency Levi Lincoln.
Sir, It becomes my painful duty to report, that within 10 hours past, a large number of Convicts in this Institution have been taken sick with the following symptoms, viz. Copious vomiting and purging. The quantity of Stools, in some of the cases, equals two gallons. There is a coldness of the tongue, breath and surface; great pain in the bowels, pulse very feeble, no spasms of the extremities. There are about 25 now sick, the most severe of whose cases have been trcated by active means, and appear somewhat relieved. No one shows appearance of Collapse, nor do I, at this time, think the discase to be Asiatic Cholera ; nor can I, at this time, assign any probable cause for the same. to have analysis of the food eaten yesterday, and of the matter evacuated by vomiting and stools. Should there be occasion, I shall again report in a short time. Most respectfully Your Excellency's
Obedient Humble Servant,
WILLIAM J. WALKER,
Physician Mass. S. Prison. Massachusetts Stute Prison, 30 min. to
1. A. M. Monday, August 6, 1832.
Boston, August 13, 1832.
To the Hon. Francis C. Gray, Chairman of the Inspec
tors of the Massachusetts State Prison.
We, the undersigned, have attended to the Statement of the Questions transmitted to us, under date of August 9th, and respectfully offer the following as our opinions and answers relating to those subjects.
Accompanying the Letter addressed to us, we received a parcel, containing about a pound and a half of clean roasted rye, apparently containing no foreigu substance, except an unimportant quantity of chaff and oats. The sealed parcel contained spurred rye only, of which there were eighty two kernels and parts of kernels, weighing in all fifty-two grains.
Answer to Question 1st.-From an inspection of rye grain, in different depositories about the city, and fron conversation with intelligent dealers, we are of opinion, that the amount of spurred rye contained in the sealed parcels, is less than would ordinarily be found in a bushel and three-fourths of good merchantable rye, being less than one grain, by weight, in a quart of rye.
Answer to Question 2d.-A quantity of liquid, like that described in the question, would contain only a decoction of a minute fractional part of a grain of spurred rye, not sufficient to produce any perceptible effect on health,
Answer 10 Question 3d.- We have never known disagreeable effects to be produced by less than five grains of spurred rye,-and seldom by less than ten. We have known twenty graius taken, for experiment, by a healthy man, with no other effect than slight nausea. We have known thirty grains to be given to an adult three times in two hours, without causing vomiting or diarrhæa. We have reason to believe, on authorities worthy of trust, that larger quantities have been given without injury. On the other hand, -we have known vomiting to take place from ten or fifteen grains, in persons who were predisposed to vomit. We have never known diarrhea to be caused by this article. Certain epidemic diseases, unlike that at the Prison, have at former periods been imputed to the prevalence of spurred rye in food ;-but we think such imputation to have been groundless.
Answer to Question 4th.-Food corrupted by spontaneous fermentation, so far as to become offensive to the senses, might produce disease, - but not necessarily resembling that which we witnessed in the Prison. Certain articles of animal food,-suck as hog's liver, some kinds of fish, cheese, &c.-inder circumstances not accurately known, have produced disease more nearly resembling the cases in question. We are of opinion that certain medical agents, if taken in excessive doses, might have produced symptoms in many respects resembling those which occurred among the Prisoners. Such, for example, as elaterium, in doses of five or six grains-or croton oil, in a similar quantity, and perhaps other violent evacuating medicines. Symptoms produced by such medicines might also have disappeared in nearly the same time and manner. But we have no reason for believing that any
substances like those which have been named were present in the food of the Convicts.