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day); but, when they came to wash with it, it was so black that they threw it away. Mr. Pickering, the lawyer (whom you know), told me that he washed his hands the next day in some rain water catched the day before, and it felt just like ley. There was before the house of Benjamin Lord, at Berwick, the remains of a snow-drift, which had been covered with wood and chips so that it had been hid from the sun. The day before, viz., Thursday, he had cleared it of all the chips, dirt, &c, that the sun might melt it, and it was then perfectly white, but the descending vapour on Friday turned it to the colour of soot This I had from Colonel Chadburn, who had it from the man himself; and I have other evidence that the snow remained there some days after. Colonel Hazzen, of the Continental troops, was riding in the woods somewhere about Pennicook, and in the low grounds the vapour was so thick that it was difficult to fetch his breath. A number of small birds, such as sparrows and yellow-birds, were found dead in divers places; and some flew into the houses, very probably to avoid the suffocating vapour. But, that smoke was not all, I have this evidence, viz., that I observed a fog to rise from the top of a neighbouring hill, as in what we call a sea-turn. What wind there was, was easterly, as could be perceived by the smoke of chimneys; but there was no perception of any motion in the air below. The smoke arose perpendicularly some way, and then spread towards the west.
As to the extent of this darkness, I have no information that can be relied upon. It has been said that there was none of it upon the upper part of Connecticut River, and I observed a light gleam that way, as also in the northeast. I expect to hear particularly by a gentleman who is now gone to the upper Cohoss.
Shall I now entertain you with the whims and apprehensions of mankind upon this unusual appearance? It is not surprizing that the vulgar should turn it all into prodigy and miracle; but what would you think of men of sense, and of a liberal education, if I should tell you that I heard one of my very good brethren in this neighbourhood gravely assert in company (and I have been told he did the same in his pulpit) that it was the fulfilling of Joel's prophecy of a "pillar of smoke"; and that another wondered at me for not placing this phenomenon in the same rank with Josephus's signs of the destruction of Jerusalem? What would you think of one who supposed it to be the pouring out of the 7th vial into the air; and of another that called his congregation together during the darkness, and prayed that the sun might shine again, as if he had forgot the promise to Noah that " day and night should not cease "? What would you think of one who supposed the earth to be passing through the tail of a comet; and of another who thought the nucleus of one had interfered between us and the sun, so as to make an eclipse? How many more extravagant conceptions have been formed by men, whose minds one would think had been enlarged by reason and philosophy, I know not. Doubtless you will hear enough on your return to make you stand amazed at the power which fear and superstition have over the minds of men. Should you collect any observations on your journey, I shall be greatly obliged by a communication of them. I want very much to know the exact limits of the obscuration and the degree of it in different places, for it was not everywhere alike. In some places the sun appeared in the afternoon, but here the whole afternoon was uniformly dark; and the evening was as total darkness as can be conceived, with a strong smell of smoke, and between nine and ten it grew lighter, and afterward continued until the moon appeared through the clouds.
I mentioned to you a while ago my design of visiting a place in a neighbouring town where there was said to be a quantity of Lapis sjpecularis. I was last week on the spot, and found under the roots of some trees, which the wind had blown up, pieces of the bigness of the palm of my hand, containing laminae of it, the whole mass J and ^ an inch in thickness, but not so pellucid as the piece I sent you. If the earth was opened, there might be some of a better quality discovered. I will give you a description of the land, that if you meet with any such in your travels you may see whether there be any of the same substance lodged thereabouts. The soil is a whitish gravel, the loose stones white flint, some of them containing small laminae of the specularis fixed at one end, and open like the leaves of a book at the other. The large rocks are of a common grey stone, with veins of the white flint intermixed with the same substance; the growth, white oak. ^Possibly it may be found in other soils. I would send you a specimen; but, as you promise me to be here soon after your return, you will then see it to much more advantage. I intend, if I can, to procure some of the stone which contains the copperas; but, if I don't get it before you come, we will visit the place together. It is but about twelve miles from hence. There is said to be the alum stone in Barrington, but I can't learn exactly whereabouts to look for it. I enclose you a paper containing an account of the tornado some years ago at Salisbury, Amesbury, &c, which you desired me to give you an account of.
You see, my dear sir, that I have some inclination to look into the works of Nature; I wish I had it in my power to gratify that inclination. You are sensible that without proper books and instruments, but especially without much leisure from other business, the study of Nature cannot be carried on to any great advantage. I want a friend near me too, who would join in the search; for Solomon was not mistaken when he said, "Two are better than one." (Though, if he had lived in America during these troubles, he would have corrected another of his observations; viz., "Money answers all things.") It is, however, a pleasing idea, which 1 often indulge, that in the future state there will be sufficient leisure, and the greatest advantages, for searching the boundless variety of the works of God; and I don't know that it is at all out of point to suppose that persons will pursue different branches of improvement suited to their respective geniuses, in the other state as well as in this, ascending in a rational line through second causes to the First, and turning all their knowledge into matter of divine love and praise. The surest way then to arrive at the highest state of improvement in natural knowledge is by aiming at that character to which the promise of eternal life is made, by faith in Him whose creating, upholding, reconciling, and renovating power is equally extensive, and whose boundless perfections are unceasingly employed in administering the moral government, and in bringing the universal plan of God into effect. How pleasing to think that though we are but mere atoms in the Universe, yet the Universe is composed of atoms, and none of them will be lost, but all answer in some degree the important purpose for which the Universe was brought into being. Let our improvements then, in the present state, be of such a nature as not to he discontinued (except for a short intermission by death), but pursued with greater ardour and to vastly better purpose, when at the resurrection we shall be " clothed upon" with our "house from heaven/' and tfmortality shall be swallowed up of life." Adieu!
Yours sincerely and affectionately,
P. S. Have you got any of the Siberian wheat in Pennsylvania? It spreads exceedingly fast here, and hitherto seems to bid fair to supplant all other sorts of grain.
If this should reach you before you leave Philadelphia, I wish you would get me a pamphlet, which I saw awhile ago printed there, entitled Maxims, or Principles, or Elements (I forget which) of Politeness, collected from the Earl of Chesterfield, and I will pay you for it when I see you. I want it for my children, who are under no great advantages for learning it any other way.
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
Jamaica Plain, June 27,1780.
My Yery Dear Sir, — I returned to this place the day before yesterday, and found your favour of 5th inst. waiting for me, for which please to accept my warmest thanks. I can add but very little to your present stock of ideas about the darkness, &c, of the 19th May, for as it was not so remarkable at Philadelphia, but little attention was paid to it. However, it did not • pass altogether unnoticed, for people in general remarked that yellowish " or brassy" colour of the atmosphere mentioned in the eastern accounts, which they attributed to a singular collection of uncommon vapours, and I felt (and mentioned) a difficulty of respiration. The darkness was not such as to hinder the transaction of any kind of business. The day was close and sultry, and we had no rain, thunder, or lightning, so far" as I can now recollect. A lady at Middle town upper houses (in Connecticut) told me she was ironing on that day, ahd was very much mortified to find her clothes look so yellow. She determined at last not to iron them, but to have them all washed over again, and left off. Upon going upstairs, she found that every object had the same hue, and then first observed the change of colour in the atmosphere, but I don't remember that she particularly mentioned the degree of the darkness. Indeed, I had heard so little about the matter that my curiosity