By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: An Essay to Shew the Cause of Electricity - and Why Some Things are Non-Electricable
Author: Freke, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay to Shew the Cause of Electricity - and Why Some Things are Non-Electricable" ***



                              TO SHEW THE





                 Why Some Things are Non-Electricable.

                      In which is also Consider’d

           Its Influence in the _Blasts_ on Human Bodies,
             in the _Blights_ on Trees, in the _Damps_ in
             Mines; and as it may affect the _Sensitive
             Plant_, &c.

                              In a LETTER
                    To Mr. WILLIAM WATSON, _F.R.S._

             By JOHN FREKE, Surgeon to _St. Bartholomew’s_
                       Hospital, _London_, F.R.S.

            _Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret._

                 The SECOND EDITION: With an APPENDIX.

              Printed for W. INNYS, in _Pater-noster Row_.

                         [Price One Shilling.]



                         _MARTIN FOLKES_, Esq;


                                 OF THE

                             ROYAL SOCIETY.


Those who have the Honour of your Acquaintance, and thence know your
many excellent Qualifications, must applaud my Choice in dedicating this
small Piece to you; whose Name, if there be any Merit in the
Performance, will, before any other, add a Lustre to it. I am, with the
highest Esteem,

                                                     _Your most Obliged,
                                                       Humble Servant_,

                                                             JOHN FREKE.


                              The PREFACE.

_When I first enter’d on this Subject of _Electricity_, I intended only
to put some Thoughts in Writing concerning it, that I might the more
easily convey them to the Understandings of such as I hoped would be
more likely than I should be to go farther with it. And as nobody,
either here or abroad, had published any thing touching the Cause from
which it was produc’d, I chose to shew the Beginning I had made to some
Friends, whose Opinion concerning Natural Knowlege I had a great
Reliance on. I told them, I thought my Difficulty would be to convey
what I had to propound on this new Subject to them with the necessary
Clearness, as my Intention was to observe the utmost Brevity in it._

_After I had read it to them, they assured me that what I had written
was perfectly intelligible; and that it gave them many new Ideas
respecting this _Phænomenon_; and were very earnest with me to print it,
for the sake of the Publick._

_I was not, however, inclined to comply with their Requests, till I had
shewn it to a Person who is most justly distinguish’d for his great
Candor, and superlative Understanding in all Natural Knowlege; and he
likewise having express’d his Wishes to see it in Print, I could not but
look on his Desire as a Command._

_If what I have here undertaken to shew should enlighten the Minds of
any of my Readers, or if it should so far awaken the Attention of
others, as to make them give better Reasons for the Operation of this
Power of Electricity than I have done, I shall not account the Time ill
spent, which I have employ’d on this interesting Subject: A Subject
which can, with more Nobleness and Dignity employ the Mind of Man, than
any I can think of relating to the sublunary Part of this World. For by
it you may be acquainted with the immediate Officer of _God Almighty_,
which he seems to send to all Things living. Nay, this Power, according
to my Conception, seems to be the Cause, under _HIM_, both of Life and
Death. And when it may be more fully understood, it may afford us Means
whereby we may be better enabled to reason more intelligibly than now we
can, concerning various Operations in Nature._

_I am very sensible what Tribute a new Author is liable to pay to
Criticks: I know it is too common to find much too large a Part of them
inclin’d to look into a Book for its Faults, rather than for its Use;
and are more ready to pull down, than they have Abilities to put any
thing in its Place. But as I am not writing this for any Gain to myself,
but the Pleasure of informing, if I can, the Minds of such as may be
informed by it, I chuse rather to stand their Censure, than deny the
Publick what may possibly be the Beginning of much Good._

_It is very probable, that those who pretend to know every thing, will
be so good as to say, if they like what I have advanc’d, that it squares
exactly with what they thought before concerning it: And those who set
up for Criticks will try their Hands at this Performance, and, if they
can, will condemn it._

_It would be a great Wonder, indeed, if this should escape the Censure
of some, when the great Dr. _Harvey_ had his implacable Adversaries to
his Account of the Circulation of the Blood; and even Sir _Isaac Newton_
met with Opponents to several of his Theorys. What I have said opposes
no one’s Scheme, that I know of; it offers no Sentiments which can hurt
any Man._

_I have advanc’d only Conjectures for the clearing those Truths I would
establish; and if, after all, what appears reasonable to me should not
appear so to others, I cannot help it: For it is impossible for all Men
to see the same Thing in one and the same Light, even though they were
Men of the best Erudition. I would hope, that what I have undertaken to
shew, is what all sensible Men would be glad to have shewn._




                                To Shew

                    From what CAUSES Electricity is
                            Produced, _&c._

    _Kind Sir_,

When I reflect on the great Ingenuity you have shewn, in your
_Apparatus_ for the Improvement of the Knowlege of Electricity, and how
industrious and kind you have been in communicating the many Experiments
you have made to your Friends and Acquaintance relating thereto, I was
in hopes, from you or some of them, an Essay would be made ere this, not
only to go farther with these Experiments, but to give some tolerable
Conjecture from whence this Fire, and astonishing Effect, is produced.

I was going to give you my Thoughts concerning it, when I last saw you
at _Child_’s Coffee-house; but, on Reflection, I chose rather to do it
in Writing: For, in all Novelty, till the Relater is quite understood,
Words are forgotten easily; but Things of this sort in Writing may again
and again be consider’d.

To begin then: In order to shew whence this electrical Fire and Force is
produc’d, I will first endeavour to prove, that it arises not from any
of the _Apparatus_ itself; not either from the glass Ball, nor the
Leather, nor from the Tube, or Hand that rubs it: Because nothing we
know of can send out of it a Quantity of Matter, but there must be less
of that Matter remaining, after it has been so discharged; whereas it
cannot be shewn, but that the Ball of Glass, after ever so many Times
using, remains as fit for the same Use as at first.

Having, from Probability, I think, shewn, that the Fire and Force, here
treated of, come not from the _Apparatus_, it is natural for me to
suppose they are produced from the Air they are mov’d in. And I believe
this Notion will not appear trifling, when we consider, that the most
ancient and ablest Philosophers have look’d upon the Animal and
Vegetable World as actuated by Fire; and that they are nourish’d by
Water, and what it contains. If this be allow’d, then the Air, which is
esteem’d the _Pabulum Vitæ_, from its rubefying the Blood of all Animals
in Respiration, seems to be universally impregnated with this Fire. And
tho’ there is not enough of it so dispersed as to hurt the Animals in
Respiration, yet I can suppose it as universally dispersed, as I can a
small Quantity of any Liquor dropp’d in Water, which, when so dispersed,
is of no Harm to a Patient, though a few Drops of it by themselves would
have been certain Death. And yet, if you farther consider it so
dispersed, you cannot consider one Particle of the Water without a
Particle of the Medicine: Just so it may be with the Fire of this lower
Region, or, what I chuse rather to call it, this _Flamma Vitalis_.

I proceed now to consider, how this Fire, so dispersed, may be
collected; and have given to it, in electrical Experiments, a Force
equal to, and of the same Nature with, Lightning.

To make this Conjecture the more easily apprehended, I will suppose,
that the Nature of Fire is as similar to its Parts, and they have as
great a Propensity to adhere to one another, as we find the different
Arrangements in all natural Bodies have; as may be seen in Gems, in
Water, and in the various _Strata_ of the Earth, and the like. Do but
force or invite these fiery Particles to a closer Contact than they have
been supposed to be in, when uniformly dispersed through all Nature, and
they are Lightning, or a Fire of less Force, as more or less Parts of
that Fire are got together.

To illustrate this, wax a small Thread, or slide a Rope swiftly thro’
your Fingers, and you are liable to burn them: Which probably arises
from their grinding in, betwixt your Fingers and the Rope, so many more
Particles of Fire than naturally come together when left to float in the

If this Reasoning be allow’d to be just (which it must be, till it is
overturn’d by stronger Reasoning), then it follows, that the Air, which
is violently ground or rubb’d betwixt your Hand and a glass Tube, or
betwixt a glass Ball whirl’d briskly, and rubb’d with a Piece of
Leather, as they are used in electrical Experiments, I say, the Air, so
rubb’d, may leave behind it that Quantity of agitated Fire which causes

For, suppose the Ball or Tube inveloped with a Quantity of this Fire
moving spirally round them, with the utmost Velocity; and it can no more
depart from its Company than you find Sparks of Fire which fly from
Steel on a Knife-grinder’s Wheel are liable to do. Every body almost can
remember to have seen them adhere to the Wheel, and frequently pursue
each other quite round it.

Those who try these Experiments, find, that in moist Weather this Power
is less attainable than in a more clear Day; and therefore some may be
liable to attribute that to the _Apparatus_, which may be better
accounted for by the watry Particles in the Air; which may be liable to
hinder the lambent Flame, by me supposed to be universally scatter’d,
from uniting, by the Friction before-mention’d.

As I have mention’d Friction, I cannot help observing how
unphilosophical and unmeaning it is, for any one to advance, that Fire
is caused by Friction; when I think he may as well say, that Water is
caused by Pumping.

We know, that a Cart or Coach-Wheel, for Want of Grease, by Friction
will be set on Fire; and Fire-Canes, rubbed together smartly, will take
Fire; but neither of these, I believe, nor any thing else, will beget or
generate the Element of Fire. They must either collect it out of the
Air, or else it must be lodged within them, as we find it to be in Steel
in an eminent Degree: For, if you drop the Filings of Steel through the
Flame of a Candle, it sends out the most fierce Fire of any thing in

The Reason to be given why a greater Quantity of Fire is produced from
Steel-Filings, than from any other Thing, I take to be owing to a larger
Share of that Element which is impacted in it from its being made out of
Iron long impregnated with Fire.

Many other Bodies have actual Fire impacted in them, as Flints, and many
other hard Stones and Metals; but whenever you produce Fire from
Steel-Filings, you find that Steel melted: So when Fire is produced from
Stones, and the like, each Spark is Part of that Stone burnt to a

Now, as I am endeavouring to shew to you the natural Cohesion of Fire,
and the Propensity there is in it to extend itself, I shall offer to
your Consideration a very familiar Instance to prove it; which is that
of the Snuff of a Candle just blown out. You cannot but have observ’d at
how great a Distance from the Snuff the Flame will descend down the
Smoke, and light it.

I shall further take the Liberty to observe to you another Proof of
this; which, I think, will not only shew a Propensity in Fire to cohere,
but will greatly strengthen my Conjecture, that this Fire, produced in
Electricity, is extracted from that I have supposed to be universally

A Person, who liv’d in the Town of _Warham_ in _Dorsetshire_, in the
Year 1703, informed me, that in the Night of the great Hurricane and
high Wind, in the strongest Part of the Tempest, he saw from his Window,
on the neighbouring Hills, great Bodies of Fire, swiftly passing over
them on the Ground.—Now whence arose that Fire, if it came not from the
Air impelling it into those Flakes? And its subsisting together in that
Hurricane shews, I think, very plainly, that if its Cohesion had not
been natural, the Wind would then have scatter’d it.

Though I apprehend that the Four Elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and
Air, may never have been increased or diminished, since the Great GOD of
Order created them, yet I can also apprehend each of them unequally
dispers’d in the Universe by various Causes and Events: And when this
happens, those which were intended, when in their due Order, to make
every thing happy and easy, in their disordered State will create
nothing but Confusion.

For Instance, the chief Use of Water seems intended, when descending in
warm and gentle Showers, or flowing in kind and easy Streams, to chear
and nourish all Kinds of Vegetation, as well in Trees and Plants, as in
Herbs and Flowers: But suppose, by the Contrivance of Man, or by the
Accidents of Nature, a large Quantity of it lodged on the Tops of high
Hills, if it breaks its Bank, it will never stop, till it finds a
natural resting Place; and in its Torrent it will overwhelm and destroy
those Trees and Plants, with the Herbs and Flowers, it was intended to

The like may be said of the Fire, which I have been supposing uniformly
dispersed over the Creation; which, if its Properties are to invigorate
all Nature, you must of course suppose its Power not to be controul’d;
but that it passes through all the Animal, Mineral, and Vegetable
Creation, whilst they stand in need of Life, or any Increase.

But as I have been conjecturing what different Purposes Water in its
disorder’d State may produce, so the same Consideration may be had
concerning Fire in its disorder’d State: When too much of it is brought
together, either by the Contrivance of Man, or by the Disorders in the
other Elements; is it not reasonable to suppose, that it will, according
to its natural Appointment, get about its Business, and break as soon as
it can from its Confinement?

A very learned and eminent Author, who is now living, says, “That all
Life, whether it be vegetable, sensitive, or animal, is only a kindled
Fire of Life in such a Variety of States: And every dead insensitive
Thing is only so because its Fire is quenched.”

It had been impossible that this wonderful _Phænomenon_ of Electricity
should ever have been discover’d, if there had not been such Things as
are non-electricable. For, as fast as this Fire had been driven on any
thing, its next Neighbour would have carried it further: But, when it
was most wonderfully found out, that any thing which was suspended in a
silk Cord (that being a Non-electricable) was obliged to retain the
Fire, which by electrical Force was driven on it; and when, moreover, it
appeared, that any Person or Thing being placed on a Cake of Bees-wax
(which also is a Non-electricable), it could no more part with its Fire,
than when suspended in a silk Cord, I think it will become worth
Inquiry, why they are not electricable.

To prove this, I would reflect upon the Passage before-quoted: For from
thence I think it must follow, that if Fire be the Cause of the Life and
Increase in any thing, then, whatever ceases to be in a State of Life or
Increase, can no longer be supposed to be capable of them; and therefore
must be consider’d as a _Caput Mortuum_. Of this sort are Bees-wax and
Silk, both being non-electricable.

To pursue this kind of Reasoning concerning them: They are, in truth,
the Excrements only from those Beings which once had Life in them; the
Wax being the excrementitious Matter from Bees, which, when made, was to
be capable of no further Increase or Addition to its Nature: For, as its
primitive Use was only intended to make Combs or Cells to preserve the
Honey through the different Changes of the Season, so if this Wax had
been liable to Alterations from this Fire (as all Things which are
endued with it are) then the Cells would not have remained so intire as
the wonderful Architects left them.

As concerning the Silk, I look on it as an excrementitious Matter also;
designed by GOD Almighty (who makes nothing in vain) to become a
_Capsula_ or Coffin to preserve the Insect in it safely, for such a
Season as was intended it should remain there.

All resinous Bodies are likewise non-electricable; which I think will
tend rather to prove my Conjecture to be true than false: For, are there
such Things as Pitch or Resin in _Nature_? Are they not made out of the
Juice of Plants? Which Plants, whilst they remained in the Life of
Nature, had nothing but their unalter’d Juice in them. Pitch and Resin
became so by Art; and therefore no Time or Chance can give an Increase
to their Quantity: From whence they may be supposed not to be in the
Course of Nature.

I am aware what Objection this is liable to; for, though it must be
acknowleg’d that these Things are non-electricable, it may be asked, If
they are not the most inflammable Things that can be imagined, and,
consequently, susceptible of Fire; because Candles are made out of Wax,
and Torches out of Pitch and Resin? To which I answer, That here it may
be necessary to inquire, what occasions this Flame, which is produced
either from the Candle or Torch? Can this Flame subsist one Moment,
without the Passage of Air through it? I answer, No. Well then, as this
Treatise is not intended merely to state Facts, but to account for the
Nature of them, by the best Conjectures I can make, pray why does Air
keep this Flame subsisting? If you will suppose, with me, that the Cause
of all Heat, and the Appearance of all Fire in the World, is collected
out of this universal Element of Fire; which, perhaps, will never
increase nor diminish; it being dispersed where it is most invited; if
therefore, I say, you will suppose with me, that this Air, which is full
of a lambent Flame, when it has been invited by the Property supposed to
be in it, that the biggest Body congregates the less; from these
Considerations, I think it may be supposed, that the Flame of Fire is
produced out of the Air, only; the Wax or Resin being a fatty
sulphureous Matter, which, as Coals, may likewise be supposed to serve
as a _Pabulum_, fitly adapted only to let this Element pass through it,
for the Purposes here described.

The more of the Air that passes through them, the quicker they burn; as
when the Snuff of a Candle is taken off, which hindered the Quantity to
pass thro’ it, it increases the Flame; though, before, the same
Materials were employ’d. The same may be said of clearing the Ashes
from, and stirring the Fire; which impeded the Quantity of Air from
leaving its Fire behind, in its Passage through the Coals.

If the Wax had any Inherency of Fire in its Nature, Why, if you turn a
lighted Candle downwards, does the Wax extinguish the Flame? If this my
Conjecture be difficultly conceiv’d, pray let me farther ask, Why does a
Candle, which is lighted, and let down into a Mine where there is a
Damp, go out? In a large Mine there is Space enough surely for a Candle
to burn in, if there had been enough of that _Pabulum Vitæ_ left in the
stagnated Air which occupy’d that large Cavern.

Now, if you will suppose, with me, that this Air had been robb’d of its
Fire, by its supporting and keeping alive such Things under-ground as
its Business is to do every-where, and that Space was left full of
stagnated Air, and therefore could not admit of fresh to enter, it
became impossible for Fire, or any living Creature, to subsist there.

The Cure of this Evil is performed in Mines by a Horse-Mill, which works
large Bellows, that drive fresh Air down a Shaft made for that Purpose.

I remember Dr. _Halley_ told me, that he once try’d the Experiment of
making a factitious Damp; which he did, by exhausting the Air out of the
Receiver of an Air-Pump, and then luting to a Stop-cock a Gun-barrel;
the other End of which he put into a Charcoal-Fire, and with the Air,
which pass’d thro’ the Fire, he fill’d the Receiver again; he told me
that it instantly kill’d a Mouse he put into it, and many other Animals,
just as Damps did: Now how will you account for this, if you suppose not
that its Fire was extinguish’d, and carried from it another Way?

Having thus far, I hope, prepared your Mind to understand what I
apprehend the Element of Fire is, and what its Office seems to be, I
will shew, if I can,

First, Why, in Electricity, Fire proceeds from an electrical Body, so as
to light into a Flame many different Compositions.

Secondly, Why a Tube of Glass, when rubbed so as to be made electrical,
will not only attract to it, but repel from it alternately, any light
Body, as Leaf-Gold, Feathers, and the like: And also, why it will seem
to send from it a Quantity of Wind, with a singing small Noise, if you
hold it nigh to your Cheek and Ear.

Thirdly, Why, when any unelectrify’d Body touches any thing electrify’d,
the Electricity breaks off with a smart Crack, and a Spark of Fire.

Fourthly, Why a Number of Men, who are joined together by holding any
metallic Body betwixt them, if one of them touch a Piece of Iron
electrify’d, the whole Company shall feel a violent Concussion, in
proportion to the Largeness of the Body electrify’d.

First, I will endeavour to shew, Why an electrify’d Body will kindle an
_Alcohol_, or rectify’d Spirit of Wine, and many other compounded
Liquors, into a Flame.

After having attempted to prove to you, that the Cause of Electricity
arises from the universal Fire scatter’d through all Nature, by its
being rubb’d together in its Passage betwixt a glass Ball and a Piece of
Leather, _&c._ I hope I shall make it appear, that it passes from
thence, to the Body electrify’d, in a converging and diverging State;
just as a _Lens_ converges and diverges the Rays of Light which pass
through it: And that all Bodies electrify’d are shut up in a _Capsula_
or Covering of this electric Matter, or lambent Flame, which not only
passes over it about half an Inch thick, but pervades also every Part
and Particle of Matter which constitutes that Body; which it may as
easily do, if it consisted of many Tons Weight, as soon, and from the
same Necessity, as it would do to one of an Inch Diameter: And that the
electrify’d Body is intirely seal’d up at each Extremity.

To shew this Fire in a converging State, you may observe, when a
Gun-barrel, or any long Bar of Iron, is to be electrify’d, and it is in
a State of Suspension on silk Cords, which are non-electricable, you may
perceive the Fire issue from a Piece of iron Wire coming from the glass
Ball, in a lambent Flame, which draws to a Point, and then diverges, and
drives itself on, till the Gun-barrel, or Bar, is electrify’d.

Its being a Gun-barrel can be no other Reason for its Preference in that
Shape than in another; but I believe the Occasion of its being used here
is, because the greatest Effect which has been shewn from Electricity,
was sent from abroad; and that was caused by suspending a great Gun in a
non-electricable silk Cord. The Gun seems to have been made use of here
as being the greatest Quantity of Iron, and in the best Shape, they
could get it for Suspension. And were a Person so suspended, if he held
in his Hand a naked Sword, you might see such a lambent Flame passing
from it, in a converging and diverging State, as before describ’d.

I would further prove this converging Fire, from a late Experiment I
have heard of, which is as follows: If you suspend an iron Ball by a
large Piece of Wire, which descends from a Bar of Iron electrify’d, and
then hold under it, in a Saucer, some small round Bubbles of Glass, near
enough to be in Contact with the electrical _Vortex_, the glass Balls
will follow each other round in the Saucer; and each of these Balls, if
the Experiment be made in the dark, will appear to have a Spot of blue
Flame at each End of them.

Now, as, by the Contrivance of Man, here is more of this Fire crouded
together, than was intended by the Author of all Uniformity, seeing, by
its natural Cohesion, and the infinite Celerity it is spirally driven on
with, it is no Wonder, in this confined State, if that, which, as Water
unconfin’d, would be gentle and beneficent, should, with all the Power
that belongs to it, break out at the first Door which is opened for its
Passage from this tortur’d State.

It is no Wonder, therefore, that all undisorder’d Nature should be
equally electrify’d: For how is it possible to have it otherwise? since,
if a Person stands on the Ground, and touches but the _Capsula_ before
he touches the Body, the electric Fire starts through him into the
Ground, as swift as Lightning, and thence into the universal lambent
Flame, from whence it was taken.

Lightning from hence may in some measure be accounted for; though I
cannot so exactly tell what collects it together, as I can in this
factitious Lightning here treated of, yet I can suppose, that the Cause
of Lightning is produc’d from a great Quantity of this Fire before
spoken of; which being driven together, and included in a limited State,
or Covering of some Kind, when discharged from this Covering, it goes
off in an Explosion, which is Thunder. The Lightning I need not
describe, being intirely the same with Electricity; for it will kill
without a Wound, and pass through every thing, as this seems to do.

I am to shew, first, the Cause of its kindling a Flame in certain
compounded Liquors; which, if what I have supposed be true, that it is
by the means spoken of that this Fire is collected and driven on, as I
have said, it is plain to be seen, that at the Finger’s End of a Person
electrify’d, or at the End of a Sword, held as before described, being
in a dark Room, a Flame issues from them: It is no Wonder then, that an
inflammable Spirit, as is shewn, should take Fire from it.

The second Thing I proposed to shew is, Why a Tube of Glass, rubb’d
smartly in the Hand, so as to become electrical, repels Leaf-Gold,
Feathers, and other small Bodies; and when they touch any less
electrify’d Body, they shall return back again to the Tube, and so _vice
versa_. Now, if what I have been saying be true, how can this
_Phænomenon_ be otherwise? For, if that Piece of Leaf-Gold, _&c._ be
electrify’d by the Touch of the Tube, then it has as full Power given to
it as the electrify’d Body had to give to it: And when the Gold, _&c._
touches any other Body, it imparts to it so much of its electrical
Property as it had in itself: And then it may be consider’d in the same
State it was in when first electrify’d: And so it will be repeatedly
attracted to it, and be repell’d _toties quoties_.

But it may be asked, What causes these attractive and repulsive
Faculties? I answer, The Attraction of fiery Particles one to another:
For, if all Nature be agitated by this Fire, all Things have it in the
common Proportion, as it was intended they should stand in Nature. And
therefore, as I have endeavoured to shew, that Electricity is occasioned
by crouding on any thing more of this Fire and Force than naturally
belonged to it; and as the Flame of a Candle must of Necessity send out
of it at its Point an Overplus (without which there could be no
Succession or free Motion in its Flame); so, for the same Reason, the
Redundancy of what is crouded on may be consider’d as spending itself at
each Extremity, that it may thereby reach itself out to any thing, and
invite it to it; as I have shewn the Flame descending down the Smoak of
a Candle just blown out to kindle it again, will do.

As therefore there is a trite Proverb, passing universally, that _where
there is Smoak there must be some Fire_, I will endeavour to prove, That
no Heat, either from Animals, or from any other Cause, can be produced
but from this supposed Fire I have been speaking of. For, now, suppose
you see the Flame of a Candle circumscribed and limited in its Shape and
Size, which it has according to its Snuff; this Thought may serve to
illustrate what I mean by the _Capsula_, which I have supposed passing
over the Surface of every Body when it is electrify’d, and seems to be a
lambent Flame, being more or less thick, as from the _Apparatus_ more or
less Fire has been collected and rubbed together on it, either from the
Friction of a glass Tube, or the Globe: Now, as what I am about to shew,
is, why this attractive Faculty is found in this Experiment, I would
offer to your Consideration, Whether, when common People see the Flame
of a Candle circumscrib’d, they think of any Fire which may proceed
further than in the Flame of that Candle? Yet every body, on
Recollection, knows, that the Flame will heat Parts at a great Distance
to such a Degree, as, at length, to kindle them into a Fire. And tho’,
till you touch the Flame, your Finger is not immediately burn’d, yet
there are shewn to be Emanations of Fire at a Distance from its burning
Quality. So here I beg Leave to consider the same Property in this Fire
occasion’d by Electricity. For, till you touch this _Capsula_ of lambent
Flame (which is commonly to be met with near a Quarter of to Half an
Inch short of the Body to be electrify’d) no Effect is perceiv’d,
because you have not enter’d into the _Vortex_ of this Whirlpool of
Fire: Yet you may suppose that it sends out an Emanation of its Fire
beyond it, as other Flames do; which, when it has first, by its Heat,
(which I take to be Part of it) prepared small Things to be electrify’d,
then they are more easily lick’d into the whole Power, and so become
electrify’d. The Reason therefore, why the Gold, and other light
Materials, (which I have supposed to have some of this Fire in them) are
attracted, is, the Invitation they receive from the curling _Effluvia_
to a closer Contact: And when it has received as much as the former can
give it, its Invitation ceases, till it has parted with what it had to
its Neighbour; and then it is again invited as before.

I come now to consider the Violence of this Fire; which, passing thro’
the Pores of the glass Tube, may, as the Sound of Organ-Pipes, which
proceeds only from their differently modifying the Air, cause the
various hissing Noises you hear when the Tube is held nigh the Ear, from
the Electricity passing through the different shaped Pores of it.

And furthermore the Wind may seem to arise, from the distant Parts of
the electrical Force playing at some Space from the Tube; which thereby
agitate and fan the ambient Air, so as to make it feel like Wind.

The third Thing I proposed to shew, is, Why the electrical Power departs
from one Thing to another by giving a smart Crack, and send-out a Spark,
which will set on fire many very inflammable Liquors.

Now, (as I have, I hope, demonstrated) when this Fire of Electricity is
issuing out at a Point into an inflammable Spirit, it can be no Wonder,
that the Spirit, which is known to be full of Fire, should unite its
Fire to that of Electricity.

As to the Crack it gives when this Fire passes away: As all Sounds are
occasioned only by the Air’s being put into a different Modification, it
is here natural to suppose, that as the Cracking of a Whip is caused by
the smart Stroke at the Point of it on the Air, so, in this Case, the
Air seems to be agitated in the same manner, by breaking the Continuity
of it, whereby the like Sound is perceiv’d.

The next Thing I propose to account for, is, Why a Company of
unelectrify’d Persons, who are joined together by their holding each a
Piece of iron Wire betwixt them, tho’ they are ever so many, do all
receive a violent Blow or Concussion on their Bodies, when one of them
touches a Piece of electrify’d Iron.—I think this Experiment may be
carried so far, that, as it has been found already sufficient to kill
Birds, and hurt many Persons very grievously, it may have Force enough
given to it to kill a Man, as effectually as the Darting of Lightning
can do.

For if you consider, that you may as effectually electrify one Quantity
of Iron as another, that it may be done to many Ton Weight as easily as
to a small Piece, and that, when it departs into a Person, all the Power
given to it, not only on its Surface, but intimately thro’ every Pore
and Particle of it, darts like Lightning from the Point only it was
touch’d in; then further think, that if this Repercussion, or infinite
Recoil, from so large and solid a Body, be so great, when its Power is
thus sent, what may it not do in its utmost Extent?

Having now, I think, gone thro’ what I propos’d to shew, and given a
Reason, as far as my Conjecture reaches, for every _Phænomenon_ which I
have seen or heard of in Electricity, I think it may not be improper to
endeavour to proceed a little farther with it, and consider its Power as
it stands in Nature. For, since the Antients have ever supposed some
uniform compulsive Power, which they called the _Anima Mundi_, and which
by these electrical Experiments seems to be Fire, I will endeavour to
shew, that, in the Dispersion of it in common Nature, you may observe
that some Plants abound with it, from the great Vigour they discover,
compar’d with others in their own Tribe. Some are so, as being of a more
verdant Nature than others are. Now, from this Consideration, I will
venture to give a Reason for that which has hitherto puzzled every body
that has thought about it, which is, Why the Sensitive Plant shrinks;
and, from a turgid and vivid Appearance, it immediately becomes languid,
and hangs its Leaves, on the Touch of any other Body or Thing.

Now, from this my Conjecture on Electricity, if you will suppose with
me, that as all Things, which stand in the common Nature of this lower
World, have this Fire equally dispersed, and have more or less of it
only as they are in this or that Place, where more or less of it is
offer’d to be received by them, or as they are in their own Natures more
capable of receiving more of it than others are, (as I think has been
shewn by the electrical Experiments before-mention’d) and then likewise
suppose the Nature of the Sensitive Plant is to have more of this Fire
in it than there is in any other Plant or Thing, and it must, by the
Nature of it, when any of them touches it, impart a great deal of its
Fire into that Thing by which it is touched; because that had less of it
than was in the Sensitive Plant. Therefore, till the Sensitive Plant has
had Time to recover its Vigour, by receiving from the Air more of this
Fire, its Leaves and Branches hang in a languid State, from the great
Loss of its Spirit and Fire.

To illustrate this, if you set any small Tree in a Pot upon a Cake of
Resin, and then electrify the Tree, even tho’ it were a Willow, it would
grow extremely turgid, so as to erect its Leaves to the great Wonder of
the Beholder; and the Moment you touch even but one of its Leaves, the
whole Tree becomes as languid as the Sensitive Plant would be, if
touched by any Body or Thing.—This I think seems to me to give as great
a Proof of the Truth of my Conjecture as the Nature of the Thing can
admit of, respecting the Sensitive Plant.

As I am upon the Subject of Vegetation, it may not be improper to offer
somewhat concerning the Direction of the _Farina fecundans_, which is
found in Plants and Flowers, to the _Matrix_ of that, or of a
neighbouring Plant or Flower.

Now, if there was not some very attracting Influence to guide it, it
would but seldom happen, I think, that they could come together by
Chance.—If therefore you suppose, that both the _Matrix_ and the
_Farina_ abound with more of this Fire than is in any other Part of the
Plant, or Flower, this great Wonder is at an End: For, by the natural
Attraction there might be in each, from the Fire supposed to be in them,
they would fly together, and be closely connected, as they are
constantly found to be in their proper Season.

I have mention’d, that the _Farina_ of one Plant may impregnate the
_Matrix_ of another as well as its own; because I have observed
formerly, at Mr. _Fairchild_’s, a Gardener at _Hoxton_, a Mule-Flower,
begotten betwixt a Pink and a Sweet-William.

Having consider’d how this electrical Power may be supposed to affect
Vegetation in its common Growth, I shall reflect a little further
concerning it, as it may affect animal Life.

We may observe universally, that Youth abounds with infinitely more
Spirits than Age doth, as well in the Human Species as in the Brute
Creation; as it is clearly seen in Children, compar’d to Adults; as also
in Lambs, in Colts, in Kittens, and almost all other Young, they being
much more vigorous than their Dams are generally seen to be. Now what
Reflection I would make on this, is, That if Life in them, and in all
Nature, be owing to the same Fire as causes Electricity, then, from
thence may proceed the Danger of lodging old People with young Children;
who, by long Experience, have been found to draw from young Children
their natural Strength; the old People having in them a less Proportion
of this Fire than young ones seem to have.

Being about to shew the Evil as well as the Good arising from this
supposed Fire, I will, in the next place, endeavour to demonstrate, the
Cause of Blasts in Mankind; and also to give some Reason for the Blights
on Trees, which I think may be occasioned by this Fire before spoken of.

Having given some Account of the Fire which was seen in the high Wind,
to corroborate that Truth, I think it proper to inform you, that I have
been told, by very good Authority, that, in tempestuous Weather at Sea,
great Flakes of Fire are frequently seen passing not only in the Air,
but on the Water also: And having myself seen the Sea-Water, in the
Night-time, appear to have a great Quantity of Fire issuing out of it,
when the Surface thereof was disturbed by the Feathering of Oars, or by
the Vessel or Boat passing swiftly through it, I asked a Sailor, At what
Time that Appearance happened most frequently? He told me, It most
generally happen’d after tempestuous Weather; or, as his Term was, dirty
Weather at Sea.

I think this will sufficiently shew the Existence of this Fire in the
Air; and, if any Regard be had to what I think its Power and Use is in
the World, that it will intrude itself and force its Way into any Thing
where less of it is, and so join itself to it by being in a greater
Quantity; as has been shewn by many electrical Experiments.

You may suppose a Person sitting, as it is too frequently found they
are, near a Door, or in a Window, when they are in a warm Temperature,
and in Perspiration; if you believe that there can be any Probability in
the Conjecture I have offer’d to your Consideration, is it not natural
for any of this Fire, which passes as frequently through the Air in the
Daytime (though unobserved) as when it is seen in the Night; I say, Why
is it not natural for it to force its Entrance into any Person or Thing?
especially as it comes then with the Assistance of the Stream of Air the
Person sits in, and with which it is driven.

In order to make this Mischief the more to be regarded, I will endeavour
to shew the natural State of the Air itself.

Many Writers about it chuse to divide it into two Sorts; the first is
the pure _Æther_, which is supposed to be moving above our Atmosphere;
the second is the common Air, which is supposed to be within our
Atmosphere. I confess, the Feats attributed to the mighty Weight of our
Atmosphere, in causing Siphons and Pumps, _&c._ to operate, I never
could understand; but if I were to account for their Operations, as well
as that of a Barometer, by the Elasticity of the Air, I think I could
more easily and more naturally shew it.

Notwithstanding what has been advanced concerning the _Æther_, which is
believed to inhabit above our Atmosphere, I chuse rather to suppose,
that the Air is an Element as well as Fire, and that the Difference in
it is only betwixt heavy and foul Air, and clean and light Air. That
which comes on the highest Mountains is clean, and free from our Fogs
and Putrefactions, and, consequently, more elastic.

As a Proof of this, I would recommend the following Experiment: Fill a
Bladder with this clean Air; then press it with a Weight just sufficient
to make it give way; and you will find, that, by reason of its
Elasticity, it will yield much further, than if it were fill’d with the
other Air, which is impregnated with foggy and aqueous Particles.

Now if, as in a Barometer, the Quicksilver is suspended by the Air on
the Top of the Tube, which was extracted or emerged out of the
Quicksilver, by the Weight of the said Quicksilver, and as that Air in
the Barometer cannot but have a Communication with the ambient Air, the
Air within the Barometer must thence be affected, by its becoming less
elastic also.

But this is not so much to my present Purpose, as to consider the Air
loaded not only with Vapours, but with poisonous _Effluvia_ from the
Steams of various Minerals, as well as with the Salts of dead Insects
and Animals, which, in the Season of Autumn, may probably occasion so
many Agues, and putrid Fevers, as are met with.

Now, if you further consider the Air as loaded with any or all of these
Vapours and _Effluvia_, and demanding Entrance with the Authority of
Fire, its Companion, is it any Wonder, that the Rheumatism, and many
other bad Effects, which frequently happen, in unguarded Seasons, to
Mankind, may be owing to the Cause here treated of?

I remember that a Person, riding in an open Chaise, in an Easterly Wind,
receiv’d a Stroke upon one of his _Scapula’s_, with as great Pain, and
with the same kind of Sensation, as if he had been stuck with a Dagger.
Upon which he instantly said to his Friend in the Chaise, He expected a
violent Rheumatism from it. Which accordingly happen’d; for he was not
able to quit his Bed for Three Weeks after.—I think this cannot be
better accounted for, than to suppose it proceeded from a pointed Body
of this kind of Fire, and the _Effluvia_ which accompanied it.

If you will be pleased to reflect on the Air in this last described
State, you need not expect, I think, to have much said concerning the
Blights on Trees. It is true, somewhat may be consider’d with regard to
the Insects frequently found on the blighted Leaves: But whether, when
by the Blight the Leaves have been curl’d up, the Insects come there as
to a proper _Nidus_, or whether they are brought in this Fire, which
seems plainly to have burn’d the Leaves, I will not undertake to account

                                                             _I am_, &c.



The kind Reception this small Treatise has met with from the Public
occasions the Printing this Second Edition of it.

It is, I confess, some Satisfaction to me, that my publishing it is not
without Part of the Effect I hoped for; having been told by many, who
have read it, that it gave them very new and satisfactory Ideas.

As to those who have read it, and say nothing of it, either from their
Want of Apprehension, or their Fear of being obliged to alter their
Sentiments concerning it, or from a worse Cause than either, I
absolutely have no Concern about them.

There are those, I confess, who merit with me the highest Esteem, who,
having read it, object to some Things, as fearing I have not conceiv’d
them rightly; but this they have done with the Temper of Gentlemen.
These I think deserve to be set right; which I will therefore attempt to
do in the following Manner:

The First Objection they make is, That I have called Silk, Wax, _&c._
which do not ordinarily convey the electrical Power to other Bodies,
non-electricable, or non-electrical; when other Writers have long since
agreed to call them Electrics _per se_.

The Second Objection is, That what I have advanced, to prove that the
Power of Electricity proceeds not from the _Apparatus_, but from the
Air, seems to be overthrown; because, since I wrote my Book, there has
been a new Experiment made, by placing the whole _Apparatus_ on Wax, and
also the Persons concerned in the Experiment, and by that means the
Power is intercepted.

The Third Objection is, That so large a Quantity of Iron, as I have
supposed to be electrify’d, will not give greater Force, when touch’d by
a Person unelectrify’d, than a smaller one will.

In Answer to the First Objection; I cannot think, that the Term Electric
_per se_ is suited to any Material whatever; unless some One was found
out which would attract to it, of its own accord, any other Material; as
we find a Loadstone will do, when placed near any thing in its Reach:
but, if you lay even Amber unrubb’d in Contact with Straws, or any other
Things, they will not be attracted to it. So that Friction, it is plain,
collects this Power to the Amber.

The Term Electric _per se_ seems to me to be used by these Gentlemen for
the same Purposes as the old Term of _Occult Quality_ was.

As the Word Electricity arises from Amber, I need not instance in any
other Material; nor need I give again my Reasons, why certain Things are
non-electricable. But, for clearing One Point, in which I am not rightly
apprehended; I have said, That if Fire be the Cause of Life and Increase
in any thing which stands in a State of Nature, then, whatever ceases to
be in a State of Life or Increase, must have its Fire withdrawn, and it
becomes a _Caput Mortuum_.—I have been told, This is not true; for a
dead Animal will be electrify’d.

This I complain of, as not having been understood concerning it. This
Animal, though kill’d, had once its animal Increase from Fire. Boards,
when dry, have Fire in them; because the Fire, which invigorated the
Tree they were saw’d out of, must naturally remain in them. The like may
be said of a dead Animal; but Wax, Pitch, Resin, and the Tribe of
Non-electricables, never had their Existence from Nature only; and
therefore they are quite of a different Tribe. For what I say is, That
whatever had once Fire in it is capable of being electrify’d. Those
called Electrics _per se_, having no Fire in them, when, by Friction,
Fire is collected on their Surfaces, it is either driven from thence
into the Air, or into some Electricable, and so it joins with that Fire
which naturally belongs to it.

Sealing-wax is compounded of Non-electricables, and, if you rub it, will
attract Things to it as Amber will: And I believe all other Things,
which will not imbibe the Fire into them, when by Friction it is
collected on their Surfaces, will dispose of it thence to their next
Neighbour. Resin and Pitch, from their Tenacity, may difficultly be made
to do it, and, yet have the Nature in them I am supposing them to have.

There may be such artful Tricks play’d with this Power, as, to an
undiscerning Eye, may make it seem to be changed; for Instance, If you
wet a silk Cord (Water being electricable) it passes on the Water
through the Cord, by the Cord’s only retaining the Water. Some Dye, with
which Silk is dyed, if it be of a vegetable Nature, will convey this
Power through the Silk, by the Contiguity of the Dye-Stuff: So that you
see there may be no End of Experiments.

I think it is a great Pity that the Word _Electricity_ should ever have
been given to so wonderful _Phænomenon_, which might properly be
consider’d as the First Principle in Nature. Perhaps the Word _Vivacity_
might not have been an improper one; but it is now too late to think of
changing a Name it has so long obtain’d.

As I am going to answer the Second Objection, I own I have not employ’d
myself in making Experiments in Electricity, chusing rather, if I could,
to account for those which have been found out by others, than to spend
much Time in making them myself: Though I pay great Respect to those,
who, for Improvement of Knowlege, have been employ’d in them. As to
those who get Money by shewing these Experiments, I do not pay so high a
Regard to their Performances; because all, who shew any Arts to new
Customers, for Profit, are bound to try all Means to gain Applause. I
would endeavour to ascertain the Laws or Principle by which they are
perform’d; which when done, a Thousand Tricks like Legerdemain may be
performed by it, by him whose Time is little worth.

In the Second Objection it is said, I am mistaken, when I advance, that
the _Apparatus_ is not the Cause of Electricity, but that it is produced
by the Air. To shew this, I am told, That if a Person is placed, and
also the _Apparatus_, on Wax or Resin (which are non-electricable), no
Fire or Force is produced from them: But if the Person employ’d in doing
it touches the Wainscot or the Floor with a Walking-Stick, or the like,
the Electricity flows as freely as if he stood on the Floor. From whence
some Conjecture this Power comes from the Earth only; than which I think
nothing can be more absurd: For, if you fetch it out of the Wainscot, or
the Boards of the Floor, it must first be in them, and the Air could
only be the Carrier of it to them. So that here the main Things, which I
at first only conjectur’d, I think are fully proved; which are, That
Electricity was not generated by the _Apparatus_, but only collected by
it out of the Air.

As to the Third Objection to a larger Quantity of electrify’d Iron not
giving greater Force than a smaller, it should be observ’d, that in this
Essay I have only conjectured what most probably is true: And as I
profess not to have been engaged in making electrical Experiments, I
must rely on those only who have made them: But, surely, if there may be
too much Iron employ’d to be so affected, as I have imagined, there may
also be too little; and therefore Time may yet shew, that such a
Quantity of this Power may be so collected as to kill a Man; since but
Yesterday I was informed, that a Person, who lives in the _Strand_, is
now recovering from a Palsy, in which he lost his Speech, and other
Intellects; which Mischief he received from this Force of Electricity.

I hope what I have written on this Subject will not call on me, from the
thinking Part of Mankind, any undue Reflection: I have nevertheless met
with such an unmannerly Abuse from a Country Show-man, who published
some Experiments, and owns he added the Preface to it, in order to write
what I am sure no Gentleman would have written—If this Person be poor,
and did it for Gain, I heartily pity him. He owns he was much
affrighted, when he heard of my publishing this Piece, because of the
hard Fate, he says, of his Booksellers; but, before he had read Two
Pages, he likewise owns he recovered his Spirits, when he found I
pretended to think for myself, and did not let Sir _Isaac Newton_ think
for me, after he had been so long dead. I am well satisfy’d, had that
Great Man been living, and had seen these electrical Experiments, he
would not have bow’d low to this great Philosopher, for thus supporting
his Character. His doing this would be as ridiculous as to see a Pygmy
attempt to carry a Giant. I believe there are more Answers to Books
written to pay a Landlady, or an Alehouse-Score, than from any other
Cause; especially, if they think they answer one whose Character will
call it into the World.—I know nothing of my Adversary’s Finances; but
how rich soever he may have made himself by his Show, he seems to have
the Blessing of never being liable to the Headach from his Thinking too



                          Transcriber’s note:

Width of em-dashes has been regularised.

Page 8, ‘unphilophical’ changed to ‘unphilosophical,’ “how
unphilosophical and unmeaning”

Page 16, ‘mortuum’ changed to ‘Mortuum,’ “as a Caput Mortuum. Of”

Page 27, ‘convergeing’ changed to ‘converging,’ “prove this converging

Page 31, ‘wil’ changed to ‘will,’ “so it will be”

Page 56, ‘whetever’ changed to ‘whatever,’ “then, whatever ceases to”

Page 57, second ‘to’ struck, “ceases to be in”

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay to Shew the Cause of Electricity - and Why Some Things are Non-Electricable" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.