Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in All Ages
by William Andrus Alcott
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse












Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1849, BY FOWLERS & WELLS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.

BANES & PALMER, STEREOTYPERS, 201 William st. corner Frankfort, N. Y.


The following volume embraces the testimony, direct or indirect, of more than a HUNDRED individuals—besides that of societies and communities—on the subject of vegetable diet. Most of this one hundred persons are, or were, persons of considerable distinction in society; and more than FIFTY of them were either medical men, or such as have made physiology, hygiene, anatomy, pathology, medicine, or surgery a leading or favorite study.

As I have written other works besides this—especially the "Young House-Keeper"—which treat, more or less, of diet, it may possibly be objected, that I sometimes repeat the same idea. But how is it to be avoided? In writing for various classes of the community, and presenting my views in various connections and aspects, it is almost necessary to do so. Writers on theology, or education, or any other important topic, do the same—probably to a far greater extent, in many instances, than I have yet done. I repeat no idea for the sake of repeating it. Not a word is inserted but what seems to me necessary, in order that I may be intelligible. Moreover, like the preacher of truth on many other subjects, it is not so much my object to produce something new in every paragraph, as to explain, illustrate, and enforce what is already known.

It may also be thought that I make too many books. But, as I do not claim to be so much an originator of new things as an instrument for diffusing the old, it will not be expected that I should be twenty years on a volume, like Bishop Butler. I had, however, been collecting my stock of materials for this and other works—published or unpublished—more than twenty-five years. Besides, it might be safely and truly said that the study and reading and writing, in the preparation of this volume, the "House I Live In," and the "Young House-Keeper," have consumed at least three of the best years of my life, at fourteen or fifteen hours a day. Several of my other works, as the "Young Mother," the "Mother's Medical Guide," and the "Young Wife," have also been the fruit of years of toil and investigation and observation, of which those who think only of the labor of merely writing them out, know nothing. Even the "Mother in her Family"—at least some parts of it—though in general a lighter work, has been the result of much care and labor. The circumstance of publishing several books at the same, or nearly the same time, has little or nothing to do with their preparation.

When I commenced putting together the materials of this little treatise on diet—thirteen years ago—it was my intention simply to show the SAFETY of a vegetable and fruit diet, both for those who are afflicted with many forms of chronic disease, and for the healthy. But I soon became convinced that I ought to go farther, and show its SUPERIORITY over every other. This I have attempted to do—with what success, the reader must and will judge for himself.

I have said, it was not my original intention to prove a vegetable and fruit diet to be any thing more than safe. But I wish not to be understood as entertaining, even at that time, any doubts in regard to the superiority of such a diet: the only questions with me were, Whether the public mind was ready to hear and weigh the proofs, and whether this volume was the place in which to present them. Both these questions, however, as I went on, were settled, in the affirmative. I believed—and still believe—that the public mind, in this country, is prepared for the free discussion of all topics—provided they are discussed candidly—which have a manifest bearing on the well-being of man; and I have governed myself accordingly.

An apology may be necessary for retaining, unexplained, a few medical terms. But I did not feel at liberty to change them, in the correspondence of Dr. North, for more popular language; and, having retained them thus far, it did not seem desirable to explain them elsewhere. Nor was I willing to deface the pages of the work with explanatory notes. The fact is, the technical terms alluded to, are, after all, very few in number, and may be generally understood by the connection in which they appear.




The great question in regard to diet, viz., whether any food of the animal kind is absolutely necessary to the most full and perfect development of man's whole nature, being fairly up, both in Europe and America, and there being no practical, matter-of-fact volume on the subject, of moderate size, in the market, numerous friends have been for some time urging me to get up a new and revised edition of a work which, though imperfect, has been useful to many, while it has been for some time out of print. Such an edition I have at length found time to prepare—to which I have added, in various ways, especially in the form of new facts, nearly fifty pages of new and original matter.

WEST NEWTON, Mass., 1849.




Experience of the Author, and his Studies.—Pamphlet in 1832.—Prize-Question of the Boylston Medical Committee.—Collection of Materials for an Essay.—Dr. North.—His Letter and Questions.—Results, 13-20



Letter of Dr. Parmly.—Dr. W. A. Alcott.—Dr. D. S. Wright.—Dr. H. N. Preston.—Dr. H. A. Barrows.—Dr. Caleb Bannister.—Dr. Lyman Tenny.—Dr. J. M. B. Harden.—Joseph Ricketson, Esq.—Joseph Congdon, Esq.—George W. Baker, Esq.—John Howland, Jr., Esq.—Dr. Wm. H. Webster.—Josiah Bennet, Esq.—Wm. Vincent, Esq.—Dr. George H. Perry.—Dr. L. W. Sherman, 21-55



Correspondence.—The "prescribed course of Regimen."—How many victims to it?—Not one.—Case of Dr. Harden considered.—Case of Dr. Preston.—Views of Drs. Clark, Cheyne, and Lambe, on the treatment of Scrofula.—No reports of Injury from the prescribed System.—Case of Dr. Bannister.—Singular testimony of Dr. Wright.—Vegetable food for Laborers.—Testimony, on the whole, much more favorable to the Vegetable System than could reasonably have been expected, in the circumstances 56-66



Letter from Dr. H. A. Barrows.—Dr. J. M. B. Harden.—Dr. J. Porter.—Dr. N. J. Knight.—Dr. Lester Keep.—Second letter from Dr. Keep.—Dr. Henry H. Brown.—Dr. Franklin Knox.—From a Physician.—Additional statements by the Author. 66-91



General Remarks.—Testimony of Dr. Cheyne.—Dr. Geoffroy.—Vauquelin and Percy.—Dr. Pemberton.—Sir John Sinclair.—Dr. James.—Dr. Cranstoun.—Dr. Taylor.—Drs. Hufeland and Abernethy.—Sir Gilbert Blane.—Dr. Gregory.—Dr. Cullen.—Dr. Rush.—Dr. Lambe.—Prof. Lawrence.—Dr. Salgues.—Author of "Sure Methods."—Baron Cuvier.—Dr. Luther V. Bell.—Dr. Buchan.—Dr. Whitlaw.—Dr. Clark.—Prof. Mussey.—Drs. Bell and Condie.—Dr. J. V. C. Smith.—Mr. Graham.—Dr. J. M. Andrews, Jr.—Dr. Sweetser.—Dr. Pierson.—Physician in New York.—Females' Encyclopedia.—Dr. Van Cooth.—Dr. Beaumont.—Sir Everard Home.—Dr. Jennings.—Dr. Jarvis.—Dr. Ticknor.—Dr. Coles.—Dr. Shew.—Dr. Morrill.—Dr. Bell.—Dr. Jackson.—Dr. Stephenson.—Dr. J. Burdell.—Dr. Smethurst.—Dr. Schlemmer.—Dr. Curtis.—Dr. Porter, 92-175



General Remarks.—Testimony of Plautus.—Plutarch.—Porphyry.—Lord Bacon.—Sir William Temple.—Cicero.—Cyrus the Great.—Gassendi.—Prof. Hitchcock.—Lord Kaims.—Dr. Thomas Dick.—Prof. Bush.—Thomas Shillitoe.—Alexander Pope.—Sir Richard Phillips.—Sir Isaac Newton.—The Abbe Gallani.—Homer.—Dr. Franklin.—Mr. Newton.—O. S. Fowler.—Rev. Mr. Johnston.—John H. Chandler.—Rev. J. Caswell.—Mr. Chinn.—Father Sewall.—Magliabecchi.—Oberlin and Swartz.—James Haughton.—John Bailies.—Francis Hupazoli.—Prof. Ferguson.—Howard, the Philanthropist.—Gen. Elliot.—Encyclopedia Americana.—Thomas Bell, of London.—Linnaeus, the Naturalist.—Shelley, the Poet.—Rev. Mr. Rich.—Rev. John Wesley.—Lamartine, 176-222



The Pythagoreans.—The Essenes.—The Bramins.—Society of Bible Christians.—Orphan Asylum of Albany.—The Mexican Indians.—School in Germany.—American Physiological Society, 223-235



General Remarks on the Nature of the Argument.—1. The Anatomical Argument.—2. The Physiological Argument.—3. The Medical Argument.—4. The Political Argument.—5. The Economical Argument.—6. The Argument from Experience.—7. The Moral Argument.—Conclusion, 236-296

* * * * *




Bread of the first order.—Bread of the second order.—Bread of the third kind.—Boiled Grains.—Grains in other forms—baked, parched, roasted, or torrefied.—Hominy.—Puddings proper, 291-308



The large fruits—Apple, Pear, Peach, Quince, etc.—The smaller fruits—Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry, Currant, Whortleberry, Mulberry, Blackberry, Bilberry, etc., 308-309



The Common Potato.—The Sweet Potato, 309-311



Buds and Young Shoots.—Leaves and Leaf Stalks.—Cucurbitaceous Fruits.—Oily Seeds, etc., 311-312




Experience of the Author, and his Studies.—Pamphlet in 1832.—Prize Question of the Boylston Medical Committee.—Collection of Materials for an Essay.—Dr. North.—His Letter and Questions.—Results.

Twenty-three years ago, the present season, I was in the first stage of tuberculous consumption, and evidently advancing rapidly to the second. The most judicious physicians were consulted, and their advice at length followed. I commenced the practice of medicine, traveling chiefly on horseback; and, though unable to do but little at first, I soon gained strength enough to perform a moderate business, and to combine with it a little gardening and farming. At the time, or nearly at the time, of commencing the practice of medicine, I laid aside my feather bed, and slept on straw; and in December, of the same year, I abandoned spirits, and most kinds of stimulating food. It was not, however, until nineteen years ago, the present season, that I abandoned all drinks but water, and all flesh, fish, and other highly stimulating and concentrated aliments, and confined myself to a diet of milk, fruits, and vegetables.

In the meantime, the duties of my profession, and the nature of my studies led me to prosecute, more diligently than ever, a subject which I had been studying, more or less, from my very childhood—the laws of Human Health. Among other things, I collected facts on this subject from books which came in my way; so that when I went to Boston, in January, 1832, I had already obtained, from various writers, on materia medica, physiology, disease, and dietetics, quite a large parcel. The results of my reflections on these, and of my own observation and experience, were, in part—but in part only—developed in July, of the same year, in an anonymous pamphlet, entitled, "Rational View of the Spasmodic Cholera;" published by Messrs. Clapp & Hull, of Boston.

In the summer of 1833, the Boylston Medical Committee of Harvard University offered a prize of fifty dollars, or a gold medal of that value, to the author of the best dissertation on the following question: "What diet can be selected which will ensure the greatest health and strength to the laborer in the climate of New England—quality and quantity, and the time and manner of taking it, to be considered?"

At first, I had thoughts of attempting an essay on the subject; for it seemed to me an important one. Circumstances, however, did not permit me to prosecute the undertaking; though I was excited by the question of the Boylston Medical Committee to renewed efforts to increase my stock of information and of facts.

In 1834, I accidentally learned that Dr. Milo L. North, a distinguished practitioner of medicine in Hartford, Connecticut, was pursuing a course of inquiry not unlike my own, and collecting facts and materials for a similar purpose. In correspondence with Dr. North, a proposition was made to unite our stock of materials; but nothing for the present was actually done. However, I agreed to furnish Dr. North with a statement of my own experience, and such other important facts as came within the range of my own observations; and a statement of my experience was subsequently intrusted to his care, as will be seen in its place, in the body of this work.

In February, 1835, Dr. North, in the prosecution of his efforts, addressed the following circular, or LETTER and QUESTIONS, to the editor of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, which were accordingly inserted in a subsequent number of that work. They were also published in the American Journal of Medical Science, of Philadelphia, and copied into numerous papers, so that they were pretty generally circulated throughout our country.

"To the Editor of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.

"SIR,—Reports not unfrequently reach us of certain individuals who have fallen victims to a prescribed course of regimen. Those persons are said, by gentlemen who are entitled to the fullest confidence, to have pertinaciously followed the course, till they reached a point of reduction from which there was no recovery. If these are facts, they ought to be collected and published. And I beg leave, through your Journal, to request my medical brethren, if they have been called to advise in such cases, that they will have the kindness to answer, briefly, the following interrogatories, by mail, as early as convenient.

"Should the substance of their replies ever be embodied in a small volume, they will not only receive a copy and the thanks of the author, but will have the pleasure to know they are assisting in the settlement of a question of great interest to the country. If it should appear probable that their patient was laboring under a decline at the commencement of the change of diet, this ought, in candor, to be fully disclosed.

"It will be perceived, by the tenor of the questions, that they are designed to embrace not only unfortunate results of a change of diet, but such as are favorable. There are, in our community, considerable numbers who have entirely excluded animal food from their diet. It is exceedingly desirable that the results of such experiments, so difficult to be found in this land of plenty, should be ascertained and thrown before the profession and the community. Will physicians, then, have the kindness, if they know of any persons in their vicinity who have excluded animal food from their diet for a year or over, to lend them this number of the Journal, and ask them to forward to Milo L. North, Hartford, Connecticut, as early as convenient, the result of this change of diet on their health and constitution, in accordance with the following inquiries?

"1. Was your bodily strength either increased or diminished by excluding all animal food from your diet?

"2. Were the animal sensations, connected with the process of digestion, more—or less agreeable?

"3. Was the mind clearer; and could it continue a laborious investigation longer than when you subsisted on mixed diet?

"4. What constitutional infirmities were aggravated or removed?

"5. Had you fewer colds or other febrile attacks—or the reverse?

"6. What length of time, the trial?

"7. Was the change to a vegetable diet, in your case, preceded by the use of an uncommon proportion of animal food, or of high seasoning, or of stimulants?

"8. Was this change accompanied by a substitution of cold water for tea and coffee, during the experiment?

"9. Is a vegetable diet more—or less aperient than mixed?

"10. Do you believe, from your experience, that the health of either laborers or students would be promoted by the exclusion of animal food from their diet?

"11. Have you selected, from your own observation, any articles in the vegetable kingdom, as particularly healthy, or otherwise?

"N.B.—Short answers to these inquiries are all that is necessary; and as a copy of the latter is retained by the writer, it will be sufficient to refer to them numerically, without the trouble of transcribing each question.

"HARTFORD, February 25, 1835."

This circular, or letter, drew forth numerous replies from various parts of the United States, and chiefly from medical men. In the meantime, the prize of the Boylston Medical Committee was awarded to Luther V. Bell, M.D., of Derry, New Hampshire, and was published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, and elsewhere, and read with considerable interest.

In the year 1836, while many were waiting—some with a degree of impatience—to hear from Dr. North, his health so far failed him, that he concluded to relinquish, for the present, his inquiries; and, at his particular request, I consented to have the following card inserted in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal:

"DR. NORTH, of Hartford, Connecticut, tenders his grateful acknowledgments to the numerous individuals, who were so kind as to forward to him a statement of the effects of vegetable diet on their own persons, in reply to some specific inquiries inserted in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of March 11, 1835, and in the Philadelphia Journal of the same year. Although many months elapsed before the answers were all received, yet the writer is fully aware that these communications ought to have been published before this. His apology is a prolonged state of ill health, which has now become so serious as to threaten to drive him to a southern climate for the winter. In this exigency, he has solicited Dr. W. A. Alcott, of Boston, to receive the papers and give them to the public as soon as his numerous engagements will permit. This arrangement will doubtless be fully satisfactory, both to the writers of the communications and to the public.

"HARTFORD, November 4, 1836."

Various circumstances, beyond my control, united to defer the publication of the contemplated work to the year 1838. It is hoped, however, that nothing was lost by delay. It gave further opportunity for reflection, as well as for observation and experiment; and if the work is of any value at all to the community, it owes much of that value to the fact that what the public may be disposed to regard as unnecessary, afforded another year for investigation. Not that any new discoveries were made in that time, but I was, at least, enabled to verify and confirm my former conclusions, and to review, more carefully than ever, the whole argument. It is hoped that the work will at least serve as a pioneer to a more extensive as well as more scientific volume, by some individual who is better able to do the subject justice.

It will be my object to present the facts and arguments of the following volume, not in a distorted or one-sided manner, but according to truth. I have no private interests to subserve, which would lead me to suppress, or falsely color, or exaggerate. If vegetable food is not preferable to animal, I certainly do not wish to have it so regarded. This profession of a sincere desire to know and teach the truth may be an apology for placing the letters in the order in which they appear—which certainly is such as to give no unfair advantages to those who believe in the superiority of the vegetable system—and for the faithfulness with which their whole contents, whether favoring one side or other of the argument, have been transcribed.

The title of the work requires a word of explanation. It is not intended, or even intimated, that there are no facts here but what rest on medical authority; but rather, that the work originated with the medical profession, and contains, for the most part, testimony which is exclusively medical—either given by medical men, or under their sanction. In fact, though designed chiefly for popular reading, it is in a good degree a medical work; and will probably stand or fall, according to the sentence of approbation or disapprobation which shall be pronounced by the medical profession.

The following chapter will contain the letters addressed to Dr. North. They are inserted, with a single exception, in the precise order of their date. The first, however, does not appear to have been elicited by Dr. North's circular; but rather by a request in some previous letter. It will be observed that several of the letters include more than one case or experiment; and a few of them many. Thus the whole series embraces, at the least calculation, from thirty to forty experiments.

The replies of nearly every individual are numbered to correspond with the questions, as suggested by Dr. North; so that, if there should remain a doubt, in any case, in regard to the precise point referred to by the writer of the letter, the reader has only to turn to the circular in the present chapter, and read the question there, which corresponds to the number of the doubtful one. Thus, for example, the various replies marked 6, refer to the length or duration of the experiment or experiments which had been made; and those marked 9, to the aperient effects of a diet exclusively vegetable. And so of all the rest.



Letter of Dr. Parmly.—Dr. W. A. Alcott.—Dr. D. S. Wright.—Dr. H. N. Preston.—Dr. H. A. Barrows.—Dr. Caleb Bannister.—Dr. Lyman Tenny.—Dr. J. M. B. Harden.—Joseph Ricketson, Esq.—Joseph Congdon, Esq.—George W. Baker, Esq.—John Howland, Jr., Esq.—Dr. Wm. H. Webster.—Josiah Bennet, Esq.—Wm. Vincent, Esq.—Dr. Geo. H. Perry.—Dr. L. W. Sherman.


To Dr. North.

MY DEAR SIR,—For two years past, I have abstained from the use of all the diffusible stimulants, using no animal food, either flesh, fish, or fowl; nor any alcoholic or vinous spirits; no form of ale, beer, or porter; no cider, tea, or coffee; but using milk and water as my only liquid aliment, and feeding sparingly, or rather, moderately, upon farinaceous food, vegetables, and fruit, seasoned with unmelted butter, slightly boiled eggs, and sugar or molasses; with no condiment but common salt.

I adopted this regimen in company with several friends, male and female, some of whom had been afflicted either with dyspepsia or some other chronic malady. In every instance within the circle of my acquaintance, the symptoms of disease disappeared before this system of diet; and I have every reason to believe that the disease itself was wholly or in part eradicated.

In answer to your inquiry, whether I ascribe the cure, in the cases alleged, to the abstinence from animal food or from stimulating drinks, or from both, I cannot but give it as my confident opinion that the result is to be attributed to a general abandonment of the diffusive stimuli, under every shape and form.

An increase of flesh was one of the earliest effects of the anti-stimulating regimen, in those cures in which the system was in low condition. The animal spirits became more cheerful, buoyant, and uniformly pleasurable. Mental and bodily labor was endured with much less fatigue, and both intellectual and corporeal exertion was more vigorous and efficient.

In the language of Addison, this system of ultra temperance has had the happy effect of "filling the mind with inward joy, and spreading delight through all its faculties."

But, although I have thus made the experiment of abstaining wholly from the use of liquid and solid stimulants, and from every form of animal food, I am not fully convinced that it should be deemed improper, on any account, to use the more slightly stimulating forms of animal food. Perhaps fish and fowl, with the exception of ducks and geese, turtle and lobster, may be taken without detriment, in moderate quantities. And I regard good mutton as being the lightest, and, at the same time, the most nutritious of all meats, and as producing less inconvenience than any other kind, where the energies of the stomach are enfeebled. And yet there are unquestionably many constitutions which would be benefited by living, as I and others have done, on purely vegetable diet and ripe fruits.

In relation to many of the grosser kinds of animal food, all alcoholic spirits, all distilled and fermented liquors, tea and coffee, opium and tobacco,—I feel confident in pronouncing them not only useless, but noxious to the animal machine.


NEW YORK, January 31, 1835.


BOSTON, December 19, 1834.

DEAR SIR,—I received your communication, and hasten to reply to as many of your inquiries as I can. Allow me to take them up in the very order in which you have presented them.

Answer to question 1. I was bred to a very active life, from my earliest childhood. This active course was continued till about the time of my leaving off the use of flesh and fish; since which period my habits have, unfortunately, been more sedentary. I think my muscular strength is somewhat less now than it was before I omitted flesh meat, but in what proportion I am unable to say; for indeed it varies greatly. When more exercise is used, my strength increases—sometimes almost immediately; when less exercise is used, my strength again diminishes, but not so rapidly. These last circumstances indicate a more direct connection between my loss of muscular strength and my neglect of exercise than between the former and my food.

2. Rather more agreeable; unless I use too large a quantity of food; to which however I am rather more inclined than formerly, as my appetite is keener, and food relishes far better. A sedentary life, moreover, as I am well satisfied, tends to bring my moral powers into subjection to the physical.

3. My mind has been clearer, since I commenced the experiment to which you allude, than before; but I doubt whether I can better endure a "laborious investigation." A little rest or exercise, perhaps less than formerly, restores vigor. I am sometimes tempted to break my day into two, by sleeping at noon. But I am not so apt to be cloyed with study, or reflection, as formerly.

4. Several. 1. An eruptive complaint, sometimes, at one period of my life, very severe. 2. Irritation of the lungs; probably, indeed most certainly, incipient phthisis. 3. Rheumatic attacks, though they had never been very severe.

The eruptive disease, however, and the rheumatic attacks, are not wholly removed; but they are greatly diminished. The irritation at the lungs has nearly left me. This is the more remarkable from the fact that I have been, during almost the whole period of my experiment, in or about Boston. I was formerly somewhat subject to palpitations; these are now less frequent. I am also less exposed to epidemics. Formerly, like other scrofulous persons, I had nearly all that appeared; now I have very few.

You will observe that I merely state the facts, without affirming, positively, that my change of diet has been the cause, though I am quite of opinion that this has not been without its influence. Mental quiet and total abstinence from all drinks but water, may also have had much influence, as well as other causes.

5. Very few colds. Last winter I had a violent inflammation of the ear, which was attended with some fever; but abstinence and emollient applications soon restored me. In July last, I had a severe attack of diarrhoea unattended with much fever, which I attributed to drinking too much water impregnated with earthy salts, and to which I had been unaccustomed. When I have a cold, of late, it affects, principally, the nasal membrane; and, if I practice abstinence, soon disappears. In this respect, more than in any other, I am confident that since I commenced the use of a vegetable diet I have been a very great gainer.

6. The experiment was fully begun four years ago last summer; though I had been making great changes in my physical habits for four years before. For about three years, I used neither flesh nor fish, nor even eggs more than two or three times a year. The only animal food I used was milk; and for some long periods, not even that. But at the end of three years I ate a very small quantity of flesh meat once a day, for three or four weeks, and then laid it aside. This was in the time of the cholera. The only effect I perceived from its use was a slight increase of peristaltic action. In March last, I used a little dried fish once or twice a day, for a few days; but with no peculiar effects. After my attack of diarrhoea, in July last, I used a little flesh several times; but for some months past I have laid it aside entirely, with no intention of resuming it. Nothing peculiar was observed, as to its effects, during the last autumn.

7. I never used a large proportion of animal food, except milk, since I was a child; but I have been in the habit, at various periods of my life, of drinking considerable cider. For some months before I laid aside flesh and fish, I had been accustomed to the use of more animal food than usual, but less cider; though, for a part of the time, I made up the deficiency of cider with ale and coffee. For several months previous to the beginning of the experiment, I had drank nothing but water.

8. Rather less. But here, again, I fear I am in danger of attributing to one cause what is the effect of another. My neglect of exercise may be more in fault than the rice and bread and milk which I use. Still I must think that vegetable food is, in my own case, less aperient than animal.

9. In regard to students, my reply is, Yes, most certainly. So I think in regard to laborers, were they trained to it. But how far early habits may create a demand for the continuance of animal food through life, I am quite at a loss for an opinion. Were I a hard laborer, I should use no animal food. When I travel on foot forty or fifty miles a day, I use vegetable food, and in less than the usual quantity. This I used to do before I commenced my experiment.

10. I use bread made of unbolted wheat meal, in moderate quantity, when I can get it; plain Indian cakes once a day; milk once a day; rice once a day. My plan is to use as few things as possible at the same meal, but to have considerable variety at different meals. I use no new bread or pastry, no cheese, and but little butter; and very little fruit, except apples in moderate quantity.

11. The answer to this question, though I think it would be important and interesting, with many other particulars, I must defer for the present. The experiments of Dr. F., a young man in this neighborhood, and of several other individuals, would, I know be in point; but I have not at my command the time necessary to present them.


WHITEHALL, Washington Co., N. Y., March 17, 1835.

DEAR SIR,—I noticed a communication from you in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of the 5th instant, in which you signify a wish to collect facts in relation to the effects of a vegetable diet upon the human system, etc. I submit for your consideration my own experience; premising, however, that I am a practicing physician in this place—am thirty-three years old—of a sanguine, bilious temperament—have from youth up usually enjoyed good health—am not generally subject to fevers, etc.

I made a radical change in my diet three years ago this present month, from a mixed course of animal and vegetable food, to a strictly vegetable diet, on which I subsisted pretty uniformly for the most part of one year. I renewed it again about ten moths ago.

My reasons for adopting it were: 1st. I had experienced the beneficial effects of it for several years before, during the warm weather, in obviating a dull cephalalgic pain, and oppression in the epigastrium. 2dly. I had recently left the salubrious atmosphere of the mountains in Essex county, in this state, for this place of musquitoes and miasmata. 3dly, and prominently. I had frequent exposures to the variolous infection, and I had a dreadful apprehension that I might have an attack of the varioloid, as at that time I had never experimentally tried the protective powers of the vaccine virus, and had too little confidence in those who recommended its prophylactic powers. The results I submit you, in reply to your interrogatories.

1. I think each time I tried living on vegetable food exclusively, that for the first month I could not endure fatigue as well. Afterward I could.

2. The digestive organs were always more agreeably excited.

3. The mind uniformly clearer, and could endure laborious investigations longer, and with less effort.

4. I am constitutionally healthy and robust.

5. I believe I have more colds, principally seated on the mucous membranes of the lungs, fauces, and cavities of the head. (I do not, however, attribute it to diet.)

6. The first trial was one year. I am now ten months on the same plan, and shall continue it.

7. I never used a large quantity of animal food or stimulants, of any description.

8. I have for several years used tea and coffee, usually once a day—believe them healthy.

9. Vegetable diet is less aperient than a mixed diet, if we except Indian corn.

10. I do not think that common laborers, in health, could do as well without animal food; but I think students might.

11. I have selected potatoes, when baked or roasted, and all articles of food usually prepared from Indian meal, as the most healthy articles on which I subsist; particularly the latter, whose aperient and nutritive qualities render it, in my estimation, an invaluable article for common use.

Yours, etc., D. S. WRIGHT.


PLYMOUTH, Mass., March 26, 1835.

DEAR SIR,—When I observed your questions in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, of the 11th of March, I determined to give you personal experience, in reply to your valuable queries.

In the spring of 1832, while engaged in more than usual professional labor, I began to suffer from indigestion, which gradually increased, unabated by any medicinal or dietetic course, until I was reduced to the very confines of the grave. The disease became complicated, for a time, with chronic bronchitis. I would remark, that, at the time of my commencing a severe course of diet, I was able to attend to my practice daily.

In answer to your inquiries, I would say to the 1st—very much diminished, and rapidly.

2. Rather less; distinct local uneasiness—less disposition to drowsiness; but decidedly more troubled with cardialgia, and eructations.

3. I think not.

4. My disease was decidedly increased; as cough, headache, and emaciation; and being of a scrofulous diathesis, was lessening my prospect of eventual recovery.

5. My febrile attacks increased with my increased debility.

6. Almost four months; when I became convinced death would be the result, unless I altered my course.

7. I had taken animal food moderately, morning and noon—very little high seasoning—no stimulants, except tea and coffee. The latter was my favorite beverage; and I usually drank two cups with my breakfast and dinner, and black tea with my supper.

8. I drank but one cup of weak coffee with my breakfast, none with dinner, and generally a cup of milk and water with supper.

9. With me much less aperient; indeed, costiveness became a very serious and distressing accompaniment.

10. From somewhat extensive observation, for the last seven years, I should say, of laborers never; students seldom.

11. Among dyspeptics, potatoes nearly boiled, then mashed together, rolled into balls, and laid over hot coals, until a second time cooked, as easy as any vegetable. If any of the luxuries of the table have been noticed as particularly injurious, it has been cranberries, prepared in any form, as stewed in sauce, tarts, pies, etc.

Crude as these answers are, they are at your service; and I am prompted to give them from the fact, that very few persons, I presume, have been so far reduced as myself, with dyspepsia and its concomitants. In fact, I was pronounced, by some of the most scientific physicians of Boston, as past all prospect of cure, or even much relief, from medicine, diet, or regimen. My attention has naturally been turned with anxious solicitude to the subject of diet, in all its forms. Since my unexpected restoration to health, my opportunities for observation among dyspeptics have been much enlarged; and I most unhesitatingly say, that my success is much more encouraging, in the management of such cases, since pursuing a more liberal diet, than before. Plain animal diet, avoiding condiments and tea, using mucilaginous drink, as the Irish Moss, is preferable to "absolute diet,"—cases of decided chronic gastritis excepted.

Yours, etc., H. N. PRESTON.


PHILLIPS, Somerset Co., Me., April 28, 1835.

DEAR SIR,—I have a brother-in-law, who owes his life to abstinence from animal food, and strict adherence to the simplest vegetable diet. My own existence is prolonged, only (according to human probabilities) by entire abstinence from flesh-meat of every description, and feeding principally upon the coarsest farinacea.

Numberless other instances have come under my observation within the last three years, in which a strict adherence to a simple vegetable diet has done for the wretched invalid what the best medical treatment had utterly failed to do; and in no one instance have I known permanently injurious results to follow from this course, but in many instances have had to lament the want of firmness and decision, and a gradual return to the "flesh-pots of Egypt."

With these views, I very cheerfully comply with your general invitation, on page 77, volume 12, of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. The answers to your interrogatories will apply to the case first referred to, to my own case, and to nearly every one which has occurred within my notice.

1. Increased, uniformly; and in nearly every instance, without even the usual debility consequent upon withdrawing the stimulus of animal food.

2. More agreeable in every instance.

3. Affirmative, in toto.

4. None aggravated, except flatulence in one or two instances. All the horrid train of dyspeptic symptoms uniformly mitigated, and obstinate constipation removed.

5. Fewer colds and febrile attacks.

6. Three years, with my brother; with myself, eighteen months partially, and three months wholly; the others, from one to six months.

7. Negative.

8. Cold water—my brother and myself; others, hot and cold water alternately.

9. More aperient,—no exceptions.

10. I believe the health of students would uniformly be promoted—and the days of the laborer, to say the least, would be lengthened.

11. I have; and that is, simple bread made of wheat meal, ground in corn-stones, and mixed up precisely as it comes from the mill—with the substitution of fine flour when the bowels become too active.

Yours, etc., HORACE A. BARROWS.


PHELPS, N. Y., May 4, 1835.

SIR,—My age is fifty-three. My ancestors had all melted away with hereditary consumption. At the age of twenty, I began to be afflicted with pain in different parts of the thorax, and other premonitory symptoms of phthisis pulmonalis. Soon after this, my mother and eldest sister died with the disease. For myself, having a severe attack of ague and fever, all my consumptive symptoms became greatly aggravated; the pain was shifting—sometimes between the shoulders, sometimes in the side, or breast, etc. System extremely irritable, pulse hard and easily excited, from about ninety to one hundred and fifty, by the stimulus of a very small quantity of food; and, to be short, I was given up, on all hands, as lost.

From reading "Rush" I was induced to try a milk diet, and succeeded in regaining my health, so that for twenty-four years I have been entirely free from any symptom of phthisis; and although subject, during that time, to many attacks of fever and other epidemics, have steadily followed the business of a country physician.

I would further remark, before proceeding to the direct answer to your questions, that soon perceiving the benefit resulting from the course I had commenced, and finding the irritation to diminish in proportion as I diminished not only the quality, but quantity of my food, I took less than half a pint at a meal, with a small piece of bread, amounting to about the quantity of a Boston cracker; and at times, in order to lessen arterial action, added some water to the milk, taking only my usual quantity in bulk.

A seton was worn in the side, and a little exercise on horseback taken three times every day, as strength would allow, during the whole progress. The appetite was, at all times, not only craving, it was voracious; insomuch that all my sufferings from all other sources, dwindled to a point when compared with it.

The quantity that I ate at a time so far from satisfying my appetite, only served to increase it; and this inconvenience continued during the whole term, without the least abatement;—and the only means by which I could resist its cravings, was to live entirely by myself, and keep out of sight of all kinds of food except the scanty pittance on which I subsisted. And now to the proposed questions.

1. Increased.

2. More agreeable, hunger excepted.

3. To the first part of this question, I should say evidently clearer; to the latter part, such was the state of debility when I commenced, and such was it through the whole course, I am not able to give a decisive answer.

4. This question, you will perceive, is already answered in my preliminary remarks.

5. Fewer, insomuch that I had none.

6. Two full years.

7. My living, from early life, had been conformable to the habits of the farmers of New England, from which place I emigrated, and my habits in regard to stimulating drinks were always moderate; but I occasionally took them, in conformity to the customs of those "times of ignorance."

8. I literally drank nothing; the milk wholly supplying the place of all liquids.

9. State of the bowels good before adopting the course, and after.

10. I do not.

11. I have not.



FRANKLIN, Vermont, June 22, 1835.

SIR,—In answer to your inquiries, in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. xii., page 78, I can say that I have lived entirely upon a bread and milk diet, without using any animal food other than the milk.

1. At first, my bodily strength was diminished to a certain degree, and required a greater quantity of food, and rather oftener, than when upon a mixed diet of animal food (strictly so called) and vegetables.

2. The animal sensations, attending upon the process of digestion, were rather more agreeable than when upon a mixed diet.

3. My mind was more clear, but I could not continue a laborious investigation as long as when I used animal food more plentifully.

4. At this time there were no constitutional infirmities which I was laboring under, except those which more or less accompany the rapid growth of the body; such as a general lassitude, impaired digestion, etc., which were neither removed nor aggravated, but kept about so, until I ate just what I pleased, without any regard to my indigestion, etc., when I began to improve in the strength of my whole system.

5. I do not recollect whether I was subject to more or fewer colds; but I can say I was perfectly free from all febrile attacks, although febrile diseases often prevailed in my vicinity. But since that time, a period of six years, I have had three attacks of fever.

6. The length of time I was upon this diet was about two years.

7. Before entering upon this diet, I was in the habit of taking a moderate quantity of animal food, but without very high seasoning or stimulants.

8. While using this diet, I confined myself entirely and exclusively to cold water as a drink—using neither tea, coffee, nor spirits of any kind whatever.

9. I am inclined to think that a vegetable diet is more aperient than an animal one; indeed, I may say I know it to be a fact.

10. From what I have experienced, I do not think that laborers would be any more healthy by excluding animal food from their diet entirely; but I believe it would be much getter if they would use less. As to students, I believe their health would be promoted if they were to exclude it almost, if not entirely.

11. I never have selected any vegetables which I thought to be more healthy than others: nor indeed do I believe there is any one that is more healthy than another; but believe that all those vegetables which we use in the season of them, are adapted to supply and satisfy the wants of the system.

We are carnivorous, as well as granivorous animals, having systems requiring animal, as well as vegetable food, to keep all the organs of the body in tune; and perhaps we need a greater variety than other animals.

Yours, etc., LYMAN TENNY.


LIBERTY COUNTY, Georgia, July 15, 1835.

SIR,—Having observed, in the May number of the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences," certain inquiries in relation to diet, proposed by you to the physicians of the United States, I herewith transmit to you an account of a case exactly in point, which I hope may prove interesting to yourself, and in some degree "assist in the settlement of a question of great interest to the country."

The case, to which allusion is made, occurred in the person of a very intelligent and truly scientific gentleman of this county, whose regular habits, both of mind and body, added to his sound and discriminating judgment, will tend to heighten the value and importance of the experiment involved in the case I am about to detail.

Before proceeding to give his answers to your interrogatories, it may be well to premise, that at the time of commencing the experiment, he was forty-five years of age; and being an extensive cotton planter, his business was such as to make it necessary for him to undergo a great deal of exercise, particularly on foot, having, as he himself declares, to walk seldom less than ten miles a day, and frequently more; and this exercise was continued during the whole period of the experiment. His health for two years previously had been very feeble, arising, as he supposed, from a diseased spleen; which organ is at this time enlarged, and somewhat indurated. His digestive powers have always been good, and he had been in the habit of making his meals at times entirely of animal food. His bowels have always been regular, and rather inclined to looseness, but never disordered. He is five feet eight inches high, of a very thin and spare habit of body, with thin dark hair, inclining to baldness; complexion rather dark than fair; eyes dark hazel; of very studious habits when free from active engagements; with great powers of mental abstraction and attention, and of a temper remarkably even.

In answer to your interrogatories, he replies,—

1. That his bodily strength was increased, and general health became better.

2. He perceived no difference.

3. He is assured of the affirmative.

4. His spleen was diminished in size, and frequent and long-continued attacks of lumbago were rendered much milder, and have so continued.

5. Had fewer colds and febrile attacks.

6. Three years.

7. No; with the slight exception mentioned above.

8. No.

9. In his case rather less.

10. Undoubtedly.

11. No; has made his meals of cabbages entirely, and found them as easily digested as any other article of diet. I may remark, that honey to him is a poison, producing, invariably, symptoms of cholera.

After three years' trial of this diet, without having any previous apparent disease, but on the contrary as strong as usual, he was taken, somewhat suddenly, in the winter of 1832 and 3, with symptoms of extreme debility, attended with oedematous swellings of the lower extremities, and painful cramps, at night confined to the gastrocnemii of both legs, and some feverishness, indicated more by the beatings of the carotids than by any other symptom. His countenance became very pallid, and indeed he had every appearance of a man in a very low state of health. Yet, during the whole period of this apparent state of disease, there were no symptoms indicative of disorder in any function, save the general function of innervation, and perhaps that of the lymphatics or absorbents of the lower extremities. Nor was there any manifest disease of any organ, unless it was the spleen, which was not then remarkably enlarged. I was myself disposed to attribute his symptoms to the spleen, and possibly to the want of animal food; but he himself attributes its commencement, if not its continuance, to the inhalation of the vapor of arseniuretted and sulphuretted hydrogen gases, to which he was subjected during some chemical experiments on the ores of cobalt, to which he has been for a long time turning his attention; a circumstance which I had not known until lately.

However it may be, he again returned to a mixed diet (to which however he ascribes no agency in his recovery), and, after six months' continuance in this state, he rapidly recovered his usual health and strength, which, up to this day—two full years after the expiration of six months—have continued good. In the treatment of his case no medicine of any kind was given, to which any good effect can be attributed; and indeed he may be said to have undergone no medical treatment at all.

Yours, etc., J. M. B. HARDEN.


NEW BEDFORD, 8th month, 26th, 1835.

RESPECTED FRIEND,—Perhaps before giving answers to thy queries in the American Journal of Medical Science, it may not be amiss to give thee some account of my family and manner of living, to enable thee to judge of the effect of a vegetable diet on the constitution.

I have a wife, a mother aged eighty-eight, and two female domestics. It is now near three years since we adopted what is called the Graham or vegetable diet, though not in its fullest extent. We exclude animal food from our diet, but sometimes we indulge in shell and other fish. We use no kind of stimulating liquors, either as drink or in cookery, nor any other stimulants except occasionally a little spice. We do not, as Professor Hitchcock would recommend, nor as I believe would be most conducive to good health, live entirely simple; sometimes, however, for an experiment, I have eaten only rice and milk; at other times only potatoes and milk for my dinner; and have uniformly found I could endure as much fatigue, and walk as far without inconvenience, as when I have eaten a greater variety. We, however, endeavor to make our varieties mostly at different meals.

For breakfast and tea we have some hot water poured upon milk, to which we add a little sugar, and cold bread and butter; but in cold weather we toast the bread, and prefer having it so cool as not to melt the butter. We seldom eat a meal without some kind of dried or preserved fruit, such as peaches, plums, quinces, or apples; and in the season, when easily to be procured, we use, freely, baked apples, also berries, particularly blackberries stewed, which, while cooking, are sweetened and thickened a little. Our dinners are nearly the same as our other meals, except that we use cold milk, without any water. We have puddings sometimes made of stale bread, at others of Graham or other flour, or rice, or ground rice, usually baked; we have also hasty puddings, made of Indian meal, or Graham flour, which we eat with milk or melted sugar and cream; occasionally we have other simple puddings, such as tapioca, etc. Custards, with or without a crust, pies made of apple, and other fruits either green or preserved; but we have no more shortening in the crust than just to make it a little tender.

I have two sons; one lived with us about fifteen months after we adapted this mode of living; it agreed remarkably well with him; he grew strong and fleshy. He married since that time, and, in some measure, returned to the usual manner of living; but he is satisfied it does not agree so well with him as the Graham diet. The coarse bread he cannot well do without. My other son was absent when we commenced this way of living; he has been at home about six weeks, and has not eaten any animal food except when he dined out. He has evidently lost flesh, and is not very well; he thinks he shall not be able to live without animal food, but I think his indisposition is more owing to the season of the year than diet. He never drank any tea or coffee until about four years since, when he took some coffee for a while, but no tea. For the last two years he has not drank either, when he could get milk. He is generally healthy, and so is his brother: both were literally brought up on gingerbread and milk, never taking animal food of choice, until they were fifteen or sixteen years of age.

Dr. Keep, of Fairhaven, Connecticut, was here about a year since, in very bad health, since which I learn he has recovered by abstaining from animal food and other injurious diet. As he is a scientific man, I think he can give thee some useful information.

1. The strength of both myself and wife has very materially increased, so that we can now walk ten miles as easily as we could five before; possibly it may in part be attributed to practice. Our health is, in every respect, much improved. One of our women enjoys perfect health; the other was feeble when we commenced this way of living, and she has not gained much if any in the time; but this may be owing to her attendance on my mother, both day and night, who, being blind and feeble, takes no exercise except to walk across the room; but we are very sure she would not have lived to this time had she not adopted this way of living.

2. The process of digestion is much more agreeable, if we do not indulge in eating too much. We seldom have occasion to think of it after rising from the table.

3. I do not perceive much effect on the mind, other than what would naturally be produced by the restoration of health; but have no doubt a laborious investigation might be continued as long, if not longer, on this than any other diet.

4. I was formerly very much afflicted with the headache, and sometimes was troubled with rheumatism. I have very seldom, for the last two years especially, been troubled with either; and when I have had a turn of headache, it is light indeed compared with what it was before we adopted this system of living. My wife was very dyspeptic, and often had severe turns of palpitation of the heart; the latter is entirely removed, and she seldom experiences any inconvenience from the former. Our nurse was formerly, and still is, troubled with severe turns of headache, though not so bad as formerly; and I think she would have much less of it if she were placed in a different situation.

5. We scarcely know what it is to have a cold; my wife in particular. Previously to our change of diet, I was very subject to severe colds, attended with a hard cough, which lasted, sometimes, for several weeks.

6. As before stated, we exclude animal food from our diet, as well as tea and coffee.

7. Before we adopted a vegetable diet, we always had meat for dinner, and generally with breakfast; and not unfrequently with tea. Tea and coffee we drank very strong.

8. We have substituted milk and water sweetened, for tea and coffee.

9. Most vegetables I find have a tendency (especially when Graham or unbolted wheaten flour is used) to keep the bowels open; to counteract which, we use rice once or twice a week. Potatoes, when eaten freely, are flatulent, but not inconvenient when eaten moderately.

10. I think the health of students, by the exclusion of animal food from their diet, would be promoted, especially if they excluded tea and coffee also; and I can see no good reason why it should not be beneficial to laboring people. I have conversed with two or three mechanics, who confirm me in this belief.

11. Graham bread, as we call it, eaten with milk, or baked potatoes and milk, for most people, I think would be healthy; to which should be added such a proportion of rice as may be found necessary.



NEW BEDFORD, Sept., 1835.

ANSWERS to Dr. North's inquiries on diet.

1. Increase of strength and activity, connected with, and perhaps in some good degree a consequence of, an increase of daily exercise.

2. Process of digestion more regular and agreeable.

3. Mental activity greater; no decisive experiments on the ability to continue a laborious investigation.

4. Dyspepsia of long continuance, and also difficult breathing; inflammation of the eyes.

5. Fewer colds; febrile attacks very slight; great elasticity in recovering from disease. Some part of the effect should undoubtedly be ascribed to greater attention to the skin by bathing and friction.

6. Twenty-six months of entire abstinence from all animal substances, excepting butter and milk. Salt is used regularly.

7. Through life inclined to a vegetable diet, with few stimulants.

8. Drinks have been milk, milk and water, or cold water.

9. A well-selected vegetable diet appears to produce a very regular action of the stomach and bowels.

10. I think the health of laborers and students would be promoted by a great reduction of the usual quantity of animal food, and perhaps by discontinuing its use entirely. I feel no want.

11. From my experience, I can very highly recommend bread made of coarse wheat flour. Among fruits, the blackberry, as peculiarly adapted to the state of the body, at the time of the year when it is in season. My range of food has been confined. I avoid green vegetables. Age 35.



NEW BEDFORD, 9th month, 10, 1835.

DR. M. L. NORTH,—Agreeably to request, the following answers are forwarded, which I believe to be correct as far as my experience has tested.

1. At first it was diminished; but after a few months it was restored, and I think increased.

2. More.

3. It could.

4. Pretty free from constitutional infirmities before the change, and no increase since.

5. I have had no cold, of any consequence, for the last three years; at which time I substituted cold water for tea and coffee, and commenced using cold water for washing about my head and neck and for shaving, which I continued through the year.

6. I have not eaten animal food for about eighteen months.

7. Two years previous to the entire change the quantity was great, but there had been a gradual diminution.

8. It was. (See fifth answer.)

9. More so, in my case.

10. I believe the health of both laborers and students would be improved.

11. I have generally avoided eating cucumbers; otherwise I have not.

Thy assured friend, GEO. W. BAKER.


NEW BEFORD, 9th month, 10th day, 1835.

FRIEND,—As I have lived nearly three years upon a vegetable diet, I cheerfully comply with thy request.

1. My bodily strength has been increased; and I can now endure much more exercise than formerly, without fatigue.

2. They are more agreeable; and I am now free from that dull, heavy feeling, which I used to experience after my meals.

3. My mind is much clearer; and I am free from that depression of spirits, to which I was formerly subject.

4. I was of a costive, dyspeptic habit, which has been entirely removed. I had frequent and severe attacks of headache, which I now rarely have; and when they do occur they are very light, compared with what they formerly were.

5. I have had fewer colds, and those much lighter than formerly.

6. About three years.

7. I used to eat animal food for breakfast and dinner, with coffee for drink, at those meals; and tea for my third meal, with bread and butter.

8. Milk for breakfast, and cold water for the other two meals.

9. I have found it more so; inasmuch as the use of it, with the substitution of bread, made from coarse, unbolted wheat flour, instead of superfine, has removed my costiveness entirely.

10. I do.

11. I consider potatoes and rice as the most healthy, and confine myself principally to the former.

I would remark that during the season of fruits, I eat freely of them, with milk; and consider them to be healthy.



BATAVIA, N. Y., Oct. 21, 1835.

SIR,—Some months since, I read your inquiries on diet in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal; and subsequently in the Journal of Medical Sciences, Philadelphia.

I will answer your questions, numerically, from my knowledge of a case somewhat in point, and with which I am but too familiar, as it is my own. But, first, let me premise a few points in the history of my health, as a kind of key to my answers.

It is about fifteen years since I was called a dyspeptic; this was while engaged in my academical studies. Not being instructed by my medical friend to make any alteration in diet and regimen, I merely swallowed his cathartics for one month, and his anodynes for the next month, as the bowels were constipated or relaxed. In short, I left college more dead than alive—a confirmed dyspeptic.

In 1826, I commenced the practice of physic. From this time, to the winter of 1831-2, I found it necessary gradually to diminish my indulgence in the luxuries of the table—especially in animal food, and distilled and fermented liquors. On one of the most inclement nights of the winter of 1831-2, a fire broke out in our village, at which I became very wet by perspiration, and the ill-directed efforts of some to extinguish it. This was followed by a severe inflammatory attack upon the digestive organs generally, and especially upon the renal region, which confined me to the house for more than eight months; and, for the greatest share of that time, with the most excruciating torture. On getting out again, I found myself in a wretched condition indeed—reduced to a skeleton—a voracious appetite, which could not be indulged, and which had scarcely deserted me through the whole eight months. I could not regain my flesh or strength but by almost imperceptible degrees; indeed, loaf-sugar and crackers were almost the only food I could use with impunity for the first year.

It is now nearly four years since I have eaten animal food, unless it be here and there a little, as an experiment, with the sole exception of oysters, in which I can indulge, but with all due deference to the stricter rules of temperance. Still my appetite for animal food seems unabated. I have ever been a man unusually temperate in the use of intoxicating drinks; and by no means intemperate in the luxuries of the table. I take no meat, no alcoholic or fermented drinks, not even cider; and, for a year past, my health has been better than for three years previous; and I think that about one third the amount of nourishment usually taken by men of my age, might subserve the purposes of food for me better than a larger quantity. The more I eat, the more I desire to eat; and abstinence is my best medicine.

But I have already surpassed my limits, and here are my answers.

1. My strength is invariably diminished by animal food, and in almost direct proportion to the quantity, with the exception named above.

2. Pain has been the uniform attendant upon the digestion of an animal diet, with feverish restlessness and constipation.

3. Decidedly more fit for energetic action.

4. An irritation, or subacute inflammation of the digestive apparatus, which is aggravated by animal food.

5. Can endure hardship, exposure, and fatigue, much better without meat.

6. About four years, with the exception stated above.

7. It was not.

8. Partially at the commencement; but not of late, if not taken hot.

9. Much more aperient.

10. Both classes take too much; and students and sedentaries should take little or none.

11. For myself farinaceous articles first, then the succulent sub-acid ripe fruits, then the less oily nuts are most healthful—and animal food, strong coffee and tea, and unripe or hard fruits, in any considerable quantities, are most pernicious.

Yours, etc., W. H. WEBSTER.


MOUNT-JOY, Pa., Oct. 27, 1835.

SIR,—I hereby transmit to you, answers to a series of dietetic queries which you have recently submitted.

1. My physical strength was at least equal (I am rather inclined to think greater) after abstaining from animal food. I was, I am certain, not subject to such general debility and lassitude of the system, after considerable bodily exercise.

2. More agreeable—not being subject to a sense of vertigo, which frequently (with me) followed the use of animal food. There is, generally, more cheerfulness and vivacity.

3. The mind is more clear, and is not so liable to be confused when intent upon any intricate subject; and, of course, "can continue a laborious investigation longer." There is at no time such a propensity to incogitancy.

4. I am not aware of being the subject of any "constitutional infirmities;" yet, that the change of diet had a very great effect upon the system, is obvious, from the fact of my having been, formerly, subject to an eruptive disease of the skin, principally on the shoulders and upper part of the back, for a number of years, which is not the case at present, nor do I think will be, as long as I continue my present mode of living.

5. I think I have not had as many colds and febrile attacks as before, nor have they been so severe; yet I cannot be very decisive on this point, on account of the length of time in the trial not being fully sufficient.

6. Between seven and eight months. I must here state that animal food was not entirely excluded. I probably partook, in very moderate quantities, once or twice a week.

7. The quantity of animal food which would be considered "an uncommon proportion," I am unable to determine; but I was accustomed to make use of it, not less than twice, and sometimes three times a day, moderately seasoned. No other stimulants, of any account.

8. Cold water has been the only substitute for tea and coffee, with the exception of an occasional cup; probably as often as once or twice a week. I was, on several occasions, by personal experience, induced to believe that the use of strong coffee retarded the process of digestion.

9. More aperient. Previous to the general exclusion of animal food from my diet, I was subject to inveterate costiveness; cases of which are now neither frequent nor severe.

10. I do firmly believe it would.

11. My diet, principally, during the trial, consisted of wheat bread, of the proper age, with a moderate quantity of fresh butter. Potatoes, beans, and some other esculent roots, etc., I found to be nutritious and healthy. The following substances I found to produce a contrary effect, or to possess different qualities: cabbage, when not well boiled; cucumbers, raw or pickled; radishes, beets, and the whole catalogue of preserves. Fresh bread was particularly hurtful to me.

Yours, etc., JOSIAH BENNETT.


HOPKINTON, R. I., Dec. 23, 1835.

SIR,—The following answer to the interrogations in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of March 1835, on diet, etc., as proposed by yourself, has been through the press of business, neglected until this late period. Trusting they may be of some use, I now forward them.

1. Rather increased, if any change.

2. ——

3. I think I have retained the vigor of my mind more, in consequence of an abstemious diet.

4. I thought I had the appearance of scurvy, which gradually disappeared.

5. ——

6. From May 20, 1811, (more than twenty-four years.)

7. Small in quantity, and dressed and cooked simply.

8. I have drank nothing but warm tea, for seven years.

9. Bowels uniformly open.

10. I should not think it would.

11. I have lived principally on bread, butter, and cheese, and a few dried vegetables.

I was born March 31, 1764. In 1833, when mowing, to quench thirst, I drank about a gill of cold water, after about as much milk and water; and the same year, some molasses and water; but they did not answer the purpose. But when I rinsed my mouth with cold water, it allayed my thirst.

(Signed) WM. VINCENT.


HOPKINTON, R. I., Dec. 23, 1835.

SIR,—I deem it necessary, first, to mention the situation of my health, at the time of commencing abstinence from animal food. I was recovering from an illness of a nervous fever. A sudden change respecting my food not sitting well, rendered it necessary for me to abstain from all kinds, excepting dry wheat bread and gruel, for several weeks. By degrees I returned to my former course of diet, but as yet not to its full extent, as I cannot partake of animal food of any kind whatever, nor of vegetables cooked therewith.

1. Diminished.

2. ——

3. I do not perceive the mind to be clearer, and the power of investigation less.

4. Distress in the stomach and pain in the head removed.

5. ——

6. Six years and ten months.

7. Unusual proportion of animal food.

8. The first year, I drank only warm water, sweetened; since that, tea.

9. ——

10. I do not.

11. I find beets particularly hard to digest.

L. R. B.

The foregoing statements and answers are in her own way and manner.

Yours, etc., GEO. H. PERRY.


FALMOUTH, Mass., March 28, 1835.

SIR,—In compliance with the request you recently made in the Medical Journal, I inclose the following answers to the queries relative to regimen you have propounded. They are given by a lady, whose experience, intelligence, and discernment, have eminently qualified her to answer them. She, with myself, is equally interested with you in having this important question settled, and is extremely happy that you have undertaken to do it. This lady is now fifty years of age; her constitution naturally is good; her early habits were active, and her diet simple, until twenty years of age. After that, until within a few years, her living consisted of all kinds of meats and delicacies, with wine after dinners, etc., etc.

1. Her bodily strength was greatly increased by excluding animal food from her diet.

2. The animal sensations connected with the process of digestion have been decidedly more agreeable.

3. The mind is much clearer, the spirits much better, the temper more even, and "less irritability pervades the system." The mind can continue a laborious investigation longer than when she subsisted on a mixed diet.

4. Her health, which was before feeble, has, by the change, been decidedly improved.

5. She has certainly had fewer colds, and no febrile attacks of any consequence, since she has practiced rigid abstinence from meats.

6. She has abstained entirely for three years, and has taken but little for seven or eight years; and whenever she has, from necessity (in being from home, where she could procure nothing else), indulged in eating meat, she has universally suffered severely in consequence.

7. The change to a vegetable diet was preceded, in her case, by the use of an uncommon proportion of animal food, highly seasoned with stimulants.

8. Tea and coffee she has not used for thirteen years. She has used, for substitutes, water, milk and water, barley water, and gruel. She found tea and coffee to have an exceedingly pernicious effect upon her nervous and digestive system.

9. A vegetable diet is more aperient than a mixed. Habitual constipation has been entirely removed by the change.

10. She sincerely believes, from her experience, that the health of laborers and students would be generally promoted by the exclusion of animal food from their diet.

11. She considers hominy, as prepared at the South, particularly healthy; and subsists upon this, with bread made from coarse flour, with broccoli, cauliflower, and all kinds of vegetables in their season.

Be assured, dear sir, that these answers have come from a high source, to which private reference may at any time be made, and consequently are entitled to the highest consideration.

Yours, etc., L. W. SHERMAN.

NOTE.—If I have not been minute enough in the relation of this case, I shall hereafter be happy to answer any questions you may think proper to propose. It is a very interesting and important case, in my opinion. The lady has been under my care a number of times, while laboring under slight indisposition. She has always been very regular and systematic in all her habits. She is healthy and robust in appearance, and looks as though she might not be more than forty. This is the only case of the kind within my knowledge. I have practiced on her plan for a few weeks at a time, and, so far as my experience goes, it precisely comports with hers. But I love the "good things" of this world too well to abstain from their use, until some formidable disease demands their prohibition.

Yours, etc., L. W. S.


[1] Dr. Preston has since deceased.

[2] Mr. Vincent is of Stonington, Ct.



Correspondence.—The "prescribed course of Regimen."—How many victims to it?—Not one.—Case of Dr. Harden considered.—Case of Dr. Preston.—Views of Drs. Clark, Cheyne, and Lambe, on the treatment of Scrofula.—No reports of Injury from the prescribed System.—Case of Dr. Bannister.—Singular testimony of Dr. Wright.—Vegetable food for Laborers.—Testimony, on the whole, much more favorable to the Vegetable System than could reasonably have been expected, in the circumstances.

"Reports not unfrequently reach us," says Dr. North, "of certain individuals who have fallen victims to a prescribed course of regimen. These persons are said, by gentlemen who are entitled to the fullest confidence, to have pertinaciously followed the course, till they reached a point of reduction from which there was no recovery." "If these are facts," he adds, "they ought to be known and published."

It was in this view, that Dr. North, himself a medical practitioner of high respectability, sent forth to every corner of the land, through standard and orthodox medical journals, to regular and experienced physicians—his "medical brethren"—his list of inquiries. These inquiries, designed to elicit truth, were couched in just such language as was calculated to give free scope and an acceptable channel for the communication of every fact which seemed to be opposed to the VEGETABLE SYSTEM; for this, we believe, was distinctly understood, by every medical man, to be the "prescribed course of regimen" alluded to.

The results of Dr. North's inquiries, and of an opportunity so favorable for "putting down," by the exhibition of sober facts, the vegetable system, are fully presented in the foregoing chapter. Let it not be said by any, that the attempt was a partial or unfair one. Let it be remembered that every effort was made to obtain truth in facts, without partiality, favor, or affection. Let it be remembered, too, that nearly two years elapsed before Dr. North gave up his papers to the author; during which time, and indeed up to the present hour—a period, in the whole, of more than fourteen years—a door has been opened to every individual who had any thing to say, bearing upon the subject.

Let us now review the contents of the foregoing chapter. Let us see, in the first place, what number of persons have here been reported, by medical men, as having fallen victims to the said "prescribed course of regimen."

The matter is soon disposed of. Not a case of the description is found in the whole catalogue of returns to Dr. N. This is a triumph which the friends of the vegetable system did not expect. From the medical profession of this country, hostile as many of them are known to be to the "prescribed course of regimen," they must naturally have expected to hear of at least a few persons who were supposed to have fallen victims to it. But, I say again, not one appears.

It is true that Dr. Preston, of Plymouth, Mass., thinks he should have fallen a victim to his abstinence from flesh meat, had he not altered his course; and Dr. Harden, of Georgia, relates a case of sudden loss of strength, and great debility, which he thought, at the time, might "possibly" be ascribed to the want of animal food: though the individual himself attributed it to quite another cause. These are the only two, of a list of thirty or forty, which were detailed, that bear the slightest resemblance to those which report had brought to the ear of Dr. N., and about which he so anxiously and earnestly solicited inquiry of his medical brethren.

As to the case mentioned by Dr. Harden, no one who examined it with care, will believe for a moment, that it affords the slightest evidence against a diet exclusively vegetable. The gentleman who made the experiment had pursued it faithfully three years, without the slightest loss of strength, but with many advantages, when, of a sudden, extreme debility came on. Is it likely that a diet on which he had so long been doing well, should produce such a sudden falling off? The gentleman himself appears not to have had the slightest suspicion that the debility had any connection with the diet. He attributes its commencement, if not its continuance, to the inhalation of poisonous gases, to which he was subjected in the process of some chemical experiments.

But why, then, it may be asked, did he return to a mixed diet, if he had imbibed no doubts in regard to a diet exclusively vegetable; and, above all, how happened he to recover on it? To this it may be replied, that there is every reason to believe, from the tenor of the letter, that he acted against his own inclination, and contrary to his own views, at the request of his friends, and of Dr. Harden, his physician; though Dr. Harden does not expressly say so. Besides, it does not appear that under his mixed diet there was any favorable change, till something like six months had elapsed. This was a period, in all probability, just sufficient to allow the poison of the gases to disappear; after which he might have been expected to recover on any diet not positively bad. If this is not a true solution of the case, how happens it that there was no disease of any organ or function, except the nervous function? There is every reason for believing that Dr. Harden, at the date of his letter, had undergone a change of opinion, and was himself beginning to doubt whether the regimen had any agency in producing the debility.[3]

The case of Dr. Preston is somewhat more difficult. At first view, it seems to sustain the old notion of medical men, that, with a scrofulous habit, a diet exclusively vegetable cannot be made to agree. This, I say, seems to be a natural conclusion, at first view. But, on looking a little farther, we may find some facts that justify a different opinion.

Dr. Preston was evidently timid and fearful—foreboding ill—during the whole progress of his experiment. We think his story fully justifies this conclusion. In such circumstances, what could have been expected? There is no course of regimen in the world which will succeed happily in a state of mind like this.

It should be carefully observed by the reader, that Dr. Preston speaks of entering upon a "severe course of diet;" and also, that, in attempting to give an opinion as to the best kind of vegetable food, he speaks of potatoes, prepared in a certain specified manner, as being preferable to any other. Now, I think it obvious, that Dr. Preston's "severe course" partook largely of crude vegetables, instead of the richer and better farinaceous articles—as the various sorts of bread, rice, pulse, etc.—and, if so, it is not to be wondered at that it was so unsuccessful. In short, I do not think he made any thing like a fair experiment in vegetable diet. His testimony, therefore, though interesting, seems to be entitled to very little weight.

This conclusion is stated with the more confidence, from the fact that some of the best medical writers, not only of ancient times, but of the present day, appear to entertain serious doubts in regard to the soundness of the popular opinion in favor of the "beef-steak-and-porter" system of curing scrofulous patients. Dr. Clark, in the progress of his "Treatise on Consumption," almost expresses a belief that a judicious vegetable diet is preferable even for the scrofulous. He would not, of course, recommend a diet of crude vegetables, but one, rather, which would partake largely of farinaceous grains and fruits. Nor do I suppose he would, in every case, entirely exclude milk.

Dr. Cheyne, in his writings, not only gives it as his opinion that a milk diet, long continued, or a milk and vegetable diet and mild mercurials, are the best means of curing scrofula; but he also says, expressly, that "in all countries where animal food and strong fermented liquors are too freely used, there is scarcely an individual that hath not scrofulous glands." A sad story to relate, or to read! But, Dr. Lambe, of London, and other British physicians, entertain similar sentiments; and Dr. Lambe practices medicine largely, while entertaining these sentiments. I could mention more than one distinguished physician, in Boston and elsewhere, who prescribes a vegetable and milk diet in scrofula.

But, granting even the most that the friends of animal food can claim, what would the case of Dr. Preston prove? That the healthy are ever injured by the vegetable system? By no means. That the sickly would generally be? Certainly not. Dr. Preston himself even specifies one disease, in which he thinks a vegetable diet would be useful. What, then, is the bearing of this single and singular case? Why, at the most, it only shows that there are some forms of dyspepsia which require animal food. Dr. Preston does not produce a single fact unfavorable to a diet exclusively vegetable for the healthy.[4]

It is also worthy of particular notice, that not a fact is brought, or an experiment related, in a list of from thirty to forty cases, reported too by medical men, which goes to prove that any injury has arisen to the healthy, from laying aside the use of animal food. This kind of information, though not the principal thing, was at least a secondary object with Dr. North; as we see by his questions, which were intended to be put to those who had excluded animal food from their diet for a year or more.

But, let us take a general view of the replies to the inquiries of Dr. North. The sum of his first three questions, was,—What were the effects of excluding animal food from your diet on your bodily strength, your mental faculties, and your appetite and animal spirits?

The answers to the three questions, of which this is the same, are, as will be seen, remarkable. In almost every instance the reply indicates that bodily and mental labor was endured with less fatigue than before, and that an increased activity of mind and body was accompanied with increased cheerfulness and animal enjoyment. In nearly every instance, strength of body was actually increased; especially after the first month. A result so uniformly in favor of the vegetable system is certainly more than could have been expected.

One physician who made the experiment, indeed, says, that though his mind was clearer than before, he could not endure, so long, a laborious investigation. Another individual says, he perceived no difference in this respect. A third says, she found her bodily strength and powers of investigation somewhat diminished, though her disease was removed. With these exceptions, the testimony on this point is, as I have already said, most decidedly—I might say most overwhelmingly—in favor of the disuse of animal food.

To the question, whether any constitutional infirmities were aggravated or removed by the new course of regimen, the replies are almost equally favorable to the vegetable system. It is true that one of the physicians, Dr. Parmly, thinks the beneficial effects which appeared in the circle of his observation were the results of a simultaneous discontinuance of fermented drinks, tea and coffee, and condiments. But I believe every one who reads his letter will be surprised at his conclusions. No matter, however; we have his facts, and we are quite willing they should be carefully considered. The singular case of Dr. Preston, I now leave wholly out of the account. It was, as I have since learned, the story of a very singular man.

Among the diseases and difficulties which were removed, or supposed to be removed, by the new diet, were dyspepsia, with the constipation which usually attends it, general lassitude, rheumatism, periodical headache, palpitations, irritation of the first passages, eruptive diseases of the skin, scurvy, and consumption.

The case of Dr. Bannister, who was, in early life, decidedly consumptive, is one of the most remarkable on record. Though evidently consumptive, and near the borders of the grave, between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine, he so far recovered as to be, at the age of fifty-three, entirely free from every symptom of phthisis for twenty-four years; during which whole period, he was sufficiently vigorous to follow the laborious business of a country physician.

The confidence of Dr. Wright in the prophylactic powers of a diet exclusively vegetable, so far as the mere opinion of one medical man is to be received as testimony in the case, is also remarkable. He not only regards the vegetable system as a defence against the diseases of miasmatic regions, but also against the varioloid disease. On the latter point, he goes, it seems, almost as far as Mr. Graham, who appears to regard it not only as, in some measure, a preventive of epidemic diseases generally, in which he is most undoubtedly correct, but also of the small-pox.

The testimony on another point which is presented in the replies to Dr. North's questions, is almost equally uniform. In nearly every instance, the individuals who have abandoned animal food have found themselves less subject to colds than before; and some appear to have fallen into the habit of escaping them altogether. When it is considered how serious are the consequences of taking cold—when it is remembered that something like one half of the diseases of our climate have their origin in this source—it is certainly no trifling evidence in favor of a course of regimen, that, besides being highly favorable in every other respect, it should prove the means of freeing mankind from exposure to a malady at once troublesome in itself and disastrous in its consequences.

In reply to the question,—Is a vegetable diet more or less aperient than a mixed one,—the answers have been the same, in nearly every instance, that it is more so.

The answers to the question whether it was believed the health of either laborers or students would be promoted by the exclusion of animal food from their diet, are rather various. It will be observed, however, that many of the replies, in this case, are medical opinions, and come from men who, though they felt themselves bound to state facts, were doubtless, with very few exceptions, prejudiced against an exclusively vegetable regimen for the healthy. It is, therefore, to me, a matter of surprise, to find some of them in favor of the said prescribed course of regimen, both for students and laborers, and many of them in favor of the discontinuance of animal food by students. Those who have themselves made the experiment, with hardly an exception, are decidedly in favor of a vegetable regimen for all classes of mankind, particularly the sedentary. And in regard to the necessity of diminishing the proportion of animal food consumed by all classes, there seems to be but one voice.

On one more important point there is a very general concurrence of opinion. I allude to the choice of articles from the vegetable kingdom. The farinacea are considered as the best; especially wheat, ground without bolting. The preference of Dr. Preston is an exception; and there are one or two others.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse