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WATER CHESNUT.... WATER FOWLS. 399
It has been decomposed and recomposed, and found to consist of eighty-five parts, by weight, of oxygen, and fifteen of hydrogen. Since it has been found that water is not a simple element, but a compound, and capable of being decomposed, much light has been thrown upon many operations of nature, which formerly were wrapped up in obscurity. In vegetation, for instance, it has been rendered extremely probable, that water acts a much more important part than was formerly assigned to it by philosophers; that it serves not merely as the vehicle of nourishment, but constitutes at least one part, and probably an essential part of the food of plants; that it is decomposed by them, and contributes inaterially to their growth; and that manures serve rather to prepare the water for deconi position, than to form of them. selves, substantially and directly, the nourishment of the vegetables.... Miller, Rumford. When persons have overloaded their stomachs with food, artificial liquors, whether distilled or fermented, increase the load; because they must themselves undergo a process of digestion, or decomposition. Whereas water, and that liquid only, gives the digestive faculties no labor, and even assists them in digesting other substances.
WATER CHESNUT, an aquatic plant of China. The Chinese cultivate even the bottom of their waters ; and the beds of their lakes, ponds and rivulets, produce crops that to us are unknown. Their industry has found out resources in a number of aquatic plants, among which the pitsi, or water chesnut, is one of the greatest delicacies of a Chinese table. The government has caused this plant to be cultivated in all the lakes, marshes, and waste grounds, covered with water, which belong to the state. And the emperor has ordered all the lands which ornament his gardens, to be planted with it, and the greater part of the ditches round his palace are full of it: the flowers and verdure of this plant cover those two vast sheets of water in the centre of Pekin, which are adjacent to the gardens of the imperial palace.... Winterbotham.
WATER FOWLS, a class of fowls which are surprizingly conformable in the structure of their bodies,
to their destination and manner of life. It must be obvious to every observer, that Providence has given these a different formation from that of the land fowls ; as their legs and feet are formed for the purposes of wading in water, or swimming on its surface. "In those that wade, the legs are usually long and naked; in those that swim, the toes are webbed together, as we see in the feet of a goose, which serve like oars, to drive them forward with great velocity.... Goldsmith.
WATER SPOUT, á column of water either rapidly ascending from the sea into an overshadowing cloud, or breaking and falling down from the cloud. Water spouts are said to be accompanied with the following appearances. First, there is a previous calm, or if the air is in motion, it is not uncommon for ships to sail within hail of each other, with different winds. Secondly, there is a black cloud above, from which there goes a compact visible vapor, in some instances, of the shape and proportion of a speaking-trumpet ; the small end being downwards and reaching the sea, and the large end terminaicu in a cloud: in other instances they are described as having the appearance of a sword pointing downwards, sometimes perpendicularly, towards a col. umn of water or froth, which seems to rise out of the sea to meet it, attended with a violent ebullition or perturbation at the surface. Thirdly, there is a gyrating or whirling appearance in the large spouts ; the fluid seeming to be carried swiftly round like leaves in a whirlwind. We are informed in a Magazine, that, on the 26th of September, 1806, Captain Sendry, in a threemasted schooner, between the mouth of the Missisippi and the island of Cuba, perceived the whole canopy of heaven to exhibit a frightful appearance, he then lying becalmed ; that presently there was seen the appearance of an eye, of a large dimension, out of which came a water spout, which immediately made an abundant discharge, about one league from the vessel; that he perceived with consternation, that the continuing spout attracted his vessel towards it, to the length of half a league in the space of six minutes; and that the provi. dential occurrence of a sudden shift of wind attended with a violent gale, prevented his being drawn to inevit. able destruction within its vortex.
WATER WYTHE....WAX TREE....WEEK. 401
WATER WYTHE, a native plant of Jamaica. It has a trunk as thick as a man's leg, and in most respects resembles a common vine. But what renders it particularly worthy of notice, is, that, growing on dry hills, in the woods where no water is to be found, its trunk, if cut in pieces two or three yards long, and held by either end to the mouth, affords so plentifully a limpid innocent water, or sap, as greatly refreshes the thirsty hun. ter or traveller.
WAX TREE, a beautiful ever-green shrub, growing in wet sandy ground about the edges of swamps, in the Floridas. It rises erect nine or ten feet, dividing itself into a multitude of nearly erect branches, which are adorned with many deep green leaves. The branches produce abundance of large round berries, nearly the size of bird cherries, which are covered with a coat of white wax. It is in high estimation with the inhabitants for the production of wax candles, for which purpose it answers equally well with bees wax, or preferable, as it is harder, and more "lasting in burning.... Bartram.
WEEK, a division of time consisting of seven days. As this division of time had its origin from the positive command of God; so it has been known and obseryed by those only who have been acquainted with divine revelation. Besides the incalculable moral and religious advantages resulting from a dedication of the seventh part of time as a Sabbatical rest, it is of no small importance that this wise and benevolent institution has miti. gated the rigor and eased the burden of slavery. The slaves of the ancient pagan nations, for instance, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, had no sabbath, no sev. enth day of rest. “ The whole week, the whole year, was, in general, with but few exceptions, one uninterrupted round of labor and oppression." But, among the Israelites of old, and among Christian nations since, the divine prohibition of labor on the sabbath, a prohibition that mercifully names in particular the man-servant, and the maid-servant, has brought no inconsiderable relief, even in a temporal point of view, to this wretched class of people. The French government, in
1685, enacted laws which obliged every planter in their West-India islands, to have his negroes properly instructed in the doctrines and duties of Christianity ; and allowed the slaves for these purposes, and for days of rest, not only every Sunday, but every festival usually observed by the Romish Church. And it is said that a similar regulation was made by the Spanish government, a long time ago; and that obedience has been paid to it, particularly in the Havanna. It had been well if protestant nations had always treated their slaves in a manner correspondent with these examples.
WEREGILD, the statute price of heads, established by the laws of the Saxons in England. The price of the king's head, or the Weregild, as it was then called, which the man must pay that should murder him, was near thirteen hundred pounds of the present sterling money. The price of a bishop's or alderman's head was rather more than a fourth; that of a sheriff's a little more than an eighth ; and that of a common clergyman's only the fifteenth part of the aforementioned sum. The price of the head of a ceorle, or vassal, was two hundred shillings. The price of all kinds of wounds was likewise fixed by the Saxon laws: a wound of an inch long under the hair, was paid with one shilling ; one of the like size in the face iwo shillings; thirty shillings for the loss of an ear....Hume. See Eric.
WEST-INDIES, a number of islands of the Ameri. can sea, stretching almost from the coast of Florida North, to that of the mouth of the river Oronoko, in South America. Columbus had formed the project of sailing to the East-Indies by the westward. Accordingly when he discovered these islands, he entertained no doubt but that they were nigh the East-Indian territories. In consequence of this mistake of Columbus, he called these islands the Indies ; which name has stuck to those countries ever since : and when it was at last discover. ed that the new were altogether different from the old Indies, the former were called the West, in contradistinction to the latter, which were called the East Indies. From the same mistake of Columbus, the natives of the American continent were called Indians ; as he con
WHALE....WHEAT....WHITE MOUNTAINS. 403
ceived them at first to be the same people with those of Hindostan.... A. Smith.
WHALE, the largest animal of the deep ; unless we except the Kraken, whose existence is perhaps doubtful. The head of the whale is equal to one third of its length ; in the middle are two orifices, through which it spouts water to a considerable height ; and towards the back, there are two small eyes, protected by eye-lashes, like those in quadrupeds; the tail has the form of a crescent. The female produces one, or not exceeding two young whales at a time, which she suckles. The following are the names of the various species of whales. The River St. Lawrence whale ; the Greenland ditto. The right whale, or seven feet bone, about sixty feet long. The spermaceti whale ; the longest are sixty feet, and yield about a hundred barrels of oil. The hump-backs, on the coasts of Newfoundland, are from twenty to forty feet in length. The fin-back, an American whale, is rarely or never killed, as being too swift. The sulphur-bottom, ninety feet long ; they are seldom killed, as being extremely swift. The grampus, thirty feet long, never killed on the same account. The thrasher, about thirty feet; they often kill the other whales, with which they are at perpetual war. The black-fish whale, twenty feet ; yields from eight to ten barrels.... Willich, St. John.
WHEAT, the finest and most delicate of all bread grains. It is said to be a native of the island of Sicily, where it grew spontaneously, or without culture. Among the varieties of this excellent grain, the red straw wheat holds a distinguished rank. Its excellence consists in repelling the fly, and suiting the most indifferent soils better than the generality of wheat. Its produce likewise is abundant. This wheat was first cultivated in this country on the Mount Vernon estate, from seed that was sent over to General Washington.
WHITE MOUNTAINS, famous mountains of New-Hampshire ; being the highest part of a ridge, which extends north-east and south-west to an unknown length. They are the highest lands in New