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yet Mr. Kinnersley, returning from the Islands just as I left home, pursued the experiments during my absence, and informs me, that he always found the clouds in the negative state.

So that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the earth.

Those who are versed in electric experiments, will easily conceive, that the effects and appearances must be nearly the same in either case; the same explosion, and the same flash between one cloud and another, and between the clouds and mountains, &c., the same rending of trees, walls, &c., which the electric fluid meets with in its passage, and the same fatal shock to animal bodies ; and that pointed rods fixed on buildings, or masts of ships, and communicating with the earth or sea, must be of the same service in restoring the equilibrium silently between the earth and clouds, or in conducting a flash or stroke, if one should be, so as to save harmless the house or vessel ; for points have equal power to throw off, as to draw on, the electric fire, and rods will conduct up as well as down.

But, though the light gained from these experiments makes no alteration in the practice, it makes a considerable one in the theory. And now we as much need an hypothesis to explain by what means the clouds become negatively, as before to show how they became positively, electrified.

I cannot forbear venturing some few conjectures on this occasion; they are what occur to me at present, and, though future discoveries should prove them not wholly right, yet they may in the mean time be of some use, by stirring up the curious to make more experiments, and occasion more exact disquisitions. I conceive, then, that this globe of earth and water,




with its plants, animals, and buildings, have diffused throughout their substance, a quantity of the electric fluid, just as much as they can contain, which I call the natural quantity.

That this natural quantity is not the same in all kinds of common matter under the same dimensions, nor in the same kind of common matter in all circumstances ; but a solid foot, for instance, of one kind of common matter may contain more of the electric fluid than a solid foot of some other kind of common matter; and a pound weight of the same kind of common matter may, when in a rarer state, contain more of the electric fluid than when in a denser state.

For, the electric fluid being attracted by any portion of common matter, the parts of that fluid (which have among themselves a mutual repulsion) are brought so near to each other,; by the attraction of the common matter that absorbs them, as that their repulsion is equal to the condensing power of attraction in common matter; and then such portion of common matter will absorb no more.

Bodies of different kinds, having thus attracted and absorbed what I call their natural quantity, that is, just as much of the electric fluid as is suited to their circumstances of density, rarity, and power of attracting, , do not then show any signs of electricity among each other.

And, if more electric fluid be added to one of these bodies, it does not enter, but spreads on the surface, forming an atmosphere; and then such body shows signs of electricity.

I have, in a former paper, compared common matter to a sponge, and the electric fluid to water; I beg leave once more to make use of the same comparison, to illustrate farther my meaning in this particular,

When a sponge is somewhat condensed by being squeezed between the fingers, it will not receive and retain so much water as when in its more loose and open state.

If more squeezed and condensed, some of the water will come out of its inner parts, and flow on the surface.

If the pressure of the fingers be entirely removed, the sponge will not only resume what was lately forced out, but attract an additional quantity.

As the sponge in its rarer state will naturally attract and absorb more water, and in its denser state will naturally attract and absorb less water; we may call the quantity it attracts and absorbs in either state, its natural quantity, the state being considered.

Now what the sponge is to water, the same is water to the electric fluid.

When a portion of water is in its common dense state, it can hold no more electric fluid than it has; if any be added, it spreads on the surface.

When the same portion of water is rarefied into vapor, and forms a cloud, it is then capable of receiving and absorbing a much greater quantity; there is room for each particle to have an electric atmosphere.

Thus water, in its rarefied state, or in the form of a cloud, will be in a negative state of electricity ; it will have less than its natural quantity ; that is, less than it is naturally capable of attracting and absorbing in that state.

Such a cloud, then, coming so near the earth as to be within the striking distance, will receive from the earth a flash of the electric fluid ; which flash, to supply a great extent of cloud, must sometimes contain a very great quantity of that fluid.

Or such a cloud, passing over woods of tall trees,

may, from the points and sharp edges of their moist top leaves, receive silently some supply.

A cloud, being by any means supplied from the earth, may strike into other clouds that have not been supplied, or not so much supplied ; and those to others, till an equilibrium is produced among all the clouds that are within striking distance of each other.

The cloud thus supplied, having parted with much of what it first received, may require and receive a fresh supply from the earth, or from some other cloud, which by the wind is brought into such a situation as to receive it more readily from the earth.

Hence repeated and continual strokes and flashes, till the clouds have all got nearly their natural quantity as clouds, or till they have descended in showers, and are united again with this terraqueous globe, their original.

Thus, thunder-clouds are generally in a negative state of electricity compared with the earth, agreeable to most of our experiments; yet, as by one experiment we found a cloud electrized positively, I conjecture, that, in that case, such cloud, after having received what was, in its rare state, only its natural quantity, became compressed by the driving winds, or some other means, so that part of what it had absorbed was forced out, and formed an electric atmosphere around it in its denser state. Hence it was capable of communicating positive electricity to my rod.

To show that a body in different circumstances of dilatation and contraction is capable of receiving and retaining more or less of the electric fuid on its surface, I would relate the following experiment. I placed a clean wine-glass on the floor, and on it a small silver

In the can I put about three yards of brass chain; to one end of which I fastened a silk thread, which went right ,up to the ceiling, where it passed over a pulley, and came down again to my hand, that I might at pleasure draw the chain up out of the can, extending it till within a foot of the ceiling, and let it gradually sink into the can again. From the ceiling, by another thread of fine raw silk, I suspended a small light lock of cotton, so as that when it hung perpendicularly, it came in contact with the side of the can. Then, approaching the wire of a charged phial to the can, I gave it a spark, which flowed round in an electric atmosphere; and the lock of cotton was repelled from the side of the can to the distance of about nine or ten inches. The can would not then receive another spark from the wire of the phial; but, as I gradually drew up the chain, the atmosphere of the can diminished by flowing over the rising chain, and the lock of cotton accordingly drew nearer and nearer to the can; and then, if I again brought the phial wire near the can, it would receive another spark, and the cotton fly off again to its first distance; and thus, as the chain was drawn higher, the can would receive more sparks; because the can and extended chain were capable of supporting a greater atmosphere than the can with the chain gathered up into its belly. And that the atmosphere round the can was diminished by raising the chain, and increased again by lowering, is not only agreeable to reason, since the atmosphere of the chain must be drawn from that of the can, when it rose, and returned to it again when it fell; but was also evident to the eye, the lock of cotton always approaching the can when the chain was drawn up, and receding when it was let down again.


Thus we see, that increase of surface makes a body capable of receiving a greater electric atmosphere; but this experiment does not, I own, fully demonstrate my new hypothesis ; for the brass and silver still continue

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