The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 32

you object, if water may be thus carried into the clouds, why
have we not salt rains? The objection is strong and reasonable, and
I know not whether I can answer it to your satisfaction. I never
heard but of one salt rain, and that was where a spout passed pretty
near a ship, so I suppose it to be only the drops thrown off from the
spout, by the centrifugal force (as the birds were at Hatfield) when
they had been carried so high as to be above, or to be too strongly
centrifugal for, the pressure of the concurring winds surrounding it:
and, indeed, I believe there can be no other kind of salt rain; for
it has pleased the goodness of God so to order it, that the particles
of air will not attract the particles of salt, though they strongly
attract water.

Hence, though all metals, even gold, may be united with air, and
rendered volatile, salt remains fixt in the fire, and no heat can
force it up to any considerable height, or oblige the air to hold
it. Hence, when salt rises, as it will a little way, into air with
water, there is instantly a separation made; the particles of water
adhere to the air, and the particles of salt fall down again, as if
repelled and forced off from the water by some power in the air;
or, as some metals, dissolved in a proper menstruum, will quit the
solvent when other matter approaches, and adhere to that, so the
water quits the salt, and embraces the air; but air will not embrace
the salt, and quit the water, otherwise our rains would indeed be
salt, and every tree and plant on the face of the earth be destroyed,
with all the animals that depend on them for subsistence.----He who
hath proportioned and given proper qualities to all things, was not
unmindful of this. Let us adore HIM with praise and thanksgiving! By
some accounts of seamen, it seems the column of water W W, sometimes
falls suddenly; and if it be, as some say, fifteen or twenty yards
diameter, it must fall with great force, and they may well fear for
their ships. By one account, in the _Transactions_, of a spout that
fell at Colne in Lancashire, one would think the column is sometimes
lifted off from the water, and carried over land, and there let fall
in a body; but this, I suppose, happens rarely.

Stuart describes his spouts as appearing no bigger than a mast, and
sometimes less; but they were seen at

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