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Salt and it's Value - from Harper's


All our young readers know the value of that familiar and useful substance, salt, which enters so largely into our daily wants, and is so essential to our existence. Formerly prisoners in Holland were kept from the use of salt; but this deprivation produced such terrible diseases that this practice was abolished. The Mexicans, in old times, in cases of rebellion, deprived entire provinces of this indispensable commodity, and thus left innocent and guilty alike to rot to death.

This mineral is frequently mentioned in the Bible. The sacrifices of the Jews were all seasoned with salt, and we read of a covenant of salt. Salt was procured by the Hebrews from the hills of salt which lie about the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and from the waters of that sea, which overflow the banks yearly, and leave a deposit of salt both abundant and good.

Among ancient nations salt was a symbol of friendship and fidelity, as it is at present among the Arabs and other Oriental people. In some Eastern countries, if a guest has tasted salt with his host, he is safe from all enemies, even although the person receiving the salt may have committed an injury against his entertainer himself.

Among the common people all over Scotland, a new house, or one which a new tenant was about to enter, was always sprinkled with salt by way of inducing "good luck." Another custom of a curious nature once prevailed in England and other countries in reference to salt. Men of rank formerly dined at the same table with their dependents and servants. The master of the house and his relations sat at the upper end, where the floor was a little raised. The persons of greatest consequence sat next, and all along down the sides, toward the bottom of the table, the servants were placed according to their situations. At a certain part of the table was placed a large salt vat, which divided the superior from the inferior classes. Sitting above the salt was the mark of a gentleman or man of good connections, while to sit beneath it showed a humble station in society.

Salt is found in greater or less quantities in almost every substance on earth, but the waters of the sea appear to have been its first great magazine. It is found there dissolved in certain proportions, and two purposes are thus served, namely, the preservation of that vast body of waters, which otherwise, from the innumerable objects of animal and vegetable life within it, would become an insupportable mass of corruption, and the supplying of a large proportion of the salt we require in our food, and for other purposes. The quantity of salt contained in the sea (according to the best authorities) amounts to four hundred thousand billion cubic feet, which, if piled up, would form a mass one hundred and forty miles long, as many broad, and as many high, or, otherwise disposed, would cover the whole of Europe, islands, seas, and all, to the height of the summit of Mont Blanc, which is about sixteen thousand feet in height.

If salt, however, were only to be obtained from the sea, the people who live on immense continents would have great difficulty in supplying themselves with it; and here you see how kindly Providence watches over the comfort of human creatures, for nature has provided that the sea, on leaving those continents, all of which were once overspread with it, should deposit vast quantities of salt, sufficient to provide for the necessities of the inhabitants of those parts. In some places the salt is exposed on the surface of the ground in a glittering crust several inches thick; in others, thicker layers have been covered over with other substances, so that salt now requires to be dug for like coal or any other mineral. Salt is found in this last shape in almost every part of the world; though in the vast empire of China it is so scarce that it is smuggled into that country in large quantities.