Sometimes this principle has weight, and sometimes it has not; sometimes it is free fire and sometimes it is fire combined with the earthy element; sometimes it passes through the pores of vessels, sometimes these are impervious to it; it explains both causticity and non-causticity, transparency and opacity, colours and their absence; it is a veritable Proteus changing in form at each instant."
The causticity of alkaline bodies was explained at that time as depending on the presence in them of the principle of fire, "phlogiston"; quicklime, for instance, was chalk which had taken up phlogiston, and when mild alkalis such as sodium or potassium carbonate were causticized by its aid, the phlogiston was supposed to pass from it to them.
It should be mixed with six or eight times its weight of loam or ashes, charred peat, charcoal-dust or some earthy matter, before it is applied to the soil, as from its causticity it is otherwise not unlikely to kill or injure the plants to which it is administered.
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