Bring out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793

Bring out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793

Bring out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793

Bring out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793

Synopsis

In 1793 a disastrous plague of yellow fever paralyzed Philadelphia, killing thousands of residents and bringing the nation's capital city to a standstill. In this psychological portrait of a city in terror, J. H. Powell presents a penetrating study of human nature revealing itself. Bring Out Your Dead is an absorbing account, form the original sources, of an infamous tragedy that left its mark on all it touched.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1793, the first major epidemic of yellow fever in the United States ravaged Philadelphia, the nation's temporary capital and its largest, most cosmopolitan city. Philadelphia had the most prominent doctors in the New World, but still was not prepared for the crisis. The city's doctors knew little about yellow fever and quarreled publicly in the newspapers about its causes and treatment. By the end of the outbreak, nearly 5000 people were dead and nearly 200 children were orphaned. John Harvey Powell Bring Out Your Dead vividly tells the tragic story. Its original publisher, the University of Pennsylvania Press, has now reprinted the volume on the two-hundredth anniversary of the epidemic.

The months leading up to the catastrophe were turbulent. France was at war with Great Britain, Holland, Spain, and Austria, and wanted the United States as its ally. The french Republic's new minister, Citizen Edmond Charles Genêt, arrived in Philadelphia in May, 1793 and won enthusiastic public support. Recognizing the danger of war for the new nation, President Washington proclaimed the country neutral and gave Genêt a cool reception. By summer, pro-French demonstrations had escalated and, as John Adams later recalled, "ten thousand people in the streets of Philadelphia...threatened to drag Washington out of his house, and effect a revolution in the Government or compel it to declare war in favor of the French Revolution." The outbreak of yellow fever, Adams later maintained, scattered the rioters and spared the nation political upheaval.

Also that summer, many French refugees arrived in Philadelphia from the island of Santo Domingo, fleeing a bloody slave rebellion.

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