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How did Washington deal with the epidemic in the 18th century?

Last year, George Washington’s presidential administration became surprisingly involved in today’s politics – not just because of it. In advance Many of America’s current political ills, or its status as founding fathers. In fact, like Trump and now Biden, Washington has had to fight an epidemic.

As biologist Joshua S. Looms wrote in his book “Infectious Diseases: The Effects of Germs and Their Power on Humanity,“Like Washington and other founding fathers, John Adams was concerned that since most soldiers in the Continental Army did not get smallpox as children, everyone would be infected with the plague after living in nearby areas. As John Adams argued, “Smallpox is ten times more frightening than British, Canadian and Indian. ”

The founding fathers’ concerns were confirmed when an epidemic struck Boston (then under British control) and refugees began to follow American lines. Washington responded by severely quarantining any soldier who showed symptoms of the disease or who had recently undergone mutations, an early form of vaccination in which people were exposed to substances from the pistols of mildly infected patients. Were

Although Quarantine served American purpose in Boston, it was less successful in Canada, as about half of the troops died of smallpox. Britain took advantage of this, rapidly destroying American dreams of conquering part of Canada.

Just as Biden did with today’s army.Washington eventually decided that every soldier needed to be vaccinated (albeit in different ways), a policy it secretly implemented in the winter of 1777 and 1778. His plan worked. Many historians today say that this was necessary for America’s success in the Revolutionary War, because Washington would have had to waste time fighting the plague and possibly lose many of its troops in the process.

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With a gap of 243 years, the federal epidemics are staggering now and then. And while the duration of cultural discourse may have varied ینا there was certainly no “cultural war” at the time, at least not in the modern sense واشنگ Washington, like many world leaders, adheres to pro-science, shared welfare principles. Was.

As historians confirm, when Washington had the power to do so strongly, it always preferred to protect lives and use the best current scientific knowledge. If he lacked that power, he would still try to act responsibly, both to protect his life and to set a good example. He lived in imperfect times – both in terms of what a president could do and what public officials thought of infectious diseases – but with remarkable insight and skill he was able to manage epidemics permanently.

According to Dr. Lindsay M. Chironsky, “Cabinet: George Washington and the creation of an American institution“There was no concept of national health during the Washington administration, which lasted from 1789 to 1797. Because public health matters were considered a strict circle of state and local authorities, Washington was unable to function at that time. When a high yellow fever broke out, through Philadelphia (then the capital) in 1793. Instead, the president, Congress, and other high-ranking officials fled the city that year (and during the epidemic in later years) when they learned that the weather had changed. Cold weather has killed enough mosquitoes to avert the threat. They will leave German Town, Pennsylvania or Trenton, New Jersey and return to government from Philadelphia. should do.

Although epidemic politics was pursued during Washington’s presidency, neither side showed clear contempt for science. The two major political parties at the time were the Democratic Republicans (led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) and the Federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, who had federal sympathies with Washington). Democratic Republicans blame the epidemic for the unhealthy physical climate in cities, in keeping with their pro-rural political philosophy. Federalists, who were xenophobic and protectionist, argued that migrants and merchant ships from the Caribbean and Africa had brought diseases to US shores. Because yellow fever is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, there was a point everywhere: mosquitoes die in Philadelphia during the winter, so yellow fever had to be imported from somewhere (in this case St. Domingo, or modern-day Haiti). But once it got into a frenzy in Philadelphia, he was offered a fertile breeding ground.

“The basic parallel today is that the disease and the ‘cure’ or vaccine have become polarized, but for very different reasons than in 1793,” Cheronsky told Salon by email. No one was arguing. Whether the disease is a hoax or a denial of science. Instead, they came to different conclusions based on observations, even if those observations were politically biased. “Neither side has based its entire position on fabricated facts. As Trump and his supporters did during the COVID-19 epidemic.. “The observations on both sides were correct, they were not just the whole picture,” Cheronsky added.

As Loomis noted, Washington was also dealing with losses beyond its control.

“It’s important to keep in mind that in the 18th and early 19th centuries, no one still understood how epidemics spread,” Looms wrote to Salon. “Most people still believe that toxic odors (myasma), physical imbalances (humor), natural disasters or evil spirits are the causes of infectious diseases such as yellow fever, plague and smallpox.” In the mid-19th century, scientists Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, John Snow, Joseph Lester and Ignaz Semmelweis Who made it known as the germ theory.

Given this context, Washington-era leaders responded to epidemics with basic sanitation measures and quarantines, evacuating from a dangerous area if necessary. In general, Washington was “more active and practical in preventing disease” because it was necessary from a military point of view. As president, he did just what his contemporaries expected him to do under similar circumstances. At least when it comes to public health issues, he refrains from using bullying.

Lomes added, “For example, he never encouraged the general population to have a small outbreak of smallpox, nor did he react to the outbreak when yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793. Hit. ”

This is not to say that Washington has given a perfect answer to the epidemics of its time. At the same time, he and other US political leaders understood that infectious diseases were a serious problem and needed to be addressed. He also said that it was the responsibility of government officials to use the best scientific knowledge available, even if the responsibility fell on local officials in certain circumstances.

Yet there is another major political difference in the management of epidemics. Although he still had his limitations as a leader in Washington, at no point did he or any other political leader of his time deny science or neglect the public good.

It is also clear that, although we cannot know for sure how they reacted to epidemics, the politicians of the 1780s and 1790s certainly did not see them. Biden’s Vaccine Order And other COVID-19 policies. As a tyrant. Such policies are in line with Washington’s variable mandate for soldiers and to move the government out of Philadelphia during a yellow fever outbreak. There was also Washington. Ready to use political power creatively When he considered it necessary for the public good, a philosophy he had never questioned was compatible. Democracy.

Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard law scholar who specializes in constitutional law, told Salon by email.

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