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New York City's Campaign to Prevent Infection from Philadelphia in 1793

From the New York Diary, October 4, 1793

Last night some citizens on patrole, discovered a man lying on one of the wharves. On their approach, a man, who was near him, was seen to retreat on board a vessel lying at hand. Upon examining the man (who was a Frenchman) he appeared to have been much abused, being in a state of insensibility, and having a large cut in his forehead, the blood issuing from his nose, mouth and ears. The patrol suspecting the boatmen, sent for some assistance, and took a number of them together with the unfortunate Frenchman, to the watch-house.

Messrs. Printers,

The Citizens of New-York are greatly obliged and much indebted to the vigilence and conscientious care which the Corporation and Committee, who act in conjunction for the preservation of health, have uniformly manifested. Hitherto we have acted on general terms. We now invite the Gentlemen's attention to Duke and Mill-streets, where proper subjects present themselves for minute investigation. Let us take a view of the ruins and avenues that lead to and from the same, and then determine whether or not such places claim the attention of those who are invested with authority - Remedies there are and redress expected. The exposed state of some dwelling houses, and yards adjoining the ruins is unsafe, being liable at any time to the inroads and interruption of evil-minded persons.


From the New York Diary, October 19, 1793

To the Committee appointed to prevent the spreading and introduction of infectious diseases in this city.


The particular attention you have paid to the duty which has been committed to you by your fellow citizens, and your earnest zeal in promoting and preserving the health of the inhabitants, calls upon them for that tribute of gratitude and praise, which your indefatigable labours merit; among the means of defence, you have thought proper to establish night-watches; these hitherto have been kept up, and have been of essential service, by preventing the landing of persons, goods, & c. from Philadelphia: But, Gentlemen, we have every reason to fear that these night watches will not be kept up much longer under the present regulations - a few of the causes I will mention:

The first is, That the citizens are generally summoned to a tavern or public house, in the vicinity of their respective wards; the rapacity and extortion too generally practiced on such occasions by their respective keepers, render it peculiarly burdensome to many who have large families to support, and cannot afford to spend from 6 to 16s a night, which I am very credibly informed is the case in several instances; I am unwilling, but yet in justice to my fellow-citizens must observe, that the extortion of these tavern keepers is no longer to be borne. This is complained of more particularly in second ward, where the charge is extravagant for liquors, & c....

Another cause of complaint, is the delinquency of many of our citizens in watching, even though warned, the slightest excuse being thought sufficient to stay at home; by which, one half of those warned do not turn out, which causes the duty to fall peculiarly heavy on those who do; many likewise send substitutes who are either incapable to perform the duty, or very improper persons in other respects; this causes much murmuring.

The last thing, gentlemen, to which I would call your attention, is a very important one, for on this the whole depends: I mean that, when the watches are set, the patroles instead of confining themselves to their respective districts, very frequently in some wards, make excursions into others, and beyond the limits prescribed them; by this conduct they expose the city to the very danger against which they were sent to guard. Thus, while the citizens consider themselves secure, they are exposed to imminent danger, through the inattention of thier guards....


October 17