“From this, I soon recovered…”

Epidemics of varying degrees were not uncommon in the 19th century. Washington, DC was especially notorious for its unhealthy atmosphere and saw frequent outbreaks of disease such as influenza and yellow fever. During one such period in April 1815, James Monroe wrote to Thomas Jefferson that he “...had suffer’d much from a very severe attack of the sciatick, or rather of the prevailing epidemick which seized on the weaker parts of the system. From this, I soon recoverd, so far as to attend to business, but have not yet regaind my strength, and am affected by cold & sometimes fever on the slightest exposure.” Monroe had written to James Madison earlier that month, inquiring after Dolley Madison’s health with regard to the same outbreak: “We hope that Mrs. Madison’s indisposition, was the effect of the fatigue of the journey only, and not the epidemic.”   Historians often sit at the crossroads of the past and the present, and as such, find a modicum of reassurance in … [Read more...]

Flattening the Curve in 1800

James Monroe was no stranger to doing his part to flatten the curve. In August of 1800, during his first term as governor of Virginia, he instituted a quarantine on ships traveling from Norfolk into other port cities in an effort to reduce the spread of yellow fever throughout the Commonwealth. Quarantines for ships and their crews were not uncommon, and could last between 10–40 days.   By the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A PROCLAMATION. WHEREAS satisfactory information has been received, that some contagious disease exists at Norfolk, which without due precaution, may be communicated to other parts of this Commonwealth, and it being the duty of the Executive, to prevent the spreading of the said disease, by causing the Laws made and provided for that purpose, to be faithfully executed:—I have therefore thought fit with the advice of the Council of State, to issue this Proclamation, injoining all vessels coming from the said port of Norfolk up James River, to … [Read more...]