Korean J Med Hist.  2014 Dec;23(3):513-541. 10.13081/kjmh.2014.23.513.

Control Discourses and Power Relations of Yellow Fever: Philadelphia in 1793

Affiliations
  • 1Institute of World and Global History, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea. flander77@gmail.com

Abstract

1793 Yellow fever in Philadelphia was the most severe epidemics in the late 18th century in the United States. More than 10% of the population in the city died and many people fled to other cities. The cause of yellow fever in the United States had close relationship with slaves and sugar in Philadelphia. Sugarcane plantation had needed many labors to produce sugar and lots of Africans had to move to America as slaves. In this process, Aedes aegypti, the vector of yellow fever had migrated to America and the circumstances of ships or cities provided appropriate conditions for its breeding. In this period, the cause of yellow fever could not be established exactly, so suggestions of doctors became entangled in political and intellectual discourses in American society. There was a critical conflict between Jeffersonian Republicanism and Federalism about the origin and treatment of yellow fever. Benjamin Rush, a Jeffersonian Republican, suggested urban sanitation reform and bloodletting. He believed the infectious disease happened because of unsanitary city condition, so he thought the United States could be a healthy nation by improvement of the public health and sanitation. He would like to cope with national crisis and develop American society on the basis of republicanism. While Rush suggested the improvement of public health and sanitation, the city government of Philadelphia suggested isolation of yellow fever patients and quarantine. City government isolated the patients from healthy people and it reconstructed space of hospital. Also, it built orphanages to take care of children who lost their parents during the epidemic and implemented power to control people put in the state of exception. Of course, city government tried to protect the city and nation by quarantine of every ship to Philadelphia. Control policies of yellow fever in 1793 showed different conflicts and interactions. Through the yellow fever, Jeffersonian Republicanism and Federalism had conflicted in politically, but they had interactions for control of the infectious disease. And with these kinds of infectious diseases policies, we can see interactions in local, national and global level.

Keyword

Philadelphia; Yellow Fever; Jeffersonian Republicanism; Federalism; Benjamin Rush; Urban sanitation; Bloodletting; City government; Isolation; Quarantine
Full Text Links
  • KJMH
Share
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Copyright © 2020 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: koreamed@kamje.or.kr