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tv   The Presidency  CSPAN  January 17, 2015 9:20pm-9:53pm EST

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united nations have established an international police force with adequate powers and without weakening limitations. [applause] >> next on american history tv andrew wehrman discusses smallpox in revolutionary area america and the campaign to inoculate colonists promoted by john adams. adams, his wife, and children will all not related despite widespread fears of the new practice. this is from an event marking their 250th wedding anniversary and was cohosted by the massachusetts historical society . it is about 30 minutes. >> thank you.
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what an interesting time to be giving a talk on infection and disease and epidemic right? with ebola in the news, we tend to forget in our modern health crazed society that early americans, the founders and ordinary people alike really understood infectious diseases in ways we don't. they knew the protocols. they knew how to respond to them. they knew what to do if there was infection in their homes. they knew the rules. i think that is something we are relearning so maybe we can shed some light there. i want you to imagine the emotions running through the mind of 19-year-old abigail smith in the spring of 1764. she and her then fiance john had been betrothed for at least a year when john announced he intended to delay their proposed
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spring or summer wedding to the fall so he could have himself purposefully infected with smallpox the most dreaded disease of the age. when john left abigail on april 7, 1764, to begin the preparatory regimen for taking smallpox by an occupation, -- inoculation, described their parting as painful but marked on the six -- the six weeks of separation gave him more concerned than the procedure he had volunteered to undergo. to be clear, we are talking about in occupation for smallpox. it was a procedure that took someone who was infected with smallpox, took the matter from one of those sores purposefully inserted under the skin in the armed, and that would give the
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inocule a mild case of the diseasee. in a few weeks, they would get over it, most of the time it was remarkably successful. after the procedure, you would be immune from life. it was remarkably effective. this should not be confused with vaccination. vaccination was discovered in 1796 by edward jenner. next nation uses a different disease, cowpox -- vaccination uses a different disease cowpox, which does not affect humans. when you inject that, it provides immunity to smallpox. the problem with in occupation -- inoculation is when you are inoculated during those three or four weeks when you have been mild disease, you can infect other people with natural smallpox, the really dangerous stuff. you had to stay quarantined.
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vaccination, when you were vaccinated, he did not have to stay under quarantine. you could not spread cowpox to other people. that is why it was such an innovation. despite john's fears that he left abigail in tears and anxiety, abigail reported one of her uncles, likely the medical doctor, called her nerves by providing her with a detailed and favorable description of smallpox in occupation -- inoc ulation. he told her that his doctor had not lost a patient and understood it better than anyone in town. she did not think her stubborn fiance would follow all the doctors orders. she admonished him in a letter to let her, who cares for you in sickness and in health, a
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reference to the upcoming nuptials, to entreat you to be careful of that health upon which the happiness of your -- and she signed it "a. smith." while hoping to bolster his young fiance's confidence, he had good reason to declare up on starting the procedure that my head is clear and my heart is at ease. over the preceding 40 years boston had become the most innovative and successful city in the world at preventing the spread of epidemic smallpox. john adams' great uncle was widely credited with being among the first to advocate the practice of smallpox inoculation during the epidemic of 1721. that epidemic unleashed a host of controversy as to whether or not this was sanctioned by god. if you were playing got to purposefully and that -- infect
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yourself with smallpox. those controversies had disappeared by the mid-18th century and the questions became political. under what circumstances should in occupation -- inoculatio the laddern and who should have access to it? the inoculations of john and abigail help illustrate a growing sense of american ingenuity cultivated prior to and during the american revolution. much changed in those 12 years between their procedures as americans demanded broad access to inoculation. they were part of a surge of americans the demanded freedom from smallpox. they asked that their government
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ensure all americans had access to life-saving medical procedures. the atoms like many early americans saw disease and flexion as impediments to independence. to them, freedom and good health were interrelated goals. the quick and vigilant response of the people of boston proved a responsive local government was best in times of crisis. epidemics emphasize the need for good effective quick responsive government. that is what they show us. that is what we demand during crises. there was a previous epidemic in 1752 in boston. this game's and education in handling epidemic disease --
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this gave bostonians an education in handling epidemic disease. nearly half the population of boston became infected. about 5500 came from natural smallpox, getting the disease naturally, resulting in 539 deaths. if you caught the disease, there was about a 10% chance you would ---- you would die. about 2100 people submitted to inoculation. of those, only 30 died, just over 1%. but inoculation remained a risky proposition. if doctors were allowed to practice inoculation year-round, the risk of a breaking quarantine was high. how would you keep control of that many patients? for those reasons, it was usually only tolerated once an epidemic threatens.
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it was the job of boston selectmen to ensure it stayed out of boston and isolated cases did not degenerate into an epidemic. the people of boston came to understand these rules. they took vigilant watch over infected friends and neighbors and reported them to the watchmen. they understood the unregulated inoculation might threaten others, but they also understood it was the only sure way to prevent the disease. during the epidemic in 1752, the precedent had been set when smallpox was detected in 20 households inoculation could begin. they would allow people of boston to inoculate themselves. in late january of 1764, that number was again approaching. normally when a person got smallpox in colonial boston, you or a family member would tell a selectman.
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that person with a potential infection would be removed to a hospital in the harbor or new hospitals built far away from most of the populations. if the patient was in a statement they could not be moved or did not want to, they could remain in their own home. the city would hire carpenters to build a fence around the individual house. they would hoist red flags on the fence so no one would come near the property during the three or four weeks of convalescence. but on march 13 1764, the voters in boston at a town meeting decided to allow anyone to come into boston to be inoculated until april 20. the disease have gotten so bad they said we will put away liberals. let anyone -- will put away the rules and let even people from outside boston come in and inoculate.
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the people in charge of caring for the poor agreed to reimburse any physician who inoculated the poor for free. even the poor would be able to afford the procedure. they would pay for it. the town quickly became one great hospital as thousands of citizens went through the operation and hundreds more came in from other communities and colonies to take advantage of the opportunity of receiving lifelong immunity to this disease. in the spring of 1764, boston embarked on the largest general inoculation in the western world. by march 29, an estimated 3000 people have been inoculated with only three deaths reported. only .1%. they are getting more efficient as they practice it. john adams and his brother peter did not rush into boston immediately after hearing the band had been lifted. they almost waited too long.
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john boehner farewell to abigail on april 7. he began his repertory regimen and was inoculated on april 13 just in week before the deadline. he would have understood going through this procedure would delay his wedding until the fall. john knew that in his legal practice, he had to travel pre--- frequently to circuit courts and other towns across massachusetts so it would lessen his risk by traveling and prevent him from spreading it to others on his return to his family. john's letters to abigail and vice versa during inoculation contain plenty of love and levity. they are interesting to read rhetorically. but he also developed in them a keen desire to see inoculation more universally adopted. he reported to abigail in one of
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the letters there was a man in the neighborhood who contracted smallpox in "the natural way." adams' doctor advised him not to visit the man who had swelled to three times his size. his skin was black as bacon and he was blind as a stone. adams remarked the contrast between that poor so and inoculated patients like himself was before the eyes of the whole town. the whole town could see how much better a procedure inoculation was yet he was astonished many still refused to inoculate. although her parents prevented her from getting inoculated, abigail wished to undergo the procedure. she wrot she would rather havee inoculation half a dozen times and wait it out
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nervously at home. john said he wished the doctor would set up a hospital in germantown and inoculate you. he chided her parents writing "parents must be lost to avarice or blindness to restrain their children." although he boasted none past with fewer pains than he did, he emphasized inoculation was no light matter. but he added who would not cheerfully submit to it rather than pass his whole life in continual fear, subjugation under bondage? freedom from the subjugation and bondage of smallpox is not usually counted among the goals of americans during the revolution. the boston's general -- but boston's general inoculation created such a demand for the procedure in boston, throughout new england that for many
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americans victory over the british in the revolution was of secondary importance to securing their own independence from smallpox. when ordinary americans decide to take up arms against the world's strongest military force, their lives were threatened by both tyranny here and epidemic smallpox which broke out again in massachusetts in the winter of 1773 and 1774. demand for the procedure was rising. which was driving up the price keeping it beyond the reach of poor americans. motivated by fear of infection americans demanded solutions from their leaders. because disease threatens all levels of society remedies that only benefited the rich and powerful were unacceptable. bostonians shared the experience of enduring the smallpox epidemics and large-scale inoculation provided them with a
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well understood protocol for preventing disease. bostonians had a shared sense of susceptibility to smallpox. their fear of the disease stood in stark contrast to the attitudes of british officers and soldiers stationed in boston after 1768. four years after this epidemic experience, the british army is staged in boston. they did not go through the previous epidemic. while smallpox still pose a considerable threat in britain the disease had become endemic throughout most cities and towns. most british soldiers have been exposed to the disease as children so the cultural difference in handling smallpox by the colonists and british would prove crucial in driving a further wedge between the teat of groups in boston. after the 1764 epidemic ended the selectmen resumed their duty
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of keeping the city free of contagion. when outbreaks did occur, they managed to control them quickly by isolating cases. while other communities might begin to inoculate the city continue to be in the procedure until it was featured in 20 households. but in november of 1774, the selectmen of boston discovered five children of a british officer had broken out with smallpox. rumors circulated that british soldiers were inoculating their families, violating the law, and putting ordinary bostonians at risk. in december, the families of two other british officers broke out with smallpox. "the essex journal" reported "it is confidently said the children received infection by inoculation." the selectmen promised to pursue the delinquents for the present and future safety of the town as
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the laws required. prior to the battles of lexington and concorde, the selectmen of boston worked with the governor, army officers, wig and tory doctors to manage public health in the city. two weeks before the battle of lexington on march 20 8 1775, the selectmen called an unscheduled town meeting to assess the present state of smallpox in the town, just three weeks before the battle, started a revolution, they are talking about smallpox. that is what the meeting was about. the report was much worse than what previously appeared in the newspapers. the town had 38 no infected people three of whom were sent to the hospital the morning of the meeting. it was the largest outbreak the town has seen in a decade could selectmen remained confident the
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probability remained in the favor of the disease not spreading. that was probably true, but they did not predict the massive movement of thousands of troops, minutemen, militias, on april 19 that spread the disease into the countryside and throughout boston. throughout the summer and fall of 1775, a standoff between the continental and british army in the town of boston spread both viruses and rumors. the bulk of the rumors came from inside boston where smallpox was thought to have broken out among the poor, truck citizens. a report from a man who managed to escape the nightly patrols and flee the city circulated widely and said city 500 bostonians remained in the city. the inhabitants he noted were reported to be very sickly. colonists feared general gate was planning on sending pock-ridden bostonians out to
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infect the british military and population at large trade those rumors got stronger. four deserters testify general howe had deliberately plan to spread it to the army. someone called the scheme unheard of and diabolical. he passed the news to john hancock. the massachusetts council vowed to increase its vigilance since spreading smallpox "appears to be the intention of our enemies." strong language already. a few days later when hawks begin to appear on refugees, washington changed his mind and wrote to hancock i must now give credit to it as it has made its appearance on several of those who came out of boston. the news of general howe's
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supposing scheme to infect the american army spread. a virginia delegate to the continental congress remarked the plan to infect americans was a vile scheme and as bad as poisoning the waters. samuel ward of rhode island wrote to his daughter, "the monsters inoculated people and send them out of the town and they have since broken out in smallpox." he asks if there is not a crime the monsters are not capable of. the british army left boston for new york in the spring of 1776 leaving smallpox behind. elated the siege was over, the people of massachusetts rushed back into survey the damage, to reunite with loved ones. rumors and fears of smallpox pretty damper on celebrations. the massachusetts general court
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suspected fleeing tories were spreading the disease print the court created a committee to prevent prisoners from infecting the throngs of boston means returning home. because fears inoculation might further spread the disease, it was again banned until the selectmen recorded 20 cases. abigail wrote to john on april 14 that she cannot help but wish smallpox would spread. she was hoping it would spread more, so that she could legally have herself and her children inoculated. she wrote if it should spread, there is not the one thing that would prevent my going down to our own house and having it with all our children. lifelong protection from the disease was worth the cost. and she added, i don't know but i should be tempted to run you into debt for it. she would do it no matter what it cost.
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a great quotation, "i will run you into debt to secure the lives of our family." many in and around boston did not have abigail's patients or respect for the legislature's ban. abigail's uncle noted in oculi to have been carried on in private for some time among the soldiery and others. then the reports of the american army's disastrous canadian campaign make calls for inoculation stronger. abigail wrote the distressing news from canada about the 3000 soldiers and officers who died of smallpox showed her the importance of having that distemper in youth. she reported if the doctor required lead from the court to open a hospital somewhere, she with all the children would be in the first class. you may depend on it, she wrote to john.
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john responded that smallpox is 10 times more parable -- terrible than britains, canadians, and a means together. -- indians together. he said i wish and inoculating hospital was open in every town in new england. in the summer of 1776 while john and 55 others in philadelphia were debating a resolution on independence, the people of boston, the crucible of the revolution, declared their independence from that greater scourge of smallpox. the measures taken in both cities provided hope america would not only be a republic free of a king but also a country free of disease. on july 3 17 76, the day before the declaration was approved the day after independence was declared in philadelphia, the massachusetts general court lifted the ban on inoculation. despite the dangers of
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infection, the people of boston and surrounding areas cheered the news. a court official an insurance broker declared liberty is given to inoculate for the smallpox, many began upon it this afternoon. dr. james warren wrote john adams on july 17 that boston had become "a great hospital for inoculation and that the rage for inoculation had whirled into its vortex." he and his wife joined abigail adams and her children who had been invited to be inoculated abigail's ogle house in boston along -- uncle's house in boston along with families. 17 people in total in the house undergoing inoculation. the continental congress debated the wording of thomas jefferson's document. adams combined his hopes for both inoculation and
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independence. brimming with excitement over the previous day's exchanges in congress, adams wrote a pair of letters to his wife on july 3. in the first, he repeated his hope that one hospital will be licensed in every county if not every town before exclaiming you will see in a few days a declaration setting forth the causes which have held us into this might've revolution -- which have impelled us into this mighty revolution. he wrote about smallpox first before describing they had come up with this declaration. he reflected on the chain of events that brought on the declaration and remarked on its sadness. -- suddenness. he said it is the will of heaven that the two written in america should be sundered, forever. again he repeated, it is the
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will of heaven that america shall suffer, am at ease still more waste -- suffer calamities more dreadful. those trials will inspire americans with virtues and correct many follies and vices with threatened to dishonor and destroy us. knowing his wife. the spread of smallpox in boston and was anxious to inoculate his letter cast the revolution as the furnace of affliction which would refine states as well as individuals. for adams, the epidemic in boston and other catastrophes of the revolution proved the rightness of the cause and moral fiber of all americans. abigail and her children were inoculated she wrote to john our little ones stood the operation manfully. she related such a spirit of inoculation never before took place.
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the town and every house in it are as full as they can hold. on july 18, 1776, colonel thomas kraft bread the declaration for the first time from the balcony of the statehouse in boston. abigail adams was there and joined the multitude in the street to hear the proclamation. the audience looking up at the colonel was entirely composed of recently inoculated estonians -- bostonians were those who had had the disease previously and were now nursing the rest. guard injuries were built to prevent anyone from entering the city who had not had the disease before. the crowd cheered as bells rang. the platoons followed.
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every face appeared joyful, she wrote. which is interesting. there joyful because they are hearing the declaration but also joyful together. although smallpox prevented thousands from joining the celebration, she wrote, she rejoiced that every vestige of the king had been burned. she concluded her letter exclaiming thus ends all royal authority in the state, and all the people shall say amen. beginning in 1776 and continuing throughout the war is more americans demanded inoculation prohibitions against its use ended. in massachusetts license was given for an inoculation hospital to be built at public expense in every county. many communities opted for general inoculation with door to door inoculations. after george washington finally
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ordered the inoculation of troops in the continental army in the winter of 1777 access became a cornerstone of public health. in may of 1777, abigail wrote to john that inoculation had finally come to braintree. she wrote they now had two hospitals in the upper parish. the attending physician had inoculated 200 people since march, and abigail noted he now has more than 100 in it from this and a neighboring town. six or seven of my neighbors went in yesterday, and one from my own family. the following summer in 1778, abigail again wrote john news of smallpox after another outbreak she noted hospitals are opened in almost every town, that news that probably shocked both, abigail's 71-year-old father
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finally decided to undergo the procedure. a revolution had occurred within the smith family and in thousands of families across the colonies as thousands of men women, and children during the revolution rolled up their sleeves to be inoculated against smallpox. in the midst of the revolutionary war, william smith, the venerable pastor of this church followed his daughter and son-in-law's example and protected himself against that dreaded disease. thanks. [applause] >> the c-span's city tour travels to u.s. cities to learn about their history and literary life.
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this weekend, we partnered with comcast for a visit to wheeling west virginia. >> i wrote these books. there are two volumes. the reason i thought it was important to collect these histories is wheeling transformed into an industrial city in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. it is kind of uncommon in west virginia in that it true a lot of immigrants from various parts of europe here in search of jobs and opportunity. that generation, that immigrant generation, is pretty much gone. i thought it was important to record their stories and get memories of the immigrant generation and the ethnic neighborhoods they formed. it is an important part of our history. most people tend to focus on the front tier history, the civil war history. those are important, but of equal importance in my mind is the

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