tv 1830s Cholera Epidemic and Indian Removal CSPAN August 26, 2018 11:45pm-12:01am EDT
announcer: interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/h istory. you can watch archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. president andrew jackson sign the indian removal act in 1830 which forced native americans to relocate to the west erie american history tv was at the american annual meeting where he spoke with paul kelton to discuss the spread of culture a and how it affected native americans. this is about 15 minutes. paul kelton, the author of a number of books including epidemics and enslavement.
let's talk about the colorado epidemic. what was it and how widespread was it in the 1800s? >> the cholera epidemic was one of the first global epidemics, cholera is a disease systemic to south asia and spread into europe. there is a major epidemic of it for 1830 one and spread across europe. americans saw this coming. it spread throughout north america and it still remains in circulation in 1833 and 1834. it is a global pandemic. it affects millions of people. >> what were the symptoms? what was the prognosis if you got it? paul: you wouldn't want to get it for sure. it spread to the water and quickly incubates in the body creating massive diarrhea.
within a six hour. , -- within a six hour period, one would lose massive amounts of fluid and the body would go into spasms and turn blue. that was one of the telltale signs because your body organs start to shut down. within sixrns blue hours of getting the disease. that everyone died, but it was a very devastating disease. the symptoms were very telling. >> was there any treatment? paul: we were treated today through rehydration. there are antibiotics as well. in the 1830's, no one understood that. they understood the body losing what are and rehydration was needed. they resorted to doses of mercury, opium, and even bleeding. that's not help at all.
there's really no treatment and the medical establishment did not understand the disease. it was very complex. >> if they knew what it was, how it was spread through the water -- paul: they didn't exactly know that. >> a question is, could they have invented it? paul: there is quite a debate going on with the medical establishment believing it was some sort of atmospheric thing. a combination of toxic ,tmosphere blending with miasma decaying vegetative matter. particularly would affect people that had bad habits worse the filthy,like malnourished, and for. -- and poor. the disease spread in this was quite obvious.
even those that had better habits perished as well. because they could not make much sense of it, the medical profession takes a step back for the cause of the epidemic. that is a number of states take back regulations on who could become doctors because the doctors were pretty inept during the epidemic. >> you said it began to wane in 1833? paul: yeah, 1834 is probably the last case of cholera for about another 15 years. in the 1840's, it came back. >> what happened in 1832 through 34? how did it dissipate? paul: this is what i'm working on now, how it spread. it clearly spread through immigrants coming to the united states aboard the ocean liners that are with unsanitary conditions and spread along the
steamboat traffic through the erie can now, the great lakes, down to ohio. what i'm looking at is how the intimate -- the interstate slave trade spread it. down to thead moved river valley and you had indian removal going on where thousands of indigenous people were being forced to move to the west. those two forms of human traffic intersected and spread it with her west. west.sipates -- further and it hades impacted most of the united states. >> what group were most susceptible? paul: all groups were susceptible. i think that is where i come in with my particular expertise and talk about how cholera is a disease often look at as one of these new diseases from
indigenous people. everyone was susceptible. african-americans, your americans, and other people -- euro-americans and others. no it had immunities to the disease or some genetic makeup that would allow them to you with it a better than others -- to deal with it better than others. fact of youre living conditions. did you have access to healthy, clean water? if you did, you were certainly better chance to not become infected. the wealthy would move into the , whereasde temporarily the poor living in the city would be more susceptible. indigenous people being forced onto steamboats away from their homeland, they are susceptible.
why? because they are being ethically -- ethnically cleansed from their homeland. african-americans, living on the plantations or perhaps not as susceptible as those being voted down the river at the time. >> andrew jackson was in the white house during part of this time. did he have any response? paul: [indiscernible] during the epidemic because washington, d.c. was my crosshairs of the epidemic as well. he knew the disease was coming. martin van buren was in england in 1831 writing letters back and forth to jackson about the cholera epidemic. he, like most americans, did not understand why the disease spread, how it spread. he thought it was an atmospheric disease that would not spread to the south. when it spread to the south, he
worried about his own family. that's, traveling to the hermitage, he was telling them to be careful -- traveling through the hermitage, he was telling them to be careful. someone who ate a poor diet was thought to be susceptible. one thing interesting about jackson was he was telling his family to remain calm because anxiety will drive up or tell it the right. at the same time, he pursues this policy that is scaring the death out of indigenous people, and they are having to leave the land they knew and were very exposed to a strange land. people were the ones that had to be anxious -- indigenous people were the ones who had to be anxious.
there was no national response like we would have to day. it was all on a local basis on how people responded. >> the media was still very local. how did americans get their news on this? paul: media was very local, yes. newspapers would pick up stories from other newspapers and reprints them -- reprint them. we had a good indication of how , and sunse spread communities would form health boards to clean up the , andborhoods, to disinfect enact quarantine. that was kind of the response from the local level. >> were citizens demanding more of a federal response? did they expect the government would be more proactive? paul: before the epidemic ofpened, concerned citizens
president jackson asked to do claire a day of fasting prayer. he refused to do it. that is the extent at which federal government would have done anything at the time. i don't think ordinary people were expecting the federal government to do anything about the epidemic. localere expecting the government to do that. if you lived in a port city, you would quarantine infected chips. if you lived into toward, as an example, the local people were demanding no more ships come in to the port. that interfered with commerce. local businesses, people in commerce, they had a vested interest in prescribing to the claim of cholera.
sacramento, and you have presented this to your peers, your colleagues. what questions did they ask you? paul: i think they will ask me -- i hope questions of how extensive this epidemic was among indigenous people. that's will allow me to talk about how it was spread into the lead -- that will allow me to talk about how it was spread into the west. it affected groups in kansas, that were being moved into sentences -- into kansas. it will allow me to talk about how indian removal is a nightmare for indigenous people.
a lot of indigenous people died due to this removal. it is kind of in a general way. we know specifically the diseases they died from, how the process of indian removal auster the spread of this and led -- fostered the spread of this and led to the people being very honorable. steve: is that in your book? paul: it's actually not. that is why i'm pursuing this further. i had originally planned on a chapter on indian removal, but cholera becomes the main story. where my cherokee medicine book talked about, it was smallpox. i did not put that into the book. i thought it was a little intended until -- in tangential to the story i was telling their. steve: how did you research the cholera epidemic? do you know where the word cholera comes from?
paul: i don't. i believe i word -- i read it was a greek word. steve: in terms of researching the topic, where do you go? paul: indian removal is a process that created quite a paper trail. the agents that conducted the removal, they had to make reports to their superior which was the george gibson, the u.s. generalicer commissary for the us army who oversaw removal. agents on the field reported up. it.papers are reporting on havingigenous voice, i'm it hard to find that for the choctaw, but the charities that are reading this, they are using the reason to protest her own removal because they see what is happening to the
choctaw. there is more of a paper trail than i could ever look at in my lifetime. what is missing though, what other historians perhaps have overlooked is the indigenous voice. i'm going to try to look hard for that. steve: why is this your passion? paul: why is this my passion? [laughter] in a very general sense, americans know what happened to indigenous people, that they were forced off of their land to reservations in the west. i do not think americans fully that thatramatic toll took on indigenous people and the legacy for american history. onelegacy of the story is is that america is maybe not an exceptional nation that many are led to believe. global trafficking still goes on today. that is part of the american
story which makes as part of a global history that we need to understand before we deal with these issues in the present world. steve: author and professor, paul kelton, good luck with your >> you are watching american history tv. only on c-span3. >> next, on the presidency. the annual harry s truman symposium focuses on russia and the cold war. speakers assess a cold war to marshall plan. u.s. involvement in indochina and the buildup of the navy presence off the florida coast. the harry s truman little white house and harry s. truman foundation both in key west, florida, co-hosted the event. this is the second of two parts. it is about one hour and 40 minutes.