John Jay and the Yellow Fever Epidemics (Part 2)

As New York City is effectively shut down by a pandemic, we can remember that the COVID-19 outbreak is only the most recent to visit the region. During much of New York City’s early history, waves of infectious disease—including smallpox, measles, cholera, and yellow fever—struck the populace and severely disrupted public health, the economy, governance, social relations, and daily activities.

At The Selected Papers of John Jay, we have been thinking in particular about the outbreaks of yellow fever that devastated New York City in the 1790s during Jay’s governorship. In the hopes that some may find this information useful as they re-think lesson plans for online teaching and research, we are previewing here a headnote by associate editor Brant M. Vogel entitled “John Jay and the Yellow Fever Epidemics” (forthcoming in vol. 6 of The Selected Papers of John Jay). The headnote describes many parallels between the yellow fever outbreaks of the late eighteenth century to the current one. Jay, alongside other municipal, state, and federal officials, sought to formulate, implement, and co-ordinate an effective governmental response; medical personnel sought to understand the nature of the disease and the best ways to treat it, often at the expense of their lives; and citizens sought to maintain a sense of community among food shortages, labor hardships, and fear of the unknown.

We’ve included the second part of the headnote here. The first part appears in the previous blog post.

Subsequent Yellow Fever Outbreaks

Governor Jay prepared for future outbreaks in 1796 by making more appointments, notably Dr. Richard Bayley as Health Officer of the Port of New York in February. Bayley would be instrumental throughout Jay’s time in office.23 The governor also addressed the fiscal failures of the previous year with Broome of the New York City Health Committee and with the legislature in January.24

On 1 April, the state legislature passed “An Act to Prevent the Bringing In and Spreading of Infectious Diseases in this State.”25 This act provided for the position of a health officer for the city of New York, the appointment of seven commissioners for the health department, the quarantining of vessels with sick passengers or sailing from foreign ports, and empowered the Governor to issue orders of quarantine. With the act came a new, separate Health Commission appointed by the governor consisting of Robert Bowne (chair) and John Campbell from the original Health Committee, Jay’s protégé Francis Childs, as well as John B. Coles, William De Peyster, Jr., John Murray, Sr. (who would succeed Bowne as chair), Henry Will, and a William Robinson, all with business connections, several with Federalist affiliations.26

The 1796 act was amended in February 1797 to provide for the cleaning of streets, the regulation of tanners, glue, and soap makers, the inspection of ships sailing from Cape May, and to allow for the collection of fines. It was further amended by two state laws passed on 6 and 30 March 1798; this legislation contained provisions that extended the powers of the commissioners, granted the mayor the power to declare quarantine, appropriated funds for the lazaretto on Bedloe’s Island, and required the removal of sick passengers to said lazaretto.27

The act of 1 April, like the 1794 act, other legislation passed in Pennsylvania, and the past quarantine proclamations of Clinton, Mifflin, and Jay, tested certain constitutional boundaries concerning interstate commerce and international relations. The governors had to some degree been overstepping their authority. With that in mind, as well as the expense of paying for quarantine, Jay wrote to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering two weeks after the passage of the act, concerning the governor’s role in policing ports, and the need for federal aid in such areas as quarantining war ships from other nations that were at war (Britain and France) in the same quarantine anchorage.28 This correspondence was followed by the introduction by Samuel Smith29 of Maryland of a bill which proposed strong discretionary powers to the federal government in the quarantining of ports. Smith’s proposal inspired a state’s rights debate, the result being a modified federal law, passed on 27 May 1796, that empowered the president “to direct revenue officers and the officers commanding forts and revenue cutters, to aid in the execution of quarantines, and also in the execution of the health laws of the states,” but ultimately left jurisdiction with the governors.30 Clinton had already established somewhat of a precedent by unilaterally extending his authority over the Port of New York to the shores of New Jersey and Connecticut. The Federal act, besides providing for federal assistance, also tacitly approved the governors’ control of their ports beyond interstate boundaries and naval authority in times of emergency. By June, Jay was receiving aid from the President via Secretary of War James McHenry.31

Through the remainder of 1796, Jay explored both explanations of yellow fever and the means of abatement. He corresponded with Benjamin Rush, on the domestic nature of the disease.32 Jay ordered a new sickhouse or “lazaretto” to be built on Bedloe’s (now Liberty) Island, after first considering some buildings left by the French, on advice of Samuel Bard, after ruling out housing the sick on Governors Island near the garrison.33 Jay successfully recommended state legislation to strengthen measures to remove nuisances, asking that domestic as well as foreign causes of the disease be addressed. He also requested and received of Bayley a detailed report on the proper arrangements for the lazaretto on Bedloe’s Island, including transportation.34 The 1796 outbreak was mild (247 cases and 69 deaths), and officials believed that they had chosen the correct course. The fever season of 1797 would be even milder: twenty to twenty-five deaths.35

In April 1797, Jay issued a proclamation quarantining ships from the Mediterranean and West Indies. Citing his expanded powers granted by the Act of 1796, the Governor added Turkey and North Africa based on general reputation, as he had in 1795, but this time with stronger legislative backing.36

When the capital was moved to Albany in 1797, Jay remained in touch with members of the Health Committee and the Medical Society, often through Richard Varick, and encouraged all to report any signs of possible epidemics and suggest measures to be taken to prevent them. Jay also traveled frequently to the City, despite the risks. The abovementioned amendment to the quarantine act brought with it the complete replacement of the 1796 Health Commission with a smaller commission in February 1797 consisting of Alderman John Oothout (chair), Jacob Abramse, and Ezekiel Robins.37

As the fever season began, Oothout informed Jay that the fever had appeared in Philadelphia, and recommended that all ships from that city be quarantined and examined before entering the port. Jay responded by signing a quarantine proclamation the very next day, on 17 August 1797.38

While continuing this program of addressing the contagion vector of the disease, Jay also supported the infectious (environmental) theories of his Health Officer. Bayley approached the disease as one from the Rush camp and continued to report on issues of public sanitation during and after the 1797 outbreak. He and Oothout, who was also concerned particularly with the infectious dangers of rotten provisions, worked with the mayor and the Common Council to address these environmental issues. Jay hedged his bets as far as the rival theories were concerned and supported addressing both vectors.39

The health officer and commissioners of health entered the 1798 season confident that their measures were working. Ships were inspected and not allowed into port until thoroughly cleaned. Streets were cleaned, ground filled in, poor drainage attacked, offensive odors removed, and obnoxious industries monitored. As New York prepared for possible war with France by building fortifications on Bedloe’s Island, the Health Commissioners were allowed to use Bellevue as a substitute location for tending to those stricken with yellow fever. Oothout and Bayley continued to be energetic in the pursuit of public cleanliness and kept the governor up to date on the efforts. Jay’s preparation also consisted of surrounding himself with family and friends, working with nephew Peter Jay Munro, Matthew Clarkson (who also served on the Military Committee), and Jay’s former law clerk Robert Troup. But 1798 saw the worst outbreak of the yellow fever in New York yet.40

The beginning of August saw the appearance of several cases; Varick and members of the common council increased enforcement of public health laws.41 Severe rainstorms in mid-August resulted in pools of standing water and flooded basements. Oothout issued a circular, notifying merchants who reputedly stored rotten provisions that they must dispose of them immediately. In a report to Varick, Oothout proposed a regular garbage pick-up and the draining of Lispenard’s meadow. Inspections of cellars were increased, as was the use of quick lime. By September, the number of deaths had reached 950, affecting even the wealthier parts of the city. Many who could flee the city did so, including the sheriff. Jay, noting the severity of the epidemic, even suggested his son escape to Rye.42 Peter Augustus Jay later wrote his father, “I have lost a greater number of acquaintances within a few weeks than in all the former Visitations of the fever.”43 The poor were starving, necessitating the establishment of soup kitchens by the Health Committee. Landlords evicted tenants who could not pay rent, leaving many homeless. The city’s officials were stymied; they had done what was successful in past years, yet the disease grew. By the time the fever had run its course in November, 1,524 were dead from yellow fever, with an additional 562 from hunger and secondary infections.44

Privately, Jay despaired. In a letter to Jedidiah Morse, he admitted, “I believe that Pestilence may proceed from natural causes and that it often does. Intemperance, Filth &c. will doubtless produce Diseases as Cause and Effects. But New York never was so clean and neat as it has been for this year past, and yet an alarming fever prevails in it. If ‘Famine and Plague, Tribulations and Anguish have heretofore been sent as scourges for amendment’ why not now.”45 Publicly, he called for action, urging Oothout to take all measures necessary for combatting the disease: “altho the Fever will probably cease before the middle of next month, yet every exertion should be made to remove whatever may engender or encrease its extension or its virulence: and I flatter myself that the powers vested in you by Law for those purposes will continue to be executed not only with prudence but also with promptitude and firmness.”46 However, Mayor Varick commented privately that “The two Sets of Health Commissioners have almost surfeited the Common Council. The first did nothing or less than nothing; & the last might have done more last Summer earlier & probably saved the lives of hundreds: they were good & honest but extremely timid & unenergetic men. The Health Committee did 4 times as much. . .”47 Varick was referring to the chaos of having overlapping jurisdiction and terms of the reappointed Clinton and Jay Commission and the 1 April 1796 State Commission, which may have offered opportunity for corruption or inaction. Such opinions probably reflect feelings of helplessness more so than any accurate assessment of Bayley’s or Oothout’s abilities–by all accounts, they were capable men as flummoxed by their inability to contain the disease as Varick. This frustration seems rooted in the idea that the public officials should be able to do something; the failure of that effort must lie in men. Varick, nevertheless, asked for more money. Oothout himself had resigned in January 1799,48 making a new appointment necessary.

Jay responded to Varick and his own misgivings by reorganizing the department. Alderman Gabriel Furman, a veteran of the original Health Committee(s), was appointed in Oothout’s place at Varick’s recommendation. Bayley’s former apprentice James Tillary49 would work with the Health Office as Resident Physician of the Port of New York, in a move toward hiring professionals, in accordance with the Act of 25 February 1799. “An ACT to amend an act entitled ‘An act to provide against Infectious and Pestilential diseases’”50 created the office of Resident Physician, placed a Health Commissioner on Staten Island, and two other Commissioners in New York City, and also regulated boarding houses and hotels. Other acts from the same session regulated the treatment of provisions, based on a report on yellow fever coauthored by Tillary favoring environmental causes.51

If the causes of the disease remained obscure, Jay could concentrate his efforts on the human malefactors who could be seen. In a letter from Varick reporting intelligence from Robert Troup, Jay learned that the Sheriff of New York, Jacob John Lansing, had left the city, fearing the fever. Varick describes him as “in plain English a poor dastardly Moneymaking Devil, unfit to hold the Office for this City.”52 In his reply, Jay commented that “the Removal of the Sheriff from the City is in my opinion improper– be so obliging as to inform me whether he remains out of Town, or whether he returns to it daily, or how often at stated or uncertain periods–and whether he pays any and what Degree of personal attention to the Duties of his office–”53 Lansing’s dereliction of duty in a time of public distress seems to have been particularly offensive to Jay, and he pursued the case, making inquiries of Robert Troup. He asked that Troup investigate the reports, and if true, to recommend a replacement. He requested the same of his nephew Peter Jay Munro, noting in both letters the “humane and commendable behavior” of one of the deputies and inquiring of his other abilities as a possible candidate.54

As the epidemic weakened in November, Jay endeavored to understand why it had inflicted such severe consequences, despite all the best efforts. He praised the members of the Health Committee as having not only done honor to themselves, but to their governor. He requested that they continue to investigate reports that “putrid provisions” had contributed to the severity of the epidemic, and “let nothing be omitted to ascertain the names of the Inspectors by whom those provisions were inspected and branded.”55

The final two epidemics of Jay’s administration saw the deaths of 356 in 1799 and 67 in 1800. Yellow fever would continue to return to New York in varying degrees of severity, with the last major epidemic in 1822.

The abovementioned act of 25 February 1799 continued Jay’s policy of quarantine and sanitation, although with a greater and more defined role for the public sector.56 Yellow fever also brought to the foreground such problems as the lack of a reliable water supply in New York City. Several schemes were proposed, including damming the Bronx River, or even the Harlem River.57 But not until a bipartisan alliance between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr was proposed did the City get a waterworks project going. Legislated in Albany, the Manhattan Company would create a rather poorly built wooden water main system fed from an uptown reservoir. Burr “hijacked” the legislation, seizing opportunity from sickness and filth, and transformed the waterworks into what became the anti-Federalist Manhattan Company Bank.58

The yellow fever epidemics forced public officials to rethink how governments act: from reactive to proactive. Even quarantines were transformed from a simple closing of ports, to legislated policies with explicit procedures. The role of government was being reshaped in the face of epidemics. Public health was transformed from private philanthropy to public policy. If it was the government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens, then Jay, as governor, saw it as his responsibility to make sure that this was carried out.


  1. Richard Bayley (1745-1801), Connecticut born, trained first under John Charlton (and married Charlton’s sister Catherine), then under William Hunter in London. A founder of the New York Dispensary, he became professor of anatomy and surgery at Columbia, and researched yellow fever during the 1795 epidemic. Bayley published an account of the epidemic in which he emphasized environmental causes and medical meteorology. Appointed first health officer of the Port of New York in 1796, he authored the Quarantine Act of 1799. He died of yellow fever in 1801. Mayor Richard Varick initially thought Bayley “notwithstanding his oddities. . . an excellent public officer.” An account of the epidemic fever which prevailed in the city of New-York (New York, 1796; Early Am. Imprints, series 1, no. 30041); Varick to JJ, 10 Jan. 1797, ALS, NNC (EJ: 09292).
  2. See JJ to Broome, 29 Jan. 1796, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk 1 (EJ: 02988); JJ’s Message to the New York State Assembly, 15 Jan. 1796, below.
  3. N.Y. State Laws, 19th sess. (1796), 28-30; Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), 14 Apr.; Daily Advertiser (New York), 25 Apr. 1796. This act repealed similar New York City laws of 1784 and 1794, and solidified and extended the powers given to the governor and the committee.
  4. Shrady, “Medical Items”, 419; John Butler Coles (1760-1827), flour merchant, Alderman, 2nd Ward (1797-99), 1st Ward (1799-1802), New York State Senator (1799-1802), became involved in the waterworks scheme of Joseph Browne; William De Peyster Jr. (1735-1803), son of William De Peyster Sr., and Margareta (Roosevelt) De Peyster, served on the board of managers of the almshouse; John Murray Sr. known as “Presbyterian” John Murray, brother of Robert Murray, uncle of “Quaker” John Murray who married Catherine Bowne, Robert Bowne’s daughter; John Sr. and Bowne both served as directors of the Bank of New York in the 1780s and ’90s; Henry Will (1734<n>c. 1802), pewterer, election inspector for the 5th Ward (1794 and 1796), New York state assemblyman (1789-92); William Robinson, probably William I. Robinson of the firm Wm. & S. Robinson, merchant shipping. See Gerhard Koeppel, Water for Gotham (Princeton, 2000), 67-68; Monaghan, Murrays of Murray Hill, 105, 107. For the commission’s work, see Richard Bayley and the Health Office to JJ, 31 Dec. 1796, printed in Bayley, Letters, 30-36.
  5. N.Y. State Laws, 20th sess. (1797), 24-27; Greenleaf’s New York Journal, 18 Feb. 1797; Albany Register, 10 Apr. 1797. There followed an act to provide for the payment of the commission and the health officer, N.Y. State Laws, 20th sess. (1797), 158-61. Greenleaf’s New York Journal, 2 May; Argus, Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser (New York), 3 May 1798.
  6. JJ to TP, 14 Apr. 1796, below.
  7. Samuel Smith (1752-1839), Republican representative from Maryland (1793-1803, 1816-22), U.S. senator (1803-15, 1822-33), general of the Maryland militia, and vice-president of the Maryland State Colonization Society (1828).
  8. “An Act relative to Quarantine”, 27 May 1796. Stat., 1: 474. As Congress debated the bill, Robert Brooke (c. 1760-1800), Republican governor of Virginia, made a proclamation of quarantine three days before the passage. Governor Mifflin was subsequently in correspondence with TP about similar concerns, such as situations in which a merchant captain would avoid quarantine by unloading in New Jersey, where the governor may have followed a different medical theory. “Proclamation,” Columbian Mirror (Alexandria), 7 June 1796; Philadelphia Gazette, 23 June 1796; Mifflin to TP, 25 June, (enclosing proclamation), 27 June 1796, (enclosing report by the port’s resident physician James Mease [1771-1846] on New Jersey incidents), both ALS, MHi: Pickering.

For more on this act and the subsequent debate, see Simon Finger, The Contagious City: Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia (Ithaca, 2012), 135-41; Joseph Jones, Outline of the History, Theory and Practice of Quarantine (New Orleans, 1883), 10-14.

  1. Orders were given to Lieutenant William Wilson, commander of Fort Jay (1796-97) on Governors Island, to assist in the enforcement of the quarantine and health laws of New York State. In the management of the port, JJ also had to appeal to President Washington in reconciling the U.S. customs inspectors and his health officers. James McHenry to William Wilson, 22 June 1795, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03022); JJ to TP, 19 Sept. 1796, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03037); LS, MHi: French (EJ: 04774).
  2. Rush to JJ, 2 Aug. 1796, below.
  3. For preliminaries, see JJ to John Charlton, 22 Apr. 1796, below; JJ to Alderman [Isaac] Stoutenburgh, 7 June 1796, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03020); JJ to Richard Varick, 7 June 1796, below. For detailed planning, see JJ to John Murray, 13 July 1796, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03024); JJ to Richard Varick, 18 July, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03025); JJ to Richard Bayley, 18 July, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 1 (EJ: 03026). For the completion, see JJ’s Address to the New York State Legislature, [1 Nov. 1796], below.
  4. Richard Bayley to JJ, n.d. Dec. 1796, enclosing Bayley to JJ, n.d., ALS, NHi (EJ: 00891); Bayley, Letters, 13-28, in which letter is dated 28 Nov. 1796.
  5. Duffy, History of Public Health, 105. JJ reassured his family that the fever was not as bad as feared or reported. See JJ to Ann Jay, 3 Aug. 1796, ALS, NNC (EJ: 05930); 8 June 1796, below; JJ to SLJ, 4 Aug. 1796, below.
  6. Proclamation regarding Quarantine, 27 Apr. 1797, below.
  7. John Oothout (1739-1804), Chairman of the first Board of Health, 1798, 1799, New York state assemblyman (1800), Alderman, 2nd Ward (1802-3); Jacob Abramse (c. 1743-1820) had been appointed Commissioner of the almshouse in 1795, and served as inspector of elections in 1799 for the 4th Ward; Ezekiel Robins (d. 1808), member of the New York Manumission Society, New York state assemblyman (1797-99, 1800-1803). The commissioners were appointed per Act of 10 Feb. 1797, see note 27, above. Shrady “Medical Items,” 419; MCCNYC, 2: 200, 432, 499; Longworth’s American Almanack, 57.
  8. John Oothout to JJ, 16 Aug. 1797, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk. 2 (EJ: 03268). The mid-August proclamation read as follows:      By His Excellency John Jay Esquire

Governor of the State of New York &c. &c.

A Proclamation

Whereas it appears to me as well from the Representation of the Commissioners of the Health Office of the City of New York, as from other Evidence, that an infectious Disease does at present unhappily exist and in some measure prevail in the City of Philadelphia and which is said to have been lately brought there from the West Indies Now therefore in pursuance of the Authority vested in me by the Act of the Legislature of this State entitled “an Act to prevent the bringing in and spreading of infectious Diseases in the State” I do order and declare that (until this order be revoked) all Vessels arriving in this Port from Philadelphia shall ^be^ subject to Quarantine. And of this the Health Officer, the Commissioners of the Health Office, the Master and Wardens of the Port, the Pilots, and all others whom it may concern are to take notice and govern themselves accordingly–.

Given under my Hand and the privy Seal ^of^ the State the seventeenth day of August 1797

John Jay

By His Excellency’s Command David S. Jones Priv. Sec’y

“A Proclamation,” 17 Aug. 1797, LbkC, N: Governor’s Lbk 2 (EJ: 03269); Minerva (New York), 18 Aug.; Greenleaf’s New York Journal, 19 Aug. 1797.

  1. Duffy, History of Public Health, 105-6; Bayley to JJ, 1 Dec. 1797, Bayley, Letters, 63-69.
  2. Duffy, History of Public Health, 105-7, 131-33; this document, note 10, above. See also JJ to John Oothout and the Health Office, 20 Nov. 1798, below.
  3. Oothout to JJ, 10 and 28 Aug. 1798, Bayley, Letters, 76-77, 80-81.
  4. Varick to JJ, 24 Sept. 1798, below; Duffy, History of Public Health, 106-8; Bayley, Letters, 76-83. On leaving or avoiding the city, see JJ to PAJ, 2 Sept. 1798, below; JJ to PJM 18 Sept. 1798, ALS, NNMus (EJ: 00460), where he says, “they only ought to visit it [New York City] who may find it to be their duty”; and JJ to Clarkson, 1 Oct. 1798, ALS, NNYSL (EJ: 02870), in which Clarkson is allowed to postpone inspection and keep his family safe.
  5. PAJ to JJ, 24 Sept. 1798, Dft, NHi: Jay (EJ: 03591).
  6. Duffy, History of Public Health, 108-9. See also Heaton, “Yellow Fever,” 72-74; and Hardie, Account of the Malignant Fever, 5-48, for a detailed summary.
  7. Paraphrase of 2 Esdras 16: 19. JJ to Jedidiah Morse, 4 Sept. 1798, Dft, NNC (EJ: 09535); C, NN: Bancroft (EJ: 01078). See also Morse to JJ, 19 Nov. 1798, ALS, NNC (EJ: 09548).
  8. JJ to John Oothout, 4 Oct. 1798, below.
  9. Richard Varick to JJ, 21 Feb. 1799, ALS, NNC (EJ: 09297).
  10. John Oothout to JJ, 25 Jan. 1799, ALS, NHi (EJ: 00652).
  11. James Tillary (1751-1818) studied medicine at Edinburgh and was appointed surgeon in British army. Tillary came to New York during the war of independence and apprenticed with Richard Bayley, Wright Post, and Richard Kissam. He was appointed a surgeon at New York Hospital in 1792 and served as a trustee for the College of Physicians & Surgeons, 1807-11. Anderson, Physician heal thyself, 184.
  12. The act amends the Clinton Act of 1793. N.Y. State Laws, 22nd sess. 2nd meeting (1799), 587-95; New-York Gazette, 16 Apr. 1799.
  13. For more on the Furman and Tillary appointments, see Shrady, “Medical Items,” 420. See also Richard Varick to JJ, 19 Feb. 1799, ALS, NNC (EJ: 09296); John Rodgers to JJ, 26 Feb. 1799, ALS, NNC (EJ: 08653); JJ to Rodgers, 4 Mar. 1799, Dft, NNC (EJ: 08987); and JJ to Rodgers, 16 Mar. 1799, C, NNC (EJ: 08988), in which John Rodgers (1727-1811), Presbyterian minister, advocated, unsuccessfully, to get his son John R. B. Rodgers of Columbia College the post of resident physician. See also D. O. Thomas, ed., The Correspondence of Richard Price, vol. 2 (Cardiff, 1991), 234n5. On rotten provisions, see JJ’s Message to the New York State Senate, [18 Feb. 1799], PtDS, N.Y. Senate Journal, 22nd sess., 2nd meeting (1799), 48; NYGM, 2: 435-36.
  14. Richard Varick to JJ, 24 Sept. 1798, below. J.J. Lansing was Sheriff from 29 Sept. 1795 to 28 Dec. 1798; PAH, 26: 99.
  15. JJ to Richard Varick, 3 Oct. 1798, below.
  16. JJ to Richard Varick, 13 Oct. 1798, ALS, CtY-BR (EJ: 05230); JJ to Robert Troup, 20 Nov. 1798, ALS, CtY-BR (EJ: 12337); and JJ to PJM, 20 Nov. 1798, ALS, NNMus (EJ: 00462). In the letter to Troup, JJ notes that the sheriff may have “retired I think to Bergen [New Jersey],” which took him not only out of his county of jurisdiction, but out of state.
  17. Richard Bayley, in his report to the City Council of 21 Jan. 1799, listed the causes of the late epidemic as “Deep Damp Cellars and Filthy Sunken Yards . . . Unfinished Water Lots . . . Public Slips . . . Sinks and Privies . . . Burial Grounds . . . Narrow Streets . . . Sailors Boarding Houses and Tipling Houses . . . Digging Up Made Ground . . . Putrid Substances . . . Water . . . Tents.” An expanded version of this report was published as Bayley, Letters. This was followed by the Medical Society of the State of New York (1794-1807), Report of the committee, appointed by the Medical Society, of the State of New-York, to enquire into the symptoms, origin, cause, and prevention of the pestilential disease, that prevailed in New-York during the summer and autumn of the year 1798 (New York, 1799; Early Am. Imprints, series 1, no. 35933). Both volumes pointed to the old enemies of filth, poverty, refuse, miasmas, and bad weather, but came no closer to understanding yellow fever and its spread. Instead, they provided a blueprint for urban reformers for the next century.
  18. See John Charlton to JJ, 19 Dec. 1799, ALS NNC (EJ: 08671).
  19. John B. Coles was involved in this scheme. He sought to build water-driven flour mills. See note 26, above.
  20. See PAJ to JJ, 3 May 1799, ALS, NNC (EJ: 06083); Dft and Tr, PC of John Jay Dubois (EJ: 09965). See also Brian P. Murphy, “‘A Very Convenient Instrument’: The Manhattan Company, Aaron Burr, and the Election of 1800,” WMQ 65 (Apr. 2008): 233-66.


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