[In 1767 the Maryland Assembly passed a law designed to limit the effects of diseased convicts being imported into the colony. The text of the act was published in the Maryland Gazette.]
Maryland Gazette, (Green), Annapolis, July 9, 1767.
The following Act, passed last Session, is inserted at the Request of several of our Correspondents.
An ACT to oblige Infected Ships, and other Vessels, coming into this Province, to perform Quarantine.
WHEREAS great Mischiefs have arisen from the landing of Goods and Passengers from Ships and other Vessels coming into this Province with Servants and German Passengers, by communicating to, and spreading amongst the Inhabitants, dangerous infectious Distempers, begun at first by Numbers of People being closely confined together for long Times in a small Space:
Be it therefore Enacted, by the Right Honourable the Lord Proprietary, by and with the Advice and Consent of his Lordship's Governor, and the Upper and Lower Houses of Assembly, and the Authority of the same, That no Ship or Vessel whatsoever, coming into this Province after the First Day of May next, and in which Ship or Vessel there shall be imported more than Thirty Servants or Passengers, shall be admitted to make her Entry, or land or put on Shore any Goods, Passenger, or Servant, before the Master, together with Two other credible Persons, shall make Oath before the Collector, or Naval Officer, with whom such Ship or Vessel shall first enter, "That neither the Small-Pox, Jail-Fever, Yellow-Fever, Flux, or any such dangerous infectious Distemper, is, or hath been on board such Ship or Vessel, on her Passage, to the Knowledge or Belief of such Captain, or other Persons taking such Oath respectively:" Which Oath the said Collector, or Naval Officer, is hereby impowered and directed, personally, or by their Deputies, to administer, and a Certificate thereof give, without Fee or Reward.
And be it further Enacted, That in case any such Ship or Vessel shall be offered to be entered, and such Oath shall be refused to be made, or delayed for the Space of Forty-eight Hours thereafter, that then the Officer, to whom Application shall be made for Entry as aforesaid, shall, and he is hereby enjoined and strictly required immediately thereupon, to transmit and send a full and distinct Account and Information thereof, to the Governor or Commander in Chief of this Province for the Time being: And, on such Information given as aforesaid, such Ship or Vessel shall be obliged to make her Quarantine in such Place or Places, for such Time, and in such Manner, as from Time to Time shall for that Purpose be directed by the Governor or Commander in Chief of this Province, for the Time being; and, that during the said Time, and until the said Ship or Vessel shall be discharged of and from such Quarantine, no Person coming, or Goods imported therein, shall come, or be put on Shore, or go on board any other Ship or Vessel within this Province, nor shall any Person go on board said Ship or Vessel, obliged as aforesaid to make Quarantine, without Licence first had and obtained from the Governor or Commander in Chief for the Time being, in such Manner, and under such Limitations and Restrictions as he shall think fit to grant or allow the same: And, that in case there shall be any Breach of the said Quarantine, in any Respect, the Master, Commander, Chief Officer, or Person having the Charge of such Ship or Vessel, without such Licence as aforesaid, shall, if a Free Person, forfeit and pay One Hundred Pounds Sterling, to be recovered, with full Costs of Suit, in any Court of Record within this Province, by Action of Debt, Bill of Indictment, Plaint or Information, wherein no Essoin, Protection, or Wager of Law, or more than one Imparlance, shall be allowed; and if a Servant or Slave, suffer such corporal Punishment, by Whipping, not exceeding Thirty-nine Stripes, as by Two Justices of the Peace shall be ordered and adjudged, upon Complaint and Proof of such Offence.
And be it further Enacted, That the Master or Commander of every Ship or Vessel, importing above the said Number of Passengers or Servants into this Province, after the said First Day of May next, shall before the said Ship or Vessel shall be admitted to make her Entry, discover and disclose to the Collector and Naval Officer aforesaid, the Number of Passengers and Servants imported in such Ship; and, if the Master or Commander of any such Ship or Vessel shall not make such Discovery as aforesaid, he shall forfeit and pay One Hundred Pounds Sterling, to be recovered as aforesaid.
And be it further Enacted, That any Master or Commander of a Ship or Vessel, importing above the said Number of Passengers or Servants as aforesaid, who shall land or put on Shore any Passenger, Servant, or Goods, from on board such Ship, or shall sell any Servant imported in sich Ship, and also every Person who shall buy any such Servant, or knowingly entertain in his, or her House, any Passenger or Servant, or receive any Goods imported in such Ship, before Certificate obtained of such Oath being made as aforesaid, shall respectively forfeit and pay Twenty Pounds Sterling, to be recovered as aforesaid.
And whereas dangerous infectious Distempers frequently break out in Ships and Vessels importing Passengers and Servants into this Province, on their Arrival here, after healthy Passages: Be it therefore Enacted, That even after such Certificate obtained as aforesaid, if it shall be made appear to the Governor or Commander in Chief of this province, for the Time being, by Proof, on Oath of at least Two credible Witnesses, that the Passengers or Servants imported in such Ship or Vessel, or the Crew thereof, or any of them, are, or is infected with, or have the Jail or Yellow Fever, or any such dangerous infectious Distemper, the Governor, or Commander in Chief, may thereupon order such Ship or Vessel to perform Quarantine in the Manner aforesaid, and under the same Penalties as a herein before mentioned, to all Persons concerned.
And be it further Enacted, That any Person whatsoever, falsely, and corruptly making the Oath aforesaid, shall and may be prosecuted in the same Manner, and suffer the like Punishment as for wilful and corrupt Perjury. And that in any Suit or Prosecution for the Recovery of any Penalty under this Act, the Defendant or Defendants may, in the Discretion of the Counrt, be awarded to give special Bail, one Half of all which Penalties, where the Recovery shall be by Action of Debt or Information quitam, to the Use of the Informer, or him, her or them that shall sue for and recover the same; and the other Half thereof shall be paid to the Sheriff of the County where the Recovery shall be had, and by him passed into the Hands of the Treasurer of the Shore whereon the same shall be recovered, for the Use of the Public of this Province, to be applied and laid out in the Purchase of a Place, and building a Pest-House for the Reception of the Infected, as the General Assembly for the Time being shall direct; or where the Recovery shall be had, otherwise than by Action of Debt, or Information quitam, the whole of the said Penalties shall be paid and applied to the Uses here aforesaid.
This Act to continue Three Years, and to the End of the next Session of Assembly which shall happen after the Expiration of the said Three Years.
[In the same issue that the law was published, there was an account of the harmful effects of the "jail fever" on an Eastern Shore family.]
ANNAPOLIS, JULY 9.
Last Week arrived here the Ship ALBION, Capt. SPENCER, from BRISTOL; with upwards of One Hundred of his Majesty's Seven Years Passengers: By Means of a Ventilator on board, 'tis said they are very healthy. The Ship has since proceeded for CHESTER River.
"The deplorable Havock lately made in the Family of a Widow Lady on the Eastern Shore, by that horrid contagious Distemper, commonly called the JAIL-FEVER, ought to give fresh Warning to the Inhabitants of this Province, how they admit this baneful Malady into their Families. A casual Visit, it seems, from one of the Felons, sometime since imported in a Convict Ship, communicated the Distemper to the Negroes. It is confidently reported that near Thirty People in this Family (among which the worthy Lady herself was one) fell Victims to the Fury of this malignant ravaging Pestilence. Its Progress was rapid, and its Virulence too powerful for all the Skill and Assiduity of our ablest Physicians; nor did its Rage intermit, 'til, by a Waste of Lives, it wanted Subjects to prey upon.----What aggravated the afflicting Circumstances of this unhappy Family, was a total Suspension of thise tender Offices which this much respected Lady might have expected from a humane Neighbourhood. They could only behold, with heart-felt Sympathy, a Distress which they could not attempt to relieve without the utmost Hazard of their own Lives. The Case of Mr. HOWARD, near ANNAPOLIS, who lost his own Life, and many of his Family, is a recent and notorious Instance of the Malignity of the Distemper.-----Moved by a tender Concern for the Inhabitants, who have too often felt the direful Rage of this wide-wasting Contagion, our Assembly, at their last Meeting, enacted a Quarantine Law, which will probably give some Check to its Introduction, and save the Lives of Thousands. It is to be wish'd that the People may cherish an Act, so manifestly tending to the Preservation of their Lives, their Healths, and their Property, and that they will take every Measure in their Power, to forward the Execution of it, and obviate every Evasion which the Arts of interested Men can devise to frustrate its Operation, and prevent the beneficial Purpose of our Legislature."
[The law and the story of the Eastern Shore family prompted a response from a Mr. A.B., who wrote a letter to the newspaper attacking the quarantine law, and defending the importation of convicts into Maryland.]
Maryland Gazette, (Green), Annapolis, July 9, 1767.