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[The Quarantine Act and the story of the Blake family's sufferings (see Maryland Gazette, July 9, 1767), prompted the following response from a person who believed the importation of servants did not have the harmful effects that caused the Assembly to pass the Quarantine Act.]

Maryland Gazette, (Green), Annapolis, July 30, 1767.


I OBSERVE in your GAZETTE of the 9th July, No. 1139, some Gentleman has given the PUBLIC a Specimen of his Abilities in the pathetic Stile, in painting the late Distress of a Widow's Family on the Eastern Shore, and attributes it all to the Communication of the Jail Fever to that Family, by a Visit from one of the Felons, some Time before imported in a Convict Ship.

When Matters of an interesting Nature come before the PUBLIC, Facts alledg'd should be true, and they ought to come void of unnecessary Reflection on Individuals, and they will then make the proper Impressions, and be better received.

HEALTH, no doubt, is the most valuable Thing in Life, and I believe it owing to the People's great Anxiousness to preserve it, that their Fears are so apt to multiply, and so many false Reports are generally spread about the Country, respecting contagious Disorders.

If a Family gets the Flux but slightly, a Report is quickly spread, that they are all dying, and their Neighbours will not venture to see them: If it happens to be in a small Town, in little Time, all the Town is dying, and 'tis dangerous to go to it, and almost all Business and Communication with the Country ceases, until the Prejudice is removed; when at the same Time, no one Person has died, or had the Disorder to any Degree of Malignity.

WHEN the People of ANNAPOLIS (that healthy Place) have been only a little sickly, in the Fall of the Year, with Fevers and common Disorders incident to the Season and Climate, I have known it reported about the Province, to the Terror of many People that had to go there on Business, that there was a contagious Disorder raging there, that swept off Eight or Ten People every Day, and that they buried them secretly, in the Night, to prevent Peoples Fears.

THAT Mrs. BLAKE's Negroes got some kind of Putrid or Malignant Fever amongst them, which perplexed the Physicians, and was difficult to cure, is true, and that Seventeen only (not THIRTY) died with it, I believe is true also; but that its Rage did not intermit, until by a waste of Lives, it wanted Subjects to prey upon, is not true; because, after they omitted Bleeding, and administer'd James's Powders, I am informed several of them recovered; and it is thought that Method of Cure, if at First happily fallen on, might have saved some of those that died. It is certain several of the Negroes belonging to that Plantation are still living, and the Two young Ladies, Mrs. BLAKE's Daughters, who commonly attended, and nursed all the Negroes through their Sickness, intirely escaped the Fever: Mrs. BLAKE herself, who was a very worthy Lady, and very anxious for the Interest and Welfare of her Children, went through much Fatigue and Solicitude in nursing the Slaves; and being tender and delicate in her Constitution, got ill herself, and died; whether with the same Kind of Fever, or not, is doubted, as the Young Ladies did not take it.

DOCTOR HALL says, a Number of People, confined long together, whether in a Jail, Ship, or elsewhere, must corrupt the Air, and bring on Putrid Fevers; and I well know, here has been divers instances of great Mortality in Negroes in this Province, without any colour of Suspicion that they could possibly take the Disorder from a Visit of a Convict Transport; and the Physicians have attributed it intirely to great Numbers living together, in a very small House, built without proper Windows, of Passages for a free Air; and the Negroes being very uncleanly and negligent of themselves, Bedding, &c. which has caused a foul Air, and brought on the Disorder, and this is thought to be the case of Mrs. BLAKE's Slaves, and should be a Caution to Gentlemen in the Country, who have geat Numbers of Slaves, to build larger and more airy Houses for them, and see that their Habitations are kept clean and sweet. There have been various Reports about this Disorder's having been communicate to Mrs. BLAKE's Family, from a Convict Ship; but on tracing them, they have all been found Groundless: At last, a casual Visit, it seems, of a Felon gave it; very happy for his Master's Family, whoever they were, that he could not give the Disorder to them, by living in it, when a casual Visit should produce such Havock elsewhere. The Truth, I believe, is, were never another Ship to come to the Country, People, at one Time or other, would die, and we should also, especially without more Care with our Slaves, sometimes have these malignant Fevers among them; and, notwithstanding what has been said of Mr. HOWARD's Family, it is yet very problematical, whether his Negroes were at all affected by the Communication of any Distemper from a Ship.

EARLY in June, a Ship arrived with Servants; Three of them had the Small-Pox, he was humane enough to take them into an out-House of his, to nurse them, and prevent that bad Disorder from spreading in the Country, as all his Family had had it: Sometime in August, (the sickly Season, in this Country) some of his Negroes fell sick, and some of them died; he himself declared, he did not believe his Negroes received any Infection from those Servants; and particularly, a Negro Woman of his that died, and 'twas said with this Disorder, he said he was satisfied catched Cold in her lying-in, and died thereby. He himself was taken ill some Time in the Winter after and died. Perhaps it may be said he he lost his own Life that Way, but it is highly improbable.

I SUPPOSE, for these last Thirty Years, communibus Annis, there has been at least 600 Convicts per Year, imported into this Province, and these probably have gone into 400 different Families.

THE Instances have been very rare that there has been any Suspicion of these People's communicating any fatal Disorder to the Families into which they have bee received; perhaps not one a Year, take the Year's round, and very often the Reports that have been spread about it, when examined, are found to be entirely groundless: This makes it at least 400 to one, that they do no Injury to the Country, in the Way so much complained of; and the People's continuing to buy and receive them so constantly, shews plainly the general Sense of the Country about the Matter; notwithstanding a few Gentlemen seem very angry that Convicts are imported here at all, and would, if they could, by spreading this Kind of Terror, prevent the People's buying them, and then of course they would not be brought in.

I CONFESS, I am one of those who think a young Country cannot be settled, cultivated, and improved, without People of some Sort, and that it is much better for the Country to receive Convicts than Slaves; and that we, who allow them to be brought in, and have provided proper Laws to have their Names recorded, so then they cannot be admitted into our Courts, and restored to their Credit, until their Crimes are purged away, by a Completion of their Time of Servitude, are much better off then those Provinces who don't permit them directly to come in; yet they are put on them, as HONEST PEOPLE, under colour of INDENTURES.

THE wicked and bad of them that come into this Province, mostly run away to the Northward, mix with their People, and pass for Honest Men; whilst those, more innocent, and who came for very small Offences, serve their Times out here, behave well, and become useful People. And, that there is not much Danger of getting Disorders from them, is further evinced, when Gentlemen, who have had the sale of them for near Twenty Years, and have attended every Ship, and been constantly among them during the Sales, have found no ill Effects in their Healths from it; therefore, I believe, though the Law mentioned was made with very good Intent by the Legislature, it must stand Thousands of Years before it will save the Lives of Thousands; since, I believe, if no such Law had ever been made, Thousands of Lives would never have been lost by these Means.

HAD the Legislature, at the same Time, provided a proper House, and Place of Reception, at the Public Charge, for the unhappy Sick, when they should come into the Country, whether Convicts or Passengers, as they have in PENNSYLVANIA, and in all other Countries in the World, where any Thing like a Quarantine Law exists; by which, from having fresh Air, and proper Attendance, they might have had a good Chance for Recovery, and the Ship, Goods, and all have been discharged, and the Ship sweetened and cleansed, and been permitted to proceed on her next Voyage, instead of confining the poor Creatures in the same unclean Vessel, even those that are well, until they get sick and die, as well as those already sick, and detaining hr from her Course of Trade and Business: I think it must be allowed the Law would have been much more perfect; and, I hope, at their next Meeting, they will think so, and make such Provision. But, why it should be thrown out so invidiously, and so early, that the Operation of so good a Law would be frustrated, by every Evasion which the Arts of Interested Men could devise, I know not, unless that Writer knows his own Heart so well, that if he was interested in the Sale of Convicts, he should certainly act that Part.

WHO are these interested Men this Writer means? Are they not the Gentlemen concerned in the Sale of those People? Who else can he mean? If nobody else can be meant, they are obliged to take it to themselves, though the Cap fits them not.

I CONFESS myself a Friend to some of them, and I think I know their Hearts so well, as to be assured, that were they convinced the Country received the Injury that's pretended, or any considerable Injury by them, they would despise and reject the Commissions they receive on their Sale, and Concern no further with them; surely they never would be so mad as to venture their own Lives so constantly, if they conceived an considerable Degree of Danger: And it is well known, that Commissions on Negro Consignments, are much more valuable than those in Convicts; yet, I am well assured, one of those Gentlemen, who had as good Reason to expect a full Share of Negro Consignments as any Man in this Province, so disregarded all his Views of Interest therefrom, when he thought them incompatble with the general good of the Colony, that he was the First that moved in the Assembly for a Duty of Ten Pounds per Head, on the Importation of all Negroes, which he expected would be the same in Consequence, as a Prohibition. This kind of Conduct, then, but little justifies so insidious an Insinuation.

Your's, &c.


[Mr. A.B.'s letter prompted a response from a person styling himself Philanthropos, who argued that the Quarantine Law was effective and attacked Mr. A.B. for having a financial interest in importing convicts.]

Bibliographic Information

Maryland Gazette, (Green), Annapolis, July 30, 1767


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