Tag Archives: Laying blame
on the question Whether the Yellow fever is infectious [contagious], or endemic [confined to a certain place], the Medical faculty is divided into parties, and it certainly is not the office of the public functionaries to denounce either party as the Doctr. [Benjamin Rush] proposes. yet, so far as they are called on to act, they must form for themselves an opinion to act on.
Thomas Jefferson to John Page, August 16, 1804
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders see no value in placing blame.
Virginia’s Governor Page (1743-1808), a life-long friend, was facing the seasonal return of the deadly yellow fever in the state’s coastal region. Jefferson enclosed a letter from a mutual friend, Dr. Rush, expressing his (Rush’s) opinion on the disease and criticism of those who disagreed.
Jefferson would have none of it. Laying blame would serve no purpose, especially when the medical experts themselves were divided about the cause of the disease. Facing the unknown, “public functionaries” (government and public health leaders) had the responsibility to form the best opinion possible from conflicting information and act on it.