Having found on my going to town … that I had but one clerk left, and that business could not be carried on, I determined to set out for Virginia as soon as I could clear my own letter files. I have now got through it so as to leave not a single letter unanswered, or thing undone, which is in a state to be done, and expect to set out tomorrow or next day …
Colo. Hamilton and Mrs. Hamilton are recovered [from the yellow fever]. The Consul Dupont is dead of it. So is Wright.
P.S. Sep. 16. … Since writing the above I have more certain accounts from the city. The deaths are probably about 30. a day, and it continues to spread. Saturday was a very mortal day. Dr. Rush is taken with the fever last night.
Thomas Jefferson to [President] George Washington, September 15 & 16, 1793
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time, which killed 5,000 of the city’s 50,000 residents.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Everyone, leaders included, suffer personally in a devastating crisis.
Having decided to leave Philadelphia after first determining to stay, Secreatry of State Jefferson has tied up every possible loose end before his departure. He planned to stop at Washington’s home on his way to Monticello.
He reported that Treasury Secretary Hamilton was recovering, while two others in their circle had died.
He added a P.S. countering his earlier assertion the fever was abating. Also, eminent physician, Declaration of Independence signer and friend Dr. Benjamin Rush became ill overnight. (Rush would survive, live another 20 years and be instrumental in facilitating the reconciliation between John Adams and Jefferson in 1812.)