George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 18 September 1793

From Henry Knox


sirnear Philadelphia 18th September 1793

I had the honor of writing to you on the 15th instant since which nothing further of a public nature has occurred excepting a report that Admiral Gardiners fleet has been seen off Sandy Hook. But considering the shattered condition of that fleet, and the near approach to the equinox the report may be doubted.1 It is said this is the cause the french ships have not sailed from New York, which they have not yet done.

Mr Randolph has arrived and will set off in two or three days for Virginia.

The mortality in the city where I was yesterday is excessive One has not nor can they obtain precise information but the best accounts of the 14th 15th and 16th which were warm days the numbers buried were not short of an hundred each day—some aver much more, and some much less. The streets are lonely to a melancholy degree—the merchants generally have fled—Ships are arriving and no consignees to be found. Notes at the banks are suffered to be unpaid. In fine the stroke is as heavy as if an army of enemies had possessed the city without plundering it.

Mr Wolcot the Comptroller of the treasury and myself have taken Doctor Smiths house at the falls for temporary offices so that the public business should not be entirely at a stand.2

I shall set out for Boston tomorrow. Mrs Knox and all my children but the Youngest will to go Newark for a fortnight or three weeks. I understand Mr Jefferson set out yesterday. Mrs Randolph is urgent for Mr Randolph to go to Winchester, but he refuses, although he is impressed with the propriety of the measure, had you been previously informed of it. But he thinks some person ought to remain here to whom You may address your letters.

Colonel and Mrs Hamilton it is said have excessively alarmed Mr Morris Family at Trenton having lodged there The people of Trenton refused to let them pass, and compelled them to return again to Mr Morris’s.3

I do not understand that the fever is much west of 4th Street—below that particularly in Water front 2d and 3 streets it is pretty general. The Weather yesterday and today is quite cool and favorable to checking the disorder. Everybody whose head aches takes Rush. Mr Meredith took upon an alarm 20 grams of calomel and as many of Jallap. although it cured him of his apprehensions of the yellow fever it has nearly killed him with the gout in his stomach.

From the present view of the subject the earliest period at which it would be safe for you to return would be the first of November. I sent to inquire at your house yesterday and found them all well. I am sir With perfect respect and attachment Your obedient Servant.

H. Knox


1This report of the movements of British Rear Admiral Alan Gardner’s West Indies fleet was evidently false.

2William Smith (1727–1803), a former rector of the College of Philadelphia and an Episcopalian divine, had retired to his country house above the Falls of the Schuylkill after the merger that created the University of Pennsylvania in 1791.

3Knox may be referring to the family of Anthony Morris (1766–1860), a Philadelphia merchant and member of the Pennsylvania senate. During the yellow fever epidemic, the family retreated to their summer residence on the Schuylkill River (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:356).

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