George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 13 October 1793

From Edmund Randolph

Spencer’s 1 October 13. 1793


I did myself the honor of writing to you about ten days ago;2 since which time we have been in daily hopes and expectation, that a change in the temperature of the air would arrest the progress of the fever. But we are still without rain or cold. Our accounts from Philadelphia are hourly more and more gloomy; whether we consider the number of the deceased, of new patients, or of orphan children. It is confidently reported too, that Dr Rush himself confesses, that in sixteen instances he has seen glandular swellings and other symptoms of the plague, notwithstanding his past publications; and that he even begins to retract his former sanguine declaration, that the disorder was within the reach of medicine. I do not answer for the truth of this; but Dr Shippen this morning said in my presence, that the malady had scarcely any resemblance of the yellow fever; and altho’ it did not in strictness accord with the descriptions of the plague in all respects, it had a strong likeness to it; and might with more propriety be classed under that name, than any other in the books of physic. An intelligent Frenchman shortly afterwards affirmed to me, that it was utterly dissimilar from what he had seen in the West-Indies.

In this embarrassing situation I cannot but persuade myself, that congress will not be disposed to sit in Philadelphia; And that Lancaster may possibly be chosen for the ensuing session. But be this as it may, I cannot satisfy the anxieties of my family, without carrying them for the present to Lancaster. I prefer this place to Wilmington for many reasons; tho’ in fact the latter is so much crouded, that I cannot promise myself any comfortable accommodation there. By this destination, I shall be at hand for any instruction, which you may think proper to give.

To morrow I shall attempt to procure a messenger, who may go to the Post-office in Philadelphia for any letter, which you may perhaps have directed for me. I have the honor sir, to be with the highest respect and sincerest attachment yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph.


1Randolph was staying at the home of Nathan Spencer (1764–1839) at Germantown, Pennsylvania.

2Randolph’s letter of 3 Oct. was acknowledged by GW on 14 Oct., but it has not been found.

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