To Timothy Pickering
Mount Vernon 14th Octobr 1793.
The numerous & various reports which I have received from people who were not possessed of any accurate information with respect to the state of the malignant fever with which Philadelphia is so unfortunately afflicted, and my intention being to return thither, or to it’s neighbourhood about the first of next month, have induced me to ask this information from you—and I beg you will advise me as well of the state of the fever in Philada as whether it has extended itself in it’s vicinity, German town &c. to which last I have heard it has reached.
Taking it for granted that the fever will not have entirely disappear’d in the City of Philada & the place become quite purified so as to admit the members of Congress to meet there with safety by the first of December, what accommodations could be had for them in German town, if it should be free from infection? If, however, this place should be thought unsafe or improper, what other has been in contemplation for the next Session of Congress? Full information of these matters, & of the prevailing sense of those who have had an opportunity of judging & are best acquainted with the true situation of things in & about Philada is what I very much want, as the accounts we receive here are so opposite & unsatisfactory that we know not on which to rely.
By report we learn that mister Willing (President of the Bank) mister John Ross, mister Jonathan Sergeant, mister Howell, Colonel Franks & many others of our acquaintance have fallen victims to this fatal fever 1—that near 4,000 have died, & that the disorder is more violent than ever. Is this a faithful representation? I hope your family is out of the way of this dreadful contagion, & that you and mistress Pickering are well.2 With esteem & regard I am, Sir, Your very humble Servant
P.S. What sort of a place is Reading? How would it answer for the accomodation of Congress the ensuing Session?
LS, MHi: Pickering Papers; Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.
1. Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant (1746–1793), a lawyer and former congressman, became a member of the committee appointed in September for the relief of the sick at Philadelphia. He died in early October. It is uncertain which Mr. Howell GW intended to reference. Three men of that name are listed by Mathew Carey as victims of the epidemic, and Oliver Wolcott, Jr., informed GW of another, who recovered (Carey, Short Account of the Malignant Fever description begins Mathew Carey. A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia: With a Statement of the Proceedings that took place on the Subject, in Different Parts of the United States . . .. 1794. Reprint. New York, 1970. description ends , 140; Wolcott to GW, 20 Oct.). Although a man named John Ross died during the fever (Carey, Short Account of the Malignant Fever description begins Mathew Carey. A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia: With a Statement of the Proceedings that took place on the Subject, in Different Parts of the United States . . .. 1794. Reprint. New York, 1970. description ends , 154), the merchant John Ross, to whom GW probably was referring, survived.
2. Rebecca White Pickering (1754–1828) had married Timothy Pickering in 1776.