Dave Lindorff in CounterPunch:
As the US confronts both a political crisis of presidential succession and a worsening pandemic, it might be instructive, though perhaps not comforting, to learn that we’ve been here before.
In the period between the 1773 Boston Tea Party up through the start of the American Revolution with the battles of Lexington and Concord and on into late 1775, the citizens of Boston were under the thumb of a tyrannical autocrat, Gen. Thomas Gage, a leader who not only closed off economic life by shutting down Boston harbor as punishment for the city’s acts of rebellion, but also ignored a worsening smallpox epidemic, preventing local authorities from taking action to contain it.
Recounting that historic time of political and medical crisis, Charles Vidich, author of a forthcoming book Germs at Bay: Politics, Public Health & American Quarantine (Praeger, 2021), on the history of quarantines in America dating back to the early colonial era, notes that Gage’s unwillingness to heed experienced local authorities about the dangers of not dealing with smallpox led to public anger, contributed to the support in Boston for the growing insurgency against British rule, and ultimately undermined his ability to resist the uprising. Indeed the widespread smallpox epidemic in Boston quickly infected to his own Redcoat garrison in their cramped barracks in the city because of his mismanagement, diminishing the forces he had available.