New York Challenged
The Citys Response to Crisis and Change from Colonial Times to Present
Documents E , F and
G - Cholera Outbreak in 1832
Click on the image to enlarge.
Document F - Report
of the Cholera Outbreak in the New York Mercury, July 18, 1832.
In general, indiscretions in drink and diet were regarded as the most
important predisposing causes: a pineapple or watermelon was a death warrant,
a dozen oysters, suicide. Overindulgence in alcohol was the most dangerous
of all "exciting causes." Though temperance might not save the
lives of confirmed drunkards, yet it would "save their friends the
unspeakable mortification of having it doubted whether Cholera or dissipation
was the cause of their death."
Every day's experience gives us increased assurance of the safety of the
temperate and prudent, who are in circumstances of comfort . . . . The
disease is now, more than before rioting in the haunts of infamy and pollution.
A prostitute at 6z Mott Street, who was decking herself before the glass
at i o'clock yesterday, was carried away in a hearse at half past three
o'clock. The broken down constitutions of these miserable creatures, perish
almost instantly on the attack .... But the business part of our population,
in general, appear to be in perfect health and security.
Document G - T. Gardiner
Spring, A Sermon Preached August 3, 1832, "A Day Set Apart in the
City of New-York for Public Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer ..."
(New York, 1832).Cholera had another function besides demonstrating to
man the power of the Lord and the futility of earthly values. This was
to "promote the cause of righteousness, by sweeping away the obdurate
and the incorrigible," and "to drain off the filth and scum
which contaminate and defile human society." The great majority of
those who fell before this destroyer were the enemies of God. They lived
only to scatter about them the "firebrands, arrows, and death"
of eternal damnation. The order of the universe required the destruction
of unregenerate sinners on the same ground that human society required
jails and chains for those who disturbed its peace. As the editor of the
Western Sunday School Messenger explained to the "dear children"
who studied his weekly column:
"Drunkards and filthy, wicked people of all descriptions, are swept
away in heaps, as if the Holy God could no longer bear their wickedness,
just as we sweep away a mass of filth when it has become so corrupt that
we cannot bear it .... The cholera is not caused by intemperance and filth,
in themselves, but it is a scourge, a rod in the hand of God ...."
to return to the course syllabus.