Yellow fever epidemic of Philadelphia in 1820


Date Written

Sept. 1, 1820

Joseph Ripley Chandler was 28 years old when this was written.
Joseph Ripley Chandler died 59 years, 10 months, 9 days after writing it.
It was written 203 years, 1 month, 2 days ago.
It was a Friday.

Sept 1, 1820

My Dr. Parents,

The alarming reports of yellow fever in our city have probably reached you before this time, lest you should be unnecessarily alarmed for me & my little family. I have deemed it a duty to make you more particularly acquainted with our situation.

Mr. Board quite a distance from the scene of local infection…say as far from your house to the Post Office, we therefore deem ourselves for the present tolerably safe. It cannot however be denied that in the squares, or streets, where it does exist, a terrible mortality prevails. It is calculated that not one person in forty recovers who take it and the two months of warm weather which we shall yet have, offer but a gloomy prospect for the future. Whole families, in the neighborhood of the infected district have fallen victims to this terrible disease and others that have visited that part have carried the distemper with them—this I flatter myself is the worst side of the business—should the fever progress much farther, we should leave the city for a few months until a severe frost, which would effectually check its ravages. You therefore have no reason to be particularly anxious for us as we have only to cross the river to be considered perfectly safe, which we shall do as soon as we discover sufficient cause for alarm.

I received a very kind and gratifying letter from Brother William last spring; it is the first I ever received from him—I believe I have not seen him for ten or eleven years. I perceived from the spirit of his letter that he is made happy in the delightful hope that a good work has been begun in him, may it progress into perfection. The interest of life sink into insignificance when brought into comparison—with eternal objects; may I then my dear parents venture to suggest a few hints through you to my brother—The young Christian, when he is first admitted to the felicitous intercourse of that spirit which is his life and light—is too often carried away from the work of that warfare into which he is called, and he indulges himself in the enjoyment rather than improvement of that grace with which he is blessed—he associates himself with young converts and keeps his mind in a constant exercise of exultation over the blessing into which it is admitted until the elastic principles of the mind becoming weary of a theme which can never be exhausted sinks back into indifference and neglect; this, it becomes the duty of older Christians to prevent. The tender mind of the new born heir of glory should be cultivated with care. Some pious hand should conduct him along the first steps of that path; which is often found too narrow for the intentioned and undisciplined. Young converts should therefore seek the company of older Christians and become early acquainted with their practical truths which will be necessary to their strength in the way of heavenly progress—and the Bible though ever the main of their counsel should frequently give place to well written practical works when the great duties of a Christian are brought more immediately to the understanding. Doct. [Philip] Doddridge’s invaluable treatise on the rise and progress of religion is of all others perhaps calculated for this desirable purpose—self examination is one of the most imperious duties of a Christian—this is indeed keeping a constant reckoning with the heart; without it the sacrifices of our devotions and the incense of our prayers are too frequently polluted by the minglings of selfishness and vanity. Would the Christians deem spiritual instruction of as much importance as temporal, and endeavor to reduce his business of salvation to the same method that he finds necessary in the common vocations of life; how few would be his groans for coldness and [?].

The churning news which I have heard from your town relative to religious exercises leaves good ground to believe that many of your neighbors are participators in the good work.

When I received William’s letter, I was engaged in writing a book of some size which engaged me night and day as the printers were waiting for it to be done, and as soon as it was finished, I found my health so very bad that I was compelled to take my family and visit the sea shore whence I have just returned very much improved.

Mary and Marine join me in love to all the family present our respect to Capt. C. Wadsworth if he is at home, and believe me ever with affection, your son,

Jos. R. Chandler

Scans of Letter