In The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic That Changed America's Destiny (Sourcebooks, ISBN 9781402236051, April 2010, $24.99), Tony Williams delves into the religious, scientific, and political debate that divided Boston during the smallpox epidemic of 1721. On April 22, 1721, the HMS Seahorse arrived in Boston from the West Indies, carrying goods, cargo, and, unbeknownst to its crew, a deadly virus. Soon, a smallpox epidemic had broken out in Boston, causing hundreds of death and panic across the city. The clergy, including the famed Cotton Mather, turned to their standard form of defense against disease: fasting and prayer. But a new theory was also being offered to the public by the scientific world: inoculation. The fierce debate over the right way to combat the tragedy would become a fierce battle between faith and reason that set the city aflame with rage and riot. This is a story of well-known figures such as Cotton Mather, James Franklin, and a young Benjamin Franklin struggling to fight for their cause amongst the death and debate—although not always for the side one would expect. In the end, the incredible results of the epidemic and battle would reshape the colonist’s view of their destiny, setting for America a new course, a new covenant, and the first drumbeats of revolution. (CornerstoneBooks)
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