An excerpt from the book, The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin and the Epidemic that Changed America’s Destiny, by Tony Williams, ©2010
On April 22, 1721, the HMS Seahorse arrived in Boston from the West Indies, carrying goods, cargo, and, unbeknown to its crew, a deadly virus. Soon, a smallpox epidemic had broken out in Boston, causing hundreds of deaths 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 battle between faith and reason, one that would set the city aflame with rage and riot.
Williams, Tony. The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin and the Epidemic that Changed America’s Destiny. Sourcebooks, 2010, pp. 60-67.