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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) S. Delage
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 23:28:26 

From "Dan'l Danehy Oakes":

>William:  the smallpox bit won't wash, not in a quilt from
>American Revolution times.  While the idea of leprosy coming
>through infected items might have occurred to some colonists
>(via the Biblical precepts thereon), it's unlikely that
>anyone would have tried to pass smallpox on through germ
>warfare in those pre-van-Leewenhoek days.

Uh, well, actually it washes quite nicely, thank you very much.

Since Anton van Leeuwenhoek lived from 1632 to 1723, I don't see how his
discovery of micro-organisms rules out "germ warfare" being used in
"American Revolution times" (remember, in the story this was any time up to
1799) even if we postulate that only a person who knew germs existed could
conceive of trying to use bedding from smallpox victims to pass the disease
on to others, a postulate I find very doubtful.

But, I was motivated to find where I had read that this had happened and,
fortunately, it wasn't hard. It is on p. 251 of _Plagues and Peoples_ [1]:

The ravages of smallpox among Indians may in fact have been assisted by
deliberate efforts at germ warfare. In 1763, for instance, Lord Jeffery
Amherst ordered that blankets infected with smallpox be distributed among
enemy tribes, and the order was acted on. Whether the result was as
expected seems not recorded.

Now, this is a fairly well-known work and it seems likely to me that Wolfe
has read it, since he seems to be a history buff (to put it mildly) and it
provides a unusual interpretation of history.

In any case, I stand by my theory. (Although my original post about it was
much too long, rambling and maudlin. Sorry. Fatigue affects me that way. I
need to observe my bedtime more strictly from now on.)

[1] William H. MacNeill, _Plagues and Peoples_, 1976, Anchor
Press/Doubleday, Garden City, New York. ISBN: 0-385-11256-4

William Ansley

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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