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WASHINGTON, D. C., May 19, 1906. To Dr. Irion, President State Board of Health, New Orleans:
On account of the death at Matanzas service officers in Cuba are instructed to enforce regulations regarding non-immune travel to Southern ports.
WYMAN. This not being considered satisfactory, the President of the Louisiana Board and the State Health Officer of Texas conferred further on the subject and again telegraphed Surgeon General Wyman, with the result that an answer was later received stating that the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service had imposed full quarantine on Cuba, something about which that Bureau has constantly showed the greatest hesitation and reluctance.
Within less than three weeks afterward, on June 6, a positive case of yellow fever was reported in Havana, fully confirming the suspicion as to the health status of that city entertained by the State Health authorities of Louisiana and Texas, but made light of in Washington.
This incident has a certain significance in connection with the importation of yellow fever into the United States in the spring of 1905. During that year, under the belief that Cuba was free of yellow fever, no restriction was placed on traffic from that island and some of the most careful observers hold that the disease was introduced into New Orleans in May of that year direct from Havana, where it appeared in an unaccountable manner later in the season after a wide-spread epidemic of "Dengue" among the non-immune population.
INCIDENT OF THE STEAMSHIP WHITEHALL.
According to the understanding which prevailed among the Southern Health Officials the very foundation stone of reciprocal confidence was held to be the prompt announcement of yellow fever cases by the authorities in whose territory or jurisdiction such cases might be found.
It was considered especially incumbent on the Federal authorities, whose officers controlled certain important stations on the Southern coast ceded them by the State authorities, to keep the latter fully advised. Therefore, when it was discovered June 11 that the steamship Whitehall with three cases of yellow fever among her crew had been twelve days at the Ship Island Quarantine Station within sight of the Mississippi coast without a word on the subject having been
communicated to the State Health Officials, it was felt that the Federal authorities were not living up to what was expected of them, whether they might or might not be technically within their rights in withholding this information.
The manner in which the presence of these cases was discovered was as follows: The confidential agent of the Louisiana Board stationed on the Mississippi coast ascertained that a man direct from Colon had arrived at his home near Gulfport, having shipped at Colon as an assistant steward, or in some such capacity, on the steamship Whitehall, a vessel which was at that very time undergoing a piciously long detention at the Ship Island Quarantine Station.
Following up this inquiry the agent of the Louisiana Board found out about the three cases of yellow fever among the crew of the Whitehall, whereupon he reported all the facts to the President of the Board, who called up Dr. Hunter, Executive Officer of the Mississippi State Board of Health, by long distance telephone and learned that Dr. Hunter was entirely unaware of the presence of yellow fever at the Ship Island Quarantine Station.
Coming so soon after the discovery of yellow fever in Cuba, when everything had been considered perfectly safe by the Federal Health Officials, this failure to make known the existence of three positive cases at their Ship Island Quarantine Station was not reassuring to the constituted authorities of Louisiana and Texas who believed that Providence protects those who protect themselves. Under the circumstances it can not be regarded as unreasonable that many people who were well acquainted with all the facts should have felt grave doubts about the wisdom of surrendering all maritime quarantine powers to the same Bureau in Washington under whose management these and other unpleasant incidents had occurred.
CLAMOR FOR FEDERAL CONTROL.
After every outbreak of yellow fever in the South in modern times there has been a clamor for intervention in some shape or form by the Federal Government. This demand, growing out of a popular faith in the power, wisdom and resources of the general government, culminated in the resolutions adopted at the Chattanooga Quarantine Conference of November 9 and 10, 1905, immediately following the yellow fever trouble of that year, when the whole country was aroused and determined if possible to find a remedy.
That conference was a memorable gathering, summoned on the invitation of Governor Cox of Tennessee, largely with the object of having the Governors of Southern States meet and confer with each other, but also to afford an opportunity for the representatives of railroads and commercial interests of every kind to take part in the deliberations of a body which was expected to exert a guiding influence on legislation, both State and Federal.
The Governors of six Southern States were present, the Chief Executive of Louisiana—foremost among the advocates of exclusive Federal control of Maritime Quarantine-heading a large and influential delegation from the State, composed mainly of business men, practically all of whom were understood to favor such control.
Of the proceedings of that conference, now famous in history, it would be superfluous in this connection to say more than to quote its resolutions which formed the basis of action by the succeeding Congress. Those resolutions were as follows:
HEALTH AND QUARANTINE.
"Whereas, the experience of recent years, and especially the experience of this year, have demonstrated beyond cavil that the house mosquito, known as the stegomyia fasciata, is the sole known cause of yellow fever epidemics and have demonstrated the futility and nuisance of many antiquated methods of quarantine hitherto resorted to, and the wisdom and necessity, in the interest of the public health and public business, of uniform regulations to prevent the importation into the United States of yellow fever and its spread from State to State in the unfortunate event of its introduction; now, therefore, be it
"Resolved, That we, delegates from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, hereby respectfully request the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled to enact a law whereby coast maritime and national frontier quarantine shall be placed exclusively under the control and jurisdiction of the United States Government, and that matters of interstate quarantine shall be placed under the control and jurisdiction of the United States Government, acting in cooperation with the several State Boards of Health.
"We furthermore respectfully request that Congress shall make adequate appropriation to enforce and protect the object of this memorial and to stamp out as nearly as practicable the yellow fever-carrying mosquito in its breeding or living places in the United States, and by negotiating arrangements with the Governments of Central and South America and the West India Islands, in places where the said mosquito has its breeding places or exists in said countries;
"Resolved, second, That we urge upon the Legislatures of the several Southern States that they enact quarantine regulations as nearly as possible in accord and conformity as hereafter enacted.
"We furthermore urge the Governments of the said several States, with the above object specifically in view, to call the attention of the Legislatures of their respective States to the wisdom and policy of this course."
THE MALLORY-WILLIAMS Bill.
Early in January of 1906 Senator Mallory of Florida, who had been conspicuous in the Chattanooga convention, introduced in the U. S. Senate a bill designed to enable the Federal Government to quietly take over the entire control of Maritime Quarantine for protection against yellow fever by authorizing the Surgeon General of the U. S. Marine Hospital Service to select quarantine grounds and anchorages for vessels at suitable points and to erect and maintain at those points stations which would provide for the needs of the shipping and thus put rival State Quarantine Service out of business.
As a seeming disclaimer of any intention to disregard the police power guaranted the State by the Constitution of the United States, Senator Mallory's bill contained the plausible but empty proviso that:
"Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any vessel or person released from quarantine detention by authority of said Surgeon General to enter any State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia against the expressed objection of the lawful health authorities of such State, Territory or District. Provided, that no vessel released from quarantine by authority of said Surgeon General shall be liable for any quarantine fees or charges by any State or municipal authorities."
The Mallory bill did not carry with it any definite appropriation, nor did it touch the vital question of interstate quarantine which interested the people at large more than any other phase of the subject, and relative to which it was feared by conservative people that some extreme action might be urged upon Congress.
At this juncture, Hon. John Sharp Williams, of Mississippi, who was the author of a House quarantine bill providing for an appropriation of $500,000 for the use of the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service in keeping out yellow fever and in co-operating with State authorities to prevent oppressive land quarantines, had an interview with Senator Mallory, with the result that they jointly issued an invitation to interested members of both houses of Congress to take part in a conference January 26 in order to agree upon some harmonious plan of action.
At that conference a committee was appointed to receive bills, resolutions and amendments and to report back to the main body.
From that time forward the bill, as finally passed and approved June 19, was slowly and laboriously worked into shape, very nearly suffering defeat, and it is to be noted that while the Republicans and Northern Democrats refrained from interfering as long as the action proposed related to maritime quarantine at Southern ports, they let it be known that they would not tolerate any interference by the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service in regulating travel or commerce in their sections of the country.
This circumstance, and the fact that the bill is avowedly designed for protection against yellow fever, justified the complaint by the New Orleans Picayune, States, and other conservative papers of the South that this new Federal law is strictly sectional in character, no one pretending for a moment to think that it would affect the status of affairs at important northern ports like New York and Boston.
During the time that the Mallory-Williams bill was under debate the Louisiana State Board of Health at a meeting held February 24, 1906, adopted the following resolution, which was promptly transmitted to the Senators and Representatives of this State in Congress:
Resolved, That the Louisiana State Board of Health requests the Senators and Representatives in Congress from Louisiana to use their efforts to amend the Mallory Bill so as to make it general in its application to all ports in the United States and make its regulations include all infectious and contagious diseases. The Secretary is directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Senators and Congressmen from Louisiana.
The Louisiana delegation in Congress, while not unmindful of the logic and justice of this request, were so situated as not to be able to secure this amendment desired by the Louisiana Board, and the famous Mallory-Williams Bill under which the control of maritime quarantine passed from the control of the State of Louisiana to the U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service was finally passed in the following form: