Andrew Gross, “Community and Contagion: Crises of Liberalism in the Writing of Benjamin Franklin”
In 1722, when Benjamin Franklin began publishing letters under the pen-name Mrs. Silence Dogood in his brother’s newspaper, The New-England Courant, Boston was in the midst of a smallpox epidemic. The epidemic triggered a crisis of public health and a crisis of public debate. Over half the population of about 11,000 residents was infected with a disease that would kill fourteen percent of its victims; but for the first time on what would become American soil, doctors began to inoculate—in the face of violent opposition.