British biological warfare

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 31 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:261
  1. Jeremy Hugh Baron, honorary professorial lecturer
  1. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA

    In 1763 Sir Jeffrey Amhurst, commander in chief of the British forces fighting a North American Indian uprising west of the Allegheny mountains, wrote to Colonel Bouquet: “Could it not be contrived to send the Smallpox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?”

    Bouquet replied: “I shall try and inoculate them with some blankets, and take care not to get the disease myself. As it is a pity to expose good men against them, I wish we could use the Spanish method, to hunt them with English dogs who would, I think, effectively extirpate or remove that vermin.”

    Amhurst answered: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this exorable race.”

    Captain Simeon Ecuyer, commandant of Fort Pitt, noted in his journal on 24 June: “Out of regard for them [two Indian chiefs] we gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the Smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the required effect.”

    However, in 1803 President Jefferson encouraged the Indians to be vaccinated so “that they would not only be secured by it from the smallpox but that it would finally extirpate that disease from the earth.”

    Further reading

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