A MARITIME BILL OF HEALTH FROM THE URUGUAYAN PORT OF MONTEVIDEO Signed by the Vice Consul and granting onward passage to the Brig Frederica under its Master William Waddington, sailing to the Brazilian port of Paranaguá. Dated May 29th
1848. Single sheet, 315 x 217mm; with engraved arms at head, partially completed in neat manuscript in brown ink; with evidence of seals, some light soiling along horizontal fold, with some minor furling to extremities; a good example. A standard maritime ‘Bill of Health’, issued to guarantee the health of the ship and its crew, and granting onward passage from Uruguay to Brazil for the Brig Frederica. ‘I Martin Tupper Hood, Her Britannic Majesty’s Acting Consul General to the Oriental Republic of the Uruguay, do hereby certify to all quarantine Officers and others whom it doth or may concern, that by the Mercy of God this City, its Harbour and Vicinity, are entirely exempt from every degree of Plague or other contagious disorder’. The document has been signed by the Vice Consul, a slightly illegible signature but possibly Vernon Hunt.
As such it provides a fascinating insight into cross-boundary maintenance of public health in the first half of the 19th century, especially in the light of the recent cholera pandemics. Major efforts were being made to restrict the spread of disease, with highly organized measures being put in to practice and laws written to enforce these. Ships and sailors, with their easy mobility, were considered chief contributors to the international spread of disease, thus becoming prime culprits and easy scapegoats. The ‘Bills of Health’ nullified this threat. Issued in various places in their own individual formats, they nevertheless followed a standard pattern, were official printed forms, and were signed and dated by specific ‘qualified’ individuals. They acted, therefore, as guarantees: without them the ship could not sail or be allowed to dock: with them the citizens of port towns could feel that their good health was secure.