At the time of the New England Courant's original publication, Boston was devastated by a smallpox epidemic. Many individuals, especially children, perished due to the disease. Fortunately though, a vaccine had been developed. Initially, most people were reluctant to use this vaccine and skeptical of its life-saving potential. When the Mather family, Boston's most influential line of ministers, advocated the inoculation of the town's citizens, James Franklin used the New England Courant to oppose the plan. James featured the testimony of various Boston physicians who were not convinced of the merits of vaccination. In the end, the vaccination efforts ultimately prevailed, largely due to the efforts of another physician, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston. Many lives were saved due to the perseverance of Boylston and the Mather ministers. Today, a major street of downtown Boston is named in honor of Dr. Boylston. The Mather family never forgave James Franklin for his opposition. Hostility between the printer and the ruling ministers continued for a number of years. Interestingly, Cotton Mather never blamed Benjamin for the affair, although the younger Franklin was very much involved in the publication of the New England Courant. In fact, Cotton always respected Benjamin for his voracious appetite for knowledge and invited him to be received at his home on several occasions.
The following is an actual page from an early edition of the New England Courant, a weekly paper written and printed by James and Benjamin Franklin. It is dated from February 4 to February 11, 1723.
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