Broke And Angry

January 30, 1879

Despite all the hand wringing and recent campaign rhetoric over City Hall’s financial problems — and they’re significant — they’re nothing compared to the financial crisis Memphis faced following the yellow fever epidemic. Memphis hollowed out — thousands fled, thousands more died — leaving too few taxpayers left to meet the city’s obligations. The result was the legislature’s revocation of the city charter and establishment of a "taxing district" to manage the city’s affairs.

The Appeal’s editorial expressed a bittersweet sentiment about that action in Nashville: It was grateful for the legislation that freed the city from its creditors but incensed it waved taxation of residents for seven months — the city’s only means of cleaning up massive health problems on its streets — and raised the prospect of another epidemic.

Is there not a patriotism in Memphis that will rise superior to a clap-trap demagoguery that is absolutely criminal in view of the horrible past? Are the destinies of this city and its health, nay the lives of its citizens, forever to be the sport of ignorance or selfishness?