Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Vaughan, 22 October 1801

From John Vaughan

Philad: Oct. 22. 1801

Dear & Respected Sir.

I have been sir too many years acquainted with your Philanthropic Zeal, to concieve an apology necessary for addressing you on a Subject highly interesting to humanity

Since the Knowledge of the Vaccine Infection has become general, & its power of guarding against the Small Pox Contagion has been more Strongly Confirmed, than almost any discovery of like Standing; I have been extremely anxious to draw the attention of our Medical men towards it; & the more particularly, as thru’ the medium of our Annual Lectures, This important discovery would Soon become familiar to the whole Continent—Many attempts have been made to introduce the Disorder here, but they have hitherto failed, as the Virus, brought here has in no Instance preserved its Power of Infecting—Dr J R Coxe has probably1 been the most diligent in endeavoring to introduce it—Two packets recieved lately from England by him, have proved useless—Having accidentally heard, Sir, that you have introduced it into your family—I have hopes that you may have it in your power to enable D Coxe to make a more Successful experiment, by procuring (thro the medium of the Physician who may have attended your family)—the Virus.—It comes from England in Two ways, between Glass, Well covered with Gold beaters skin, or in Cotton thread in a small Ground Stopper Bottle—As the former may not easily be procured with you, I enclose a piece—Dr Valentine (One of the Members of our Phil: Sociy:) has informed us that the experiment has been generally, & Successfully tried in France.

A Mr Aikin of London, has published a Compendium of all that has been written upon the Subject—his Book has been reprinted at Boston, & as Soon as I can procure a Copy (which I have Sent for) I shall take the Liberty of forwarding it to you—

I remain with the greatest respect Your obedient Servant & friend

Jn Vaughan

Should any Useful2 important Ideas have Suggested themselves in the Course of the Experiments a communication of them will be thankfully recieved.

The Limpid liquor of the Pustule, not the Matter is recommended as the most efficacious

RC (DLC); at head of text: “His Exy. Thos. Jefferson Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Oct. and so recorded in SJL.

Annual Lectures: probably a reference to the lecture courses in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that began each November (Joseph Carson, A History of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia, 1869], 95–6; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 15 Sep. 1801).

J R Coxe: John Redman Coxe (Vol. 32:510n).

Dr. Valentine: Louis Valentin, a French physician and surgeon and member of the American Philosophical Society since 1793. At a meeting on 16 Oct., the society recorded receipt from Valentin of a “pamphlet letter from the Comité Medical pour l’Inoculation, stating progress and soliciting the creation of similar establishments.” The Comité Médical pour l’Inoculation de la Vaccine was founded in Paris in 1800 and supported by public subscriptions (Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 421; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 212, 316); Elinor Meynell, “French Reactions to Jenner’s Discovery of Smallpox Vaccination: The Primary Sources,” Social History of Medicine, 8 [1995], 288).

An edition of A Concise View of All the Most Important Facts which have Hitherto Appeared Concerning the Cowpox, by Charles R. Aikin, was published in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in April 1801. TJ already had a London edition sent by Benjamin Waterhouse (Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 24; Boston Independent Chronicle, 13–16 Apr.; Waterhouse to TJ, 8 June).

1Word interlined in place of “amongst others.”

2Word interlined.

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