Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Carver to Thomas Jefferson, 27 October 1812

From James Carver

Phia. Octr 27. 1812


From a desire express’d sometime ago in a publication conducted by the agricultural society of Pennsylvania,—and also from an ardent desire of my own for obtaining Scientifically that necessary, and useful branch of science, Call’d the Veterinary Art;—In a memoir, which I address’d to that Society I pointed out to them the best means by which It might be introducd, & disseminated in this Country,—by offering myself a Candidate to be such to the College of London, with a View of returning to this City—to disseminate the same under their patronage,—but the funds of that Society not being adequate to that important end,—It fell through.

The subject being now again renewed under the personal patronage of Dr Rush, Judge Peters, & others who have kindly undertaken to Sanction a Recommendation to the public for that purpose; I take the liberty of addressing you under the, Hope, that the pleasure it will afford You,—independant of the public good that will arrise therefrom,—to see that useful, & necessary branch of Science—about to become promulgated in this Country,—that you will honor It with Yr Subscription.

Every honest, & Individual exertion to promote the public welfare,—by developing the means by which that useful art may become disseminated in this Country, is certainly a praise worthy act, and as this is not the first Sacrifice which I have offered to make on this occasion,—It will I trust,—Justify if not apologize for this well ment endeavour in striving ever more to rescue from Ignorance, and Empirical practice, the safty and preservation of many of those animals which Constitute to us some1 of the most valuable Blessings in Life. For It is a truth Sir, too universally to be lamented that the Improvident waste of property, in the Barbarity, and Destruction of Horse flesh in all our public Cities, are facts, equally true, & monstrous, and Calls most loudly for an Interest for the preservation of their Species; for admidst all the improvements which has yet bless’d, this happy Land, none has received so few advantages from the rays of refinement as the art of Farriery, and It is but a poor Compliment Sir to a Country, abounding in so many fine Cattle,—that so many men,—members of Learned societies, & who stand so distinguish’d for their liberality, & talents, shd be so absorb’d in Commerce, & Speculation, whilst a branch of Science & Study,—involving the health, Safty, and preservation of some of the noblest Animals Any Country Can boast of,—is neglected as derogatory to the dignity of a man of Letters;—and from this mistaken Idea of degradation a subject of so much Importance Should in this Country be left to the arbitrary2 dictation of the most Illiterate part of Community,—without a Single effort from either Influence, or Authority being made to abolish a practice So detrimental.

Much of this abuse may undoubtedly be Imputed to the neglect, & brutality of inferior Servants with whom masters occasionally intrust them. But the greatest part is mostly the effect of ignorant presumption in those who undertake to restore them, when Suffering under the Severe pressure of disease, or Infirmity.—These men disgrace the rare character of Surgeon farrier, and under the assumed name of Veterinarian’s, deel destruction without remorse, and In Reality prove so many Executioners. And untill the Establishment of the Veterinary College this was exactly the Case in Europe,—but since the establishment of that Institution, the Parliment of England has Annually voted a Sum for the Support of it—; but what has tended most to the advancement of that noble Art—, has been his Majesty’s granting veterinary Surgeons the Rank of Commissioned Offers,—by which every Regiments of Cavalry, have now become furnishd with some Gentlemen educated at this most useful School;—And in a Visit which I made this last summer to New York, I conversed much with Dr Mitchell on this Subject,—who I believe has it in Contemplation of proposing Some Such thing—for the Benifit of the United states Cavalry, their being a Gentleman in New York now followg that profession, who graduated in the above named Institution.

Whatever may have been done Sir, in this Country to increase the public Stock of Knowledge in other useful3 departments,—It is too lamentable a truth that this necessary, & useful branch of Science, has been totally neglected,—Yet no one attempts to deny Its claims on public Support, And I am more than Confident, that if those Claims were properly Stated to Congress, by men of affluence & power like yrself—that Something might yet be done to draw it from its present Apathy,—And the Ice once broke Sir, in the way which I have proposed to Dr Rush,—there Could be no doubt but that in a very few Yrs,—we should have the pleasing Satisfaction of Seeing It disseminated throughout our Union;—and the same national Spirit, and Benevolence which has diffused Itself into other branches of natural Knowledge,—wld surely do the same in this; and in the Course of time, would Entail the same blessings on us,—As every other Country is now in the enjoyment of;—except our own.—And I repeat Sir,—(excuse me for my ardour) that,—that man who Steps forward in so good a Cause, for his Countrys welfare, to draw from its present Oblivion this useful but, neglected branch of Science,—will diserve Immortality!

I am Sir most respectfully Yr Obedient servant

James Carver

RC (DLC); between dateline and salutation: “To Thos Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Feb. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: recommendation for Carver, stating that a well-educated veterinarian would be useful in Philadelphia or any other American city; observing that Carver is about to leave for the Royal Veterinary College of London on a cartel; commending his talents and commitment; and recommending him to the public (Tr in DLC; dated 27 Oct. 1812; entirely in Carver’s hand; with his notation that a copy of the document had been signed by Benjamin Rush [who is credited with authorship in Carver to TJ, 12 Feb. 1813], by Richard Peters and George Clymer, president and vice president of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, by Reuben Haines, a member of the Society of Friends who has agreed to pay Carver’s passage and college fees and give him £40, by Joshua Warder, another Quaker who has “also Contributed very Generously,” and by “Cadwalder & Several others”). Letter and enclosure enclosed in Carver to TJ, 12 Feb. 1813.

James Carver (ca. 1773–1822), veterinary surgeon, was a native of England whose father bred racehorses. He served as an equerry in India before his arrival in 1802 in Charleston, South Carolina. Carver then embarked on a campaign to promote veterinary science in the United States. In 1807 he moved to Philadelphia where, with the assistance of Rush and others, he raised enough money to attend the Royal Veterinary College of London in 1813. He earned a degree in 1815, returned to the United States, and over the next seven years ran veterinary establishments in Long Island, Philadelphia, Charleston, Albany, and New York City. Carver wrote several books on animal medicine, patented a veterinary ventilated bath in 1817, and published the short-lived Farrier’s Magazine the following year. Frustrated by his lack of success, he sailed to England but drowned in a shipwreck (George Washington Parke Custis, An Address to the People of the United States, on the Importance of Encouraging Agriculture and Domestic Manufactures [Alexandria, 1808; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 731], 42–3; Carver, Veterinary Science. Being an Address to the Gentlemen, Farmers and Graziers of Long Island [Brooklyn, 1816], 3–5, 9–11; Carver, Veterinary Science, Important to the Physician, the Student, and the Gentleman of Philadelphia [Philadelphia, 1817]; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 180; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 4 Dec. 1816; Farrier’s Magazine, or the Archives of Veterinary Science 1 [1818]: iii–vi; Charleston City Gazette and Commercial Daily Advertiser, 7 Nov. 1818; New-York Evening Post, 6 Apr. 1820; Plough Boy 2 [1820]: 30; 4 [1822]: 103, 119; New-York Columbian, 9 Sept. 1820).

In 1808 the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture offered a gold medal as a premium for the “best essay and plan for promoting veterinary knowledge and instruction, both scientifically and practically, under the circumstances of our country.” Carver responded with a memoir proposing instead that the society subsidize his education. In Carver’s words, it failed to raise “even the paltry sum of three cents a day, for my education at the college,” and the campaign languished until the effort described above (Memoirs of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture 1 [1808]: xliv–xlvi; Carver, Veterinary Science. Being an Address to … Long Island, 10). The Royal veterinary college of London was established in 1791 and had received £1,500 annually from Parliament since 1795 (Charles Clark, Exposure of Abuses and Malpractices at that Institution, called the Royal Veterinary College [1829], 51–2).

1Word interlined in place of “many.”

2Manuscript: “arbitary.”

3Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Carver, James; and essay on veterinary science search
  • Carver, James; identified search
  • Carver, James; letters from search
  • Carver, James; seeks educational assistance search
  • Clymer, George; and veterinary education search
  • Haines, Reuben search
  • London; Royal Veterinary College of search
  • Peters, Richard; as president of Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture search
  • Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture; Memoirs search
  • Royal Veterinary College of London search
  • Rush, Benjamin; assists veterinary student search
  • veterinary science; study of search
  • Warder, Joshua search