James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Smith, 26 February 1813

From James Smith

Baltimore 26th. Feby. 1813


The “Act to encourage Vaccination,”1 (originated in consequence of my proposals to furnish a supply of genuine Matter to the Citizens of the United States) having been passed by the Senate & House of Representatives; I beg leave to assure your Excellency, that, should it meet with your approbation, I hold myself in readiness to carry its provisions into effect.

I have been just informed, by a distinguished officer in the Service of the U: S:, that many of the Soldiers, in the Army, are at this time liable to take the Small Pox. An Order from the late Secretary of War, it is said, was given some time since to vaccinate all those who had not been secured from this disease.2 This order was properly executed in many places, but in others no genuine Matter could be obtained, in consequence whereof, the full benefit of the Secretary’s Instructions was lost.

I have taken the liberty to state these Circumstances, that if my views are approved of, I may ask permission to forward a supply of genuine Vaccine Matter to the several Surgeons now in the Actual service of the United States—so that, should it be deem’d expedient, they might immediately secure the troops under their Care, from any danger they may be liable to, in case they were exposed to the Contagion of the Small Pox. I have the honor to be with great Respect your most obedt. & hble Servt.

James Smith3

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM; filed at 26 July 1813.

1The vaccination act, which JM signed on 27 Feb. 1813, authorized the president to appoint an agent to preserve true vaccine matter and to furnish it through the medium of the post office (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:806–7).

2On 26 May 1812 the Inspector’s Office issued a general order stipulating that “the Surgeons and Surgeons Mates of the Peace Establishment and additional Military Force of 1808 at the several posts and stations will immediately procure matter and vaccinate the troops” (DNA: RG 94, General Orders).

3James Smith (1771–1841) had been an avid supporter of public vaccination for smallpox. In addition to his appointment as vaccine agent for the United States in 1813, Smith was named vaccine agent for Virginia in 1814 (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 1:257–61 and n. 1; Whitfield J. Bell Jr., The Colonial Physician & Other Essays [New York, 1975], 131, 135).

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