George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Leigh, 30 October 1786

From John Leigh

Norfolk Octr 30th 1786

I trust that your Excellency will pardon the liberty which I have taken with your Name, when the Circumstances are made known to you which induc’d me thus to conduct myself.

While I was engag’d in the Study of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, the Professors offer’d a premium to any Student there, who shou’d write the best Dissertation on Opium; I enter’d immediately the List of Competitors, and was so fortunate as to gain the premium—Having effected this, my Friends advisd me to publish my Work, as the Subject was new, and containd many Experiments never before made. Sensible of the great benefits which every infant Production must experience by having a Protector, whose Name is sufficient to claim for it the Attention and favour of the World, and sensible also that there was no One on the Continent so well calculated to effect this as your Excellency—I was led to take the liberty of Dedicating my Work to you, a Copy of which will now accompany this Letter, begging for your Excellency’s Patronage and support.1 I have the Honor to subscribe myself, Your Excellency’s most Obd. and very Hble Servt

J. Leigh


1John Leigh’s 144–page book, An Experimental Inquiry into the Properties of Opium, and Its Effects on Living Subjects: with Observations on Its History, Preparations and Uses. Being the Disputation Which Gained the Harveian Prize for the Year 1785(Edinburgh, 1786), was in GW’s library at the time of his death. Leigh, a native of King William County, was listed as a student at the College of William and Mary in 1769, and in his book on opium he identifies himself as a medical doctor. On 9 Jan. 1787 GW wrote Leigh from Mount Vernon: “Sir, I received your letter of the 30th of October, together with your Dissertation on opinion [opium]. You will please Sir, to accept my thanks for the honor which you did me in the dedication of your work. Altho’ I am not desireous of compliments of this kind, & have put off several applications which have been made to dedicate literary productions to me, yet I should always wish to encourage every useful and beneficial performance as much as is in my power. I am Sir &c. G: Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

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