George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Waterhouse, 19 November 1790

To Benjamin Waterhouse

Mount-Vernon November 19th 1790.


I beg you to excuse the delay, which my avocations in the country have occasioned, in answering your letter of the 28th of August.1

I am persuaded of the happy influence which the discourse, that accompanied it, must have in promoting the interests of humanity2—and I request you to accept my thanks for your polite attention in favoring me with this mark of your regard. I am Sir, Your most obedient Servant

Go: Washington

LS, MeHi.

Benjamin Waterhouse (1754–1846), left his native Newport, R.I., for Europe in 1775 and studied medicine at the University of Leyden, living with John Adams, the American ambassador at the Hague. The young physician returned to Newport in June 1782 and the following year accepted the professorship of the theory and practice of physic in Harvard College’s newly created medical department. In 1785 he and Dr. Henry Moyes of Edinburgh drew up plans for the Massachusetts Humane Society, expanding on the models of London, Paris, and other European cities that had organized associations for reviving the victims of drowning. Waterhouse later was the first American physician successfully to replicate Edward Jenner’s 1798 cowpox vaccinations that protected against the infectious and deadly smallpox disease.

1Letter not found.

2Waterhouse apparently had sent GW a copy of On the Principle of Vitality, a Discourse Delivered in the First Church in Boston, Tuesday, June 8th, 1790. Before the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Boston, 1790), which the president had bound with other miscellaneous pamphlets before his death (Evans, American Bibliography, description begins Charles Evans et al. American Bibliography and Supplement. 16 vols. Chicago, Worcester, Mass., and Charlottesville, Va., 1903–71. description ends 8:101; Griffin, Boston Athenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 558).

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