Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin Rush to Thomas Jefferson, 3 May 1809

From Benjamin Rush

Philadelphia May 3rd 1809.

Dear Sir,

Though late, I hope I am not among the last of your friends in congratulating you upon your escape from the high and dangerous appointment which your Country (to use the words of Lord Chesterfield) inflicted upon you during the last eight years of your life.—Methinks I see [you]1 renewing your Acquaintance with your philosophical instruments, and with the friends of your Youth in your library— a place in which Voltaire has happily said “every mans humor is subject to us,” and of Course, the reverse of a public Situation in the world, “in which we are subject to every man’s humor.”—

Accept further of my Congratulations upon the auspicious issue of your firm, and protracted negociations with Great Britain.

My 3rd Son who has lately graduated as Doctor of medicine requests Your Acceptance of a Copy of his inaugural dissertation.

I was much pleased to hear that your Grandson had returned to Philadelphia to prosecute the Study of medicine. After nearly 50 years spent in this study, and in all the laborious duties connected with its practice, I can truly say, they are both more agreeable to me than any other pursuits, and when it shall please God to cut the last of the few threads which remain of my life, I shall suffer nearly as much pain in being torn from my profession, as from the common Attachments of blood & friendship. I was about to conclude my letter by expressing a wish that we could in a long evening, review the early and late political events of our Country together, and trace the influence of the same principles under different names, upon each of them,—but—no—we would not waste a moment in conversing Upon such little Subjects. We would dismiss them to unite with the Speculations upon Alchemy and perpetual motion, and dwell only upon those topics of Science and literature which are calculated to encrease the agricultural, domestic & moral happiness of our fellow Citizens.

ADieu! my dear Sir and be assured of the respect & Affection of your Old and sincere friend of 1775.

Benjn: Rush

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 11 May 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: James Rush, An Inquiry into the Use of the Omentum (Philadelphia, 1809; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 992).

Benjamin Rush (1746–1813), physician, was born near Philadelphia, graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760, attended medical lectures at the College of Philadelphia, and received an M.D. from the University of Edinburgh in 1768. He established a successful practice in Philadelphia and taught medicine both privately, and in succession at the College of Philadelphia, the University of the State of Pennsylvania, and the University of Pennsylvania. Rush was active in the Revolutionary movement, signing the Declaration of Independence and serving from 1777–78 as surgeon-general of the armies of the Middle Department. He participated in a wide range of reform activities including temperance, the abolition of slavery, health care for the poor and the mentally ill, prison reform, and education for women. Medically Rush was perhaps best known for his personal bravery and controversial advocacy and application of strong purgatives and bleeding during Philadelphia’s 1793 yellow fever epidemic. He was appointed treasurer of the United States Mint in 1797, a post he held until his death. Rush’s friendship and broadly ranging correspondence with TJ continued without interruption from Revolutionary times until Rush’s death. In 1811, after several abortive attempts, Rush brought about the reconciliation of TJ and John Adams (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary, 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1748–68, pp. 318–25; Whitfield J. Bell Jr., ed., Patriot-Improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society [1997– ], 1:452–64; George W. Corner, ed., Autobiography of Benjamin Rush [1948]; Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., The Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2 vols. [1951]).

1Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; friendship with TJ search
  • An Inquiry into the Use of the Omentum (Rush) search
  • Philadelphia; yellow fever epidemic (1793) search
  • Rush, Benjamin; congratulates TJ search
  • Rush, Benjamin; identified search
  • Rush, Benjamin; letters from search
  • Rush, Benjamin; on the practice of medicine search
  • Rush, Benjamin; sends pamphlets to TJ search
  • Rush, James; An Inquiry into the Use of the Omentum search
  • Stanhope, Philip Dormer, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; quoted by B. Rush search
  • Voltaire (François Marie Arouet); quoted by B. Rush search