Thomas Jefferson Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Peale, Charles Willson" AND Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Period="Jefferson Presidency" AND Correspondent="Jefferson, Thomas"
sorted by: date (ascending)

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, 14 February 1803

From Charles Willson Peale

Museum Feby. 14th. 1803

Dear Sir

The enclosed essay on health is dressed to render it more worthy of your acceptance, and in this neither seeking compliments on it, or supposing it can give you any light, but knowing you will appreciate my Motive for making the Publication, that of bringing some of my acquaintance to reflection and then reformation. Should that be the case in a single instance my labour will not be thrown away, I shall be well paid for my trouble.

No letter from my Sons since the 14th of Octr. last, I am more than anxious about their success—Rembrandt will not write to give me pain if he can help it. They may be too much engaged to seek for conveyances, and but little acquainted with the various ways of sending to America. As their next letters will be the most interresting, I will not fail to send you notice as soon as I can.

The Trees in the State-House-Garden are in Mourning; with fallen leaves, not crape—Their founder Mr. Vaughan Senr. has departed this life! The Philosophical Hall would not have been reared but through the Industry & perseverance of the good old man!

May you Dr Sir long enjoy good health & america be thankful for your Services—

C W Peale

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excelly. Thos Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Feb. and so recorded in SJL. PoC (PPAmP: Peale-Sellers Papers). Enclosure: Charles W. Peale, An Epistle to a Friend on the Means of Preserving Health, Promoting Happiness; and Prolonging the Life of Man to its Natural Period (Philadelphia, 1803); Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 912; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 4829.

essay on health: Peale probably had copies of his Epistle to a Friend in hand from the Philadelphia printer Jane Aitken—daughter of the deceased Robert Aitken—by 14 Feb., for on that day he sent the treatise to Madison as well as to TJ, and in neither case did he refer to it as an unpublished manuscript. He advertised the pamphlet in the Aurora beginning 1 Mch. Although Peale framed the tract as an “epistle” to an unnamed friend “in a public station” and gave it a dateline, closing, signature, and postscript, he was following a literary convention rather than publishing an actual letter. He did begin writing the piece as a letter to TJ dated 3 Mch. 1802, but did not send it. Peale stated in a preface that he had been moved to write upon “hearing of the indisposition” of the intended receiver of the letter, and he opened the epistle with the declaration: “I have heard my dear Friend, that your health is much impaired.” He may have been reacting to unspecified reports about TJ’s health—Gallatin, for example, heard in January 1802 that TJ had been “unwell”—or perhaps had learned something from Benjamin Rush, to whom TJ confided, in a letter of 20 Dec. 1801, that he was concerned about a “flaw” in his health. Rush’s own letter to TJ in response to that revelation was dated 12 Mch. 1802. Peale related in his preface that after he set out to write a letter to his friend, his thoughts “naturally led to reflections that were not necessary to communicate to the person it was intended for” and he decided to make the piece a longer work for a broader audience. As published, the essay with the preface was 46 pages long (Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983-2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:474n, 489, 491; Peale, Epistle to a Friend; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:321; Philadelphia Aurora, 1 Mch.; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , s.v. Robert Aitken; Vol. 36:178, 368; Vol. 37:68).

appreciate my motive: “I have made innumerable experiments on the means of preserving health,” Peale declared in his essay. He argued that personal habits detrimental to health were the result of a lack of rational analysis of alternatives. A person could “live to extreme old age, without disease,” he wrote, by “enjoying every good gift and abusing none.” Peale advocated “not a life of privation, but rather of every enjoyment.” In his discourse he commented on diet, methods of preparing food, posture, exercise, and the relationship of mind, character, and physical health. In a postscript written after his initial composition of the essay, Peale discussed his son Raphaelle’s experiments with water filtration, a recipe for making bread, and methods for cooking with steam (Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983-2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:489–513; Dft in PPAmP: Peale-Sellers Papers).

The British merchant Samuel vaughan, the father of John and Benjamin Vaughan, died in England in 1802. In the mid-1780s, he had resided in Philadelphia, where he designed the landscaping of the yard adjoining the State House, was responsible for the plantings at Gray’s Gardens, raised funds for the American Philosophical Society, and helped promote the completion of the society’s building, Philosophical Hall. Vaughan was born in 1720 (Sarah P. Stetson, “The Philadelphia Sojourn of Samuel Vaughan,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 73 [1949], 459–74; Mary Vaughan Marvin, Benjamin Vaughan, 1751–1835 [Hallowell, Me., 1979], 1).

Index Entries