Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elijah Griffiths, 7 June 1801

From Elijah Griffiths

Philada. June 7—1801

Dear Sir,

Your favor of march 22d came to hand three days after that date. I beg leave to introduce to you, my friend John Israel Esqre. Editor of the Herald of Liberty (Washington Pennsylvania) he has acted his part well in the heat of the day in our State, & promises to be of great use to the cause of elective goverment in time to come; he will be much gratified & esteem it an honor to be made known to you. At the request of Mr Israel a letter from the Rev. Thomas Jones to him is enclosed; Mr Jones preaches for the universal congregation here, but that does not offer him even an ordinary support, owing to the Smallness of that Society, his high Sense of integrity, natural goodness of heart, & domestic virtues will secure his friends from ever blushing for their patronage; the letter will serve as a specimen of Mr J’s hand writing & wishes, if you will be so good as to mention Mr Jones’s case to one of the heads of Departments, it will do him much service & confer a favor on your sincere friends here. Mr Jones is not a citzen of the united States. I found by experience last season, that Professor Rushes lancet & my constitution disagreed, one or two more bleedings would have finished my Studies; chagrined at the want of Success from that mode of treatment, I adopted the stimulating plan, which with the opening of spring soon brought my usual standard of health back; I have been induced to settle in town in consequence of the resignation of Doctr. Wm. Boys one of the prescribing physicians of the alms House, to which place I was appointed on the expiration of my time as a student of that institution; this place brings but little emolument with it, however the appointment is respectable, for 10 or 12 respectable practicioners applied for it & many of them high toned Fed’s which might have been supposed a recommendation as the managers are all of the same stamp, however I think the party are pretty well shook to the foundation. Doctor Boys has lately married a Miss St. Clair, not very distant from your estate in Virginia, where he is gone to settle; he has talents & is a good surgeon, but was unable to succed here; it often happens, when we stand in most need of patronage, in the practice of physic, we recieve the least. Dr Boys before leaving this, took a very active part to prevent my appointment, & promote that of Doctr Proudfit’s, who latly accompanied Mrs Bingham abroad in her illness; Dr. Proudfit is a most intollerent aristocrat, Boys has always professed himself a republican & my friend; I have however reason to believe that the Doctor brought my politic’s into view, which was unprovoked on my part & ungenerous on his. We hope to see our State & Federal representation very pure after the next elections. I hope Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York & the western states will never abandon each other on the question of represetative goverment.

Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness

Elijah Griffiths

N.B. my address is No 48 north 2d street Philadela.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of the United States City of Washington”; also on address sheet in Griffiths’s hand: “Favored by Mr J. Israel”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 June and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

For John Israel and his newspaper, see Hugh Henry Brackenridge to TJ, 19 Jan. 1801.

On 7 Jan. 1802, Thomas Jones wrote TJ applying for the position of librarian at the projected congressional library. Elijah Griffiths, Israel Israel, Thomas Leiper, William Shippen, John Connelly, and George Horton signed a subjoined recommendation as “Subscribers” who were well acquainted with Jones (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; at foot of text: “To the President of the United States”; with short recommendation by subscribers at bottom of page, in Griffiths’s hand; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Jan. 1802 and “to be librarian” and so recorded in SJL).

I adopted the stimulating plan: for the treatment of some diseases, Scottish physician John Brown recommended stimulation through the ingestion of opium and alcohol (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ). TJ was familiar with Brown’s theories and publications; see Vol. 31:127–9 and Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 897.

William Boys joined the Academy of Medicine, a short-lived medical society organized by Benjamin Rush in 1798 to promote the view that yellow fever outbreaks were local in origin. Thirty years later Boys became the first physician in charge of the Western State Hospital of Virginia at Staunton. He held the office until 1836 (L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2 vols. [Princeton, 1951], 2:796–7; Wyndham B. Blanton, Medicine in Virginia in the Nineteenth Century [Richmond, 1933], 206–7).

Accompanied Mrs Bingham abroad in her illness: James Proudfit received his medical degree from the College of Philadelphia in 1790 and then studied at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Senator William Bingham returned to Philadelphia before TJ’s inauguration to be with his wife, Anne Willing Bingham, who was diagnosed with “galloping consumption.” Her physicians ordered a sea voyage to a warmer climate, and she departed on a family-owned vessel in mid-April, accompanied by family and servants. She died in Bermuda on 11 May 1801 (Alberts, Golden Voyage description begins Robert C. Alberts, The Golden Voyage: The Life and Times of William Bingham, 1752–1804, Boston, 1969 description ends , 411–13; Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2 vols. [Princeton, 1951], 2:742–4).

Index Entries