Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Coakley Lettsom, 10 October 1801

From John Coakley Lettsom

London Oct. 10. 1801.

Although unknown to the President of the United States of America, I could not be ignorant of his high character, even before Dr. Thornton introduced it to me; and from his account of the President’s condescension, as well as of his love to, and encouragement of, the Arts, I am induced to request his acceptance of a performance, which I have printed with a view to promote a practice of great national importance; and, which of course, is patronized1 by the distinguished character addressed by

John Coakley Lettsom

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 6 Feb. 1802 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: John Coakley Lettsom, Observations on the Cow-Pock (London, 1801; Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , No. 949).

Physician and philanthropist John Coakley Lettsom (1744–1815) was educated in England and at the universities of Edinburgh and Leiden. In addition to having a successful medical practice in London, Lettsom was a prolific author and promoter of institutions for the improvement of public health and education. Benjamin Waterhouse credited Lettsom, a supporter of vaccination, for sending to him a copy of Edward Jenner’s Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ, a Disease … Known by the Name of the Cow Pox, published in London in 1798 (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 ; Waterhouse, A Prospect of Exterminating the Small-Pox [Cambridge, 1800], 3).

Dr. Thornton: William Thornton was a friend and relative of Lettsom’s. Both were born into Quaker families in the British Virgin Islands (Harris, Thornton description begins C. M. Harris, ed., Papers of William Thornton: Volume One, 1781–1802, Charlottesville, 1995 description ends , 1:xxxv, xxxix).

1MS: “pratronized.”

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