Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Vaughan, 28 April 1803

From John Vaughan

Philada April 28. 1803

D sir

Vaccination is becoming every day more current amongst us

in order to assist in removing prejudice where any still remains the enclosed has been published here, & proves a powerful agent

I take the liberty of enclosing a few to you knowing how much Interest you have taken in its adoption, & being indebted to you for its introduction here,

I remain with respect D sir Your ob. Servant

Jn Vaughan

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States Washington City”; franked and postmarked. Recorded in SJL as received 1 May. Enclosure: A Comparative view of the Natural Small-Pox, Inoculated Small-Pox, and Vaccination in their effects on Individuals and Society, a broadside printed by Jane Aitken in Philadelphia, dated 25 Apr.; comparing in three columns the potential physical effects of smallpox, smallpox inoculation, and vaccination, concluding that contracting smallpox is equivalent to “attempting to cross a large and rapid stream by swimming, when one in six perish,” that inoculation using smallpox is equivalent to “passing the river in a boat subject to accidents, where one in 300 perish, and one in 40 suffer partially,” and that vaccination with cowpox is equivalent to “passing over a safe bridge”; presenting also a statement of 12 Apr. by 50 physicians of Philadelphia, including Benjamin Rush, Caspar Wistar, John Redman Coxe, and Benjamin Smith Barton, declaring it “a duty thus publicly to declare our opinion” that cowpox vaccination is a safe and “certain preventive” of smallpox, and they recommend it for general use; with a statement by the board of managers of the Philadelphia Dispensary that the institution’s attending and consulting physicians, after 18 months’ experience with cowpox vaccination and finding it to be “mild, unattended with danger, and a full security against the Small-Pox,” wish the procedure to be made available through the Dispensary; accordingly, the managers announce that doctors will perform cowpox vaccination there daily; “the poor of the city” are encouraged “to embrace the means now offered of preserving themselves and families from a dangerous and loathsome disease” (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. 3998).

every day more current: the 12 Apr. statement by the Philadelphia physicians also appeared in newspapers there and elsewhere. Benjamin Rush and others founded the Philadelphia Dispensary, the first free medical clinic in the United States, in 1786. Dispensaries in American cities took on a primary role in the vaccination of urban populations (Gazette of the United States, 19 Apr.; Richmond Virginia Argus, 27 Apr.; L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2 vols. [Princeton, 1951], 1:448n; Charles E. Rosenberg, “Social Class and Medical Care in Nineteenth-Century America: The Rise and Fall of the Dispensary,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 29 [1974], 32–54).

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