Thomas Jefferson Papers

John L. E. W. Shecut to Thomas Jefferson, 8 June 1813

From John L. E. W. Shecut

Charleston June 8th 1813.

Most Excellent Sir

A few Literary and Scientific Citizens of Charleston, having it in contemplation to form a Society to be called the “Antiquarian Society of charleston” Having for their objects primarily, the collection and preservation of articles and things of antiquity, rare useful & curious and Secondarily the promotion and encouragement of the arts and Sciences generally, including Natural and Moral Philosophy. Have in the proposed Rules for the organization of the said Society Resolved

“Rule 5. Sect 4. The Society shall Petition the Legislature of this State to grant them an act of Incorporation, as also the Congress of the United States to extend to them the fostering aid of Government, and shall also Solicit the Patronage of the President of the united States, and of his Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”—

In Conformity with the foregoing Rule I avail myself of the honour of Soliciting of your Excellency in behalf of the Contemplated Society, your Excellencys Patronage and Sanction, together with your influence with the Scientific and literary characters of the united States towards the furtherance of their views, which I trust will be deemed laudable and worthy of encouragemt by yr Excellency

Be pleased most Excellent Sir to accept the assurances of my1 great esteem and regard for your character and Person, as our late much lov’d chief magistrate as a Philosopher, and in your private character as the most amiable friend and worthy Citizen.

In behalf of the Gentlemen forming the antiquarian Society of charleston. I remain very respectfully

Your Excellencys most Obedt Sevt

J L E W Shecut M.D.

RC (DLC); at head of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 25 June 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge Shecut (1770–1836), botanist, physician, and author, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, but moved permanently to Charleston during his childhood. He studied medicine under David Ramsay and may also have had some training in Philadelphia. Shecut eventually established an extensive medical practice, sold drugs, and experimented with electrical therapy. He took a keen interest in botany and promoted a simplification of the Linnaean system of classification. Only one of a projected two volumes of his Flora Carolinæensis; or, a Historical, Medical, and Economical Display of the Vegetable Kingdom; According to the Linnæan, or Sexual System of Botany (Charleston, 1806; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1076) was published. In 1808 Shecut founded the South Carolina Homespun Company, an early cotton mill, but he later sold it at a loss. He argued that yellow fever was caused in part by a lack of electricity in the atmosphere and rejected bleeding and mercury as cures in An Essay on the Prevailing, or Yellow-Fever, of 1817 (Charleston, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 [no. 199]). Some of his medical research also appeared in Shecut’s Medical and Philosophical Essays (Charleston, 1819), which he issued after failing in an effort to secure a federal appointment to assist his publication efforts. Shecut also wrote two novels that were published posthumously. TJ corresponded occasionally with him on medical matters (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 ; Shecut to TJ, 4 Mar. 1807 [DLC]; Shecut to James Madison, [1814] [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17]; Charleston Courier, 2 June 1836).

On this day Shecut sent President James Madison a similar request for “Patronage & Sanction” of the new organization (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 6:378–9).

1Manuscript: “my my.”

Index Entries

  • Antiquarian Society of Charleston search
  • Charleston, S.C.; learned societies in search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Madison, James; and learned societies search
  • Shecut, John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge; and Antiquarian Society of Charleston search
  • Shecut, John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge; identified search
  • Shecut, John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge; letters from search
  • South Carolina; learned societies in search
  • South Carolina; legislature search