Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel K. Jennings, 23 September 1815

To Samuel K. Jennings

Poplar Forest Sep. 23. 15.

D[ea]r Sir

I thank you for the pamphlet you have been so kind as to send me, and I have read it with great pleasure. but when you request an opinion on it, it is more than I am able to give or to form. I am not sufficiently intimate with the structure of our frame, nor yet with the medical agents which may change it’s condition from bad to good, or the converse, to decide between systems on which the learned in the healing art have been divided. these studies have fallen1 but incidentally within my attention. your theory is ingenious, well developed, and worthy of an acute observer. but when I consider the many theories which within the last century or two have succeeded each other, all plausible, all rested on facts ingeniously applied, I am obliged to remain in indecision between them, and to say ‘Non nostrum, inter vos, tantas componere lites.’ I have little doubt of the great potency of your steam-bath; and that it will be found capable of marked efficacy in human diseases. more time and observation may however be necessary to discriminate between the particular cases wherein it will be useful or otherwise. for in medecine experience is the sovereign guide. this discrimination once settled, the steam-bath will probably become, as the Kinkina, mercury, opium and other real medicaments, one of the means given us by providence for soothing our sufferings, while he permits [us]2 to stay here. Accept my share of the public acknolegements due to your efforts for solacing our condition, and the assurance of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); salutation faint; at foot of text: “Doctr Jennings”; endorsed by TJ. Printed in Richmond Enquirer, 13 Jan. 1816, and elsewhere, and (as a letter of 28 Sept. 1815) in Jennings, Letters and Certificates, recommending the Patent Portable Warm and Hot Bath (Norfolk, 1816), 11.

non nostrum, inter vos, tantas componere lites: “It is not for me to settle so close a contest between you,” in Virgil, Eclogues, 3.108 (Fairclough, Virgil description begins H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Virgil, Loeb Classical Library, 1916–18, rev. by G. P. Goold, 1999–2000, repr. 2002–06, 2 vols. description ends , 1:48–9). Quinquina (kinkina) is the bark of the cinchona tree, also known as Peruvian bark (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ; note to TJ to John Barnes, 29 June 1811).

1Word interlined in place of “come.”

2Omitted word supplied from Richmond Enquirer and Jennings, Letters and Certificates.

Index Entries

  • A Plain, Elementary Explanation of the Nature and Cure of Disease (S. K. Jennings) search
  • bath; portable search
  • cinchona (Peruvian bark); use of search
  • Eclogues (Virgil) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Virgil search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; medicine search
  • Jennings, Samuel Kennedy; A Plain, Elementary Explanation of the Nature and Cure of Disease search
  • Jennings, Samuel Kennedy; letter to search
  • Jennings, Samuel Kennedy; portable bath of search
  • machines; portable bath search
  • medicine; cinchona (Peruvian bark) search
  • medicine; mercury search
  • medicine; opium search
  • medicine; use of heat in search
  • mercury; as medicine search
  • opium; medicinal search
  • Virgil; TJ quotes search