Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Brown to Thomas Jefferson, 28 October 1818

From Thomas Brown

Troy Oct 28th 1818

Respected Friend

Entertaining a high opinion of thy learning and useful abilities, and sincerely believing that it is thy wish to promote whatever may be of benefit to mankind; I have taken the liberty to forward to thee, the enclosed publication, by which thou wilt See what I have been able to effect by that long Neglected tho’ powerful agent Electricity: which I think must be gratifying to thee, and to every other person who wishes the good of mankind.—I think it rather extraordinary, that, Altho’ there are very few remedies in the whole history of medicine, that has been more Strongly recommended than electricity, and that by a variety of writers of the highest reputation, yet, that no person in this country, has ever made a full & faithful trial of it before.—There has been Somethings respecting its application to diseases, that has retarded its progress as a medicine, which are now removed.1—That thou mayest See the progress, or notice that has been taken of it, Since I began to make trial of it in disease, I have enclosed, only,2 a few of the peices that have appeared in print on the Subject Since the publication of the book.—As I have read thee, I feel as if I was Somwhat acquainted with thee. I have therefore written with the more freedom.—If thou Should find leasure, & be disposed to write me a line on the Subject, it would be gratefully received.

Accept the assureances of my respect and esteem,

Thos Brown

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Nov. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Brown, The Ethereal Physician: or Medical Electricity Revived (Albany, 1817; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 [no. 192]), which details treatments with electricity by Brown and his colleague Jesse Everett resulting in “upwards of sixty Cures, in the short space of two years, in Cases of Rheumatism, Head-ach, Pleurisy, Abscess, Quinsy, Piles, Incubus, &c. &c.” Other enclosures not found.

Thomas Brown (b. 1766), self-described medical electrician, was born into a Quaker family in New York City. In 1787 he became a member himself of the Society of Friends, but he relinquished his membership three years later and took up preaching as a Methodist. Brown traveled in 1798 from his home in Cornwall, New York, to visit the Shaker community at Niskayuna, also in that state, and soon became a convert, traveling frequently from Cornwall to Niskayuna until he left the sect in 1805. Seven years later he published a book about his years as a Shaker. Brown eventually settled in Troy, near Albany, and by 1815 he was studying the medical benefits of electrical charges. He received a patent the following year for an improvement to an electrical apparatus. Until at least 1830 Brown was working as a medical electrician in the vicinity of Troy. During this period he also published books on Judaism and Universalism (Brown, An Account of the People called Shakers: their Faith, Doctrines, and Practice [Troy, 1812; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1707]; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.Y., Cornwall, 1810, Albany, 1830; Albany Register, 31 Mar. 1812; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 170; American Magazine, a monthly miscellany 1 [1816]: 362–3; Albany Advertiser, 2 Nov. 1816; Chillicothe Weekly Recorder, 10 Apr. 1818; New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 23 May 1818; Cooperstown Watch-Tower, 12 Oct. 1818; Troy Farmers’ Register, 29 June 1819; Philanthropist 3 [1819]: 124; Medical Repository, new ser., 5 [1820]: 104–8; Klinck’s Albany Directory for the year 1822 [Albany, 1822], 19; Brown, The History of the Destruction of the City and Temple of Jerusalem [Albany, 1825]; Brown, A History of the Origin and Progress of the Doctrine of Universal Salvation [Albany, 1826]; The Albany Directory, for the years 1830–31 [1830], 55).

1Preceding four words interlined.

2Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • books; on electricity search
  • Brown, Thomas (b.1766); identified search
  • Brown, Thomas (b.1766); letter from search
  • Brown, Thomas (b.1766); The Ethereal Physician: or Medical Electricity Revived search
  • electricity; medical use of search
  • Everett, Jesse; and medical use of electricity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • medicine; electricity as medical treatment search
  • The Ethereal Physician: or Medical Electricity Revived (T. Brown) search