Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Potter, 17 January 1819

To Nathaniel Potter

Monticello Jan. 17. 19.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to Doctr Potter and his thanks for his learned and ingenious treatise on contagion which he has been so kind as to send him. he has read it with great satisfaction, and the more as it maintains an opinion which has long been his own and which he once ventured to declare in a public document in the hope that it might induce foreign governments to relax their quarantine regulations which were so oppressive to our commerce. he salutes Dr Potter with esteem and respect.

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover of John Adams to TJ, 20 Oct. 1818; dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

Nathaniel Potter (ca. 1770–1843), physician and educator, was born in Easton, Maryland, and received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1796, having studied under Benjamin Rush. Potter began to practice medicine in Baltimore the following year. He worked at the Baltimore General Dispensary, 1802–05, and in 1808 became professor of the theory and practice of medicine at the College of Medicine of Maryland (later the University of Maryland’s school of medicine), a position he held until his death. Potter published regularly, with his contributions to medicine including proof, through experimentation on himself, that yellow fever was not contagious. Active in numerous medical organizations, he served as president of the Baltimore Medical Society in 1812 and the Medical Society of Maryland in 1817, and he sat on the state board of medical examiners, 1803–19. Potter died in Baltimore (ANB; DAB; University of Pennsylvania Catalogue, 565; Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush [1951], 2:764; George H. Callcott, A History of the University of Maryland [1966]; Potter, A Memoir on Contagion, more especially as it respects the Yellow Fever: read in convention of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, On the 3d of June, 1817 [Baltimore, 1818; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 5 (no. 197)]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Md., Baltimore City, 1830, 1840; Baltimore Sun and Washington Daily National Intelligencer, both 3 Jan. 1843; Maryland Medical and Surgical Journal 3 [1843]: 391–2).

The public document in which TJ declared that yellow fever was not contagious was his annual message to Congress of 3 Dec. 1805 (JHR, 5:184).

Index Entries

  • A Memoir on Contagion, more especially as it respects the Yellow Fever (N. Potter) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; messages to Congress search
  • Potter, Nathaniel; A Memoir on Contagion, more especially as it respects the Yellow Fever search
  • Potter, Nathaniel; identified search
  • Potter, Nathaniel; letter to search
  • yellow fever; TJ on search