Thomas Jefferson Papers

Vine Utley to Thomas Jefferson, 18 February 1819

From Vine Utley

Lyme County of New-London Conn. Feb. 18th 1819.

Dr sir.

I take the liberty to send you here enclosed1 the history of the Physical habits of the late Celebrated Dr Benj. Rush. I copy it from his own hand writing, which he sent to me, about a year before his Death.

As, a Philosopher, and a Statesman, I have looked up to you sir, for many years as the Father of my Country. I view you with admiration, when I contemplate how much you have done to save this Republic from destruction,—at times, when it was on the very brink of ruin, by the powerful, and cunning hand of Aristocracy.

With pleasure I often2 read, and reflect on the great work, modestly, entitled “Notes on Virginia.”3

If your Excellency, will be so good as to send me a history of your Physical habits, (as soon as convenient) you will much oblige your friend, I say soon4 least the curtain of death should be drawn, before it is done.—According to the common5 laws of Nature, you are about finishing the work that the Great first Cause alloted for you to do, here on earth.—When you come to die, your death will be Lamented by all good, and honest men.6

I am very respectfully, your friend, and obt Servt

Vine Utley.

P.S. Sir, I believe their is still more to learn, relative to the connection of the constitutional powers, with the thinking, and literary habits of men.

RC (MHi); on a sheet folded to form four pages, with letter on p. 1, enclosure on pp. 2–3, and address on p. 4; addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, Virginia”; franked; postmarked River Head, Conn., 19 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

Vine Utley (1768–1836), physician and surgeon, was born in Ashford, Windham County, Connecticut. Though he resided in western New York in 1797, he returned to Connecticut shortly thereafter, settled in Coventry, and established a medical practice. Utley relocated to New London County by 1810 and, except for service as a surgeon on a privateer during the War of 1812, he lived there for the rest of his life. A strong advocate for and supplier of smallpox vaccinations, he also took meteorological readings, kept detailed patient records, and interviewed the elderly inhabitants of the county in an effort to document the causes of their longevity, chronicling family histories, illnesses, diet, alcohol and tobacco use, and physical and mental well-being. Utley died in Lyme leaving real estate and personal property valued in excess of $8,000 (Caroline Fraser Zinsser, Vine Utley: The Remarkable Country Doctor of Lyme, Connecticut [1768–1836] [2010]; Connecticut Town Birth Records [Ct: Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection]; Hartford Connecticut Courant, 25 Jan. 1802, 14 Mar. 1836; Hartford American Mercury, 31 May 1804, 8 Apr. 1828; New London Connecticut Gazette, 20 Dec. 1809; Utley’s observations on the elderly [MiU-C: Duane Norman Diedrich Collection]; DNA: RG 29, CS, Conn., New London Co., 1810–30; gravestone inscription in Old Stone Church Burial Ground, East Lyme; Ct: Probate Files Collection).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Word interlined.

3Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

4Preceding nine words interlined.

5Word interlined.

6Sentence interlined.

Index Entries

  • health; and physical habits search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Descriptions of; as father of his country search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; physical habits of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • law; natural search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); V. Utley on search
  • Rush, Benjamin; physical habits of search
  • Utley, Vine; and physical habits of B. Rush search
  • Utley, Vine; and physical habits of TJ search
  • Utley, Vine; identified search
  • Utley, Vine; letters from search
  • Utley, Vine; on TJ’sNotes on the State of Virginia search