Thomas Jefferson Papers

Samuel L. Mitchill to Thomas Jefferson, 21 May 1819

From Samuel L. Mitchill

New york, May 21st 1819


Dr Thomas Sewall of Ipswich, Massachusetts after having been well recommended to me, and engaged for some time in viewing New york, is about to depart for the South.

He informs me it is his intention to visit you at Monticello. I avail myself of the opportunity to send you a few Squash & Melon seeds just arrived from Lima by the US Ship ontario, and the publications made by our Society here for instructing the deaf and dumb.

I know I might have forwarded them by the mail, but that would have deprived the gentleman of the pleasure of presenting them in person.

I beg you to accept the assurance, once more, of my high respect

Saml L Mitchill

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “The honbl Thos Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Apr. 1820, but recorded in SJL as received two days earlier. Enclosed in Thomas Sewall to TJ, 30 Mar. 1820. Enclosures: unidentified publications of the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb.

Thomas Sewall (1786–1845), physician and educator, was born in Augusta, District of Maine, and graduated from Harvard University with a medical degree in 1812. He afterwards practiced medicine in Essex County, Massachusetts, where he was heavily fined in 1819 for illegally disinterring bodies, presumably for dissections. The next year he resumed his medical practice in Washington, D.C. Sewall was a founder in 1821 of Columbian College (later George Washington University) and a trustee, 1821–23 and 1839–45. He also served there as professor of anatomy and physiology, 1821–39, and of pathology and the practice of medicine, 1839–45. Sewall belonged to numerous medical organizations and published works opposing phrenology and detailing the effects of drunkenness. He died of consumption in Washington (History of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, 1817–1909 [1909], 222; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 712; Christopher Benedetto, “‘A Most Daring and Sacrilegious Robbery’: The Extraordinary Story of Body Snatching at Chebacco Parish in Ipswich, Massachusetts,” New England Ancestors 6 [spring 2005]: 31–4, 45; Sewall to TJ, 30 Mar. 1820; Howard L. Hodgkins, comp., Historical Catalogue of the Officers and Gradutes of The Columbian University, Washington, D.C., 1821–1891 [1891], 48, 50, 52; Sewell, An Examination of Phrenology; in Two Lectures [1837], and The Pathology of Drunkenness, or the Physical Effects of Alcoholic Drinks, with Drawings of the Drunkard’s Stomach [1841]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 11 Apr. 1845; Baltimore Niles’ National Register, 17 May 1845; gravestone inscription in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.).

Index Entries

  • deafness; education of deaf and mute search
  • disabilities, persons with; and education for deaf, mute, and blind search
  • education; for deaf, mute, and blind search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; and education of deaf and mute search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; introduces T. Sewall search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; letters from search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; sends seeds to TJ search
  • New York (city); New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb search
  • Ontario, USS (sloop of war) search
  • schools and colleges; New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb search
  • seeds; melon search
  • seeds; sent to TJ search
  • seeds; squash search
  • Sewall, Thomas; identified search
  • Sewall, Thomas; introduced to TJ search
  • Sewall, Thomas; plans to visit Monticello search