Thomas Jefferson Papers

Vine Utley to Thomas Jefferson, 10 June 1819

From Vine Utley

Lyme County of New-London Conn. June 10th 1819.—


Your letter the 21st March last came duely to hand. In answer to my request, giving me a history of your Physical habits, you have been more particular than I expected a man would be in your Station, with a host of correspondents pouring in from every quarter.

Your manner of living, is curious and interesting to me. I believe you have fixed upon the most rational mode of living, to preserve health,1 & promote longevity, that ever was put in practice by any Philosopher of the present age. Your drinking of the weak wines only, has been proved to be salutary, by the Italian Noble man, (Lewis Cornaro)2 who drank his fourteen ounces of wine a day, and lived to the age of 100 years.

The people of New-England States, who drink fermented liquors, and them only, live to the greatest age, and enjoy the best health, if taken in moderation

Distilled Spirits, (the use of) is the greatest calamity that ever befell the U. States, It is the source of more than half the maladies of its inhabitants.

With regard to your temperate way of taking Stimulus, & animal food, I believe, has been of the greatest importance in the preservation of your health and strength of intellecte.3 Saul may have boasted of his thousands slain, and David his ten thousands; but the indulgence of the appetite in taking animal food, and distilled spirits, to excess,4 has distroyed its hundreds of thousand; particularly, in the U. States5 of America where such immense quantities are Gormandized by all classes of people.

your becoming a hard Student, at this time,6 and delighting in Study (as you did when a young man) in this advanced period of your life, demonstrates to me7 not only the vigor of your body; but the vigor of your intellecte, preserved by temperance; both of which I pray God may continue unimpaired for many years to come. According to the common course of Nature, with your excellent constitution, and usual temperance, you may live to the great age of 100 years, and be enabled, in the mean time, to enjoy the fruits of your labour.—Your early rising, and bathing your feet in cold water every morning for the long period of 60, years, is new to me, I have put the plan in practice, and begin to recommend it to others.

I have been making use of the effusion of cold water in febrile diseases for 15 years past, No Physician in this State has done more to establish this salutary practice. Vide my Dissertation on the cold practice inserted in the Medical Repository for April 1819, published in New-York Doctors Samuel L. Mitchill, Felix Pascalis and Sm Akerly, Editors. If That periodical work should fall into your hands, please to peruse it. Perhaps your family Physician takes it.

I should like to know what degree of cold the water is, that you bathe your feet in, if the same degree in summer, as in winter.—

You say you “live so much like other people, that you might refer to ordinary life, as the history of your own.” Your physical habits may be simular to those people of Virginia; but they are quite different from the habits of the people of New-England States.

The manner of living here is very distructive to health and long life, particularly the wealthy.8 At breakfast they take bitters mixed with ardent spirits, to brace the exhausted Stomach. Then eat animal food, butter, cheese, drink coffee and Cider. At dinner they drink rum or brandy sling, and eat plentifully of animal food, swiming in butter, or hogs lard, strong condiments, some take9 distilled Spirits with their food, Cider Strong beer &c. &c.

After noon, Rum, Gin, brandy, Cider, and beer

At supper comes Animal food again or fish or both,10 with butter lard, pepper, mustard, Cider tea, &c. The evening is spent in smoaking tobacco.—

Rum, brandy, Gin, and Cider, together with malt liquor, are used by the people here11 with dreadful prodigality, which bring on a dark train of evils, such as Gout, Rheumatisms, Dropsies Apoplexis, consumptions, and premature old age, or12 death.

Although most of the wealthy13 people of these New-England States are Epicurians, I am happy to inform you, that their are some, even, among the wealthy14 who live as temperately as your self, attend to reading, and practicing good morals, and, always rise with the sun, are hard Students &c.—

With pleasure I take the liberty to inform you, (as you say in a letter to Dr B, Waterhouse15 you have done reading News papers) that a new Era has commenced in Conn. The powerful arm of Aristocracy (that attempted to defame your fair character, while President of the U. States) is fairly broken down, and most of the offices of the State, are filled with men of genuine Republican principles. The people of this State have lately formed a Constitution of Civil Government, which has become The Supreme law.16 The old Charter of King Charles the II. no more exists in Conn.

Federal prosecutions, which have been the order of the day, and by which I have suffered much, as to property17 are at an end; but thank God, I trust, I have, at least, saved my honor. Our political affairs, are in a pleasing train, we have now, in this State, what I call rational liberty.

Receive my best respects, and fervent wishes, dear sir, from your friend, and obedient Servt

Vine Utley.


My dear sir, I wish you to be so good, as to send me your Profile on a small scale, the age it was taken &c That I may put it into a frame, and place it up in my room. I have only two likenesses in my room, of the Sages of America, Franklin, and Washington, and these two I know to be genuine.

The likenesses of many more of the Worthies of America I should be glad to procure.

Sir, If your letter to me on your physical habits, was, published, it would (I believe) be the means of doing much good, in reforming the intemperate: But I shall not do it without your consent. Example does more good than all the reasoning in the world.—

RC (MHi); second postscript written perpendicularly in left margin adjacent to signature and first postscript; addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esq. Monticello,—Virginia”; franked; postmarked River Head, Conn., 16 June; endorsed by TJ as received 24 June 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

The long-lived Luigi Cornaro described his personal regimen of fourteen ounces of wine a day in his widely reprinted work, Trattato de la Vita Sobria (Padua, 1558). saul may have boasted of his thousands slain, and david his ten thousands derives from the Bible, 1 Samuel 18.7. TJ informed Benjamin waterhouse that he no longer read newspapers in his letter of 3 Mar. 1818.

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Parenthetical phrase interlined.

3Preceding four words interlined, with caret mistakenly inserted after the period.

4Preceding two words interlined.

5Reworked from “Stats” to “State.”

6Preceding three words interlined.

7Preceding two words interlined.

8Preceding three words interlined, with superfluous period before caret editorially omitted.

9Preceding two words interlined.

10Reworked from “again and fish.”

11Preceding four words interlined.

12Preceding three words interlined.

13Word interlined.

14Preceding four words interlined.

15Preceding seven words interlined.

16Utley here canceled “of the land.”

17Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries

  • aging; effect of alcohol on search
  • Akerly, Samuel; as editor ofMedical Repository search
  • alcohol; beer search
  • alcohol; brandy search
  • alcohol; cider search
  • alcohol; gin search
  • alcohol; malt liquor search
  • alcohol; rum search
  • alcohol; spirits search
  • alcohol; temperance search
  • beer; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • Bible; 1 Samuel referenced search
  • brandy; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • butter; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • Charles II, king of England search
  • cheese; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • cider; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • coffee; drinking of search
  • Connecticut; politics in search
  • Cornaro, Luigi search
  • David, king of Israel search
  • fevers; treatment for search
  • fish; mentioned search
  • food; butter search
  • food; cheese search
  • food; fish search
  • food; meat search
  • food; mustard search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; portraits of search
  • gin; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • gout search
  • health; alcohol abuse search
  • health; and bathing search
  • health; and diet search
  • health; edema search
  • health; fever search
  • health; gout search
  • health; rheumatism search
  • health; stroke search
  • health; tuberculosis search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books and Library; reading habits of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; aging search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; and wine search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; cold footbaths search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; physical habits of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; requested from search
  • lard; in New Englanders’ diet search
  • malt liquor search
  • Medical Repository search
  • Mitchill, Samuel Latham; as editor ofMedical Repository search
  • New England; physical habits in search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • New York (city); Medical Repository search
  • Pascalis Ouviere, Felix Alexander; as editor ofMedical Repository search
  • pepper; black search
  • rheumatism; as disability search
  • rum search
  • Saul, king of Israel search
  • spices; pepper, black search
  • spirits (alcohol) search
  • strokes (illness) search
  • tea; drinking of search
  • tobacco; smoking of search
  • Utley, Vine; and physical habits in New England search
  • Utley, Vine; and physical habits of TJ search
  • Utley, Vine; and politics in Conn. search
  • Utley, Vine; and portraits of TJ search
  • Utley, Vine; letters from search
  • Washington, George; portraits of search
  • Waterhouse, Benjamin; mentioned search
  • wine; TJ’s consumption of search