Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hugh Mercer to Thomas Jefferson, 7 August 1821

From Hugh Mercer

Fredericksbg Augt 7th 1821—

Dear Sir,

I beg the privilege of introducing to you, Dr John Cullen, who will have the pleasure of handing you this Letter—

Dr Cullen has been in our Country about six years, residing chiefly in Philadelphia; & has been here several weeks, delivering in part a course of Lectures on Chymistry, to be completed on his return from a visit to the Springs—He is desirous to pay his respects to you on his return, & I have particular pleasure in making you acquainted with him—

I am Sir, most respectfully, Yr ob St,

Hugh Mercer

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Aug. 1821 and so recorded (with additional bracketed notation: “by Dr Cullen”) in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Albert Gallatin, 29 Oct. 1822, on recto and verso; addressed: “His Excy Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello—Doctor Cullen.”

Hugh Mercer (1776–1853), banker and public official, was born in Fredericksburg, the son of Revolutionary War general Hugh Mercer (ca. 1725–1777). Following his father’s death in battle, the United States government paid for Mercer’s education, with the first installment authorized in 1784 by a Confederation Congress committee of which TJ was a member. Congress continued to subsidize his education into the 1790s, and Mercer ultimately studied at the College of William and Mary in 1795. Two years later he was introduced to TJ with the request, apparently unfulfilled, that TJ help him attain “general Knowledge” in exchange for Mercer’s service as personal secretary. He became a magistrate, represented Spotsylvania County in the House of Delegates from 1804–08, was appointed a juror in Aaron Burr’s 1807 treason trial, and served as a longtime director of the Fredericksburg branch of the Bank of Virginia starting in 1808. Mercer rose to colonel in the Spotsylvania County militia, and in 1812 James Madison appointed him a lieutenant colonel of infantry. In 1840 he owned seven slaves, and a decade later the census described him as a bank president with real estate valued at $8,250. Mercer died at Sentry Box, his Fredericksburg home (Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Mémin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies [1942], 191; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 44 vols. description ends , 7:132, 29:353; Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [1904–37], 26:309, 28:441, 30:240, 32:288, 34:199; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:489, 496, 500, 503 [18, 27 Feb., 1, 2 Mar. 1793]; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 1:720, 725, 731, 734 [27 Feb., 1, 2 Mar. 1793]; William and Mary Provisional List description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. From 1693 to 1888, 1941 description ends , 28; Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, 1978 description ends , 237, 241, 245, 249; Richmond Virginia Argus, 8 Jan. 1808; DNA: RG 29, CS, Fredericksburg, 1810–50; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:240, 241 [24, 26 Mar. 1812]; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 10 Jan. 1824; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 3:578–9; Baltimore Sun, 3 Dec. 1853; Fredericksburg Hustings Court Will Book, E:401–2; gravestone inscription in Fredericksburg City Cemetery).

John Cullen (1797–1849), physician and educator, was a native of Dublin. He studied anatomy and surgery in Paris in about 1814, returned to Ireland the following year, and moved to New York soon thereafter. Following a brief period as a chemist in New York City, Cullen earned a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1819 and then practiced briefly in a Philadelphia almshouse. By early in 1821 he was in Virginia lecturing on chemistry in Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Richmond, and he soon opened a medical practice in the last city. In 1832 Cullen was appointed to the Richmond board of health, and five years later he was in a group of physicians that persuaded Hampden-Sydney College to create a medical department in Richmond. Cullen held its chair in the theory and practice of medicine from the beginning until illness forced him to retire in 1848. After his death the institution became the Medical College of Virginia. In 1846 Cullen attended a New York City meeting that considered founding the American Medical Association. At its organizational meeting the following year he served on a committee that called for state medical-licencing boards. Cullen owned four slaves in 1830. At his death in Richmond, his real estate and personal property combined were valued at roughly $34,000 (DVB description begins John T. Kneebone, Sara B. Bearss, and others, eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 1998– , 3 vols. description ends ; Atlantic Journal of Medicine 1 [1883]: 191–9; Virginia Medical Monthly 54 [1927]: 356–8; Will J. Maxwell, comp., General Alumni Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania [1917], 580; Richmond Enquirer, 23 Jan., 27 Nov. 1821, 28 Dec. 1849, 8 Jan. 1850; DNA: RG 29, CS, Richmond, 1830; Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, 28 Dec. 1849; Richmond City Hustings Court Will Book, 12:487–97; gravestone inscription in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond).

Index Entries

  • Cullen, John (1797–1849); identified search
  • Cullen, John (1797–1849); introduced to TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Mercer, Hugh (1776–1853); identified search
  • Mercer, Hugh (1776–1853); introduces J. Cullen to TJ search
  • Mercer, Hugh (1776–1853); letter from search