Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Vine Utley, 10 June 1819

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


Your letter the 21st March last came duly 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, & 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), 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 liquor, 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 intellects 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, has distroyed its hundreds of thousands; particularly in the U. State of America where such immense quantities are Gormandized by all classes of people.

Your becoming a hard Student, at this time, and delighting in Study (as you did when a young man) in this advanced period of your life, demonstrate to me not only the viger of your body; but the vigor of your intellects, 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 affussion 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 Docters 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 similar to these 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. 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, swimming in butter, a hogs lard, strong condiments, some tart 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, with butter lard, pepper, mustard, Cider tea, &c. The evening is spent in smoaking tobacco.—

Rum, brandy, gin, and Cider, together with malt liquors, are used by the people here with dreadful prodigality which bring on a dark train of evils, such as Gout, Rheumatisims, Dropsies Apoplexis, consumptions, and premature old age, or death.

Although most of the wealthy people of these New-England States are Epicureans, I am happy to inform you, that their are some, people even, among the wealthy 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 D[. . .] Water house you have done reading Vans 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 became the Supreme laws. 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 property 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, & them are Franklin, and Washington, and these two I knew 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 in 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.—

MHi: Coolidge Collection.

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