Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Bradley Varnum, 26 December 1807

Washington Dec. 26. 07.

Dear Sir

I return you the letters you were so kind as to communicate to me; on the appointment of Dr. Waterhouse to the care of the marine hospital when he was decided on (Nov. 26.) no other candidate had been named to me as desiring the place. the respectable recommendations I had recieved, and his station as Professor of Medicine in a college of high reputation, sufficiently warranted his abilities as a Physician and to these was added a fact well known, that to his zeal the US. were indebted for the introduction of a great blessing, Vaccination, which has extirpated one of the most loathsome & mortal diseases which has afflicted humanity some years, probably, sooner than would otherwise have taken place. it was a pleasure therefore, as well as a duty, in dispensing the public favors, to make this small return for the great service rendered our country by Dr. Waterhouse—   that he is not a professional Surgeon is not an objection—the Marine hospitals are Medical institutions for the relief of common seamen, & the ordinary diseases to which they are liable. to them therefore Professional Physicians have always been appointed. a Surgeon is named to the Navy-hospital. the Surgeon will have Medical cases under him and the Physician some Surgical cases; but not in sufficient proportion to change the characters of the institutions, or of the persons to whom they are committed.   On a review of the subject therefore, I have no reason to doubt that the person appointed will perform the services of the Marine hospital with ability & faithfulness; and I feel a satisfaction in having done something towards discharging a moral obligation of the nation to one who has saved so many of it’s victims from a mortal disease. nor is it unimportant to the state in which that institution is that it has extended his means of usefulness to the Medical students of it’s college.

I am thankful now, as at all times, for information on the subject of appointments, even when it comes too late to be used. I know none but public motive in making them. it is more difficult, and more painful than all the other duties of my office, and one in which I am sufficiently conscious that involuntary error must often be committed: and I am particularly thankful to yourself for this opportunity of explaining the grounds of the appointment in question, and I tender you sincere assurances of my affectionate esteem respect.

Th: Jefferson

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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