James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 24 July 1805

To Thomas Jefferson

Washington July 24. 1805

Dear Sir

At the date of my last, I hoped by this time to be making ready for my journey on your track. A consultation of the Doctors We[e]ms & Elzey1 on the situation of my wife’s knee has ended in the joint opinion that an operation is indispensable which can best be performed at Philadelphia, and that it is prudent to avoid delay as much as possible. We shall accordingly set off tomorrow, in order to put her under the care of Docr. Physic.2 No cause less urgent could have diverted me from my trip home, which had become very peculiarly desirable on several accounts. It is now altogether uncertain when I shall have that pleasure. If every thing goes well it is possible that the detention at Philada. may not exceed two or three weeks. I shall shorten it as much as can properly be done and then hasten to Virginia. In the mean time be pleased to address your public commands, which can not be fulfilled in the Office, to me at Philada. till otherwise advised, and freely add any private ones where I can be of service. With respectful attachment I remain always yrs.

James Madison

RC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Docketed by Jefferson as received 2 Aug.

1John Weems (d. 1808) of Maryland, who graduated with Philip Syng Physick from the University of Edinburgh in 1792, was living in Georgetown by 1801 and was elected an honorary member of the Philadelphia Medical Society in February 1805. Arnold Elzey (ca. 1758–1818) was a Maryland native who graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1775. He apparently studied medicine in Baltimore from 1779 to 1783. He served one term in the Maryland legislature in 1784, was one of the founders of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland in 1799, and was vice president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. In 1814 he was named garrison surgeon’s mate at Greenleaf’s Point in the District and in 1816 became post surgeon, a position he held until his death (Samuel Lewis, “List of the American Graduates in Medicine in the University of Edinburgh, from 1705 to 1866, with Their Theses,” New-England Historical and Genealogical Register 42 [1888]: 159, 162; Alexandria Times; and District of Columbia Daily Advertiser, 29 Aug. 1801; Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 15 Feb. 1805; National Intelligencer, 11 Nov. 1808; Harrison, Princetonians, 1769–1775, 478–80; Papenfuse et al., Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1:304–5).

2Philadelphia native Philip Syng Physick (1768–1837) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1785 and was educated in medicine in London and Edinburgh. From 1794 until 1816 he served on the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital, where his growing reputation led to the creation of a chair of surgery for him at the University of Pennsylvania in 1805. He was an innovative practitioner and introduced many improvements to surgery in America during his long career.

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