James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Philip S. Physick, 18 September 1812

From Philip S. Physick

Philada. 18th. Septr. 1812

Dear Sir,

Having been made acquainted with many circumstances of the medical department of our army which lead me to believe that much advantage would accrue from having it under the immediate control of some accomplished medical character I have been induced to trouble you with a request that you would be so obliging as to inform me whether it is the intention of the executive to institute the office of Surgeon General to the army at the next session of Congress.1

My Nephew Doctr. John Syng Dorsey2 having received a complete medical education in this and in foreign countries—having been for ten years engaged in very extensive business and being perfectly conversant with the various modern improvements of surgery wishes to be considered as a candidate for this distinguished post. It is proper also to inform you that Dr Dorsey has for several years been Adjunct Professor of surgery in the University of Pennsyla.

I have no hesitation in assuring you that every confidence may be placed in him for the faithful and zealous performance of his duties and I make no question that the appointment would prove highly beneficial to the interests of the army and of course highly honourable to him who receives it. Requesting you to present my best compliments to Mrs. Madison I have the honour to be with the highest respect your most Obedient and very faithful servant

Philip S. Physick

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Congress created the office of physician and surgeon-general by an act of 3 Mar. 1813 (Heitman, Historical Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (2 vols.; Washington, 1903). description ends , 1:41). The office was first filled by James Tilson in June 1813 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:352, 353).

2John Syng Dorsey (1783–1818) received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1802. He joined the faculty of that school in 1807 and from 1810 to 1818 was also a surgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dorsey published a well-received volume on surgical techniques in 1813 and was elected to the chair of materia medica and later to that of anatomy (Howard A. Kelly and Walter L. Burrage, eds., American Medical Biographies [Baltimore, 1920], 321–23).

Index Entries