still it is not within my province to decide the question: but as it may be within yours to require the performance of Quarentine or not, I execute a private duty in submitting Doctr. Rush’s letter to your consideration. but on this subject ‘nil mihi rescribas, attamen ipse veni.’
Thomas Jefferson to John Page, August 16, 1804
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Respectful leaders do not usurp another’s authority.
Jefferson concluded his letter to Virginia’s Governor saying any decision to quarantine areas affected by the yellow fever lay with Page. He forwarded Dr. Benjamin Rush’s opinionated letter on the subject to Page as a “private duty,” not a public one.
“nil mihi rescribas, attamen ipse veni,” means “writing back is pointless. Come yourself!” The translation is given in the footnote to a 1795 Jefferson letter to James Madison. Perhaps he meant that debating the issue by letter was pointless, that he would rather see his old friend and discuss it in person?