Tag Archives: Doctor
… the legislature is likely to establish a marine hospital at New Orleans, where we lose about 400. boatmen & seamen annually by sickness … I consider the nomination [of superintendent] to such a place as a sacred charge … I would greatly prefer those who have established a reputation by practice. I have however as yet but a single application from a Physician of any age & experience … the object of this letter is to ask your information of his [Dr. Barnwell of Philadelphia] character medical & moral, and that you will be so good as to write it to me candidly, unreservedly, and fully, assured that it shall be confined to myself alone …
To Caspar Wistar, March 22, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders need candid input on important personnel matters.
Wistar (1761-1818) was a noted Philadelphia physician and expert in anatomy, and a friend and confidante of Jefferson’s. The President expected a raft of applicants to lead the new hospital at New Orleans, but he preferred an experienced, capable doctor. He had received only one such application but didn’t know enough about the man. He sought Wistar’s opinion.
1. He needed to know about the applicant’s “character medical & moral.” Competency in medicine was not enough. He needed to be a moral man, as well.
2. He wanted Wistar to write him “candidly, unreservedly, and fully,” (emphasis Jefferson’s). His evaluation should be frank, truthful and complete.
3. He assured Wistar that his assessment would remain between the two of them only.
Wistar responded in the manner requested, but Jefferson subsequently appointed another to the position.
“Thank you again,
and please do not hesitate to use this letter as a recommendation…”
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson comes well-recommended.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
I am become sensible of a great advantage your profession has over most others, that, to the close of your life, you can be always doing good to mankind: whereas a retired politician is like a broken down courser [a swift horse], unfit for the turf, and good for little else. I am endeavoring to recover the little I once knew of farming, gardening Etc. and would gladly now exchange any branch of science I possess for the knolege of a common farmer. too old to learn, I must be contented with the occupation & amusement of the art.
To Benjamin Rush, September 22, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders are far more valuable than others.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a Philadelphia physician, life-long friend of Jefferson’s and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence. His medical views were controversial. He favored bloodletting and purging. He sent 600 of “Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills” with Lewis and Clark. Also known as “Rush’s Thunderclappers,” this mercury and chlorine laxative of his own creation had an explosive effect on the human bowel.
But Rush also opposed capital punishment, favored education for women, actively promoted Christianity and pioneered more humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is regarded as the father of American psychiatry.
Here, Jefferson praises the value of the doctor, who can “be always good to mankind,” even to the end of his life. He likened himself, a retired politician, to a former race horse, once fast but now broken down and worthless. In between was the farmer, the identity he always preferred, who also could be useful for a lifetime. Public service drew him away from the land, and he regretted it. He would trade any of his vast scientific understanding “for the knoledge of a common farmer.” He thought himself too old to learning farming once again and amused himself by puttering around his lands.