… your letter of the 9th. announced of a method of curing Yellow fever … in the distribution of the powers of government however, made by our general & state constitutions, no other encoragement for useful discoveries has been confided to the general [national] government but that of securing to their authors the exclusive use of them [a patent] for a term of years. all further reward is within the competence of the state-governments alone … those which have suffered under this affliction cannot fail to remunerate with liberality any real discovery for remedying it in future.
Thomas Jefferson to Antonio Garcia Herreros, August 18, 1805
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know who can and cannot help.
Herreros solicited the President for federal support for his “cure” for yellow fever. Jefferson acknowledged that any cure would be of great value. He explained that the U.S. Constitution gave the national government no authority to promote it beyond the issuance of a patent. Herreros must look to state governments for support.
The President affirmed liberal compensation should be owing anyone with a “real discovery” for curing the fever. Obviously, Herreros possessed no such cure.