… [doctors, like lawyers] are also numerous. yet I have remarked that wherever one sets himself down in a good neighborhood, not preoccupied, he secures to himself it’s practice, and, if prudent, is not long in acquiring whereon to retire & live in comfort. the Physician is happy in the attachment of the families in which he practises. all think he has saved some one of them, & he finds himself every where a welcome guest, a home in every house. if, to the consciousness of having saved some lives, he can add that of having at no time, from want of caution, destroyed the boon he was called on to save, he will enjoy in age the happy reflection of not having lived in vain …
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
This lawyer leader preferred medicine over law.
Campbell wanted the President’s advice for his 18-year-old son, Thomas Jefferson Campbell, whether to be a lawyer or doctor. Jefferson began and ended by deferring to the young man’s ability and the father’s direction. In between, he gave his opinion of both professions.
Lawyers did not fare well, but doctors did:
1. The doctor who settled in a community and devoted himself to his practice would earn a good livelihood and retirement.
2. Everyone would believe he had saved lives.
3. He would be welcome everywhere.
4. In addition to saving lives, if no deaths could be attributed to him for lack “of caution,” in old age he could be confident his life had not been in vain.