BENJAMIN RUSH was born
December 24, 1745 in Byberry Township near Philadelphia.When Benjamin was six years old his father
died and his mother and stepfather raised him.His earliest instructor was his uncle, Reverend Samuel Finley, who
subsequently became the president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and
prepared young Benjamin for that college (Just a quick note. I enjoyed your excellent site on Dr.
Benjamin Rush and thought I'd pass this along. You mention his early education
under the tutelage of Dr. Samuel Finley. Rush was, in fact, a graduate of
Finley's West Nottingham Academy, as was Richard Stockton. the school still
stands today as the oldest boarding school in the U.S. - Rusty Eder History
Chair, West Nottingham Academy).He graduated in 1760, with plans
ok being a lawyer.However, he changed his
mind and began to study medicine in Philadelphia and completed it in
Edinburgh and London.He attended
medical lectures in England and in Paris, where he enjoyed the friendship of
Benjamin Franklin, who advanced money to pay Rush's expenses.In August 1769, Rush returned to America,
settled in Philadelphia and became the most famous American physician and
medical teacher of his generation.
Upon his return
to America, Benjamin Rush engaged early in pre-Revolutionary movements, and
wrote constantly for the press on colonial rights.He was a member of the provincial conference of Pennsylvania, and
chairman of the committee that reported that it had become expedient for
congress to declare independence.He
manifested his enthusiasm for the colonial cause by riding out to meet the
Massachusetts delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774.He established during the next few years the
deepest and most cherished of his friendships with John
On January 2,
1776, Dr. Rush married Julia Stockton, daughter of fellow Signer, Richard
Stockton.He was elected to Congress on
July 20, 1776, after the declaration had been adopted, but there was probably
no one who signed the document with greater satisfaction.While he was devoted to his patients'
welfare, Dr. Rush would accept any duty that might lead to independence for the
colonies.He was resolute in his
prediction that "Britain and America will hereafter be distinct empires.America is the only vivid principle of the
After some months in Congress, he
became in April 1777, surgeon general of the armies of the Middle Department
but resigned after less than a year during a controversy over the
administration of military hospitals.Rush, who was a very impatient man, a problem noticeable to all
including John Adams, was led into indiscreet remarks about General Washington,
which clouded his fame to some extent over time.His own correspondence remained unpublished for the most part
until the middle of the twentieth century – chiefly because his family did not
want to advertise old indiscretions and revive old controversies.
He was impulsive and indiscreet,
but his zeal for the public good was limitless. He taught at the College of
Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania.He was a believer in "blood-letting" for many illnesses and was
criticized strongly for this belief.He
attacked slavery and strong drink, classical education and tobacco, carrying on
a ‘one-man crusade' and undoubtedly spending himself in too many causes.In 1793, Dr. Rush was credited with curing
the epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia.The King of Prussia, the Queen of Etruria,and the Emperor of Russia honored
him for his replies to their questions on yellow fever. Rush never convinced
his scientific friend Thomas Jefferson that the doctors of their time did more
good than ill.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was at the height
of his fame in 1813 when he died in Philadelphia in his sixty-eighth year.His beloved wife, Julia, who was not yet
seventeen when he married her, bore him thirteen children.Two of them gained enduring distinction:Richard Rush, the diplomat; and James Rush,
who followed his father in the medical profession.
from the University of Pennsylvania granting Joseph G. Shippen the degree of
medical doctor, in Latin, dated 1810.Signed "Benj. Rush, MD: Inst. Et prof:Med Prof'r."; also by Philip Syng
Physick, known as the "Father of American Surgery."Nice example of a man more well known for his medical
accomplishments than for his political ones.
Benjamin Rush - Signer of the Declaration of Independence - A Stan Klos
Benjamin, signer of the Declaration
of Independence, born in Byberry Township, Pa., 24 Dec.,
1745' died in Philadelphia, 19 April, 1813. His ancestor, John, who was a
captain of horse in Cromwell's
army, immigrated to this country in 1683, and left a large number of descendants.
Benjamin's father died when the son was six years old. His earliest instructor
was his uncle, Rev. Samuel Finley, subsequently president of Princeton, who
prepared him for that college (Just a quick note.
I enjoyed your excellent site on Dr. Benjamin Rush and thought I'd pass this
along. You mention his early education under the tutelage of Dr. Samuel Finley.
Rush was, in fact, a graduate of Finley's West Nottingham Academy, as was
Richard Stockton. the school still stands today as the oldest boarding school in
the U.S. - Rusty Eder History Chair, West
Nottingham Academy). He was graduated in 1760, the medical department
of the University of Edinburgh in 1768, after studying under Dr. John Redman, of
Philadelphia. He also attended medical lectures in England and in Paris, where
he enjoyed the friendship of Benjamin Franklin,
who advanced the means of paying His expenses. In August 1769, he returned to
the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where he was elected professor of
chemistry in the City medical college.
1771 he published essays on slavery, temperance, and health, and in 1774 he
delivered the annual oration before the Philosophical society on the "
Natural History of Medicine among the Indians of North America."He early engaged in pre-Revolutionary movements, and wrote constantly for
the press on colonial rights. He was a member of the provincial conference of
Pennsylvania, and chairman of the committee that reported that it had become
expedient for congress to declare independence, and surgeon to the Pennsylvania
navy from 17 Sept., 1775, to 1 July, 1776. He was then elected to the latter
body, and on 4 July, 1776, signed the declaration, he married Julia, a daughter
of Richard Stockton, the same year, was
appointed surgeon-general of the middle department in April, 1777, and in July
in constant attendance on the wounded in the battles of Trenton,
Princeton, the Brandywine,
Germantown, and in the sickness at Valley
Forge, he found time to write four long public letters to the people of
Pennsylvania, in which he commented severely on the articles of confederation
of 1776, and urged a revision on the ground of the dangers of giving legislative
powers to a single house. In February 1778, he resigned his military office on
account of wrongs that had been done to the soldiers in regard to the hospital
stores, and coldness between himself and General
Washington, but, though he was without means at that time, he refused all
compensation for his service in the army.
then returned to Philadelphia, resumed his practice and duties as professor, and
for twenty-nine years was surgeon to the Pennsylvania hospital, and port
physician to Philadelphia in 1790-'3. He was a founder of Dickinson college and
the Philadelphia dispensary, and was largely interested in the establishment of
Public schools, concerning which he published an address, and in the founding of
the College of physicians, of which he was one of the first censors. He was a
member of the State convention that ratified the constitution
of the United States in 1787, and of that for forming a state constitution in
the same year, in which he endeavored to procure the incorporation of his views
on Public schools, and a Penal code on which he had previously written essays.
After that service he retired from political life. While in occupation of the
chair of chemistry in Philadelphia medical college, he was elected to that of
the theory and practice of medicine, to which was added the professorship of the
institutes and practice of medicine and clinical practice in 1791, and that of
the practice of physic in 1797, all of which he held until his death. During the
epidemic of yellow fever in 1793 he rendered good service, visiting from 100 to
120 patients daily, but his bold and original practice made him enemies, and a
paper edited by William Cobbett, called "Peter Poreupine's Gazette,"
was so violent in its attacks upon him that it was prosecuted, and a jury
rendered a verdict of 85,000 damages, which Dr. Rush distributed among the poor;
His practice during the epidemic convinced him that yellow fever is not
contagious, and he was the first to proclaim that the disease is indigenous.
From 1799 till his death he was treasurer of the U. S. mint. "His
name," says Dr. Thomas Young, "was familiar to the medical
world as the Sydenham of America. His accurate observations and correct
discrimination of epidemic diseases well entitled him to this distinction, while
in the original energy of his reasoning he far exceeded his prototype."
was a member of nearly every medical, literary, and benevolent institution in
(his country, and of many foreign societies, and for his replies to their
queries on the subject of yellow fever received a medal from the king of Prussia
in 1805, and gifts from other crowned heads, He succeeded Benjamin Franklin as
president of the Pennsylvania society for the abolition of slavery, was
president of the Philadelphia medical society, vice-president and a founder of
the Philadelphia Bible society, advocating the use of the Scriptures as a textbook
in the public schools, an originator of the American philosophical society, of
which he was a vice-president in 1799-1800. He taught, more clearly than any
other physician of his day, to distinguish diseases and their effects, gave
great impulse to the study of medicine in this country, and made Philadelphia
the centre of that science in the United States, more than 2,250 students having
attended his lectures during his professorship in the Medical college of
Philadelphia. Yale gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1812. His publications
include "Medical Inquiries and Observations" (5 vols.,
Philadelphia, 1789-'98; 3d ed., 4 vols.. 1809) ; "Essays, Literary,
Moral, and Philosophical" (1798 ; 2d ed., 1806) ; "Sixteen
Introductory Lectures" (1811); and "Diseases of the
Mind" (1812; 5th ed., 1835). He also edited several medical works.
son, Richard, statesman, born in Philadelphia, 29 Aug., 1780; died there, 30
July, 1859, was graduated at Princeton in 179'7, and admitted to the bar of
Philadelphia in 1800, and early in his career won distinction by his defense of
William Duane, editor of the "Aurora," on a charge of libeling
Gov. Thomas McKean. He became solicitor of the
guardians of the poor of Philadelphia in 1810, and attorney general of
Pennsylvania in 1811, comptroller of the U. S. treasury in November of the same
year, and in 1814-'17 was U.S. attorney general. He became temporary U. S.
secretary of state in 1817, and was then appointed minister to England, where he
remained till 1825, negotiating several important treaties, especially that of
1818 with Lord Castlereagh respecting the fisheries, the northwest
boundary-line, conflicting claims beyond the Rocky mountains, and the slaves of
American citizens that were carried off on British ships, contrary to the treaty
of Ghent. He was recalled in 1825 to accept the portfolio of the treasury, which
had been offered him by President Adams, and in 1828 he was a candidate for the
vice-presidency on the ticket with Mr. Adams. In 1829 he negotiated in Holland a
loan for the corporations of Washington, Georgetown, D.C., and Alexandria, Va.
He was a commissioner to adjust a boundary dispute between Ohio and Michigan in
1835, and in 1836 was appointed by President
Jackson a commissioner to obtain the legacy of James Smithson (q. v.), which
he left to found the Smithsonian institution. The case was then pending in the
English chancery court, and in August 1838, Mr. Rush returned with the amount,
was minister to France in 1847-'51, and in 1848 was the first of the ministers
at that court to recognize the new republic, acting in advance of instructions
from his government. Mr. Rush began his literary career in 1812, when he was a
member of the Madison cabinet, by writing vigorous articles in defense of the
second war with England. His relations with John
Quincy Adams were intimate, and affected his whole career. He became an
anti-Mason in 1831, in 1834 wrote a powerful report against the Bank of the
United States, and ever afterward cooperated with the Democratic Party. He was a
member of the American philosophical society. His publications include "Codification
of the Laws of the United States" (5 vols., Philadelphia, 1815); "Narrative
of a Residence at the Court of London from 1817 till 1825" (London,
1833); a second volume of the same work, "Comprising Incidents, Official
and Personal, from 1819 till 1825" (1845 ; 3d ed., under the title of
the "Court of London from 1819 till 1825, with Notes by the Author's
Nephew," 1873) ; "Washington in Domestic Life," which
consists of personal letters from Washington to his private secretary, Col.
Tobias Lear, and some personal recollections (1857); and a volume
of " Occasional Productions, Political, Diplomatic, and Miscellaneous,
including a chance at the Court and Government of Louis Philippe, and the French
Revolution of 1848," published by his sons (1860).
son, Benjamin Rush, born in Philadelphia, 23 Jan., 1811; died in Paris, France,
30 June, 1877, was graduated at Princeton in 1829, studied law, and in 1833 was
admitted to the bar in Philadelphia. In 1837 he was appointed secretary of
legation at London, where he served for a time as chargd d'affaires. He
published "An Appeal for the Union" (Philadelphia, 1860) and "Letters
on the Rebellion" (1862).
son of the first Benjamin, James, physician, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 1 March,
1786; died there, 26 May, 1869, was graduated at Princeton in 1805, and at the
medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1809. He subsequently
studied in Edinburgh, and, returning to Philadelphia, practiced for several
years, but afterward relinquished the active duties of his profession to devote
himself to scientific and literary pursuits. He left $1,000,000 to the
Philadelphia library company for the erection of the Ridgeway branch of the
Philadelphia library. His publications include "Philosophy of the Human
Voice" (Philadelphia, 1827); "Hamlet, a Dramatic Prelude in Five
Acts" (1834)" "Analysis of the Human Intellect"
(2 vols., 1865) ; and " Rhymes of Contrast on Wisdom and Folly"
His wife, Phoebe Ann, born in
Philadelphia in 1797; died there in 185'7, was a daughter of Jacob Ridgeway.
She was highly educated in early life, well versed in the languages and literature
of modern Europe, and by her social tact and brilliant conversational powers
became one of the most noted American women of her time. Her house in
Philadelphia was one of the finest in this country, and her entertainments were
on the largest and most luxurious scale.
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