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Thomas Jefferson explains why he refuses to publish his private correspondence with Benjamin Rush, "...preventing the publication of his letters, or their getting into hands which might expose him, living, or his character when dead to obloquies from bigots in religion, in politics, or in medicine..."
Monticello, [Charlottesville, VA], August 17, 1816. 9.75" x 8". "Autograph Letter Signed, ""Th: Jefferson"", 1p, 9.75"" x 8"", with conjoined franked address leaf in Jefferson's hand. Addressed to James Mease, Monticello, [Charlottesville, Va.], August 17, 1816. Expected toning. Fine condition.Thomas Jefferson, long since retired to private life, declines the request of Dr. James Mease for copies of Dr. Benjamin Rush?s correspondence with Jefferson. Mease hoped to include them in a volume of Rush?s letters to be published and specifically requested letters pertaining to Rush?s personal views on religion and politics. After demurring, Jefferson discusses at length the differences between personal and official correspondence, with philosophical thoughts on public versus private expression. He closes with assurances that his decision is nothing personal, and of his great respect for Mease: ?I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend.?In full, ""I have duly received your favor of the 7th inst. requesting me to communicate to you such letters from the late Dr. Rush to myself as I possess on political, religious, and miscellaneous subjects, with a view to their publication. I possess but few such; but these were of extraordinary confidence; insomuch that, on his death, I requested from his family a return of my letters to him on subjects of this character, which they kindly and honorably did return. had I died first, I think it probable he would have made the same request from my family, & with the same view, that of preventing the publication of his letters, or their getting into hands which might expose him, living, or his character when dead, to obloquies from bigots in religion, in politics, or in medicine When we are pouring our inmost thoughts into the bosom of a friend, we lose sight of the world, we see ourselves only in confabulation with another self; we are off our guard; write hastily; hazard thoughts of the first impression; yield to momentary excitement; because, if we err, no harm is done; it is to a friend we have committed ourselves, who knows us, who will not betray us; but will keep to himself what, but for this confidence, we should reconsider, weigh, correct, perhaps reject, on the more mature reflections and dictates of our reason. to fasten a man down to all his unreflected expressions, and to publish him to the world in that as his serious & settled form, is a surprise on his judgment and character. I do not mean an inference that there is anything of this character in Doctor Rush?s letters to me: but only that, having been written without intention or preparation for publication, I do not think it within the office of a friend to give them a publicity which he probably did not contemplate. / I know that this is often the form in which an author chuses to have his ideas made public. When the occasion, the subject, the chastened style evidently indicate this, it may be a good evidence of intention, as direct expression, but in the present case, the occasions were special, the persons and subjects most confidential, and the style the ordinary careless one of private correspondence. Under these circumstances, I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend, and that you will accept assurances of my great esteem and respect / Th: Jefferson"" James Mease (1771-1846) studied medicine under Benjamin Rush and was a prominent Philadelphia doctor and scientific thinker, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He helped develop a scientific vineyard, was a member and curator of the American Philosophical Society, was a founder and the first vice president of the Philadelphia Athenaeum, an early lecturer on pharmacy science, and an important early leader in the call for treating veterinary medicine as a science that should be studied similar to human medicine. He served as surgeon during the War of 1812. He devoted considerable time to correspondence among other scientifically-minded individuals around the United States and the world on subjects of horticulture, geology, penal and criminal reform, technology, and medicine. He wrote a book, The Picture of Philadelphia, Giving an Account of its Origin, Increase, and Improvements in Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, Commerce and Revenue (1811), that charted the city and its inhabitants? rise to prominence in American life. He also wrote Observations on the Arguments of Professor Rush in Favor of the Inflammatory Nature of the Disease Produced by the Bite of a Mad Dog, 1801. Mease attended Dr. Rush on his deathbed in 1813. Jefferson's references to religion in his available letters are particularly scarce. Only a handful have ever come to market, most notably the ""synagogue"" letter which sold nearly 30 years ago for around $400,000. This letter is made even more pertinent in light of recent developments and privacy incursions by Internet giants Google and Facebook, and the National Security Agency. "
      [Bookseller: University Archives]
Last Found On: 2015-10-11           Check availability:      Biblio    

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