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Benjamin and Richard Rush papers

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Creator: Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813

Date: 1791-1856

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Menninger Historic Psychiatry Coll., Rush, Box 1

Unit ID: 223253

Abstract: Originals and copies, sometimes also with typed transcripts, of letters written either by Benjamin Rush or his son Richard Rush, Esq. Topics include yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, news about family and friends/acquaintances, current reading, real estate and other property matters, religion and church, advice on health matters, legal and fiscal matters, publishing and writing, the American Revolution, the 1848 revolution in France and Major Poussin, politics and political careers, etc. Also with the papers are some court and legal documents from Richard Rush, engraved prints of Benjamin Rush, articles and other writings (often reprints) by Benjamin Rush or about Benjamin Rush, including an elegiac poem upon his death, and other related materials. Correspondents include Benjamin's wife Julia, former pupils, businessmen and lawyers, and other individuals.

Summary: These original letters were written either by Benjamin Rush or his son Richard Rush, Esq. Benjamin Rush was a Founding Father and signatory of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a physician, professor, and writer who many consider to be the "Father of American Psychiatry." Richard Rush held several political positions, including United States Attorney General, Secretary of Treasury, and Minister to England and France. Topics in this correspondence include yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, news about family and friends/acquaintances, current reading, real estate and other property matters, religion and church, advice on health matters, legal and fiscal matters, publishing and writing, the American Revolution, the 1848 revolution in France and Major Poussin, politics and political careers, etc. Also with the papers are some court and legal documents from Richard Rush. These papers are part of the historic psychiatry material in the Menninger Archives.

Space Required/Quantity: 0.50 cubic feet

Title (Main title): Benjamin and Richard Rush papers

Part of: Menninger Foundation Archives. Historic Psychiatry sub-collection.

Biography

Biog. Sketch (Full): On 24 December 1745, Benjamin Rush was born to John and Susannah Harvey Rush, in Byberry Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. His father dying when Rush was a child, and Rush being one of seven siblings, he was sent to his aunt and uncle Finley. Rush received his education through the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton) and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he received his medical degree.

Rush returned to North America in 1769 and took up a private medical practice in Philadelphia. He also became a professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia, publishing the first American textbook in chemistry. An abolitionist, Rush wrote on numerous topics, including those related to patriotism and the growing crisis between England and the colonies. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Rush joined with the Continental Army as a surgeon and physician.

Benjamin Rush signed the U.S. Constitution in 1776, as a delegate to the Continental Congress. That same year he married Julia Stockton. The couple had 13 children, 9 of whom outlived their father.

In 1777, Rush was appointed surgeon-general to the continental army, a position which he did not keep long. Horrified at the conditions he found in the army, he accused Dr. William Shippen, director general of the hospital of the continental army, of negligence. When Congress upheld Shippen rather than Rush, Dr. Rush resigned in protest. Rush also secretly campaigned to remove General Washington from running the continental army. A letter he wrote to Virginia governor Patrick Henry on the subject was intercepted, and Rush when confronted agreed not to be involved anymore in the military.

Rush remained politically active, being elected to the Pennsylvania convention that adopted the federal constitution and serving as treasurer to the U.S. Mint from 1797-1813, among other duties. He continued writing prolifically on medicine and other topics. Working with the Pennsylvania Hospital, Rush became interested in psychiatry and treating the insane.

Benjamin Rush died 19 April 1813 at home.

Richard Rush, Benjamin's and Julia's second son and third child, was born in Philadelphia on 29 August 1780. He was very active in both law and politics, graduating as the youngest member of his class at the College of New Jersey. He served as Attorney General for Pennsylvania in 1811 and was appointed Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury the same year by President James Madison. From 1814 to 1817, Richard Rush served as Attorney General to the United States, also serving as Acting Secretary of State in 1817. Thereafter he was appointed Minister (ambassador) to England, serving in that capacity for eight years.

When Richard returned to the United States in 1825, he was nominated to serve as Secretary of the Treasury under President John Quincy Adams. He was a vice presidential candidate in 1828 with Adams, but they were defeated by Andrew Jackson and his running mate. Rush served on the committee to adjust the boundaries between Ohio and Michigan in 1835, and he also served as a commissioner to obtain the legacy left by Englishman James Smithson, which led to the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. Rush served as one of the first regents to this institution.

One of his last public duties was as Minister to France, from 1847-1849. Richard Rush retired to Philadelphia and died there on 30 July 1859.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

Letters by Benjamin Rush, MD, folder list:

  • July 25, 1791 to wife Julia
  • Sept. 8, 1797 to Peter Brown describing activities during fever epidemic
  • Sept. 6, 1798 to his wife Julia expressing his vitriolic opinion of the irresponsible father of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of "Enquiry Concerning Political Justice"
  • May 4, 1802 to Dr. Anderson at Bedford, Penn., wherein Rush enlists his aid in employing a lawyer to clear title to some of his lands on which squatters were living
  • Sept. 16, 1806 to Dr. Nathaniel Potter introducing Dr. Murduck, the bearer of
    the letter, to Dr. Potter (a Rush pupil )
  • Aug . 20, 1808 to wife Julia giving family news
  • Mar . 30, 1810 to a Congressman about his health
  • Sept. 25, 1812 to wife Julia (the last from him to her)
  • Oct . 8, 1812 to Dr. David Hosack re the dense ignorance of the first settlers upon the frontiers of the new States

    Letters by Richard Rush, Esq (1780-1859)
  • July 16, 1812 to Benjamin Austin discussing payment of subscription
  • February, 1817 re representing the United States in its case against Tenbrook
  • Aug. 28, 1819 to Colonel Harden re dinner meeting
  • June 26, 1830 to Mr Jonduh re reprinting third edition of a pamphlet into a journal
  • June 13, 1833 to Carey Lea & Core book being published for him
  • Apr . 23, 1845 to Mr Dickens (penciled bio at bottom of page)
  • Apr. 29, 1845 to Colonel Aspinwal re his conversation with Mr. Lea
  • Jan . 31, 1850 to Honorable Wm. R King re supplying a means of getting justice for himself in case of government inquiry
  • Jan. 29, 1856 to Major Williams re correcti ons ma de by Major on hi s previ ous l etter

Portions of Collection Separately Described:


More separate components

Portions of Collection Not Separately Described:

  1. Rush, Benjamin July 25, 1791 (Box 1, folder 1)
  2. Rush, Benjamin September 8, 1797 (Box 1, folder 2)
  3. Rush, Benjamin September 6, 1798 (Box 1, folder 3)
  4. Rush, Benjamin May 4, 1802 (Box 1, folder 4)
  5. Rush, Benjamin September 16, 1806 (Box 1, folder 5)
  6. Rush, Benjamin August 20, 1808 (Box 1, folder 6)
  7. Rush, Benjamin March 30, 1810 (Box 1, folder 7)
  8. Rush, Benjamin September 25, 1812 (Box 1, folder 8)
  9. Rush, Benjamin October 8, 1812 (Box 1, folder 9)
  10. Rush, Benjamin July 16, 1812 (Box 1, folder 10)
More components

Locators:

Locator Contents
078-02-07-02   
980-04-00-00  Copy of engraving of Benjamin Rush 

Related Records or Collections

Associated materials: Benjamin Rush's papers are scattered amidst numerous institutions, including the Philadelphia Library Company, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library of Congress.

Associated materials: (Richard) Rush family papers, 1675-1885, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Index Terms

Subjects

    Europe -- History -- 1848-1849
    France -- History -- 1848-1870
    United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783
    Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813
    Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 -- Correspondence
    Rush, Richard, 1780-1859 -- Correspondence
    Christianity -- United States -- History -- 18th century
    Family life -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History -- 18th century
    Yellow fever -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia

Creators and Contributors


Agency Classification:

    Organizations/Corporations. Menninger Foundation Archives. Historic Psychiatry. Individuals. Benjamin Rush.