« AnteriorContinuar »
was a highly respectable agriculturalist, and died when this son was but a child. At the age of nine years, Benjamin was placed under the tuition of his maternal uncle, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, whose literary attainments were of a high order, and who was subsequently elected president of the college at Princeton, New Jersey. "Young Rush continued under the instruction of this accomplished teacher until he was fourteen, when he entered Princeton college, then under the direction of President Davis. Like an expanding flower courting the genial warmth of spring, the talents of this young freshman rapidly unfolded their rich lustre beneath the shining rays of the sun of science. So astonishing was his proficiency, that in one year after he commenced his collegiate course, he received the degree of bachelor of arts; a high compliment to his former instructor, a merited tribute to his own industry, acquirements and genius. During his brief stay at Princeton, he gained the friendship of all around him, and was esteemed one of the inost eloquent public speakers among the students. With the best wishes of the professors and his classmates, he left them the following year, and commenced the study of medicine with Dr. John Redman, then one of the most eminent practitioners in the city of Penn. The same industry that had marked his previous course, made him a favourite son of Æsculapius. The same urbanity and modesty that had made him a welcome guest in every circle in which he had previously moved, constantly gained for him new and influential friends. After pursuing his study with great assiduity for six years under the instruction of Dr. Redman, he entered the medical university of Edinburgh, in Scotland, where he reaped the full benefit of the lectures of the celebrated professors Munro, Cullen, Black and Gregory; and received the degree of doctor of medicine in 1768. Although then laden with an unusual store of knowledge in the healing art, his investigating mind led him to explore still farther the important field of science before him, and reduce to practice, under the superintendence of able practitioners, his vast stock of theory. He accordingly went to London, where he was admitted to practice in the hospitals of that city. He soon became eminent as a bold and successful operator, å skilful and judicious physician. After remaining there nearly a year, he visited Paris, and, in the spring of 1769, returned to the warm embrace of his connections and friends, and commenced his useful career in the city of Philadelphia.
His professional fame had preceded him, and his superior acquirements were immediately called into action. In addition to an extensive practice, he was elected one of the professors of the medical school that had recently been organized by Drs. Bond, Kuhn, Morgan and Shippen. This mark of distinction was conferred upon him within a few months after his return. Upon a substantial basis he continued to build an honest and enduring fame, participating in all the passing events that concerned his country's good and his country's glory; at the same time discharging his professional duties promptly and faithfully.
Although he had apparently been absorbed in the study of medi
cine, it was soon discovered that he had made himself familiar with the relative situation of the mother country and the American colonies. He had closely examined the unwarranted pretensions of the former, and the aggravated grievances of the latter. His noble soul was touched by the sufferings of oppressed humanity, and warmed by the patriotic fire of FREEDOM. He became a bold and able advocate in the cause of liberty, a firm and decided opposer of British tyranny, a strong and energetic supporter of equal rights. Mingling with all classes through the medium of his profession, his influence was as extensive and multiform, as it was useful and salutary. The independence of his country was the desire of his heart; to see her regenerated and free, was his anxious wish. So conspicuous a part did he act in the passing scenes of that eventful period, that he was chosen a member of the Congress of 1776, and sanctioned the declaration of independence, by affixing his name to that sacred instrument.
The year following, he was appointed physician-general of the military hospital for the middle department, and rendered himself extensively useful during the whole of the revolution. He was ever ready to go where duty called, and exerted his noblest powers in the glorious cause he had espoused, until he saw the star spangled banner wave in triumph over his native land, and the incense of LIBERTY ascending to Heaven, in sappharine clouds, from the altar of FREEDOM.
This great work accomplished, he desired to be occupied only by his profession. For a time, his services were diverted from this channel, by his being elected a member of the convention of Pennsylvania to take into consideration the adoption of the federal constitution. Having examined the arguments as they progressed in the national convention that formed it, he was fully prepared to enter warmly and fully into the advocacy of that instrument. When it received the sanction of a majority of the States, the measure of the political ambition of Dr. Rush was filled. He retired from that kind of public life, crowned with laurels of immortal fame, that will bloom and survive, until patriotism shall be lost in anarchy, and the last vestige of liberty is destroyed by the tornado of faction. The only station he ever consented to fill under government subsequently was that of cashier of the United States Mint.
From that period forward, he devoted his time and talents to the business of his profession, to the improvement of medical science, and the melioration of the ills that flesh is heir to.
In 1789, he was elected professor of the theory and practice of physic, as the successor of Dr. Morgan, and in 1791 he was appointed to the professorship of the institutes of medicine and clinical practice, and upon the resignation of Dr. Kuhn, in 1806, he was honoured by the united professorships of the theory and practice of physic and of clinical medicine, which stations he ably filled until death closed his useful career.
Besides those already mentioned he performed many duties in, various associations formed for benevolent purposes. He was president of the American Society for the Abolition of Slavery, vice president of the Philadelphia Bible Society, president of the Philadelphia Medical
Society, one of the vice presidents of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of several other philanthropic institutions both in this country and in Europe. For many years he was one of the physicians of the Pennsylvania Hospital, and took a deep interest in its prosperity and welfare. Wherever he could be useful by counsel, influence, or action, he was sure to be found. To soothe the troubled bosom heaving with anguish, to alleviate the suffering patient writhing under pain, to supply the pinching wants of the poor and needy sinking under adversity, afforded Dr. Rush more pleasure than to have been placed on the loftiest pinnacle of political fame; a richer joy than to have been the triumphant chieftain of a conquered world.
Amidst his multifarious duties he arranged his time with so much system and order as to produce a routine of harmonious action. His professional duties, his books, and his pen, were all attended to in proper time. He wrote numerous literary, moral, and philosophical essays, and several volumes on medical science, among which were his Medical Inquiries and Observations," and a "History of the Yellow Fever.” He spent much time in the investigation of that fatal disease, and in endeavouring to arrive at the best mode of treatment. In this, as well as in many other cases, the lancet was his anchor of hope. During the prevalence of any disease his exertions to alleviate distress and arrest its progress, were unremitting and indefatigable. He obeyed the calls of the poor and needy as promptly as those of the rich and affluent. He was particularly attentive to those who had employed him when prosperity cheered their onward course, and were subsequently prostrated by adversity. He was not a sunshine friend.
He was the man whose liberal mind
And wipe the tears from off his face. A pious and exemplary christian, he poured the balm of consolation into the wounds of the desponding heart as freely as he administered to alleviate the pains of the body. His counsels were full of wisdom and benevolence, and rescued many a frail bark from total shipwreck. His soul-cheering advice and enlivening presence drove despair from many an agonized mind, imparting fresh vigour by administering the elixir of hope and the tonic of perseverance.
Blessed with a vigorous constitution, Dr. Rush was able to discharge his numerous duties until a short time previous to his death, which occurred on the 19th of April, 1813. Although advanced in years new honours continued to gather around him; new fields of usefulness were constantly opening before him; the lustre of his fame had scarcely arrived at its high meridian; the zenith of his glory would unquestionably have reached a loftier summit had his life and health been spared a few years longer.
As the news of his death spread, a universal sorrow pervaded all classes; funeral sermons were preached, eulogies pronounced, and processions formed throughout the United States, as a faint tribute to
the memory of the departed sage, patriot, scholar, and philanthropist. When the sad tidings reached England and France, the same demonstrations of respect were manifested there; the tears of sympathy and mourning for departed worth stood trembling in many European eyes. In the halls of science on both sides of the Atlantic, Dr. Rush was well known, and held in the highest estimation. By our own country his loss was most keenly felt; by the civilized world, deeply lamented. The graves of but few men have been moistened by as many tears from the high and the low, the rich and the poor, as that of Dr. BENJAMIN Rush. His fame is based upon substantial merit; his name is
engraven in deep and indelible traces upon the hearts of his countrymen; his reputation is written on the tablet of history in letters of gold by the finger of justice, dipped in the font of gratitude, and will endure, unscathed and unimpaired, until the last trump shall proclaim to the astonished world, TIME SHALL BE NO LONGER.
The private character of this great and worthy man, was as unsul. lied and pure as his public career was brilliant and useful. His heart was richly stored with the milk of human kindness; his benevolence sometimes carried him beyond his professional income in donations to the poor, to churches, seminaries of learning, and to other objects calculated to benefit mankind.
He was temperate in his habits, neat in his apparel and person, social and gentlemanly in his intercourse with society, urbane and courteous in his manners, interesting and instructive in his conversation, modest and unassuming in his deportment. He was a warm and affectionate companion, the widow's friend, and the orphan's father.
In size he was above the middle stature, rather slender, but well proportioned. His mouth and chin were well formed, his nose aqueline, his eyes blue and animated, with a high and prominent forehead. The diameter of his head, from back to front, was unusually great. His combined features were commanding and prepossessing, his countenance indicated a powerful and gigantic intellect.
When attacked by the disease which terminated in death, he was aware that a rapid dissolution awaited him. He was fully prepared to enter upon the untried scenes of another and a brighter world; he could look back upon a life well spent; he had run a noble race, and was then ready to finish his course, resign his tabernacle of clay to its mother dust, and his immortal soul to Him who gave it.
THE unqualified and unrestrained oppressions emanating from crowned heads and exercised with impunity in former times, have been shorn of half their terrors by modern light and intelligence. As the genial rays of liberty illuminate the minds of the human family, thrones will be held by a more slender tenure, and monarchies will become more limited if not completely annihilated. In Europe, kingly power has been vibrating for the last century, as if shaken by an earthquake. The love of freedom has never been extinguished in the old world; the same feelings that prompted the pilgrim fathers to tempt the dangers of this western hemisphere, still pervade the bosoms of millions who are writhing under the goring lash of potent sceptres.
When our forefathers planted themselves upon the shores of America many of them appear to have understood clearly the principles of a republican government, as appears from the articles of association entered into by several and distinct settlements. Among those who commenced their superstructure upon the foundation of equal rights, the name of Wolcott stands conspicuous. It is closely associated with the history of New England for the last two centuries. Henry Wolcott, the patriarch ancestor of this eminent family, was a native of England, and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts, as early as 1630. In 1636, he, with several others, founded the town of Windsor, in Connecticut, and established a commonwealth, based on republican principles, consisting of Windsor, Hartford, and Weathersfield.
The revised constitution of Connecticut is substantially the same as the one penned by Roger Ludlow, and adopted by this infant colony; a high compliment to the pilgrim fathers—a proud memorial of their virtue and intelligence.
During the perils of the Indian wars, during the difficulties with the Canadian French, and through all the various vicissitudes that have pervaded New England down to the present time, the descendants of Henry Wolcott have acted a conspicuous part in the field and in the legislative hall.
OLIVER WOLcott, the subject of this brief sketch, was the youngest son of Roger Wolcott, who was appointed governor of Connecticut in 1751. Oliver was born the 26th of November, 1726, and graduated at Yale College at the age of twenty-one years. The same year he was commissioned to command a company which he raised and marched to the defence of the northern frontier, where he remained until the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. He then returned, applied himself to the study of medicine, until he was appointed the first sheriff of the county of Litchfield, formed in 1751. In 1755 he married Laura Collins, an amiable and discreet woman of great merit. In