RUSH, Benjamin (1746-1813), Signer (Pennsylvania). Autograph letter signed ("Benj. Rush") to Judge Thomas Smith, Philadelphia, 4 March 1793. 3 pages, folio, seal hole with loss of one letter otherwise fine.
CANTERING FOR THE CURE: BENJAMIN RUSH'S UNORTHODOX REMEDY FOR BREAST AILMENTS
A remarkable display of wrong-headed eighteenth century medical advice from Dr. Benjamin Rush, America's leading physician in the Revolutionary era, written to a Federal Judge: "Your niece Mrs. Blodget put a letter into my hands a few days ago in which you request my opinion of Mrs. Smith's case. I am sorry to inform you that I think her in a critical situation, but I do not despair of her recovery, provided she immediately begins to use the only remedy that is radical in complaints of the breast. I mean Riding on Horseback. Take her with you to all your courts. The more she roughs it on those journeys the better..."
Rush recommends adjusting the patient's diet according to the fluctuations of her pulse: "When it is full or tense, she should live on milk, and vegetables. But when it is weak, and quick, she may eat animal food in moderation....If a milk & vegetable diet does not reduce her pulse...she should lose a few ounces of blood occasionally, and if a troublesome pain in her side should at any time occur, it should be removed if possible by a small blister to the part affected. If a troublesome cough should at any time prevent her sleeping, it should be composed by laudanum or asthmatic elixir. I repeat it again that my hopes of her recovery hang chiefly upon her Riding on Horseback. She should like the ancient Tartars live on horseback. Short excursions from home will not do. She must perform journies and they must be repeated during the present spring & approaching summer." Rush's ideas were more sure-footed in the social sciences, where he worked against slavery, the inhumane treatment of prisoners, and advocated on behalf of temperance, the expansion of public education, and, in the late 1780s, the adoption of the Federal Constitution (See Lot 265, Hamilton to Rush).