DescriptionJohn Marshall Autograph Letter Signed "J Marshall." Three integral pages, 8" x 9.75", Richmond, July 10, 1825. Writing to Dr. Thomas Sewall regarding the lack of medical education in the state (then colony) of Virginia prior to the Revolution, Marshall, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, apologizes for his "inability to give you the information you request, or to refer you to any source whence it may be drawn. You have, I believe, yourself, conjectured the truth respecting the means by which, before the revolution, medical science was acquired in Virginia . . . We had no medical school in the colony in consequence of which many of our practitioners were foreigners; and the natives never considered their education as finished without a residence of some years in Edinburgh. This continued to be the practice even after the revolution; and it is only within a few years that the opinion is established that a medical education may be complete in America."
He continues by listing four men who were well thought of physicians: General Hugh Mercer, "who was killed at Princeton . . . and educated I believe at Edinburgh"; Doctor Jones, "for several years a member of Congress . . . was distinguished as a scholar and a physician"; Doctor McClure, "placed by common consent, at the head of his profession. . . . he wrote a treatise on bile which was much applauded"; and Doctor Currie, who worked by "distinguishing the character of . . . disease, and of discovering the remedy." Heavily damaged along the right edge resulting is some minor loss of text. Folds are weak and separating in places. Light ink bleedthrough.
Thomas Sewall (1786-1845) was a founding member of the medical faculty at Columbian College where he taught anatomy. Six years earlier, Sewall was charged with multiple counts of grave robbing and body snatching (two of the eight bodies were his former patients). Being found guilty, he was forced to leave the state of Massachusetts. He settled in Washington and became professor of anatomy at the National Medical College prior to his position at Columbian College. During the Columbian graduation of 1827 he provided the commencement speech. Ironically, the topic was on good moral conduct in the practice of medicine.
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