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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Benjamin Rush

RUSH, Benjamin, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Byberry township, Pennsylvania, 24 December, 1745' died in Philadelphia, 19 April, 1813. His ancestor, John, who was a captain of horse in Cromwell's army, emigrated to this country in 1683, and left a large number of descendants. Benjamin's father died when the son was six years old. His earliest instructor was his uncle, Reverend Samuel Finley, subsequently president of Princeton, who prepared him for that college He was graduated in 1760, mid the medical department of the University of Edinburgh in 1768, after studying under Dr. John Red-man, of Philadelphia. He also attended medical lectures in England and in Paris, where he enjoyed the friendship of Benjamin Franklin, who advanced the means of paying his expenses. In August, 1769, he returned to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where he was elected professor of chemistry in the City medical college. In 1771 he published essays on slavery, temperance, and health, and in 1774 he delivered the annual oration before the Philosophical society on the " Natural History of Medicine among the Indians of North America." He early engaged in pre-Revolutionary movements, and wrote constantly for the press on colonial rights. He was a member of the provincial conference of Pennsylvania, and chairman of the committee that reported that it had become expedient for congress to declare independence, and surgeon to the Pennsylvania navy from 17 September, 1775, to 1 July, 1776. He was then elected to the latter body, and on 4 July, 1776, signed the declaration, tie married Julia, a daughter of Richard Stockton, the same year, was appointed surgeon-general of the middle department in April, 1777, and in July became physician-general. AI-though in constant attendance on the wounded in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, the Brandywine, Germantown, and in the sickness at Valley Forge, he found time to write four long public letters to the people of Pennsylvania, in which he commented severely on the articles of confederation of 1776, and urged a revision on the ground of the dangers of giving legislative powers to a single house. In February, 1778, he resigned his military office on account of wrongs that had been done to the soldiers in regard to the hospital stores, and a coldness between himself and Gem Washington, but, though he was without means at that time, he refused all compensation for his service in the army. He then returned to Philadelphia, resumed his practice and duties as professor, and for twenty-nine years was surgeon to the Pennsylvania hospital, and port physician to Philadelphia in 1790-'3. He was a founder of Dickinson college and the Philadelphia dispensary, and was largely interested in the establishment of public schools, concerning which he published an address, and in the founding of the College of physicians, of which he was one of the first censors. He was a member of the State convention that ratified the constitution of the United States in 1787, and of that for forming a state constitution in the same year, in which he endeavored to procure the incorporation of his views on public schools, and a penal code on which he had previously written essays. After that service he retired from political life. While in occupation of the chair of chemistry in Philadelphia medical college, he was elected to that of the theory and practice of medicine, to which was added the professorship of the institutes and practice of medicine and clinical practice in 1791, and that of the practice of physic in 1797, all of which he held until his death. During the epidemic of yellow fever in 1793 he rendered good service, visiting from 100 to 120 patients daily, but his bold and original practice made him enemies, and a paper edited by William Cobbett, called "Peter Porcupine's Gazette," was so violent in its attacks upon him that it was prosecuted, and a jury rendered a verdict of 85,000 damages, which Dr. Rush distributed among the poor; His practice during the epidemic convinced him that yellow fever is not contagious, and he was the first to proclaim that the disease is indigenous. From 1799 till his death he was treasurer of the United States mint. "His name," says Dr. Thomas Young, " was familiar to the medical world as the Sydenham of America. His accurate observations and correct discrimination of epidemic diseases well entitled him to this distinction, while in the original energy of his reasoning he far exceeded his prototype." He was a member of nearly every medical, literary, and benevolent institution in (his country, and of many foreign societies, and for his replies to their queries on the subject of yellow fever received a medal from the king of Prussia in 1805, and gifts from other crowned heads, lie succeeded Benjamin Franklin as president of the Pennsylvania society for the abolition of slavery, was president of the Philadelphia medical society, vice-president and a founder of the Philadelphia Bible society, advocating the use of the Scriptures as a textbook in tile public schools, an originator of the American philosophical society, of which he was a vice-president in 1799-1800. He taught, more clearly than any other physician of his day, to distinguish diseases and their effects, gave great impulse to the study of medicine in this country, and made Philadelphia the centre of that science in the United States, more than 2,250 students having attended his lectures during his professorship in the Medical college of Philadelphia. Yale gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1812. His publications include " Medical Inquiries and Observations" (5 vols., Philadelphia, 1789-'98; 3d ed., 4 vols.. 1809) ; "Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical" (1798 ; 2d ed., 1806) ; "Sixteen Introductory Lectures" (1811); and "Diseases of the Mind" (1812; 5th ed., 1835). He also edited several medical works.--His son, Richard, statesman, born in Philadelphia, 29 August, 1780; died there, 30 July, 1859, was graduated at Princeton in 179'7, and admitted to the bar of Philadelphia in 1800, and early in his career won distinction by his defence of William Duane, editor of the " Aurora," on a charge of libelling Governor Thomas McKean. He became solicitor of the guardians of the poor of Philadelphia in 1810, and attorney-general of Pennsylvania in 1811, comptroller of the United States treasury in November of the same year, and in 1814-'17 was United States attorney-general. He became temporary United States secretary of state in 1817, and was then appointed minister to England, where he remained till 1825, negotiating several important treaties, especially that of 1818 with Lord Castlereagh respecting the fisheries, the northwest boundary-line, conflicting claims beyond the Rocky mountains, and the slaves of American citizens that were carried off on British ships, contrary to the treaty of Ghent. He was recalled in 1825 to accept tile portfolio of the treasury which had been offered him by President Adams, and in 1828 he was a candidate for the vice-presidency on the ticket with Mr. Adams. In 1829 he negotiated in Holland a loan for the corporations of Washington, Georgetown, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia He was a commissioner to adjust a boundary dispute between Ohio and Michigan in 1835, and in 1836 was appointed by President Jackson a commissioner to obtain the legacy of James Smithson (q. v.), which he left to found the Smithsonian institution. The case was then pending in the English chancery court, and in August, 1838, Mr. Rush returned with the amount, $508,318.46. He was minister to France in 1847-'51, and in 1848 was the first of the ministers at that court to recognize the new republic, acting in advance of instructions from his government. Mr. Rush began his literary career in 1812, when he was a member of the Madison cabinet, by writing vigorous articles in defence of the second war with England. His relations with John Quincy Adams were intimate, and affected his whole career. He became an anti-Mason in 1831, in 1834 wrote a powerful report against the Bank of the United States, and ever afterward co-operated with the Democratic party. He was a member of the American philosophical society. His publications include "Codification of tile Laws of the United States" (5 vols., Philadelphia, 1815); "Narrative of a Residence at the Court of London from 1817 till 1825" (London, 1833); a second volume of the same work, "Comprising Incidents, Official and Personal, from 1819 till 1825" (1845 ; 3d ed., under the title of the "Court of London from 1819 till 1825, with Notes by the Author's Nephew," 1873) ; "Washington in Domestic Life," which consists of personal letters from Washington to his private secretary, Colonel Tobias Lear, and some personal recollections (1857); and a volume of " Occasional Productions, Political, Diplomatic, and Miscellaneous, including a (]lance at the Court and Government of Louis Philippe, and the French Revolution of 1848," published by his sons (1860).--Richard's son, Benjamin, born in Philadelphia, 23 January, 1811; died in Paris, France, 30 June, 1877, was graduated at Princeton in 1829, studied law, and in 1833 was admitted to tile bar in Philadelphia. In 1837 he was appointed secretary of legation at London, where he served for a time as charge d'affaires He published "An Appeal for the Union" (Philadelphia, 1860) and "Letters on the Rebellion" (1862).--Another son of tile first Benjamin, James, physician, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1 March, 1786; died there, 26 May, 1869, was graduated at Princeton in 1805, and at the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1809. He subsequently studied in Edinburgh, and, returning to Philadelphia, practised for several years, but afterward relinquished tile active duties of his profession to devote himself to scientific and literary pursuits. He left $1,000,000 to the Philadelphia library company for the erection of the Ridgeway branch of the Philadelphia library His publications include "Philosophy of the Human Voice" (Philadelphia, 1827) ; "Hamlet, a Dramatic Prelude in Five Acts" (1834)" "Analysis of the Human Intellect" (2 vols., 1865) ; and " Rhymes of Contrast on Wisdom and Folly" (1869).--His wife, Phoebe Ann, born in Philadelphia in 1797 ; died there in 185'7, was a daughter of Jacob Ridgeway. She was highly educated in early life, well versed in the languages and literature of modern Europe, and by her social tact and brilliant conversational powers became one of the most noted American women of her time. Her house in Philadelphia was one of the finest in this country, and her entertainments were on the largest and most luxurious scale.--A brother of the first Benjamin, Jacob, jurist, born in Byberry township, Pennsylvania, in 1746; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 5 January, 1820, was graduated at Princeton in 1765, settled in the practice of law in Philadelphia, was a judge of the high court of errors and appeals of Pennsylvania in 1784-1806, president of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia in 1806-'20, and at an earlier date was a justice of the supreme court of the state. In the controversy between Joseph Reed and John Dickinson as to the character of Benedict Arnold (q. v.), Judge Rush espoused the latter's cause. Princeton gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1804. His publications include" Resolve in Committee Chain-bet 6 December, 1774" (Philadelphia, 1774) : " Charges on Moral and Religious Subjects" (1803) ; "Character of Christ" (1806) ; and "Christian Baptism " (1819).--His daughter, REBECCA, published "Kel-roy, ', a novel (Philadelphia, 1812).RUSH, Christopher, A. M. E. bishop, born in Craven county, North Carolina, in 1777; died in New York city, 16 , July, 18'73. He was a full-blooded African, and born a slave. ]le went to New York in 1798, and was subsequently freed, and licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal church in 1815. He was ordained a superintendent in 1828, and successively occupied important offices in the church till, in 1849, he became bishop. He was largely instrumental in the separation of the colored from the white branch of the Methodist church, and his address before Bishop Enoch George finally carried the measure. At that time the African Methodists numbered only 100, but Bishop Rush lived to see it a comparatively large and flourishing organization. He possessed excellent judgment and business capacity, and was greatly revered by his race.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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