By: Melissa Quinn, August 29, 2016
As a Registered Nurse, I am very interested in learning more about Colonial medicine. As I began studying the medical practices of the Revolutionary War, I came across the story of Dr. Benjamin Rush. I learned not only about his sacrifices during the war but the many ways he advanced medicine and education in his post-war life.
Benjamin Rush was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 4, 1746. He was a Founding Father of the United States and served as Surgeon General in the Continental Army. He attended the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. Rush was also a civic leader in Philadelphia, where he was a physician, politician, social reformer, educator and humanitarian, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He opposed slavery, advocated for free public schools and sought improved education for women. He, also, promoted public health by advocating clean environments and stressing the importance of personal and military hygiene. His study of mental disorders gave him the title of one of the founders of American psychiatry. He truly was a fascinating man and we could study many aspects of his life.
Today, I’d like to share with you some of his thoughts on studying the Christian faith in conjunction with the founding documents and how that helps us to more clearly understand those documents. Quite often, in personal letters and articles, he advocated for the study of the Bible and the Founding Documents simultaneously. In a letter to John Armstrong on March 19, 1783, he stated “Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” Later in his life, he also stated, in “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic” in 1806, “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.
Dr. Benjamin Rush contracted typhus fever and died of that disease on April 19, 1813. He was buried (in Section N67) in the Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, not far from where Benjamin Franklin is buried. At the site, you will find a small plaque honoring Benjamin Rush. The plaque reads, “In memory of Benjamin Rush MD he died on April 19 in the year of our Lord 1813 Aged 68 years. “Well done good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of the Lord”
After studying the ideas of Dr. Rush and other Founders, I firmly believe the reason that so many people have a misconstrued version of the founding documents is because they have not been taught to research the basic moral foundations on which those documents were written. The founders, at the very least, had a basic belief in the Creator and His role as a moral compass in our lives. If people choose to deny the Bible and the truths therein, they will never fully understand the founding documents. These people will distort the true meanings in these documents and twist them to fit their own interpretations. One of the ways that we can combat this, is to give our children a Christian educational background. If we can’t send our children to Christian schools, it is imperative that we teach scriptures and live the principles of the Bible at home. We are the example of Godliness to our children. We can change the course of the United States of America by doing these things for ourselves and our posterity.
Look for more articles on Dr. Rush’s colonial medical practices in future posts.