Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 9

Benjamin Rush


   We have hitherto viewed Dr. Rush as an author, a physician, a professor, and a philosopher; let us now view him as a man. From him we may learn to be good, as well as great. Such was the force of pious example and religious education in the first fifteen years of his life, that though he spent the ensuing nine in Philadelphia, Edinburgh, London, and Paris, exposed to the manifold temptations which are inseparable from great cities, yet he returned, at the age of twenty-four, to his native country, with unsullied purity of morals. The sneers of infidels, and the fascinations of pleasure, had no power to divert him from the correct principles and virtuous habits which had been engrafted on his mind in early youth. He came home from his travels with no excessive attachment but to his books; no other ambition than that of being a great scholar; and without any desire of making a stepping-stone of his talents and education, to procure for him the means of settling down in inglorious ease, without the farther cultivation and exertion of his talents. In a conversation which he held with Dr. Ramsay, thirty-five years ago, Dr. Rush observed, that as he stepped from the ship that brought him home from Europe, he resolved that " no circumstances of personal charms, fortune, or connections, should tempt him to perpetrate matrimony, (his own phrase,) till he had extended his studies so far that a family would be no impediment to his farther progress." To this resolution of sacrificing every gratification to his love for learning, and his desire of making a distinguished figure in the republic of letters, he steadily adhered. For this he trimmed the midnight lamp; for this, though young, gay, elegant in person and manners, and possessed of the most insinuating address, he kept aloof from all scenes of dissipation, enervating pleasure, and unprofitable company, however fashionable ; and devoted himself exclusively to the cultivation of those powers which God had given him.
   Piety to God was an eminent trait in the character of Dr. Rush. In all his printed works, and in all his private transactions, he expressed the most profound respect and veneration for the great Eternal. At the close of his excellent observations on the pulmonary consumption, he observes, "I cannot conclude this inquiry without adding, that the author of it derived from his paternal ancestors a predisposition to pulmonary consumption; and that, between the eighteenth and forty-third year of his age, he has occasionally been afflicted with many of the symptoms of that disease which he has described. By the constant and faithful use of many of the remedies which be has now recommended, be now, in the sixty-first year of his age, enjoys nearly an uninterrupted exemption from pulmonary complaints. In humble gratitude, therefore, to that Being who condescends to be called the 'preserver of men,' he thus publicly devotes the result of his experience and inquiries to the benefit of such of his fellow creatures as may be afflicted with the same disease, sincerely wishing that they may be as useful to them as they have been to the author."

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