Benjamin Rush: Father of American Psychiatry
Benjamin Rush writes, to Rev. Mr. [William] Gordon, at Roxbury, Mass., December 10, 1778:
It gave me great pleasure to find from your last letter that your feelings & Opinions accord so exactly with mine on the present state of our Affairs. The time is now past, when the least danger is to be apprehended to our liberties from the power of Britain, the Arts of commissioners, or the machinations of Tories [British loyalists]. Tyranny can now enter our country only in the shape of a Whig [American Patriots]. All our jealousy Should be of ourselves. All our fears, Should be of our great men, whether in civil or military authority. Our Congress begin already to talk of the State Necessity, and of making justice yield in some cases to policy. This was the apology, I was told, for confirming the unjust Sentence that was passed upon General [Charles] Lee. Gordon tells us that in England, the Whigs in power are always Tories, and the Tories out of power are always Whigs. I think I have discovered Something of the same kind already in our country. In my opinion, we have more to dread from the Ambition, avarice, craft & dissolute Manners of our Whigs than we have from a host of Governor [George] Robinsons, Dr [John] Berkenhouts, [Thomas] Hutchinsons or [Joseph] Galloways. Virtue, Virtue, alone my dear friend, is the basis of a republic. “Fiat justitia, ruat coelum,” [Translation: “Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall“] was my maxim during the short time I acted for the public. I had no political Ambition to gratify. I neither feared nor courted any party. I loved liberty for its own Sake, & I both loved & pitied human nature too much to flatter it. But what was the consequence? my political race was Short. I thank my countrymen for dismissing me from their Service. I want no Offices nor honors from them. My temper & my business render me alike independent of the world. But still I will love them, & watch for their happiness. I long to see the image of God restored to the human mind. I long to see Virtue & religion supported & vice & irreligion banished from Society by wise & equitable governments. I long to see an Asylum prepared for the persecuted & oppressed of all countries, & a door opened for the progress of knowledge, literature, the Arts, & the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth. And these great events are only to be accomplished by establishing & perpetuating liberty in our country. O! best of blessings! Who would not follow thee blindfold? Who would not defend thee from the treachery of friends as well as from the malice of enemies? But I must stop. When liberty, the liberty we loved, and contended for in the years 1774 & 1776 is my Subject, I know not where to begin, nor where to end. 0! come celestial stranger & dwell in this our land. Let not our ignorance, our Venality, our luxury, our idolatry to individuals, & our Other anti-republican Vices, provoke thee to forsake the temple our Ancestors prepared for thee. Put us not off with Great Britain’s acknowledging our independence. Alas! the great Ultimatum of our modern patriots. It is liberty alone that can make us happy. And without it the memorable 4th of July 1776, will be execrated by posterity as the day in which Pandora’s box was opened in this country.
I am impatient to see your history. How many Chapters or Volumes have you allotted for the blunders of our Congress, & generals? Weak minds begin already to ascribe our deliverance to them. Had not heaven defeated their counsels in a thousand instances, we should have been hewers of wood & drawers of water to the Subjects of the king of Britain.
With compts. to Mrs Gordon &c. I
am yours sincerely,
B. Rush. Dec’r 10th 1778.
Revd Mr. Gordon, at Roxbury, near Boston.
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