Benjamin Rush

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Founding Fathers
Benjamin Rush.jpg
Benjamin Rush
State Pennsylvania
Religion Christian- Presbyterian [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence

Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was a colonial physician known as the "Father of American Medicine." He was Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence, he served as the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and he opened the first free medical clinic at the Pennsylvania Hospital, and made significant contributions to the philosophy of the American Enlightenment.

He also founded the Philadelphia Bible Society and was an abolitionist who founded the Society for the Abolition of Slavery.

Raised in northeast Philadelphia, Rush's father was a farmer and gunsmith who died when Benjamin was only six years old. His mother supported her family by running a Philadelphia grocery. For five years Benjamin attended the West Nottingham Academy in Rising Sun, Maryland, and at age 13 was admitted as a junior. He graduated at age 14 as its youngest graduate ever, having already mastered its 5-year curriculum that required fluency in Greek and Latin. In 1808, he founded the Philadelphia Bible Society and was an abolitionist who founded the Society for the Abolition of Slavery.

Rush did not attend the Constitutional Convention and did not sign the U.S. Constitution draft there.

Yellow Fever Outbreak

During the Yellow fever epidemic of 1793, Rush worked together with Absalom Jones and Richard Allen against the epidemic.

Later Honor

Rush Medical College in Chicago received its charter in March of 1837, the same year as the city.



Rush felt that the United States was the work of God:[2]

"I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the United States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament".

Rush felt that education must be based on the foundation of religion:

"I proceed ... to inquire what mode of education we shall adopt so as to secure to the state all of the advantages that are to be derived from the proper instruction of the youth; and here I beg leave to remark that the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid on the foundation of 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. ... But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament... Its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-being of civil government."[3]

Rush believed that Republicanism was rooted in Biblical principles.

"We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism."[4]

Physicians like to quote what Dr. Benjamin Rush reportedly said about the Constitution around 1787:

"The Constitution of this Republic should make special provision for medical freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. ... Unless we put medical freedom into the constitution the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship and force people who wish doctors and treatment of their own choice to submit to only what the dictating outfit offers."


  2. To Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788. Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, ed., (Princeton, NJ: American Philosophical; Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475.
  3. Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic (1786)
  4. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 93-94