Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

Founding Father Benjamin Rush: Father of Psychiatry, the Army Medical Corps, Veterinary Care, Biblically-Based Public Schools

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 5, 2024 3:03 am

Founding Father Benjamin Rush: Father of Psychiatry, the Army Medical Corps, Veterinary Care, Biblically-Based Public Schools

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1961 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.


January 5, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Dr. Benjamin Rush is America’s Forgotten Founding Father; perhaps it’s because many historians don’t know what to do about his outspoken faith. Rush was the one who encouraged Thomas Paine to write “Common Sense,” which fueled the American Revolution. Harlow Giles Unger is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight books including Dr. Benjamin Rush: The Founding Father Who Healed a Wounded Nation.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

With Lucky Land Slots, you can get lucky just about anywhere. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to- has anyone seen the bride and groom?

Sorry, sorry, we're here. We were getting lucky in the limo and we lost track of time. No, Lucky Land Casino, with cash prizes that add up quicker than a guest registry. In that case, I pronounce you lucky. Play for free at luckylandslots.com. Daily bonuses are waiting. No purchase necessary.

Boyd where prohibited by law. 18 plus, terms and conditions apply. Visit the Tracy website for details. This ad is about AT&T's deal on the new iPhone 15 Pro. And it's real. Guaranteed. That's not always the case with other ads. The view of a lifetime. Only with a pricey upgrade.

Breathe in to find inner peace. Then pay extra to remove the ads. At AT&T, we mean what we say. Learn how to get iPhone 15 Pro with titanium on us. With eligible trade-in. Guaranteed. Connecting changes everything.

AT&T. And we continue with our American stories. And up next, well, one of our favorite regular subjects, American history. Dr. Benjamin Rush is America's forgotten founding father. His signature on the Declaration of Independence comes immediately before that other famous Benjamin.

And that, of course, would be Benjamin Franklin. The fruits of Rush's underlying faith is the story, though, that we're about to hear from a prolific founding father's biographer, Harlow Giles Unger. Harlow is a New York Times bestselling author of 28 books, including Dr. Benjamin Rush, the founding father who healed a wounded nation. He is also a former distinguished visiting fellow in American history at George Washington's Mount Vernon. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1746, Benjamin Rush was born.

Let's take a listen. Dr. Benjamin Rush was one of the most important of our founding fathers, in many ways the most important. George Washington was unquestionably the father of our political and military structure. And Alexander Hamilton fathered our economic structure.

But it was Dr. Benjamin Rush who fathered our social structure. He was the only doctor with a medical school degree who signed the Declaration of Independence. And with his signature, he began a lifelong struggle for abolition of slavery, for women's rights, for a ban on child labor. He fought for establishment of universal free public education. He was first to advocate temperate use of alcohol and opposed tobacco use. He demanded that other doctors treat the poor as well as the rich, African Americans as well as whites. Doctors wouldn't treat African Americans then.

He founded two great schools of higher education in Pennsylvania, Dickinson University in Carlisle and Franklin College, now known as Franklin and Marshall College. And he saved his alma mater, Princeton College, from oblivion after British troops burned it down. Just after the young Dr. Rush won appointment to Philadelphia Hospital, it was called then, he discovered a basement filled with starving human beings chained to walls, lying in their own filth, moaning, groaning, some with infected sores. Rush stormed into the hospital doctor's office and demanded their release and transfer into clean hospital rooms. He agreed to take personal custody of them and to care for them, and then forced the hospital board eventually to add a wing to the hospital to house them. Little by little, he saw most of them improved dramatically as he talked to them, listened to what they had to say, learned their interests, and introduced a range of recreational activities, arts and crafts, and what we now call physical therapy and occupational therapy. In listening to them, he developed a treatment he called talk therapy, what we now call psychotherapy.

And that led to the release of the majority of them into civilian life. It was a miracle, a revolution in the treatment of the mentally ill, which has not changed since the beginnings of civilization. And this was 50 years before Sigmund Freud was even born. Dr. Benjamin Rush, not Sigmund Freud, discovered psychotherapy and other therapies for the mentally ill, a century before Freud started writing about psychoanalysis. The American Psychiatric Association recognized Rush's great achievements by putting his image on their official seal and designating him father of American psychiatry. Now Rush's deep concern for the human condition included an equally deep love of individual liberty, which is why he served in the Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence.

But he was not interested in a career in politics. He loved being a doctor, treating and curing the ill, and he wanted to heal the injured and cure the sick. So after signing the Declaration of Independence, he galloped out of Philadelphia and John George Washington on the banks of the Delaware opposite Trenton, New Jersey. On Christmas night of 1776, Washington's army staged one of the most daring attacks in the Revolutionary War. They rode across the Delaware River through a driving snowstorm and overwhelmed a garrison of a thousand Hessian soldiers at dawn.

As Hessian defenders fired back, some of their bullets inevitably hit their marks. One man, unarmed, rushed into battle, not to fire a shot, but to stem the bleeding. Kneeling over the thawing, Dr. Benjamin Rush tried something no doctor had ever done before, prevent death on the battlefield. Until then, armies routinely left there wounded to die, everywhere in the world. If a soldier could not run, walk, limp, or crawl off the battlefield, he was left to die. There were no doctors around to help.

And there really was no choice. There was no such thing as an antiseptic. The vast majority of the badly injured, in peace as well as war, died from blood poisoning, septicemia. There was nothing anyone could do. Troops couldn't help, doctors or priests could do nothing except pray.

And that seldom saved any lives, at least here on earth. For Dr. Benjamin Rush, however, it seemed obscene to let men die fighting and bleeding for his country. After fighting ended at Trenton, he demanded that Washington set up field hospitals of a sort. Washington commandeered nearby houses, and Rush used them as field hospitals to form what would later become the Army Medical Corps, the first such corps in the world. Rush didn't save many of the wounded.

Of course, there was no way he could. Medicine and medical care were still too primitive. Anesthesia, antiseptics, antibiotics, none of those existed when he went to work trying to save a soldier's life. When he had to amputate a soldier's limb, he fed the patient whiskey or rum and told him to bite on a piece of wood as hard as he could while Rush went to work with his scalpel.

Within a minute or two, most soldiers passed out, and infections would later kill at least two-thirds of them within a few days. But in listening to this, remember that anesthesia didn't exist. The hollow point needle, they weren't invented until 1850. The stethoscope, blood transfusion, even simple aspirin, all of these things were 50 to 100 years in the future. When Rush walked onto that battlefield in Trenton, hospitals, like battlefields, hospitals were places where the badly injured or sick went to die. He didn't go to a hospital to have them save your life.

If you were sick, you stayed at home and used worthless home remedies. Dr. Benjamin Rush only started the scientific revolution in medicine and did not live long enough to see any substantial progress in healthcare. But he could and did begin the job. And because of his status in Philadelphia society, he did live to see some of the results of his pioneering efforts. Philadelphia at the time was America's political, cultural, and economic center, and the signers of the Declaration of Independence were America's richest, most powerful men. Although Rush was not born to wealth, he was a farmer's son, he was superbly well-educated. He went to Princeton and then to the University of Edinburgh Medical School, which was the best medical school in the world at the time.

He finished his studies in London, where Benjamin Franklin introduced him to England's most distinguished thinkers and scientists. Although he treated Philadelphia's rich and famous, he spent most of his time treating the poor, even African-Americans, the first Caucasian doctor in America to do so. And you're listening to Harlow Giles Unger tell the story of Dr. Benjamin Rush, and I thought I knew quite a bit about Rush. But that medical unit and his invention of the idea of a medical corps, I had no idea that this was his way of volunteering in our fight against the British.

More of the Benjamin Rush story born on this day in 1746, here on Our American Stories. Hi, I'm Martine Hackett, and I'm hosting the second season of Untold Stories, Life with a Severe Autoimmune Condition, a production from Ruby Studio in partnership with Argenix. Sharing real stories of MG, CIDP and other autoimmune conditions, we hope to share inspiration and educate the larger community about these severe and often overlooked conditions. I can't fix this.

I can't cure this. And, you know, I'll take my treatment day by day. But I want to try to be engaged, be involved or be as helpful as I feel I can with the limitations I have of working full time to children. So I participate in like market research to provide information to hopefully benefit others, because it's a small margin of people that have the myasthenia. But then to get pregnant, it's an even more narrow margin. And you can never have too much information as an epidemiologist.

Yeah, exactly right. Listen to Untold Stories, Life with a Severe Autoimmune Condition on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Abusers in Hollywood are as old as the Hollywood sign itself. Underneath it lies a shroud of mystery. From Variety, Hollywood's number one entertainment news source and iHeart podcast, comes Variety Confidential. I'm your host, Tracy Patton, and in season one, we'll focus on the secret history of the casting couch. So join us as we navigate the tangled web of Hollywood's secret history of sex, money and murder.

Subscribe now to Variety Confidential wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue with our American stories and with author Harlow Giles Unger. And he has written a terrific book about the life of Benjamin Rush called Dr. Benjamin Rush, the founding father who healed a wounded nation. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1746, Benjamin Rush was born.

Let's pick up where we last left off. Doctors North, South, East and West refused even to consider treating African-Americans at the time. Nor did many of them consider treating the poor. The poor were, in cities at least, were dirty, they smelled, they couldn't read or write. The slums they lived in had no water, no sewers. Conditions were horrible in the slums of America's cities. No one who called himself a doctor, even quacks, willingly set foot in the slums or wanted anything to do with those who lived there. Except Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Listen to Rush as he describes his daily rounds. I led a life of constant labor. I led a life in which my shop was crowded with the poor in the morning and at mealtimes, and I visited nearly every street and alley in the city every day. Often have I ascended the upper story of huts by a ladder. I had to sit on beds.

There were no chairs. I risked not only taking their disease, but being infected by vermin. I seldom went to bed before 12 o'clock. Again, those are the words of Dr. Benjamin Rush. When he was not treating patients, though, he haunted the Pennsylvania State Assembly, demanding social reforms aimed directly or indirectly at improving the health of the city's population. Every social advance that he demanded was tied to health. He was the first to call for public sanitation. He wanted to sweep away the garbage, the sewage and stagnant water, all of which he believed promoted disease. But science being what it was, he had no way of proving it and had to struggle with recalcitrant city and state officials to get them to hire street cleaners. And the way he convinced them was not by telling them how dirty the city was.

He showed them how they and the city and the state would profit economically by cleaning the streets. He championed abolition of slavery, and as president of the Abolition Society, he naturally decried the cruelties of slavery. But the only way he could convince Pennsylvania legislators to abolish slavery was to show them how the state would benefit economically by freeing African Americans to make greater contributions to society. In 1780, he succeeded, and the Pennsylvania Assembly passed the first state law in America banning slavery.

But Rush didn't stop there. He was distressed by the condition of free blacks in Philadelphia. He walked directly into their midst to treat them and their children medically. He was the first white doctor in America to do so. And after winning their trust, he urged them to build their own African American church, the first such church in America.

He not only raised funds to build that church, he joined its parishioners at its dedication. When people don't realize, the Founding Fathers did not invent slavery. When they were born, the slaves were already on the land for almost a century. Actually, Virginia tobacco growers, the great plantation owners, at the turn of the 18th century, early 1700s, petitioned Queen Anne to stop sending slaves there. The slave population in the so-called Sugar Islands at the time, in the Caribbean, had grown so large that they just couldn't absorb any more slaves.

But slavery, slave trading, had become a huge proportion of the British government's income. So they just arbitrarily started dumping slaves off the ships in Virginia for the plantation owners. And they didn't want them.

They petitioned Queen Anne to not send any more slaves. Number one, they were illiterate. Number two, they couldn't speak English. And number three, tobacco planting, picking, and harvesting, and curing is a skilled trade.

It takes a lot of knowledge to do that, act carefully, and do it properly. Queen Anne wouldn't listen. She needed those revenues, so she just kept sending slave ships over here. Well, that generation, a plantation owner died, another generation grew up and died, and now we get to the generation of our Founding Fathers, Jefferson, Washington, and the others. And they're born on lands in which, by law, by British law and subsequently early American laws, slaves were not human beings, they were property. And they were as much a part of each property as they were, as trees were. And you did not have the right, you could go to jail if you freed your slaves.

Period. So, it wasn't until they were in their adult years that men like Washington, and quite a few others, saw the cruelty of slavery, the immorality of it, all the evils of slavery, and tried to figure out a way around the law. Well, they didn't have control of the, they didn't have majorities in the state assemblies, but they couldn't do anything under British law. After the Revolution, they had a form of government. First of all, during the Confederation, each state was independent from the others. That lasted until 1789. Now you have a federal government.

They had other things to do right away. They had to set up an executive branch, they had to set up a judiciary, and that took years. Meanwhile, people like Washington were looking into the law, and they found a way around the law.

The only way around it was in your last will and testament. That superseded the law, the written law, of every state. And that's why Washington and his spouse, Martha, freed their, emancipated their slaves under Washington's will. And Richard Henry Lee did it. Many, many southern leaders did the same thing. And that's all they could do under the law at that time. At the time, there was an army of quacks calling themselves doctors who rode into every town and village across America selling patent medicines. All of them were nothing more than fruit-flavored whiskey or rum that cured patients by rendering them senselessly drunk and oblivious to their illnesses or injuries. He charged them with killing their patients rather than curing them.

He called for a law restricting the use of the title doctor to graduates of recognized medical schools or to those who had served apprenticeships, which was common in those days, apprenticeships with other doctors. And you're listening to Harlow Giles Unger, who's the author of Dr. Benjamin Rush, the founding father who healed a wounded nation. He is also a former distinguished visiting fellow in American history at George Washington's Mount Vernon. If you're ever in Washington, D.C., give yourself an extra day and a half and go to Mount Vernon and then go to Montpelier and to, of course, Jefferson's home, Monticello in Charlottesville. It's about an hour and a half due south. And you'll see the residences of these great founders.

It's a beautiful field trip for a family going through the beautiful mountain country of Virginia and through Albemarle County itself, which is one of the most beautiful counties in the country. More of the Benjamin Rush story, born on this day in 1746, here on Our American Stories. Hi, I'm Martine Hackett, and I'm hosting the second season of Untold Stories, Life with a Severe Autoimmune Condition, a production from Ruby Studio in partnership with Argenix. Sharing real stories of MG, CIDP and other autoimmune conditions, we hope to share inspiration and educate the larger community about these severe and often overlooked conditions. I can't fix this.

I can't cure this. And, you know, I'll take my treatment day by day. But I want to try to be engaged, be involved or be as helpful as I feel I can with the limitations I have of working full time to children. So I participate in like market research to provide information, to hopefully benefit others, because it's a small margin of people that have the myasthenia. But then to get pregnant, it's an even more narrow margin. And you can never have too much information as an epidemiologist.

Yeah, exactly right. Listen to Untold Stories, Life with a Severe Autoimmune Condition on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Abusers in Hollywood are as old as the Hollywood sign itself. Underneath it lies a shroud of mystery. From Variety, Hollywood's number one entertainment news source and iHeart podcast, comes Variety Confidential. I'm your host, Tracy Patton. And in season one, we'll focus on the secret history of the casting couch. So join us as we navigate the tangled web of Hollywood's secret history of sex, money and murder.

Subscribe now to Variety Confidential wherever you get your podcasts. We all agree that reducing carbon emissions is a good thing. And once again, Toyota is leading the way. We hear a lot about fully electric vehicles and Toyota has them with more on the way.

But we also know a BEV is not for everyone. Whether it's because of cost, range or concerned about finding a charging station when you need it. Plus the raw materials used to manufacture batteries are limited.

Enter beyond zero. Toyota's vision for a carbon neutral future. In vehicles and in manufacturing plants too.

In the years ahead. The materials used to make just one long range battery for an EV could be used to make batteries for six plug-in hybrids or 90 gas electric hybrids. That's why Toyota's position today is electrified diversified. Empowering you to choose how to reduce your own carbon footprint with a vehicle that's right for you. A hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery EV.

So shop, learn more and get details at toyota.com slash beyond zero Toyota. Let's go places. And we continue with our American stories and with Harlow Giles Unger as he continues to unpack the story of founding father Dr. Benjamin Rush and his reforms and accomplishments in the medical industry. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1746 Benjamin Rush was born.

Let's continue with Harlow Unger. He wrote the first code of ethics for doctors, which was still in effect in America until the Second World War. And he wrote an even more important work called medical inquiries and observations upon the diseases of the mind. It was the first English language work written on psychiatry. It became the basic textbook for studies in psychiatry in America for the next century. Until the beginning of the 20th century that work was so remarkable that as I said before the American Psychiatric Association put his image on its official seal and placed a bronze plaque on his grave declaring him father of American psychiatry. To this day, I don't know why the world celebrates Freud instead of Dr. Benjamin Rush. I didn't mention that he was a great teacher, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and a professor of chemistry. He wrote the first American chemistry book. He trained more than 3000 doctors, real doctors with MD degrees.

And there's still more. I told you he was father of American psychiatry, but I didn't tell you that he was also father of and you'll never guess this, the father of American veterinary medicine. In 1807, he delivered a lecture, then published a pamphlet on the medical care of domestic animals.

It was the first such work ever published in America. The idea came to him years earlier after he had finished his medical studies in England, he went to Paris. And it was in Paris that he visited what was then the world's first school of veterinary medicine. It had been founded to combat a cattle plague, but its efforts eventually improved the quality of animal life so much that farmer revenues began shooting up. In 1795, Rush went to Washington, who was a great farmer. Franklin wasn't a farmer, but he was a brilliant scientist and formed a group of others to form a society to promote the development of veterinary medicine in America, with Rush writing a pamphlet citing the benefits of veterinary medicine to farmers and to the nation's agriculture.

At the time, 95% of Americans lived or worked or owned farms. Why doesn't America celebrate this great founding father? Well, America doesn't really celebrate any founding fathers anymore.

The memories of both Washington and Lincoln have been subsumed by shopping on what's now called President's Day that ignores both of them. But to answer my own question about Rush sainthood, apart from the fact that few Americans study or learn any American history anymore, the fact is that Dr. Benjamin Rush, America's greatest physician at the time of the Revolution, the father of modern American medical practice, knew next to nothing about treating the sick. No one did.

No one did anywhere in the world. Nobody knew how to treat the sick. For centuries from the time of ancient Greece, doctors and almost everyone else on earth believed that all human illnesses resulted from poisons that traveled in the air and collected in body fluids, in the blood and in the gastrointestinal tract. And the remedy seemed simple. Drain the body of its poisons by draining as much as possible of its fluids, and you'll get rid of the illness. Emptying the gut was simple with laxatives.

Rush concocted a laxative that became known as thunderbolts. You can use your imagination as to why. After emptying the gut, that left the vascular system. You couldn't empty the people's blood without killing them.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened to George Washington. At his insistence, he made the doctors keep bleeding him to cure a throat infection, to cure his infection, and then he finally died because they just bled him to death. Rush and most doctors were sensible enough to limit bleeding to between one and two pints a day, about 10 to 20 percent of the patient's reservoir of blood. That's usually not enough to send a patient into shock, but it is enough to make the patient feel lightheaded and less aware of their pain and discomfort. And they felt that way especially so when a founding father, a doctor like Benjamin Rush, who inspired awe in his patients when he promised them they'd feel better tomorrow.

But bleeding had no effect at all on the underlying interest. In 24 hours, the body itself replaced the blood it lost, and many patients went on to die of the real disease. In August and September of 1793, the worst yellow fever epidemic in American history crushed Philadelphia. It claimed more than 5,000 people's lives, more than 10 percent of the population of the city. Only Rush and four other brave physicians remained.

Most people fled. Only Rush and four other physicians remained to treat the stricken with purge and bleed treatments that accomplished nothing. Although Rush and the other doctors believed they saved many lives, those who survived purge and bleed treatments either would have survived the disease without bleeding or purging, or they didn't have yellow fever to begin with and they simply got better. So many people died, however, that critics, a few of them other doctors from other cities, assailed Rush. One critic, a vicious British journalist who hated all things American and had no knowledge of science or medicine, he called Rush a butcher and killer in the newspaper he published. For the first time in his life, the radiant ring of light that seemed to hover above Rush's sainted head dimmed.

For the first time in his life, he seemed mortal. So stung by the attacks by this journalist, he went into court and sued the journalist for libel. Although he won the case, his appearance in a courtroom and the public airing of such vile epithets, Butcher, Leach, and others, even by an ignorant journalist, tarnished the Rush name and left him somewhat broken. Celebrated throughout his life as one whom God had placed on earth to heal the sick, Rush now left the courtroom $5,000 richer but deeply wounded. He gave his award to charity and in 1800 closed his medical practice and retreated to his country home to update earlier editions of his various books and published works.

He never practiced medicine again. He died in 1813 and lies in Philadelphia's Christchurch burial ground near his dear friend Benjamin Franklin. But without that flame of fame that illuminates Franklin's grave, Rush deserves more. Thomas Jefferson said he knew no one among the founding fathers more benevolent, these are Jefferson's words, no one more benevolent, more learned, a finer genius, or more honest than Dr. Benjamin Rush.

John Adams agreed. He said that as a man of science, letters, taste, sense, patriotism, morality, taken all together, Rush has not left his equal in America or the world. I agree and hope my book will give this great American patriot, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the recognition he so deserves.

And great job as always by Greg Hengler getting us this story and producing it. And a special thanks to Harlow Giles Unger. Again, his book is Dr. Benjamin Rush, the founding father who healed a wounded nation. And what a story, the father of modern day psychiatry, the only M.D. who signed the declaration. He started essentially the Army Medical Corps and also in the end brought veterinary medicine to America and the improvement in the end of our agricultural economy, one of the first people in this country to think about public sanitation. And all of this kind of storytelling always is available here on Our American Stories. It's what we do, folks. Bring stories like Dr. Benjamin Rush to you with unapologetic pride.

The story of Benjamin Rush, born on this day in 1746, here on Our American Stories. Abusers in Hollywood are as old as the Hollywood sign itself. Underneath it lies a shroud of mystery. From Variety, Hollywood's number one entertainment news source and iHeart podcast, comes Variety Confidential. I'm your host, Tracy Patton, and in season one, we'll focus on the secret history of the casting couch.

So join us as we navigate the tangled web of Hollywood's secret history of sex, money and murder. Subscribe now to Variety Confidential wherever you get your podcasts. Congratulations to Infosys Limited, first place award winner for innovation in customer experience at the 2023 Unconventional Awards presented by T-Mobile for Business. The Infosys tennis platform is driving groundbreaking innovation for fans, coaches and athletes. With T-Mobile 5G, Infosys can analyze data seamlessly.

This means their AI shot of the day, which isolates data from each shot based on criteria like stroke difficulty and point cruciality, can translate into an immersive fan experience. T-Mobile for Business congratulates Infosys for their innovation and unconventional thinking. Find out why over a million parents have used goodandbeautifulbooklist.com to find clean, appropriate books for their children. The Good and the Beautiful book list helps families bring uplifting parent approved books into their homes that kids love too. Discover stories that showcase respectful language and loving family relationships. Check out the free book list now and dive into the world of good and beautiful literature. Learn more at goodandbeautifulbooklist.com and bring home a love of learning.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-05 04:32:55 / 2024-01-05 04:45:06 / 12

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime