Part 24


May 22, 2020


As you will see in today’s discussions, founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, was a genius of the highest order.  Gifted by God, he put those gifts to work and blessed both this nation and other nations as well. 

The signs and symbols, the Scripture references that abound in our founding fathers' commentaries, and their labors of love and covenant to establish this great nation make abundantly clear that they purposed to have "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

One of those Pennsylvania citizens who grew up under that Charter of Liberties established by William Penn was Benjamin Rush.  Born December 24, 1745 in Byberry, about 12 miles from Philadelphia, Rush was another example of the geniuses our nation was turning out under the spiritual climate and atmosphere of colonial governments that clearly honored and recognized God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as the head and author of all government.

Like Patrick Henry, Roger Sherman, Jonathan Edwards, John Jay, and a host of other Americans of that era, Benjamin Rush was one who grew up under Christian tutelage.  His father died when he was six years old, and he was sent to live with his uncle, Rev. Samuel Finley, who ran West Nottingham Academy.  He graduated at age 15 with his Bachelor of Arts degree and planned to study Law.  He had a natural affinity for medical studies, however, and a grant from Benjamin Franklin afforded him the opportunity to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.  He returned to Philadelphia in 1769 where -- at age 24 -- he was elected Professor of Chemistry in the city medical college.

From this point forward in his life, Benjamin Rush's biography reads like a composite of many of his peers.  In 1771 he published essays on slavery, temperance, and health, and in 1774 he delivered the annual oration before the Philosophical society on the " Natural History of Medicine among the Indians of North America." He early engaged in pre-Revolutionary movements and wrote constantly for the press on colonial rights.

He was a member of the provincial conference of Pennsylvania, and chairman of the committee that reported that it had become expedient for Congress to declare independence, and Surgeon to the Pennsylvania Navy from September 17, 1775, to July 1, 1776. He was then elected to Congress, and on 4 July, 1776, signed the Declaration of Independence.  That same year, Rush married Julia Stockton, a daughter of Richard Stockton; and was appointed surgeon-general of the middle department of the Navy in April, 1777.  That July he became Physician-General for the Continental Armies under George Washington.

Rush was 26 when he married then-sixteen-year-old Julia Stockton.  Their marriage was considered a marriage of "beloveds" lasting for 42 years before Benjamin Rush died.  The love and care they displayed for one another was a constant source of comment in Philadelphia's society.  They had thirteen children together, four of whom died before their parents, nine who outlived them, and two whose lives gained enduring distinction -- one as a diplomat, the other as a physician.

Serving as Physician-General, he was in constant attendance of the wounded during the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine and Germantown.  During the sicknesses that almost crippled Washington's armies at Valley Forge, he remained on duty almost to the detriment of his own healthy.  Yet he found the time to write four rather long letters to the people of Pennsylvania, in which he made known his very strong objections to the Articles of Confederation of 1776, urging a revision on the grounds that giving legislative powers to a single house would prove highly dangerous.

In February of 1778, he resigned his post as Physician-General to make public his opposition to the way in which the wounded soldiers were being cared for, and to highlight the lack of hospital stores.  His resignation was not looked upon kindly by George Washington, but Rush and Washington had never really had warm relations between themselves.

The National Archives in Washington, DC tell us that Benjamin Rush "further refused compensation for his services to the Continental Armies, despite the fact that he was nearly broke financially.  He was a founder of Dickinson college and the Philadelphia dispensary, and was largely interested in the establishment of Public schools, concerning which he published an address, and in the founding of the College of Physicians, of which he was one of the first censors. He was a member of the State convention that ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1787, and of that for forming a state constitution in the same year, in which he endeavored to procure the incorporation of his views on Public schools, and a Penal code on which he had previously written essays. After that service he retired from political life."

Appleton's American Biography reads that, "He was a member of nearly every medical, literary, and benevolent institution in (his country), and of many foreign societies, and for his replies to their queries on the subject of yellow fever received a medal from the king of Prussia in 1805, and gifts from other crowned heads, He succeeded Benjamin Franklin as president of the Pennsylvania society for the abolition of slavery, was president of the Philadelphia medical society, vice-president and a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society*, advocating the use of the Scriptures as a text­book in the public schools, an originator of the American philosophical society, of which he was a vice-president in 1799-1800.

“He taught, more clearly than any other physician of his day, to distinguish diseases and their effects, gave great impulse to the study of medicine in this country, and made Philadelphia the centre of that science in the United States, more than 2,250 students having attended his lectures during his professorship in the Medical College of Philadelphia. Yale gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1812."  (Emphasis, mine) (*The Philadelphia Bible Society was America's very first Bible Society.)

Benjamin Rush was considered impulsive and indiscreet (perhaps more than anything else because of some ill-considered remarks made about George Washington during the winter in Valley Forge**), but his zeal for the public good was limitless. He taught at the College of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. He attacked slavery and strong drink, classical education and tobacco, carrying on a one-man crusade and undoubtedly spending himself in too many causes.

In 1793, Dr. Rush was credited with curing the epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia.  The King of Prussia, the Queen of Eritrea, and the Emperor of Russia honored him for his replies to their questions on yellow fever.  Despite his incredible record of successes, Rush never convinced his scientific friend, Thomas Jefferson, that the doctors of their time did more good than ill.

As many good generals often have happen to them, Washington suffered a series of defeats and setbacks during the War of Independence.  It was during this period in Washington's leadership that Rush was convinced by other generals that Washington needed to be removed as Commander-in-Chief, and he joined their campaign for his removal.  By his own account, it was the worst mistake of his life.

He later wrote John Adams, "He [Washington] was the highly favored instrument (of God) whose patriotism and name contributed greatly to the establishment of the independence of the United States."

During the Constitutional Conventions, he argued, "Unless we put Medical Freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship . . . to restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and deny equal privilege to others, will be to constitute the Bastille of Medical Science. All such laws are un-American and despotic and have no place in a Republic ... The Constitution of this Republic should make special privilege for Medical Freedom as well as Religious Freedom."

To say the least, his argument -- though at the time it made little headway -- has proved to be prophetic.

He was far ahead of his time in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and is regarded today as both the "Father of American Medicine" and the "Father of American Psychiatry."  The emblem of the American Psychiatric Society bears his portrait.  He was the author of numerous studies on addiction, identifying many of the causes of addiction -- along with "causal agents" -- and finally concluded near the end of his life that "abstinence is the only cure for alcohol addiction."

But Benjamin Rush was known for much more than medicine and psychiatry.  He is also known as “The Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution.”

His proposals for public education would bring chills to the ACLU today.  They’d like nothing better than to erase all mention of Benjamin Rush when it comes to our educational system.  He well knew what a good education was all about – as we can easily see from his biographical background.

Benjamin Rush's proposals for public education would bring chills to the ACLU today.  They’d like nothing better than to erase all mention of Benjamin Rush when it comes to our educational system.  He well knew what a good education was all about – as we can easily see from his biographical background.

For a guy who was so into medicine and it studies, Benjamin Rush was also deeply involved in education.  Oddly and uniquely enough, besides being known as "The Father of American Medicine," and "The Father of American Psychiatry," he is also known as "The Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution."  He was the first to advance the idea of free public schools, and also a pioneer in the opportunity for women's education. He helped Abigail Adam's (John Adam's wife) dream become a reality by establishing the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia, one of America's first educational institutions for women.

He wrote textbooks, formed curriculum plans, crafted educational policies, and helped establish five universities and colleges. As the founder of public education in America, listen to his definition of what education should contain:

"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."

In March 28, 1787 when Dr. Benjamin Rush proposed his plan for public education in America he wrote:

"Let the children who are sent to those schools be taught to read and write - - - (and a)bove all, let both sexes be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education."

Referring to the various levels of education he added, "It will be necessary to connect all these (academic) branches of education with regular instruction in the Christian religion."

We've already noted that he founded the first Bible Society in America.  He also helped found "The First Day Society" which was the beginning of Sunday Schools across America.  Interestingly, Francis Scott Key -- the author of The Star Spangled Banner -- later became the Vice President of the American Sunday School Union.  (More on him in a moment.)

In 1791 Dr. Rush wrote a lengthy pamphlet entitled "A Defense of the Use of the Bible as a Schoolbook.Here is how that writing began:

"It is now several months since I promised to give you my reasons for preferring the Bible as a schoolbook to all other compositions. Before I state my arguments, I shall assume the five following propositions:

I . That Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy.

2. That a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the Bible than in any other way.

3. That the Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.

4. That knowledge is most durable, and religious instruction most useful, when imparted in early life.

5. That the Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.

My arguments in favor of the use of the Bible as a schoolbook are founded."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  So much for today's liberal, leftist, atheistic, ACLU-driven argument that the Bible needs to be eliminated from all mention in public education -- much less the mention of the name of God or Jesus Christ.  It's all nothing more than tripe from a bunch of God-hating revisionists who would like nothing more than to eliminate all mention of the Lord Jesus Christ and any use of Scripture in the public arena.

After having studied the life of Benjamin Rush, I'm convinced that he is another of our Founding Fathers who would be enraged at the suggestion (by our modern left) that he was an atheist, or an agnostic, or a deist!  As David Barton of WallBuilders has so succinctly put it, "His stand as a Christian was undeniable!"

In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific.  That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#.  We are now making these gatherings available on video usingZOOM.  If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513.  If you miss the live voice-onlycall, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later.  The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.

Blessings on you!




Regner A. Capener

Temple, Texas 76502

Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com


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