Rush, Richard, 1780-1859

Alternative names
Birth 1780-08-29
Death 1859-07-30

Biographical notes:

The Wyoming Controversy was a conflict between the governments of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Britain, the Continental Congress, and the Indians over land in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.

From the guide to the Documents relating to the Wyoming Controversy, 1751-1814, 1823, 1751-1823, (American Philosophical Society)

Richard Rush (1780-1859) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Princeton University, he was a lawyer before beginning his political career in 1811 as the attorney general for Pennsylvania. Under President James Madison, Rush served as comptroller of the treasury in 1811 and became the president's speaker on war policy during the War of 1812. He was the U.S. attorney general from 1814 until 1817. Rush became the interim Secretary of State during the following administration of James Monroe. In 1825, President John Quincy Adams appointed Rush as Secretary of the Treasury. He held this position until 1829, when he resigned at the end of Adam's term in office. Rush served overseas as well, acting as U.S. minister to Great Britain, 1817-1825 and as President James K. Polk's minister to France, 1847-1849. Rush was deeply involved in the creation of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He died in Philadelphia in 1859.

From the description of Richard Rush letter, 1826. (Georgia Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 126884186

American statesman and diplomat.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to Joseph Gales, 1823 Aug. 2. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270619332

From the description of Autograph letter signed : New York, to General Dearborn, 1825 July. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270619327

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [London], to Messrs. Harding, Mavor and Lepard [London booksellers], 1824 Jan. 17. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270619336

From the description of Autograph letters signed (2) : Washington, to Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, 1826 July 22 and 1827 Dec. 3. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270619331

Comptroller of the treasury, attorney general, secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, and ambassador to France and to Great Britain.

From the description of Letter, 1812. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 36635456

Born in Philadelphia, Aug. 29, 1780; graduated at Princeton, 1797; admitted to the bar, 1800; attorney-general of Pa., 1811; temporary secretary of the treasury; 1814-17, U.S. attorney-general; 1817-25, minister to England; 1825-29, Secretary of the treasury; 1836-38, commissioner on J. Smithson legacy (Smithsonian institution) pending in English; 1847-51, minister to France; wrote many books. Died in Philadelphia, July 30, 1859. (from Appleton's Cyclop. of American Biography) (blue index cards)

From the description of Richard Rush papers, 1812-1843 (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 609413523

Lawyer, statesman, and diplomat.

From the description of Richard Rush papers, 1805-1852. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70979831

U.S. attorney general 1814-1817; later secretary of state and treasury, minister to Great Britain and to France.

From the description of ALS : Washington, D.C., to Alexander James Dallas, 1816 Feb. 13. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122490293

American statesman and diplomat; comptroller of the Treasury under President Madison, Attorney General of the United States, 1814-1817, and appointed Minister to France in 1847. Native of Philadelphia.

From the description of Richard Rush papers, 1804-1857. (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58779402

Richard Henry Rush was the son of Richard (1780-1859) and Catherine Rush. He commanded the Rush Lancers in the Civil War.

From the description of Commonplace book, 1840. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122524422

Richard Rush was a lawyer, diplomat and statesman. He was appointed Attorney General of Pennsylvania in 1811, and in 1817 he became U.S. Minister to Great Britain. From 1847 to 1849 he served as U.S. Minister to France.

From the description of Miscellaneous manuscripts, 1817. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155886611

Cabinet officer.

From the description of ALS : York, Pa., to Mathew Carey, 1831 Dec. 31. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122525030

From the description of ALS : Washington, D.C., to William Tilghman, 1826 Dec. 19. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122633665

U.S. attorney general, secretary of state and treasury, minister to Great Britain and France.

From the description of ALS : near Philadelphia, to George Mifflin Dallas, 1856 Mar. 10. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122540711

Richard Rush (1780-1859), lawyer, diplomat, and statesman, served as minister to Great Britain (1817-1825), secretary of the treasury (1825-1828), and minister to France (1847-1849). See Dictionary of American Biography 16: 231-234 for more information.

James Murray Mason (1798-1871) was chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1851-1861. See Dictionary of America Biography 12: 364-365 for more information.

From the description of Letter : Sydenham [outside Philadelphia, Pa.] to Mr. Mason, 1853 April 3. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122640070


Richard Rush was born on August 29, 1780, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was educated at Princeton, graduating early in 1797. He was admitted as an Attorney to the Bar in 1800 at the age of 20. He was nominated by President John Quincy Adams to be the 8th Secretary of the Treasury, and served throughout the Adams Administration from March 7, 1825, until March 5, 1829. He was a statesman, diplomat, brilliant orator and key figure in two Administrations, Madison and John Quincy Adams.

And came from a distinguished family, carving a distinguished career in public affairs in his own right. Quickly gaining statewide then national attention as a public speaker and successful trial lawyer, Rush was appointed Attorney General in Pennsylvania in 1811. In that same year, President James Madison made him Comptroller of the Treasury. Rush functioned as one of President Madison's closest friends and confidential advisors throughout the War of 1812.

He was Attorney General from 1814-1817, then Acting Secretary of State. He was Secretary of Treasury under Adams, and served in every administration until 1851. Rush died on July 30, 1859, in Philadelphia.

From the description of Letters, 1818. (University of Florida). WorldCat record id: 49503984

Biographical Note

  • 1780, Aug. 29: Born, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • 1797: Graduated, College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), Princeton, N.J.
  • 1800: Admitted to the Philadelphia, Pa., bar
  • 1809: Married Catherine Eliza Murray
  • 1811: Comptroller, United States Treasury
  • 1814 - 1817 : U.S. attorney general
  • 1817: U.S. secretary of state
  • 1817 - 1825 : U.S. minister to Great Britain
  • 1825 - 1828 : U.S. secretary of the treasury
  • 1836 - 1838 : U.S. agent in Great Britain to secure Smithson bequest which established the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • 1847 - 1849 : U.S. minister to France
  • 1859, July 30: Died, Philadelphia, Pa.

From the guide to the Richard Rush Papers, 1805-1852, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Richard Rush (August 29, 1780-July 30, 1859), lawyer, diplomat, and statesman, was born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second son and third child of the celebrated physician, Benjamin Rush, and Julia (Stockton) Rush. The boy grew up in a cultivated household and at the age of fourteen was ready for entrance into the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), from which his father and his maternal grandfather had graduated. In college he was the youngest member of his class, and, while not a distinguished student, showed great interest and ability in debating. After finishing his course he studied law in the office of William Lewis, a well-known legal luminary of Philadelphia, and was admitted to the bar in December 1800. His reputation as a speaker began to be established when in 1807 he made an eloquent speech on the sinking of the Chesapeake at the public meeting in the State House yard in Philadelphia. In 1808 he defended William Duane, the editor of the Aurora, against the charge of libel for an attack upon Governor Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, and thus made his first important political contacts. He refused, however, to be a candidate for Congress at this time.

In January 1811, he was appointed attorney-general of Pennsylvania, the beginning of nearly twenty years of uninterrupted office-holding. An ardent Republican, he warmly opposed the renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States, and in November, having attracted the favorable attention of President Madison, to whom he long remained devoted, he became comptroller of the treasury. On July 4, 1812, the administration put him forward to defend the war with Great Britain in an address at Washington. Rush's temperament, in general, was not belligerent, and the cool and objective character of his mind was ill-suited to whipping up the war-spirit. The speech is almost apologetic in tone, far too argumentative to be a great war speech, but it seemed to be well received, and encouraged him to more political pronouncements, which helped to make him better known. In February 1814, he was offered the choice of the offices of secretary of the treasury, or of attorney-general, and chose the latter. In this post he was charged with the duty of editing the Laws of the United States from 1789 to 1815 (5 vols., 1815), which he performed in authoritative fashion. On the inauguration of Monroe, Rush was made secretary of state, pending the return of John Quincy Adams from Europe to assume that office. In this capacity, he negotiated the famous Rush-Bagot convention (April 28, 1817), establishing a limitation of naval armaments on the Great Lakes, one of the earliest treaties of this kind in the history of the United States. On October 31, 1817, he was appointed minister to Great Britain.

Rush was undoubtedly amongst the most efficient and best liked of American ministers to the Court of St. James. A man of high breeding, emphatically a gentleman, he moved with ease in the British society of the period, and his genuine regard for the British people, coupled with wide intellectual interests and a tact that was almost unfailing, gave him a wide measure of success. He was confronted with a great variety of difficult problems at the very outset, a number of important disputes with Great Britain left over by the War of 1812 not having yet been liquidated. These included the fisheries question, the matter of compensation for the slaves carried off by the British in the war, and the troublesome problem of the northwest boundary. The convention of October 20, 1818, did not really settle all of these, only the question of the slaves being put in the way of a final solution. But Rush negotiated a treaty of joint occupation of Oregon which served as a basis of understanding for nearly thirty years, and he secured important concessions on the fisheries problem. In 1819 he dealt with great wisdom with the issue raised by Andrew Jackson's recent invasion of Florida, and the execution of two British subjects, Ambrister and Arbuthnot. British public opinion was exceedingly inflamed, and Lord Castlereagh, the foreign secretary, afterwards told the minister that war might have been brought about if he had but lifted a finger ( Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London, 1845, p. 152). In his conversations with Castlereagh, Rush set forward the American point of view with remarkable candor, and yet without offense. His description of his interview with Castlereagh on this occasion may be regarded as a model of diplomatic manners.

Rush played an important role in diplomatic negotiations which led up to the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine. In the summer of 1823, French troops had invaded Spain, and George Canning, the British foreign secretary, had received certain intimations from Sir Charles Stuart, the British minister in Paris, with regard to a projected congress on the affairs of South America. Suspecting that such a congress might pave way for the re-conquest of the Spanish colonies, Canning asked if it might not be possible for Rush to join him in a joint prohibition of such action. Rush had, of course, no instructions. After carefully pondering the matter, he decided that he could not accept the proposal, barring British recognition of the independence of the colonies. When Canning stated his inability to act on this basis, Rush, despite new and pressing overtures from Canning, refused to commit himself. The dispatches which he wrote in August and September 1823 were an important factor in persuading James Monroe and John Quincy Adams to take the strong stand which they assumed in the memorable message of December 2. The message was not well received in England. In particular, that part of it (directed against Russia in the northwest, and not concerned with the Spanish colonies) which forbade new colonization by European powers in the American hemisphere, was most unacceptable to Canning. Rush had to do what he could to defend it, and, acting under instructions, he brought it forward in the new discussions on the northwest question which took place in 1824. He did not, however, succeed in persuading the British commissioners to acquiesce in it.

In the course of his long stay in England, Rush examined many different aspects of British institutions. He made a special study of the British navy, and it was his desire, when John Quincy Adams became president in 1825, that he might become secretary of the navy in the new administration. At Adams' insistence however, he accepted the office of secretary of the treasury, and discharged the duties of this post with extraordinary fidelity, never having been absent from office a single day in the course of four years, except for one week's illness. In this period of his life he was a protectionist, though of a rather mild type. He was no doubt partly influenced by the opinion of his state, and also apparently by the infant industry argument. He desired, however, to institute a warehouse and drawback system, not unlike that which existed in Great Britain. He played no prominent part in connection with the tariff of abominations in 1828, but does not seem to have been hostile to that measure. In 1828 he accepted a place on the ticket with John Quincy Adams, as a candidate for vice-president, but went down to a crushing defeat with the rise of Jacksonian Democracy. At this period came one of Rush's rare lapses from the urbanity which was characteristic of him. On his appointment to the Treasury, he had been the object of a slashing attack by John Randolph, who stigmatized his appointment as the worst since Caligula had made his horse a consul (Powhatan Bouldin, Home Reminiscences of John Randolph, of Roanoke, 1878, p. 317). Rush was stung by this, and other attacks, into publishing under the pen name of Julius an attack upon Randolph, splenetic in the extreme. He declared his willingness to avow his authorship, and accept a challenge to a duel, if Randolph cared to take the pains to look into the matter (Julius, John Randolph, Abroad and at Home, 1828, p. 13).

For some years after 1828 Rush was in private life. In 1829 he was sent abroad by the towns of Georgetown and Alexandria and the city of Washington to negotiate a loan of one and a half million dollars for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Received with considerable coolness in Great Britain, despite his many personal friendships there, he finally succeeded in getting very favorable terms from the Dutch bank of the Cromelines. His efforts were not as gratefully received as he thought they should have been by those who sent him. In the Anti-Masonic agitation Rush took a prominent part, and he was the first choice of the new political group for the presidency. He declined to run, however. The struggle over the Bank in 1832 brought him back into the Democratic party. He sympathized strongly with President Jackson on this issue. In 1835, together with General Benjamin Chew Howard of Baltimore, he was commissioned to settle a boundary dispute between the states of Ohio and Michigan, which threatened to result in an appeal to force. He succeeded in preventing an armed clash, though not in settling the question. In the summer of 1836 he sailed for England to secure the Smithson bequest to the United States. James Smithson, an Englishman, had died without issue, and had left the whole of his estate, on the death of a nephew, to the United States. The estate had become tied up in the chancery court, however, and it required much time and patience to liquidate the matter. Rush conducted his mission with efficiency and patience, and made use of his stay in Great Britain to resume many old connections, and to make new ones ( Occasional Productions, Political, Diplomatic, and Miscellaneous, 1869, pp. 219-57). He was also extremely successful in disposing on very favorable terms of the British securities which composed the Smithson estate, and, in August 1838, brought back to this country in English gold coin the sum of upwards of £104,000, which was used to establish the Smithsonian Institution. He always retained a great interest in this establishment, of which he was elected a regent, a post which he held to his death (Cyrus Alter, "The Relation of Richard Rush to the Smithsonian Institution" in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. LII, 1910, pp. 235-51).

The next public service to which this interesting man was called (March 3, 1847) was that of minister to France, in the administration of President Polk. From 1838 to 1847 he had lived quietly on his estate outside of Philadelphia, but though now sixty-seven years old, he cheerfully accepted political office once more. He arrived in France in the closing days of the July monarchy, and was a witness to the stirring events of the February revolution, which he described with much skill ( Occasional Productions, pp. 355-82). After a brief period of reflection, he decided to recognize the republic then set up, without waiting for instructions from Washington, and despite the reserve of all the other members of the diplomatic corps. He followed with obvious mistrust the course of the red republican revolt of July, but seems to have witnessed without extravagant regret the election of Louis Napoleon as president in December 1848. He was recalled with the entry of the Whigs into power in 1849.

This was Rush's last political office. He lived for ten years more, and still entertained an interest in public affairs. He approved the compromise measures of 1850, but was, in general, sympathetic with the attitude of the Democratic party towards slavery. He much feared the dissolution of the Union, censured the extravagance of the anti-slavery agitation, and voted for Buchanan in 1856. He died in Philadelphia on July 30, 1859. He had married Catherine E. Murray on August 29, 1809; of their ten children, three sons and two daughters survived him.

Of the men of the second rank who played a role in politics in the Middle Period, Richard Rush is decidedly one of the most attractive. He no doubt betrays a certain conventionality of mind, in the general character of his political thought, but he was by no means unwilling to accept personal responsibility, or to act on his own initiative when the occasion required. He had singularly few enemies; indeed, outside of his feud with the acid Randolph, and one youthful political altercation in Pennsylvania, his life was remarkably free from personal controversy. Laborious to a degree, of judicious mind, of wide intellectual interests, and of engaging manners, he played worthily every role to which he was called. A certain fastidiousness may have had something to do with the limited character of his political success, as compared with that of other men decidedly his inferiors in capacity. In appearance he was distinctly impressive. He had remarkable eyes, a broad and high forehead, and an air of scholarship that was decidedly attractive. His writings are not literary masterpieces, but they are usually interesting, and reveal a keen observer of men and things. The most important are his Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London, the first edition of which (1833) covered only two years, a second edition (1845) comprising the rest of his mission; and Occasional Productions, Political, Diplomatic and Miscellaneous, published by his executors in 1860.

  • 1780: Born in Philadelphia, August 29
  • 1797: Graduated from Princeton University
  • 1800: Admitted to Pennsylvania bar
  • 1809: Married Catherine Eliza Murray
  • 1811: Appointed Attorney General of Pennsylvania
  • 1811: Comptroller of the United States Treasury
  • 1814 - 1817 : Unites States Attorney General
  • 1817: United States Secretary of State
  • 1817 - 1824 : United States Minister to Great Britain
  • 1825 - 1828 : United States Secretary of Treasury
  • 1847 - 1849 : United States Minister to France
  • 1859: Died in Philadelphia, July 30

Biography of Benjamin Rush, 1746-1813

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born near Philadelphia in 1746. He graduated from the College of New Jersey at the age of fifteen and continued his studies in medicine at the Univerity of Edinburgh. Benjamin Rush started practicing medicine in Philadelphia and, in 1769, became professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia. He became a surgeon in the "Pennsylvania Navy" and surgeon-general in 1777. Benjamin Rush was a member of the convention that ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1787. He was a founder of Dickinson College, treasurer of the United States Mint, and, until the time of his death in 1813, Rush continued teaching, rendering invaluable service during the yellow fever epidemic of 1795.

Biography of Benjamin Rush, 1811-1877

Benjamin Rush, grandson of Benjamin and son of Richard Rush, was born in Philadelphia in 1811. He graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1829 and was admitted to the bar in 1833. In 1837 Benjamin Rush became Secretary of the United States Legation in London, and was Chargé d'Affaires there for a short time. Rush was the author of "An Appeal for the Union" (1861), and "Letters on the Rebellion" (1862). He died in Paris on June 30, 1877.

From the guide to the Rush Family Papers, 1675-1885, 1817-1849, (Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections)

José Francisco Correia da Serra (1750–1823, APS 1812) was an abbot, diplomat, scholar and botanist. In his work as a botanist he was particularly concerned with the systematic classification of vegetable species. Thomas Jefferson described him as “profoundly learned in several branches of science he was so above all others in that of Botany; in which he preferred an amalgamation of the methods of Linnaeus [1707-1778, APS 1769] and of Jussieu [1686-1758] to either of them exclusively.” Correia spent many years of his life in France, England and the United States where he made the acquaintance of leading European and American intellectual leaders of the time.

Correia was born in Serpa, Portugal, to the physician and lawyer Luis Dias Correia and Francisca Luisa da Serra. In 1756 the family was forced to leave Portugal because the elder Correia’s scientific work had incurred the displeasure of the Holy Office. They settled in Naples, Italy, where the boy came under the tutelage of the abbé and university professor of “Commerce and mechanics” Antonio Genovesi (1712-1769), a major force in the Neapolitan Enlightenment. During this time Correia was also taught in natural history by the botanist Luis Antonio Verney (1713-1792). In 1772 Correia moved to Rome where he studied at the University and other institutions. By that time he was already corresponding with Carl Linnaeus, in Latin. He also made the acquaintance of Don John Carlos of Braganza, second Duke of Lafoens, a member of the Portuguese royal family. The Duke became Correia’s friend and patron.

In 1775 Correia was ordained a Presbyterian abbot; two years later he received the degree of Doctor of Laws. However, it was clear that Correia’s real interest was natural history, especially botany, and that he did not plan to pursue a life in the church. In fact, some of his biographers have suggested that he focused on ecclesiastical studies mainly in order to protect himself in his scientific work from potential suspicions by the Inquisition. Whatever the case, in early 1778 the young abbé, with encouragement from the duke, who hoped to encourage scientific research in Portugal, moved to Lisbon. There he turned his attention to scholarly pursuits and diplomacy.

Correia and the duke set out right away to organize the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, a learned institution that was dedicated to the advancement of science. Correia also conducted botanical research. He spent the period from 1786 to about 1788 outside of Portugal, and while his activities during this period remain unclear, there is evidence that he visited Rome. In the mid-1790s, after his return to his native country, he began the task of editing what would be the first three of five volumes of Colleccao de livros ineditos da historia Portugueza, an extensive collection of documents.

In 1795 political difficulties compelled Correia to leave Portugal. The Royal Academy and many of its members were viewed with suspicion by certain ecclesiastical groups, especially after Correia befriended the French naturalist and Girondist Peter Marie Auguste Broussonet (1761-1807), who had taken refuge in Portugal. Armed with letters of introduction to several British scientists, Correia traveled to London. He soon became the protégé of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820, APS 1787), president of the Royal Society, who facilitated Correia’s election to the Society. He also was welcomed by James Edward Smith (1759-1828, APS 1796), president of the Linnean Society. By then, Correia was already publishing on various natural science topics, especially botany, which contributed to his growing reputation as a naturalist.

For about one year during his residence in London, Correia also served as Secretary to the Portuguese embassy. However, tensions with the conservative Minister compelled him to depart from England in 1802. In the summer of that year, Correia moved to Paris. There he made the acquaintance of leading scientists and other public figures. The list includes Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817, APS 1800), the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834, APS 1781), Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859, APS 1804), the French naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (1778-1841, APS 1841), and André Thouin (1746-1824), superintendent of the Jardin du Roi, now known as Jardin des Plantes, in Paris. Correia also met Esther Delavigne, who eventually became his lover.

Of particular importance to Correia was his extensive correspondence with friends in Portugal that he maintained throughout his time in London, Paris and then the United States. Through his contact with them he hoped to bring the latest scientific ideas and discoveries to his mother country. His letters are filled with news of new vaccines, maritime maps, instruments, and anything else that he thought might serve to aid the progress of Portugal. Correia’s wide-ranging contacts with fellow botanists made him an important intermediary in the exchanges between naturalists in different parts of the world. In 1807 his own government recognized his contributions by making him a Knight of the Order of Christ.

Overall, Correia’s time in Paris was happy and fruitful. However, life as a liberal under Napoleon was not easy, and Correia soon began to explore the possibility of relocating once again, this time to the United States. Finally, in the winter of 1811, the abbé was aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, on his way to what would become a particularly interesting period in his life.

Correia arrived in Washington, D. C., in early 1812, and he did not lose time in making the acquaintance of leading Americans, including President James Madison. He was anxious to visit Thomas Jefferson but owing to the fact that Philadelphia was the intellectual center of the new nation, he decided to establish himself there first. His European friends had already announced Correia’s imminent arrival to several prominent Philadelphians, including the physicians Benjamin Rush (1745-1813, APS 1768) and Caspar Wistar (1761-1818, APS 1787), and John Vaughan (1756–1841, APS 1784), the treasurer and librarian of the American Philosophical Society. The abbé was elected a member of the Society in January of 1812, before his arrival in the city. He became close friends with Vaughan who soon handled his business affairs and advised him in all kinds of matters. Correia also got to know the botanist Henry Muhlenberg (1753-1815, APS 1785), who introduced him to the physician and botanist Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879, APS 1818). And he reconnected with several Philadelphians he knew from his time in Paris, including the lawyer and financier Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844, APS 1813), and William Short (1759-1849, APS 1804), Jefferson’s private secretary in Paris. Life in Philadelphia was clearly enjoyable for the Portuguese exile but he remained anxious to visit “the great the truly great Mr. Jefferson.” In July of 1813 he left for Virginia for the first of what would eventually be seven visits over a period of about eight years.

Jefferson had been introduced to Correia in glowing letters from Lafayette, Du Pont, Thouin, and Humboldt. It is not surprising, then, that Jefferson received the visitor with warmth and great expectations. They were not disappointed. Jefferson described his guest as “the best digest of science in books, men, and things that I have ever met with; and with these the most amiable and engaging character.” The room in which Correia stayed during his visits to Monticello, the North Square Room, is still known as the Abbé’s room. Correia spent much of his time in Virginia on rambles through the country, often in the company of Thomas Mann Randolph (1768-1828, APS 1794). His interest in natural history eventually also took him to Kentucky, Georgia and north to the Canadian border.

Through Jefferson, Correia made the acquaintance of Francis Walker Gilmer (1790-1826), a promising young man who readily accepted the abbé’s invitation to accompany him on his excursions. In 1816 President Madison asked the two men to deliver a letter from him to the agent of the Cherokee, in the southeastern United States. In the course of their journey through South Carolina and Georgia, they made extensive botanical notations, and Gilmer also recorded several pages of Cherokee vocabulary.

In 1816 Correia received news of his appointment as Portuguese minister-plenipotentiary at Washington, D. C. His expectation that this post would not interfere with his scientific pursuits turned out to be mistaken, even though he never spent more than half a year in the nation’s capital. From the start he was forced to deal with complaints about privateers flying foreign flags who were threatening the Portuguese colonies in South America. The fear was that these privateers, many of whom were American, could encourage and aid a rebellion in Brazil. Correia successfully lobbied the U. S. government for a Neutrality Act that was designed to curb these actions.

In the late 1810s, increasing worries about the turn of Portuguese-American affairs and serious health problems gradually made the abbé’s temper shorter and his spirits lower. He also ultimately became a severe critic of America and Americans, an attitude that contributed to his estrangement from some of his older American friends. However, he also found comfort in new relationships with, for example, the English-born chemist and lawyer Thomas Cooper (1759-1839, APS 1802). Most significantly, Edward Joseph, his fifteen-year old son with his lover Esther Delavigne arrived in the United States from Paris in 1818. Edward, who stayed with his father until their return to Europe, got to know many of his Philadelphia friends quite well. In 1820 father and son sailed from the United States for Portugal via London, a year after Correia had learned of his appointment as Counselor of State for Brazil. Correia spent the last three years of his life in Lisbon, “covered with honors,” as his son Edward wrote in a letter to John Vaughan. He died in Lisbon in 1823.

Correia published many essays and reports on botany in the leading European and American scientific journals of his time. His research centered on the systematic classification of vegetable species. In his work he attempted to apply the methods of compared anatomy of zoology to botany; he sought to group plants into families based on their similarities. His concept of symmetry was later adopted and developed by Candolle. While Correia was not “a member of every philosophical society in the world,” as his young protégé Gilmer wrote enthusiastically in a letter to his brother, he did belong to numerous learned societies. They included the Royal Society, the Linnean Society, the Academy of Science of Paris, and the Société Philomatique. He also offered several courses in botany at the American Philosophical Society.

From the guide to the José Francisco Correia da Serra papers, 1772-1827, 1772-1827, (American Philosophical Society)


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  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Wyoming Valley (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Saint Lawrence River (as recorded)
  • Netherlands (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador (as recorded)
  • Northwest coast of North America (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Washington (D.C.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Florida (as recorded)
  • West Indies (as recorded)
  • Cuba (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Cuba (as recorded)
  • Escambia--12033 (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pensacola (Fla.) (as recorded)
  • Northwest coast of North America (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Netherlands (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Saint Lawrence River (as recorded)