Vaughan, John, 1756-1841

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John Vaughan was a merchant and was librarian and secretary of the American Philosophical Society.

From the description of Papers, 1768-1922 (inclusive). (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122584193

John Vaughan (1756–1841, APS 1784) was a wine merchant, philanthropist, and long-time treasurer and librarian of the American Philosophical Society. A native of England, Vaughan moved to Philadelphia in 1782. He soon was one of the most respected members of Philadelphia society, largely because of his tireless support of numerous literary, scientific and benevolent causes. Over the course of his five decades of service to the American Philosophical Society, Vaughan met and corresponded with many eminent Americans and Europeans.

John Vaughan was born in London, England, in 1756. He was one of eleven children of Samuel Vaughan, a London merchant and West India planter, and Sarah Hallowell, daughter of Benjamin Hallowell, a Boston merchant and founder of Hallowell, Maine. Vaughan grew up in a liberal household. The family attended religious services by the dissenting minister and political radical Richard Price (1723-1791, APS 1785). His older brothers, Benjamin Vaughan (1751-1835, APS 1786), who became a prominent diplomat and political reformer, and William Vaughan, who eventually served as the promoter of the London docks, resided with the dissenter Joseph Priestley (1733-1804, APS 1785) during their studies at the Warrington Academy. John apparently attended Palgrave School, a popular school for boys founded by the poet and essayist Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825) and her husband, the Reverend Rochemont Barbault.

In 1776, in preparation for a mercantile career, John Vaughan was sent abroad, first to Jamaica, where he spent one year, and then to France, where he arrived in 1778. While working for a merchant house in Bordeaux, Vaughan became acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and his grandson William Temple Franklin (1760-1823, APS 1786). After the conclusion of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France, Vaughan, who, as a British subject, was faced with possible arrest or deportation, declared himself an American. However, when he was unable to receive from the American minister a certificate to that effect, he removed to Spain. In 1782 Vaughan came to the United States. He settled in Philadelphia, where he became a prosperous wine merchant.

Vaughan almost immediately dedicated much of his energy and resources to the American Philosophical Society. He became a member in 1784, treasurer in 1791, and librarian in 1803, serving in these posts until his death in 1841. In his five decades of service under the presidencies of David Rittenhouse (1732-1796, APS 1768), Thomas Jefferson, Caspar Wistar (1761-1818, APS 1787), Robert M. Patterson (1787-1854, APS 1809), William Tilghman (1756-1827, APS 1805) and Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (1760-1844, APS 1791), Vaughan kept the society’s books and accounts, oversaw its publications, and carried on its extensive correspondence. He diligently worked to expand the society’s collections through requests for private donations, exchanges of material, and appeals to European and American learned societies to donate their publications. (Vaughan eventually bequeathed his own library of 600 volumes to the society.) In 1824 he compiled a catalog for the library which he hoped would one day become a National Library . He also acquired the catalogs of other libraries so that scholars working in the Philosophical Society would know what was available elsewhere. Vaughan contributed generously to the construction of Philosophical Hall, and in 1795 he made a subscription toward the proposed western expedition of the French botanist André Michaux (1749-1802).

John Vaughan was not a scholar or scientist himself. However, he encouraged and supported the work of scholars, especially those interested in Native American linguistics and ethnohistory, like his friend Du Ponceau. He obviously enjoyed the company and friendship of “learned men,” and he worked actively to introduce scholars to each other, either through his correspondence or personally. For example, he hosted Sunday breakfasts for visitors to Philadelphia, and he was a regular at the so-called Wistar Parties, that brought together companies of scholars for more formal gatherings. After 1822 Vaughan did not just work in Philosophical Hall; he also resided there. He had already been renting for several years the cellar for the storage of his wines and liquors. He now established his home in rooms formerly occupied by the studio and gallery of the painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872, APS 1835). In 1823, Sully painted the librarian’s portrait.

Vaughan was well-known to the citizens of Philadelphia. His reputation as a generous and “good” man was due not only to his work with the Philosophical Society, but also to his untiring commitment to be patron to all deserving young men. Indeed, Jared Sparks (1789-1866, APS 1837) described him as a “recommender-general of all schoolmasters, inventors, young men just entering on their professions, and every sort of personage, whose characters are good, and who can be benefited by his aid.” In 1838 a group of admirers founded the “Vaughan Club” to honor their friend. Members were required to bring a bottle of the finest and rarest wine to their annual meetings. The meeting could not be adjourned until every bottle had been consumed.

Vaughan was particularly admired for his philanthropic activities. “Who is there here who does not know Mr. John Vaughan?,” asked the Boston Daily Courier in the fall of 1841, when Vaughan was in his late eighties. “His doctrine is good works, and his practice squares with it.” He was an active member of the First Congregational Unitarian Church, where he occasionally occupied the pulpit. He also belonged to many local learned and philanthropic societies, and he served as officer in most. He was president of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, president of the Society of Sons of St. George, a director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, vice president of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, a trustee of the Unitarian Society, and a councilor of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Athenian Institute. Furthermore, he was secretary and treasurer of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Insurance Company of North America and of the Delaware Insurance Company; and an agent of the firm of E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company.

In 1841 Vaughan, who never married, died in his rooms in Philosophical Hall. The beneficiaries of his bequest included his friend Jacob Snider, Jr., who had been brought up by Vaughan, as well as various learned and philanthropic societies, including the APS. His funeral was attended by numerous respected citizens and representatives of the charitable and learned institutions he had supported during his life. A printed card that was circulated among those in attendance described John Vaughan simply as a man “Who went about doing good.”

Vaughan’s fifty years of service to the Philosophical Society were overshadowed by the discovery after his death that he had mingled the Society’s funds with his own. As a result, the Philosophical Society never published a biographical memoir of its long-term librarian and treasurer.

From the guide to the John Vaughan papers, 1768 - Circa 1936, 1768 - Circa 1936, (American Philosophical Society)

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)

Benjamin Vaughan lived through all the vicissitudes of an enlightened life during the age of revolution. Born in Jamaica to Samuel Vaughan, a merchant and planter, and Sarah Hallowell, a native Bostonian, Vaughan was raised in London and educated at Cambridge and Lincoln's Inn. At university, he fell in with the coterie of Joseph Priestley, Benjamin Franklin, Jeremy Bentham, and William Petty, the Earl of Shelburne, and imbibed many of their unorthodox, perhaps radical political, social, and religious views. Whether a product of his own colonial origins or his contact with Franklin, Priestley, and Price, Vaughan took a particularly keen interest in American affairs, advocating reconciliation throughout the Revolutionary conflict. In 1783, as a result of his connections to then-Prime Minister Shelburne and his association with Franklin (having seen to the English publication of the first volume of Franklin's political writings), Vaughan was dispatched to Paris to mollify Franklin and the American negotiators and assure them of good English intentions. Although he was barred as a dissenter from any official role in the negotiations, Vaughan played an important unofficial role in quickening the closure of the treaty and the formalization and recognition of American independence.

As Vaughan's political and diplomatic star was rising, his improbable pursuit of the hand of Sarah Manning, the daughter of an ardent Tory, led him to study medicine in Edinburgh to establish his name as a reputable suitor. Although he never completed his studies, he did marry Sarah in 1781, joining her father's mercantile business shortly thereafter, and he maintained an active interest in medical affairs for much of the remainder of his life. He remained loyal to Shelburne after Shelburne's departure from the ministry in 1784, and was elected to represent Calne in Parliament in 1793. However in the backlash against republicanism, Vaughan's political views and his sympathy for the French Revolution conspired to make him obnoxious to the majority of the government, if not the people, and when war with France erupted in February, 1793, he began to feel the heat. As a result, when called before the Privy Council in May, 1794, he decided that flight was the better part of valor and took off for America, where his popularity was undiminished, by way of France. Ironically, as a foreign national arriving in Paris during the most radical phase of the Revolution, he was immediately arrested and imprisoned. Released in July, Vaughan remained in Switzerland and France for over three years before receiving a passport to join his wife and children in the United States.

Settling on family lands in the nether reaches of Hallowell, Maine, Vaughan worked his land, speculated (like many of his contemporaries) in real estate, and maintained an active correspondence with his wide circle of intellectual acquaintances, including his brother John long-time Librarian of the American Philosophical Society. In this remote outpost, he amassed one of the largest private libraries in New England, almost 12,000 volumes, and continued to take part in political discussions with American officials at the highest level, though he never again held elective office. A committed Federalist and a proponent of harmonious relations between England and America, he was a vocal critic of the War of 1812 and his social and political philosophy led him consistently to oppose American westward and southward expansion. Vaughan died in 1835.

From the guide to the Benjamin Vaughan Papers, 1746-1900, (American Philosophical Society)

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creatorOf Wollstonecroft, Charles, 1770-1817. Letter, 1795. University of Pennsylvania Library
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referencedIn Occasional glimpses at the world, 1824, 1824 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Peale-Sellers families. Correspondence, 1686-1963. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Peters, Richard, 1743-1828. Letters, 1808-1825. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn North American Land Company. Ledger, 1795-1805. American Philosophical Society Library
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referencedIn Patterson-Lord papers, [ca. 1809]-1876, Circa 1809-1876 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. ALS : Washington, [D.C.], to John Vaughan, [Philadelphia, Pa.], 1808 June 22. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Joel Barlow papers, 1779-1936 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
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creatorOf Smith, Thomas P. (Thomas Peters), 1777 or 8-1802. List of minerals, 1801. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Silliman, Benjamin, 1779-1864. Correspondence, 1808-1859. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Boylston, Ward Nicholas, 1749-1828. Letter, 1793. University of Pennsylvania Library
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referencedIn Ord, George, 1781-1866. Letters, 1832-1864, to Charles Waterton. American Philosophical Society Library
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referencedIn Priestley, Joseph, 1733-1804. Papers, 1771-1803. American Philosophical Society Library
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creatorOf Priestley, Joseph, 1733-1804. Correspondence and memoirs, 1696-1803. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
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referencedIn Materials for a biography, [ca. 1946-1962], of David Hosack, Circa 1946-1962 American Philosophical Society
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creatorOf John Vaughan papers, 1768 - Circa 1936, 1768 - Circa 1936 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn Peale-Sellers Family Collection, 1686-1963, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn José Francisco Correia da Serra papers, 1772-1827 American Philosophical Society Library
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