W.A. Rind to George Wythe, 12 August 1800

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This is a typescript transcription of a letter to George Wythe from 1800,[1] the original of which was "written on a wrapper" and later housed in the clerk's office of the Fredericksburg, Virginia district court.[2] The transcription (dated 1946) has the author of the letter as a "W.A. Rino," but this is probably an error in reading the original handwriting. It is more likely the letter is actually from William Alexander Rind (1763-1842),[3] the prominent editor of the Federalist newspaper in Richmond at the time (and later in Washington, D.C.). Also mentioned is a "James Rind," who was in fact, the brother of William.

Rind wrote the note to borrow an an "Electrical Machine" belonging to Wythe, in the hopes of curing a female slave belonging to his brother James who had a "lockd Jaw." Wythe owned many scientific devices and apparatus,[4] and listed in the inventory of the books he left to Thomas Jefferson in his will is the manual for "Nairne's electrical machine" (1783), which the inventor states was not just for physics experiments, but was "constructed with a particular view to the purposes of medicine," and can be used to cure a number of ailments by delivering electric shocks, even specifically mentioning "the locked jaw stands confirmed by many successful cases."[5]

There is no record of a response from Wythe, or if Rind's efforts were successful.

Transcription text, 1 November 1946

Page 1

W.A. Rino [sic] presents his Respects to Chancellor Wythe, and solicits the loan of his Electrical Machine for the purpose of electrifying a Mulatto girl who hathad [sic] a lockd Jaw for some time. The girl belongs to Mr. James Rind and is in a dangerous Situation. W.A. Rino [sic] therefor hopes that Mr. Wythe will excuse the Liberty taken as Nothing but the necessity of the case could have induced him to trouble Mr Wythe with a Request of this nature.

Tuesday morning
August 12, 1800

[Reverse addressed to]

Honble George Wythe

From the original in
Fredericksburg [Va.] District Court
1 November 1946

See also


  1. "Transcript of a letter from W.A. Rino to George Wythe, 12 August 1800," Manuscripts - Group 3 - People, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary
  2. Robert Bevier Kirtland, George Wythe: Lawyer, Revolutionary, Judge (New York: Garland, 1986), 139n.
  3. Ibid.
  4. In a letter from Judge William H. Cabell to William Wirt, written before 1834, the judge remembers a visit to Wythe in Richmond, when "the good old gentleman brought forth his philosophical apparatus and amused us by exhibiting experiments, which we did not well comprehend, it is true, but he tried to make us do so, and we felt elevated by such attentions from so great a man." Printed in John P. Kennedy, Memoirs of the Life of William Wirt: Attorney General of the United States (Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1846), 141.
  5. Edward Nairne, The Description and Use of Nairne's Patent Electrical Machine: With the Addition of Some Philosophical Experiments and Medical Observations (London: Nairne and Blunt, 1783), 57.

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