The Fascinating Life of America's Forgotten Founding Father

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The 18th century doctor, civic leader, and renaissance man Benjamin Rush was one of the youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence, edited and named Thomas Paine's Common Sense, implemented medical practices that helped the Continental Army win the Revolutionary War, made sure Benjamin Franklin attended the Constitutional Convention, and shaped the medical and political landscape of the newly formed United States.

Yet despite his outsized influence, the varied and interesting life he led, and the close relationships he had with other founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, Rush is hardly remembered today. That's because of just how close his relationship with those other founders was. Rush was a personal physician to them and their families, and after his death, they suppressed his legacy, not wanting the intimate and unflattering details he had recorded in his letters and journals to be publicized. In fact, his memoir was considered too dangerous to be published and wasn't found for nearly 150 years.

My guest will re-introduce us to this forgotten figure. His name is Stephen Fried, and he's the author of Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father. Today on the show, Stephen takes us through Rush's fascinating life, from his self-made rise out of inauspicious childhood, to how he was able to reconcile an estranged Jefferson and Adams before his death, and what Stephen has learned from studying a character who lived through very fraught and not totally unfamiliar times.

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