Author: Dr. John Warren
“Salem 29th January 1775
I received your Letter of last Week wherein you propose my giving my Note to Dr Greenleaf for £200 Lawfull Money to be payed in two Years. The Proposal I assure you has given me not a little Uneasiness, for I should however be very glad to comply with it but I see no possibility of my doing it with any Prospect of paying the Sum in so short a Time or any thing near it[.]. it is true I have a good Share of the Business as I could rationally expect for the Time I have been here but I cannot collect more than Money sufficient to defray the Charges arising from Clothing, & other common Expences[.] I am not able to do anything towards my Board or Apothecary’s Bill and am pretty certain that at the Expiration of the above mentioned Term I shall not be able to pay satisfy more than the annual Demand not to mention what I shall then be behind Hand on these Accounts. The people here are accustomed to being dealt so very easy with by their Physician, Doctor Holyoke having reduced the Fees to a very low Rate and never having troubled them with Accounts except when they troubled him for their[s]. A Physician wh should charge any thing nearly sufficient barely to support the Dignity of the Profession or should attempt to make any Innovations upon the ancient Usage of the Town would at once thro[?] him out of practice. The Note has ever laid as a Weight upon my Mind but I was always in Hopes that you would not have occasion to call upon me to discharge it till my Circumstances should render it easy for me to do it. You will consider the Disadvantages I labour under to enter the World under such Circumstances is really almost discouraging I should be in hopes however of surmounting my Difficulties in Time but I expect to undergo many Anxious Days until it is accomplished. It is thought considerable if a young Person is able in three or four Years after entering upon Business to maintain himself even if he is clear of the World as the Saying is but to have to discharge so great a Debt to discharge is what very few I believe would think practicable in any small Number of Years. You very well know by Experience the [very] critical situation which those of the Faculty are in with Regard to collecting Debts so that one must either die or throw aside Business in order to realize any considerable Proportion of the Money which he has in Book Debts, and you are sensible that a young Practitioner must meet with reduplicated Difficulties of this Kind, at a time when every step is to be considered as giving Stamp to his future being in the World and, Eternitat s(p?)ingo, though in a more limited Sense should be the Motto & Regulator of his Conduct, depend upon it I will make use of every Precaution in my Power to get out of Debt as soon as possible but the giving a Note to Dr Greenleaf would involve me in difficulties which I fear I should never be able to extricate myself from: So far as I am able I will begin t remit Money to you and it must necessarily be some Years before I can myself as having a Farthing of my own (a mortifying Reflection) my business really increases I believe I shall be able to do as well as can be expected for any Body in my circumstances I have the Happiness of flattering myself that I have many good Friends here, and was I even with the World should not doubt of being soon in tolerable good circumstance unless some unexpected Event should destroy my Hopes. Of this I am certain that I have neglected no Opportunities and spared no Pains to render myself as independent of my fellow Creatures as possible. The principal Practice of the Town is still in the Hands of Dr Holyoke and will doubtless remain so until he is incapacitated for Business which is not likely to be very soon. I believe I have the next greatest share but it cannot be supposed that my [ ? ] should in general be so good as his.
No vessels, whose Masters I have any Knowledge of are about sailing for the places you mentioned, nor have been since your last writing to me about them. If you can trust any of whose Character you cannot be particularly informed, I believe I can soon secure one to each place. I have and still will be waiting for an [ ]
P.S. As to Capt Luree[?] I immediately after receiving yr Letter made strict inquiring after Him but found he was not here. I since find there is one of the same name from Falmouth who is cast away Yrs John Warren”
Source: Transcribed from ms in John Collins Warren Papers, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, box 2 of 23. Published in Edward Warren, The Life of John Warren, MD, Boston: Noyes, Holmes, and Company, 1874, p. 36-39; also in John Collins Warren, Genealogy of Warren with Some Historical Sketches, Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1854.
Commentary: Eldest brother Joseph Warren tried to raise money from his adoring youngest brother and medical protégé John Warren (1753-1815) by proposing that John float a two year note with Boston apothecary and merchant Dr. Greenleaf. In this reply John explains that he too is strapped for income and is unable to assist his brother.
John Warren went on to become a Continental Army physician, founding professor of Harvard Medical School, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and scion of a Boston medical family spanning eight generations.