Bell's "Moral Thermometer" Featured in Early American Studies
Professor Richard Bell has written an essay for the latest issue of Early American Studies entitled “The Moral Thermometer: Rush, Republicanism, and Suicide.”
This essay situates Benjamin Rush at the center of a diffuse campaign to halt the “alarming progress” of self-destruction in the newly formed United States. It argues that Rush understood suicide not only as a medical, psychological, and religious problem, but also as a symptom of social and political atomization. By founding or supporting organizations and initiatives designed to drape coercive impulses in the garb of disinterested charity and cosmopolitan benevolence, Rush tried to nurture new bonds of empathy that could serve ordering functions without ever appearing to challenge the primacy of the rational individual in liberal society. The result was a battery of highly visible campaigns intended to transform individual character by promoting reflection, self-improvement, self-respect, and, most important, self-control.
The newest volume of Early American Studies featuring Professor Bell's essay can be found here.