THE REVOLUTION AND THE MAN
1786 AND 1886
Let us now come to our own day and compare the darkness of 1786 with the comparative light of 1886. In the sixteen years and upwards during which I have been connected with the medical profession as student or practitioner I have never once seen a patient bled. In all truly civilized countries bleeding now occupies the very last instead of the first place among the means of cure. The habit of prescribing a number of drugs in the same mixture is not yet by any means extinct, especially in country districts; but the practice of giving one drug at a time is rapidly gaining in favour even among allopathists, and no one now dreams of skilfully building up a prescription of basis, excipient and the rest, as in itself a work of art. The leaders of the allopathic section are approaching the “Everlasting No” of prescribing,-the point Hahnemann reached in 1789-for they openly declare that they have little or no faith in drugs; and when one of them succeeds a homoeopathist in the care of a case of acute disease he thinks the best thing he can do is to give the patient no medicine at all. The effect of the Revolution in Medicine, of the deliverance from the tyranny of the Dark Ages, has been felt in every home in christendom.
The lancet, the leech, and the fearful concoction are no longer the haunting terror they once were from the cradle to the grave. Douglas Jerrold’s death-bed appeal to the doctor who insisted on cupping him-“Why torture a dying creature, doctor?” has been answered by Hahnemann-Why indeed?
An abler pen than mine has sketched the debt of the children to “The great Deliverer.”-
“Children,” says Miss Cobbe, “noticing the busts of Hahnemann in the shop windows, may be properly taught to bless that great Deliverer who banished from the nursery those huge and hateful mugs of misery-black founts of so many infantile tears- mugs of sobs and sighs and gasps and struggles unutterable, from one of which Madam Roland drew the first inspiration of that martyr spirit which led her onward to the guillotine, when she suffered herself to be whipped six times running, sooner than swallow the abominable contents.”
Sacrificial Medicine, in The Peak in Darien. by Frances Power Cobbe, p.196. The influence of Hahnemann is everywhere. It presses like an enveloping atmosphere, and like an atmosphere, so insensibly that is may be unperceived. We find it in allopathic books. It may be denied; and even by those who have consciously helped themselves to his works it may be ignored; but it is there, and history will not fail to declare it.
I know it is the fashion to say that the improvement must have come with the growing enlightenment of the age; but the answer to the simple-minded persons who make this statement-and who remind me of worthy Dogberry, when he said,”to read and write comes by nature,”-the answer to them is, that with all the growing enlightenment of the previous centuries, the improvement did not come, and until Hahnemann pointed out the way no one had any notion how medicine was to escape from the darkness of erroneous theorics, and the chains of dead Authority.
It was only by the immeasurably superior results of Hahnemann’s treatment over their own that the opposing section were,”at long and last,” as the Scotch folk say, induced to give up their barbarous practices, and to leave the sick man at least a chance of getting well. Those who like may believe in the wonderful effects of Mar-shall Hall’s vivisections: the deliverance of Medicine from bondage was wrought by the heroic struggles of Hahnemann for light, begun in his childhood, and carried on during long years of privation, of labour and of persecutions, and maintained with a fortitude rarely seen among the sons of men, and never seen except when founded, as Hahnemann’s was, on a mighty faith in the goodness of God, and in his own commission. This is the kind of thing, and this only, which can bring about such a beneficent Revolution as this century has witnessed in Medicine: and since the world is not altogether under the dominion of civil, a career like that of Hahnemann can never be wasted or lost.
Such was Hahnemann, and such was his work. The discovery that he was an ignorant charlatan is one of the many remarkable allopathic discovers-not to say inventions-of the last half century.
In his own day his works were too well known to admit of such slanders gaining credence. Base motives and his criminal neglect of blood-letting were the chief stones thrown at him then. But Hahnemann was not to be destroyed by persecution, and he was too great a man to make any querulous complaint of that which he endured. “I care nothing, “he says, in 1828, “for the ingratitude and persecutions which have pursued me on my wearisome pilgrimage; the great objects I have pursued have prevented my life rom being joyless.” Chronic Disease, 1.8. Ameke, p.163. And on his death-bed, when it was remarked that providence owed exemption from suffering to him who had already suffered so much in his efforts to relieve others, he replied with all his old fire, “Why should I expect exemption from suffering? Every one in this world works according to the gifts and powers which he has received from Providence, and more or less are words used only before the judgment-seat of of man, not before that of Providence. Providence owes me nothing. I owe it much. Yes, everything.” Ameke, P. 167.
That Hahnemann had faults and failings I do not deny, any more than I deny that there are spots on the face of the sun. But we do not refuse to own that the sun warms us and gives us light because we have discovered the spots: and to see them at all we require to look through darkened glass. There may be some persons dim-sighted enough to see the spots-and even to see spots where there is none-without such help, and foolish enough to deny that the sun shines.
Such, it seems to me, are those mentally purblind persons who see so plainly the defects (real or imagined) in Hahnemann’s character that they cannot bring their magnanimity to allow him my credit at all
Some there are who cannot see hero, even when placed fairly before their eyes. Their insect range of vision is so narrow and so low that they see nothing clearly that is much greater than themselves; and their minds are so much in subjection to their eyes that they will not believe in anything they cannot see. But these are not the men to measure Hahnemann. His fame lives not in their breath. His fame has firm foundations; it is sure as the everlasting hills. It may be hidden from little minds by the little reputations of to-day, as the snowy peak of some sky- piercing giant may be hidden from view by hillocks close at hand; but as, when distance levels meaner heights, the monarch of the range towers over all the scene, so as years roll on will the name and fame of Hahnemann tower over the plains of history, when the little reputations of to-day shall have mingled indistinguishably with the common dust.