The public health is the counterpart of the commonwealth. That a system of medicine which has sustained itself independently and grown in a compound ratio for a hundred years; which has its own literature and its schools, its clinics, societies, and hospitals, as well as its pupils and practitioners in every civilized community, is closely related to the health of the people is self-evident. To doubt this proposition would be like questioning whether Protestantism is related to Christianity, charity to benevolence, or the sunlight to the evolution of plants and flowers. If its recognition were commensurate with its deserts, and if its representatives had not been the victims of a class-bias that so far as possible has excluded them from the army and the navy, the hospital and the institutions of this and of other lands, I should have a more grater theme and a better prospect of pleasing you in what I have to on this occasion.
Toleration has been defined as “the dogma of the weaker party.” If the reformer did not insist upon it, he would never have a hearing. When he comes to be tolerated within certain galling limits, he has already gained a foothold. From that time forward his success will depend upon the merit of his cause, his own and his comrades’ tact and persistency, and the conduct of its followers when its claims have received the popular endorsement.
I shall speak upon this latter point, for the “incomputable perils of success,” as Lowell styles them, are not the least among those which beset our school of medicine at the present time. Our cause was a good one; there was used for a change in the harsh and harmful methods of treatment that were in vogue in Hahnemann’s time. He was a man of science, as science went in those days, but, what was infinitely more important, he was imbued with the spirit of scientific doubt. He saw the defects of the ancient system, and set to work to remedy them. To gain a hearing he must be aggressive. He characterized certain therapeutical abuses in such a way that some of his phrases fit and stick like the nicknames that schoolboys give each other.
He had the faith and firmness which are moral weapons of an invincible sort. With a just and benevolent cause, he felt it no crime to be a dissenter from the established church in medicine. He knew that “while the animosities are mortal the humanities are eternal,” and so, though a terrible opposition, he went forward in his chosen work. The merit of his cause is conceded and confirmed by thousands of physicians and by millions of patients in our day. If “the sweetest happiness that we ever know, the very wine of human life, comes from sacrifice,-from the effort to make others happy,” what shall we not say for our hero who, greater than Columbus, opened up a new world in therapeutics.
“Necessity,” says Herder, “is the clock-weight that keeps all the wheels in motion.” The early followers of Hahnemann were forced to be on the alert to defend their cause, and at the same time to develop its resources. Its great qualities and small defects had to be looked after as one would take care of a legacy. It was a legacy, but not for an individual, or even for a family. It was a bequest for the benefit of humanity at large, and for the public health and welfare. The abuse poured upon the early Homoeopathists, like that which showered upon the early ovariotomists, is fast becoming ancient history. It is so much easier to accuse than to excuse them that the fashion is to revive the old bitterness whenever their methods or their writings are mentioned.
We forget that, being placed on a frontier posts of medical knowledge, they must hold their ground, and, if need be, fight in its defence. Beset by furious and unscrupulous critics, they were forced to change their ink with gunpowder. In those days the controversial papers and the professional intercourse of parties on both sides abounded in brotherly throat-cutting. Almost every doctor, regular, irregular, and defective, insisted upon giving his neighbor “a piece of his mind,” not with standing the fact that nobody had any peace of mind. Old doctors and medical students especially looked at Homoeopathy through the prism of their own prejudices. The medical journals became, like Punch, “a refuge for destitute wit,” and almost every Old-School medical society took up the contemptible business of running a partisan search-light for the detection and discipline of heretics.
Under these circumstances, when their belief had to be kept up as a police force, it is no marvel that our brethren did and said some very unwise things. Like the lower brain centres that never sleep, they had always to be vigilant, even at the expense of being sometimes vindictive. And some one has said that everybody has a little speak of fight underneath his peace and good-will which he keeps for revolutions and great emergencies. In such a medical upheaval one must either fight for the supremacy of a faction or for a principle, and in this case it was not merely a matter of medical labels and liveries, but of deciding so important a question as the best means of relieving human suffering and of curing disease.
How well our predecessors did their work; what kind of fibre was in their faith, and how they defended it; how, as time went on, they were emancipated from controversy and left to cultivate their views and their peculiar resources; how the medical world, or the best part of it, has learned to treat them with a decent spirit of prejudice, are matters of common knowledge in our day.
As their antagonisms faded their resources were economized; as the radical and uncompromising spirit was torn down, the clinical quality took its place in their affections, their teachings, and their practice. After the enthusiasm with which each discovery is received come the difficulties of applications, doubts, and reactions. It is a fact philosophy which thinks more of methods than of results, as it is a spurious Christianity which puts a creed concerning the insoluble matters of faith above the mutual duties and interests of mankind.
I think it was Goethe who said that “whatever emancipates our minds without giving us the mastery of ourselves is destructive.” We are no longer engaged in an uncertain contest. Faith and works, and fighting and waiting, have secured us a hearing, an opportunity, position, and popularity. But there is the rub. Considering what the outcome of all sorts of antagonisms, moral and medical, has been; that those who gain power and influence almost always become intolerant and thereby cripple their cause and compromise their position; and considering that doctors are subject to the same infirmities as statesmen, soldiers, and politicians; that, in this instance especially, the interests at stake are of vital consequence to the welfare of mankind, why should we not cultivate a larger measure of professional toleration? Surely we are unfit for such an endowment if we fail to appreciate the responsibility that it brings, or to make the best possible use of it toward keeping our place in the line of the liberal professions.
In the far-away Northwest they sometimes have hail-storms that thresh the grain in the field just before the harvest. There are some over-zealous disciples who act like a Dakota “twister” when it comes a few days too soon for the unlucky farmer.
They have a passion for a label that amounts to an infirmity. LIke a vulgar relation in good society, they invariably say the right thing at the wrong time; fancy that they are still living in a debatable and not in a progressive age; are always looking for the routes and resorts of an enemy; and cannot understand why the asperities of medicine should yield to the mellowing influence of time more rapidly than those of theology have done. You remember the old saying that “an honest man who lacks judgment is more dangerous that a thief who has discretion;” for so long as you watch the discreet wretch he cannot injure you, while there is no escape from the fool friend.
In the glorious emergency in which we are placed, there are duties that draw like the invisible chains of gravitation. These duties puritan to our fitness and qualification as physicians, and to our tolerate of those whose professional views and opinions differ from often. The greatly improved facilities for obtaining a sound and through medical education are filling the first of these requirements in a most satisfactory manner; while the dissipation of the fog and mist of distance and Pharisaism among the fraternity is doing the rest.
It is true that in certain quarters we still are the victims of class bias and of class-legislation. For there are those who continue to regard the representatives of the New School of practice with muffed animosity against which our only shelter is the satisfaction of being in the right. But what concerns us and those that believe with us, is of such exquisite importance and interest that whatever the provocation we cannot afford to quarrel with them any longer merely for the theoretical defense of our faith.
We must use our own clinical spade, and we cannot answer for what will turn up. If some of the old roots of error, tradition, envy and unreason are thrown out of the medical field altogether, so much the better for the coming doctors and their patients, for our literature, and for the general reputation of what used to be styled, and should really become a liberal profession.
The position of Homoeopathy in our charitable institutions is not what it would have been but for the opposition that it has encountered from those who assume to monopolize all medical knowledge. Nor is it what it will become if we are fit and worthy for the places and the responsibilities that are rapidly falling into our hands as a simple matter of right and of justice.
From those who will follow me with special reports, you will have the detailed proof of this growing freedom of medical opinion. You will gather the most encouraging facts, showing that those who had drug a most around our school of medicine to shut it in to itself, and to shut it off from all practical relation to the public health, have signally failed.
The whole world of thought and action is permeated, but not saturated, with the principle of tolerance, and if we continue to watch and pray, to work and wait, a full share of recognition will yet be accorded to us. For it is a lucky thing that the universal law of change can so modify our views of liberty and of justice that the right may finally triumph. The powers that be are a shifting quantity, and this is an age of progress.
The repression of thought and the stifling of medical investigation, except on certain prescribed lines, is an antiquated abuse again which the spirit of this age is in open revolt. There is no tolerance in holding those who differ from us in contempt; but there is an under-current of sympathy with what is new and noble, magnanimous and merciful, of which we can take advantage.
We have had a cycle, or better, perhaps, a cyclone, of that intellectual agitation which is the first step towards reform; and now, if our professional views are not twisted, or too narrow, if we do not in turn become intolerant and egotistical; if we can learn to forget all but the ultimate end of our mission to mankind, and take advantage of the ripening harvest, there is no reason why all that is good and true in Homoeopathy, should not be fully appreciated by the public at large as well as by the profession.
The three factors in the stupendous reform that Homoeopathy has wrought were its intrinsic and relative utility; the faith and fidelity of its early apostles; and the persistent political intrigue of its opponents, which was the daily bread of the inquisition. It is enough to say that from the foundation of the world these are the precise conditions upon which every reform that was worthy of the name has depended for its evolution and establishment.
Although the persecution that we have suffered in times past has been a grievous burden, and has sometimes put us at a great disadvantage, it really has been a blessing in disguise. For while, as every Christian must know, the professional disabilities to which we have been subjected were indefensible at the bar of the Golden Rule, they were indispensable to our study growth and development.
The winds of opposition have rooted our tree of knowledge. Left to our own resources, we are compelled to do our best for our patients, and for our branch of the healing art, at all points of the medical compass. Hence the all around growth of our school and the impossibility, except here and there, that we should becomes and remain mere fanciful and fractional doctors.
Show us a form of quackery that can stand the clinical test of object lessons in all the practical branches of medicine and surgery, every day in the year, and before thousand of earnest and intelligent pupils and physicians; or one that has ever done first-class work in surgery, or in any of the specialities. They have not even given the world that modern products of spontaneous generation, a decent gynecologist!.
But this Congress in which we are met comprises a host of representative men and women, who in many lands work as teachers, a cases and practitioners in every department of the medical calling; whose scientific attainments and professional probity, scope, popularity and usefulness are equal to those of a like number of physicians from any other school of practice. Judged by this standard and by the fruit of their labor, as it is preserved on our literature and noted by the Recording Angel, we surely do not deserve to be classed as outlaws and charlatans.
Twenty-three years ago, and within a stone;s throw of this spot, an address was made before our National Society which, in the light of recent development, reads like a prophecy. It sounded a clear note from the warm and royal spirit of our dear, departed friend, Dr. Carroll Dunham. Liberty of medical opinion and action; a vital necessity and a great responsibility, was a theme that was worthy of the speaker and of his cause.
As the one man among us best fitted to appreciate the peculiar position in which we were about to be placed; whose love for humanity and for his own calling was boundless; whose loyalty could not be questioned; whose regard for the opinions of others was always respectful and generous, giving every one credit for the good that was in him; whose faith was firm and steady, not fickle and foolish; whose opinion was worth more than anybody else’s argument; whose writings are neither fierce and feeble, nor shallow and worthless. The text of that discourse reads like the Sermon on the Mount.
“The time, then, is passed which called for defenses and expositions of Homoeopathy, appeals for equal privileges and protests against oppression. We stand henceforth on equal ground as members of the great body of the medical profession, in which we shall take rank according to the worth of our work in the bread field of medical science.”.
After a clear statement of his individual position on points of doctrine that were mooted then, are now, and always will be, he says:.
“Notwithstanding this belief, I advocate entire liberty of opinion and practice. Nay, because of this belief, I plead for liberty; for I am sure that perfect liberty will the sooner bring knowledge of the truth and that purity of practice which we all desire.
“So long as we are a body of physicians characterized by a distinctive name derived from the law of cure which we profess, I suppose that none will seek membership in the Institute who do not substantially accept the law. This granted, I would have no exclusive creed, no restrictions relating to theory and practice, but would receive into membership of the Institute every applicant of suitable educations and moral standing. I deprecate any attempt to regulate or prescribe the opinion practice of members of our school, for two principal reasons. We cannot if we would, and ought not if we could.
“We cannot. We are no a body claiming to possess infallibility. It belongs not to us utter denunciations of what we may believe to be errors of faith and practice; nor to put forth an index of the allowed and the forbidden. We are a voluntary association of laborers, simply from the love of knowledge, as is the case with all workers in science; and we have no power to enforce any restrictions upon which we might determine.
“We ought not. Not until we have reached the absolute truth should we be justified in establishing a standard of faith and practice. How far we are from that position need not be argued here. Let us remember the wise course of the Bureau of the Paris Hospitals, when, in 1850, Tessier of St. Marguerite, made known his conversion to Homoeopathy, and it was proposed to deprive him, on that account, of his position as hospital physician.
The wise Chomel opposed the proposition, saying that every physician, who is thoroughly qualified to practice has the right to select his own made of treatment and to judge what is best for his patients, and may not be interfered, with, unless his results are notoriously bad or he commit some act of unquestionable malpractice. ‘For; said he, ‘It is only by the exercise of this freedom that changes and improvements. Tessier, in practicing Homoeopathy, has only exercised the same freedom of selection which Bouilland and Rayer and Louis and I have enjoyed and, as his results are as good as cures, we may not interfere with him;…
“Do we demand liberty of opinion? Then must we take care that our opinion rest on a foundation of study and acquirement which embraces the entire circuit of medical knowledge, and takes in and honesty estimates every new contribution to it, no prejudice of place or person giving a bias to our reason. Then must we act in the spirit of Hahnemann’s noble admonition: ‘In a science in which the welfare of mankind is concerned, any neglect to make ourselves masters of it becomes a crime;…..
“But touching the open questions of medical opinion and practice-while each of us earnestly proclaims the opinions he has expressed, and zealously puts them in practice, let us cultivate the catholic and noble spirit of Chillingworth: ‘I will take no man’s liberty of judgment from him, nor shall any man take mine from me. I will think no man the worse man’….. I will love no man the less for differing in opinion from me, and what measure I mete to others I expect from them again.”.
In the light of his leadership and wise counsel; in the light of what we have learned since be left this legacy; and because of the great and growing influence of our branch of the healing art, I plead for toleration; for increased breath of culture and acquirement; for the careful fostering of the specialities; and for the thorough and adequate fitness of our physicians for their all-around duties and responsibilities. These are the industrial conditions of success and stability; and if properly and persistently applied they will surely demonstrate the vital relation that exists between Homoeopathy and the public health.
THE CHAIRMAN: The discussion on this address will be opened by Dr. I.T. Talbot, of Boston.
DR. TALBOT: When I was asked to speak upon the subject which has just been presented to you, I did not feel certain what there was to say, or what the direct line of argument in that paper would be, but as it went on there came so many thoughts that I feel myself equally incompetent to arrange them in the way that they should be to such an audience; but the name of Carroll Dunham and the memories of twenty-three years ago certainly thrills the heart of every one who was present at that time, who was a member of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, or who had an interest in this subject.
It was at a time when there were those who thought that they were right and all rest were wrong, and, in fact, there is that element in the human mind that thinks our thought must be right and everything that is different from it must be wrong; but it is going further than that to draw lines, to draw a creed, to draw those stringent bands around the Homoeopathic profession which should define a certain line outside of which they should not go; and it was the work of that one man, so noble, so broad, so exact, so painstaking in all his work, who never could be doubted of loyalty to Homoeopathy, that in that address, placed us on the platform that has given us progress, additions to our members and a liberty to go on in the work in which we are engaged. Now we feel that influence.
Our present position is also a somewhat dangerous one. When we were excluded from public institutions there was no danger of our committing any great offences, but the day is fast approaching, and has already come, when we are not only admitted but invited; and are we ready for it? Have we given that attention to the great work of public health, that as a body we should?