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however, he studies all other branches of medicine, with a view of arriving at this point, yet, as already stated, it has been less known than any of the others. To establish this fact, it is only necessary to observe the conduct of the physician in the sick chamber. He would naturally be ashamed to appear ignorant, and he may not be ignorant of the evil which he is called to arrest; he may describe and analyse it with the utmost accuracy; he may particularize not only the diseased organ, but the part of the organ which is affected. For example, if the chest is the seat of the disease, he may indicate which lobe of the lungs is affected, and the derangements which have taken place in its functions; and in cases of dropsy of the chest, he may point out on which side the water is accumulated. In a case of paralysis or apoplexy, he may exactly explain how the brain is affected, or in what purt the extravasation of the blood has taken place. In short, he may accurately classify all other maladies which may be presented to him under the head of typhus, cholera, dyspepsia, asthma, gout, or any other recognized name. But when it is necessary to decide on the remedies proper to subdue these maladies, then it is that a conscientious practitioner feels all the difficulty of his art, and deficiency of the means at his command. It is then that he hesitates to decide which of the different remedies recommended by medical authorities is most applicable, because he has no law of certain and universal application to
guide his decision. The greater the number of physi cians consulted, the greater is this uncertainty; for if they should agree on the name of the disorder, they find thomselves fearfully at variance on the question of a remedy fitted to oppose it.
It must be admitted, then, by every enlightened and conscientious member of the profession, that materia medica, and the therapeutic branch, is, in our time, very far bohind all the other departments of the medical art. Its importance is, however, so great, that if it be impossible to establish it upon certain and fixed basis, all the other branches of the art, however near they may approximate to perfection, would be, as regards the good they might render, as if they had never been. What avails it to humanity that the physician knows how to describe the nature of the discase, if he is unacquainted with the proper means of curing it.
But, lest we be thought to exaggerate in our representation of the absolute deficiency of that science, without which medicine can never be other than a conjectural art, we must appeal to testimony not to be controverted. And first, let us listen to one whose name is a monument of genius and practical research, the immortal JOHN HUNTER. Referring to the virtues of medical substances, and their application to the counteraction of disease, he says:
"Of these virtues we know nothing definitely: all we know is, that some are capable of altering the mode of
actions, others stimulating, many counter-stimulating; some even irritating, and others quieting, so as to produce either a healthy disposition, and action in a diseased part, or to change the disease to that action which accords with the medicine, or to quiet where there is too much action, and our reasoning goes no farther than to make a proper application with these virtues. The difficulty is to ascertain the connection of substance and virtue, and to apply this in restraining or altering any diseased action; and as that cannot be demonstrated a priori, it reduces the practice of medicine to experiment, and this not built upon well determined data, but upon experience, resulting from probable data. This is not equally the case through the whole practice, for in many cases we are much more certain of a cure than in others; but still even in this, the certainty does not arise from reasoning upon any more fixed data than in others, where the certainty of cure is less; but it arises from a greater experince alone. It is still no more than inferring that, in what is now to be tried, there is probable effect or good to arise in the experiment from what has been found serviceable in similar cases. Diseases, however, of the same specific nature, not only vary in their visible symptoms, but in many of those that are invisible, arising probably from peculiarities of constitution, and causes which will make the effects of applications very probably almost in the same proportion; and as those varieties may not be known so as either to adapt the specific medicine to them, or to suit
the disease to the medicine, it will then be only given upon a general principle, which, of course, may not correspond to the peculiarities. Even in well marked specific diseases, we find that there are often peculiarities which counteract the simple specific medicine."
Such is the testimony of Hunter; and upon this alone we might rest our case. But the position which we would maintain, that therapeutics, until the rise of homœopathic doctrine, had never met the first requisitions, and was consequently unworthy the name of a science- is too important to be left to the testimony of a single witness.
In a lecture, delivered before the Royal College of Physicians, London, by Dr. Paris, from the Chair of materia medica, we find the following concessions. This learned professor, adverting to "the extraordinary vicissitudes so eminently characteristic," as he remarks, of the history of materia medica, makes use of this language :
"That such fluctuations in opinion, and versatility in practice, should have produced, even in the most candid and learned observers, an unfavorable impression with regard to the general efficacy of medicines, can hardly excite our astonishment, much less our indignation; nor can we be surprised, that another portion of mankind has at once arraigned physic as a fallacious art, or derided it as a composition of error and fraud. They ask, and it must be confessed that they ask with reason, what pledge can be afforded them, that the boasted remedies of the present day will not, like their predecessors, fall into disrepute,
and, in their turn, serve only as humiliating memorials of the credulity and infatuation of the physicians who commended and prescribed them." Again, while attempting to account for these fluctuations in opinion, and versatility in practice, connected with the materia medica, he alledges that its advancement has been continually arrested, and often entirely subverted, by the caprices, prejudices, and knavery of mankind, and that, unlike the other branches of science, it is incapable of successful generalization. And he adds the significant question, "In the progress of the history of remedies, when are we able to produce a discovery or improvement which has been the result of that happy combination of observation, analogy, and experiment, which has so eminently rewarded the labors of modern science?"
Admitting this question to have been unanswerable, as it evidently was, how happens it that it did not occur to this able professor, that, amid the infinity of fictions with which the materia medica notoriously abounds, even the best established facts, which are avowedly incapable of successful generalization, can have no pretensions whatever to the rank of a science.
Professor Harrison says-(see his medical essays.) It was the remark of a celebrated teacher of medicine, that there are, in our science, more false facts than false theories. Paradoxical as this may seem, its truth is established by the most comprehensive and accurate observations which can be made on the wide field of practical