Page images

Perhaps he has made some mistakes in his survey of Philadelphia, inasmuch as he appears, thus far, to have been perched on the top of the shot-tower which put our author so much in mind of a Brobdignagian lime-kiln. The fact is, we susa pected, from the facility with which he saw so much from the top of the shot-tower, that he actually was a Brobdignagian himself; until we found him, in page 27, “expatiating along the sidewalks, near Chesnut and Fourth," where he took the sound of a kiss, exchanged by two young ladies, for the “snapping of some varlet's whip, and was startled by it." **2 If our readers are not yet tired of the company of Arthur

Singleton, Esquire, we honestly confess we are. No offence to Sthe author, in whose favour'we have recommended an abridgement of these “ Letters from the South and West';" nor to our readers, to whom it is perhaps superfluous to recommend the postponement of a perusal of the Squire's lucubrations until the said abridgement shall be compiled, of which we promise to give them due notice.


Sir William Temple, speaking of the Medical profession, has said, "that the study of physic is not achieved in any eminent degree, without very great advancement in the sciences ; so that, whatever the profession is, the professors have been generally very much esteemed on that account, as well as of their own art, as the most learned men of their ages,

and thereby shared with the two other professions in those advantages most commonly valued and most eagerly pursued; whereof the divines seem to have had the most honour--the lawyers the most money-and the physicians the most learning." Flattering to the medical profession, as this assertion may seem, it is not the less consonant with the experience of every enlightened age and country. In England, more especially, its truth has been amply verified by the fact, that of the numerous and valuable contributions to the Royal Society of London from its first institution down to the present period, two-thirds have been made by physicians.

As a corollary from this fact, it follows that from the extent of learning and talents possessed by the physicians of any given

[ocr errors]

* An Inaugural Address, delivered before the Medical Society of the county of New-York, on the 12th day of July, 1824. By David Hosack, M. D. LL. D. President of the Society.

country, no incorrect estimate may be formed of its advancement in knowledge and letters. Where ignorant pretenders and quacks are entertained with the honours due to men of science, and to those alone who are, by a regular education, prepared for the discharge of the duties of this arduous profession, it may be justly inferred, not only that the intellectual standard is not very exalted, but that there must be a general, apathy for the interests of science and a shameful disregard of life. For proofs of this fact it is not necessary to refer farther than to the anpals of our own country. Prior, to the reyolution, and while the mind of the people was bampo pered and kept under subjection by the colonial sway of a foreign government, the medical profession was in a low and degraded condition, wholly unregulated by salutary laws, and open to the impositions of men without education, talents, or virtue. Nor was the state of the profession much ameliorated for some time after the revolution. “Even after our revolution “ had been achieved,” observes a distinguished writer, the ex“ citement occasioned by that great event seemed, for a time, to

unfit the mind for the calm pursuits of scientific and philosos phical research. As was natural enough, men appeared more + concerned about the public weal, and were more intent upon - erecting and consolidating a system of rational and inden * pendent government, than about cultivating literature or « science. Almost all the active talent of the country was "accordingly enlisted in the service of the state, or at least 6 embarked in that profession which presented the most direct, “ road to political distinction.” Medicine accordingly languished, and as yet a general gloom pervaded the prospects of science in general. Then arose Rush, Endowed by nature with an original and powerful mind; aided by all the resources of a liberal and ample course of instruction; nursed withal in the cradle of liberty,-Rush disdained to submit to the trammels of a foreign yoke, in science no less than in politics ; and boldly erected, on the downfall of antiquated dogmas and obsolete prejudices, a new system of theory and practice, based on his own observations, and resting for its support on the immutable. pillars of truth and experience. The power of his genius, the charms of his eloquence, and the purity, strength, and native simplicity of his style, elevated the school over which he presided to a rank that might have excited the envy of the proudest professors of Europe : and they have conti, i nued to exert an influence in its favour, even to the pres: sent day, when the spirit which called them forth has long since departed. The example of Rush was widely and deeply felt throughout the country. Emulous of the cha


rácter which Philadelphia attained under the auspicies of this great man, New-York exerted herself, established her university, and, by a liberal and magnanimous policy, encouraged every effort which might have a tendency to shed lustre on her literature, and exalt her name in the annals of science. If her exertions have not as yet been crowned with the brilliant success to which her ambition might have aspired, it has not failed to produce the most important and useful results. By awakening in physicians a lively ambition to excél, and rousing them to active exertions, it has elevated the character of the profession throughout the state, and put to flight the host of pretenders and impostors, who, like locusts in Egypt, at one time darkened the land far and wide.

Among these beneficial results, the most important appears to us to have been the institution of state and county medical societies. Organized with the more immediate view of supé pressing quackery, these bodies have, when properly managed, been found to be the most efficient instruments by which to diffuse a taste for science, and to excite that emulation among individuals, - without which genius is cold and knowledge ihert.” They are likewise admirably adapted to quell those petty jealousies, and allay those heartburnings which too often mar the happiness, and lower the dignity of professional brethren, when insulated and unconnected by a common and paramount interest. If the Medical Society of this city has not bitherto been productive of these desirable effects, it has been owing, not to a radical defect inherent in the institution itself; not to a want of talent or virtue in the profession ; but to inexperience in the management of the Society, and to consequent apathy and carelessness on the part of the members. Many persons, too, admitted by the special favour of law to the rank of physicians, and enjoying the honours of the profession without possessing any claims thereto on the score of education, abilities, or even a proper sense of the dignity of the profession, have, nevertheless, by a bold and impudent audacity, so far obtruded themselves upon public notice, and so far embroiled the profession in their cabals and intrigues, as to deter many ingenuous and worthy men of undoubted learning and acknowledged abilities, from exchanging their peaceful obscurity and inactive ease, for scenes of turbulence and commotion. To this unhappy state of things there promises now to. be a -speedy termination. Our physicians are awakened to a sense of their proper interests, and begin to perceive that the promotion of private interest, and the advancement of the character and dignity of the profession, are not only not in.

[ocr errors]

compatible, but one and the same. Exclusive monopolies, therefore, having for their object, not the improvement of the science, or the extension to the profession at large of a public benefit, but the selfish view of introducing a single individual, or association of individuals, into an invidious or unmerited share of practice, the unsanctioned and shameful purchase and secret ministering of patent medicines; and, in short, all artifices which are intended to subserve the limited ambition of men without real capacity or learning, are now allowed, on all hands, to be inconsistent with this dignified and liberal object. It is a lamentable fact, we know, that these resources of petty minds are too often successful—too often encouraged by the world, even at the sacrifice of all that is truly elevated in science, and noble and disinterested and humane in conduct. Now, it is with the express view of bringing forth these practices to light, and exposing their followers to their proper level and merited contempt, that medical societies are (unless we very much mistake the motives of their founders) established and chartered by the state. And therefore it is that we are happy to see no small share of activity and zeal excited in the members of the city Society to promote the interests of the profession, and exalt its character to the elevated standard, which the resources abounding in an extensive and prosperous city, so markedly point out as the object of its ambition. On this last subject, more especially, the author of the address before us remarks:

“We enjoy numerous and peculiar privileges from our local situation. We occupy the most enviable city in the United States--a city distinguished for its large and rapidly increasing population- for the intelligence and enterprise of its inhabitants its numerous literary and benevolent institutions-its immediate and unceasing intercourse with the most enlightened parts of the world : add to these, its unrivalled commercial advantages, more especially since the accession recently made to its resources by the great western canal. As members of one of the most learned faculties, these advantages imposé upon us the duty to avail ourselves of those blessings with which we are so bigbly favoured, and of rendering them tributary to the best interests of our profession, and thereby of the community in which our lot is happily cast.”

“ It is expected, and justly too, that the physicians of the metropolis should be the most learned and able of the profession in any part of the state, for the reason that, cæteris paribus, they enjoy more ample means of information, both theoretical and practical, than are afforded in less favoured situations. Seeing, then, that they possess more than ordinary opportunities for observation and improvement, the inference is unavoidable, that from them more will be required, and is justly demanded."

The first object to engage the attention of the Medical Society, must undoubtedly be the suppression of quackery. Nothing, in our opinion, so disgraces a community which pre

tends to be enlightened, as the encouragement of empirical practitioners and their secret remedies, Cures may, indeed, be performed at times, by, these ignorant pretenders, and, in a moment of fearful alarm, resort may be pardonable even to heir precarious and ignoble assistance. But what well instructed mind can willingly acknowledge gratitude to a selfish nostrum vender, who refuses to benefit mankind at the very time when he openly professes to have it in his power? Let the laws of the state, therefore, be enforced if we would purge from out our city. this foul blotch. The most efficient means of remedying the evil is to form a census of all the physicians in the city who are legally entitled to practice medicine, and to exclude from the list all those who are not so duly qualified, and, if possible, expose them to the penalties of the law.

In order to regulate the more effectually the practice of physic, the Medical Society has framed a code of ethics, which has received the approbation of foreign writers, and is men: tioned in terms of great praise by Dr. Hosack.

Without en tering into the merits of this code, it may be sufficient to state, that, in the opinion of not a few who have paid some attention to the subject, it is a very imperfect performance, and would have been far better supplied by a republication of Dr. Perciyal's excellent treatise on the same subject.

After regulating the practice of physic, the next object is to improve the state of the profession itself. This object is to be attained by a variety of means, all of which we think must concentre in the efforts made by the Society. In order to promote these, it is highly necessary that all the talent and learning in the city should be enlisted, and this can only be done by all the physicians in the city uniting themselves with the Society, and by a punctual attendance of the members upon the Society, and a prompt and cheerful discharge of the various duties which they may be called upon to perform. A lukewarm disposition must evidently give a death-blow to all attempts at ameliorating the condition of the profession, and an ungenerous indulgence in private animosities must be, if possible, still more detrimental.

There are several distinct recommendations made in the address of the president of the Society, to the propriety and imposing necessity of all which the Society has already lent its sanction. The objects proposed in the discourse are,

1st. That the meetings of the Society be held monthly, and that communications in writing by the members be exacted at each meeting.

2dly. That the Society purchase proper instruments, and Vol. 1. No. V.


« PreviousContinue »