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are living still. I see two men in the street, very often, who were both as good as dead in the opinion of all who saw them in their extremity. People will insist on living, sometimes, though manifestly moribund. In Dr. Elder's life of Kane, you will find a case of this sort, told by Dr. Kane himself. The captain of a ship was dying of scurvy, but the crew mutinied, and he gave up dying for the present to take care of them. An old lady in this city, near her end, got a little vexed about a proposed change in her will; made up her mind not to die just then; ordered a coach; was driven twenty miles to the house of a relative, and lived four years longer. Cotton Mather tells some good stories which he picked up in his experience, or out of his books, showing the unstable equilibrium of prognosis. Simon Stone was shot in nine places, and as he lay for dead the Indians made two hacks with a hatchet to cut his head off. He got well, however, and was a lusty fellow in Cotton Mather's time. Jabez Musgrove was shot with a bullet that went in at his ear and came out at his eye on the other side. A couple of bullets went through his body also. Jabez got well, however, and lived many years. Per contra, Colonel Rossiter, cracking a plumstone with his teeth, broke a tooth and lost his life. We have seen physicians dying, like Spigelius, from a scratch; and a man who had had a crowbar shot through his head alive and well. These extreme cases are warnings.
But you can never be too cautious in your prognosis, in view of the great uncertainty of the course of any disease not long watched, and the many unexpected turns it may take.
I think I am not the first to utter the following caution: Beware how you take away hope from any human being. Nothing is clearer than that the merciful Creator intends to blind most people as they pass down into the dark valley. Without very good reasons, temporal or spiritual, we should not interfere with his kind arrangements. It is the height of cruelty and the extreme of impertinence to tell your patient he must die, except you are sure that he wishes to know it, or that there is some particular cause for his knowing it. I should be especially unwilling to tell a child that it could not recover; if the theologians think it necessary, let them take the responsibility. God leads it by the hand to the edge of the precipice in happy uncon
sciousness, and I would not open its eyes to what he wisely conceals.
Having settled the cautious course to be pursued in deciding what a disease is, and what its course is to be; having considered how much of your knowledge or belief is to be told, and to whom it is to be imparted, the whole question of treatment remains to be reduced to system.
It is not a pleasant thing to find that one has killed a patient by a slip of the pen. I am afraid our barbarous method of writing prescriptions in what is sometimes fancifully called Latin, and with the old astrological sign of Jupiter at the head of them to bring good luck, may have helped to swell the list of casualties. We understand why plants and minerals should have technical names, but I am much disposed to think that good plain English, written out at full length, is good enough for anybody's use. Why should I employ the language of Celsus? He commonly used none but his own. However, if we must use a dead language, and symbols that are not only dead, but damned, by all sound theology, let us be very careful in forming those medical quavers and semiquavers that stand for ounces and drachms, and all our other enlightened hieroglyphics. One other rule I may venture to give, forced upon me by my own experience. After writing a recipe, make it an invariable rule to read it over, not mechanically, but with all your faculties wide awake. One sometimes writes a prescription as if his hand were guided by a mediumautomatically, as the hind legs of a water-beetle strike out in the water after they are separated from the rest of him. If all of you will follow the rule I have given, sooner or later some one among you will very probably find himself the author of a homicidal document, which but for this precaution might have carried out its intentions.
With regard to the exhibition of drugs as a part of your medical treatment, the golden rule is, be sparing. Many remedies you give would make a well person so ill that he would send for you at once if he had taken one of your doses accidentally. It is not quite fair to give such things to a sick man, unless it is clear that they will do more good than the very considerable harm you know they will cause. Be very gracious with children especially. I have seen old men shiver at the recollection of the rhubarb and
jalap of infancy. You may depend upon it that half the success of Homeopathy is due to the sweet peace it has brought into the nursery. Between the gurgling down of loathsome mixtures and the saccharine deliquescence of a minute globule, what tender mother could for a moment hesitate?
Let me add one other hint which I believe will approve itself on trial. After proper experience of the most approved forms of remedies, or of such as you shall yourselves select and combine, make out your own brief list of real every-day prescriptions, and do not fall into the habit of those extemporaneous fancy-combinations, which amuse the physician more than they profit the patient. Once more: if you must give a medicine, do it in a manly way, and not in half doses, hacking but not chopping at the stem of the deadly fruited tree you would bring down. Remember this, too, that although remedies may often be combined advantageously, the difficulty of estimating the effects of a prescription is as the square of the number of its ingredients. The deeper you wade in polypharmacy, the less you see of the ground on which you stand.
It is time to bring these hurried and crowded remarks to a close. Reject what in them is false, examine what is doubtful, remember what is true; and so, God bless you, Gentlemen, and Farewell!
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR.
[Address by O. W. Holmes, Jr., Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (born in Boston, Mass., March 8, 1841;
--), delivered in Keene, N. H., May 30, 1884, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.s
COMRADES :-Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other—not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you and I live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youthbut an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.
So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperiled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whoin I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluble; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred convictions that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every man with a heart
must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at last something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south-each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.
But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought or feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gave rise to it, it is now the moment-when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return.
So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, It celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one,