Page images
PDF
EPUB

national associations, giving abiding place to every subject which has the least claim to respect, and constantly adding to, revising or correcting every principle of practice, or therapeutical conclusion, which the most careful examination shows capable of revision or improvement. In the various modern languages, we have going forth, through the channels of the medical press, and bearing to the most remote and humble member of our profession, whatever of fact, truth and wisdom has been discovered, tested, and found worthy of permanent record. Most of the medical journals of all countries are in charge of men of eminent literary and professional ability, and all of the leading ones will be found upon careful examination, to contain evidences of thought, study and investigation, as well as of intellectual ability, of which not only the profession, but human nature may well be proud. They embody the new discoveries, medical and surgical reports, bibliograghical notices of standard works. in every department of science and medicine, and are the repositories of all real progress in medicine and surgery. Standard works, illustrating with lifelike exactness every form and phase of disease, describing every symptom and the effects of all known remedies, are issued in vast numbers and in all languages. Printed texts, photographed likenesses of rare and important forms of disease or injury, rendered permanent and capable of being repeated in countless numbers, thus supplying all who wish, making the combined learning, experience and wisdom of the world available to all faithful, earnest seekers after truth.

Could all see the profession of medicine in its true light, could they comprehend the magnitude of its operations, and the learning, faithfulness and fidelity with which the search for truth is made, I could this evening draw a picture of your future lives far different from what I am now compelled to foreshadow. There are not wanting those, who charge upon your profession, limited selfish, and interested motives, opposed to truth, and ready to adhere to old and obsolete opinions. Nothing saves those who utter such illiberal sentiments from contempt, but the total blindness in which they are uttered—a blindness which pertains to those not educated in the profession, and not living under its obligations. The professional man sees with an enlarged vision into regions closed to his unprofessional brother, observes the

results of a vast system of intellectual machinery, while the latter forms his conclusions from a few crude and disconnected facts, or supposed facts, seen only in the limited circle of his own untutored experience and observation. It is as though one upon an eminence looks over a broad landscape, and speaks of its brilliant and varied scenery, while the man blind from birth obstinately contends that no such things exist, and that all is one uniform darkness, or as one by unaided vision sees in the pupil of the eye, a circular opening and a dark back-ground, while with the aid of our art and the use of the ophthalmoscope, you are clearly discerning the circulation in the vessels of the retina, and looking in upon the movings of one of the most intricate, delicate, and beautiful organs which the wisdom of the Almighty has ever created. The rude savage gazes at the blue arch above him, and sees only the fancied regions of future hunting-grounds lighted by dim and unknown tapers, but the astronomer with telescopic vision, sees worlds and systems of worlds, no less real than our own. While then, you are in possession of clearly-defined and welldemonstrated truth, forgive those who dwell in darkness and undisturbed ignorance.

There is imposed upon the science of medicine a no less boundary than pure truth; all which comes within its scope is and belongs to legitimate medicine.

Allow no

one then to believe that you are from any cause unwilling to know what is truth, for this is a principle implanted in the human mind, which in all countries and ages, and in all sciences, has held its ground, and will at length assert its power against every opposing influ

To attain this, is directed the undivided efforts of the best, most highly educated, and most earnest men in our profession. The best minds in the world are engaged in the pursuit, stimulated by ambition, rivalry and an unselfish purpose to discover truth and banish ignorance and error. A profession, such as yours, rests upon principles far above schools, dogmas and isms. It has every protection against fallacy which human reason can know; is independent of the teaching of individual genius, and the follies and absurdities of unworthy members. It inclndes within its scope every principle which can be established, and every system of practice which can be shown to commend itself to an enlightened judgment. It is yours to seek for truth wherever it may be ob

yours, tained; to amass knowledge from every available source; to draw wisdom from all

ence.

open

fountains. It is familiar to you, how counterfeit physicians have always practiced by the side of the real, and have in all ages and nations stamped history with their impositions. In the early history of medicine and mankind, all science, morality and religion, were wrapped up in the dogmas of the schools, and traditions of the fathers, and men surrendered their minds to superstition, absurdity and vague unreasoning conjecture. Astronomy and chemistry, so exact now, wandered in the mazes of astrology and alchemy. Visionary theories agitated the profession of medicine, and as there was no law of truth and fact, by which to try them, there could be no limit to the wildness of unrestrained imagination. Now, all true science repudiates systems and theories, or only recognizes them as based upon established facts. That investigation which works within any exclusive system, is too limited and narrow to embrace the whole truth; a system can no more contain the whole science of medicine, than can the less contain the greater. Your profession rests upon certain well-determined facts, and there are various theories which have been drawn from them by different individuals, and investigation is carried on in various directions, with the view to confirm or confute these theories. Such, however, are very different from the wild schemes and visions which have been engendered, and the facts imagined or asserted to sustain them—theories and schemes which now lie scattered in ruin, monuments of warning to all who dare exclude the ground-work of truth, presuming to build permanent structures upon imaginary and vague foundations. The science of medicine, by its very nature, by the principles which govern the human mind, by every consideration of interest and ambition, can limit itself to nothing short of all attainable truth, and cannot be limited by, or bound by any system.

Such, then, is the profession you have chosen, and upon whose duties and responsibilities you now enter. As you are to meet with some embarrassments and disappointments growing out of the nature of your profession and the relations which you sustain to the public, it is but natural that I should briefly indicate their character and the causes from which they spring. You commence the practice of medicine with the sealed approval of the Faculty

[ocr errors]

and other officers of the Medical department of the University of Buffalo, and it will everywhere be accepted as proof of creditable attainment in your art, but it does not confer age, experience, or that entire confidence in the public, which is the only passport to the care of those whose lives are in peril. In other words, you are yet to gain your professional standing with the public, and often to wring it as an unwilling tribute to your faithfulness and zeal, from a reluctant and unappreciating people. “It is told of a wealthy, impudent and influential quack, who, being called upon by a wondering friend who had known his former low estate and great ignorance, asked, how with so few claims and merits have you risen to fame and fortune? He took his friend to the window overlooking a crowded London street, and asked, how many wise or sensible persons may be supposed to be in the passing crowd? Not more than one in a hundred, was the reply. He says, the remainder are mine." This, though perhaps a little overdrawn, is a sad but truthful commentary upon the mental acuteness of mankind. A love of the marvelous, a blind faith in the unknown and intangible, a confidence in traditions and superstitions, and an inexplicable readiness to adopt opinions without evidence, often in opposition to the clearest and most positive proof, constitutes the basis-the stock in trade — the chief reliance in medical imposition. It would seem that after so many years of teaching by the profession, the public would understand more of disease than it does, and have more sensible and rational notions of its causes, modes of termination, and means of cure. The influence of the medical profession over the public mind, has always been controlling in everything of science or art, in all hygienic and sanitary law, in everything in which it has harmoniously and consistently exercised its power. Why is it, then, that so far in the progress of the world, we are yet so primitive and simple in this respect? Why is it that inconsistencies and absurdities which would have disgraced the earliest races of men, find believers and advocates at the present time?

I have indicated some of the causes, so far as the public is concerned, and in this I was intentionally very brief. There are reasons which belong to the other side—to those who have, or should have been, the educators of the public mind, and as you are hereafter to stand in this relation, it is more appropriate to

dwell upon these causes of failure. It is not to be concealed, that a great many physicians have, to some extent, practiced the modes of quacks, or rather, quacks have imitated the manners of physicians who made extravagant and nntruthful pretensions, which were well calculated to mislead, and have misled the people in a great degree, giving a blind faith instead of a correct understanding. But a few years since, for an intelligent patient to inquire of the nature of his disease, and especially of the proposed means of cure, was looked upon as an inposition, often construed as betraying want of confidence, and at least, as uncourteous and impolite, meriting some curt and unsatisfactory answer; such was the general manner of the medical teacher of the public. Who in the profession, faithfully and truthfully spoke of disease, telling of its origin, progress and natural termination in health? Who ever instructed the people of possible recovery without the aid of medicine, even in self-limited diseases? Who described the true nature of reme:lies, and the effects which might reasonably be expected to follow their use? And where, O! where, could a physician be found, who, when consulted in disease, gave advice instead of medicine, or colored water or bread pills? who plainly, truthfully and fearlessly explained the uselessness, in such case, of remedies, and the probable pro. gress and termination of the disease? Bread pills and colored water in the profession, has found its counterpart and imitation out of it, in sugar pills and pure water; but who, O! who, has ever taught, or can teach the public, the immeasurable swindle of both ? and when will that medical millenium appear, when those who advise the sick, will attempt no imposition upon their credulity and give a sufficient reason for their opinions? I have intimated that the prevalence of public error in medicine, is due in part, to the false reasoning and untruthful teaching of the profession, and as a natural consequence you will infer, that in so far as you would aid the prevalence of truth and banish from the public mind whatever is founded in error, you will adhere to it under all circumstances, never hesitating to risk your reputations upon its standard. For a physician to claim for himself or his art, anything not rightfully belonging thereto, is wholly inconsistent with the high obligations he is under to himself, his profession and the world.

I hive thus briefly indicated what the profession is, which you have chosen, in its true dignity, strength and purity, and what its

« PreviousContinue »