The History of New York State
Editor, Dr. James Sullivan
Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam
|Not only Dr. Jones'
professional work is remembered to his credit, however. His patriotism
was a true index of his character. He followed his conscience wherever
it led him. Had he placed personal comfort and material profit before
patriotism, he, the most eminent New York surgeon of his time, might
easily have followed the aristocrats of New York into the Tory faction,
when the perplexities of pre-Revolutionary days divided the population
into two factions, Loyalist and Patriot. Dr. Jones would have been one
of the most welcome in Royalist New York during the British occupation;
yet he elected to give the weaker side the advantage of his surgical
knowledge, to risk his life and estate to uphold the principles of
liberty. He was a staunch patriot throughout, and one of the most
useful. Dr. Jones, who was of Welsh ancestry, was worthy both his
ancient British origin and of his American birth. In 1791, this eminent
surgeon and genuine American died, universally esteemed and generally
mourned. Of him Mumford writes: "American surgeons must look back
to Jon Jones, of New York, as the first of their eminent professional
The prominent connection of Dr. Jones with King's College brings up the subject of medical education. Philadelphia was the first to establish a medical school, though it seems that "the first attempt at the formal teaching of medicine in this country was the private course in human anatomy offered in New York by Dr. John Bard and Dr. Peter Middleton, probably before 1750." Dr. Thomas Calwalader, of Philadelphia, it is said, had made dissections and demonstrations for the benefit of his friend, the elder Dr. Shippen, fifteen or twenty years before, imparting to this friend some of the instruction he had received in England from the eminent William Cheselton; but these demonstrations by Dr. Cadwalader hardly come into the category of even private medical classes. Medical education at that time, and earlier, in almost all the American colonies, consisted of apprenticeship with a physician, and some subsequent assistant or associate work with him or some other recognized physician. When the associate felt that reasonable success might follow his entry into independent practice, he would close the connection with his teacher and thereafter be a full-fledged practitioner himself. This somewhat loose system, with no fixed length of studentship, made it easy for pretenders to enter into practice. In many cases, the studentship did not mean much more in medical instruction than might have been obtained in an apothecary's shop; and in some cases the students were not able to practice much more then menial service in the physician's household. Of course, there was in the seventeenth century about as high a percentage of conscientious men among the graduate physicians of the colonies as there is today, but there were some whose actions would not come within the ethical standards of today; they did not hesitate to assign menial tasks oftener then medical studies to their apprentices. In the eighteenth century even college graduates had often to endure such humiliations. The early experience of Dr. John Bard was of this unfortunate kind. It appears that "at the early age of fourteen or fifteen he began his career in Philadelphia as a bound apprentice to an English surgeon of arbitrary temper, who subjected him to the most menial employment." #7
However, this hard medical studentship was often based on a much more complete pre-medical education than many of the physician of the nineteenth, and even the twentieth century could lay claim to. Generally the middle and upper classes, from which presumably the professional men were recruited, gave their children a much more classical education than is commonly supposed. The Latin schools were excellent preparatory schools for those who were headed for professional studies. Dr. Morton, in his "History of the Pennsylvania Hospital," writes:
We find that the professional men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were generally much better educated than most of their successors of the present time. Almost without exception they were classical students. Their graduating thesis must be written in Latin. Travel was essential, notwithstanding the encumbered modes of motion to which they were subjected.
Dr. Morton is referring particularly to those who went abroad for their medical education. Those who had the means, and the ambition, did so as a matter of course, for in those days a gentleman's education was not deemed to be finished until he had broadened his understanding by travel in foreign lands. There were other earnest would-be professional men who realized how palpably unsatisfactory and unskilled their practice would be if based only upon a home apprenticeship. Of this class, many crossed the ocean and endured incredible hardships to secure the advantages that a medical course in one of the European centres of medicine would give them. These earnest your men, in their subsequent practice, generally proved that the result was worth the effort. Dr. Morton continues:
Leyden, Paris, Edinburgh, London, Oxford, Upsal, Bonn and so some extent Berlin, and the Italian schools, received and honored them, they, as a rule, by their subsequent career, equally honoring the places which they visited and where they sojourned.
During the latter half of the eighteenth century Edinburgh University seems to have attracted most of the American medical students. During the thirty years from 1758 to 1788, no less then sixty-three Americans graduated in medicine from that university. Dr. Stille, in his "Life of John Dickinson," points out that only one of these sixty-three graduates from America came from a New England colony. New York was represented; so also was Philadelphia. Indeed, it seems that the middle and southern colonies had more right than New England to be considered as centres of the intellectual life of America.
The term "Doctor" was not generally accorded until after the middle of the eighteenth century, though we find records of its use during the Dutch period in New York. A distinction was made between physicians who practiced by virtue of a completed American apprenticeship and those who were graduates of a foreign school of medicine. As early as 1636 a Virginia law provided that surgeons and apothecaries of the former class should receive five shillings a visit, and university graduates twice that sum. In New York the differentiation was not so definite, some of the apprentices eventually proving to be as capable practitioners as those of university training. Henderson writes: "Many of these apprentices doubtless proved as successful physicians (and success is the usual test of merit) as some of their more fortunate colleagues who boasted an M. D. of Leyden, Aberdeen or Cambridge and slew their patient secundrum artem." Although, at the time of the Revolution, as Dr. Toner points out, #8 the colonies then had probably more then 3,500 practitioners, not more then 400 were graduates of a medical college. Of this number only about one-eight were graduates of American institutions. Up to 1776, it seems only fifty-one medical degrees had been issued by American colleges, these degrees including that of Bachelor of Medicine. By the end of the eighteenth century American colleges had graduated about 250 medical students, and about five times that number had attended one course of lectures, and were then in practice. The condition of early colonial times, of course, no longer prevailed; for colonists no longer expected their minister to be also their schoolmaster or this Latin master, town clerk, physician and general all-round communal handy man. They had begun to expect their family physician to be at least a specialist in medicine; not a specialist of one branch of medicine, as is the present meaning of the word, but to know more of medicine than, for instance, of farming or ministerial work.
The means of improving the standard of medical education in America developed slowly. For the improvement eyes were directed more to the Old World during colonial times, for it was only after Americans began to think as Americans, rather than as transplanted Europeans that improvements in American facilities began to appear. Before the Revolutionary spirit grew there were few opportunities open to physicians of benefiting by the experience of others of the fraternity; for there were no medical clubs, quizzes, or clinics; and no medical libraries open to the profession in common. Dr. Toner says that there "was perhaps not a medical library in the country prior to the Revolution that would have numbered 1,000 volumes, and the vast majority did not have fifty." They were all European works, of course, Dr. Jones' little surgical work of 1775 being the first by an American to be printed in this country.
Prior to the Revolution most American practitioners of medicine had never had opportunities of attending lectures or clinics. Unless able to afford courses abroad, the best they could do would be to follow the ordinary apprenticeship by an associateship under another physician or surgeon of note, before entering into independent practice.
Some of the New York and Philadelphia students in the latter half of the eighteenth century were more fortunately situated. The private course in human anatomy conducted by Drs. Bard and Middleton, in New York from about 1750 was open to them. #9 This was followed, in 1763 by the formal teaching of anatomy in a regular educational institution, King's college--now Columbia University, the preceptor being the rubicund Samuel Clossy, a graduate of trinity college, Dublin. In the same year Dr. Clossy published in London a treatise, "Observations on some of the Diseases of the Human Body, chiefly taken from Dissections of Morbid Bodies." This paper brought the subject more publicly forward, and his class at King's College was the first linking of the teaching of human anatomy as a branch of medicine with an American college. Five years later, Dr. Clossy associated with Drs. Samuel Bard and Peter Middleton, in organizing a full medical department in connection with King's College. "Here the first medical degree given in this country were conferred." #10 It cannot be said that New York quite deserves this distinction. Philadelphia was the first to establish a complete medical course, the College of Philadelphia opening a course in November, 1765, and requiring three years of attendance at lectures before the degree of Bachelor of Physic could be had, and the lapse of a further three years before bachelors could gain the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Hence it happened that the first commencement at Philadelphia did not take place until June, 1768. Of the bachelors of that class, the first to gain the major degree were the four upon whom the doctorate was conferred at the commencement in June, 1771. On the other hand, King's college of New York, though starting three years later (in 1768), graduated its first Bachelors of medicine in 1769, apparently after one course only of lectures, and in the next year conferred upon one of its two Bachelors, of the class of 1769, the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Robert Tucker, thus, was the first medical man of Protestant America (to thus differentiate it from Spanish America) to hold an American degree of Doctor of Medicine. Samuel Kissam, the other Bachelor of 1769, became Doctor in May, 1771, King's college in this way forestalling--though not intentionally--the College of Philadelphia.
In the first New York school of medicine, the faculty consisted of the following: Samuel Clossy, professor of anatomy; John Jones, professor of surgery; Peter Middleton, professor of physiology and pathology; James smith, professor of chemistry and materia medica; John V. B. Tennant, professor of midwifery; and Samuel Bard, professor of the theory and practice of physic. They were, as a whole, probably superior to the faculty of the College of Philadelphia medical department, although the latter then included Benjamin Rush; and the fact that degrees were obtainable after a single term of attendance at lectures should not carry the inference that the standard of New York medicine was low at that time, or that the early New York medical schools were lax. As a matter of fact, no one could matriculate in the medical school unless he had shown a "definite degree of proficiency in the natural sciences and in Latin." Dr. Walsh estimates this pre-medical requirement as equivalent to at least one year of college work. Besides, the matriculant was, at the outset, much farther advanced in medicine than the medical student of later times, for he must have already passed through an apprenticeship of three years with a physician. "Far from the standards being low they were very satisfactory even for this preliminary degree." Probably Robert tucker, who received the Doctor's Degree in medicine one year after he had graduated as a Bachelor, was much farther advanced than Samuel Kissam, his classmate, who had to wait two years for his major degree. It seems that King's College, ordinarily required of Bachelors two more years of practical and theoretic studies in anatomy, materia medica and chemistry, and in the theory and practice of medicine, with attendance at clinical lectures, before conferring upon then the dignity of "Doctor." Many of the Bachelors, however, were quite satisfied to begin their medical practice with no more distinction than M. B., and, as they found that the public generally looked upon then as already doctors, most of the Bachelors saw little advantage in pursuing studies for the major degree. In time, the medical schools found that their pecuniary status would be improved by abandoning the conferment of minor degrees and making the first course a complete one, leading to a doctorate. The Philadelphia school reached such a decision in 1789, because so many of the Bachelors of Physic have failed to come back for the major degree.
Of the faculty of New York's first school of medicine, two members were of outstanding merit. Mumford thinks that Dr. Samuel Bard was "the most eminent American physician of his time, with the single exception of Benjamin Rush"; and Walsh cites the same writer as declaring that "American surgeons must look back to John Jones, of New York, as the first of their eminent professional forebears." Much has already been written as to Dr. Jones. The career of Dr. John Bard has also been noticed. Walsh says that the two Doctors Bard, John and Samuel, father and son, occupied "probably the largest place in the history of medicine in New York in the eighteenth century." Samuel Bard was born in the 'forties in Philadelphia, shortly before this father removed to New York. He graduated from King's college at the age of nineteen, and immediately thereafter went to London and Edinburgh, gaining his medical degree at the latter university in 1765. He returned to America imbued with the desire to teach medicine, or at least convinced that a serious need for medical teaching existed in this country. He was not the only medical man who thought so. Samuel Bard was then only twenty-six years old, but he seems to have been the initiating spirit of those who associated to form the medical school of King's College. The school was active and thriving until the Revolution divided and scattered the faculty, some being Loyalist and others espousing the cause of the colonists. Dr. bard's sympathies were with the Crown, and for a time he had to leave New York. He returned while the city was in the occupation of the British. During the years of war he practiced busily in the city and British zone, but with the close of hostilities, he accepted the inevitable republican state. In his case no vindictive aspersions were cast upon him because of his Toryism. Indeed, when General Washington became President and made his first executive residence in New York City, Dr. Bard was his chosen physician. Dr. Bard was constructive influence in many branches of public affairs. It was through his initiative largely, that the New York Hospital and the New York dispensary were founded; and he had influential part in the establishment of the City Library. He retired from medical practice when he was only fifty-six years old, transferring his large practice entirely to his associate, Dr. Hosack at that time. He lived for another quarter of a century, and until his last years was a factor in New York medicine. Some of his most useful medical works were published after his retirement. His "Compendium of the Theory and Practice of Midwifery" was published in 1807 and widely circulated. And two years before his death he, in 1819, published a discourse on medical education which is often quoted. In medical literature, however, Dr. Samuel Bard is best known for his article on diphtheria: "An Inquiry into the Nature, Cause and cure of the Angina Suffocative or Sore-throat Distemper," which was published in 1771.
Another of the original medical faculty of King's college whose Loyalist leaning brought about a disruption of his medical practice in 1775 was Dr. Peter Middleton, one of the pioneers in anatomical lecturing. He was almost at the end of his career in 1776, when he sailed for Bermuda, leaving his house, library, instruments and bills receivable in charge of his pupils, John Varick, Jr., and Charles Mitchell. He had been in busy practice for more than thirty years, with Dr. John Bard, had been the first to make a series of dissections in America for the purpose of anatomical instruction. His material for demonstrations before the students were drawn from the prisons. He dissected the bodies of recently deceased criminals. At King's college, he was professor of pathology and physiology from 1767 and of chemistry and materia medica from 1770. He returned from Bermuda during the British occupation, and died (in 1781) before the occupation ended.
Dr. Samuel Clossy, professor of anatomy in the original medical school at King's College, seems to have, to some extent, continued medical lectures in the city during the Revolution. The "New York Gazette" for April 28, 1777, contained an announcement which read: "On Monday, May 5th, will be revived a Course of Pharmaceutical Prelections; where in all the exotic simples will be described, their places of nativity and medicinal power, with the forms of composition, and a general account of the Diseases in which they are usually exhibited. By Samuel Clossy, M. D." In the same journal, on October 2, 1777, Dr. Clossy presented "his best respects to the Gentlemen of the general hospital" and begged "leave to inform them that his anatomical prelections" would begin on Monday, November 3, "at one o'clock as usual." But Dr. Clossy was a fiery Irishman, an outspoken Democrat, with no love for the British; so eventually he returned to his own land, Ireland, where soon afterwards he died.
The next in the sequence of medical instructors seems to be Dr. Richard Bayley, who was probably associated with Dr. Clossy in the reaching endeavors. The "Royal Gazette" for July 5, 1780, contains an advertisement which reads: "Mr. Bayley presents his compliments to the gentlemen who did him the honor of attending the operation in surgery last winter and will be happy to see them at his house on Friday the 7th at five o'clock p. m." Dr. Bayley had probably inherited Dr. Clossy's collection of anatomical materials for teaching purposes and he increased the collection until, by 1788, when by the strange uncontrollable working of destiny, it was all destroyed in a day. He possessed quite a satisfactory anatomical museum in the New York Hospital.
The so-called Doctor's Riot, which swept away in short order all that these painstaking medical teachers had gathered in many years of earnest collecting, happened in this way. Some boys, who were playing outside the New York Hospital one day in 1788, noticed that a cut-off human limb, from which blood was dripping, was hanging out of one of the windows. (One account has it that a medical student "imprudently shook an arm out of the window of the dissecting-room at some passersby.") the boys, horror-stricken, ran home as fast as their own sound legs would carry them. Their equally horrified, but furiously indignant partners hurried to the hospital, other lusty, indignant, and ignorant neighbors and citizens joining the throng as they proceeded. It was an angry mob that gathered in front of the hospital--the institution which it would seem would aim to serve their class of all others, and to serve them in their ailing extremity, regardless of pecuniary return. All this was forgotten, as the drying limb still hung from the window. So the mob stormed the hospital, smashed the doors, burst into the dissecting room, demolished the furniture, destroyed all instruments, and seriously mailed the "ghoulish" doctors, who were "such fiends as to rob the graves, in order to mangle the bodies of the dead." Dr. Bayley's anatomical collection, "was all bundled out into the streets and served to make a bonfire.' However, another anatomical museum was soon made, chiefly through the interest of Dr. Wright Post, who added to local specimens many that he imported from Europe.
Dr. Richard Bayley (1745-1810) was one of the most capable medical scientists of his time. After graduation in New York, under Dr. Charlton, who daughter he married, Bayley went to London, where he was fortunate in being able to work in the dissecting room of William Hunter. During the Revolution, he served for a time as a surgeon of one of the King's regiments. For the greater part of the years of war, he was in private practice in New York City, and was so much a scientist that the was criticized for his care of sick British soldiers, it being said "that he was more interested in the scientific investigation of their cases than in the treatment their diseases." Just before the Revolution ended, he published his letters to William Hunter on Angina Trachealis. After the war, his Tory record seems to have been soon forgotten, for the lessons he gave on anatomy at the New York Hospital were well attended. When King's College was re-organized as Columbia College, and a medical faculty was named, Dr. Bayley was given the chair of anatomy. This position he held until his death in 1801. He was indeed a martyr to science. His "History of Yellow Fever in New York in 1795" is one of the best contributions on that subject. Thereafter, until his death in 1807, he gave closest thought to the question of prevention of disease. He emphatically insisted that the epidemic diseases which came to New York were "murderers of our own creating"; and he fearlessly attacked the causes. It brought him to his death, for while working indefatigably among the feverstriken of an Irish immigrant ship in 1801 the disease gripped and claimed him.
The development of the medical schools and societies, and indeed hospitals also, were the outcome of the efforts of earnest practitioners to elevate the medical schools and regulate the practice of medicine. It seems that the medical school of King's College owed its inception to "well regulated associations of gentlemen for promoting the honor of the profession." These were words of Dr. Peter Middleton, spoken in his introductory lecture at the opening of the Medical School of King's College in November, 1769. He paid particular tribute to the New York Society, adding: "And permit me to add, as one of the many instances of the utility of these societies, that whatever merit there is in the present institution, it was first planned and concluded upon in a medical society now subsisting in this place." He referred, it seems, to a society which goes back, in functioning, to 1749, and perhaps to an earlier year. There is in the collection of the New York Academy of Medicine a manuscript notebook that belonged to Dr. John Bard. The first paper in this notebook is entitled: "An Essay on the Nature of Ye Malignant Pleurisy that Proved So Remarkably Fatal to the Inhabitants of Huntington, L. I., and some other places on Long Island, in the winter of the year 1749, drawn up at the request of a Weekly Society of Gentlemen in New York, and addressed to one of the at their meetings."
In 1794, this society seems to have been merged in another, of wider scope, if one might draw inferences from its name--Medical Society of the State of New York. The original minute-book of this society is in the possession of the New York Academy of Medicine. It is entitled: "Minutes of the Medical Society of the State of New York, from November 14, 1794 to July 8,. 1806." In the minutes of the first meeting is the information that "a number of medical gentlemen, wishing to associate for the purpose of promoting friendly professional intercourse, determined to meet at the City hall on the evening of November 124, 1794 where there appeared Drs. John Charlton, Thomas Jones, Samuel Bard, Malachi Treat, Richard Bayley, Louis Faugeres, James Tillery, Samuel Nicoll, Ab. Bainbridge, David Brooks, George Anthon, J. R. B. Rogers, Wm. Post, Wm. Lawrence." The first-named was appointed chairman.
The link between this and the old society is indicated by the following paragraph of the minutes of that meeting:
After some conversation on the subject of the meeting, it was unanimously resolved, that the present associates will on the dissolution of the Society, known by the name of the Medical Society, form themselves into a Society by the name and style of the Medical Society of the State of New York, and that they will use the seal of the same.
From the proceedings of this society during the next few years, it is clear that their efforts were directed mainly to the prevention of the spread of malignant diseases, and the exertion of pressure upon the State to build special hospitals for contagious diseases. Doctors Bayley, Post, Tillery, Samuel Bard, and Mitchell are named in this connection, but there is no doubt that the main purpose of the society was the elevation of the standard of medicine. By associated effort they hoped to purge practice of some of the abuses that were keeping New York medicine at a lower level than prevailed in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In some respects, the state of medicine in New York had not improved much since Historian Smith's time. Chief-Justice William Smith, who wrote a "History of New York," up to the time of the French and Indian War, had the following opinion of the state of medicine in the province in the last decades of the Crown Period:
Few physician amongst us are eminent for this skill. Quacks abound like locusts in Egypt, and too many have recommended themselves to a full and profitable practice and subsistence. This is the less to be wondered at as the profession is under no kind of regulation. Loud as the call is, to our shame be it remembered, we have no law to protect the lives of the King's subjects from the malpractice of pretenders. Any man at his pleasure sets up for physician, apothecary, and chirurgeon. No candidates are either examined or licensed, or even sworn to fair practice.
While the medical school of King's College and the Medical Society to which reference has been made were able, in the enrollment of the former and the membership of the latter, to set up a register of reputable physician and surgeons, there were very many other practitioners who were looked upon as doctors but had no right to the title. The State moved slowly in the matter of regulating practice, notwithstanding the pressure that was exerted upon them by the associated regular physicians.
The fact that professional friction, or jealousy, each group striving to draw the political power into their own channels, tended to stultify legislative action. Quackery abounded in 1750; the quack, like the proverbial empty barrel which makes much noise, was still trumpeting his cure-alls in 1850; and, if the truth must be confessed, it has not even yet been silenced. In the year 1753, several suggestions were made in the "Independent reflector" for such regulation of the practice of medicine as would prevent "the dismal havock made by quacks and pretenders." These suggestions, no doubt, emanated from the Weekly Society of practitioners founded by Dr. John Bard. In a may, 1753, issue of the same journal is to be found the "Heads of an Act to Regulate the Practice of Physic in New York," the Provincial Assembly being advised to take steps to support the regular physicians against the unfair competition of the quacks. The law, as summed up in the said issue of the "Independent Reflector" should provide that "all the physicians, surgeons, apothecaries in the Province are to be licensed by a board consisting of the four eldest members of His Majesty's Council, the judges of the Supreme Court, the representatives of the city of New York and of the Assembly, our Mayor and Recorder for the time being, or any seven of them, with the assistance of two physicians and two surgeons by the majority of them elected. Until after examination and licensing, no one shall practice. Examination shall be public." Doctors' bills were to be submitted to an examiner before presentation, and no bills were to be collectible unless the practitioner had a license. Such a law, it was pointed out, "would be disgustful to Knavish and ignorant Quacks," but, as another newspaper, the "Weekly Postboy," editorially remarked, an effective way should be found of denouncing the "foreign quacks who had dared to intrude on the preserves of the native sons." The editor described these foreigners as "Scandalous interlopers," "vile Quacks and base Pretenders," notwithstanding that the advertising columns of his paper showed such quacks to be heavy contributors to the revenue of the journal. One of these quacks--typical of the class--a certain Dr. Peter Billings, who claimed to have been "His Majesty's surgeon in both the army and navy" but who, having recently arrived, found it necessary, indeed an "Incumbent duty" to depart from ethical conduct and announce by advertisement his presence and professional merit, other wise he might remain unknown for a long time "to the great Detriment of the General part of Mankind." This worthy philanthropist heroically braved the odium that some might scornfully cast upon his action, even though they deem his advertisement to be "an emptyrical Proceeding"; he would like the public to recognize in him one of those who placed duty first, preferring "a public Good before a Private interest." After quoting "Horace" to prove his erudition, the worthy advertiser gracefully launched his main message, which was that for three pistoles in hand, we would cure me of "that Contagious Distemper, so frequently happening to the bold Adventurers in the Wars of Venus." He could also dispense "an elegant medicine to prevent the yellow Fever and Dry Gripes of the West Indies."
It was not until 1760, however, that the Provincial Assembly enacted the first New York statute regulating the practice of medicine. With concurrence of the council and approval of the Lieutenant-Governor, an act was passed which would have been effective had it been retroactive. Its preamble runs:
Where many ignorant and unskillful persons in physick and surgery in order to gain a subsistence do take upon themselves to administer physick and practice surgery in the City of New York to the endangering of the lives of many of their patients; and many poor and ignorant persons inhabiting the city, who have been persuaded to become their patients, have been great sufferers thereby; for preventing such abuses for the future, be it enacted, et cetera.
The act provided that no one should practice as a physician or surgeon unless first examined by a board representative of the principal provincial and city departments. No attempt made to determine the range of examination, or to prescribe the term of study, but those who practiced without permission of the board of examiners were to be penalized five pounds for each offense. One hundred and fifty years later, when at last effective regulation of medical practice by statute was obtained, this original plan of an examining board was followed. Not being retroactive, however, it was of little value in 1760, for there were then very many quacks in the province. Dr. peter Middleton, in 1769, in his "Medical Discourse, or an Historical Inquiry into the Ancient and Present State of Medicine," drew attention to the gullibility of even "intelligent folk," in questions of the treatment of physical ailments. There were, he regularly admitted, too many men "otherwise valuable for this penetration and good sense who have given up their own judgments to the opinions of the credulously vulgar; and joining in the belief of nostrums, or secret cures, have countenanced and even employed the most obscure and superficial traders in physic." Declaring the "the practitioner of modesty and real merit," scorned "the little arts of such licensed freebooters and secret homicides." Dr. Middleton points out, how discouraging was the lot of the average regular practitioner of integrity. The people made the field an easy one for the quacks. "So amazingly easy of belief are some people in these miracle-mongers, that, as if there were something creative in the name of Doctor, seldom any other test of their skill is required than their assuming that title; so that this appellation with a competent presence of mind and a strong of ready-coined cures, carefully propagated by such as find their account in carrying on the cheat, have seldom failed of procuring traffic in New York." A person who made such an assertion 150 years later would not have been departing far from the truth.
The chaotic conditions of the Revolutionary period were even more favorable to the advertising medical charlatans. One eminent specialist rushed to New York from London in 1777, and in the columns of the "New York Loyal Gazette" hastened to let the suffering public know of the "surprising cures" he had had the happiness to effect in such ailments as cancer, leprosies, the king's evil, consumptions, fevers, "and other disorders incident to the human body." Moreover, his powerful all-embracing Lignorum Antiscorbutic Drops could be taken by persons "of the most delicate constitutions," and would "perfectly cure the most inveterate scurvey, leprosy, old sores or ulcers, the evil, fistulas, piles and pimpled faces," and every other disorder of the blood, "of ever so long standing." The medicine could be had of him for nine shillings the bottle, and one shilling would be returned for the empty bottle. He also had his Asthmatic Drops, which could positively prevent the "insensible wasting of the body," and keep the respiratory organs immune from all disorders. Stoughton's Drops could likewise protect the digestive organs. Moreover, he could supply other medical boons "too tedious to insert." It may be supposed that the gullible New Yorkers cordially patronized this eminent physician from the British capital who, with his Cordial Elixir, could procure for patients "a strong appetite," and give "immediate ease in the most violent fits of the wind colic in the stomach or bowels," as well as prevent "giddiness, deafness, blear'd eyes," and the distressing "gross and thick humors," for only two shillings the box, "with printed directions."
The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927
This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
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