The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 42 out of 51

good reason, they will at once fall to the ground. Still more, if it
shall appear that the general course of any existing delusion bears a
strong resemblance to that of Perkinism, that the former is most
frequently advocated by the same class of persons who were
conspicuous in behalf of the latter, and treated with contempt or
opposed by the same kind of persons who thus treated Perkinism; if
the facts in favor of both have a similar aspect; if the motives of
their originators and propagators may be presumed to have been
similar; then there is every reason to suppose that the existing
folly will follow in the footsteps of the past, and after displaying
a given amount of cunning and credulity in those deceiving and
deceived, will drop from the public view like a fruit which has
ripened into spontaneous rottenness, and be succeeded by the fresh
bloom of some other delusion required by the same excitable portion
of the community.

Dr. Elisha Perkins was born at Norwich, Connecticut, in the year
1740. He had practised his profession with a good local reputation
for many years, when he fell upon a course of experiments, as it is
related, which led to his great discovery. He conceived the idea
that metallic substances might have the effect of removing diseases,
if applied in a certain manner; a notion probably suggested by the
then recent experiments of Galvani, in which muscular contractions
were found to be produced by the contact of two metals with the
living fibre. It was in 1796 that his discovery was promulgated in
the shape of the Metallic Tractors, two pieces of metal, one
apparently iron and the other brass, about three inches long, blunt
at one end and pointed at the other. These instruments were applied
for the cure of different complaints, such as rheumatism, local
pains, inflammations, and even tumors, by drawing them over the
affected part very lightly for about twenty minutes. Dr. Perkins
took out a patent for his discovery, and travelled about the country
to diffuse the new practice. He soon found numerous advocates of his
discovery, many of them of high standing and influence. In the year
1798 the tractors had crossed the Atlantic, and were publicly
employed in the Royal Hospital at Copenhagen. About the same time
the son of the inventor, Mr. Benjamin Douglass Perkins, carried them
to London, where they soon attracted attention. The Danish
physicians published an account of their cases, containing numerous
instances of alleged success, in a respectable octavo volume. In the
year 1804 an establishment, honored with the name of the Perkinean
Institution, was founded in London. The transactions of this
institution were published in pamphlets, the Perkinean Society had
public dinners at the Crown and Anchor, and a poet celebrated their
medical triumph in strains like these:

"See, pointed metals, blest with power t' appease
The ruthless rage of merciless disease,
O'er the frail part a subtle fluid pour,
Drenched with invisible Galvanic shower,
Till the arthritic staff and crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe!"

While all these things were going on, Mr. Benjamin Douglass Perkins
was calmly pocketing money, so that after some half a dozen years he
left the country with more than ten thousand pounds, which had been
paid him by the believers in Great Britain. But in spite of all this
success, and the number of those interested and committed in its
behalf, Perkinism soon began to decline, and in 1811 the Tractors are
spoken of by an intelligent writer as being almost forgotten. Such
was the origin and duration of this doctrine and practice, into the
history of which we will now look a little more narrowly.

Let us see, then, by whose agency this delusion was established and
kept up; whether it was principally by those who were accustomed to
medical pursuits, or those whose habits and modes of reasoning were
different; whether it was with the approbation of those learned
bodies usually supposed to take an interest in scientific
discoveries, or only of individuals whose claims to distinction were
founded upon their position in society, or political station, or
literary eminence; whether the judicious or excitable classes entered
most deeply into it; whether, in short, the scientific men of that
time were deceived, or only intruded upon, and shouted down for the
moment by persons who had no particular call to invade their

Not much, perhaps, was to be expected of the Medical Profession in
the way of encouragement. One Dr. Fuller, who wrote in England,
himself a Perkinist, thus expressed his opinion: "It must be an
extraordinary exertion of virtue and humanity for a medical man,
whose livelihood depends either on the sale of drugs, or on receiving
a guinea for writing a prescription, which must relate to those
drugs, to say to his patient, 'You had better purchase a set of
Tractors to keep in your family; they will cure you without the
expense of my attendance, or the danger of the common medical
practice.' For very obvious reasons medical men must never be
expected to recommend the use of Perkinism. The Tractors must trust
for their patronage to the enlightened and philanthropic out of the
profession, or to medical men retired from practice, and who know of
no other interest than the luxury of relieving the distressed. And I
do not despair of seeing the day when but very few of this
description as well as private families will be without them."

Whether the motives assigned by this medical man to his professional
brethren existed or not, it is true that Dr. Perkins did not gain a
great deal at their hands. The Connecticut Medical Society expelled
him in 1797 for violating their law against the use of nostrums, or
secret remedies. The leading English physicians appear to have
looked on with singular apathy or contempt at the miracles which it
was pretended were enacting in the hands of the apostles of the new
practice. In looking over the reviews of the time, I have found
little beyond brief occasional notices of their pretensions; the
columns of these journals being occupied with subjects of more
permanent interest. The state of things in London is best learned,
however, from the satirical poem to which I have already alluded as
having been written at the period referred to. This was entitled,
"Terrible Tractoration!! A Poetical Petition against Galvanizing
Trumpery and the Perkinistic Institution. Most respectfully
addressed to the Royal College of Physicians, by Christopher Caustic,
M. D., LL. D., A. S. S., Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians,
Aberdeen, and Honorary Member of no less than nineteen very learned
Societies." Two editions of this work were published in London in
the years 1803 and 1804, and one or two have been published in this

"Terrible Tractoration" is supposed, by those who never read it, to
be a satire upon the follies of Perkins and his followers. It is, on
the contrary, a most zealous defence of Perkinism, and a fierce
attack upon its opponents, most especially upon such of the medical
profession as treated the subject with neglect or ridicule. The
Royal College of Physicians was the more peculiar object of the
attack, but with this body, the editors of some of the leading
periodicals, and several physicians distinguished at that time, and
even now remembered for their services to science and humanity, were
involved in unsparing denunciations. The work is by no means of the
simply humorous character it might be supposed, but is overloaded
with notes of the most seriously polemical nature. Much of the
history of the subject, indeed, is to be looked for in this volume.

It appears from this work that the principal members of the medical
profession, so far from hailing Mr. Benjamin Douglass Perkins as
another Harvey or Jenner, looked very coldly upon him and his
Tractors; and it is now evident that, though they were much abused
for so doing, they knew very well what they had to deal with, and
were altogether in the right. The delusion at last attracted such an
amount of attention as to induce Dr. Haygarth and some others of
respectable standing to institute some experiments which I shall
mention in their proper place, the result of which might have seemed
sufficient to show the emptiness of the whole contrivance.

The Royal Society, that learned body which for ages has constituted
the best tribunal to which Britain can appeal in questions of
science, accepted Mr. Perkins's Tractors and the book written about
them, passed the customary vote of thanks, and never thought of
troubling itself further in the investigation of pretensions of such
an aspect. It is not to be denied that a considerable number of
physicians did avow themselves advocates of the new practice; but out
of the whole catalogue of those who were publicly proclaimed as such,
no one has ever been known, so far as I am aware, to the scientific
world, except in connection with the short-lived notoriety of
Perkinism. Who were the people, then, to whose activity, influence,
or standing with the community was owing all the temporary excitement
produced by the Metallic Tractors?

First, those persons who had been induced to purchase a pair of
Tractors. These little bits of brass and iron, the intrinsic value
of which might, perhaps, amount to ninepence, were sold at five
guineas a pair! A man who has paid twenty-five dollars for his
whistle is apt to blow it louder and longer than other people. So it
appeared that when the "Perkinean Society" applied to the possessors
of Tractors in the metropolis to concur in the establishment of a
public institution for the use of these instruments upon the poor,
"it was found that only five out of above a hundred objected to
subscribe, on account of their want of confidence in the efficacy of
the practice; and these," the committee observes, "there is reason to
believe, never gave them a fair trial, probably never used them in
more than one case, and that perhaps a case in which the Tractors had
never been recommended as serviceable." "Purchasers of the
Tractors," said one of their ardent advocates, "would be among the
last to approve of them if they had reason to suppose themselves
defrauded of five guineas." He forgot poor Moses, with his "gross of
green spectacles, with silver rims and shagreen cases." "Dear
mother," cried the boy, "why won't you listen to reason? I had them
a dead bargain, or I should not have bought them. The silver rims
alone will sell for double the money."

But it is an undeniable fact, that many persons of considerable
standing, and in some instances holding the most elevated positions
in society, openly patronized the new practice. In a translation of
a work entitled "Experiments with the Metallic Tractors," originally
published in Danish, thence rendered successively into German and
English, Mr. Benjamin Perkins, who edited the English edition, has
given a copious enumeration of the distinguished individuals, both in
America and Europe, whose patronage he enjoyed. He goes so far as to
signify that ROYALTY itself was to be included among the number.
When the Perkinean Institution was founded, no less a person than
Lord Rivers was elected President, and eleven other individuals of
distinction, among them Governor Franklin, son of Dr. Franklin,
figured as Vice-Presidents. Lord Henniker, a member of the Royal
Society, who is spoken of as a man of judgment and talents,
condescended to patronize the astonishing discovery, and at different
times bought three pairs of Tractors. When the Tractors were
introduced into Europe, a large number of testimonials accompanied
them from various distinguished characters in America, the list of
whom is given in the translation of the Danish work referred to as

"Those who have individually stated cases, or who have presented
their names to the public as men who approved of this remedy, and
acknowledged themselves instrumental in circulating the Tractors, are
fifty-six in number; thirty-four of whom are physicians and surgeons,
and many of them of the first eminence, thirteen clergymen, most of
whom are doctors of divinity, and connected with the literary
institutions of America; among the remainder are two members of
Congress, one professor of natural philosophy in a college, etc.,
etc." It seemed to be taken rather hardly by Mr. Perkins that the
translators of the work which he edited, in citing the names of the
advocates of the Metallic Practice, frequently omitted the honorary
titles which should have been annexed. The testimonials were
obtained by the Danish writer, from a pamphlet published in America,
in which these titles were given in full. Thus one of these
testimonials is from "John Tyler, Esq., a magistrate in the county
of New London, and late Brigadier-General of the militia in that
State." The "omission of the General's title" is the subject of
complaint, as if this title were sufficient evidence of the
commanding powers of one of the patrons of tractoration. A similar
complaint is made when "Calvin Goddard, Esq., of Plainfield, Attorney
at Law, and a member of the Legislature of the State of Connecticut,"
is mentioned without his titular honors, and even on account of the
omission of the proper official titles belonging to "Nathan Pierce,
Esq., Governor and Manager of the Almshouse of Newburyport." These
instances show the great importance to be attached to civil and
military dignities, in qualifying their holders to judge of
scientific subjects, a truth which has not been overlooked by the
legitimate successors of the Perkinists. In Great Britain, the
Tractors were not less honored than in America, by the learned and
the illustrious. The "Perkinistic Committee" made this statement in
their report: "Mr. Perkins has annually laid before the public a
large collection of new cases communicated to him for that purpose by
disinterested and intelligent characters, from almost every quarter
of Great Britain. In regard to the competency of these vouchers, it
will be sufficient simply to state that, amongst others whose names
have been attached to their communications, are eight professors, in
four different universities, twenty-one regular Physicians, nineteen
Surgeons, thirty Clergymen, twelve of whom are Doctors of Divinity,
and numerous other characters of equal respectability."

It cannot but excite our notice and surprise that the number of
clergymen both in America and Great Britain who thrust forward their
evidence on this medical topic was singularly large in proportion to
that of the members of the medical profession. Whole pages are
contributed by such worthies as the Rev. Dr. Trotter of Hans Place,
the Rear. Waring Willett, Chaplain to the Earl of Dunmore, the Rev.
Dr. Clarke, Chaplain to the Prince of Wales. The style of these
theologico-medical communications may be seen in the following from a
divine who was also professor in one of the colleges of New England.
"I have used the Tractors with success in several other cases in my
own family, and although, like Naaman the Syrian, I cannot tell why
the waters of Jordan should be better than Abana and Pharpar, rivers
of Damascus; yet since experience has proved them so, no reasoning
can change the opinion. Indeed, the causes of all common facts are,
we think, perfectly well known to us; and it is very probable, fifty
or a hundred years hence, we shall as well know why the Metallic
Tractors should in a few minutes remove violent pains, as we now know
why cantharides and opium will produce opposite effects, namely, we
shall know very little about either excepting facts." Fifty or a
hundred years hence! if he could have looked forward forty years, he
would have seen the descendants of the "Perkinistic" philosophers
swallowing infinitesimal globules, and knowing and caring as much
about the Tractors as the people at Saratoga Springs do about the
waters of Abana and Pharpar.

I trust it will not be thought in any degree disrespectful to a
profession which we all honor, that I have mentioned the great zeal
of many clergymen in the cause of Perkinism. I hope, too, that I may
without offence suggest the causes which have often led them out of
their own province into one to which their education has no special
reference. The members of that profession ought to be, and commonly
are, persons of benevolent character. Their duties carry them into
the midst of families, and particularly at times when the members of
them are suffering from bodily illness. It is natural enough that a
strong desire should be excited to alleviate sufferings which may
have defied the efforts of professional skill; as natural that any
remedy which recommends itself to the belief or the fancy of the
spiritual physician should be applied with the hope of benefit; and
perfectly certain that the weakness of human nature, from which no
profession is exempt, will lead him to take the most flattering view
of its effects upon the patient; his own sagacity and judgment being
staked upon the success of the trial. The inventor of the Tractors
was aware of these truths. He therefore sent the Tractors
gratuitously to many clergymen, accompanied with a formal certificate
that the holder had become entitled to their possession by the
payment of five guineas. This was practised in our own neighborhood,
and I remember finding one of these certificates, so presented, which
proved that amongst the risks of infancy I had to encounter Perkins's
Tractors. Two clergymen of Boston and the vicinity, both well known
to local fame, gave in their testimony to the value of the
instruments thus presented to them; an unusually moderate proportion,
when it is remembered that to the common motives of which I have
spoken was added the seduction of a gift for which the profane public
was expected to pay so largely.

It was remarkable, also, that Perkinism, which had so little success
with the medical and scientific part of the community, found great
favor in the eyes of its more lovely and less obstinate portion.
"The lady of Major Oxholin,"--I quote from Mr. Perkins's volume,--
"having been lately in America, had seen and heard much of the great
effects of Perkinism. Influenced by a most benevolent disposition,
she brought these Tractors and the pamphlet with her to Europe, with
a laudable desire of extending their utility to her suffering
countrymen." Such was the channel by which the Tractors were
conveyed to Denmark, where they soon became the ruling passion.
The workmen, says a French writer, could not manufacture them fast
enough. Women carried them about their persons, and delighted in
bringing them into general use. To what extent the Tractors were
favored with the patronage of English and American ladies, it is of
course not easy to say, except on general principles, as their names
were not brought before the public. But one of Dr. Haygarth's
stories may lead us to conjecture that there was a class of female
practitioners who went about doing good with the Tractors in England
as well as in Denmark. A certain lady had the misfortune to have a
spot as big as a silver penny at the corner of her eye, caused by a
bruise, or some such injury. Another lady, who was a friend of hers,
and a strong believer in Perkinism, was very anxious to try the
effects of tractoration upon this unfortunate blemish. The patient
consented; the lady "produced the instruments, and, after drawing
them four or five times over the spot, declared that it changed to a
paler color, and on repeating the use of them a few minutes longer,
that it had almost vanished, and was scarcely visible, and departed
in high triumph at her success." The lady who underwent the
operation assured the narrator "that she looked in the glass
immediately after, and that not the least visible alteration had
taken place."

It would be a very interesting question, what was the intellectual
character of those persons most conspicuous in behalf of the
Perkinistic delusion? Such an inquiry might bring to light some
principles which we could hereafter apply to the study of other
popular errors. But the obscurity into which nearly all these
enthusiasts have subsided renders the question easier to ask than to
answer. I believe it would have been found that most of these
persons were of ardent temperament and of considerable imagination,
and that their history would show that Perkinism was not the first
nor the last hobby-horse they rode furiously. Many of them may very
probably have been persons of more than common talent, of active and
ingenious minds, of versatile powers and various acquirements. Such,
for instance, was the estimable man to whom I have repeatedly
referred as a warm defender of tractoration, and a bitter assailant
of its enemies. The story tells itself in the biographical preface
to his poem. He went to London with the view of introducing a
hydraulic machine, which he and his Vermont friends regarded as a
very important invention. He found, however, that the machine was
already in common use in that metropolis. A brother Yankee, then in
London, had started the project of a mill, which was to be carried by
the water of the Thames. He was sanguine enough to purchase one
fifth of this concern, which also proved a failure. At about the
same period he wrote the work which proved the great excitement of
his mind upon the subject of the transient folly then before the
public. Originally a lawyer, he was in succession a mechanician, a
poet, and an editor, meeting with far less success in each of these
departments than usually attends men of less varied gifts, but of
more tranquil and phlegmatic composition. But who is ignorant that
there is a class of minds characterized by qualities like those I
have mentioned; minds with many bright and even beautiful traits; but
aimless and fickle as the butterfly; that settle upon every gayly-
colored illusion as it opens into flower, and flutter away to another
when the first has dropped its leaves, and stands naked in the icy
air of truth!

Let us now look at the general tenor of the arguments addressed by
believers to sceptics and opponents. Foremost of all, emblazoned at
the head of every column, loudest shouted by every triumphant
disputant, held up as paramount to all other considerations,
stretched like an impenetrable shield to protect the weakest advocate
of the great cause against the weapons of the adversary, was that
omnipotent monosyllable which has been the patrimony of cheats and
the currency of dupes from time immemorial,--Facts! Facts! Facts!
First came the published cases of the American clergymen, brigadier-
generals, almshouse governors, representatives, attorneys, and
esquires. Then came the published cases of the surgeons of
Copenhagen. Then followed reports of about one hundred and fifty
cases published in England, "demonstrating the efficacy of the
metallic practice in a variety of complaints both upon the human body
and on horses, etc." But the progress of facts in Great Britain did
not stop here. Let those who rely upon the numbers of their
testimonials, as being alone sufficient to prove the soundness and
stability of a medical novelty, digest the following from the report
of the Perkinistic Committee. "The cases published [in Great
Britain] amounted, in March last, the date of Mr. Perkins's last
publication, to about five thousand. Supposing that not more than
one cure in three hundred which the Tractors have performed has been
published, and the proportion is probably much greater, it will be
seen that the number, to March last, will have exceeded one million
five hundred thousand!"

Next in order after the appeal to what were called facts, came a
series of arguments, which have been so long bruised and battered
round in the cause of every doctrine or pretension, new, monstrous,
or deliriously impossible, that each of them is as odiously familiar
to the scientific scholar as the faces of so many old acquaintances,
among the less reputable classes, to the officers of police.

No doubt many of my hearers will recognize, in the following
passages, arguments they may have heard brought forward with
triumphant confidence in behalf of some doctrine not yet extinct. No
doubt some may have honestly thought they proved something; may have
used them with the purpose of convincing their friends, or of
silencing the opponents of their favorite doctrine, whatever that
might be. But any train of arguments which was contrived for
Perkinism, which was just as applicable to it as to any other new
doctrine in the same branch of science, and which was fully employed
against its adversaries forty years since, might, in common charity,
be suffered to slumber in the grave of Perkinism. Whether or not the
following sentences, taken literally from the work of Mr. Perkins,
were the originals of some of the idle propositions we hear bandied
about from time to time, let those who listen judge.

The following is the test assumed for the new practice: "If diseases
are really removed, as those persons who have practised extensively
with the Tractors declare, it should seem there would be but little
doubt of their being generally adopted; but if the numerous reports
of their efficacy which have been published are forgeries, or are
unfounded, the practice ought to be crushed." To this I merely add,
it has been crushed.

The following sentence applies to that a priori judging and uncandid
class of individuals who buy their dinners without tasting all the
food there is in the market. "On all discoveries there are persons
who, without descending to any inquiry into the truth, pretend to
know, as it were by intuition, that newly asserted facts are founded
in the grossest errors. These were those who knew that Harvey's
report of the circulation of the blood was a preposterous and
ridiculous suggestion, and in latter later days there were others who
knew that Franklin deserved reproach for declaring that points were
preferable to balls for protecting buildings from lightning."

Again: "This unwarrantable mode of offering assertion for proof, so
unauthorized and even unprecedented except in the condemnation of a
Galileo, the persecution of a Copernicus, and a few other acts of
inquisitorial authority, in the times of ignorance and superstition,
affords but a lamentable instance of one of his remarks, that this is
far from being the Age of Reason."

"The most valuable medicines in the Materia Medica act on principles
of which we are totally ignorant. None have ever yet been able to
explain how opium produces sleep, or how bark cures intermittent
fevers; and yet few, it is hoped, will be so absurd as to desist from
the use of these important articles because they know nothing of the
principle of their operations." Or if the argument is preferred, in
the eloquent language of the Perkinistic poet:

"What though the CAUSES may not be explained,
Since these EFFECTS are duly ascertained,
Let not self-interest, prejudice, or pride,
Induce mankind to set the means aside;
Means which, though simple, are by
Heaven designed to alleviate the woes of human kind."

This course of argument is so often employed, that it deserves to be
expanded a little, so that its length and breadth may be fairly seen.
A series of what are called facts is brought forward to prove some
very improbable doctrine. It is objected by judicious people, or
such as have devoted themselves to analogous subjects, that these
assumed facts are in direct opposition to all that is known of the
course of nature, that the universal experience of the past affords a
powerful presumption against their truth, and that in proportion to
the gravity of these objections, should be the number and competence
of the witnesses. The answer is a ready one. What do we know of the
mysteries of Nature? Do we understand the intricate machinery of the
Universe? When to this is added the never-failing quotation,

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy,"--

the question is thought to be finally disposed of.

Take the case of astrology as an example. It is in itself strange
and incredible that the relations of the heavenly bodies to each
other at a given moment of time, perhaps half a century ago, should
have anything to do with my success or misfortune in any undertaking
of to-day. But what right have I to say it cannot be so? Can I bind
the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? I do
not know by what mighty magic the planets roll in their fluid paths,
confined to circles as unchanging as if they were rings of steel, nor
why the great wave of ocean follows in a sleepless round upon the
skirts of moonlight; nor cam I say from any certain knowledge that
the phases of the heavenly bodies, or even the falling of the leaves
of the forest, or the manner in which the sands lie upon the sea-
shore, may not be knit up by invisible threads with the web of human
destiny. There is a class of minds much more ready to believe that
which is at first sight incredible, and because it is incredible,
than what is generally thought reasonable. Credo quia impossibile
est,--"I believe, because it is impossible,"--is an old paradoxical
expression which might be literally applied to this tribe of persons.
And they always succeed in finding something marvellous, to call out
the exercise of their robust faith. The old Cabalistic teachers
maintained that there was not a verse, line, word, or even letter in
the Bible which had not a special efficacy either to defend the
person who rightly employed it, or to injure his enemies; always
provided the original Hebrew was made use of. In the hands of modern
Cabalists every substance, no matter how inert, acquires wonderful
medicinal virtues, provided it be used in a proper state of purity
and subdivision.

I have already mentioned the motives attributed by the Perkinists to
the Medical Profession, as preventing its members from receiving the
new but unwelcome truths. This accusation is repeated in different
forms and places, as, for instance, in the following passage:
"Will the medical man who has spent much money and labor in the
pursuit of the arcana of Physic, and on the exercise of which depends
his support in life, proclaim the inefficacy of his art, and
recommend a remedy to his patient which the most unlettered in
society can employ as advantageously as himself? and a remedy, too,
which, unlike the drops, the pills, the powders, etc., of the Materia
Medica, is inconsumable, and ever in readiness to be employed in
successive diseases?"

As usual with these people, much indignation was expressed at any
parallel between their particular doctrine and practice and those of
their exploded predecessors. "The motives," says the disinterested
Mr. Perkins, "which must have impelled to this attempt at classing
the METALLIC PRACTICE with the most paltry of empyrical projects, are
but too thinly veiled to escape detection."

To all these arguments was added, as a matter of course, an appeal to
the feelings of the benevolent in behalf of suffering humanity, in
the shape of a notice that the poor would be treated gratis. It is
pretty well understood that this gratuitous treatment of the poor
does not necessarily imply an excess of benevolence, any more than
the gratuitous distribution of a trader's shop-bills is an evidence
of remarkable generosity; in short, that it is one of those things
which honest men often do from the best motives, but which rogues and
impostors never fail to announce as one of their special
recommendations. It is astonishing to see how these things brighten
up at the touch of Mr. Perkins's poet:

"Ye worthy, honored, philanthropic few,
The muse shall weave her brightest wreaths for you,
Who in Humanity's bland cause unite,
Nor heed the shaft by interest aimed or spite;
Like the great Pattern of Benevolence,
Hygeia's blessings to the poor dispense;
And though opposed by folly's servile brood,

Having thus sketched the history of Perkinism in its days of
prosperity; having seen how it sprung into being, and by what means
it maintained its influence, it only remains to tell the brief story
of its discomfiture and final downfall. The vast majority of the
sensible part of the medical profession were contented, so far as we
can judge, to let it die out of itself. It was in vain that the
advocates of this invaluable discovery exclaimed over their perverse
and interested obstinacy,--in vain that they called up the injured
ghosts of Harvey, Galileo, and Copernicus to shame that unbelieving
generation; the Baillies and the Heberdens,--men whose names have
come down to us as synonymous with honor and wisdom,--bore their
reproaches in meek silence, and left them unanswered to their fate.
There were some others, however, who, believing the public to labor
under a delusion, thought it worth while to see whether the charm
would be broken by an open trial of its virtue, as compared with that
of some less hallowed formula. It must be remembered that a peculiar
value was attached to the Metallic Tractors, as made and patented by
Mr. Perkins. Dr. Haygarth, of Bath, performed various experiments
upon patients afflicted with different complaints,--the patients
supposing that the real five-guinea Tractors were employed. Strange
to relate, he obtained equally wonderful effects with Tractors of
lead and of wood; with nails, pieces of bone, slate pencil, and
tobacco-pipe. Dr. Alderson employed sham Tractors made of wood, and
produced such effects upon five patients that they returned solemn
thanks in church for their cures. A single specimen of these cases
may stand for all of them. Ann Hill had suffered for some months
from pain in the right arm and shoulder. The Tractors (wooden ones)
were applied, and in the space of five minutes she expressed herself
relieved in the following apostrophe: "Bless me! why, who could have
thought it, that them little things could pull the pain from one.
Well, to be sure, the longer one lives, the more one sees; ah, dear!"

These experiments did not result in the immediate extinction of
Perkinism. Doubtless they were a great comfort to many obstinate
unbelievers, and helped to settle some sceptical minds; but for the
real Perkinistic enthusiasts, it may be questioned whether they would
at that time have changed their opinion though one had risen from the
dead to assure them that it was an error. It perished without
violence, by an easy and natural process. Like the famous toy of
Mongolfier, it rose by means of heated air,--the fevered breath of
enthusiastic ignorance,--and when this grew cool, as it always does
in a little while, it collapsed and fell.

And now, on reviewing the whole subject, how shall we account for the
extraordinary prevalence of the belief in Perkinism among a portion
of what is supposed to be the thinking part of the community?

Could the cures have been real ones, produced by the principle of
ANIMAL MAGNETISM? To this it may be answered that the Perkinists
ridiculed the idea of approximating Mesmer and the founder of their
own doctrine, that nothing like the somnambulic condition seems to
have followed the use of the Tractors, and that neither the exertion
of the will nor the powers of the individual who operated seem to
have been considered of any consequence. Besides, the absolute
neglect into which the Tractors soon declined is good evidence that
they were incapable of affording any considerable and permanent
relief in the complaints for the cure of which they were applied.

Of course a large number of apparent cures were due solely to nature;
which is true under every form of treatment, orthodox or empirical.
Of course many persons experienced at least temporary relief from the
strong impression made upon their minds by this novel and marvellous
method of treatment.

Many, again, influenced by the sanguine hopes of those about them,
like dying people, who often say sincerely, from day to day, that
they are getting better, cheated themselves into a false and short-
lived belief that they were cured; and as happens in such cases, the
public never knew more than the first half of the story.

When it was said to the Perkinists, that whatever effects they
produced were merely through the imagination, they declared (like the
advocates of the ROYAL TOUCH and the UNGUENTUM ARMARIUM) that this
explanation was sufficiently disproved by the fact of numerous and
successful cures which had been witnessed in infants and brute
animals. Dr. Haygarth replied to this, that "in these cases it is
not the Patient, but the Observer, who is deceived by his own
imagination," and that such may be the fact, we have seen in the case
of the good lady who thought she had conjured away the spot from her
friend's countenance, when it remained just as before.

As to the motives of the inventor and vender of the Tractors, the
facts must be allowed to speak for themselves. But when two little
bits of brass and iron are patented, as an invention, as the result
of numerous experiments, when people are led, or even allowed, to
infer that they are a peculiar compound, when they are artfully
associated with a new and brilliant discovery (which then happened to
be Galvanism), when they are sold at many hundred times their value,
and the seller prints his opinion that a Hospital will suffer
inconvenience, "unless it possesses many sets of the Tractors, and
these placed in the hands of the patients to practise on each other,"
one cannot but suspect that they were contrived in the neighborhood
of a wooden nutmeg factory; that legs of ham in that region are not
made of the best mahogany; and that such as buy their cucumber seed
in that vicinity have to wait for the fruit as long as the Indians
for their crop of gunpowder.


The succeeding lecture will be devoted to an examination of the
doctrines of Samuel Hahnemann and his disciples; doctrines which some
consider new and others old; the common title of which is variously
known as Ho-moeopathy, Homoe-op-athy, Homoeo-paith-y, or Hom'pathy,
and the claims of which are considered by some as infinitely
important, and by many as immeasurably ridiculous.

I wish to state, for the sake of any who may be interested in the
subject, that I shall treat it, not by ridicule, but by argument;
perhaps with great freedom, but with good temper and in peaceable
language; with very little hope of reclaiming converts, with no
desire of making enemies, but with a firm belief that its pretensions
and assertions cannot stand before a single hour of calm


It may be thought that a direct attack upon the pretensions of
HOMOEOPATHY is an uncalled-for aggression upon an unoffending
doctrine and its peaceful advocates.

But a little inquiry will show that it has long assumed so hostile a
position with respect to the Medical Profession, that any trouble I,
or any other member of that profession, may choose to bestow upon it
may be considered merely as a matter of self-defence. It began with
an attempt to show the insignificance of all existing medical
knowledge. It not only laid claim to wonderful powers of its own,
but it declared the common practice to be attended with the most
positively injurious effects, that by it acute diseases are
aggravated, and chronic diseases rendered incurable. It has at
various times brought forward collections of figures having the air
of statistical documents, pretending to show a great proportional
mortality among the patients of the Medical Profession, as compared
with those treated according to its own rules. Not contented with
choosing a name of classical origin for itself, it invented one for
the whole community of innocent physicians, assuring them, to their
great surprise, that they were all ALLOPATHISTS, whether they knew it
or not, and including all the illustrious masters of the past, from
Hippocrates down to Hunter, under the same gratuitous title. The
line, then, has been drawn by the champions of the new doctrine; they
have lifted the lance, they have sounded the charge, and are
responsible for any little skirmishing which may happen.

But, independently of any such grounds of active resistance, the
subject involves interests so disproportioned to its intrinsic
claims, that it is no more than an act of humanity to give it a
public examination. If the new doctrine is not truth, it is a
dangerous, a deadly error. If it is a mere illusion, and acquires
the same degree of influence that we have often seen obtained by
other illusions, there is not one of my audience who may not have
occasion to deplore the fatal credulity which listened to its

I shall therefore undertake a sober examination of its principles,
its facts, and some points of its history. The limited time at my
disposal requires me to condense as much as possible what I have to
say, but I shall endeavor to be plain and direct in expressing it.
Not one statement shall be made which cannot be supported by
unimpeachable reference: not one word shall be uttered which I am not
as willing to print as to speak. I have no quibbles to utter, and I
shall stoop to answer none; but, with full faith in the sufficiency
of a plain statement of facts and reasons, I submit the subject to
the discernment of my audience.

The question may be asked in the outset,--Have you submitted the
doctrines you are professing to examine to the test of long-repeated
and careful experiment; have you tried to see whether they were true
or not? To this I answer, that it is abundantly evident, from what
has often happened, that it would be of no manner of use for me to
allege the results of any experiments I might have instituted. Again
and again have the most explicit statements been made by the most
competent persons of the utter failure of all their trials, and there
were the same abundant explanations offered as used to be for the
Unguentum Armarium arid the Metallic Tractors. I could by no
possibility perform any experiments the result of which could not be
easily explained away so as to be of no conclusive significance.
Besides, as arguments in favor of Homoeopathy are constantly
addressed to the public in journals, pamphlets, and even lectures, by
inexperienced dilettanti, the same channel must be open to all its

It is necessary, for the sake of those to whom the whole subject may
be new, to give in the smallest possible compass the substance of the
Homoeopathic Doctrine. Samuel Hahnemann, its founder, is a German
physician, now living in Paris, [Hahnemann died in 1843.] at the age
of eighty-seven years. In 1796 he published the first paper
containing his peculiar notions; in 1805 his first work on the
subject; in 1810 his somewhat famous "Organon of the Healing Art;"
the next year what he called the "Pure Materia Medica;" and in 1828
his last work, the "Treatise on Chronic Diseases." He has therefore
been writing at intervals on his favorite subject for nearly half a

The one great doctrine which constitutes the basis of Homoeopathy as
a system is expressed by the Latin aphorism,


or like cures like, that is, diseases are cured by agents capable of
producing symptoms resembling those found in the disease under
treatment. A disease for Hahnemann consists essentially in a group
of symptoms. The proper medicine for any disease is the one which is
capable of producing a similar group of symptoms when given to a
healthy person.

It is of course necessary to know what are the trains of symptoms
excited by different substances, when administered to persons in
health, if any such can be shown to exist. Hahnemann and his
disciples give catalogues of the symptoms which they affirm were
produced upon themselves or others by a large number of drugs which
they submitted to experiment.

The second great fact which Hahnemann professes to have established
is the efficacy of medicinal substances reduced to a wonderful degree
of minuteness or dilution. The following account of his mode of
preparing his medicines is from his work on Chronic Diseases, which
has not, I believe, yet been translated into English. A grain of the
substance, if it is solid, a drop if it is liquid, is to be added to
about a third part of one hundred grains of sugar of milk in an
unglazed porcelain capsule which has had the polish removed from the
lower part of its cavity by rubbing it with wet sand; they are to be
mingled for an instant with a bone or horn spatula, and then rubbed
together for six minutes; then the mass is to be scraped together
from the mortar and pestle, which is to take four minutes; then to be
again rubbed for six minutes. Four minutes are then to be devoted to
scraping the powder into a heap, and the second third of the hundred
grains of sugar of milk to be added. Then they are to be stirred an
instant and rubbed six minutes,--again to be scraped together four
minutes and forcibly rubbed six; once more scraped together for four
minutes, when the last third of the hundred grains of sugar of milk
is to be added and mingled by stirring with the spatula; six minutes
of forcible rubbing, four of scraping together, and six more
(positively the last six) of rubbing, finish this part of the

Every grain of this powder contains the hundredth of a grain of the
medicinal substance mingled with the sugar of milk. If, therefore, a
grain of the powder just prepared is mingled with another hundred
grains of sugar of milk, and the process just described repeated, we
shall have a powder of which every grain contains the hundredth of
the hundredth, or the ten thousandth part of a grain of the medicinal
substance. Repeat the same process with the same quantity of fresh
sugar of milk, and every grain of your powder will contain the
millionth of a grain of the medicinal substance. When the powder is
of this strength, it is ready to employ in the further solutions and
dilutions to be made use of in practice.

A grain of the powder is to be taken, a hundred drops of alcohol are
to be poured on it, the vial is to be slowly turned for a few
minutes, until the powder is dissolved, and two shakes are to be
given to it. On this point I will quote Hahnemann's own words.
"A long experience and multiplied observations upon the sick lead me
within the last few years to prefer giving only two shakes to
medicinal liquids, whereas I formerly used to give ten." The process
of dilution is carried on in the same way as the attenuation of the
powder was done; each successive dilution with alcohol reducing the
medicine to a hundredth part of the quantity of that which preceded
it. In this way the dilution of the original millionth of a grain of
medicine contained in the grain of powder operated on is carried
successively to the billionth, trillionth, quadrillionth,
quintillionth, and very often much higher fractional divisions. A
dose of any of these medicines is a minute fraction of a drop,
obtained by moistening with them one or more little globules of
sugar, of which Hahnemann says it takes about two hundred to weigh a

As an instance of the strength of the medicines prescribed by
Hahnemann, I will mention carbonate of lime. He does not employ
common chalk, but prefers a little portion of the friable part of an
oystershell. Of this substance, carried to the sextillionth degree,
so much as one or two globules of the size mentioned can convey is a
common dose. But for persons of very delicate nerves it is proper
that the dilution should be carried to the decillionth degree. That
is, an important medicinal effect is to be expected from the two
hundredth or hundredth part of the millionth of the millionth of the
millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the
millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of a
grain of oyster-shell. This is only the tenth degree of potency, but
some of his disciples profess to have obtained palpable effects from
"much higher dilutions."

The third great doctrine of Hahnemann is the following. Seven
eighths at least of all chronic diseases are produced by the
existence in the system of that infectious disorder known in the
language of science by the appellation of PSORA, but to the less
refined portion of the community by the name of ITCH. In the words
of Hahnemann's "Organon," "This Psora is the sole true and
fundamental cause that produces all the other countless forms of
disease, which, under the names of nervous debility, hysteria,
hypochondriasis, insanity, melancholy, idiocy, madness, epilepsy, and
spasms of all kinds, softening of the bones, or rickets, scoliosis
and cyphosis, caries, cancer, fungua haematodes, gout,--yellow
jaundice and cyanosis, dropsy,--"

["The degrees of DILUTION must not be confounded with those of
POTENCY. Their relations may be seen by this table:

lst dilution,--One hundredth of a drop or grain.

2d " One ten thousandth.

3d " One millionth, marked I.

4th " One hundred millionth.

5th " One ten thousand millionth.

6th " One million millionth, or one billionth, marked II.

7th " One hundred billionth.

8th " One ten thousand billionth.

9th " One million billionth, or one trillionth, marked III.

10th " One hundred trillionth.

11th " One ten thousand trillionth.

12th " One million trillionth, or one quadrillionth, marked
IV.,--and so on indefinitely.

The large figures denote the degrees of POTENCY.]

"gastralgia, epistaxis, haemoptysis,--asthma and suppuration of the
lungs,--megrim, deafness, cataract and amaurosis,--paralysis, loss of
sense, pains of every kind, etc., appear in our pathology as so many
peculiar, distinct, and independent diseases."

For the last three centuries, if the same authority may be trusted,
under the influence of the more refined personal habits which have
prevailed, and the application of various external remedies which
repel the affection from the skin; Psora has revealed itself in these
numerous forms of internal disease, instead of appearing, as in
former periods, under the aspect of an external malady.

These are the three cardinal doctrines of Hahnemann, as laid down in
those standard works of Homoeopathy, the "Organon" and the "Treatise
on Chronic Diseases."

Several other principles may be added, upon all of which he insists
with great force, and which are very generally received by his

1. Very little power is allowed to the curative efforts of nature.
Hahnemann goes so far as to say that no one has ever seen the simple
efforts of nature effect the durable recovery of a patient from a
chronic disease. In general, the Homoeopathist calls every recovery
which happens under his treatment a cure.

2. Every medicinal substance must be administered in a state of the
most perfect purity, and uncombined with any other. The union of
several remedies in a single prescription destroys its utility, and,
according to the "Organon," frequently adds a new disease.

3. A large number of substances commonly thought to be inert develop
great medicinal powers when prepared in the manner already described;
and a great proportion of them are ascertained to have specific
antidotes in case their excessive effects require to be neutralized.

4. Diseases should be recognized, as far as possible, not by any of
the common names imposed upon them, as fever or epilepsy, but as
individual collections of symptoms, each of which differs from every
other collection.

5. The symptoms of any complaint must be described with the most
minute exactness, and so far as possible in the patient's own words.
To illustrate the kind of circumstances the patient is expected to
record, I will mention one or two from the 313th page of the
"Treatise on Chronic Diseases,"--being the first one at which I
opened accidentally.

"After dinner, disposition to sleep; the patient winks."

"After dinner, prostration and feeling of weakness (nine days after
taking the remedy)."

This remedy was that same oyster-shell which is to be prescribed
"fractions of the sextillionth or decillionth degree." According to
Hahnemann, the action of a single dose of the size mentioned does not
fully display itself in some cases until twenty-four or even thirty
days after it is taken, and in such instances has not exhausted its
good effects until towards the fortieth or fiftieth day,--before
which time it would be absurd and injurious to administer a new

So much for the doctrines of Hahnemann, which have been stated
without comment, or exaggeration of any of their features, very much
as any adherent of his opinions might have stated them, if obliged to
compress them into so narrow a space.

Does Hahnemann himself represent Homoeopathy as it now exists? He
certainly ought to be its best representative, after having created
it, and devoted his life to it for half a century. He is spoken of
as the great physician of the time, in most, if not all Homoeopathic
works. If he is not authority on the subject of his own doctrines,
who is? So far as I am aware, not one tangible discovery in the
so-called science has ever been ascribed to any other observer; at
least, no general principle or law, of consequence enough to claim
any prominence in Homoeopathic works, has ever been pretended to have
originated with any of his illustrious disciples. He is one of the
only two Homoeopathic writers with whom, as I shall mention, the
Paris publisher will have anything to do upon his own account. The
other is Jahr, whose Manual is little more than a catalogue of
symptoms and remedies. If any persons choose to reject Hahnemann as
not in the main representing Homoeopathy, if they strike at his
authority, if they wink out of sight his deliberate and formally
announced results, it is an act of suicidal rashness; for upon his
sagacity and powers of observation, and experience, as embodied in
his works, and especially in his Materia Medica, repose the
foundations of Homoeopathy as a practical system.

So far as I can learn from the conflicting statements made upon the
subject, the following is the present condition of belief.

1. All of any note agree that the law Similia similibus is the only
fundamental principle in medicine. Of course if any man does not
agree to this the name Homoeopathist can no longer be applied to him
with propriety.

2. The belief in and employment of the infinitesimal doses is
general, and in some places universal, among the advocates of
Homoeopathy; but a distinct movement has been made in Germany to get
rid of any restriction to the use of these doses, and to employ
medicines with the same license as other practitioners.

3. The doctrine of the origin of most chronic diseases in Psora,
notwithstanding Hahnemann says it cost him twelve years of study and
research to establish the fact and its practical consequences, has
met with great neglect and even opposition from very many of his own

It is true, notwithstanding, that, throughout most of their writings
which I have seen, there runs a prevailing tone of great deference to
Hahnemann's opinions, a constant reference to his authority, a
general agreement with the minor points of his belief, and a pretence
of harmonious union in a common faith. [Those who will take the
trouble to look over Hull's Translation of Jahr's Manual may observe
how little comparative space is given to remedies resting upon any
other authority than that of Hahnemann.]

Many persons, and most physicians and scientific men, would be
satisfied with the statement of these doctrines, and examine them no
further. They would consider it vastly more probable that any
observer in so fallacious and difficult a field of inquiry as
medicine had been led into error, or walked into it of his own
accord, than that such numerous and extraordinary facts had really
just come to light. They would feel a right to exercise the same
obduracy towards them as the French Institute is in the habit of
displaying when memoirs or models are offered to it relating to the
squaring of the circle or perpetual motion; which it is the rule to
pass over without notice. They would feel as astronomers and natural
philosophers must have felt when, some half a dozen years ago, an
unknown man came forward, and asked for an opportunity to demonstrate
to Arago and his colleagues that the moon and planets were at a
distance of a little more than a hundred miles from the earth. And
so they would not even look into Homoeopathy, though all its
advocates should exclaim in the words of Mr. Benjamin Douglass
Perkins, vender of the Metallic Tractors, that "On all discoveries
there are persons who, without descending to any inquiry into the
truth, pretend to know, as it were by intuition, that newly asserted
facts are founded in the grossest errors." And they would lay their
heads upon their pillows with a perfectly clear conscience, although
they were assured that they were behaving in the same way that people
of old did towards Harvey, Galileo, and Copernicus, the identical
great names which were invoked by Mr. Benjamin Douglass Perkins.

But experience has shown that the character of these assertions is
not sufficient to deter many, from examining their claims to belief.
I therefore lean but very slightly on the extravagance and extreme
apparent singularity of their pretensions. I might have omitted
them, but on the whole it seemed more just to the claims of my
argument to suggest the vast complication of improbabilities involved
in the statements enumerated. Every one must of course judge for
himself as to the weight of these objections, which are by no means
brought forward as a proof of the extravagance of Homoeopathy, but
simply as entitled to a brief consideration before the facts of the
case are submitted to our scrutiny.

The three great asserted discoveries of Hahnemann are entirely
unconnected with and independent of each other. Were there any
natural relation between them it would seem probable enough that the
discovery of the first would have led to that of the others. But
assuming it to be a fact that diseases are cured by remedies capable
of producing symptoms like their own, no manifest relation exists
between this fact and the next assertion, namely, the power of the
infinitesimal doses. And allowing both these to be true, neither has
the remotest affinity to the third new doctrine, that which declares
seven eighths of all chronic diseases to be owing to Psora.

This want of any obvious relation between Hahnemann's three cardinal
doctrines appears to be self-evident upon inspection. But if, as is
often true with his disciples, they prefer the authority of one of
their own number, I will refer them to Dr. Trinks's paper on the
present state of Homoeopathy in Europe, with which, of course, they
are familiar, as his name is mentioned as one of the most prominent
champions of their faith, in their American official organ. It would
be a fact without a parallel in the history, not merely of medicine,
but of science, that three such unconnected and astonishing
discoveries, each of them a complete revolution of all that ages of
the most varied experience had been taught to believe, should spring
full formed from the brain of a single individual.

Let us look a moment at the first of his doctrines. Improbable
though it may seem to some, there is no essential absurdity involved
in the proposition that diseases yield to remedies capable of
producing like symptoms. There are, on the other hand, some
analogies which lend a degree of plausibility to the statement.
There are well-ascertained facts, known from the earliest periods of
medicine, showing that, under certain circumstances, the very
medicine which, from its known effects, one would expect to aggravate
the disease, may contribute to its relief. I may be permitted to
allude, in the most general way, to the case in which the spontaneous
efforts of an overtasked stomach are quieted by the agency of a drug
which that organ refuses to entertain upon any terms. But that every
cure ever performed by medicine should have been founded upon this
principle, although without the knowledge of a physician; that the
Homoeopathic axiom is, as Hahnemann asserts, "the sole law of nature
in therapeutics," a law of which nothing more than a transient
glimpse ever presented itself to the innumerable host of medical
observers, is a dogma of such sweeping extent, and pregnant novelty,
that it demands a corresponding breadth and depth of unquestionable
facts to cover its vast pretensions.

So much ridicule has been thrown upon the pretended powers of the
minute doses that I shall only touch upon this point for the purpose
of conveying, by illustrations, some shadow of ideas far transcending
the powers of the imagination to realize. It must be remembered that
these comparisons are not matters susceptible of dispute, being
founded on simple arithmetical computations, level to the capacity of
any intelligent schoolboy. A person who once wrote a very small
pamphlet made some show of objecting to calculations of thus kind, on
the ground that the highest dilutions could easily be made with a few
ounces of alcohol. But he should have remembered that at every
successive dilution he lays aside or throws away ninety-nine
hundredths of the fluid on which he is operating, and that, although
he begins with a drop, he only prepares a millionth, billionth,
trillionth, and similar fractions of it, all of which, added
together, would constitute but a vastly minute portion of the drop
with which he began. But now let us suppose we take one single drop
of the Tincture of Camomile, and that the whole of this were to be
carried through the common series of dilutions.

A calculation nearly like the following was made by Dr. Panvini, and
may be readily followed in its essential particulars by any one who

For the first dilution it would take 100 drops of alcohol.

For the second dilution it would take 10;000 drops, or about a pint.

For the third dilution it would take 100 pints.

For the fourth dilution it would take 10,000 pints, or more than
1,000 gallons, and so on to the ninth dilution, which would take ten
billion gallons, which he computed would fill the basin of Lake
Agnano, a body of water two miles in circumference. The twelfth
dilution would of course fill a million such lakes. By the time the
seventeenth degree of dilution should be reached, the alcohol
required would equal in quantity the waters of ten thousand Adriatic
seas. Trifling errors must be expected, but they are as likely to be
on one side as the other, and any little matter like Lake Superior or
the Caspian would be but a drop in the bucket.

Swallowers of globules, one of your little pellets, moistened in the
mingled waves of one million lakes of alcohol, each two miles in
circumference, with which had been blended that one drop of Tincture
of Camomile, would be of precisely the strength recommended for that
medicine in your favorite Jahr's Manual, "against the most sudden,
frightful, and fatal diseases!" [In the French edition of 1834, the
proper doses of the medicines are mentioned, and Camomile is marked
IV. Why are the doses omitted in Hull's Translation, except in three
instances out of the whole two hundred remedies, notwithstanding the
promise in the preface that "some remarks upon the doses used may be
found at the head of each medicine"? Possibly because it makes no
difference whether they are employed in one Homoeopathic dose or
another; but then it is very singular that such precise directions
were formerly given in the same work, and that Hahnemann's
"experience" should have led him to draw the nice distinctions we
have seen in a former part of this Lecture (p. 44).]

And proceeding on the common data, I have just made a calculation
which shows that this single drop of Tincture of Camomile, given in
the quantity ordered by Jahr's Manual, would have supplied every
individual of the whole human family, past and present, with more
than five billion doses each, the action of each dose lasting about
four days.

Yet this is given only at the quadrillionth, or fourth degree of
potency, and various substances are frequently administered at the
decillionth or tenth degree, and occasionally at still higher
attenuations with professed medicinal results. Is there not in this
as great an exception to all the hitherto received laws of nature as
in the miracle of the loaves and fishes? Ask this question of a
Homoeopathist, and he will answer by referring to the effects
produced by a very minute portion of vaccine matter, or the
extraordinary diffusion of odors. But the vaccine matter is one of
those substances called morbid poisons, of which it is a peculiar
character to multiply themselves, when introduced into the system, as
a seed does in the soil. Therefore the hundredth part of a grain of
the vaccine matter, if no more than this is employed, soon increases
in quantity, until, in the course of about a week, it is a grain or
more, and can be removed in considerable drops. And what is a very
curious illustration of Homoeopathy, it does not produce its most.
characteristic effects until it is already in sufficient quantity not
merely to be visible, but to be collected for further use. The
thoughtlessness which can allow an inference to be extended from a
product of disease possessing this susceptibility of multiplication
when conveyed into the living body, to substances of inorganic
origin, such as silex or sulphur, would be capable of arguing that a
pebble may produce a mountain, because an acorn can become a forest.

As to the analogy to be found between the alleged action of the
infinitely attenuated doses, and the effects of some odorous
substances which possess the extraordinary power of diffusing their
imponderable emanations through a very wide space, however it may be
abused in argument, and rapidly as it evaporates on examination, it
is not like that just mentioned, wholly without meaning. The fact of
the vast diffusion of some odors, as that of musk or the rose, for
instance, has long been cited as the most remarkable illustration of
the divisibility of matter, and the nicety of the senses. And if
this were compared with the effects of a very minute dose of morphia
on the whole system, or the sudden and fatal impression of a single
drop of prussic acid, or, with what comes still nearer, the poisonous
influence of an atmosphere impregnated with invisible malaria, we
should find in each of these examples an evidence of the degree to
which nature, in some few instances, concentrates powerful qualities
in minute or subtile forms of matter. But if a man comes to me with
a pestle and mortar in his hand, and tells me that he will take a
little speck of some substance which nobody ever thought to have any
smell at all, as, for instance, a grain of chalk or of charcoal, and
that he will, after an hour or two of rubbing and scraping, develop
in a portion of it an odor which, if the whole grain were used, would
be capable of pervading an apartment, a house, a village, a province,
an empire, nay, the entire atmosphere of this broad planet upon which
we tread; and that from each of fifty or sixty substances he can in
this way develop a distinct and hitherto unknown odor: and if he
tries to show that all this is rendered quite reasonable by the
analogy of musk and roses, I shall certainly be justified in
considering him incapable of reasoning, and beyond the reach of my
argument. What if, instead of this, he professes to develop new and
wonderful medicinal powers from the same speck of chalk or charcoal,
in such proportions as would impregnate every pond, lake, river, sea,
and ocean of our globe, and appeals to the same analogy in favor of
the probability of his assertion.

All this may be true, notwithstanding these considerations. But so
extraordinary would be the fact, that a single atom of substances
which a child might swallow without harm by the teaspoonful could, by
an easy mechanical process, be made to develop such inconceivable
powers, that nothing but the strictest agreement of the most cautious
experimenters, secured by every guaranty that they were honest and
faithful, appealing to repeated experiments in public, with every
precaution to guard against error, and with the most plain and
peremptory results, should induce us to lend any credence to such

The third doctrine, that Psora, the other name of which you remember,
is the cause of the great majority of chronic diseases, is a
startling one, to say the least. That an affection always recognized
as a very unpleasant personal companion, but generally regarded as a
mere temporary incommodity, readily yielding to treatment in those
unfortunate enough to suffer from it, and hardly known among the
better classes of society, should be all at once found out by a
German physician to be the great scourge of mankind, the cause of
their severest bodily and mental calamities, cancer and consumption,
idiocy and madness, must excite our unqualified surprise. And when
the originator of this singular truth ascribes, as in the page now
open before me, the declining health of a disgraced courtier, the
chronic malady of a bereaved mother, even the melancholy of the love-
sick and slighted maiden, to nothing more nor less than the
insignificant, unseemly, and almost unmentionable ITCH, does it not
seem as if the very soil upon which we stand were dissolving into
chaos, over the earthquake-heaving of discovery?

And when one man claims to have established these three independent
truths, which are about as remote from each other as the discovery of
the law of gravitation, the invention of printing, and that of the
mariner's compass, unless the facts in their favor are overwhelming
and unanimous, the question naturally arises, Is not this man
deceiving himself, or trying to deceive others?

I proceed to examine the proofs of the leading ideas of Hahnemann and
his school.

In order to show the axiom, similia similibus curantur (or like is
cured by like), to be the basis of the healing art,--"the sole law of
nature in therapeutics,"--it is necessary,

1. That the symptoms produced by drugs in healthy persons should be
faithfully studied and recorded.

2. That drugs should be shown to be always capable of curing those
diseases most like their own symptoms.

3. That remedies should be shown not to cure diseases when they do
not produce symptoms resembling those presented in these diseases.

1. The effects of drugs upon healthy persons have been studied by
Hahnemann and his associates. Their results were made known in his
Materia Medica, a work in three large volumes in the French
translation, published about eight years ago. The mode of
experimentation appears to have been, to take the substance on trial,
either in common or minute doses, and then to set down every little
sensation, every little movement of mind or body, which occurred
within many succeeding hours or days, as being produced solely by the
substance employed. When I have enumerated some of the symptoms
attributed to the power of the drugs taken, you will be able to judge
how much value is to be ascribed to the assertions of such observers.

The following list was taken literally from the Materia Medica of
Hahnemann, by my friend M. Vernois, for whose accuracy I am willing
to be responsible. He has given seven pages of these symptoms, not
selected, but taken at hazard from the French translation of the
work. I shall be very brief in my citations.

"After stooping some time, sense of painful weight about the head
upon resuming the erect posture."

"An itching, tickling sensation at the outer edge of the palm of the
left hand, which obliges the person to scratch." The medicine was
acetate of lime, and as the action of the globule taken is said to
last twenty-eight days, you may judge how many such symptoms as the
last might be supposed to happen.

Among the symptoms attributed to muriatic acid are these: a catarrh,
sighing, pimples; "after having written a long time with the back a
little bent over, violent pain in the back and shoulder-blades, as if
from a strain,"--"dreams which are not remembered,--disposition to
mental dejection,--wakefulness before and after midnight."

I might extend this catalogue almost indefinitely. I have not cited
these specimens with any view to exciting a sense of the ridiculous,
which many others of those mentioned would not fail to do, but to
show that the common accidents of sensation, the little bodily
inconveniences to which all of us are subject, are seriously and
systematically ascribed to whatever medicine may have been exhibited,
even in the minute doses I have mentioned, whole days or weeks

To these are added all the symptoms ever said by anybody, whether
deserving confidence or not, as I shall hereafter illustrate, to be
produced by the substance in question.

The effects of sixty-four medicinal substances, ascertained by one or
both of these methods, are enumerated in the Materia Medica of
Hahnemann, which may be considered as the basis of practical
Homoeopathy. In the Manual of Jahr, which is the common guide, so
far as I know, of those who practise Homoeopathy in these regions,
two hundred remedies are enumerated, many of which, however, have
never been employed in practice. In at least one edition there were
no means of distinguishing those which had been tried upon the sick
from the others. It is true that marks have been added in the
edition employed here, which serve to distinguish them; but what are
we to think of a standard practical author on Materia Medica, who at
one time omits to designate the proper doses of his remedies, and at
another to let us have any means of knowing whether a remedy has ever
been tried or not, while he is recommending its employment in the
most critical and threatening diseases?

I think that, from what I have shown of the character of Hahnemann's
experiments, it would be a satisfaction to any candid inquirer to
know whether other persons, to whose assertions he could look with
confidence, confirm these pretended facts. Now there are many
individuals, long and well known to the scientific world, who have
tried these experiments upon healthy subjects, and utterly deny that
their effects have at all corresponded to Hahnemann's assertions.

I will take, for instance, the statements of Andral (and I am not
referring to his well-known public experiments in his hospital) as
to the result of his own trials. This distinguished physician is
Professor of Medicine in the School of Paris, and one of the most
widely known and valued authors upon practical and theoretical
subjects the profession can claim in any country. He is a man of
great kindness of character, a most liberal eclectic by nature and
habit, of unquestioned integrity, and is called, in the leading
article of the first number of the "Homoepathic Examiner," "an
eminent and very enlightened allopathist." Assisted by a number of
other persons in good health, he experimented on the effects of
cinchona, aconite, sulphur, arnica, and the other most highly
extolled remedies. His experiments lasted a year, and he stated
publicly to the Academy of Medicine that they never produced the
slightest appearance of the symptoms attributed to them. The results
of a man like this, so extensively known as one of the most
philosophical and candid, as well as brilliant of instructors, and
whose admirable abilities and signal liberality are generally
conceded, ought to be of great weight in deciding the question.

M. Double, a well-known medical writer and a physician of high
standing in Paris, had occasion so long ago as 1801, before he had
heard of Homoeopathy, to make experiments upon Cinchona, or Peruvian
bark. He and several others took the drug in every kind of dose for
four months, and the fever it is pretended by Hahnemann to excite
never was produced.

M. Bonnet, President of the Royal Society of Medicine of Bordeaux,
had occasion to observe many soldiers during the Peninsular War, who
made use of Cinchona as a preservative against different diseases,
but he never found it to produce the pretended paroxysms.

If any objection were made to evidence of this kind, I would refer to
the express experiments on many of the Homoeopathic substances, which
were given to healthy persons with every precaution as to diet and
regimen, by M. Louis Fleury, without being followed by the slightest
of the pretended consequences. And let me mention as a curious fact,
that the same quantity of arsenic given to one animal in the common
form of the unprepared powder, and to another after having been
rubbed up into six hundred globules, offered no particular difference
of activity in the two cases.

This is a strange contradiction to the doctrine of the development of
what they call dynamic power, by means of friction and subdivision.

In 1835 a public challenge was offered to the best known Homoeopathic
physician in Paris to select any ten substances asserted to produce
the most striking effects; to prepare them himself; to choose one by
lot without knowing which of them he had taken, and try it upon
himself or any intelligent and devoted Homoeopatbist, and, waiting
his own time, to come forward and tell what substance had been
employed. The challenge was at first accepted, but the acceptance
retracted before the time of trial arrived.

From all this I think it fair to conclude that the catalogues of
symptoms attributed in Homoeopathic works to the influence of various
drugs upon healthy persons are not entitled to any confidence.

2. It is necessary to show, in the next place, that medicinal
substances are always capable of curing diseases most like their own
symptoms. For facts relating to this question we must look to two
sources; the recorded experience of the medical profession in
general, and the results of trials made according to Homoeopathic
principles, and capable of testing the truth of the doctrine.

No person, that I am aware of, has ever denied that in some cases
there exists a resemblance between the effects of a remedy and the
symptoms of diseases in which it is beneficial. This has been
recognized, as Hahnemann himself has shown, from the time of
Hippocrates. But according to the records of the medical profession,
as they have been hitherto interpreted, this is true of only a very
small proportion of useful remedies. Nor has it ever been considered
as an established truth that the efficacy of even these few remedies
was in any definite ratio to their power of producing symptoms more
or less like those they cured.

Such was the state of opinion when Hahnemann came forward with the
proposition that all the cases of successful treatment found in the
works of all preceding medical writers were to be ascribed solely to
the operation of the Homoeopathic principle, which had effected the
cure, although without the physician's knowledge that this was the
real secret. And strange as it may seem, he was enabled to give such
a degree of plausibility to this assertion, that any person not
acquainted somewhat with medical literature, not quite familiar, I
should rather say, with the relative value of medical evidence,
according to the sources whence it is derived, would be almost
frightened into the belief, at seeing the pages upon pages of Latin
names he has summoned as his witnesses.

It has hitherto been customary, when examining the writings of
authors of preceding ages, upon subjects as to which they were less
enlightened than ourselves, and which they were very liable to
misrepresent, to exercise some little discretion; to discriminate, in
some measure, between writers deserving confidence and those not
entitled to it. But there is not the least appearance of any such
delicacy on the part of Hahnemann. A large majority of the names of
old authors he cites are wholly unknown to science. With some of
them I have been long acquainted, and I know that their accounts of
diseases are no more to be trusted than their contemporary Ambroise
Pare's stories of mermen, and similar absurdities. But if my
judgment is rejected, as being a prejudiced one, I can refer to
Cullen, who mentioned three of Hahnemann's authors in one sentence,
as being "not necessarily bad authorities; but certainly such when
they delivered very improbable events;" and as this was said more
than half a century ago, it could not have had any reference to
Hahnemann. But although not the slightest sign of discrimination is
visible in his quotations,--although for him a handful of chaff from
Schenck is all the same thing as a measure of wheat from Morgagni,--
there is a formidable display of authorities, and an abundant proof
of ingenious researches to be found in each of the great works of
Hahnemann with which I am familiar. [Some painful surmises might
arise as to the erudition of Hahnemann's English Translator, who
makes two individuals of "Zacutus, Lucitanus," as well as respecting
that of the conductors of an American Homoeopathic periodical, who
suffer the name of the world-renowned Cardanus to be spelt Cardamus
in at least three places, were not this gross ignorance of course
attributable only to the printer.]

It is stated by Dr. Leo-Wolf, that Professor Joerg, of Leipsic, has
proved many of Hahnemann's quotations from old authors to be
adulterate and false. What particular instances he has pointed out I
have no means of learning. And it is probably wholly impossible on
this side of the Atlantic, and even in most of the public libraries
of Europe, to find anything more than a small fraction of the
innumerable obscure publications which the neglect of grocers and
trunkmakers has spared to be ransacked by the all-devouring genius of
Homoeopathy. I have endeavored to verify such passages as my own
library afforded me the means of doing. For some I have looked in
vain, for want, as I am willing to believe, of more exact references.
But this I am able to affirm, that, out of the very small number
which I have been able, to trace back to their original authors, I
have found two to be wrongly quoted, one of them being a gross

The first is from the ancient Roman author, Caelius Aurelianus; the
second from the venerable folio of Forestus. Hahnemann uses the
following expressions,--if he is not misrepresented in the English
Translation of the 'Organon': "Asclepiades on one occasion cured an
inflammation of the brain by administering a small quantity of wine."
After correcting the erroneous reference of the Translator, I can
find no such case alluded to in the chapter. But Caelius Aurelianus
mentions two modes of treatment employed by Asclepiades, into both of
which the use of wine entered, as being "in the highest degree
irrational and dangerous." [Caelius Aurel. De Morb. Acut. et
Chron. lib. I. cap. xv. not xvi. Amsterdam. Wetstein, 1755.]

In speaking of the oil of anise-seed, Hahnemann says that Forestus
observed violent colic caused by its administration. But, as the
author tells the story, a young man took, by the counsel of a
surgeon, an acrid and virulent medicine, the name of which is not
given, which brought on a most cruel fit of the gripes and colic.
After this another surgeon was called, who gave him oil of anise-seed
and wine, "which increased his suffering." [Observ. et Curat. Med.
lib. XXI obs. xiii. Frankfort, 1614.] Now if this was the
Homoeopathic remedy, as Hahnemann pretends, it might be a fair
question why the young man was not cured by it. But it is a much
graver question why a man who has shrewdness and learning enough to
go so far after his facts, should think it right to treat them with
such astonishing negligence or such artful unfairness.

Even if every word he had pretended to take from his old authorities
were to be found in them, even if the authority of every one of these
authors were beyond question, the looseness with which they are used
to prove whatever Hahnemann chooses is beyond the bounds of
credibility. Let me give one instance to illustrate the character of
this man's mind. Hahnemann asserts, in a note annexed to the 110th
paragraph of the "Organon," that the smell of the rose will cause
certain persons to faint. And he says in the text that substances
which produce peculiar effects of this nature on particular
constitutions cure the same symptoms in people in general. Then in
another note to the same paragraph he quotes the following fact from
one of the last sources one would have looked to for medical
information, the Byzantine Historians.

"It was by these means (i.e. Homoeopathically) that the Princess
Eudosia with rose-water restored a person who had fainted!"

Is it possible that a man who is guilty of such pedantic folly as
this,--a man who can see a confirmation of his doctrine in such a
recovery as this,--a recovery which is happening every day, from a
breath of air, a drop or two of water, untying a bonnet-string,
loosening a stay-lace, and which can hardly help happening, whatever
is done,--is it possible that a man, of whose pages, not here and
there one, but hundreds upon hundreds are loaded with such
trivialities, is the Newton, the Columbus, the Harvey of the
nineteenth century!

The whole process of demonstration he employs is this. An experiment
is instituted with some drug upon one or more healthy persons.
Everything that happens for a number of days or weeks is, as we have
seen, set down as an effect of the medicine. Old volumes are then
ransacked promiscuously, and every morbid sensation or change that
anybody ever said was produced by the drug in question is added to
the list of symptoms. By one or both of these methods, each of the
sixty-four substances enumerated by Hahnemann is shown to produce a
very large number of symptoms, the lowest in his scale being ninety-
seven, and the highest fourteen hundred and ninety-one. And having
made out this list respecting any drug, a catalogue which, as you may
observe in any Homoeopathic manual, contains various symptoms
belonging to every organ of the body, what can be easier than to find
alleged cures in every medical author which can at once be attributed
to the Homoeopathic principle; still more if the grave of
extinguished credulity is called upon to give up its dead bones as
living witnesses; and worst of all, if the monuments of the past are
to be mutilated in favor of "the sole law of Nature in therapeutics"?

There are a few familiar facts of which great use has been made as an
entering wedge for the Homoeopathic doctrine. They have been
suffered to pass current so long that it is time they should be
nailed to the counter, a little operation which I undertake, with
perfect cheerfulness, to perform for them.

The first is a supposed illustration of the Homoeopathic law found in
the precept given for the treatment of parts which have been frozen,
by friction with snow or similar means. But we deceive ourselves by
names, if we suppose the frozen part to be treated by cold, and not
by heat. The snow may even be actually warmer than the part to which
it is applied. But even if it were at the same temperature when
applied, it never did and never could do the least good to a frozen
part, except as a mode of regulating the application of what? of
heat. But the heat must be applied gradually, just as food must be
given a little at a time to those perishing with hunger. If the
patient were brought into a warm room, heat would be applied very
rapidly, were not something interposed to prevent this, and allow its
gradual admission. Snow or iced water is exactly what is wanted; it
is not cold to the part; it is very possibly warm, on the contrary,
for these terms are relative, and if it does not melt and let the
heat in, or is not taken away, the part will remain frozen up until
doomsday. Now the treatment of a frozen limb by heat, in large or
small quantities, is not Homoeopathy.

The next supposed illustration of the Homoeopathic law is the alleged
successful management of burns, by holding them to the fire. This is
a popular mode of treating those burns which are of too little
consequence to require any more efficacious remedy, and would
inevitably get well of themselves, without any trouble being bestowed
upon them. It produces a most acute pain in the part, which is
followed by some loss of sensibility, as happens with the eye after
exposure to strong light, and the ear after being subjected to very
intense sounds. This is all it is capable of doing, and all further
notions of its efficacy must be attributed merely to the vulgar love
of paradox. If this example affords any comfort to the
Homoeopathist, it seems as cruel to deprive him of it as it would be
to convince the mistress of the smoke-jack or the flatiron that the
fire does not literally "draw the fire out," which is her hypothesis.

But if it were true that frost-bites were cured by cold and burns by
heat, it would be subversive, so far as it went, of the great
principle of Homoeopathy.

For you will remember that this principle is that Like cures Like,
and not that Same cures Same; that there is resemblance and not
identity between the symptoms of the disease and those produced by
the drug which cures it, and none have been readier to insist upon
this distinction than the Homoeopathists themselves. For if Same
cures Same, then every poison must be its own antidote,--which is
neither a part of their theory nor their so-called experience. They
have been asked often enough, why it was that arsenic could not cure
the mischief which arsenic had caused, and why the infectious cause
of small-pox did not remedy the disease it had produced, and then
the; were ready enough to see the distinction I have pointed out. O
no! it was not the hair of the same dog, but only of one very much
like him!

A third instance in proof of the Homoeopathic law is sought for in
the acknowledged efficacy of vaccination. And how does the law apply
to this? It is granted by the advocates of Homoeopathy that there is
a resemblance between the effects of the vaccine virus on a person in
health and the symptoms of small-pox. Therefore, according to the
rule, the vaccine virus will cure the small-pox, which, as everybody
knows, is entirely untrue. But it prevents small-pox, say the
Homoeopathists. Yes, and so does small-pox prevent itself from ever
happening again, and we know just as much of the principle involved
in the one case as in the other. For this is only one of a series of
facts which we are wholly unable to explain. Small-pox, measles,
scarlet-fever, hooping-cough, protect those who have them once from
future attacks; but nettle-rash and catarrh and lung fever, each of
which is just as Homoeopathic to itself as any one of the others,
have no such preservative power. We are obliged to accept the fact,
unexplained, and we can do no more for vaccination than for the rest.

I come now to the most directly practical point connected with the
subject, namely,--

What is the state of the evidence as to the efficacy of the proper
Homoeopathic treatment in the cure of diseases.

As the treatment adopted by the Homoeopathists has been almost
universally by means of the infinitesimal doses, the question of
their efficacy is thrown open, in common with that of the truth of
their fundamental axiom, as both are tested in practice.

We must look for facts as to the actual working of Homoeopathy to
three sources.

1. The statements of the unprofessional public.

2. The assertions of Homoeopathic practitioners.

3. The results of trials by competent and honest physicians, not
pledged to the system.

I think, after what we have seen of medical facts, as they are
represented by incompetent persons, we are disposed to attribute
little value to all statements of wonderful cures, coming from those
who have never been accustomed to watch the caprices of disease, and
have not cooled down their young enthusiasm by the habit of tranquil
observation. Those who know nothing of the natural progress of a
malady, of its ordinary duration, of its various modes of
terminating, of its liability to accidental complications, of the
signs which mark its insignificance or severity, of what is to be
expected of it when left to itself, of how much or how little is to
be anticipated from remedies, those who know nothing or next to
nothing of all these things, and who are in a great state of
excitement from benevolence, sympathy, or zeal for a new medical
discovery, can hardly be expected to be sound judges of facts which
have misled so many sagacious men, who have spent their lives in the
daily study and observation of them. I believe that, after having
drawn the portrait of defunct Perkinism, with its five thousand
printed cures, and its million and a half computed ones, its miracles
blazoned about through America, Denmark, and England; after relating
that forty years ago women carried the Tractors about in their
pockets, and workmen could not make them fast enough for the public
demand; and then showing you, as a curiosity, a single one of these
instruments, an odd one of a pair, which I obtained only by a lucky
accident, so utterly lost is the memory of all their wonderful
achievements; I believe, after all this, I need not waste time in
showing that medical accuracy is not to be looked for in the florid
reports of benevolent associations, the assertions of illustrious
patrons, the lax effusions of daily journals, or the effervescent
gossip of the tea-table.

Dr. Hering, whose name is somewhat familiar to the champions of
Homoeopathy, has said that "the new healing art is not to be judged
by its success in isolated cases only, but according to its success
in general, its innate truth, and the incontrovertible nature of its
innate principles."

We have seen something of "the incontrovertible nature of its innate
principles," and it seems probable, on the whole, that its success in
general must be made up of its success in isolated cases. Some
attempts have been made, however, to finish the whole matter by
sweeping statistical documents, which are intended to prove its
triumphant success over the common practice.

It is well known to those who have had the good fortune to see the
"Homoeopathic Examiner," that this journal led off, in its first
number, with a grand display of everything the newly imported
doctrine had to show for itself. It is well remarked, on the twenty-
third page of this article, that "the comparison of bills of
mortality among an equal number of sick, treated by divers methods,
is a most poor and lame way to get at conclusions touching principles
of the healing art." In confirmation of which, the author proceeds
upon the twenty-fifth page to prove the superiority of the
Homoeopathic treatment of cholera, by precisely these very bills of
mortality. Now, every intelligent physician is aware that the poison
of cholera differed so much in its activity at different times and,
places, that it was next to impossible to form any opinion as to the
results of treatment, unless every precaution was taken to secure the
most perfectly corresponding conditions in the patients treated, and
hardly even then. Of course, then, a Russian Admiral, by the name of
Mordvinov, backed by a number of so-called physicians practising in
Russian villages, is singularly competent to the task of settling the
whole question of the utility of this or that kind of treatment; to
prove that, if not more than eight and a half per cent. of those
attacked with the disease perished, the rest owed their immunity to
Hahnemann. I can remember when more than a hundred patients in a
public institution were attacked with what, I doubt not, many
Homoeopathic physicians (to say nothing of Homoeopathic admirals)
would have called cholera, and not one of them died, though treated
in the common way, and it is my firm belief that, if such a result
had followed the administration of the omnipotent globules, it would
have been in the mouth of every adept in Europe, from Quin of London
to Spohr of Gandersheim. No longer ago than yesterday, in one of the
most widely circulated papers of this city, there was published an
assertion that the mortality in several Homoeopathic Hospitals was
not quite five in a hundred, whereas, in what are called by the
writer Allopathic Hospitals, it is said to be eleven in a hundred.
An honest man should be ashamed of such an argumentum ad ignorantiam.
The mortality of a hospital depends not merely on the treatment of
the patients, but on the class of diseases it is in the habit of
receiving, on the place where it is, on the season, and many other
circumstances. For instance, there are many hospitals in the great
cities of Europe that receive few diseases of a nature to endanger
life, and, on the other hand, there are others where dangerous
diseases are accumulated out of the common proportion. Thus, in the
wards of Louis, at the Hospital of La Pitie, a vast number of
patients in the last stages of consumption were constantly entering,
to swell the mortality of that hospital. It was because he was known
to pay particular attention to the diseases of the chest that
patients laboring under those fatal affections to an incurable extent
were so constantly coming in upon him. It is always a miserable
appeal to the thoughtlessness of the vulgar, to allege the naked fact
of the less comparative mortality in the practice of one hospital or
of one physician than another, as an evidence of the superiority of
their treatment. Other things being equal, it must always be
expected that those institutions and individuals enjoying to the
highest degree the confidence of the community will lose the largest
proportion of their patients; for the simple reason that they will
naturally be looked to by those suffering from the gravest class of
diseases; that many, who know that they are affected with mortal
disease, will choose to die under their care or shelter, while the
subjects of trifling maladies, and merely troublesome symptoms, amuse
themselves to any extent among the fancy practitioners. When,
therefore, Dr. Mublenbein, as stated in the "Homoeopathic Examiner,"
and quoted in yesterday's "Daily Advertiser," asserts that the
mortality among his patients is only one per cent. since he has
practised Homoeopathy, whereas it was six per cent. when he employed
the common mode of practice, I am convinced by this, his own
statement, that the citizens of Brunswick, whenever they are
seriously sick, take good care not to send for Dr. Muhlenbein!

It is evidently impossible that I should attempt, within the compass
of a single lecture, any detailed examination of the very numerous
cases reported in the Homoeopathic Treatises and Journals. Having
been in the habit of receiving the French "Archives of Homoeopathic
Medicine" until the premature decease of that Journal, I have had the
opportunity of becoming acquainted somewhat with the style of these
documents, and experiencing whatever degree of conviction they were
calculated to produce. Although of course I do not wish any value to
be assumed for my opinion, such as it is, I consider that you are
entitled to hear it. So far, then, as I am acquainted with the
general character of the cases reported by the Homoeopathic
physicians, they would for the most part be considered as wholly
undeserving a place in any English, French, or American periodical of
high standing, if, instead of favoring the doctrine they were
intended to support, they were brought forward to prove the efficacy
of any common remedy administered by any common practitioner. There
are occasional exceptions to this remark; but the general truth of it
is rendered probable by the fact that these cases are always, or
almost always, written with the single object of showing the efficacy
of the medicine used, or the skill of the practitioner, and it is
recognized as a general rule that such cases deserve very little
confidence. Yet they may sound well enough, one at a time, to those
who are not fully aware of the fallacies of medical evidence. Let me
state a case in illustration. Nobody doubts that some patients
recover under every form of practice. Probably all are willing to
allow that a large majority, for instance, ninety in a hundred, of
such cases as a physician is called to in daily practice, would
recover, sooner or later, with more or less difficulty, provided
nothing were done to interfere seriously with the efforts of nature.

Suppose, then, a physician who has a hundred patients prescribes to
each of them pills made of some entirely inert substance, as starch,
for instance. Ninety of them get well, or if he chooses to use such
language, he cures ninety of them. It is evident, according to the
doctrine of chances, that there must be a considerable number of
coincidences between the relief of the patient and the administration
of the remedy. It is altogether probable that there will happen two
or three very striking coincidences out of the whole ninety cases, in
which it would seem evident that the medicine produced the relief,
though it had, as we assumed, nothing to do with it. Now suppose
that the physician publishes these cases, will they not have a
plausible appearance of proving that which, as we granted at the
outset, was entirely false? Suppose that instead of pills of starch
he employs microscopic sugarplums, with the five' million billion
trillionth part of a suspicion of aconite or pulsatilla, and then
publishes his successful cases, through the leaden lips of the press,
or the living ones of his female acquaintances,--does that make the
impression a less erroneous one? But so it is that in Homoeopathic
works and journals and gossip one can never, or next to never, find
anything but successful cases, which might do very well as a proof of
superior skill, did it not prove as much for the swindling
advertisers whose certificates disgrace so many of our newspapers.
How long will it take mankind to learn that while they listen to "the
speaking hundreds and units, who make the world ring "with the
pretended triumphs they have witnessed, the "dumb millions" of
deluded and injured victims are paying the daily forfeit of their
misplaced confidence!

I am sorry to see, also, that a degree of ignorance as to the natural
course of diseases is often shown in these published cases, which,
although it may not be detected by the unprofessional reader, conveys
an unpleasant impression to those who are acquainted with the
subject. Thus a young woman affected with jaundice is mentioned in
the German "Annals of Clinical Homoeopathy" as having been cured in
twenty-nine days by pulsatilla and nux vomica. Rummel, a well-known
writer of the same school, speaks of curing a case of jaundice in
thirty-four days by Homoeopathic doses of pulsatilla, aconite, and
cinchona. I happened to have a case in my own household, a few weeks
since, which lasted about ten days, and this was longer than I have
repeatedly seen it in hospital practice, so that it was nothing to
boast of.

Dr. Munneche of Lichtenburg in Saxony is called to a patient with
sprained ankle who had been a fortnight under the common treatment.
The patient gets well by the use of arnica in a little more than a
month longer, and this extraordinary fact is published in the French
"Archives of Homoeopathic Medicine."

In the same Journal is recorded the case of a patient who with
nothing more, so far as any proof goes, than inluenza, gets down to
her shop upon the sixth day.

And again, the cool way in which everything favorable in a case is
set down by these people entirely to their treatment, may be seen in
a case of croup reported in the "Homoeopathic Gazette" of Leipsic,
in which leeches, blistering, inhalation of hot vapor, and powerful
internal medicine had been employed, and yet the merit was all
attributed to one drop of some Homoeopathic fluid.

I need not multiply these quotations, which illustrate the grounds of
an opinion which the time does not allow me to justify more at
length; other such cases are lying open before me; there is no end to
them if more were wanted; for nothing is necessary but to look into
any of the numerous broken-down Journals of Homoeopathy, the volumes
of which may be found on the shelves of those curious in such

A number of public trials of Homoeopathy have been made in different
parts of the world. Six of these are mentioned in the Manifesto of
the "Homoeopathic Examiner." Now to suppose that any trial can
absolutely silence people, would be to forget the whole experience of
the past. Dr. Haygarth and Dr. Alderson could not stop the sale of
the five-guinea Tractors, although they proved that they could work
the same miracles with pieces of wood and tobacco-pipe. It takes
time for truth to operate as well as Homoeopathic globules. Many
persons thought the results of these trials were decisive enough of
the nullity of the treatment; those who wish to see the kind of
special pleading and evasion by which it is attempted to cover
results which, stated by the "Homoeopathic Examiner" itself, look
exceedingly like a miserable failure, may consult the opening
flourish of that Journal. I had not the intention to speak of these
public trials at all, having abundant other evidence on the point.
But I think it best, on the whole, to mention two of them in a few
words,--that instituted at Naples and that of Andral.

There have been few names in the medical profession, for the last
half century, so widely known throughout the world of science as that
of M. Esquirol, whose life was devoted to the treatment of insanity,
and who was without a rival in that department of practical medicine.
It is from an analysis communicated by him to the "Gazette Medicale
de Paris" that I derive my acquaintance with the account of the trial
at Naples by Dr. Panvini, physician to the Hospital della Pace. This
account seems to be entirely deserving of credit. Ten patients were
set apart, and not allowed to take any medicine at all,--much against
the wish of the Homoeopathic physician. All of them got well, and of
course all of them would have been claimed as triumphs if they had
been submitted to the treatment. Six other slight cases (each of
which is specified) got well under the Homoeopathic treatment, none
of its asserted specific effects being manifested.

All the rest were cases of grave disease; and so far as the trial,
which was interrupted about the fortieth day, extended, the patients
grew worse, or received no benefit. A case is reported on the page
before me of a soldier affected with acute inflammation in the chest,
who took successively aconite, bryonia, nux vomica, and pulsatilla,
and after thirty-eight days of treatment remained without any
important change in his disease. The Homoeopathic physician who
treated these patients was M. de Horatiis, who had the previous year
been announcing his wonderful cures. And M. Esquirol asserted to the
Academy of Medicine in 1835, that this M. de Horatiis, who is one of
the prominent personages in the "Examiner's" Manifesto published in
1840, had subsequently renounced Homoeopathy. I may remark, by the
way, that this same periodical, which is so very easy in explaining
away the results of these trials, makes a mistake of only six years
or a little more as to the time when this at Naples was instituted.

M. Andral, the "eminent and very enlightened allopathist" of the
"Homoeopathic Examiner," made the following statement in March, 1835,
to the Academy of Medicine: "I have submitted this doctrine to
experiment; I can reckon at this time from one hundred and thirty to
one hundred and forty cases, recorded with perfect fairness, in a
great hospital, under the eye of numerous witnesses; to avoid every
objection--I obtained my remedies of M. Guibourt, who keeps a
Homoeopathic pharmacy, and whose strict exactness is well known; the
regimen has been scrupulously observed, and I obtained from the
sisters attached to the hospital a special regimen, such as Hahnemann
orders. I was told, however, some months since, that I had not been
faithful to all the rules of the doctrine. I therefore took the
trouble to begin again; I have studied the practice of the Parisian
Homoeopathists, as I had studied their books, and I became convinced
that they treated their patients as I had treated mine, and I affirm
that I have been as rigorously exact in the treatment as any other

And he expressly asserts the entire nullity of the influence of all
the Homoeopathic remedies tried by him in modifying, so far as he
could observe, the progress or termination of diseases. It deserves
notice that he experimented with the most boasted substances,--
cinchona, aconite, mercury, bryonia, belladonna. Aconite, for
instance, he says he administered in more than forty cases of that
collection of feverish symptoms in which it exerts so much power,
according to Hahnemann, and in not one of them did it have the
slightest influence, the pulse and heat remaining as before.

These statements look pretty honest, and would seem hard to be
explained away, but it is calmly said that he "did not know enough of
the method to select the remedies with any tolerable precision."
["Homoeopathic Examiner, vol. i. p. 22.]

"Nothing is left to the caprice of the physician." (In a word,
instead of being dependent upon blind chance, that there is an
infallible law, guided by which; the physician MUST select the proper
remedies.') ['Ibid.,' in a notice of Menzel's paper.] Who are they
that practice Homoeopathy, and say this of a man with the Materia
Medica of Hahnemann lying before him? Who are they that send these
same globules, on which he experimented, accompanied by a little
book, into families, whose members are thought competent to employ
them, when they deny any such capacity to a man whose life has been
passed at the bedside of patients, the most prominent teacher in the
first Medical Faculty in the world, the consulting physician of the
King of France, and one of the most renowned practical writers, not
merely of his nation, but of his age? I leave the quibbles by which
such persons would try to creep out from under the crushing weight of
these conclusions to the unfortunates who suppose that a reply is
equivalent to an answer.

Dr. Baillie, one of the physicians in the great Hotel Dieu of Paris,
invited two Homoeopathic practitioners to experiment in his wards.
One of these was Curie, now of London, whose works are on the
counters of some of our bookstores, and probably in the hands of some
of my audience. This gentleman, whom Dr. Baillie declares to be an
enlightened man, and perfectly sincere in his convictions, brought
his own medicines from the pharmacy which furnished Hahnemann
himself, and employed them for four or five months upon patients in
his ward, and with results equally unsatisfactory, as appears from
Dr. Baillie's statement at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine. And
a similar experiment was permitted by the Clinical Professor of the
Hotel Dieu of Lyons, with the same complete failure.

But these are old and prejudiced practitioners. Very well, then take
the statement of Dr. Fleury, a most intelligent young physician, who
treated homoeopathically more than fifty patients, suffering from
diseases which it was not dangerous to treat in this way, taking
every kind of precaution as to regimen, removal of disturbing
influences, and the state of the atmosphere, insisted upon by the
most vigorous partisans of the doctrine, and found not the slightest
effect produced by the medicines. And more than this, read nine of
these cases, which he has published, as I have just done, and observe
the absolute nullity of aconite, belladonna, and bryonia, against the
symptoms over which they are pretended to exert such palpable, such
obvious, such astonishing influences. In the view of these
statements, it is impossible not to realize the entire futility of
attempting to silence this asserted science by the flattest and most
peremptory results of experiment. Were all the hospital physicians
of Europe and America to devote themselves, for the requisite period,
to this sole pursuit, and were their results to be unanimous as to
the total worthlessness of the whole system in practice, this
slippery delusion would slide through their fingers without the
slightest discomposure, when, as they supposed, they had crushed
every joint in its tortuous and trailing body.

3. I have said, that to show the truth of the Homoeopathic doctrine,
as announced by Hahnemann, it would be necessary to show, in the
third place, that remedies never cure diseases when they are not
capable of producing similar symptoms! The burden of this somewhat
comprehensive demonstration lying entirely upon the advocates of this
doctrine, it may be left to their mature reflections.

It entered into my original plan to treat of the doctrine relating to
Psora, or itch,--an almost insane conception, which I am glad to get
rid of, for this is a subject one does not care to handle without
gloves. I am saved this trouble, however, by finding that many of
the disciples of Hahnemann, those disciples the very gospel of whose
faith stands upon his word, make very light of his authority on this
point, although he himself says, "It has cost me twelve years of
study and research to trace out the source of this incredible number
of chronic affections, to discover this great truth, which remained
concealed from all my predecessors and contemporaries, to establish
the basis of its demonstration, and find out, at the same time, the
curative medicines that were fit to combat this hydra in all its
different forms."

But, in the face of all this, the following remarks are made by
Wolff, of Dresden, whose essays, according to the editor of the
"Homoeopathic Examiner," "represent the opinions of a large majority
of Homoeopathists in Europe."

"It cannot be unknown to any one at all familiar with Homoeopathic
literature, that Hahnemann's idea of tracing the large majority of
chronic diseases to actual itch has met with the greatest opposition
from Homoeopathic physicians themselves." And again, "If the Psoric
theory has led to no proper schism, the reason is to be found in the
fact that it is almost without any influence in practice."

We are told by Jahr, that Dr. Griesselich, "Surgeon to the Grand Duke
of Baden," and a "distinguished" Homoeopathist, actually asked
Hahnemann for the proof that chronic diseases, such as dropsy, for
instance, never arise from any other cause than itch; and that,
according to common report, the venerable sage was highly incensed
(fort courrouce) with Dr. Hartmann, of Leipsic, another
"distinguished" Homoeopathist, for maintaining that they certainly
did arise from other causes.


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