Selected writings of John King:
The custom of delivering Introductory Addresses of a general character but strongly contrasting the existing systems of medicine was common in the middle of the last century. The following paper is but a fragment of one of these lengthy productions with which the students had their baptism into the mysteries of medicine.—Ed. Gleaner.
EXTRACTS FROM INTRODUCTORY LECTURE.—Homoeopathy, Chrono-Thermalism, Physopathy, and some other sects all claim to be improvements upon the old Allopathic system, and though they may, perhaps, be preferable to this system, yet we object to them on account of their exclusivism, which would fetter the mind to certain fixed theories, whether right or wrong, instead of allowing it to roam in the field of close observation, and collect and classify truths as fast as presented. To be a physician in the true sense, the mind must be unrestrained and not warped by prejudice; there must be a freedom of choosing and selecting such medical views and such remedial agents, without regard to theory or devotedness to party, as have been fully demonstrated by facts and experience to be the most in accordance with nature, and the most effectual in restoring to health. Such a course is not permitted among the followers of these several medical parties—they are not allowed the advantages of valuable discoveries or improvements, which may be made by those who are exercising their intellects beyond the prescribed limits of sectarian doctrines—or should one of their adherents venture to rend the chains of mental despotism which bind him to party, the indignation, the slander, and the ridicule of all his professional brethren are at once levelled at him, to bring him to yield allegiance to their opinions and prejudices, or to effect his exile from the field of medical science.
This, however, is not the case with Eclecticism, unlike all sects in medicine, it admits free investigation upon all matters pertaining to the science; it does not hesitate to adopt whatever is found valuable, without regard to its origin, it combats error and supports truth and enslaves the mind to no one-sided opinions; and, if our friends prefer leaving our ranks to unite with some other party, although we may deeply regret such procedure, yet we aim no venomous shafts to destroy them; still we prefer that such change should be made openly and honorably, without fear or dissimulation.
Eclecticism widely differs from other systems, and especially from Allopathy, in its liberality and forbearance towards all who entertain opposite views and opinions. Eclectic students, instead of being taught to limit their thoughts and investigations within circumscribed bounds or rules, regardless of their correctness or falsity—the usual course pursued in medical teachings—are trained to cultivate and maintain the utmost freedom of mental action; to listen with patience and respect to the views and opinions of others, no matter how seriously they may conflict with their own; to test their truthfulness, and adopt them if good; or, if bad, to pass them by without regard to theories, preconceptions, sects, interest, popular favor, or anything, save a knowledge of truth, and truth alone.
Thus, like the industrious bee, we do not confine ourselves to the circumference of our own hive, as though heaven had specially favored us with all truth and knowledge in medical matters, to the exclusion of all others; but, knowing that they exist everywhere, however obscured they may be by error and ignorance, we roam abroad, and carefully gathering them, prepare from them the cera and honey, which adds strength and beauty to our Medical Reform. . . .
It is not only in the peculiar theories and treatment of disease that we recognize Eclecticism as an original and distinct system, but also in the useful and astonishing discoveries effected by it, and which, when we consider the limited period of its existence in comparison with that of other systems, are unparalleled in the records of medical history. The spirit of enquiry to which it gives birth has effected a knowledge of many invaluable agents never before known or recognized in medicine—and those which were pronounced inert by a sect devoted to the lancet and mercury have undergone new analyses and have been found active and efficacious. And were we at this time to divest ourselves of all theory, treatment, and remedies, save those original with Eclecticism, we would have ample means to treat all human afflictions with peerless success and safety.
One great objection, and I believe the only one, formerly urged by patients against our practice, was in relation to the large quantities of crude medicinal substances which was administered to them during an attack of illness. For a long time this was an almost insurmountable obstacle to the rapid progress of our cause, but the discovery of the concentrated remedies has completely obviated this difficulty, and has given a new impulse to Eclecticism. We are now enabled to combat disease with an almost unerring degree of success, and as our doses, although not infinitesimal, are yet very small, patients are pleased with the change, and no further murmurings are heard.
The credit of discovering and introducing the active or concentrated principles of indigenous medicinal plants justly belongs to the Eclectic school, notwithstanding they are employed and claimed by others. And the disposition to the investigation and manufacture of these concentrations, which is now manifested throughout the whole country by various sects, commenced only after several of our preparations had become established as valuable and important agents.—J. KING, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1853.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.