Special Legislation Means License.
Selected writings of John King.
The Constitutions of the United States and of the individual States are in their very nature contracts between the people at large and their respective governments. They can be no more justly broken by the one than the other. Dr. King contended that an individual had a perfect right under the Constitution to make a living in any manner he saw fit so long as he committed no wrong in its performance. Only when a crime is committed can one be punished therefor; not for the peaceful pursuit of happiness. That a diploma does not permit one to practice in many States is now true, but in addition a license must be procured. This Dr. King believed was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and degrading to the spirit of free institutions.—Ed. Gleaner.
SPECIAL LEGISLATION MEANS LICENSE.— "As Christians are all struggling for salvation, each according to his own belief and understanding of the Scripture under the several names of Roman Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc., so physicians are likewise struggling to overcome disease and lessen human suffering each according to his understanding and belief of therapeutics under the names of Old School, Homoeopaths, Eclectics, etc., and neither the interests nor the elevation of either of these require any special legislation. Special legislation means license. License implies a legal privilege to do that which everybody else is prohibited from doing; and it generally implies that the licensed are legally responsible for the faithful performance of that which they have been authorised to do by license. The giving, or what is more common, the selling of licenses is always preceded by restricting laws—laws which prohibit the people from doing that which they want done—which it is necessary should be done.
"Restrictive laws are enacted for purposes of revenue; generally for the purpose of taxing the people indirectly for the support of the governments that make the laws; but sometimes as a grant, as a special grant or privilege to particular individuals or classes of individuals. Licenses sold by a government, such as butchers', cabmen's, etc.; licenses for selling spirituous liquors, gunpowder, etc., and the appointment of inspectors, are of the former class. They are for purposes of revenue of indirect taxation. Whatever may be the pretext for making these restrictive laws—whether it be the promotion of morals, the health of the people, or public security—or whatever may be the method adopted to obtain the consequent revenue—whether by selling the license for a specified sum or by receiving a percentage on what the licensed party collects under the license, their character is not changed; they are for revenue by indirect taxation, and the individuals holding inspectors' 'warrants' or licenses, which they have bought, are held responsible for their deeds performed under the authority thus derived.
"Licenses for engaging in a particular trade or profession, in a particular place, where the members of the particular trade or profession are authorized to grant or sell the license, are of the latter class. They are special grants, are privileges granted to particular individuals or classes for their especial benefit—such as sought for by the petitions and bills of Old School physicians heretofore referred to—whatever may be the pretext offered and set forth as a justification for such special legislation, whether it be the promotion or the protection of mechanics, as was set forth in Great Britain as a reason for prohibiting every man from commencing business as a mechanic until he had labored at the business through a seven years' apprenticeship and received a certificate or license to that effect from those who live by the same trade; or whether it be the protection of the public against imposition, as set forth by one school of physicians in this country, the character of the grant is not altered; it is a special privilege to levy an indirect tax and to collect it. It is of feudal origin and is based on the assumption that man is not capable of taking care of himself; therefore he needs a master or law to take care of him and point out what he must or must not do."—KING, Address on Special Medical Legislation, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1884.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.