Eclecticism vs. Old School.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
This keen and incisive editorial shows well the fearlessness with which Dr. Scudder met current problems. In the early years of the Rebellion it was with great difficulty that Eclectic physicians could obtain appointments as army surgeons, and when a few were so appointed they were made the target for medical oppression from the dominant party as soon as it discovered their medical allegiance. This bar to public preferment was intended as a deathblow to Eclecticism, but it had the opposite effect of creating sympathy and upbuilding private practice. Dr. Scudder showed clearly that Eclecticism was far from being a corpse; in fact, that it was not even in a dying mood. The last paragraph is a keen thrust of historic comparison.—Ed. Gleaner.
ECLECTICISM VERSUS OLD SCHOOL.—Our Old School neighbors have been bragging a great deal of late about the deathblow they are striking at Eclecticism in the appointment of army surgeons. We admit that it has been a deathblow, but instead of falling upon us, it has fallen upon the army. It is true they have manifested a spirit of intolerance that would have conferred a saintship on a member of the Inquisition, and if they can obtain any satisfaction from the fact that they have prevented true and loyal men from being of service to the neglected sick and wounded, who have volunteered to defend the Union, they are welcome to it. We have, however, surgeons in the army, and quite a number of them at that, but they are so hampered by their Old School associates, that their positions are not very pleasant. For instance, a very estimable and talented man, surgeon of one of the Indiana regiments in Tennessee, let it be known that he was an Eclectic. Immediately the brigade surgeon called a special commission to examine him as to his qualifications, to the great glorification of some of his co-laborers, who were notoriously deficient. The result, notwithstanding the persevering efforts to catch the doctor, was a complete victory for him, as he knew more medicine than his examiners.
But how are they using us up? By the fearful mortality that follows their practice—or by the want of surgical skill exhibited, in the fact that with but sixty wounded in a regiment, with two surgeons, only one out of five had his wounds dressed on the fourth day? Is the surgery of this war anything to brag about? or is it the execration of Congress, of State Legislatures, of the army, of the people? In the Senate of the United States, June 11th, Mr. Wilson stated that there was great need of additional surgical aid in the army. He understood that some of the men wounded before Richmond had not had their wounds dressed for the first time until Saturday. Seven days after a battle, and the wounded uncared for! Is there a single instance in civilized warfare like this? no, not one. In the tremendous conflicts of Napoleon, in which there were three wounded where there was one in the Richmond fight, Baron Larrey and staff had the wounded dressed before the sun set the third day.
We wish it distinctly understood that we do not condemn all, for there are many talented, industrious, persevering, and kind men acting as surgeons, but not enough to relieve Old School medicine of the odium that must attach to the surgery of this war. But many are not satisfied with the positions which they have obtained to the exclusion of the Eclectics; they wish to be released—to obtain substitutes. How is this, gentlemen? is your patriotism flagging, or has the secular press come down too hard on you, or are you afraid the Eclectics will gain so strong a hold on the people in their private practice, that you will have nothing to fall back on when the war is ended.
We would suggest that you stick to it, since you have worked so hard to have the exclusive management. Your killing is agreeable to us, and we are willing to die in this way several times if it will benefit you any, or conduce to your happiness. Whilst you are running down in popular estimation, we are going up in private practice; whilst you furnish abundant evidence, in furloughed and discharged soldiers, in every neighborhood, of want of skill or therapeutic resources, we make a favorable impression by curing these cases. How long we will be in dying you can make up your mind from the evidence; we are very sorry that we can not accommodate you, but our dying mood has passed off.
Compare our colleges; whilst the Ohio Medical has been unable to pay the interest on its bonds for the last four years, and is now so deeply involved that it must go into liquidation, the Eclectic Medical Institute has paid its expenses, its debts, and its professors. How are our journals? whilst many of theirs have died outright, and others maintained a feeble existence, ours is a paying institution.
They do not all claim we are dying, however; some give us credit for considerable vitality. But they ask: why not bring your improvements into the Old School ranks, and become regulars? the regular profession have always been willing to advance, and eager to accept any improvement made in medicine, etc. This will do well enough to talk about, but the evidence reads to the contrary. Who persecuted Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood?—Old School doctors. Who persecuted Jenner? the same lamb-like individuals. Who hooted at Ambrose Pare for ligating arteries in amputation, instead of the regular plan of sticking the stump into boiling pitch?—these self-styled regulars. You have persecuted us, gentlemen, with a spirit as bitter as had those who crucified their maker; we have borne it with patience, knowing well that we returned your blows with interest. We now claim that we can affiliate with you only when you become thoroughly reformed, and stand on the broad platform of Eclecticism.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1862.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.