Exclusive Privileges Unconstitutional.
Selected writings of John King.
The rights of man, as he understood them, lay very close to the heart of Professor King. Any deed or measure that jeopardized such rights aroused every fiber in his liberty-loving make-up. Special privileges he regarded as un-American and inherited from the Old World systems of government and from the days of feudalism. At the Cincinnati convention of the National Eclectic Medical Association, held in 1884, he delivered his memorable Address on Special Medical Legislation. This put a powerful weapon in the hands of those who were opposed to special privilege and legislative espionage. From this address we have selected the following thirteen abstracts, each complete in itself. We have taken the liberty of supplying titles (not in the original) for each of these selections, in order to facilitate their use and ready reference. The titles include the following: Exclusive Privileges Unconstitutional; Special Legislation a Curse to Any Country; The Common Interests; Who Ask for Protection?; Irregulars; The Cunning of the Serpent; Combating for a Principle; The Irregular Practitioner; Sacred Rights and Constitutional Liberty; A Union of Medicine and State; A Positive Admission of Weakness; Special Medication Means License; and Adherence to Principle.
The first paper shows the conditions that faced the practitioner in the first half of the last century and notes the awakening of legislative bodies to the injustice of the situation. We may well include here the words of Dr. King, in The Coming Freeman (page 13), which read: "There is no divine right of kings, legislatures, or Presidents to rule the earth, to tax citizens, to hold their fellow-men as slaves, to grant privileges to some not accorded to all, nor to make or unmake laws at pleasure."—Ed. Gleaner.
EXCLUSIVE PRIVILEGES UNCONSTITUTIONAL.— "Some fifty or sixty years ago, the Old School physicians of that period had legislative enactments in nearly every State in the Union, prohibiting any and every person not of their school from practicing medicine or surgery, under certain penalties. They thus reduced the public to the alternative of employing them, or else to have no physician at all. 'You must take our medicine—you must be treated by our mode of practice—for nobody else except one of us shall doctor you; if we can not cure you, you must die—you can not have anybody else.' This was the purport of the laws they had procured, and the consequence of such legislation was illiberality, misrepresentation, and persecution of and towards all persons who dared to think or act for themselves in medical matters; good, honorable citizens were subjected to a system of espionage equal to that of the most despotic countries in the world, and fines and imprisonment were inflicted upon them regardless of humanity, justice, or personal rights.
"The attention of our various Legislatures having been called to this obnoxious and unwarranted legislation, and to these despotic enactments, they were not slow to ascertain that the Constitution of these United States guarantees equally to every individual citizen certain inalienable rights and privileges, and that if by legislative enactments any citizen be deprived of the exercise of such rights under certain penalties, and the exclusive privilege to exercise them be granted to another—such a law or enactment must necessarily be unconstitutional and could not be sustained by any court or jury. And under these constitutional rights, acknowledged by these legislators, many of our citizens have for various and good reasons entered into medical practice without having obtained diplomas. They have proven to be excellent, law-abiding citizens, successful practitioners, have creditably held public official positions, and have even occupied seats in our Legislatures. Some among them have been in the practice of medicine for many years, and have not been considered as impostors and criminals until the recent unjust and arbitrary legislation of the States in which they reside— 'the statutory invasion of rights of persons' —has attempted to make them such by interfering with and depriving them of that protection in their pursuits which they had previously enjoyed as honorable citizens and legal voters, and to which protection, under the Constitution of their country, they are most undoubtedly entitled.
"These Legislatures also observed that for certain individuals to have the exclusive privilege granted to them by law to exercise any art, trade, or profession, with all the advantages to be derived from it, whilst others equally competent and as well qualified should be debarred therefrom under certain penalties, was not only unjust toward the public at large, but that it laid the foundation for an odious monopoly with all its aristocratical, dictatorial, and dogmatic power. Certainly no particular art or science could be benefited in this way, as the security which such monopolists would feel under legal protection would tend to beget an indifference and carelessness that would effectually serve to produce a retrograde rather than a progressive effect; and which, indeed, was the actual condition of Old School medicine in this country at the time such unconstitutional legislation was in force.
"Would the intelligent citizens of any commercial city in the United States quietly and patiently submit and consider it right that the Legislature of their State should enact a law granting to A. B., G. T., C. R., and such other persons as they chose to authorize the exclusive right to purchase and sell all the flour that came to their market, prohibiting all others from doing so under severe penalties? And further that the said A. B., G. T., and C. R. should have full power and authority to furnish the kind and quality of flour they pleased, and to charge the prices they saw fit; that they should likewise direct and instruct how it should be prepared, used, or applied; and any other person doing so should be subject to prosecution and adjudged guilty of an offense punishable by fine and imprisonment, or perhaps (through clemency), in lieu thereof, they should not be entitled to receive any compensation for their services.—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.