Shall we Retain our Organization?
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
That weak-kneed Eclectics are not a new genus with us is evident from this editorial penned at the close of the Civil War. Even then the cry that Eclectics had accomplished their mission was in the air, for had not the lancet and blister been laid aside and the dosage of calomel been slightly reduced? Unflinchingly Dr. Scudder shows the duty toward Eclecticism and rightly points out the great work to be accomplished—that of the development of our indigenous materia medica, a work that was then well under way under Dr. Scudder's leadership. Prophetically he declares that at least a century will be required to accomplish that work. This is still one of the great missions of our school, and this editorial may be profitably read and reread by the Eclectics of to-day who may be easily led into the old school, where they are neither respected nor wanted. The regular school seeks not the man, but to destroy sectarianism. Such a man is like unto the "man without a country," and is to be pitied for his weakness.—Ed. Gleaner.
SHALL WE RETAIN OUR ORGANIZATION ?—We have some "weak-kneed brethren" in our ranks, who are unable to see the propriety of continuing Eclecticism as a distinct system of medicine, and who favor the dropping of our distinctive doctrines and name, and the silent and graceful falling into the arms of regular medicine. Such take it for granted that we have accomplished our mission, and, in proof, point to the entire discardment of blood-letting as a remedial measure, the very rare use of mercurials, arsenic and antimony, and the radical change in both the theory and practice of our old-school friends. We are glad that such marked changes have taken place, and that a rational practice of medicine is being adopted in place of the absurd routine of forty years ago. We are glad that the spirit of inquiry and improvement has taken the place of blind dependance upon authority. We reap the benefit of their investigations, and give them credit for it, but because they are advancing we see no reason for our standing still.
The difference between Eclecticism and old-school medicine is still very marked. Though we have many medicines in common, and although they (the more liberal and intelligent) have adopted many of our remedies, we yet have resources that give us greater success in the practice of medicine. Not only do we use different means, but our principles of treatment are in many cases decidedly different.
Such movements as the rise of so large a sect as the Eclectics, either in medicine, religion or politics, is evidence of the imperfection of the generally received doctrines, of the need of reform, and in the providence of God it is continued until its work is accomplished. When done, its members lose interest in it; a spirit of coldness takes the place of zeal and propagandism, and it is lost in the old or some new movement. Let us ask ourselves these questions, then: is our work accomplished? Have we lost all interest in Eclecticism as a means of progress? A very important part of our work in this country was the instruction of the popular mind with reference to the evil results of blood-letting and the use of mercurials, etc., in the treatment of disease. This has been accomplished to a great extent, and physicians have been forced by popular opinion to abandon them. Our greatest work has been the development of our indigenous materia medica, and though much has been accomplished, much more remains to be done. If any person doubts our progress in this, we would refer them to our literature of the last ten years, as proof that our progress is now more rapid than it has ever been before. We are constantly introducing new remedies, and determining more accurately the value of the old. The field is so great, however, that a century would be insufficient to complete the work.
Have we lost interest in Eclecticism as a means of progress? I can safely say that we have not. From all parts of the country we receive words of encouragement and evidence of a strong love and abiding trust in this reform. Hundreds of earnest men are laboring with the same zeal that was manifested twenty years ago, and hundreds more are being awakened from the torpor into which they had fallen by reason of the quarrelling of those who occupied the position of leaders. There are still elements of weakness in our ranks, but we are satisfied that it will require but a short time to rid ourselves of these.
All efforts to carry Eclectics over to old-school will fail. They do not want us, we do not want them. We gain their respect by a manly and open maintenance of our doctrines; we become objects of ridicule whenever we truckle for their favor. They are the most powerful because most numerous, and as is always the case where there is a spirit of rivalry and opposition, they exert that power to our disadvantage. Yet if we compare our present position with what it was even twenty years ago, we must be surprised at our increase in numbers, and favorable condition.
Labor is the price of success. Do we wish to be stronger, we must increase our efforts as in former years, to instruct capable young men to fill the places that are vacant all around us. Increase of numbers and increase of interest will give us that position that we could not otherwise obtain. Let our old-school friends fill the positions in the army if they choose, for there is neither honor nor profit in it. It is better for Eclectics to remain at home and build up for themselves a practice and reputation which will last for a lifetime, rather than to labor for an experience that will prove of no value, and a name that will be always unenviable because disgraced by incompetent men.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1865.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.