The histories of many men who have risen to eminence in some particular branch of science teach us that they have done so under the most unfavorable circumstances, and in spite of the greatest obstacles. Thrown in their way by fortune and by their own natural guardians. Samuel Hahnemann belonged to this class of great men.
Samuel Hahnemann’s father, an industrious but fortune-less painter on porcelain in the celebrated manufactory at Meissen, a charming little town on the banks of the Elbe, near Dresden, discouraged all his endeavors to qualify himself for a calling superior to that he himself pursued, though he seems in other respect to have had a great influence on the character of his exhortation to him exercise his independent judgment in all cases, and not to take anything on trust, but in every case to act as reflection told him was for the best `’Prove all things, hold fast that which is good,” was the substance of his advice. By this advice Samuel Hahnemann profited, and, notwithstanding his father’s prohibition to study, he pursued his strong inclination to do so in spite of all opposition and on occasion when it was thought he was sound asleep, Samuel Hahnemann was consuming the midnight oil over his books, in a lamp which he had himself constructed out of clay, as he was apprehensive being discovered had he used one of the household candlesticks. The little incident I have thought worth mentioning, as it exhibits his perseverance and indomitable steadfastness of purpose even at that early age. His aptitude for study excited the admiration of his schoolmaster, with whom be became a favorite, and who undertook to direct his studies, and encouraged him to a higher order of study than that constituted the usual curriculum of a Grammar School. This did not please his father, who several times removed him from the school and set him to some less intellectual work, but at length restored him to his favorite studies at the earnest request of his teacher, who, to meet the pecuniary difficult, instructed the Samuel until his twentieth year without remuneration.
On leaving school it was the custom to write an essay on some subject, and Samuel Hahnemann selected the somewhat unusual one of “ the wonderful structure of the human hand”, a theme which has in our own time been so beautifully discoursed upon by Sir Charles Bell, in his Bridgewater Treatise. Who would not like to wee how the boy Samuel Hahnemann treated this subject, his selection of which shown a strong bias towards natural science?
Twenty thalers (about 3 sterling the only patrimony he ever received) and his father’s blessing, were all he carried with him from Meissen to Leipzig, where it was his intention to study medicine. He was allowed free access to the various classes, and managed to support himself by teaching French and German and by translating books form the English. Form Leipzig he journeyed to Vienna, in order to witness the practice of medicine in the hospitals there, and had the good fortune to secure the friendship of Dr. Von Quarin, who treated him like a son, took great pains to teach him the art of medicine. By some roguery or other, however, lost the greater part of his money here, and so, after a sojourn in Vienna of only three quarters of a year, Samuel Hahnemann found himself forced to accept the situation of family physician and librarian to the Governor of Transylvania, with whom he resided in Hermannstadt two years, and whence he removed to graduate in Erlangen, in 1779.
“The longing of a Swiss for his rugged Alps,” he says, in an autobiographical fragment he has left behind him, “cannot be more irresistible than of a Saxon for his fatherland.” Accordingly to fatherland he went, and settled down to practice in a small town named Hettasted, but as there was no field for practice here, he removed, after three quarters of a year’s residence, to Dessau, in 1783. Here it was, he tells us, that he first turned his attention to chemistry; but at the end of this year he was appointed district physician in Gommern, wither he removed, and he married his first wife whose acquaintance he had previously made in Dessau, she being the daughter of an apothecary of that town; here also he wrote his first book on medicine, which gives the result of his experience of practice in Transylvania, and takes rather a desponding view of medical practice in general, and of his own in particular, as he candidly admits thet most of his cases would have done better had he let them alone. After remaining nearly three years in Gommern – where, he naively observes, “no physician had ever been before, and whose inhabitants had no desire for one” – he transferred his io Dresden; but with the exception of taking for a year the post of physician to the hospital during the illness of Dr. Wagner, he does not seem to have done much in the way of practice here. During the last years he lived in Dresden and the neighboring village of Lockwits he published many chemical works, the most celebrated of which is a treatise upon poisoning by arsenic, which id quoted to this day as an authority by the best writers on toxicology. This was probably the period he alludes to, in his letter to Hufeland, as that when he retired disgusted with the uncertainty of medical practice and devoted himself to chemistry and literature. That he made considerable progress in the former science, his valuable tests for ascertaining the purity of wine and of drugs and treatise on arsenic testify; and we have likewise the testimony of the Swedish oracle of chemistry. Berzelius, who, knowing well the value of v’s services to his own science, is reported to have said, “This man would have been a great chemist, had he not turned a great quack.” We may take Berzelius’s opinion as to Samuel Hahnemann’s skill in chemistry; but try his physic by other than chemical tests.
In 1789 Samuel Hahnemann removed to Leipzic, and in that year published his treatise on Syphilis, written in the year before in Lockowits which I must confess, betrays no lack of confidence in the powers of medicine, and shows an intimate acquaintance with the best works of that period on the subject. But what this work is chiefly remarkable for, is its description of a new preparation, know to this day in Germany by the name of Hahnemann’s soluble mercury, and some very novel views relative to the treatment of syphilis; the dose of mercury to be given (which is remarkably small), the signs when enough has been ingested for the cure of the diseases, and the denunciation of the local treatment of the primary sore, in 1790 he translated Cullen’s Materia Medica and discovered the fever-producing property of cinchona bark ; which was to him what the falling apply was to Newton, and the swinging lamp in the Baptistery at Pisa, to Galileo. From this single experiments his mood appears to have been impressed by the conviction, that the pathogenetic effects of medicines would give the key to their therapeutic power. He seems, how ever, to have contented himself with hunting up in the works of the ancient authors for hints respecting the physiological action of different substances, and to have tested them but sparingly, if at all, on his own person or on his friends; and in his researches, to the drugs than for those minute shades of symptoms which we find he so carefully recorded in his later years. In fact, he seems rather to have searched to those abstract forms of disease described in the works on nosology, than for analogues to the individual concrete cases of actual practice. I think any one who will read his first Essay on a New Principle, published in 1796, and the two papers, on Continued and Remittent Fevers, and on Hebdomadel Diseases, published in 1798, will agree with me in this opinion.
However, to return to our history Samuel Hahnemann seems to have had little or no opportunity to test his ideas by practice in Leipzic and the little village of Stottorits close by, and must have been completely occupied with his chemical lucubration’s and translation; for he wrote at his period a large number of chemical essays, and translated several chemical and other works, besides Cullen’s just named. He diligence must have been something extraordinary at this time, and no doubt his increasing family was a source of great anxiety to him, and caused him to slave to the extent of which we have evidence from his publication. How sorely the ‘res angusta domi’ must now have pressed on Samuel Hahnemann, longing as he was for the opportunity to pursue the investigations of which he had just discovered the clue, how his great but impatient soul must have chafed and fretted at that oppressive clog of poverty – that necessity for providing bread for the daily wants of his children, which hindered him from soaring on his eagle flight into unexplored – of regions discovery! And the poverty which Samuel Hahnemann endured was not merely an income so small as to prohibit and indulgence in the luxuries of life, but often, and actual want of the common necessaries of existence; and this with all anxiety of an increasing and helpless family of young children! And yet had it not been for his poverty, Samuel Hahnemann had probably never made the discovery on which his fame has built.. Naturalists tell us that the oyster forms the lustrous pearl found certain extraneous that intrude themselves within the cavity of its shell, and irritate and vex its tender flesh–and so it with the great and good; the vexations and annoyances of life are often the means of eliciting and developing those pearl of the mind that we admire and marvel at.
With what eagerness must not Samuel Hahnemann now have accepted the offer of the reigning Duke of Saxe Gotha to take the charge of an asylum for the insane in Georgenthal, in the Thuringian forest,– a charge which would give him a present competency, and, above all, leisure to pursue his how painfully interesting investigation, and an opportunity of putting his discovery to the test. Here, then, we find him settled for a time in 1792. A cure that he made in this institution of the Hanoverian minister Klolenburg, who had been rendered insane by a satire of Kotzebue’s, created, we are told, some sensation; and, from the account he published in 1796 of this case, we find that he was one of the earliest, if not the very first advocate for that system of the insane by mildness instead of coercion which has became all but universal. “I never allow any insane person,” he writes, “to be punished by blows or other painful corporeal inflictions, since there can be no punishment where there is no sense of responsibility ; and since such patients cannot be improved, hut must be rendered worse, by such rough treatment.” May we not, than, justly claim for Samuel Hahnemann the honour of being the first who advocated and practised the moral treatment of the insane? At all events, he may divide this honor with Pinel; for we find that toward the end of this same year 1792, when Hshemsnn was applying his principle of moral treatment to practice. Pinel made his first experiment of unchaining the mainace in the Blcentre. Samuel Hahnemann does not seem to have remained long in this situation; for the same year be removed to Walschleben, where he wrote the first part of the Friend of Health, a popular miscellany, on hygiene principally, and the first part of his Pharmaceutical Laxicon, and in 1794 he went first to Pyrmont, a little watering-place in Westphalia, and thereafter to Brunswick.
In 1795 he migrated to Wolfenbuttel, and thence to Konigslutter, where he remained until 1799. In this interval of comparative settlement he gave out the second parts of his Friend of Health and Pharmaceutical lexicon; and he had leisure to pursue his investigations and to write, in 1796, for his friend Hufeland’s journal, that remarkable Essay on a New Principle for ascertaining the Remedial power of Medicinal Substances, wherein he modestly but firmly expresses his belief that, for chronic diseases at least, medicines should be employed that have the power of producing similar affections in the healthy body ; and the following year he published in the same journal an interesting case illustrative of his views ; and wrote another essay on the irrationality of complicated systems of diet and regimen, and complex prescriptions. Several other essays followed this in rapid succession among which I may mention that on antidotes, and those on the treatment of fever and periodical diseases.” But already the hostility of his colleagues began to display itself. Samuel Hahnemann, who had now abandoned the complicated medication of absurdity of giving complex mixtures of medicines which he now invariably administered singly and along. The physicians of Konigslutter, jealous of the rising fame of the innovator, incited the apothecaries to bring an action against him far interfering with their privileges by dispensing his own medicines. It was in vain Hahnemann appealed to their letter and spirit of the law regulating the apothecaries business and argued, that their privileges only extended to the compounding of medicines, but that every man, and therefore still more every medical man, had the right to give or sell uncompounded drugs, which were the only things he employed, and which he administered, moreover gratuitously. All in vain; the apothecaries and their allies, his jealous brethren, were too powerful for him; and contrary to law. Justice, and common sense, Hahnemann, who had shown himself a master of the apothecaries’ art by his learned and laborious Pharmaceutical Lexicon, was prohibited from dispensing his own simple medicines.
During the last year of his residence in Konigslutter he witnessed a severe epidemic of scarlet fever, and made his glorious discovery of the prophylactic power of belladonna in this disease, which alone would have sufficed to make his name remembered with gratitude by posterity. The mode of his discovery of his prophylactic is a true specimen of inductive philosophy, much than janner’s somewhat similar discovery of the prophylactic power of vaccination. Knowing the power of belladonna to produce a state similar to the first stage of scarlet fever, he used it with great success at that period of the disease, and whilst his mind was occupied with the great remedial virtue he observed it to possess, a circumstance occurred which led him to believe that it was not only a curative, but a preventive medicine for that malady. In a family of children, three sickened with the disease, but the fourth, who was taking belladonna at the time for an affection of the finger-joints, escaped, though she had heretofore been always the first to take any epidemic that was going about. An opportunity soon presented itself of putting its prophylactic power to the test. In a family of eight children, three were seized with the epidemic, and he immediately gave to the remaining five children belladonna in small doses, and, as he had anticipated, all these five escaped the disease, notwithstanding their constant exposure to the virulent emanations from their sick sisters. The epidemic presented him with numerous opportunities of verifying this protective power of belladonna.
The mode he adopted of drawing the attention of physicians to his newly discovered prophylactic was singular. He announced publication work on the subject, and advertised for subscribers promising to publish the work, which should reveal the name of the prophylactic, as soon as he got 300 subscribers, and in the mean time supplying to each subscriber a portion of the prophylactic, and demanding his opinion as to its efficacy. This unusual proceeding, which might be justified on the plea that Samuel Hahnemann wished to have the prophylactic tested more impartially than it would have been had he at once revealed the name of it, gave rise to a shower of bitter calumnies from his colleagues, who made little or no response to his offer, but loaded him with accusations of avarice and selfishness.” Samuel Hahnemann revenged himself in his calumniator’s, publishing his pamphlet on scarlatina,” wherein he revealed the name of the prophylactic, and the facts that led to its discovery. I need not remind you that the united testimony of almost all-homeopathic practitioners, and of the most distinguished of the allopaths, was favorable to the truth of Hahnemann’s discovery. Indeed nearly twenty years afterwards, whilst Samuel Hahnemann was residing in Leipzic, some physicinans of that town complacently recommended the employment of belladonna as a prophylactic for scarlet fever, as if they had just made the discovery, without alluding in the slightest way to the claims of the venerable sage in their midst, although they could scarcely fail to be known to them. But I am anticipating.
The locality of the apothecaries and physicians of Konislutter drove him form that town in 1799. He purchased a large carriage or waggon, in which he packed all his property and family, and with a heavy heart bade to Koniglutter, where fortune had at length begun to smile upon him, and where he had found leisure and opportunity to prosecute his interesting discoveries. Many of the inhabitants whose health he had been instrumental in restoring, or whose lives he had even saved by the discoveries of his genius during that fatal epidemic of scarlet fever, accompanied him some distance on the road to Humburg, whither he had resolved to proceed, and at length, with a blessing for his services, and sigh for his hard lot, they bade him God speed, And thus he journeyed on with all his earthy possession, and with all his family beside him, But a dreadful accident befell the melancholy cortege. Descending a precipitous part of the road, the wagon was overturned, the driver thrown off his seat, his infant son so injured that he died shortly afterwards and the leg of one of his daughters fractured. He himself was considerably bruised, and his property munch damaged by falling into a stream that ran at the bottom of the road. With the assistance of some peasants they were conveyed to the nearest village, where he was forced to remain upwards of six weeks on his daughter’s account, at an expense that greatly lightened his not very well-filled purse. At length he got in safety to Humburg, but finding little or nothing to do here, he removed to the adjoining town of Altona. He did not, however, better himself by the change, and not long after removed to Mollen in Lauenburg; but the longing for his fatherland, which he describes as being so strong in him, soon drew him once more to Saxony. He planted himself in Eulenbur, but the persecution of the superintendent physicians of that drove him thence after a short sojourn. He wanted first to Machern, and thence to Dessau, where we find him in 1803 publishing a monograph on the effects of coffee, which he considered as the source of many chronic diseases, and against the use of which, as a common beverage, he inveighed with much the same energy as our first James did against tobacco. Previous to this, however, and during his wanderings, he had translated several books for the English, and written various articles on his favorite idea of medical reform in Hufeland’s Journal, denouncing ever more and more energetically the absurdities and errors of ordinary medical practice. One of the most remarkable articles in his style is his preface to a translation of a collection of medical prescriptions, published in 1800, which preface is the best antidote to the work itself. We can imagine his great soul fretting and fuming when the publisher, on whom he than almost entirely depended for subsistence, put into his hands the English original of this notable work, which contained naught but a collection of the abominable and nonsensical compounds which he had been inveighing against for the last five years. We can fancy Hahnemann saying, “Well, Sir, if you have no more agreeable work to put me to than this, I will do it; but mark, I stipulate to be allowed to write what preface I choose.” And sure a preface it is the most marvelous preface surely that was ever written for any book! It is as though he had said, “Reader; you have purchased this book thinking to find therein a royal road to the practice of physic, but you are miserably mistaken to believe there can be any such short cut: skill in practice can only be gained by careful, unwearied, and honest study; by having a perfect knowledge of the curative instruments you have to yield, and by an accurate observation of the characteristic symptoms of disease. As for the contents of this book, they are the grossest imposition ever palmed upon man, a confused jumble of unknown drugs- mostly poisons mixed together in what are called prescriptions, each ingredient of which is dignified by some imposing name that is meant to express to qualities it should possess and the part it should play, but none of which possesses the qualities attributed to it nor will obey, even in the slightest degree, he order that are given it. Every prescription contains in it a multitude of anarchical elements that totally disqualify it for any orderly action whatever. The best councel it can given you, my simple-minded reader, is to put the main body of this book into the fire; but by all means preserve the preface; it may serve you as a standard for judging of the pretensions of similar pretentious books, of which there be, I am sorry to think, many, too many in the market just now, but which we shell do our best, with God’s help, to rid the world of.” I do not believe the publisher of this “Arzneischats,” or “Treasury of Medicines,” would wish to give Hahnemann many more jobs of this kind to do, or if he did, he would doubtless resolve to bargain that no perfact should be inserted. Indeed. We find that Hahnemann’s translations came to rather an abrupt termination at this period, for, with the exception of a translation of the Materia of the great Alvert von Haller. Which he executed in 1806 Hahnemann’s works were henceforward all originals.
The years 1805 and 1806 were eventful ones for the development of the doctrine, and whilst he demolished the time honoured faith in the medicine of the 3000 years, in his masterly little work entitled Esculapius in the balance, the temple of his own system, of which he had hitherto been only laying the foundations, commenced to exhibit some those fair proportions which we now admire, by the appearance of the first sketch of a Pure Materia Medica which he gave to the world in Latin, and of that wonderful exposition of his whole doctrine, entitled. The Medicine of Experience, which was published in 1806 in Hufeland’s Journal.
And what was the reception this admirable work met with the most original, logical, and brilliant essay that had ever appeared on the art of medicine? A thousand captious objectors arose, who not being able to refute the masterly arguments brought forward by Hahnemann, fell to ridiculing the technicalities of the system; an easy task, since we all know that every new truth appears at first ridiculous. Nor was calumny silent. Hahnemann was loaded with most opprobious epithets because he introduced the custom, them unusual in Germany, of making the patients with whom he corresponded pay him for each epistolary consultation. This the facilities afforded by the arrangements of the German Post office enable him to do, and he was led to adopt it by the circumstance that so many sought his advice from mere curiosity, or worse motives, without any thought or paying, that he was driven to the adoption of what might be an unusual but certainly not a reprehensible plan for securing the bonafides of his patients. A mistake he had made in his former chemical days was raked up from the limbs of forgotten things, and imputed to him as a gross crime, and a proof of his venality and dishonesty; thought, in reality, the whole story redounds to his credit. During the period when he had temporarily abandoned medicine in disgust at its uncertainty, and had devoted himself solely to chemical and literary pursuits, he fancied he had discovered a new alkali, which he denominated pneum, and which he sold to these who wished to possess it. Subsequent investigation showed him that he had committed a mistake, and that the substance he had supposed to be a perfectly new matter was nothing but borax. He hastened to acknowledge his error, and lost on time in refunding to the purchasers the money he had received for it.
He was now settled on Torgan, and perceiving that the discoveries and labours met nothing but opposition, contempt, and neglect from his medical brethren, disdaining to reply to any of the odious calumnies that were heaped upon him by those who should have been proud of him us their countryman and colleague, his discontinued writing their medical journals, and appealed to the injustice of his professional brethren to the unprejudiced judgment of an enlightened public, and hence forth published his strictures on ancient medicine, and his projects for entitled the Allgemeiner Anzeiner der Deutschen. During the years 1806 and 1809, he published in that journals a succession of papers equal terseness, vigor and originality to anything he had previously written, which two deserve especial mention, viz, his essay on the value of the Speculative System of Medicine, and toughing and earnest letter to Hufeland, whom he never ceased to love and esteem, thought in every respect he was a much greater man and finer character than the Nestor of German medicines, as Hufeland was called. The doctrines which were scornfully rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees of the old school found favor with public, and the number of his admirers and non-medical disciples increased from day to day. In 1810 he published the first edition of his immortal Organon, which was an amplification and extension of his Medicine of Experience, worked up with greater care, and put into a more methodical and aphoristic form, after the model of some of the Hippocratic writings.
With a wide-spread reputation he now re-entered Leipzic, where a crowd of patients admirers flocked around him, and the flood-tide of fortune seemed at length to set in towards him. Professor Becker of Berlin wrote, in 1810, a violent distribe against the Organon, which displays more worth and untempered hostility than wit or good breeding, and was replied to in a vigorous manner by young Frederick Hahnemann, who undertook the defense of his father, for the latter treated all attacks, whether on his character or his works with silent contempt; thought it could not be said he viewed them with indifference, for there is every reason to believe the poisoned shafts of envy and calumny rankled in his soul and communicated acerbity to a disposition that was naturally overflowing with love to his fellow-men. Hecker’s attack was the signal for numerous others of the same nature. Written with greater or less ability and with more or less fairness; but it would be wearisome to recapitulate even the titles of the articles and pamphlets that issued from the press intended by their authors to crush the presumptuous innovator.
However, this was not the effect they had. Hahnemann steadily pursued his course without condescending to notice the attacks of his adversaries, and in 1811 he published the first volume of the Pure Materia Medica, which contained the pathogeneses of the medicines he had been silently testing upon himself and friends, together with the symptoms he had culled from various records of poisoning by the same substances. His earnest with this time purpose of indoctrinating the rising generation of physicians in homeopathy, theoretically and practically; but this plan failing, he resolved to give a course of lectures upon the system to those medical men and students who wished to be instructed in it. Order to be allowed to do this, however, he had to pay a certain sum of money and defend a thesis before the faculty of Medicine. To this regulation we are indebted for that ably essay, De Helleborismo veterum, which no one can read without confessing that Hahnemann treats the subject in a masterly way and displays an amount of acquaintance with the writings of the Greek, Latin, Arabian and other, physicians, from Hippocrates down his own time, that is possessed by few, and a power of philological criticism that has been rarely equaled. This thesis he defended on the 26th of June, 1812, and it drew from his adversaries an unwilling acknowledgement of his learning and genius, and from the impartial and worth Dean of the Faculty a strong expression of admiration. When a candidate defends his thesis, he was what are called opponents among the examiners, who dispute the various opinions preached in the thesis; but the most of Hahnemann’s opponents were schooled such an amiable state of mind by this display of learning, that they hastened to confess they were entirely of his way of thinking, while a few, who wished to say something for form’s sake, merely expressed their dissent from some of Hahnemann’s philological views. This trial, which his enemies had fain hoped would end in an exposure of the ignorance of the shallow Chariton, triumphantly proved the superiority of Hahnemann over his opponents, even on their own territory, and was a brilliant inauguration of the lectures which he forthwith commenced to deliver to a circle of admiring students and Grey headed old doctor, whom the fame of his doctrines and his learning attracted round him. He lectured twice a week, and from among the followers who gathered round him he selected a number to assist him in the labours of proving medicines, which he pursued without intermission. The vast amount of self-sacrifice, devotion, and endurance these labours must have required from him, those only who have attempted to prove medicines can from an idea of.
During his residence in Leipzic, from 1810, to 1821, he from time to time published valuable essays in the literary journal I have already alluded to, one of which was on a deadly from of typhus that broke out in 1814, in consequence of the disturbances caused by the stupendous military operations of that period, more Russia, And he departed one occasion from his usual habit, and wrote a couple of controversial upon the treatment of burns, for which he recommended warm applications in opposition to Professor Dzondi, who had advised the employment of cold water. A second edition of the Organon and five more volumes of Materia Medica appeared during this period, adding at once to his fame and to the perfection if his system, which began to attract the attention of many physicians and immense numbers of the educated and upper classes.
The jealousy of his professional brethren however, led them to incite the privileged guild of apothecaries to play the same game that had proved so successful in expelling Hahnemann from other places, and their machinations were only stayed for a time by the arrival in Leipzic of the celebrated Austrian Field Marshal, Prince Schwarzenberg, who came thither avowedly with the design of placing himself under Hahnemann’s care, as his life was desiderable of by the first practitioners of the old school. At first considerable amendment ensued, but his disease, which was some organic affection of the brain or heart, eventually had a fatal termination.
Of course a cry was now got up that Hahnemann’s method hastened if it did not actually cause the death of illustratious commander, and the apothecaries, taking advantage of the unpopularity which this catastrophe, and the mode in which it was “improved” by his medical brethren, cast upon Hahnemann found now little difficulty in obtaining an injunction against his dispensing his own medicines. Hahnemann could not write prescriptions his own medicine, seeing that the privileged apothecaries did not keep them and could not be trusted with their preparation, as they were his bitterest foes. His practice was therefore gone, and though he was urgently advised to dispense his medicines secretly, yet he had too great a respect for the authority of the law to act contrary to the verdict of those business it was to enforce it, even although he believed that they misinterpreted its spirit. Nothing was left for him therefore but to quit Leipzic, a town which was now endeared to him by many pleasing associations connected with the development of his great reform, and his fatherland Saxony, now offered no place where the most illustrious of its sons could live in peace.
Under these discouraging circumstances the reigning prince of Alhalt Coethen, who was an the tiny capital of his tiny dominions, and according to Coethen Hahnemann proceeded in 1821. It must have been with a heavy heart that he left Leipzic, the goal of his youth’s ambition and scene of his manhood’s triumphs. It must have cost him a pang to leave that dear fatherland, for which he had always sighed in all his wanderings. To exchange the busy commercial and literary capital of northern Germany for the lifeless and dismal little town of a pretty principality was but a sorry exchange indeed; and the deserted ill-paved streets and rude envisions of the provincial town were a poor compensation for the lively and frequented promenades round Leipzic, where he was wont to walk every afternoon with his portly wife and numerous family. Though Leipzic his now the honour of containing his bronze effigies, and thought Leipzic’s magistrates and municipal authorities joined in the inauguration of Hahnemann’s monument in 1851, this will hardly suffice to efface the strain of bigotry and intolerance that attaches to the town and its authorities by their expulsion of the greatest of Leipzic’s citizen’s in 1821.
The favour of the Duke, who appointed him Hofrath and physician in ordinary to his serene person and court, could scarcely make up to Hahnemann for the loss of the disciples whom he used to instruct and the friends who used to assist him in his provings; and his habits which had never been very sociable, now become more than ever retired. After setting at Coethen he seldom crossed the threshold of his door except to visit his patron when he was sick; all the other patients who flocked to Coethen for his advise he saw at his own house, and his only walks were in a little garden at the back of his house, which he used jocularly to observe, though very narrow was infinitely high. Here he daily promenaded for a certain time as regularly as he had done in the pleasant Leipzic alleys, and every fine day he used to take a drive in his carriage into the country. He devoted himself entirely to practice and the development of his system. His amazing industry and perseverance never flagged an instant; he worked incessantly, it might be said. Here he published a third, a fourth, and a fifth edition of his Organon and a second and third edition of his Materia Medica each time with great additions and careful revisions. Here also he wrote many articles for the literary journal before alluded to.
In 1827 he summoned to Coethen his two oldest and most esteemed disciples, Drs. Stapf and Gross, and communicated to them his theory of the origin of chronic diseases and his discovery of a completely new series of medicaments for their cure, exhorting them to test the reality of his opinions and discoveries in their own practice. The next year the first and seconds volumes of celebrated work on Chromic Diseases, their peculiar nature and homeopathic treatment, appeared. The doctrines peculiar therein inoculated were not received with implicit faith by all his disciples, for whilst some professed to perceive in them a discovery equal if not superior to that of the homeopathic therapeutic law, others were not satisfied that the deductions arrived at were justified by the facts on which they were professedly based. To Samuel Hahnemann’s opponents his doctrine diseases was a fertile and inexhaustible theme for ridicule and obloquey which he as usual paid no attention to, thought his followers had become too numerous that they began to take up the cudgels in their master’s defense, and the medical press of Germany groaned with polemical articles respecting homeopathic from both sides, of more or less ability. Since the year 1822 the homeopathic had a quarterly journal, that contained many able and vigorous articles in support of Hahnemann’s doctrines. A third , a forth , and a fifth volume of the Chronic Diseases, containing extensive and valuable provings of new medicines, successively appeared during the following two years. The volume of these works can scarcely be over-estimated. And they, with the Materia Medica, constitute the inexhaustible treasury on which the homeopathic practitioner draws for the cure and relief of many diseases in which the allopathic appliances are important or hurtful.
On the 10th August, 1829, a large concourse of his disciples and admirers assembled at Coethen, for the purpose of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his reception of the Doctor’s degree, and the dull little town was enlivened for a moment by the festivities of which it was the scene. The same day Hahnemann solemnly found the first Homeopathic Society., under the name of the “Central Society of German Homeopathists,” which exists and flourishes to this day and by whose exertions it was that the bronze statue was last year (1851) erected at Leipzic, as a grateful memento to its illustrious founder.
The success of homeopathic, which now began to spread beyond the limits of German, and to make its was way in other countries of Europe and in America, increased the bitterness and ferocity of the attacks of the partisans of the old school. They at length roused even of forbearance of Hahnemann, who published a pamphlet against his foes entitled “Allopathy; a Warning to all Sick Persons,” which, though undoubtedly a gross caricature of the system, he turns into ridicule, has like all good caricatures, an unmistakable though ludicrous likeness to the original in every feature, which must have rendered its sting all the more pungent.
The same year, 1830, the cholera invaded Germany from the East and on its approach, Samuel Hahnemann, guided by the unerring therapeutic rule he had discovery, at once fixed upon the remedies which should prove specifics for it, and caused directions to be printed, and distributed over the country by thousands so that on its actual invasion the homeopaths and those who had received Hahnemann’s directions were fully prepared for its treatment and prophylaxis, and thus there is no doubt many lives were saved, and many victims rescued from the pestilence. On all sides statements were published, testifying to the immense comparative success that had attended the employment of the means recommended by Samuel Hahnemann, before he had seen or treated a single case. This one fact speak more fore homeopathy, and the truth of the law of nature on which the system is founded, than almost any other I could offer, viz., that Hahnemann, from merely reading a description of one on the most appalling rapid and fatal diseases, could confidently and dogmatically say, such and such a medicine will do good in this stage of the disease; such and such other medicine in that; and that the united experience of hundreds of practitioners in all parts of Europe should bear practical testimony to the accuracy of Hahnemann’s conclusion.
In 1830 Samuel Hahnemann lost his wife, the mother of his numerous family, and the sharer of all the vicissitudes of his eventful life. It has been stated that his good lady had not the sweetest of tempers, and that she was somewhat of a Xantippe to our Socrates; but, as far as I can learn, there is no ground for this accusation. There is no doubt that she was a most affectionate wife and mother; but at the same time a strict disciplinarian, who asserted here supremacy over the domestic affairs and over her husband, in as far as he was part and parcel of the household; that Samuel Hahnemann loved and highly esteemed her we have ample evidence, from many passages in his letters, and from the testimony of his friends.
The death of his partner did not alter in any respect Hahnemann’s mode of life; and his daughter, who had now attained the years of discretion, assumed the office of domestic supervision, vice Mrs. Hahnemann deceased.
In 1835 Mille Melanie d’ Hervilly came to Coethen, succeeded in captivating Hahnemann, them in his eightieth year, by the charms of her youth and beauty, and carried him off in triumph to Paris, where, by her influence with M. Guizot she obtained for him the authorization to practice. This second marriage, which took all his friends by surprise, is certainly a very unexpected denouement in the last act of Hahnemann’s life-drama. We trace with interest the progress of the man of science through his childhood’s innocence, his youth’s studious hours, his manhood’s struggles with adversity, and indefatigable search after truth, until the final triumph and success of the aged philosopher. We note his habits of study, contemplation, and observation of nature; his retired, almost unsocial life; his devotion to the one great aim of his existence. We see him thus engaged up to a period of life exceeding the term of ordinary old age-when suddenly he takes a gay Parisian damsel to wife; the monotonous life of the dull country town and the accustomed seclusion of domestic retirement delight him no longer, and he hurries off to the capital of the beau monde with his youthful and elegant bride. This marriage, which comes upon us so abruptly, produced a total revolution in Samuel Hahnemann’s habits and tastes. In Paris, we find him entertaining company and accepting invitations; frequenting the opera, and partaking moderately of the dissipations of the gay capital, and no longer confining his medical practice to the consultations at his own house, but visiting patients at their residences, like any other practitioner, which he had not done in Germany for more than twenty years previously. He seems to have entered on this novel course of life with great zest; and his new wife, to judge from his letters and the testimony of observers, rendered the latter years of his life extremely happy.
Notwithstanding this extreme change in his habits and occupations, he found time to make many and important additions, work on chronic diseases, of which he brought out a second edition after his removal to Paris, and it is said he was preparing for the press sundry other works of great importance to homoeopathy , which he was dissuaded from publishing by his wife. There is a tradition current among homoeopathists, that Mme. Samuel Hahnemann retains under lock and key, for her own private study doubtless, untold treasures of provings, cases, practical remarks, and new and revised editions of his works, which it would delight the hearts of all his disciples to see given to the world.*
(*Thank to Dr. Haehl’s efforts that lost treasure has been secured. It consists of 54 case-books containing the records of all patients treated by Samuel Hahnemann from 1799 to 1843; four large volumes of some 1500 pages each, alphabetically arranged repertories, none of which had over been published; the sixth edition of Organon completely revised by Samuel Hahnemann till 1842 (since published in 1821 the English translation of this edition by W. Boericke, M. D.) some 1300 letters of physicians from all parts of the world etc.)
Hahnemann survived his migration to Paris eight years and died there full of years and honour, at the age of eighty nine, on the 2nd July, 1843.
He was buried in the cemetery of Montmartre, and his body was attended to the grave by only four of his nearest relatives. We might have wished that a man, who had acted such an important part in the world’s history, had a less meager attendance to his last resting place.
Such is a brief outline of the life and labours of Samuel Hahnemann, whose name, even by the admission of those most wildly opposed to his doctrines, must henceforth form an epoch in the history of medicine, at the founder of a school which has gained more adherents and roused up more assailants, written more books, and exercised a more important influence on the art of medicine, then any school or sect since the days of Galen.
The homoeopathic principle, as a law of therapeutics, is an immutable law of nature, and is altogether independent of any individual; but the homoeopathic system, or the doctrines and technicalities that have been agglomerated round that principle, bears the impress of the personality- the individuality of its author.
While, then, the principle bears the closest inspection, and gains ever more and more upon our belief and conviction the more searchingly we examine it, the systems may naturally be expected to derive some of its characteristic from the peculiar mental constitution of the man who originated it; and hence it is that we find the homoeopathic school, as it is termed, while they how unhesitatingly to the principle and to the logical deduction that flow from it, disputing with Samuel Hahnemann inch the doctrines, tenets, and technicalities which he has accumulated round this principles.
To facilitate our inquires as to what parts of the systems promulgated by Samuel Hahnemann belong to the domain of the unerring laws of nature, what derive a coloring and a bias from the individuality of the author, I think it is of great importance to endeavor to form a just estimate of his character and mental organization, and as I believe the circumstances of his life have exercised a considerable influence on his doctrines and percepts, and have contributed powerfully to the formation of his very remarkable character, I have not hesitated, at the risk of fatiguing you, to employ the time allotted this first lecture to lying before you the sketch of his life just read, and I shall now, with your leave, turn to a consideration of the character and mental constitution of the man.
The most of striking peculiarity of Samuel Hahnemann’s mind was indomitable perseverance in following out the line of control he believed to be the true one, notwithstanding every difficulty and discouragement. This we have seen him as boy persisting in devoting himself to study in spite of the opposition of his rather and poring over his books by the light of his contraband oil, in the primitive lamp of his own construction. In later years we find him eking out the means of his support whilst studying medicines, by teaching others his surreptitiously acquired knowledge, and translating books from various languages, with contents of many of which he could have had little or no sympathy. It is related of him that he set up every alternate night, and, in order to enable himself to do so, acquired that inveterate habit of smoking tobacco, which he continued to indulge in to the last. The means he took to chase away his slumbers in his youth thus become in after pears the only luxury in which he indulged.
This perseverance was conspicuous in the means he adopted of pursuing his studies in the great medical school of Vienna, for which he carefully accumulated as much money as was sufficient to maintain him in that expensive capital for some time, he had not been defrauded of it, and thereby obliged to cut his studies prematurely short, and accept of a post in the remote town of Hermannstadt. As further proofs of his iron perseverance, I have only to remind you of his undeviating efforts to follow up the truth he discovered, and to perfect the system he originated, undeterred for one instant by the hard necessities of poverty, or by the sneers and persecutions of those who should most have befriended and encouraged him his professional brethren. The inveterate and unceasing persecution to which he was subjected from the very commencement of his career and which increased in intensity as he developed his peculiar and novel doctrines, had not the slightest effect in making him relax in the least degree from his endeavors.
His very first work of any importance, that on Syphilis, was, as he himself tells us, the subject of the most outrageous vituperations and abuse. Though this work was published long before he had any idea of homoeopathy, the views he promulgated with reference to the destruction by caustics of the primary sore, and the employment of very small quantities of a new mercurial preparation, running counter as they did to the prevalent notions on the subject, called forth the most unwarrantable abuse from his critics. The same thing happened on the publication of his Essay on a new Principle; and every other step in the progress of his great and beneficent discovery was greeted with similar discouragement. In 1799, the more practical annoyance of the apothecaries persecution was called into play, and the intrigues of his enemies drove him from place to place. With a large and increasing family to provide for, this system of persecution must have been the most painful and annoying to his feelings that could be devised. Wherever he went the espionage of the German Worshipful Company of Apothecaries accompanied him, and the moment he was detected dispensing his own medicines, a complaint was made on the part of that privileged guild that he was interfering with their vested rights. And it was no difficult matter to get evidence against him, for he held it to be indispensable to the right practice of his art to have the command over his own tools, and scorned to conceal that he dispensed his own medicines.
Although all this persecution did not tend to him serve one jot from the line of conduct he had marked out for himself, it no doubt contributed greatly to his adoption of those secluded and recluse habits he was noted for in after-life, to render him intolerant of contradiction and to make him view with suspicion, not with envy, any one who ventured to differ from him by ever so little. Many of the acts which this disposition led him to commit are greatly to be lamented. This he took upon himself to summon to Coethen the Homoeopathic Society he had founded only three years previously, though the place of meeting had been fixed for Leipzic, because he was told that some of his doctrines were opposed by some of its members; and the next year he pronounced the dissolution of the Society on the same grounds. His intolerance for those who differed from him latterly attained to such a height, that he used to say, “He who does not walk on exactly the same line with me, who diverges, if it be but the breadth of straw, to the right or to the left, is an apostate and a traitor, and with him I will have nothing to do.” Dr. Gross, who was one of his most industrious disciples and enjoyed his most perfect intimacy, having lost a child, wrote in the sorrow of a bereaved parent to Hahnemann, and said that his loss had taught him that homoeopathy did not suffice in every case; this gave great offence to Hahnemann, who never forgave Gross ior this remark and never afterwards restored to him to his favour. The hospital that had been established in Leipzic by private subscription was also the scene of Samuel Hahnemann’s intolerant spirit, for he never rested satisfied until the talented and zealous physician, Dr. M. Muller, who had the charge of it, and who performed the duties most efficiently and without payment, but who did not please Hahnemann because he ventured to exercise an independent judgment, was replaced by one entirely disposed to swear in verba magistri, with a salary of 300 thallers per anum. This spirit of intolerance of any difference of opinion on the part of those professing to be his disciples, which showed itself in many different ways, was doubtless partly occasioned by the violent opposition and persecution he had met with, and which had led him to retire as it were within himself, and adopt that almost hermit-life which we have see him leading, whereby his own ideas not being modified or enlarged by the collision of independent minds with own, always bore the distinctive characteristic of his own peculiar mental organization sharply defined, and anything that did nit chime in exactly with his own standard for the time being was looked upon by him with his suspicion and dislike, The reports, insinuations, and misrepresentations of those few persons who retained his intimacy by agreeing with him in everything he said, had also, it would seem, the effect of making his judgments on others more harsh than they would have been had he knows them or suffered them to discuss with him their ideas. It should also be mentioned, his confidence in others had on several occasions received rude shocked, more especially in the case of a young physician of the name of Robbi, who insinuated himself into his intimacy be feigned respect and admiration for his genius, and subsequently turned round and was one of foremost is ridiculing the system of the man for whom he expressed such esteem, This circumstance, which occurred soon after his arrival in Leipzic, no doubt made him suspicious and impatient of the opposition of others. I am of opinion that it would have greatly contributed to the more general adoption of homoeopathy had been more a man of the world, and had he taken into his confidence some of those of his followers who were distinguished for their independence of thought and proficiency in the medical sciences. Homoeopathy would in that case not have presented such a harsh contrast, and stood in such violent antagonism to the old system of medicine; for what was good and true in the latter would have been adopted and amalgamated with the reformed system to its advantage; and the improvements and discoveries in physiology, and chemistry world have probably been made use of by Samuel Hahnemann for the development of his system, had these not proceeded from members of a party that had declared war to the knife against Hahnemann and the new school, ruptured every bond of amity between them. Who can doubt that the inveterate enmity and persecution of the apothecaries its certain amount of influence in giving a bias to Hahnemann’s mind of the subject of the dose, and that it ultimately led to that Procrustean standard for regulating the does which Hahnemann adopted, without sufficient grounds as I believe? Who can doubt that the forced retirement of Hahnemann, and the unfortunate resolution he adopted of never visiting patients, must have latterly confined his practice almost entirely to one class of patients, those affected with chronic diseases, and that had he seen more acute diseases, his practice would have been considerably modified? The persecution of the apothecaries began in 1799. Previous to this time Samuel Hahnemann had given material and palpable doses, as we learn from the cases he published anterior to that date. In 1800 we first meet with anything like infinitesimals, and these only in certain cases. An the opposition of the apothecaries became more violent, and the injury they inflicted on him, pecuniarily and otherwise, more severe, Samuel Hahnemann’s doses became more and more refined and attenuated, until at length we find stating that the mere smelling at a globule is not only sufficient but the best of all methods of administering the remedy; and he adds, with marked emphasis, that this will enable us to dispense entirely with the apothecary’s services. When he got out of the sphere of the apothecaries’ influence and annoyance he entirely altered his mode of giving the remedy and the method he adopted in Paris, which I have elsewhere described, is a much nearer approximation to the method of the dominant school.
But although the persecution of Samuel Hahnemann is to be regretted for the unfortunate influence it exercised on his doctrines in some respects, yet is probably that on the whole this persecution was altogether disadvantageous to the internal development of the new systems. The myth of Prumetheus chained to the solitary rock with the vulture gnawing at his liver is an emblem of the fate that awaited all who have the presumption to steal celestial fire; they are mostly condemned to solitude their great minds can find no companionship among the common herd a mankind, and they are incessantly preyed upon by the ever-greatly vulture their discoverers should be so treated. Their isolation and forced retirement from the world enable them to work more constantly at their subject, and to develop it by the light of their own great minds, unswayed by the well-meaning but shallow friends, who are generally the most officious and persevering in their injudicious suggestions. Thought, by the enforced intellectual solitude on the part of the discoverer of new truth, the systems they build up may appear to be deficient in catholicity, and to bear too prominently the stamp of their authors individuality, yet on the other hands, there is no fear of their truths being lost amid a medley of distracting doubts and irrelevant fancies, that would not fail to suggest themselves to the various minds of multitude of learned pundits, The persecutions endured by the pioneers of truth serve only to stimulate them more so to work out and perfect their truth, that their very enemies and persecutors shall be forced ultimately to bow down before it. While the sham melts away like snow before the fire of persecution, the truth is only rendered more bright and more compact by it, as the soft iron only becomes steel by passing through the furnace. That Hahnemann felt and felt deeply the unjust calumnies and unceasing persecution to which he was subjected we have ample evidence from various passages in his works from the year 1800 onwards. Among the papers found at his death one bore the following inscription, intended as an epitaph on his tomb, which reads live the last sigh of a martyr-liber tendem quiesco.
Another quality of Samuel Hahnemann’s mind conscientiousness, is strikingly displayed in his abandoning the lucrative practice of medicine when his faith was shaken in it and supporting his family for some time upon the proceeds of his chemical discoveries, and by the tenfold greater labour of translating book for the publisher. This quality is also shown in the refusal to adopt any mode of avoiding the persecution of the apothecaries, which he might readily have done, either by setting up an apothecary of his own or by dispensing his medicine secretly. Another, if possible, still more striking trait of conscientiousness which I have not found alluded to elsewhere, is this. After his first discovery of the homoeopathic therapeutic law, he contented himself for some years with making a collection of the morbid effected of various poisonous and medicinal substance from the writings and observations of the more ancient and the modern toxicologists and experiments. In this way he collected together a tolerable pathogenesis of many powerful substances, and on this basis he endeavored to practice. Samuel Hahnemann published the results of his first trial of his systems upon these data in 1796 and the two following years. But he soon found that the records of the toxicologists and others were inadequate to afford him sufficiently accurate pictures of morbid states corresponding to the nature diseases he had to treat, and he saw that there was nothing for it but to test the medicines and poisons accurately, carefully, and systematically upon the healthy individual. As yet he knew not if such trials might not be fought with danger to his constitution and shorten life; but he did not shrink from what he considered a sacred duty, and he boldly set about the gigantic task-a task, I may safely say, from which any ordinary mind would have recalled in dismay. How he executed his task I need not relate. The ten volumes of provings he has left us are an external monument to his energy, perseverance conscientiousness, and self-sacrifice. “When,” says he, “we have to do with an art whose end is the saving of human life, any neglect to make ourselves thoroughly master of it becomes a crime!”
We may form some idea of Samuel Hahnemann’s immense industry when we consider that he proved about ninety different medicine, that he wrote upwards of seventy original works on chemistry and medicine, some of which were in several thick volumes, and translated about twenty-four works from the English, French, Italian, and Latin on chemistry, medicine, agriculture, and general literature, many of which were in more then one volume. Besides this he attended to the duties of an immense practice, corresponding and consulting, and those who know the care and time he expended on every case, the accuracy with which he registered every symptom, and the carefulness with which he sought for the proper remedy, will be able to estimate what a Herculean labour a large practice so conducted must have been. When I add that he was an accomplished classical scholar and pathologist, and that he had more than a superficial acquaintance with botany, astronomy, meteorology, and geography, we shall be forced to acknowledge that his industry and working power bordered on the marvelous.
Samuel Hahnemann’s goodness of heart and generosity appear on various occasions. In the fragment of autobiography I have before alluded to, after relating that he was swindled out of the hard earned gains by means of which he hoped to pursue his medical studies in Vienna, he says that the person who injured him was afterwards sorry for what he had done, so he freely forgives him, and will not mention either his name or the circumstances of the transaction. His enemies and some of his professed friends have accused him of avarice, founding this charge on the fact that the he demanded high fees, made his corresponding patients pay for the consultation on receipt of the letter, and that he lived in a style not to his wealth. His frequent struggles with the direct poverty had no doubt taught him, by many cruel lessons, the value of money, and we can scarcely wonder that he was rather economical and saving, more whom especially as he had a large family, nine of whom were daughters, from whom he might any day be cut off and whom he would not like to leave partialness. That this was his motive in evident from the circumstances that when he left Coethen for Paris he divided his fortune, amounting to 60,000 thalers, on about £ 10,000 sterling, among his family. If he took large fees he did so both because he had a very high idea of the dignity of his profession, and because he well knew the value of the services he rendered to his patients, and the amount of labor he had undergone in order to be enabled to render such services. To the poor he was liberal, in giving them the benefit of his advice gratuitously. As for the other charge brought against him of making the patients pay for the consultation on receipt of the letter, I think that was an arrangement which concerned Samuel Hahnemann’s patients alone, and if they did not object to it, surely his colleagues had no occasion to find fault, Hahnemann, rather deserved the thanks than the censure of his colleagues for devising and introducing a method whereby the just interests of the profession were protected.
As to his religious principles, Samuel Hahnemann was brought up in the Lutheran persuasion, but he could not be said to have adopted the tenets of that or any other sect of Christians. His principle, as we gather them from his works were nearly these:- He believed in the ruling providence of an all-good and all-bountiful God, and he held that every man was bound to his utmost to benefit each was endowed. He traced every good thing to the hand of the almighty and beneficent God, to whom he always gave all the glory for all the good he was enabled to confer on his brethren or mankind, and denied to himself any merit for what he had done.
“One word more,” he says writing to Stapt in 1816, ” be as sparing as possible with your praises. I do not like them. I feel that I am only an honest, straightforward man, who does no more than his duty.”
Again, in his famous letter to Hufeland, he writes. “If experience should show you that my method is the best, them make use of it for the benefit of humanity and give God glory!”
Here is a striking sentence indicative if his sense of the high dignity of our profession. He is alluding to his discovery of the prophylactic for scarlet fever: ” The furtherance of every means, be it ever so small, that can save human life, that can bring health and security, (a God of love invented this blessed and most wondrous of arts’) should be a sacred object to the true physician; chance or the labour of a physician has discovered this one. Away then, with all groveling passion at the altar of this sublime Godhead, whose priests we are!”
Here his emotion the character of the offices of doctor and sick nurse in the time of plague and pestilence. They are, he writes, ” two persons ordained by God, and placed, like Uriah in the battle, in the thickest of the light-forlorn hopes quite close to the advancing enemy, without any hours of relief from their irksome guard-two very much misunderstood beings who sacrifice themselves at hard earned wages for the public weal, and in order to obtain a civic crown, brave the life-destroying, poisoned atmosphere, deafened by the cries of agony and the groans of death.”
There is not a work of Samuel Hahnemann’s which is not pervaded by the spirit of reverence for the Deity, whose humble instrument he feels himself to be, and love for his fellow-creatures, with which his truly benevolent heart overflows; “Oh, that it were mine!” he exclaims, after an examination of all the futile system that had been proposed and adopted for the cure of diseases- “oh, that it were mine to direct the better portion of the medical world, who can feel for the sufferings of our brethren of mankind and long to know how to relieve them, to those purer principles which lead directly to the desired goal! Infamy be the award of history to him who, by deceit and fiction, maims this art of ours, which is intended to succor the wretched! All compensating divine self approval, and an unfading civic crown to him who helps to make our art more beneficial to mankind!”
This he said in 1808, when the great truth was gradually developing itself under his hands. After thirty years spent in laboriously working out his system, and practically demonstrating that his were indeed those purer principles whereby the case of diseases was most easily and safely effected, he was able to make this solemn declaration:-
“My conscience is clear: it bears me witness that I have ever sought the welfare of suffering humanity, that I have always done and taught what seemed to best, and that I have never had recourse to any allopathic procedures to comply with the wishes of my patients, and to prevent them leaving me. I love my fellow creatures and the repose of my conscience too much to act in that manner. Those who follow my example will be, able as I am, on the verge of the grave to wait the tranquility and confidence till the time comes when they must lay down their head in the bosom of the earth, and render up their soul to a God whose omnipotence must strike terror into the heart of thwacked!”
The abnegation of all merit to himself for his many and irksome labours to perfect his art, and the humble acknowledgment of his gratitude and reliance on God, are strikingly shown in his memorable words upon his death-bed, the last utterance of which we have any record. Whilst suffering much from the pain and difficulty of breathing that attended his last illness, his wife said him. “As you in your laborious life and alleviated the sufferings of so many, and have yourself endured so much, surely Providence owes you a remission of all your sufferings.” To which the dying sage replied, “My! And why me! Man here below works according to the gifts and strength Providence has given him, and it is only before the fallible tribunal of man that degrees of merit are acknowledged, not to before that of God: God owes me nothing, but Him much-yes, everything.”
Of all historical characters Samuel Hahnemann most nearly resembles the great religious reformer of the sixteenth century, Luther to whom he was found of comparing himself. We find in both the same energy and perseverance, the same dauntless proclamation of the truth, how-ever disagreeable to constituted authorities, the same unflinching courage under the most annoying and wearing-out persecutions, the same cutting sarcasm and power of caricature when stung into retaliation by the machinations of their enemies, and the same constant trusting Providence and assurance of the ultimate triumph of their principles. I cannot forbear quoting a passage from a letter of Samuel Hahnemann’s that shoes at once his independence of all extraneous aid for the spread of his doctrines, and his confidence of their eventual general adoption:-
“Our art,” says he,” needs no political leave, no worldly badges of honour, in order to become something. Amid all the rank and unsightly weeds that flourish round about it, it grows gradually from a small acorn to a slender tree, already its lofty summit overtops the rank vegetation around it. Only have patience? It strikes its roots deep underground, gains strength imperceptibly, but all the more certainly, and in due time it will grow up to a lofty God’s oak, stretching its great arms, that no longer bend to the storm far away into all will be refreshed under its beneficent shadow?”
In its effects upon the established school of traditional medicine, the reformation of Samuel Hahnemann strongly resembles that of Luther on the Roman Catholic Church. Abused, vilified, persecuted, the young medical school has gone on gathering strength and securing the support of man distinguished for their learning and rank, until at length it has become a formidable rival to the antiquated system, which it threatens every day to extinguish. As Lather’s reformation sapped the foundation of the Roman hierarchy, so Hahnemann’s which it will than shaken the stability of the temple of Hippocrates, which it will eventually overthrow completely, and more effectually than Luther did the ancient Church, for experimental science is more sweeping in its effects than theological, and never rests until pillar of error is overthrown. As the Reformation had its pretenders and its fanatics, so has Homoeopathy its charlatans and its bigots; but as the impartial historian will not confound the error and delusions of the erratic religionists with the Reformation, so may we hope that the extravagant fancies and theories that have arisen out of Homoeopathy may not be confounded with the real spirit of Samuel Hahnemann’s great medical reform. Almost every great truth has its unworthy adherents, who like the parasitical plant, trifle and disfigure that whereto they cling and whereby alone they exist but as the great oak survives and remains erect the monarch of the forest, long after generations of those inferior creatures to which it gave support have withered away and crumbled into dust, so the truth that Hahnemann revealed will outlive the memory of its unworthy parasites, and emerge from their unwholesome embrace a stately tree, a beacon of hope and a source of health and happiness to hundreds of unborn generations of suffering mankind.
Whilst pointing out the peculiarities in the life and character of Hahnemann which we may presume to have exercised an influence upon his doctrines and practice, I think the sketch I have given will suffice to show, from the whole course of Hahnemann’s life, from the magnanimity and fortitude with which he endured poverty in order to pursue the one great aim of his existence, from the sacrifices he made for the cause of truth, and from the devotion with which he subjected himself for a long series of years to the most unpleasant and hazardous experiments, for the purpose of perfecting his system, that its author was formed to the stuff that the world’s worthies are made of, and that if heroic constancy, amid the most discouraging circumstances to one grand aim-that of benefiting humanity-constitutes a hero, Samuel Hahnemann eminently deserves to rank with the greatest of them, and the system originated by such a man merits the attention and study of all who are occupied with the cure of disease.
When the passions and prejudices engendered in the atmosphere of controversy shall have subsided, can we, who know the excellence of his system, doubt that the judgment of an impartial posterity will reverse the condemnation of the packed jury of prejudiced contemporaries, and award a niche in the temple of Fame, among the greatest of the world’s heroes and benefactors, to the father Rational Physic SAMUEL HAHNEMANN? *
*Introductory lecture delivered by Dr. Dudgeon at Samuel Hahnemann, Hospital London during the sessions 1852-53.