The Vaccination Controversy: The Rise, Reign, and Fall of Compulsory Vaccination for Smallpox

By Stanley Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
THE SPECKLED MONSTER

After the great surge of smallpox during the last quarter of the eighteenth century the disease relaxed its grip somewhat in the earlier years of the nineteenth, and the efforts of the medical profession were directed largely to weaning the lower classes away from variolation and selling them vaccination. The task was not easy; as Baron commented, the adoption by so many reputable medical men of vaccination left the field clear for the more unscrupulous practitioners who 'took up the small-pox lancet and disseminated the disease in a very frightful manner'.

The profession did its best to fight back. In 1805 the Medical Council of the Royal Jennerian Society appointed a committee of 25 members to investigate cases that had excited prejudices against vaccination and also the 'evidence respecting instances of small-pox alleged to have occurred twice in the same person'. The committee found that most of the alleged failures were 'either wholly unfounded or greatly misrepresented'; that 'nothwithstanding the most incontestable proofs of such misrepresentations, a few medical men have persisted in repeatedly bringing the same unfounded reports […] before the public; then perversely and disingenuously labouring to excite prejudices against vaccination'; that 'many persons have been declared duly vaccinated, when the operation was performed in a very negligent and unskilful manner'; that 'the Medical Council are fully convinced that the failure of vaccination as a preventive of the small-pox, is a very rare occurrence'; that 'a few instances of failure either in the inoculation of the cow-pox as of the small-pox, ought not to be considered as objections to either practice, but merely as deviations from the usual course of nature'; that 'it appears to the Medical Council that the cow-pox is generally mild and harmless in its effects';1 with much more in the same vein, concluding with a solemn Declaration, signed by 50 members of the Medical Council:

-98-

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The Vaccination Controversy: The Rise, Reign, and Fall of Compulsory Vaccination for Smallpox
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Part I - The Road to Compulsion 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Byzantine Operation 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Small Pockes 8
  • Chapter 3 - The Engrafted Distemper 29
  • Chapter 4 - The Language of Figures 40
  • Chapter 5 - The Suttonian System 48
  • Chapter 6 - The Great Benefactor 74
  • Chapter 7 - The Speckled Monster 98
  • Chapter 8 - The Three Bashaws 107
  • Chapter 9 - A Competent and Energetic Officer 120
  • Chapter 10 - Formidable Men 135
  • Chapter 11 - The Present Non-System 142
  • Chapter 12 - Toties Quoties 155
  • Chapter 13 - Crotchety People 163
  • Part II - The Reign of Compulsion 177
  • Chapter 14 - A Loathsome Virus 179
  • Chapter 15 - A Cruel and Degrading Imposture 188
  • Chapter 16 - Ten Shillings or Seven Days 202
  • Chapter 17 - Death by Non-Vaccination 214
  • Chapter 18 - The Great Pox 223
  • Part III - The Retreat from Compulsion 231
  • Chapter 19 - A Genuine Conscientious Objection 233
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 256
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