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

By Stanley Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
DEATH BY NON-VACCINATION

Following the mass demonstration the Leicester guardians voted by 26 to eight to cease prosecutions. There was no response from the Local Government Board, but a carefully worded passage in a report by its Medical Officer of Health, written before the demonstration took place, illustrated clearly the Board's awareness of the dilemma with which the advocate of compulsion was confronted:

Whether or not, in face of the accumulated evidence of the import-
ance of vaccination to children, who cannot judge for themselves
of its value, it may be expedient to relax those provisions of the
Compulsory Vaccination Acts which allow of repeated penalties
on such parents as refuse vaccination, is a question which lies
within the province of the statesman rather than the physician to
settle. To the physician, who realises the powers of vaccination,
and who knows the malignity of the disease against which it
protects, the notion of enforcing the acceptance of such a boon is
distressful. But the distress is akin to that with which he himself
has at times to force nourishment down the throat of a lunatic
who is starving himself; and in the case of vaccination he sees that
it is for the security of children otherwise helpless, not the recalci-
trant himself, that compulsion is wanted.

In England, however, 'compulsory vaccination' has never meant,
and probably never will mean, taking a child out of the custody of
its parent and returning it to him vaccinated; and if it does not
mean this it may by some persons be judged advantageous, in
order to avoid gratifying the sheer love of martyrdom that influ-
ences the conduct of misguided people, to alter the Compulsory
Vaccination Acts in such a way as to limit the number of penalties
that can be imposed for disobedience to them. I express no opinion
on this proposal, but if it should be adopted it would appear as a

-214-

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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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