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

By Stanley Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
THE SUTTONIAN SYSTEM

If the language of eighteenth-century figures is to be relied on, a surprising state of affairs is revealed. By the end of the third decade the contentious novelty inoculation had virtually died out, while the number of deaths from smallpox, as recorded in the London bills of mortality, remained at a steady level. Why had inoculation fallen out of favour? In 1749 the physician Frewen looked back over its vicissitudes during the period:

it is wonderful with how great an expectation it was received, with
how much industry it was cultivated, and how soon it became
incredibly famous […] Yet, notwithstanding, it made but a slow
progress for several years, as gaining but little credit among the
common sort of people, who began to dispute among themselves
about the lawfulness of propagating disease and whether or no the
small-pox produced by inoculation would be a certain security
against taking it again by infection, and also whether other
diseases or morbid contaminations of the blood might not be likely
to be engrafted along with it.

These questions, Frewen commented, had been answered long ago 'to the satisfaction of men of learning and candour', but not, as he avoided saying, to that of the common sort of people, mainly because they were neither consulted nor offered the opportunity to try out the new discovery for themselves. Access to inoculation was and remained for many years the expensive privilege of the well-off, with the corollary pointed out in the early days of controversy by Isaac Massey, apothecary and uncle of the Revd Edmund, in a scornful dismissal of Jurin's conclusions concerning the relative dangers of natural smallpox and the inoculated variety. Those inoculated were, in accordance with Jurin's advice to medical practitioners, selected almost exclusively from

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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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