TEN SHILLINGS OR SEVEN DAYS
By 1906, when Shaw published his heterodox version of events, much of the steam had gone out of the vaccination controversy, as will be described in the proper place. In the heyday of White, Garth Wilkinson and others, who were caught up in it emotionally and in the law courts, it was still a burning issue. A hitherto slowly gathering movement of resentment erupted finally into open conflict with, at its heart, the 'cat-and-mouse' persecution of anti-vaccinationists that even Simon's biographer found difficult to excuse.
The effective starting point was the little-noticed Act of 1861, which empowered but did not specifically require boards of guardians to prosecute parents who neglected or refused to have a child vaccinated. In 1863 a Member of Parliament asked for a return of the number of unions and single parishes in England and Wales 'of which the guardians and overseers have taken measures to enforce obedience to the Vaccination Acts'. Figures produced by the Poor Law Board, in response to the question 'Whether measures have been taken', revealed the almost total failure of the Acts to achieve their professed aim:
Some boards had done 'nothing, beyond publishing notices, handbills, etc.' to remind parents of their duty. A small number had appointed someone – the clerk of the board or the local registrar – to enforce the law, but there was no evidence that a start had been made. Others were anxious to point to good intentions, but with no tangible progress to report: 'No, but subject to consideration'; 'No [but] have threatened proceedings'; 'No actual prosecutions taken'; 'No, but