Page:Hospitals, medical science and public health.djvu/19

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AND PUBLIC HEALTH

house of Lewis the Fourteenth; so that again and again the air was darkened by rumours of foul play. As in some classes even yet, in all classes then, such disaster was rather the rule than the exception, and the people went upon the facts accordingly: the fighting men, they more or less consciously argued, make us into a nation; the lawyers bring order into our midst; the Church has fostered learning and religion; it is the no less high vocation of medicine, before commerce, before other subsidiary ends, to protect and fortify man's body, the tabernacle of all this prowess and this wisdom—the tabernacle, do I say? nay, in the words of Dr. Caird, St. Paul's dramatic contrast between the flesh and the spirit had but a temporary and rhetorical meaning, like the contrast between matter and energy; the body, spiritually considered, is the immediate organ and instrument of the soul. To maintain this organ and instrument, not in the individual man only but in the social body also, was the vocation of medicine; but science had hardly come to the birth, and applied biology had not even been conceived. Medicine could not humbly wait for science, as science waited for the experimental method; competent or incompetent, she was forced into action. Her pontiffs, therefore, strewed before the people withered branches of tradition, and the Dead Sea fruit of a curious but mostly grotesque and unregenerate folklore. Indeed in the middle ages great men could not fight for clear causes; they were confronted not only by truths in array one against another but also by monstrous regiments of error and fiction; regiments to be mown down by the artillery of experiment, as feathered savages before the hail of the machine gun, but till then irresistible. Not till our time, and with these arms victorious, could medicine advance; but now it is moving so quickly that, borne upon the moving mass, we do not perceive the speed until we look back to see whence we have come. The belated knowledge is ours at last. To-day we can answer bravely to our invocation. We are commanding the ear of the nations and solving their problems with deeds and revelations so triumphant that, in their quandaries, even our unidea-ed governing classes, who had fallen to a belief in "compromise not as politics but as an excuse for routine," and had satisfied themselves of the efficacy of ignorance, are now compelled, bit by bit, to yield us some brusque and clumsy heed, to bully and