Modern Practice of Inoculation.
T has been long observed of the Natives of South Britain
, that from an inbred Curiosity, they are passionate Lovers of Novelty, and ready to embrace Notions out of the common Way of Thinking, and Practices contrary to the Customs of their Country. This evidently appears in their
proneness to entertain new Doctrines in Religion; for there can hardly be broached any Schemes, or Speculations, though ever so wild and extravagant, but there will be found Numbers of Persons of an odd and whimsical turn of Mind, ready to espouse and defend them; whence arises that wonderful Variety of enthusiastical Sects, with which this Nation has so much abounded, and still abounds; who are distinguished from sober and well-instructed Christians, and from one another by their several specifick and peculiar Deviations from Truth and common Sense. Nor are the Professors and Practicers of Physick less divided in their Systems and Opinions; for besides the Differences among the regular Physicians, Men of good Sense, and a liberal Education, a great Diversity of Quacks, fanatical Chymists, and confident Pretenders to this Art, swarm in this populous Kingdom, and over-spread the neighbouring Nations. Nor do these various Denominations want their Admirers, and zealous Followers; nor are the illiterate Vulgar only apt to crowd about these Empericks, but I know not how it comes to pass, Persons of the highest Rank do often cry them up, trust their Healths and Lives in their Hands, and are frequently the first spreaders of their Fame, promoters of their Interest, and protectors of their Reputation: And therefore I do not wonder, if the celebrated Mountebank Pontæus
should say, as I have observed in another Writing, that
of all the Nations in Europe
, where he had practised his Art, he found England
the most disposed to favour and encourage Men of his Character. And though the Individuals of the several Species of Empericks, and ignorant Pretenders to the Cure of the Gout, Stone, and other great Distempers, whether Natives, or Foreigners, have only blaz’d a while like empty Meteors, and as soon disappeared, and sunk into their former Obscurity, which holds good even from the Quacks favoured by King Charles
the second, down to the Syringer, and the late Coal-Heaver; notwithstanding, I say, the People soon found out the Delusion of these Impostors successively, yet this credulous and good natured Nation, are still ready to hearken to any bold Fellow, that shall confidently assert his never-failing Abilities, and roundly assure them, that his Powder is infallible.
I was not therefore surprised, that when the novel Practice of Inoculation of the Small-Pox was first introduced into this Kingdom, it should meet with many Friends and Patrons; though I acknowledge, that considering the Advantage it had of being so great a Novelty, and brought from such a Distance, as Constantinople, it is surprising, that it did not make a quicker Progress, and meet with a more ready Reception; for notwithstanding the People catch at any Thing entirely new with such greediness, yet to the Generality, it at first appeared so bold an Undertaking, and so shocking to Nature, that they expressed an Aversion to it. Multitudes looked upon the Practice as inconsistent with the Christian Religion, that forbids its Followers to tempt Providence, and run into unwarrantable Hazards; and many more thought it a prudent and discreet Part to stand by as Spectators and Observers, to see if this Method could be justified, and settled by a sufficient Number of successful Tryals, before they would make the Experiment in their own Families, and venture upon such a nice and unknown Method, till they had received this just Satisfaction. For my own Part, when I was asked by my Friends, and Patients, what my Opinion was of this new Practice; my constant Reply was, that I looked upon my self obliged to wait, and see if this Method would be established by good Experience, and to learn whether the Promises of the Inoculators would be made good by an answerable Event; that I could not build a general Affirmation upon a few Instances, and that therefore a considerable Time must be allowed, to make Observations on the Matters of Fact, before I could form any setled Judgment upon this new Way. Nor do I think that the Number of Experiments already made are enough to establish a Conclusion on either side of the Question. For besides the unfair Shifts, and evasive Arts, that have been used with great Care and Industry, to cover Miscarriages in this Operation, and conceal the true Matter of Fact, which makes the History of the Events uncertain; there has not yet been Time enough spent to decide the Controversy by sufficient Tryals, considering that several of them make against the Inoculators.
But however, not knowing how long we must wait for this Satisfaction, I am willing in the mean Time to publish my Sentiments upon this litigated Subject.