Joseph Warren Takes On Cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies

in by Warren

“Boston August 29th 1774.

I the Subscriber in Consideration of Popes Recipe for the Cure of Cancer promise to pay Lemuel Hayward or his Order the Sum of seven Pounds, ten Shillings lawful money in two Years from the Date and I further promise to pay to the said Lemuel Hayward the aforesaid Sum of seven Pounds ten Shillings lawful Money when I shall have acquired so much by Means of said Recipe [signed] Joseph Warren”

SourceJohn Collins Warren Papers  Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, box 2 of 23. Joseph Warren’s signature; text is in another hand, probably Lemuel Hayward’s.

Commentary: The summer of 1774 was fraught in British Colonial North America. While Massachusetts was on point in the British Constitutional crisis in consequence of the Boston Port, Administration of Justice, and Massachusetts Government Acts (collectively the Intolerable Acts in Patriot accounts), and countermeasures culminating in the County Conventions, First Continental Congress, and the overthrow of British Imperial authority in the Massachusetts countryside, Joseph Warren was in his element and at the forefront of pivotal events. These included political maneuvering and authorship of the Suffolk Resolves; shaming the Mandamus Counselors rendering them ineffective; defusing and resolving the Cambridge Alarm; and leading a bloodless democratic purge of Loyalists from militia leadership roles in advance of forming the Massachusetts Provincial Congress’ Committee of Safety.

In the midst of the political turmoil, his medical practice in the North End of Boston proceeded apace. Here Joseph Warren arranges to pay Dr. Lemuel Hayward, a former medical apprentice of his, for licensing a patent medicine cancer cure. Joseph Warren had more success in limiting the baneful influence of the King’s Tory Ministry of the global British Empire than he did the human toll extracted by the “Emperor of All Maladies.”

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