No Special Connections with a Certain Set of Gentlemen

Fleam for Therapeutic Bleeding 18th c

in about Warren

Author: Misophlauros, a pseudonym of Dr. Thomas Young

Date: June 15, 1767

“In Messrs. Fleets Paper of April 20, 1767, was published an account of a woman in Boston in a pulmonary phthisis, with troublesome fatiguing cough and fever rising irregularly, sometimes to inflammation. One lobe of the lungs more affected than the other, the matter greatly crude & tenacious in both. Who after some days attendance, had an increase of the fever to an uncommon height; when purple redness of the face, laboring of the pulse, and respiration; insupportable pain in the side, and other like symptoms, were said to leave no room to doubt the propriety of blood letting.- Blood was plentifully taken from the arm of the most affected side, yet next day a considerable haemorrhage happened from the lungs[.]

This step was censured by Dr. Whitworth, and defended by Dr. Young; till, on appeal to the public, a Gentleman steps in under the title of Philo Physic, and in two papers acknowledges Young’s state of the case to be fair, yet condemned the practice. It may be noted that Young in his first publication cited authorities of Boerhaave, Pitcairn, Morton, Sydenham, Cheyne, Clesus, Butler, Haller, Pringle, Monro, Langrish, Robinson, Barry, Dictionary Arts &c. and Benja. Martin, most of which were point blank to his purpose, and all of them greatly revered by Philo Physic: Yet the honesty and impartiality of P[hilo]. P[hysic].  (notwithstanding an acknowledged bias in Young’s favor)  is so conspicuous and uncorrupted, that because Y—– happens to be an exotic, and has no special connections with a certain set of Gentlemen, benevolence itself cannot excuse his conduct.- Y—-says in his first relation, the matter was greatly crude and tenacious; P.P. englishes that, by the word “purulent.” Y—– Indeed in his last performance denied purulence; but since crudity, tenacity and purulence are synonymous terms, that can make little difference, where the necessity of “admitting” and condemning is so urgent.- This negation and the doctrine of bleeding in beginning inflammations were indeed intended to excuse the culprit: What effect they may have after his death [i]s uncertain. But how witty is our judge on occaision? What a flaw has he caught? “But in the cause of that violent pain and difficult respiration what it will, &c.” It is not in direct answer to a quotation from P.P. where “brought on” signifies a recent pain? And grant so, P.P.  will find the words near enough from Celsus’s pen be they serviceable as they will; and may refute them at his leisure, as he may the unfavorable report that goes about town of the European Physicians advising Loed Hope, and others, “to bleed in hectic fevers.- It is well Mr. P.P. is a lover of physic, otherwise he might not have patience to refute all that may be said in favor of a practice, countenanced by the learned in every part of Europe. P.P. notwithstanding a peculiar accuracy observable in all his works “You blamed me for saying that the suppression, &c.” Y—– seems to mean bleeding there. But all these several opinions may be congruous enough, as may be the taking away a 7th part of the blood to diminish a 4th of the strength in a person where perhaps half the vessels were impervious. P.P’s. discourse on relaxation, has nothing so improving in it, that it needs a second recommendation.- There have doubtless been Physicians since Hippocrates, that have treated both the strictum and laxum, as well as he has done.- P.P. thinks “a cursory reading of authors can nowise entitle a man to the character of a Physician.” It cannot be accounted much better, if a man’s whole writings, plainly discover he never read them at all, as any one’s must who in the roundest terms contradict their united sentiments.- P.P. seems to have an omniscient institution into the minds of mankind, when he finds “all who have knowledge enough to admit of conviction, are fully faithful of Y—-‘s egregious mistake.”- Some are certainly so weak as to doubt whether any man on earth could come at that full satisfaction, unless he was with Young in the chamber at the very time, and examined the symptoms with the same care and attention as he did.-

But none must imagine that P.P. has any aversion to the lancet, except in cases of high fevers, viscous blood, tender vessels, purple redness of the face, laboring pulse, and respiration; pain in the side and other like symptoms of an imminent haemorrhage from the lungs. In which case, if any presume to make use of it they may expect his persecution, till they and the world are heartily tired with his yelping.


*Extract of a letter from a Gentleman of this town, who after long trial here, when melting in night-sweats, almost continual fever, violent cough, “vastly emaciated and weak,” repaired to Scotland for the recovery of his health, whence he writes to his friend in Boston thus, Glasgow, 21st April 1767. In regard to my health am now a good deal better than when I left you, tho’ far from being well. The Physicians here treat my disorder differently from — — I have already been bled six times, about half a pound each time.- They have ordered me to try the goat whey for two months in the summer, and if I an not much recovered in the fall, a long voyage to the southward during the winter.- N.B. Had been under this regimen only since Christmas.

Source: Boston Evening-Post, June 15, 1767, issue 1656 suppl, p. 1

Commentary: Thomas Young, writing as Misophauros, tries to defend himself against the aspersions of Joseph Warren’s pseudonymous P[hylo]. P[hysic]. Young merely set himself up for further public mockery. Another issue animates this venomous interchange, quite aside from the alleged merits or malpractice in the case of the fatally consumptive Mrs. Davis. Antipathy of the university and apprentice-trained physicians, like Drs. Miles Whitworth and Joseph Warren, toward Dr. Young stemmed from their distain of a self-trained practitioner, and one deviating from the “unwritten constitution” governing doctor-patient interactions. Young is painfully aware that he has been labeled “…an exotic, and has no special connections with a certain set of Gentlemen.” Just two years prior Young had relocated to Boston from Albany and quickly became active in Whig politics.

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