Futile Growling of a Toothless Hound Cannot Disturb the Breast Covered by the Shield of Conscious Integrity

in by Warren

by Philo Physic, pseudonym of Joseph Warren

Date: July 27, 1767

To Doctor Young. Sir,

I never had a wish to injure any man, nor would I give undeserved pain to the meanest reptile – My only aim in publishing my sentiments upon the matter in debate between Dr. Whitworth and you, was to discourage injudicious blood-letting. – As you called upon all the Physicians on the continent to give their opinions upon the point, I imagined that mine would have been received with candour: However, you were pleased to censure it, and in your own way endeavoured to argue against it. I followed your humor, and condescended to reason with you upon the subject; but you soon discovered, either by your own sagacity, or the information of some other, that a superficial prater, and a philosophical reasoner, were beings not so closely connected as you had heretofore supposed. – You therefore very wisely drop’d theoretical arguments, and rested your cause upon the authority of the physicians in Scotland. To this I likewise consented. For your justification, you produced a case to the public; but upon examining it, I discovered to you and to the world, that there did not happen to be any analogy between that and the case in which your conduct was censured – enraged to find you had rendered yourself ridiculous, you in terms not becoming the gentleman, the scholar, or the physician, demanded an examination into the affair, no doubt expecting (as had once before been the case) that your insignificancy would have secured you from having any notice taken of your ignorant proposal – But my complaisance put me upon contriving a method in which I might without degrading myself, comply with your request, by laying the whole matter open before such persons as you yourself should elect for your judges – This unexpected stroke has so entirely disconcerted you, that nothing but distraction and despair are seen thro’ the whole of your last performances. – Indeed sir, even your few adherents were shock’d at your last week’s production. When the great Dr. Young, who only wanted an opportunity of shewing his vast abilities to raise him to the highest pinnacle of literary honor, who was to chastise the insolence of the man who dared to raise his pen against him, who like the celebrated Crichton, challenged the whole country to dispute with him in every science, when he who began this public debate, only to display his own superiority, meanly endeavours to screen himself from that contempt and derision which his ignorant practice, and miserable scribbling, have bro’t upon him, beneath the shelter of the law – Those who before had trumpeted his self-sufficiency to stand against the shocks of his antagonists, were struck dumb with confusion.

What influence you could think your threatnings would have upon me, I cannot conceive – for believe me, Doctor, I shall not easily be turned from my purpose: the futile growling of a toothless hound, can never for a moment disturb the breast that is covered by the shield of conscious integrity. – The laws of my country I revere, and shall not willingly violate them – I hope never to drop a letter from my pen, that shall disgrace the hand that wrote it, or a word from my mouth, that shall subject the tongue that spoke it to the boring of a burning iron. – But if you dislike any thing in this or my former papers, seek satisfaction in what manner you please. – Your distress may raise my pity, but your menaces will not excite my fears – Truth (and not any apprehension of danger) obliges me to say, that as to the certificate signed J. P—l I hereby declare that I knew nothing of it until in print; and therefore its merits and faults (if any) are to be ascribed to another: if it has occasioned grief to any of the relatives, it gives me real concern. I likewise think proper to deny my having any title to the honor merited by the ingenious Democritus; and hope he will excuse my not justifying him in classing Dr. Tudor, who is a gentleman of learning, modesty and integrity, with Dr. Young – a more thoro’ knowledge of Dr. Tudor’s character, I am satisfied, would have prevented this mistake.

And now, Doctor, as I rarely dismiss you without some little advice, I would just hint to you, that before you can expect to recover damages for the loss of reputation, you must prove that you had a reputation to lose. And further, you should consider whether such ignorant practice so ridiculously defended, does not prove (if you ever had a reputation) that it was falsl[e]y grounded, and consequently the world are obliged to those who have striped you of that false colouring which rendered you injurious to society.

I really, upon weighing the many difficulties attending a prosecution at law, against the very little advantage you will be likely to receive from it, should advise you to employ your time [in] some other business: and I would strongly recommend to you the search after mineral waters; for which your great knowledge in chymistry eminently qualifies you – I have indeed heard lately that you have been a little unlucky – when after much pain, and many elaborate trials, you had discovered a mineral spring in this town, and had just begun to sound forth its virtue, the owner, by “a left-handed kind of destiny”, perceived that a little gutter from a cow-­yard emptied itself into the Well, upon stopping which, the Well lost all its vertue, and was reduced to common water. – If this account be true, I confess a common man might blush for his ignorance; but, I trust, sir, that you are superior to such a womanish infirmity. And take this consolation with you, that whatever rebuffs you may meet with in your mineral search, nothing can ever lessen the opinion which is conceived of you by your faithful Monitor, and humble Servant,

Philo Physic.

Source: Boston Gazette, July 27, 1767, issue 643, p. 2

Commentary: The newspaper-mediated malpractice dispute between Drs. Thomas Young and Miles Whitworth, into which Warren’s Philo Physic asserted had himself, inflicted collateral reputational damage involving a J. P—l, Dr. Tudor, Democritus, and a patient’s family.

Warren is unapologetic and self-righteously insistent in condemning Dr. Young. Warren’s memorable phrase: “[T]he futile growling of a toothless hound can never for a moment disturb the breast that is covered by the shield of conscious integrity,” presages a more polished phrase in Warren’s 1775 Boston Massacre Oration: “Where justice is the standard, heaven is the warrior’s shield.”

Warren closes on a comical barnyard farce ridiculing Young’s alleged incompetence.

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