Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

Lives of benefactors; online

. (page 15 of 21)
Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 15 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


inmates. At Cherson, in the distant region of Rus-
sian Tartary, his visits to the infectious hospitals
brought upon him the attacks of a severe fever — a
species of plague — under which his constitution gave
way. Every attention Avas paid to him by the
authorities, but nothing could save his life, which he
gave up, with pious resignation and hope, on the
morning of the 20th of January, 1790.

Thus died one of the brightest ornaments of Eng-
lish biography; a person whose name is associated
with all that is virtuous and benevolent, and who
will be remembered, with feelings of admiration and
respect, for numberless ages, in every part of the
civilized Avorld.



-J-J-



Slfe



I.CSf^C'-o



•Q




JENNER.

Edwakd Jenner was bom in 1749, at Berkeley, in
(rloucestershire, England, of which his father was
vicar. He was educated at Cirencester, and appren-
ticed to Mr. Ludlow, a surgeon at Sudbury. At the
conclusion of his apprenticeship, he went to London
and became a pupil of John Hunter, with whom he
resided for two years, while studying medicine at St.
George's hospital, and with whom his philosophical
habits of mind and his love of natural history pro-
cured him an intimate and lasting friendship. In
1773, he returned to his native village, and practised
as a surgeon and apothecary till 1792, when he



JENNEll. 225

determined to confine himself to medicine, and
obtained the degree of M. D., at St. Andrew's Uni-
versity.

The history of Dr. Jenner's professional life is
embodied in that of vaccination. While at Sudbury,
he was surprised one day at hearing a country woman
say she could not take the small-pox, because she had
had the cow-pox ; and, upon inquiry, he learned that it
was a popular notion in that district, that milkers who
had been infected with a peculiar eruption, which
sometimes occurred on the udder of the cow, were com-
pletely secure against the small-pox. The medical
men of the district told him that the security which it
gave was not perfect ; they had long known the
opinion, and it had been communicated to Sir George
Baker, but he neglected it as a popular error.

Jenner, during his pupilage, repeatedly mentioned
the facts, which had from the first made a deep
impression vipon him, to John Hunter; but even he
disregarded them, and all to whom the subject was
broached, either slighted or ridiculed it. Jenner,
however, still pursued it. He found, when in practice
at Berkeley, that there were some persons to whom it
was impossible to give small-pox by inoculation, and
that all these had had cow-pox; but that there were
others who had experienced it, and who yet received
small-pox. This, after much labor, led him to the
discovery that the cow was subject to a variety of
eruptions, of which one only had the power of guard-
ing from small-pox, and that this, which he called the
true cow-pox, could be eflfectually communicated to the
milkers at only one period of its course.





''26 JENNEH.

It was about the year 17S0, that the idea first struck
him that it might be possible to propagate the cow-pox,
first from the cow to the human body, and thence
from one person to another. In 1788, he carried a
drawing of the casual disease, as seen on the hands
of milkers, to London, and showed it to Hunter, Cline
and others ; but still, none would either assist or
encourage him ; scepticism or ridicule met him every-
where, and it was not till 1796, that he made the
decisive experiment. On the 14lh of May, a day still
commemorated by an annual festival at Berlin, a boy,
aged eight years, was vaccinated with matter takgn
from the hands of a milkmaid ; he passed through the
disorder in a satisfactory manner, and was inoculated
for small-pox on the 1st July following, without the
least effect.

Jenner then entered upon an extensiv^e series of
experiments of the same kind, and, in 1798, published
his first memoir, " An Inquiry into the Causes and
Effects of the Variolse Vaccinae." It excited the greatest
interest, for the evidence in it seemed conclusive ; yet
the practice met with opposition as severe as it was
tinfair, and its success seemed uncertain till a year
had passed, when upwards of seventy of the principal
physicians and surgeons in London signed a declara-
tion of their entire confidence in it. An attempt was
then made to deprive Jenner of the merit of his dis
covery, but it signally failed, and scientific honors
were bestowed upon him from all quarters. Nothing,
however, could induce him to leave his native village,
and all his correspondence shows that th.e pures*
benevolence, rather than imbition, had been the



JENNEE.



227



motive which actuated his labors. " Shall I," said he
ill a letter to a friend, "who, even in the morn-ing of
my life, sought the lowly and sequestered paths of
lif», the valley and not the mountain, — shall I, now
my evening is fast approaching, hold myself up as an
object for fortune and for fame ? My fortune, with
what flows in from my profession, is amply sufficient
to gratify my wishes."

Till the last day of his life, which terminated sud-
denly in 1S23, he was occupied in the most anxious
labors to diffuse the advantages of his discovery both
at home and abroad ; and he had the satisfaction of
knowing that vaccination had even then shed its
blessings over every civilized nation of the world,
prolonging life, and preventing the ravages of the
most terrible scourge to which the human race was
subject.

Jenner's other works all evince the same patient
and philosophic spirit which led him to his great dis-
covery. The chief of them was a paper, "On the
Natural History of the Cuckoo," in which he first
described that bird's habit of laying its eggs singly in
the nests of smaller species, to whom it leaves the
office of incubation and of rearing the young one,
which, Avhen a few days old, acquires the sole pos-
session of the nest by the expulsion of its rightful
occupants.

The life of Jenner is not without its moral. The
history of his great discovery affords a striking
instance of the difficulties Avhich often attend the pro-
mulgation of truth, even though it may be of the
greatest consequence to mankind ; and it also shows



22S JENNER.

how much good one individual may accomplish. The
small-pox had been for ages the great dread of man-
kind. It is a matter of dispute whether it Avas
known to the ancients ; the earliest writer who
expressly treated of it, was Rhazes, an Arabian
physician, who died A. D. 932. He, however, con-
founded it with measles, and the two diseases were
considered as identical, till the time of Sydenham,
1660. But whatever obscurity may rest on the origin
and the early history of small-pox, prior to Jenner's
discovery it had become one of the most formidable
diseases which had ever afflicted mankind. It spread
itself to all quarters of the globe, and has often been
known to depopulate whole districts. It was espe-
cially fatal to the poor. The Europeans brought it to
America, and its ravages among the ignorant natives
were almost as fatal as the sword.

The terrors of the disease had been in some degree
mitigated, by the discovery that it could be had but
once, and that it was of a milder nature if taken by
artificial inoculation. This practice had prevailed
in Turkey, especially among females, for the preser-
vation of the beauty of young girls. The celebrated
lady Montague, who accompanied her husband to
Constantinople, where he was the ambassador of
England in 1716, observed the custom, and on her
return, first introduced it into the western part of
Europe. The practice met with the greatest opposi-
tion, especially among the ignorant, but it finally
overspread the enlightened classes of Christendom.

The fatality of this disease may be ascertained by



JENNER. 229

the returns of the hospitals. Here thirty per cent,
of those attacked without inoculation, have been
found to die, and this under every favorable circum-
stance, and with the best medical treatment. It was
much more destructive in ordinary cases. Even with
the mitigation aflbrded by inoculation, it continued
to be one of the scourges of mankind. The impor-
tance of Dr. Jenner's discovery may be estimated,
when it is stated, that very few persons, after being
vaccinated, can take the small-pox, and of those who
do, not more than one case in four hundred and fifty,
proves mortal !

Yet, this discovery, which has done more to pro-
long life than all other medical improvements for a
hundred years preceding, met with ridicule at the
outset, and the most determined opposition in later
times. As there is a class of persons — even among
the intelligent — w'ho are unduly credulous, so there
is another class who are as unreasonably skeptical ; and
the latter are commonly those who pretend to unusual
wisdom. These are found, by a sort of instinct, to
resist what is new, and to condemn it without
examination, only because of its novelty. Among
the ignorant, there are multitudes who are ready to
swallow the most egregious impositions if offered by
a quack, who yet resist the greatest benefits if they
come from the hands of science.

In its early stages, vaccination had to contend with

these sources of opposition. For several years it was

rejected by the mass, and, even in Boston, several

eminent physicians lost their standing with a large

VI.— 20



230



JENNER.



share of the community, in their attempts to intro-
duce it. Happily, these prejudices have subsided,
and the great plague of the world has quailed before
the magic wand of science, wielded by the hand of
benevolence.



|t;^};,y, ,?, -0, .0, 5?, ,% .y, -9,5



tv^. '.♦. ,». .♦. .» »■ .»_ .*-:^




JOHN FREDERICK OBERLIN

Was a native of Strasbourg, and, after being edu-
cated as a Lutheran clergyman, was appointed, in
1767, when twenty-seven years of age, to the cure of
Waldbach, in the Ban de la Roche, a high and sterile
valley in Alsace. His mind was animated with the
most ardent desire of usefulness, not only in his pro-
fession, but in many other respects ; and greatly did
his parish need the attentions of such a philanthropist.
The whole valley afforded subsistence, and that of
the most Avretched kind, for only about a hundred
families, who were a race of rude and ignorant rustics,



232 OBERLIN.

cut off by their peculiar dialect, as well as by the
inaccessibility of their situation, from all the rest of
mankind. The husbandmen were destitute of the
commonest implements, and had no means of procur-
ing' them; they had no knowledge of agriculture,
beyond the routine practices of their forefathers ; they
were ground down and irritated by a hateful feudal
service. He devoted himself to the correction of these
evils, at the same time that he labored in his spiritual
, vocation.

The people, at first, did not comprehend his plans,
or appreciate his motives. Ignorance is always sus-
picious. They resolved, with the dogged pertinacity
with which the uneducated of all ranks cling to the
rubbish of old customs, not to submit to innovation.
The peasants agreed, on one occasion, to waylay and
beat him, and on another, to duck him in a cistern.
He boldly confronted them, and subdued their hearts
by his courageous mildness. But he did more ; he
gave up exhorting the people to pursue their real
interests ; he practically showed them the vast benefits
which competent knowledge and well-directed indus-
try would procure for them. These mountaineers in
many respects Avere barbarians ; and he resolved to
civilize them, as all savages are civilized, by bringing
them into contact with more enlightened communities.

The Ban de la Roche had no roads. The few
passes in the mountains were constantly broken up by
the torrents, or obstructed by the loosened earth which
fell from the overhanging rocks. The river Bruche,
which flows through the canton, had no bridge but
one of stepping-stones. Within a feAV miles of this



03ERLIN. 233

isolated district was Strasbourg, abounding in wealth
and knowledge, and all the refinements of civilization.
He determined to open a regular communication
between the Ban de la Roche and that city ; to find
there a market for the produce of his own district, and
to bring thence in exchange new comforts and new
means of improvement. He assembled the people,
explained his objects, and proposed that they should
blast the rocks to make a Avail, a mile and a half in
length, to support a road by the side of the river, over
which a bridge must also be made. The peasants,
one and all, declared the thing was impossible ; and
every one excused himself from engaging in such an
unreasonable scheme. Oberlin exhorted them, rea-
soned with them, appealed to them as husbands and
fathers — ^but in vain.

He at last threw a pickaxe upon his shoulder, and
went to work himself, assisted by a trusty servant.
He had soon the support of fellow-laborers. He
regarded not the thorns by which his hands were
torn, nor the loose stones which fell from the rocks
and bruised them. His heart was in the work, and
no difficulty could stop him. He devoted his own
little property to the undertaking ; he raised subscrip-
tions amongst his old friends ; tools Avere bought for
ail who were willing to use them. On the Sunday
the good pastor labored in his calling as a teacher of
sacred truths ; but on the Monday, he rose with the
sun to his work of practical benevolence, and, march-
ing at the head of two hundred of his flock, went with
renewed vigor to his conquest over the natural obsta-
cles to the civilization of the district. In three years
20*



234 OBERLIN.

the road was finished, the bridge was built, and the
communication with Strasbourg was established. The
ordinary results of intercourse between a poor and a
wealthy, a rude and an intelligent community, were
soon felt. The people of the Ban de la Roche
obtained tools, and Oberlin taught their young men
the necessity of learning other trades besides that of
cultivating the earth. He apprenticed the boys to
carpenters, masons, glaziers, blacksmiths, and cart-
wrights, at Strasbourg. In a few years, these arts,
which were wholly unknown to the district, began to
flourish. The tools were kept in good order, wheel-
carriages became common, the wretched cabins were
converted into snug cottages ; the people felt the value
of these great changes, and they began to regard their
pastor with unbounded reverence.

Oberlin, however, had still some prejudices to en-
counter in carrying forward the education of this rude
population. He desired to teach them better modes
of cultivating their sterile soil ; but they would not
listen to him. " What," said they, Avith the common
prejudice of all agricultural people in secluded dis-
tricts, — " what could he know of crops, who had been
bred in a town?" It was useless to reason with
them ; he instructed them by example. He had two
large gardens near his parsonage, crossed by footpaths.
The soil was exceedingly poor ; but he trenched and
manured the ground, with a thorough knowledge of
what he was about, and planted it with fruit trees.
The trees flourished, to the great astonishment of the
peasants ; and they at length entreated their pastor to
tell them his secret. He explained his system, and



OBERLIN. 235

gave them slips out of his nursery. Planting and
grafting soon became the taste of the district, and in a
few years the bare and desolate cottages were sur-
rounded by smiling orchards. The potatoes of the
canton, the chief food of the people, had so degene-
rated, that the fields yielded the most scanty produce.
The peasants maintained that the ground was in fault ;
Oberlin, on the contrary, procured new seed. The
soil of the mountains was really peculiarly favorable
to the cultivation of this root, and the good minister's
crop of course succeeded. The force of example was
again felt, and abundance of potatoes soon returned to
the canton.

In like manner, Oberlin introduced the culture of
Dutch clover and flax, and at length overcame the
most obstinate prejudice, in converting unprofitable
pastures into arable land. Like all agricultural im-
provers, he taught the people the value of manure, and
the best modes of reducing every substance into useful
compost. The maxim which he incessantly repeated
was, "let nothing be lost." He established an agri-
cultural society, and founded prizes for the most skil-
ful fanners. In ten years from his acceptance of the
pastoral office in the Ban de la Roche, he had opened
communications between each of the five parishes of
the canton, and with Strasbourg, introduced some of
the most useful arts into a district where they had
been utterly neglected, and raised the agriculture of
these poor mountaineers from a barbarous tradition
into a practical science. Such were some of the
effects of education in the most comprehensive sense
of the word.



286 OBERLIN.

The instruction which Oberlin afforded to the adults
of his canton was only just as much as was necessary
to remove the most pressing evils of their outward
condition, and to impress them with a deep sense of
religious obligation. But his education of the young
had a wider range. When he entered on his minis-
try, the hut which his predecessor had built, was the
only schoolhouse of the five villages composmg the
canton. It had been constructed of unseasoned logs,
and was soon in a ruinous condition. The people,
however, would not hear of a new building ; the log-
house had answered very well, and was good enough
for their time. Oberlin was not to be so deterred
from the pursuit of his benevolent wishes. He applied
to his friends at Strasbourg, and took upon himself a
heavy pecuniary responsibility. A new building was
soon completed at Waldbach, and in a few years the
inhabitants in the other four parishes came voluntarily
forward, to build a schoolhouse in each of the villages.
Oberlin engaged zealously in the preparation of mas-
ters for these establishments, which were to receive
all the children of the district when of a proper age.

But he also carried the principle of education far-
ther than it had ever before gone in any country. He
was the founder of infant schools. He saw that,
almost from the cradle, children were capable of
instruction ; that evil habits began much earlier than
the world had been accustomed to believe ; and that
the facility with which mature education might be
conducted, greatly depended upon the impressions
which the reason and the imagination of infants might
receive. He appointed conductrices in each commune.



OBERLIN. 237

paid at his own expense ; and established rooms,
vvhere children from two to six years old might be
instructed and amused ; and he thus gave the model
of those beautiful institutions which have first shown
us how the happiness of a child may be associated
with its improvement, and how knowledge, and the
discipline which leads to knowledge, are not necessa-
rily

"Harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose."

The children in these little establishments were not
kept " from morn till noon, from noon till dewy eve,"
over the horn-book and primer. They learnt to knit,
and sew, and spin ; and when they were weary, they
had pictures to look at, and maps, engraved on wood,
for their special use, of their own canton, of Alsace,
of France, and of Europe. They sang songs and
hymns ; and they were never suffered to speak a
word of patois.

When the children of the Ban de la Eoche — the cnil-
dren of peasants, be it remembered, who, a few years
before the blessing of such a pastor as Oberlin was
bestowed upon them, were not only steeped to the
lips in poverty, but were groping in that darkness
of the understanding which too often accompanies
extreme indigence — when these children were re-
moved to the higher schools, which possessed the
most limited funds, they Avere taught reading, writing,
arithmetic, geography, astronomy, sacred and profane
history, agriculture, natural history, especially botany,
natural philosophy, music, and drawing. Oberlin
reserved for himself, almost exclusively, the religious



U,2S OBERLIN.

instruction of this large family ; and he established a
weekly meeting of all the scholars at Waldbach.
The inhabitants of Strasbourg and of the neighboring
towns from which the Ban de la Roche had been
recently cut off, came to look upon the wonders which
one man had effected. Subscriptions poured in upon
the disinterested pastor ; endowments were added.
Well did he use this assistance. He founded a valu-
able library for the use of the children ; he printed a
number of the best school-books for their particular
instruction; he made a collection of philosophical and
mathematical instruments ; and established prizes for
masters and scholars.

Thus did this extraordinary man strive to raise the
intellectual standard of his parishioners, whilst he
labored to preserve the purity of their morals and the
strength of their piety. Never did religion present
more attractive features than in the secluded districts
of the Ban de la Roche. The love of God was con-
stantly inculcated as a rule of life ; but the principle
was enforced with no ascetic desire to separate it
from the usefulness and the enjoyment of existence.
The studies in which these poor children were
trained, contributed as much to their happiness as to
their knowledge. They were not confined for years
to copying large text and small hand, to learning by
rote the spelling-book, to hammering at the four rules
of arithmetic without understanding their principles
or their more practical applications. While they paid
due attention to these, they were taught whatever could
be useful to them in their pastoral and agricultural
life, and whatever could enable them to extract hap-



OBEELIN. 239

piness out of their ordinary pursuits. They were
incited to compose short essays on the management
of the farm and the orchard ; they were led into the
woods to search for indigenous plants, to acquire their
names, and to cultivate them in their own little gar-
dens ; they were instructed in the delightful art of
copying these flowers from nature ; it was impressed
upon their minds, that, as they lived in a district sep-
arated by mountains from the rest of mankind, and
moreover a district naturally sterile, it was their
peculiar duty to contribute something towards the
general prosperity ; and thus, previously to receiving
religious confirmation, Oberlin required a certificate
that the young person had planted two trees. Trees
were to be planted, roads were to be put into good
condition, and ornamented, to please Him " who
rejoices when we labor for the public good."

Surely, a community thus trained to acquire sub-
stantial knowledge, equally conducive to individual
happiness and general utility, were likely to become
virtuous and orderly members of society, contented
in their stations, respectful to their superiors, kind to
each other, hospitable to the stranger, tolerant to those
who differed from them in opinion. Oberlin lived
long enough to see that such conduct was the real
result of his wise and benevolent system.

in 1784, Oberlin lost his excellent wife. There
was a servant in his family, an orphan, named Louisa
Schepler, who had been brought up in his schools,
and was afterwards one of the conductrices of the
infant establishments. After being the nurse of Ober
lin's children for nine years following the death of



ii40 OBERLIN.

their mother, this poor girl Avrote to her master, to
beg that she might be allowed to serve him Avithout
wages.

" Do not, I entreat you," she says, "give me any-
more wages ; for, as you treat me like your child in
every other respect, I earnestly wish you to do so in
this particular also. Little is needful for the support
of my body. My shoes and stockings, and sabots,
will cost something ; but when I want them, I can ask
you for them, as a child applies to its father."

In the course of twenty years, the population of
the Ban de la Roche had increased to six times the
number that Oberlin found there when he entered
upon his charge. The knowledge which their pastor
imparted to the people, gave them also the means of
living, and the increase of their means increased their
numbers. The good minister found employment for
all. In addition to their agricultural pursuits, he
taught the people straw-plaiting, and dyeing with the
plants of the country. In the course of years, Mr.
Legrand, of Basle, a wealthy and philanthropic manu-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 15 of 21)