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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Correspondence. — Popular Delusions


Popular Delusions.

Sir,—The last English Mail brought the account of a charge brought against a man named John Baker, of having neglected to provide necessary page 181 medical aid for his child Jesse Baker, who, it was presumed, had been allowed to die without any medical assistance. The defendant who belongs to a sect very numerous in Essex, calling themselves the "Peculiar People," said that he had acted according to the Word of God, which tells him to pray, and that if any are sick, let him send for the church to anoint the sick with oil and pray over him. The words, however, are explicit of a recent statute, which enacts, that where parents cause their children to die without medical aid, they shall be liable to six months imprisonment, and the defendant was committed accordingly: the magistrates, however, exercised a power given them to discharge him, on his own recognizances, to come up for sentence when called upon. On reflecting upon the above case, the question at once suggests itself, why should these simple but ignorant people be more severely dealt with than another class of persons, who, labouring under the delusion of the fanatic Hahnemann and his followers, neglect to provide necessary medical aid for their children? The principle of action influencing the former class, however dangerous in its results, is, at least, distinct and intelligible, and is one professed by a large number of persons who, in theory at least, take the literal words of the so-called inspired volume as their guide. The mental condition of the latter class can be neither defined nor understood. When persons of fair average education (in the common acceptance of the term) are heard complacently talking of their patronage of the "new system," and are seen demurely dispensing amongst their good natured friends and acquaintances, small saccharine spheroids ("hundreds and thousands") whilst they talk dogmatically and confidently on the principles of a science respecting which they cannot possibly possess the slightest knowledge, one can only look on in blank amazement.

The deplorable disasters that have occurred under the operation of both these "systems" seem to justify the interference of the law, for it is certain that neither reason nor argument can reach the followers of either, who each present to the ordinary intelligence of sane observers a special type of lunatic, and in neither case one of the most harmless kind.

F.R.C.S., England.