According to the legend, Robin Hood was bled to death by a man to whom he had resorted for relief from an inflammatory disease. The physician or bleeder is said to have seized the opportunity to rid the country of the noted marauder. Whether the legend is true or not, the bleeding practice accounted for many thousands of deaths. There is an old story in British medical literature of a renowned physician, who, when one of his patients succumbed to exhaustion from repeated bleedings and an autopsy showed the deceased's blood vessels to be quite empty, gloried, nevertheless, in the fact that by withdrawing the blood he had conquered the inflammation. He had too! He had so reduced his patient that he was incapable of producing either fever or inflammation. Writing of "Great Changes in Medical Practice," January 1862, James C. Jackson, M.D., said: "Take for instance the subject of blood-letting. Since I have grown to manhood, I can recollect the practice to have been such that there was scarcely a morbid condition to induce relief from which some physician could not be found to advocate the practice of blood-letting. Physicians used to bleed for congestion of the brain, sore eyes, spinal disease, sore throat or swelled tonsils, asthma, inflammation of the lungs, pulmonary consumption, diseases of the heart, dyspepsia, liver complaint, enlargement of the spleen, inflammation of the bowels, piles, genital diseases, rheumatism, neuralgia, in all cases of fever, such as intermittent fever, remittant fever, typhoid fever, typhus fever, yellow fever, ship fever, black tongue, dysentery, dengue and, in fact, for every particular and special morbid condition which could be found. To such an extent did venesection run, that it was not only practiced in the treatment of human disease, but it was almost universally practiced in the treatment of diseases of domestic animals. The horse-doctor bled, the cow-doctor bled, the dog-doctor bled, the hog-doctor bled, the sheep-doctor bled. Whoever had any domesticated animals--aving and excepting always the cat--which showed symptoms of sickness, proceeded to bleed it. Horses were bled in the mouth and in the neck, chickens were bled under the tongue, cattle were bled in the neck and in the end of the tail, pigs were bled in the leg, sheep in the ears and in the tail, dogs in the fore-legs; and so on through the whole range of domesticated animals; whoever owned them, whenever they were sick, sought relief for them from such sickness by the aid of the fleam and the knife."

It was suggested by Trall that, perhaps, nature's Materia Hygienica should have consisted of bleeding, laudanum, tartar emetic and nitre, instead of air, food and water. But he pointed out that instinct has taught the animals of nature to seek air, food, water, rest and sleep, but has not taught them to seek bleeding and poisons. The animals do not even seek for leeches and other blood-suckers.

During most of the last century, it was standard medical practice to withhold water from the acutely ill and thousands of patients literally died of dehydration. Here is a poem by Wm. H. Burleigh that was published in August 1857 under the title, Faith--A Poem:

"Restless and oft complaining, on his bed
         Tossed a fair child, as burned along his veins
         The fire of fever with consuming pains,
   And ever and anon he raised his head
   From the hot pillow, and beseeching said--
         'Water! oh, give me water!' By his side
         The mother stood, and tenderly replied
         'Wait yet awhile, this potion take instead.'
         'No,' cried the child--'tis poison and will kill!'
   His father took the cup--'My son, be sure
   This is a nauseous draught, but it may cure--
         Will my boy drink it?' Then said he, 'I will,
   I'm not afraid 'tis poison now--I know
   You would not give father, were it so.'
   "Oh, trusting childhood! I would learn of thee
         This lesson of pure faith, and to my heart
         So bind it that it never may depart--
   Therefore shalt thou henceforth my teacher be;
   For in thy perfect trust the sin I see
         Of my own doubts and fears. The Cup of Life,
         Drugged with the bitterness of tears and strife.
   Shall I not drink it when 'tis proffered me?
         Yes--for 'tis mingled by a Father's hand
   And given in love, for rightly understood,
   Trials and pains tend even to our good,
         Healing the soul that for the better land
   Thirsts with a deathless longing! Welcome pain,
   Whose end is bliss and everlasting gain."

The author of this poem seems not to have questioned the wisdom of denying water to a fevered child, crying with parched tongue for cooling water. I recite the poem only as evidence of the prevalence of the practice and of its general and unquestioned acceptance--only the Hygienists and hydropaths dared to denounce it.

Certainly the boy was right in thinking that the nauseous draught was poisonous and that it tended to kill. His faith in his father alone caused him to overcome his instinctive repugnance to the noxious cup and swallow the poison. The father's trusting faith in the physician and his bag of poisons dethroned his own reason and caused him not to think for himself. Faith is not always an unmixed good. One can have faith in the wrong thing to his own and his child's undoing.

What blind credulity that caused both the mother and father to refuse to grant a request so reasonable and give water to a child suffering with fever! To refuse the child's request must have torn at the mother's heart strings. It must have taken all the strength the father had to thus deny the child's reasonable request. How many thousands of human beings were hastened into the hereafter by being denied water for which they begged while they had a fever! Oh! The wicked ignorance of the drugging craft! They taught the sick to fear the normal things of life and to put their trust in the anti-vital.