What new truths, reforms and revolutions, though ever so beautiful and practical, have ever received public approval when first promulgated? Which of them has not been forced to contend with the combined forces of ignorance, superstition, bigotry and entrenched privilege? It seems an unfortunate circumstance that in every age and in every department of human activity and learning, truth must engage in a death grapple with fallacies, superstitions and popular vices and defeat and rout these before it can receive a respectable hearing.
When new truth must be promulgated, when new rules of human action must be recognized by the world and inaugurated on the throne of reason, bitter strife must preceed. It has ever been so, as Trall so clearly stated: "Never was a great principle announced to the world that the world would not crucify in some way the medium. Never was a new light in science set up, or a higher standard of morals raised, that did not bring opposition and conflict. There never was a great truth established among men until its advocates have battled long and arduously for it and, perchance, died for it."
Perhaps there is something to be said for the testing of truth by such a struggle, but it does seem to delay the progress of mankind. The vital truths of Natural Hygiene will be accepted as certainly as were the truths that the earth is round and not flat, that the earth turns on its axis and the sun does not go around the earth. We need not be discouraged, although we may be excused our impatience with the slowness of progress.
Hygiene could not be adopted by the people without an intense struggle. The interests involved were too great not to arouse violent opposition. The principles and practices of the Hygienic school were new, original and independent. They had never before been written into the books of any of the schools of so-called healing, taught in any of their schools nor recognized by any of the various healing professions. While they were each and all in direct opposition to each and all of the fundamental principles upon which the popular so-called healing systems were based, they were and are demonstrably in harmony with the laws of nature. Hygiene reversed all of the doctrines of the schools and repudiated all of their practices.
The syngraphic efflorescence of Hygiene was sufficient to frighten the drugging schools into hysteria. They attempted to meet the new truths with pseudo-righteous eloquence and occasional splashes of pomposity and when this proved unavailing, they turned to repressive measures, all reproach being advocated in the interests of the public health. The difficulty with which a new doctrine makes any headway and the bitterness with which it is opposed are, as a rule, in equal ratio to the soundess of its principles and practices. Like many other important truths, when first announced, the truths of Natural Hygiene were almost universally scouted as having no other foundation than the impudent trickery and charlatanism or the delusive fantasies of weak intellects. Many were the coruscations of wit that flashed from the pens of flippant penny-a-liners and many were the sneers of grave and reverent philosophers at the claims of this new science. But its greatest foes were the forces that saw in its general acceptance a blow, not alone to their prestige and to their means of livelihood, but also a mockery of their pretended wisdom and skill--the medicine men.
Strong opposition developed immediately upon the first promulgation of the principles of physiological reform by Graham. Not only was he opposed by medical men, but by all others--tobacconists, brewers, distillers, saloon keepers, butchers, bakers, etc.--who saw their businesses threatened by the new doctrines. Ridicule and slander, distortion and untruth, were the chief methods employed, although an effort was made to mob Graham in Boston. Opposition to Jennings did not develop immediately, primarily because the secret of his success was unknown. Both his patients and his fellow physicians thought he was treating his patients with drugs. Yale University conferred an honorary degree upon him in recognition of his unusual success. Perhaps Yale would have been hesitant about honoring him had its regents known that Hygiene was the secret of Jennings' unheard-of success. A storm broke about Jennings' head when he finally revealed the plan of care that he employed.
It was noted in the Journal, April 1861, that wherever a knowledge of the laws of life and health had penetrated, the sick had occasion to rejoice. It should not surprise us, therefore, that Graham, as all innovaters that attack old dogmas and substitute vital truths in their stead, was assailed by the slaves of precedent as well as by those who profitted from old evils. The assault upon Graham became more bitter as his teachings became more popular, and although he has been dead for over a hundred years, the medical profession still, when it condescends to notice him at all, disparages him and his teachings and refuses to acknowledge that they themselves have adopted, in their own ways of life, much that he taught.
Graham, Alcott, Gove, Trall and the many medical men who abandoned the drugging practice and adopted Hygiene, together with the graduates of Trall's school, all made themselves missionaries to carry the message of Hygiene to the people and from the people they commonly received a respectful hearing. Visiting Marietta, Pa., in August of 1861 to lecture to the people of that town, Trall contrasted the Hygienic System with the various drug systems of the day. The Mariettan of September 7, 1861, said of Trall's lectures that they "were certainly very different from anything we ever heard in Marietta. The facts propounded by Dr. Trall with regard to the nature of disease and the action of medicines were altogether new to us. It is gratifying to be able to say that Dr. Trail's visit to Marietta has aroused a spirit of inquiry on the subject of health and disease which cannot be otherwise than beneficial to the community. Our country friends were so deeply interested in the discussion, that some of them came every night six or seven miles to hear the Doctor. The Friday evening's lecture, on 'The Health and Diseases of Women,' was truly a masterly effort, and such as every man and woman throughout the country ought to hear. The lectures taken as a whole, were a treat of rare excellence."
No one at all acquainted with the history of mankind should be surprised that lectures of this type should arouse the opposition of the medical profession of the time. In spite of their opposition, expressed in many ways, they refused to meet the issue in public discussion.
Announcing editorially in the Journal (December 1861) that he had arranged to leave New York for the great West to lecture, Trall took advantage of the occasion to invite the medical men of Peoria, Illinois, where he was scheduled to lecture, to discuss or debate the respective merits of the medical and Hygienic systems. He offered to prove the following propositions:
It need hardly be stated that no medical men came forward to meet this challenge. Medical men found it beneath their dignity to discuss such matters with men whom they denounced as quacks. Trall pointed out that all of the professors of his college were graduates of regular schools of medicine and were all licensed to practice medicine. They had, he said, everything that the medical profession had and Hygiene in addition.