Quack - Medicines, are those preparations of drugs, sold in the shops under the stamp-act whence they pay a certain duty to Government, from which the medicines given by regular practitioners, are wholly exempt.
The intention of the Legislature, in imposing a tax on quack-medicines, appears to have been the suppression of abuses, that attended the sale of compound drugs and spirits ; the latter of which were formerly sold exclusively by the apothecaries. Since, however, these ardent liquors have found their way to a more extensive market, medicinal preparations, also, have been pirated from books on the Materia Medica, and other branches of physic, by speculative adventurers ; who commenced an exten-sive wholesale and retail traffic in ready-made drugs, which soon attracted the attention of the goaded multitude. These imagined, that pretences so specious, and promises so flattering to their uncultivated minds, when re-echoed in every newspaper, must have some solid foundation ; as, otherwise, the ostensible proprietors of such medicines could not support establishments, that involved them in considerable expence. On the other hand, a degree of sanction was often given to these undertakings, by regular practitioners; who, from mistaken or avaricious motives, joined the standard of empiricism. (See FEVER-POWDERS).— Thus, at length, the country has been literally inundated with motley compositions for almost every disease, so that there is always a remedy at hand, without consulting either physician or surgeon ; since perfumers, grocers, toy-men, etc. are alike licensed to vend Patent and other Quack-medicines. Nay, large warehouses in the metropolis have, within the last 15 years, been opened for the greater accommodation of the public ; and where no other articles are sold.— Indeed, we well remember the facetious remark made by an attentive foreigner, on his first review of the London newspapers; namely, that it was to him altogether incon-conceivable, how the English (who are apparently provided with the most efficacious remedies that are calculated for every particular com- plaint), had cither chronic diseases among them, or any occasion far regular-bred medical men: and how the latter, under such circumstances, could support themselves and their families. Such, however, is not the case; and we have a greater number of hospitals, add perhaps more patients, than any nation in Europe ; while there is a constant fluctuation of quack-medicines ; which, in the revolving wheel of time, appear and disappear like meteors, so that none of these nostrums has hitherto stood the test of ages. But, alas ! it cannot be denied, that in the present artificial state of society, when the three learned professions are in a manner degraded into trades ; when intrigue, dissimulation, family interest, and attachment to party, are the principal requisites to preferment and the acquisition of public fame (or rather notoriety), that in such a state of things, quacks, and quack - medicines, should escape with impunity.—See also Nostrum and Physician.