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tion of his art, and who knows by the experience of his life the infinite variety of ills to which flesh is heir, and the many and various modes of treatment necessary for their cure—that one solitary remedy should be proposed for all diseases, without regard to the nature and character of those diseases, and the habits and constitutions of the persons afflicted by them. Any man, in the present condition of medical science, would be scouted at as a quack, who would indiscriminately prescribe such an universal nostrum.
The ignorant are easily deceived by empiricism, and it is the business of science to undeceive them. We remember that when the composition known as “Swaim's Panacea" was in the full tide of successful newspaper puffing, it was held forth as a sovereign remedy for all diseases. It was thus syllogistically argued by the concoctor: All the diseases of the human frame result from a single cause, viz., impurity of the bloodpurify the blood, and you cure all diseases. Swaim's Panacea purifies the blood-therefore, Swaim's Panacea cures all diseases. And thus it is ever with the ignorant and unreflecting. They take for granted the correctness of premises which are in most instances false; their conclusions, as a consequence, are also false, and the most disastrous effects are often the result.
In a journal entitled “ La Nature considérée sous ses differentes aspects, année 1780, No. 4,” appears the testimony of a distinguished physician, M. De Volter, an Aulic counsellor, and director of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Bavaria, in which he refutes the assertions of Mesmer in regard to the cure of M. Osterwald, at Munich-a cure which was triumphantly cited in proof of the efficacy of the system. De Volter asserts that the magnetic treatment violently affects the nervous system, which of course bears out the assertions of its professors of the present day, that persons in ill health are peculiarly liable to its influ
And thus, after submitting to the treatment of Mesmer, the strength of M. Osterwald was so entirely prostrated, and his nerves were so shattered, that he lived but a short time. Mesmer seems to have been rather annoyed at this exposition of the effects of his system, and thus exonerates himself from having had any agency in producing the catastrophe :
“Quant a M. Osterwald, je ne sais comment il a usé de la santé que je lui avois rendue. Il s'est marié depuis; on m'a assuré qu'il etoit mort au sortir de table, soit d'indigestion, soit d'un coup de sang. Je suis faché de ne l'avoir pas rendu immortel.”
So that M. Osterwald was not killed by M. Mesmer; but the unfortunate man happening to get married, after he was cured by the magnetism, was worried to death by his wife—or perhaps (being gastronomically inclined) he “ rejoiced the inward man”
to such an extent that he died of indigestion, or fell over in a fit of apoplexy.
The ill success which attended the efforts of Mesmer at Vienna, was confirmed by his evading the entertaining of a commission of the faculty of that city. He therefore determined upon leaving his country, and accordingly, in 1778, repaired to Paris.
After encountering many difficulties there, which it is unnecessary for our purpose to detail, he established himself at Creteil, a village near Paris, and took into his house a number of patients, for the purpose of subjecting them to the magnetic treatment. He had asked the Royal Society of Medicine to appoint a committee to examine his patients, and the cures he had effected; but the society not choosing to appoint the committee of examination in the manner he desired, voted the appointment of a regular commission to witness and report the result of his experiments upon such persons as they might think proper to subject to it. M. Mesmer absolutely refused this proposition.
In a letter written to Mesmer, M. Vicq d’Azir, secretary of the society, thus notices his refusal :
“Votre lettre annonçant que cet examen, et les visites necessaires n'entrent pas dans votre projet, et que pour y suppléer, il nous suffit, suivant vous, d'avoir la parole d'honneur de vos malades et des attestations; la compagnie, en vous les remittant, vous declare qu'elle a retiré la commission dont elle avoit chargé quelques uns de ses membres a votre sujet. Il est de son devoir de ne porter aucun jugement sur des objets dont on ne la met pas à portée de prendre une pleine et entière connoissance, sur tout lorsqu'il s'agit de justifier des assertions nouvelles. Elle se doit à elle même cette circonspection dont elle s'est toujours fait et se sera toujours une loi.”
It appears, therefore, that Mesmer had no idea of making the commissioners the actual eye witnesses of his treatment. He wished them to examine his patients and see the result of the treatment, and not the treatment itself. He expected them to decide upon the system, and report to the Royal Academy, from a simple inspection of those under his care, without knowing any thing about their previous habits, or the diseases under which they were suffering, and he expected them to receive his word of honour and the oral testimony of the patients as to all the details of which their report to their constituents should be composed. Under these circumstances the commission was immediately withdrawn, and Mesmer treated as an impudent quack.
Soon after his rupture with the Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, he left Creteil and returned to Paris, where he continued for a time almost unnoticed.
There was one member of the Royal Academy of Medicine who was a firm believer in the magnetic theory, and a stanch disciple of Mesmer. We allude to Mr. D’Eslon, who wrote a work called “ Observations sur le Magnetisme.”
This gentleman, unlike Mesiner, was willing to subject the system to the full investigation of the faculty. He undertook to evince the existence of the animal magnetism—to communicate to them his knowledge in relation to it; and to prove the efficacy of the discovery in the cure of human maladies. In March, 1784, therefore, the king appointed a commission, consisting of four physicians of the faculty of Paris, and five members of the Royal Academy of Sciences, among whom was Dr. Franklin, then minister of the United States at the court of France.
The agent of which Mesmer claims the discovery, he thus describes :
“M. Mesmer has described the agent he professes to have discovered, and to which he has given the appellation of animal magnetism, in the following manner:- It is a fluid universally diffused; the vehicle of a mutual influence between the celestial bodies, the earth, and the bodies of animated beings; it is so continued as to admit of no vacuum; its subtlety does not admit of illustration ; it is capable of receiving, propagating, and communicating all the impressions that are incident 10 motion; it is susceptible of flux and reflux. The animal body is subject to the effects of this agent; and these effects are immediately produced by the agent insinuating itself into the substance of the nerves. We particularly discover in the human body qualities analogous to those of the loadstone; we distinguish in it poles different and opposite. The action and the virtue of the animal magnetism are capable of being communicated from one body to another, animate or inanimate; they exert themselves to considerable distances, and without the least assistance from any intermediate bodies: this action is increased and reflected by mirrors; it is communicated, propagated, and augmented by sound; and the virtue itself is capable of being accumulated, concentrated and transferred. Though the Huid be universal, all animal bodies are not equally susceptible of it; there even are some, though very few, of so opposite a nature, as by their mere presence to supersede its effects upon any other contiguous bodies.
“The apimal magnetism is capable of curing immediately diseases of the nerves, and mediately other distempers; it in proves the action of medicines ; it forwards and directs the salutary crises so as to subject them totally to the government of the judgment; by means of it the physician becomes acquainted with the state of health of each individual, and decides with certainty upon the causes, the nature and the progress of the most complicated distempers; it prevents their increase, and effects their extirpation, without at any time exposing the patient, whatever be his age, sex, or constitution, to alarming incidents, or unpleasing consequences.' 'Io the influence of the magnetism, nature holds out to us a sovereign instrument for securing the health and lengthening the existence of mankind.'»
It was this agent that the commissioners were appointed to examine, and when they met at the house of D’Eslon he read -NO. 44
to them a memoir, of which the theory was the basis, in which he asserted that there was but one nature and one distemper, and that animal magnetism was the one and only remedy. He discovered to them the poles of the human body-instructed them in the process of the magnetism, and the manner of directing, towards the diseased, the magnetic fluid.
After being thus instructed in the mysteries of the science, the commissioners proceeded to observe its effects, and on several occasions witnessed the public method of M. D'Eslon. At other times, experiments were exhibited to them in private, in order that they might have the opportunity of freely discussing these experiments and exchanging such observations and opinions as the occasion might call forth.
It forms no part of our purpose—nor is it in our power if it did so, owing to the limited space at our command—to follow the royal commissioners through the rigid investigation to which they subjected the magnetic theory. The reader may have easy access to the Report, the title of which stands second in order at the head of this article, and which has been republished in Philadelphia. We will only observe, that a vast difference existed between the results of the public and private experiments. The subjects who were publicly operated upon, were either the poor patients of M. D’Eslon, or were selected by him for that purpose, and were consequently at his command, and in all probability exhibited the effects which they had been previously instructed to feign. Those who were subjected to the private treatment were selected by the commissioners, many of them being diseased persons from the lowest class, who, according to the theory, were peculiarly liable to the magnetic influence. None of these persons exhibited the slightest sensation, which could not be traced to a cause entirely distinct from the magnetism. The commissioners themselves were magnetized. Some of them were in ill health, and of extremely delicate constitutions, but no effect whatever was produced upon them. Dr. Franklin (who, it has been falsely asserted, took no other than a nominal part in the commission) was magnetized at his house at Passy, and although in very delicate health, experienced no sensation.
But it is said that very decided sensations have been produced in persons who could not be suspected of feigning. This may easily be accounted for by the influence of the imagination. It was observed by the cominissioners in the course of the investigation, that those persons who had full faith in the power of the magnetism were sensibly affected by the treatment, while those who either disbelieved it, or who, from never having witnessed its effects upon others, were entirely ignorant of it, experienced no sensations when subjected to it themselves. And this was
constantly the case, as well with persons of nervous temperament as with those of strong constitution.
But still further; an individual who has faith in the magnetic influence, will exhibit strong sensations when he knows that he is undergoing the magnetic treatment; whereas, if the same individual be subjected to the operation at a time when he is ignorant that he is undergoing it, he will experience no sensations arising from it. These facts have been tested by experiment, and authorize the conclusion that the effects of the magnetism can only be attributed to the imagination.
It is true that the same effects may be produced by different causes. But it will not be denied here, that imagination has excited sensations and crises without the magnetism, when the magnetism was utterly ineffectual without the imagination. Thus, for example :- A woman was sent for, whose sensibility to the influence was known. The physician who performed the operation undertook to magnetize her through a paper partition. The paper offered no obstruction to the passage of the magnetic fluid, for it is a principle of the theory that neither paper nor stone walls are obstacles to its passage. Now observe the result. This person was magnetized at the distance of a foot and a half, with the paper intervening, during thirty minutes, in a direction opposite to the poles, (which is according to the rules of the science,) and no sensation whatever was produced. The operator then passed to the other side of the paper, where the woman was sitting, and went through the same process, at the same distance, the only difference being that the magnetism was conveyed in the direction of the poles, which, according to the principles of the science, ought to have produced no effect. In three minutes the woman was thrown into a state of violent excitement, and exhibited all the symptoms of the convulsive crisis.
In the one instance, the operation was performed in full accordance with the rules of the theory, without effect. In the other, it was performed, not in accordance with the rules, with effect. In the first instance, the woman was ignorant that the magnetic influence was directed towards her. In the second, she was fully cognizant of the fact.
Many experiments were instituted by the commissioners, which produced the unanimous conclusion that the agent, miscalled animal magnetism, is not a fluid capable of being perceived by any of the senses—and that all the effects attributed to it are the results of physical compression, imagination, and imitation. They satisfactorily proved that convulsions could not be produced without exciting the imagination. One cause, therefore, being only requisite to one effect, the supposition of the magnetic fluid is unnecessary. It is not to be disputed that