Tragically Forgotten Lessons From The 1883 London Society for the Abolition of Compulsory Vaccination (Regarding the “Vaccine Question”)

By Dr. T. R Allinson and Professor F.W. Newman

Excerpts from the 1883 Vaccination Inquirer, the official publication of The London Society for the Abolition of Compulsory Vaccination

The Medical Profession is a Great Trade Union, Beholden to Corporate Interests

My subject is "Medical Men and Vaccination." I shall not attempt to entertain you with statistics but try and inform you concerning the attitude of the medical fraternity toward this question of vaccination. In the first place, you must recollect that the medical profession is a great trade union. There are 25,000 of us in the United Kingdom, and we stick together more closely than any other profession.

You may take the Law or the Church, and you will find in neither the same intense devotion to corporate interests. If one makes a mistake, the others are ready to hide it. Many coroners are medical men, and when a case occurs that is not favourable to the profession, it is more or less dexterously slurred over. By means of this trade unionism we have acquired immense power, which is yearly increasing. Law and Church will soon be accounted second and third.

People cannot be born without us; they cannot die without us; and it will come to pass that they cannot be married or take a situation without us. All this tends to make the medical profession pretty unanimous on a question which is supposed to be one of its Articles of Faith.

If You Want the Truth on Vaccinations You Must Go to Those Who Are Not Making Anything Out of It

And then the money we make out of it! There is 1 shilling or 1 shilling. sixpence. for each vaccination, and a bonus for good work. Then private cases—anything from say sixpence to a five-pound note. Seeing how it pays, you certainly must not go to the parties paid for disinterested advice. If you want the truth on vaccination you must go to those who are not making anything out of it. If doctors shot at the moon every time it was full as a preventive of measles and got a shilling for it, they would bring statistics to prove it was a most efficient practice, and that the population would be decimated if it were stopped.

Doctors Are Bred in the Faith

Jenner introduced vaccination nearly a hundred years ago. He said - or others said for him - that people who contracted cowpox could never contract smallpox. In spite of innumerable proofs that smallpox does follow cowpox, we find the statement repeated as if it had never suffered contradiction. If a person be vaccinated and does not take smallpox, it is held that he has been saved from smallpox by his vaccination; but if he does take smallpox, then it is said there must have been something wrong with the virus, or some defect in its administration. In short, whatever is wrong, vaccination must be right, and there is no possible failure which, on such terms cannot be explained away. Medical men, as a rule, believe in vaccination from want of knowledge.

They are bred in the faith that vaccination is a preventive of smallpox and go on to practise it and to live by it. Be fair, therefore, to the doctors, and ask yourselves whether you would not believe as they do, and act as they do, if your training and interest coincided with theirs. We believe our teachers. I never heard of anti-vaccinators except as fools and fanatics, whose existence was marvelous.

The only knowledge of vaccination I had was from a medical lecture explaining the nature of the process and the usual effects that follow it. Yet so firmly was I persuaded of its efficacy that having a healthy child, the antecedents of which I knew, I took the opportunity of protecting myself; but as I was busy and fearing inconvenience from my arm, I vaccinated myself on the leg; but it laid me up.

I had cold shivers and was thoroughly upset and had to give up work for a time. I afterwards suffered from swollen glands. It took nearly a year before the "marks" became the colour of the natural skin, and even now, if I am at all out of sorts they feel irritated. I have become an opponent of vaccination out of my own experience.

During the epidemic of 1871, visiting the hospitals and seeing in private practice that nine-tenths of the smallpox cases had already been vaccinated, and noticing the class of people among whom the disease is most fatal, I was led to the conclusion that the cause in most cases was dirt, and that vaccination was powerless to prevent it. I found that where there was most overcrowding there smallpox was most prevalent. The worst case I have ever seen occurred three weeks after re-vaccination. On the other hand, I have known cases of unvaccinated persons sleeping with those suffering from the disease and not contracting it.

Common Defences of Vaccination

We are asked, "How is it that we do not now see the faces of the people pitted with smallpox, as we used to do?" The like remark was made in 1821 by the grandfathers of those now using this argument. The cessation of the practice of inoculation, which is now punishable by a month’s imprisonment, and the improved methods of treatment, will easily account for a real improvement in this matter of pock-pits.

Another favourite argument is the diminution of the number of deaths from smallpox, owing, as urged, to the extension of the practice of vaccination. This, again, was asserted before vaccination was compulsory, and before it had been sufficiently practiced to possibly bring about any such result.

Smallpox had begun to fall off last century before vaccination was heard of; and what caused it to fall off? Smallpox was commoner last century than in the preceding century, the seventeenth; and what made it commoner? Forms of disease prevail and disappear, replaced by other forms.

What has become of the black death? ‘What has become of the sweating sickness? Improved sanitation has done away with them; and the same agency may be credited with any reduction that may have taken place in the mortality from smallpox. A common fallacy which doctors as well as the general public fall into is what is called post hoc propter hoc, or reasoning from the event; that is to say, "He was vaccinated; he did not take smallpox; therefore he was protected by vaccination."

Where a community is well-vaccinated they have little smallpox; therefore their vaccination saved them. It is forgotten that they do not possess the means of comparing the vaccinated community with an unvaccinated one. When there is no epidemic there is no smallpox, and vaccination is credited with the exemption; but when an epidemic occurs, then we discover that the vaccination previously accounted protective, is either grossly defective, or is not equal to resist small-pox of a specially virulent type.

Vaccinia: A Disease and an Excitant Disease

During the smallpox scare of 1871, I was assistant to a surgeon of police. All the police were ordered to be re-vaccinated. I had a good opportunity of seeing the evil effects of the operation. We had many on the sick list, and some of the men were twelve months before they got well. Of diseases that may be transmitted by vaccination, Dr. Cory has demonstrated in his own person the possibility of the transmission of the worst.

Of cases of eczema after vaccination I have seen, not one, but a great many. Another disease caused by vaccination is erysipelas, which should accompany effective vaccination according to the teaching of Jenner. The areola which surrounds the vaccine vesicle is true erysipelas. But sometimes the erysipelas does not stop there. It passes on to what we call cellulitis, in which the deeper tissues are involved. I have seen a very bad case of this sort, and the poor child’s arm did not get better for six months. The commonest form of cellulitis commences in the vaccinated arm, then goes down to the elbow, then passes across the body to the other arm and then down the back, then taking one leg and then the other, and usually ending with an abscess on the foot. To see a child come through vaccination without some trouble is, in my experience, exceptional.

There have been great disputes in the medical world, whether the number of marks should be one, two, three, four, or five. Some manfully go in for five, but, since the public have been making an outcry, the vaccinators have most of them come down to three; which, I believe, is now the fashionable number.

There is another point to which I wish to draw your attention—it is this. Inoculation is now a punishable offence, yet much that passes current for vaccination is nothing else. Smallpox matter is put into a calf, and gives rise to what is called cowpox. This, in turn, is used for vaccination, and on the principle of the alternation of diseases can only reproduce smallpox. Thus, the vaccinated often become true foci for the spread of the very disease they have been operated upon to check.


My aim has been to show that you have a powerful body to fight in the medical profession. We cannot be stirred without great effort. We are a kind of Juggernaut; we have to be dragged; we will not go. Let each one take his doctor, or, if he be so fortunate as not to need one, the doctor who lives nearest to him, and try and instruct him. Send him the literature of the subject; he may not read it, but he may. Every little helps.  

Instruct the people by means of public lectures and meetings. Show them as plainly as you can the uselessness and dangers of vaccination. Teach them that they must not go to the medical profession for counsel on the matter. If cases of smallpox were isolated and the clothes of the sufferers disinfected, the disease would not spread. If you wish to avoid smallpox, you must live pure and simple lives. If we crowd together we must expect disease; if we keep our skins closed, the impurities of the body are retained, and these impurities are the food upon which smallpox thrives. If your constitution is in a bad, state and you come in contact with smallpox, you will probably have it.

The Vaccination Question: The Senselessness of Sticking Poisoned Lancets Into Healthy People

From Professor F.W. Newman

Vaccination Inquirer Vol 5 p130, 1883, 864 words

[Having asked Prof. Newman how he became concerned in the opposition to vaccination, he favoured me with the following communication, which I am sure will be as interesting to the readers of the Vaccination Inquirer as it is to me. — Wm White]

Norwood Villa, Weston-super-Mare. August, 1883.

Dear Sir,  You ask me "how I became interested in the Vaccination Question, and at what date?" I will answer as accurately as I am able without research for the date, on which I will first speak. I have volume of the Anti-Vaccinator, in a somewhat elegant exterior, and with an inscription complimentary to me (dated 1870). It contains several pieces from my pen; and I have little doubt that my Convictions against vaccination were then full three years old.

The outline of my mental history in this direction is as follows. Circumstances had led me to respect Mr. Henry Pitwan, of Manchester, as a competent and truthful witness of fact. On a certain occasion, he spoke publicly on the miserable state to which he had seen a poor lad, Ira Connell, of Southport, reduced by vaccination. Ira’s parents, and his brothers and sisters, were all hale: his mother attested that previous to vaccination so was Ira. But, after vaccination, Ira had never recovered its dreadful effects, three of his four limbs being crippled.

Some years later, I myself saw Ira Connell at Southport. I think his age was then 25, but am not sure. He had only one leg sound, and hardly one arm. I will not undertake to describe his state exactly, but it was very pitiable. I am happy to add that in nine on ten years more he has gradually recovered, so as at least not to be visibly crippled.

Previously I had refused to read anti-vaccination tracts, having too much already to read. I had never known or heard in my own circles of mischief from vaccination, and when some German ladies spoke of its "horrors" I thought them absurd and. fanatical; but now that Henry Pitman publicly attested afact, this woke me up to the duty of further inquiry.

I at once remembered that in my early youth or boyhood I had been staggered by reading in a medical journal that experience made it impossible to sustain Jenner’s doctrine that vaccination was a certain preventive of smallpox, but the writer nevertheless urged that vaccination was valuable for making small-pox milder if it did follow. This struck me as an ugly shifting of the basis, and far from plausible. One school-and-college fellow of mine, after vaccination, had smallpox that marked him; but nothing further led me to pursue the argument.

I now at once saw that compulsory vaccination was an infamy, since Parliament could not secure anyone from Ira Connell’s fate: and I was indignant on learning that doctors pooh-poohed such miseries, as endured "for the general good," a theory which justifies any amount of tyranny under the influence of superstition; and I presently remembered that in Roman pestilences sacrifices were believed efficacious, and the arguments of the priests and senators were quite as good as those of our physicians.

I find that in 1869 I bad a sharp debate with a clever young student of Medicine, who poured out the doctrines of the Faculty, which he had been getting up. My respect for the whole Faculty has rapidly got less and less; it bad long been declining. I need not obtrude on you the depth to which it has now sunk, excepting always a noble few, who are what Heretics were to the Mediaeval Church.

Next, I saw that no Parliament or King has, or can have, any right (on medical theory) to stick a poisoned lancet into a healthy person; and that to fancy that Human Health can be improved by altering the natural blood of Health is an imbecile contemptible fancy. Moreover, that unless Vaccination is believed to remove the causes of smallpox, those causes would entail disease in other ways, and perhaps worse, by suppressing the natural eruption, which eruption alone is called "Small-pox." My mind was thus decided.

I did not learn till some years later (what alone concerns Parliament) that the more active is smallpox, the less is the Total Mortality of any year; and conversely, the less active the smallpox, the greater is the Total Mortality. This is the only form of statistics worth attending to. All the rest is dust thrown in our eyes. I greatly regret that Mr. P. A. Taylor and Mr. Hopwood allow their opponents to lure them into Medical Statistics, which are all Irrelevant; a course which I deprecated and feared would damage them in Parliament, as it has.

Statistics not founded on a scientific principle are the commonest nidus of fallacy; but if any statistics are to be listened to, those of Total Mortality are the least open to suspicion. The prima facie evidence is, that instead of Vaccination saving yearly 80,000 lives (Sir Lyon Playfair's monstrous assertion) Vaccination does only harm; but that smallpox saves every year many lives (some hundreds or thousands) by a natural eruption, under the morbid circumstances desirable.

Truly yours,

F. W. Newman.