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By W. A. Hawley, M. D., Syracuse, N. Y.

I have read with a great deal of interest, I trust with some profit and I sure with not a little amusement, the discussion of this subject which has been called out by my article, published in No.8, Vol. V, of The American Homoeopathic Review. That article was written for our County Homoeopathic Medical Society with the purpose of provoking, if possible, some discussion there, and was allowed to be published with the hope that it might elicit some more public discussion and, at the same time, perhaps allay somewhat the rancorous spirit with which discussions on this question have, for the most part, been carried on. The first part of that object has been much more generally accomplished than I had dared even to hope, while it has, I think, not entirely failed of the second. Still there are some who cannot approach this subject except in an angry spirit, and I have yet to learn that that spirit ever in any way promoted science.

In that article it was assumed that all science is based upon facts, and the advocates of both sides were called upon to observe and bring forward facts. At the same time it was admitted that my own predilection and I might have said practice were in favor of the single remedy. Some facts observed in my own practice were given, the like of which, it was presumed, have often been observed by others. No conclusions were drawn, except that, for a given prescriber, in certain contingencies, alternation might be better for him than the single remedy, and that the question is still an open one. That anyone, on either side, should have regarded it as conclusive or have supposed that the writer so regarded it, or was by it in any way committed to the alternation of remedies, seems ludicrously absurd. That it has been so regarded seems only to be accounted for on the supposition that the Alternationists were so sadly in want of something to quiet their uneasy questionings, and the strict Hahnemannians so overzealous to defend their cause, that neither party read the article further then to see, the one, what crumb of comfort they could find and, the other, what there was to fight. The one, amusingly illustrated by the avidity with which the London Homoeopathic Review seizes upon and quotes the article to support its own conclusions, far beyond anything intended by the writer; and the other, still more amusingly illustrated by the fiery zeal with which a writer in The Hahnemannian Monthly “pitches in,” with the apparent intention to annihilate not only the doctrine of alternation, but the author of said paper and even the London Homoeopathic Review, itself. His modest threat to keep a “standing article” in said Hahnemannian Monthly till all this is accomplished is very funny, and makes one feel like saying something to him as Job said to his friends: “Doubtless ye are the people, and wisdom will die with you,”

At the same time he is so very complimentary to the article in question as even to treat it to a literary criticism, whereas nothing was further from the writer's intentions than a literary essay. He might be answered by a like critique upon his rhetoric, but all that is wholly irrelevant and seems entirely beneath the dignity of the subject. It is therefore allowed to pass with only the remark that it seems a pity that his definitions of such words as fact, theory, criticism, dogmatism, etc., so grandly, sublimely, transcendently lucid and conclusive, could not have been given to the world before the late revision of Webster's great dictionary.

All his criticism in regard to the indications for Arsenicum and China is also irrelevant, for it does not touch the facts. Here was a case of intermittent fever which, yielding neither to Arsen. alone nor China alone, promptly recovered under the alternation of those two drugs. Grant all that he claims, that one properly acquainted with the two remedies would never hesitate which one, if either, was indicated, yet the fact remains. An intermittent which would not yield to Arsenicum nor China, did yield at once to Arsenicum and China. He calls for the symptoms in this “rare case.” They are of no consequence so far as related to the present discussion. Suppose them given and all learning decided that neither Arsenicum or China was indicated, but some other drug. It makes no difference. The fact is still there. How account for it? What does it mean? Has it any significance or value? I neither assert or deny.

All his quibbling about relief and cure is simply an unmanly play upon words and argues nothing, unless it be the writer's conscious weakness.

It still appears that this question of alternation is to be settled, if at all, only by an appeal to facts. If to know my own opinion were of any consequence, I would not hesitate to say that I have no doubt such an appeal will sustain the doctrine of the single remedy, which certainly seems much more in accordance with the genius of Homoeopathy, at least as at present developed, than the alternation of remedies. Nor is this a new conviction, as I have never alternated without the feeling that if I were as wise as I might be, or perhaps ought to be, I should not need to alternate. Yet I have sometimes alternated and cured, when my best efforts had failed without. And I suspect that even the learned writer in The Hahnemannian would admit that, if a man could cure his case by alternation when he could not without, he would better cure his patient.

In the article in question two facts were given which seem to sustain the doctrine of alternation. At the same time it was felt, and indeed hoped, that many others of an opposite character would be brought out which should more than sustain the doctrine of the single remedy. Such facts do come out from time to time (vide the case of Pterygium given on page 71, Vol. V, American Homoeopathic Review). One such fact is worth more to convince doubters than an age of mere ratiocination. Let than the facts come out. And in God's name let them be brought out in charity. All the honest men are not among the so-styled Hahnemannians. There are multitudes of Alternationists who are just as honest and earnest as they, who seek only to cure their patients and in the best way. Vituperation and calling hard names never converts men. They are rather driven by it into a spirit of combat and led to maintain themselves in their position whether of truth or error.

I cannot close this article without expressing the great satisfaction I have felt in reading the papers on this subject, which have lately appeared in The American Homoeopathic Review. They are admirable both in tone and matter, and if they are in any measure attributable to the fact that I have spoken, I shall always congratulate myself that I did not keep silence.


Source: The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 06 No. 07, 1866, pages 248-251
Description: Alternation.
Author: Hawley, W.A.
Year: 1866
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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