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The New York Times, March 1, 1901

[Letter to the Editor]


To the Editor of The New York Times:

Mark Twain, humorist, author, lecturer, critic of the Government, maligner of the flag, osteopath, and experimenter of "everything that comes along," has rung many changes upon the old cry of "personal liberty."

Unfortunately, like most persons who yearn to preserve the liberty of the individual, he entirely ignores the liberty of the majority. If a jaunty experimenter in "everything that comes along" should choose to indulge in the throwing of lighted torches upon the roofs of his neighbors' houses, doubtless the strong hand of the law would promptly step in and stop him from trying at least that particular experiment. But if he calls to his child's sick bed a person who has been in no way qualified to recognize disease, he is putting his neighbor's life into quite a serious danger. Yet in the latter case let the strong hand of the law step in, and at once the air if full of rhodomontades on the sacredness of personal liberty! Is this jaunty experimenter to be permitted to "give everything a chance," even the deadly microbes of scarlet fever, typhus, and smallpox?

Mark Twain has grandiloquently asserted that "he wants no restrictions put upon his free will," (neither does his idol Aguinaldo!) but can the State afford to overlook the fact that the exercising of his free will may spread disease and death among other innocent citizens of the State?

The osteopaths argue most disingenuously that all new treatments have been received at first with contumely - they cite the "water cure" as an instance. But it is not against the treatment of disease that the law should militate, but against ignorance in recognizing disease. Notwithstanding the loss of patients, by the alienists, I think I can safely say that no one would object to Mr. Twain, Mrs. Eddy, Mrs. Stetson, or any one of that ilk, trying upon themselves any treatment that they wish. In fact, the more severe, the more satisfactory would it be. But it should be permitted only if they have first asked the advice of one who is qualified to say: Is the disease treated dangerous or not to the helpless citizens who may come into contact with invalids?

It is the pretense of these untrained persons to be able to say where danger to others steps in - that is so severely condemned by members of the medical profession. If these seekers after personal liberty would limit their treatment to such diseases as cannot interfere with the rights and safety of others, all would be well, and they could go about exciting the risibility of reasonable beings to their hearts' content.

New York, Feb. 28, 1901.

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