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GENTLEMEN OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION :
A LETTER received some weeks ago, from our distinguished president, Dr. J. J. WOODWARD, conveyed to me the sad intelligence that he would be unable to meet with us on this occasion by reason of physical infirmity. In foreign lands he seeks to repair his health, wasted by arduous labor and exhausting vigils, and rebuild his frame, shattered by a harassing accident. We all feel a keen disappointment in the absence of one so eminent, whose gifted intellect and matured experience have been acknowledged and appreciated, not only by those who have been intimately associated with him in the army, but by all who have enjoyed his fascinating society or possessed a share of his warm friendship. May the airs he has sought bring healing on their wings, and speedily return him to the welcoming shores of his native land, completely restored to the full measure of a man's strength and vigor!
By reason of this unexpected and regretted absence, I find myself called upon, as first vice-president, to preside over your deliberations. It is not surprising, if with much diffidence I enter upon these delicate duties under circumstances of accident, and address you from this place, where was to stand one selected for his great attainments, his peculiar fitness, and his well-earned distinction. But when I reflect upon the past and remember the willing assistance you have always given your presiding officers, the moderation and refinement of your manners, the freedom from confusion and coarseness of your debates, and the harmony and good feeling which have characterized your proceedings, I take heart and enter upon my work, if not with entire confidence, yet with hope of modest success, strengthened by the belief that in this happily unprecedented condition you will accord me even more than your accustomed courtesy and forbearance. When we consider the lustre of the names of those who have heretofore filled this most honorable position, one may well feel distrust of his powers. When I recall the illustrious names* of my predecessors in office, I cannot but feel I follow at a long distance.
But, as has been aptly said by one of our number, who was himself no “lesser light”-“there is consolation to be derived from the fact that all true pictures are made up of lights and shades, and that the latter only aid in developing the beauty and excellency of the former. It is in this respect that the background of the picture may be regarded as performing a subordinate, though an essential, part of the representation.”
With your assistance then, to which I confidently appeal, I will strive to give direction to your proceedings, that every member may have opportunity for full expression of his views, and every subject receive fair and impartial consideration.
My first pleasant duty is, to express to the medical profession, and to the citizens of this beautiful city of the great Northwest, our grateful acknowledgment for the cordial reception extended to us through the chairman of the Committee of Arrangements. Strangers as most of us are to your citizens and your country, we assure you that we have been impressed with your graceful hospitality, and will carry with us at our departure many pleasing recollections of your beautiful scenery, delightful climate, and charming society.
To-day, gentlemen, we commence the thirty-third annual meeting of this Association. A generation of mortals have been born, lived, and passed away, since the meeting of the convention which recommended the formation of this body. Most of those great spirits who inaugurated this enterprise, and gave form and substance to the ideas there entertained, can mingle with us no more forever. A few, upon whom “age sits with decent grace,” still remain, revered for their wisdom and experience, and among these facile princeps is he † to whom, more than to any other one individual, we are indebted for our per
* Chapman, of Penna.; Stevens, of N. Y.; Warren, of Mass.; Massey, of Ohio; Moultrie, of S. C.; Wellford, of Va.; Knight, of Ct.; Parsons, of R. I.; Pope, of Mo.; Wood, of Penna.; Pitcher, of Mich.; Eve, of: Tenn.; Lindsley, of D. C.; Miller, of Ky.; Ives, of Ct.; Jewell, of Penn.; March, of N. Y.; Davis, of Ill.; Storer, of Mass.; Askew, of Del.; Gross, of Penna.; Baldwin, of Ala.; Mendenhall, of Ohio; Stille, of Penna.; Yandall, of Ky.; Logan, of Cal.; Toner, of D. C.; Bowling, of Tenn.; Sims, of N. Y.; Bowditch, of Mass.; Richardson of La.; Parvin, of Ind. ; Sayre, of N. Y.; Hodgen, of Mo.
† N. S. Davis.
manent foundation, and without mention of whose name there could be no appropriate reference to our beginnings.
We have reached a natural resting-place, where we pause, and look back, and take account of our journeying and our progress. The years of the existence of this Association have been years of wonderful activity in mental and moral speculation and thought. The bounds of the horizon of investigation have been stretched out. The fierce light of truth has disclosed the harmless nature of many a veiled superstition. Much, regarded for centuries as but the dream of philosophers, has proven reality. Predictions never supposed to be aught but theories have been verified. The chains and bolts of formalism have been broken; and the devotees of science have pushed their explorations with audacious courage in every direction. Invention and discovery have been stimulated to an extraordinary degree. We not only travel with swift safety over the land and the sea, but we gather our crops and convert them into commercial articles by steam. We pack electricity in boxes like children's toys, and have it ready to light a town, or cook a meal, or drive a sewing machine. We drive through mountain ranges, and under seas, and connect oceans with artificial streams, through which may float the commerce of the world. There is no feat of storied genii but what is every day performed before us, and always becoming clearer and brighter, as the interaction between natural and moral philosophy, contemplated centuries ago in the rapt vision of the immortal Newton. Powerful incentive to this activity and labor is the appreciation and reward of the worker. How different from the treatment accorded the great father of experimental philosophy! His wonderful works were derided, misunderstood, satirized during his lifetime, and long after. His sovereign said of his greatest work, it was like the peace of God-it surpasseth all understanding. One of the first scholars of his age said of it, “A fool could not have written such a work, and a wise man would not,” and he himself, standing confidently upon the great endeavor of his life, said proudly but mournfully, “Of the perfecting this I have cast away all hopes, but in future ages perhaps the design may bud again."
Now, every thinker and discoverer has a fit audience, and substantial recognition; common schools, free libraries, public