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The medical profession of Washington have ever had in mind the establishment of a general hospital in which the treatment should be entirely free and to which admission should be confined to the deserying poor. In May, 1874, Drs. L. W. Richie and C. H. A. Kleinschmidt, together with several of their professional brethren and a number of private citizens, organized the General Hospital of the District of Columbia, Georgetown, an institution that continued in active operation until lack of support compelled it to close its doors in March, 1876. The next year Dr. Francis A. Ashford was the leader in a movement that sought to change the management of the almshouse hospital and on that foundation build such a hospital as the profession so earnestly desired.
The situation, as it then appeared to the majority of the physicians of Washington, was briefly as follows: In the District of Columbia, and especially in Washington, a large floating population was domiciled in hotels, boarding houses, and apartments, in which the sick could not secure the ordinary comforts of a sick chamber, a suitable dietary, efficient nursing, and adequate medical attention. These necessaries could be supplied only by a general hospital which should offer, at a reasonable cost, suitable apartments, skilled nursing, proper food, and the choice of treatment by the regular medical staff or by a legally qualified physician of the patient's own selection, together with all the advantages of au ample and properly equipped pharmacy, necessary laboratories, appliances, and hygienic care.
In reviewing the existing facilities of the city the doctors asserted that there was no institution which fulfilled the foregoing requirements. The Columbia Hospital afforded accommodations to females suffering from the diseases peculiar to women. It was governed by a board of directors under the provisions of a charter granted by Congress, and was supported in part from the District revenues and in part from funds derived from pay patients. The Children's Hospital was devoted exclu. sively to the medical and surgical treatment of children, and was owned and governed by a corporate body organized under the general incorporation law. The Freedmen's Hospital was in part an asylum, but mainly a hospital for the sick of the African race; it was owned by the Howard University corporation, and was supported by the Government. The almshouse hospital, owned, governed, and supported by the District government, afforded accommodations, in a badly constructed and improperly located building, for about 150 patients. There the vicious, criminal, vagrant, and a few deserving paupers were promiscuously commingled as one class. The Providence Hospital was owned and governed by the Sisters of Charity. It was built out of moneys appropriated by Congress. It was supported by its own revenue, a part of which was derived under contract from an annual appropriation by Congress for the maintenance of sick transient paupers. The public patients were admitted by order of the Surgeon General; and even in the estimation of its managers, in order to fit it for a general hospital, at least $25,000 expense would be necessary.
While of all the existing institutions the Providence Hospital approached nearest the character of a general hospital, yet its confessed lack of advantages, the fact that it was a pay hospital, and the condi tions of entrance led the medical profession to aver that there was no hospital in the District into which a deserving poor white man or woman (unless she is afflicted with some disease peculiar to her sex) can find accommodations except upon payment of a weekly board or submit to conditions which should not be imposed on that class. This was true notwithstanding the fact that $70,000 of public money annually went to the support of hospitals exclusive of the almshouse hospital. Moreover, the hospital accommodations were inadequate to the wants of the community.'
To Dr. Ashford and his numerously signed memorial the municipal authorities gave no heed; and the zealous promoter of a general hospital gave up the idea of converting the almshouse asylum into the institution so much desired. At this juncture the assassination of President Garfield stirred the sympathies of the civilized world to such an extent that various plans of expression were put forward. In Washington a society was organized to procure and erect the statue that stands on the west front of the Capitol Grounds. The modest church in which he and his family had worshiped for many years gave place to the Garfield Memorial Church, one of the most expensive church edifices in the city. To many it seemed most appropriate that the President's long and patient suffering from the wounds that caused his death should be commemorated by a hospital which, though located in Washington, should possess a national character.2
The original suggestion of a memorial hospital was made by Mr. Lewis J. Davis in the Evening Star. Mr. Davis proposed a hospital at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station, where the assassination occurred, but in the Star of August 3, 1881, Mr. A. S. Solomous advo. cated the establishment of a general hospital to be known as the Garfield Memorial Hospital, and “designed to be as wide in its scope of benevolence as was the kindly heart of the martyred President in its outstretch and human sympathies.” Mr. Solomons outlined a plan of obtaining subscriptions and easily convinced Dr. Ashford that the opportunity had now come to realize his project of a public general hospital that should be nonsectarian and wherein the medical and surgical practitioners of the District could have free access at all times.
1 Memorial signed by 85 physicians and dated at Garfield Memorial Hospital, June 1882. This is nearly identical in language with the statement prepared by Dr. Busey in 1885.--Dr. C. S. Busey's Personal Reminiscences, p. 222.
The memorial is given on pages 228 and 229; and also in the report of Garfield Hospital for 1883, and the Toner MSS. in the Library of Congress.
2 Garfield Memorial Hospital Ipangiral Aditress by Mr. Justice Millor.
A call for a public meeting, signed by many physicians and by prominent citizens, resulted in a large gathering at Lincoln Hall on the evening of October 5, 1881. At the request of Mr. Solomons and Dr. Ashford, Mr. Justice Miller presided and eventually became the first president of the new corporation. Mr. Solomons, the chairman of the committee on resolutions, reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
Whereas the whole civilized world has been shocked and moved to tears by the untimely death of the late President of the United States, and will, we believe, unite with us in testifying its admiration of the man for his unsullied virtues, eminent statesmanship, untiinching courage, and for his patient endurance and steadfast hope during his painful illness; and
Whereas it is desirable to perpetuate his cherished memory in a manner consistent with his constant practice of “doing good unto others” in the most direct and practical way; and
Whereas during his life he always manifested the greatest interest in all charitable institutions, and at the close of his Congressional career expressed a great desire to see established in Washington a general hospital and promised to aid such enterprise to the full extent of his ability: Therefore be it
Resolved, That the citizens of the United States aud loving sympathetic friends everywhere will doubtless consider it a privilege as well as a duty to their departed brother, James Abraham Garfield, to erect to his memory a free general hospital, to be national in character and conducted on the broadest basis of common humanity, and that this monument of the people's esteem and gratitude be kuown as the Garfield Memorial Hospital and located in the District of Columbia, where he was so ruthlessly stricken down in the discharge of his public duties; and with a view of promoting this object it is
Resolved, That Mr. Justice Miller, of the Supreme Court of the United States, the chairman of this public assemblage, held in the city of Washington on the 5th day of October, 1881, do appoint an executive committee of twenty-five persons, with full power and privilege to fill vacancies, to take such action as will consummate to the fullest extent the object herein set forth.
In supporting these resolutions, Mr. Solomons adverted to the fact that the assassination of President Garfield occurred on the Hebrew Sabbath, and that when the idea of a memorial hospital was suggested two small and poor Hebrew congregations voted from their church funds $50 and $25, respectively; and that the St. George Society of the District sent $25. These were the first subscriptions.
The committee of twenty five had for its chairman Gen. William T. Sherman, the other members being James G. Blaine, William Windom, Gen. D. G. Swaim, James Giltillan, A. S. Solomons, James H. Saville, Arthur McArthur, John W. Thompson, Lewis J. Davis, Henry A. Willard, Reginald Fendall, E. Francis Riggs, W. G. Metzerott, H. M. Hutchinson, John A. Baker, Benjamin G. Lovejoy, Henry Wise Garnett, Josial Dent, Dr. J. M. Toner, Dr. Smith Townsend, Dr. F. A. Ashford, Dr. S. O. Busey, Dr. J. Ford Thompson, and Dr. W. G. Palmer. This committee sent out the following appeal, which had been prepared by Hon. James G. Blaine:
The citizens of Washington and the officials having residences here have united in a movement to do marked and enduring honor to the name of the late President, whose great life was so sadly and so tragically ended.
Dr. Busey's Reminiscences, p. 223,
2 Dr. Bilsey's Reminiscences, p. 224.
His reputation as a statesman, legislator, and Executive was acquired in this capi. tal. Beyond his claim to admiration and gratitnde, he was personally beloved by all classes of citizens in a degree that rarely falls to the lot of any public man. Reflecting his own wishes, as far as they may be inferred from his career and his character, the memorial designed is that of a national hospital, to be located in the District of Colunibia, to be known forever by his name. It will be a provision for the relief of human suffering, from the cup of which he drank the bitterest dregs; and in the breadth of its human charity it will fitly typify the noble nature and exalted aims of the hero and martyr.
The hospital is designed to be as wide in its scope of beneficence as was the kindly heart of the dead President in its outstretch of human sympathies. It will be open to those needing its aid and ministrations, without regard to class, caste, creed, or color; to be a sufferer in need of help will be the only passport required to enter its door and secure its aid. Such an institution, founded in the cause of charity and bearing the name of Garfield, appeals to the generosity of everyone, and to everyone the appeal is made. Contributions, small and great, are solicited, and may be safely remitted to Hon. James Gilfillan, Treasurer of the United States, who bas consented to act as treasurer of the fund. He gives twice who gives quickly. Let the response be prompt, generous, and universal.
W. T. SHERMAN, Chairman.
The circulation of this appeal in foreign countries was promoted by the following unofficial letter from the Department of State dated May 12, 1882, and addressed to the diplomatic and consular officers of the United States:
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, April 12, 1882. To the Diplomatic and Consular Officers of the United States of America.
GENTLEMEN: I transmit herewith copies of an appeal which has been issued for the purpose of inviting contributions to aid in the erection of a national hospital at this capital as an appropriate memorial of the high appreciation entertained by mankind of the valuable public services and exalted character of the late President Gartield, as well as of the detestation and horror felt by the world for the crime by which his life was destroyed.
It is thought that the proposed memorial can not but commend itself to the attention not only of Americans temporarily abroad, but of all persons, of whatever nationality, who abhor assassination and wish to show their respect for the cause of law and order.
I will therefore thank you to avail yourself of suitable means of giving public information of the proposed plan of honoring the memory of our late President. You will also make known the fact that you are authorized to receive and forward contributions for the object in question.
I sign this circular unofticially, by no means intending that it shall impose any obligation upon the diplomatic and consular officers to whom it is addressed. It is designed simply to bring the matter before them in an intelligible shape, and thus onable them to answer inquiries as to the objects of the proposed hospital. I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
FRED'K T. FRELINGHUYSEN.
The response made to the appeal was more generous from foreigners than it was from the people of this country. Both the royalty and the peasantry of Europe made contributions to honor the memory of one whose taking off brought forth a very widespread sympathy from foreign peoples.
The Medical Society of the District of Columbia, of which Dr. Ashford was president, gave their aid to the project by these resolutions:
Whereas the medical profession of this District have long felt the need of a general hospital, and in a very largely attended meeting before the late civil war, had, with great unanimity, formed a project for the establishment of such a hospital, the move. ments for which were unfortunately interrupted and rendered abortive by that unhappy event; and
Whereas, the necessities for such an institution in our midst aro unquestionable, and have since that time not diminished but increased more than sevenfold: Therefore
Resolved, That this society has learned with great pleasure that certain patriotio and benevolent ladies and gentlemen are now earnestly cooperating in the endeavor to procure the establishment of a general hospital to be known as the Garfield Memorial Hospital.
Resolved, That no more appropriate method of honoring the memory of our lato brutally mur«lered President can be conceived of than the erection of such a monument, an ever-active institution for the relief of humanity, suffering in so many various forms; a source for the acquirement and development of knowledge in those branches of scientific study most nearly directed to the immediate relief of man, and an overlasting and inexhaustible wellspring of charity and benevolence, which, in the minds of all men of right feeling, must be esteemed far above tablets of brass or mere monuments of bronze or marble.
Resolved, That this society desires to assure all concerned that the proposed measure meets with its entire approbation, to express the extreme interest which it feels in the success of so grand a benevolence, and to offer its cordial cooperation in efforts to obtain so desirable an object.
F. A. ASHFORD, M. D., President.
T. E. MCARDLE, Secretary. On May 18, 1882, the hospital was incorporated under the laws of the District, and it was provided that for the first year the affairs and funds should be managed by a board of directors consisting of the 37 signers of the certificate. On the 27th of May the certificate was recorded, and on June 6 the first meeting of the directors was held. These directors managed the affairs of the corporation until May 31, 1883. One of their first steps was to send a message to the wives and daughters of the Senators and Representatives, saying that “ to insure a complete success to the undertaking the warm hearts, the magnetic enthusiasm, the unbounded resources, and the untiring devotion of the women of the country are needed." The response was prompt. About 150 ladies met in the parlor of the Ebbitt House on March 22, 1882, and organized the Ladies' Aid to the Hospital, for the purpose of raising money in the several States. In spite of many discouragements and in spite, too, of widely-circulated rumors that the hospital project had been given up, the ladies were able to contribute $5,000 toward the purchase of the site for the hospital and to carry a fair balance to its fund for future work.
1 Second report of the board of directors of Garfield Hospital, p. 11.
Reports of (Mrs.) Eliza N. Blair, corresponding secretary; (Miss) M. G. Freling huysen, recording secretary; and (Mrs.) Miranda Tullock, treasurer.