Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is There a Doctor in the House?

One of the most important rebel historical figures in Massachusetts prior to the beginning of the Revolutionary War was Doctor Joseph Warren.  Had he survived the war, he would most certainly have been a major contributor to the creation and governance of our new nation.  I can easily see him a member of George Washington’s cabinet, a governor of Massachusetts, a U. S. Senator or Congressman.  If you have read Crossing the River, you are acquainted with him.  I won’t repeat the biographical information I provided in the book.  I thought, however, that you would like to know two pieces of information I left out of my narrative.

As stated in my book, “Dr. Warren was highly esteemed.  He had made his name as one of two physicians who had inoculated nearly 5,000 people during the small pox epidemic of 1763.”  Inoculation had not yet been widely accepted as a weapon against small pox.  Many doctors had opposed it.  In 1763 Warren, then twenty, had been the youngest doctor in Boston.  He and a colleague, at one of two hospitals provided to quarantine the sick and inoculate the well, had treated over a thousand patients.  Of the 4,977 people whom the two hospitals had inoculated, 46 had died.  Of the 699 people who had contracted the disease naturally, 124 had died.

In March 1775 Warren spoke to a church full of citizens and British officers to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  The officers were anticipating inflammatory remarks.  They had hatched a plan to retaliate.  They had assigned an ensign to throw an egg at Warren as a signal that he was to be arrested.  On the way to the meeting the ensign had fallen, dislocated a knee, and not attended.  Had he been present, he would not have been able to throw the egg, his fall having broken it open.  Enumerating the dangers of a standing army in Boston in a time of peace, Warren had refrained from called the Massacre “bloody.”  Although some of the officers had hooted their displeasure, violence had not occurred.

My next blog entry will recount Joseph Warren’s death.