JENNER, Edward. Autograph letter signed ("Edwd Jenner") to Hon. J. Joyce, London, 14 June 1814. 3½ pages, 4to, seal hole, small closed tear along edge of address leaf, slight wear at folds.
"WHY SHOULD LORD E. OR ANY OTHER EARTHLY LD...SANCTION ITS CONTINUANCE...WHEN THE LORD OF ALL HAS COMMANDED US...TO GET RID OF THIS PESTILENCE?"
An indignant Jenner complains about Parliamentary resistance to his ideas of cowpox vaccination. "...Lord B. [Boringdon] is an old acquaintance of mine....His Lordship is I believe a very worthy man & his present efforts in bringing forward a Bill in the House of Lords for confining within narrower limits the contagion of the small pox is a proof of his benevolence; but the business is conducted most wretchedly from one end of it to the other, & will soon come in contact with the foot of my Ld. Ellenboro. This is the general opinion & shocking it is to think of it. The small pox previously to the introduction of vaccination destroy'd annually in the British Realms directly & indirectly about 60,000 Individuals. We see by the Bills of Mortality a reduction of one half of this number in the Metropolis....Now, as this vast saving of human life from the new practice is so clear as not to admit controversy, in that part of the Empire whose population is concentrated, & where it met with the most violent opposition, I think it may fairly be calculated that the mortality is far more reduced in the Provinces....But why shd. Ld. E. or any other earthly Ld, when the Lord of all has commanded us as it were to get rid of this pestilence, sanction its continuance? I have a mind to send something in this strain to the Papers to favor the passing of Ld. B.'s Bill. What think you of it?..." Jenner tries to turn to light-hearted family news mentioning his son's happy visit to London to see "the mighty Potentates" and "the most brilliant illuminations that ever shone in our streets." But his bitter feelings bubble back to the surface: "As for myself I have not seen any of these great men & it is possible I may not as I cannot push myself into their presence, nor play the Sycophant so as to crawl in..."
Jenner's Inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae... (1798) put him at odds with a medical, political and even religious establishment that viewed variolation--the inoculation with small doses of human small pox virus--as the only safe and successful treatment of this disease. Jenner's idea of injecting humans with cow pox was viewed, at best, as the unproven enthusiasm of a lower-gentry, provincial doctor, at worst as a breach of the human-animal taboo. But Jenner had some powerful London allies. The armed forces adopted his technique in 1801 and Lord Boringdon, at the behest of the Vaccine Board, put a bill before the Lords in 1813 calling for the restriction of variolous inoculation to rural areas, and mandating vaccination for the nation's urban poor. Lord Chancellor Eldon and Chief Justice Ellsborough not only quashed the bill but, in Ellsborough's case, issued public statements belittling the efficacy of vaccination.
Nine days after the date of this letter, Lord Boringdon put forth a new smallpox bill, calling for prompt reporting of outbreaks and mandating vaccination of the poor. This too met stiff opposition from the Lords, forcing the bill's withdrawal. In language that must have further inflamed Jenner, Lord Mulgrave noted that since "many persons of the higher order were reluctant to introduce vaccination into their families," it would be "harsh and arbitrary" to force the procedure on the poor (Creighton, Jenner and Vaccination, 334-335). An important letter on Jenner's long fight to win acceptance of his ideas.