1837: John Langdon Sullivan to Dr. Constantine Hering

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

This letter was written by renaissance man John Langdon Sullivan (1777-1865), the son of Massachusetts Governor John Sullivan (1744-1808) and Mehitable Odiarne (1748-1786). A biography for him appearing in the International Cyclopedia by Selim Hobart Peabody et al., says that he was “born in Maine; studied canal construction in England and on the continent. He was agent and engineer of the Middlesex canal, 1804-11. He was associate civil engineer of the U.S. board of internal improvements, 1824-25, and published reports on the feasibility of a canal through the Alleghanies. He afterwards practiced medicine, adopting the homeopathic system. In 1814, he received a patent for the invention of the steam tow-boat, being given priority over Robert Fulton.”

We learn from this letter that Sullivan was unusually advanced in years when he graduated from Yale College with a Medical degree in 1837. He afterwards practiced homeopathic medicine in New York City. Sullivan’s first wife was Elizabeth Russell. His second wife was Susan Macash.

Sullivan wrote the letter to Dr. Constantine Hering (1800-1880). At 33 years of age, Dr. Hering was already an internationally known and well-respected homeopathic physician when he was selected, in 1833, to be the President of the Allentown Academy whose purpose was to train physicians in the art of homeopathic healing. Hering was expected to be the spiritual and intellectual cornerstone upon which the homeopathic teaching college was built.

1837 Letter

1837 Letter

Addressed to Dr. Ch. Hering, Allentown, Pennsylvania

New Haven [Connecticut]
April 28, 1837

Dr. C. Hering
Dear Sir,

With a view to practice Homeopathy in a small circle, I have passed through the regular studies of the Medical Institution of Yale College and have been admitted to practice.

Although it may be singular that a man who has passed his 50th year should think it worth while to acquire a new profession, I have strong motives to do so for the sake of a domestic circle. And as beyond it I may not venture much, without more learning & experience.

Dr. Constantine Hering

Dr. Constantine Hering

I write to ask what the rules are at the Allenstown Academy for those who already rank as physicians. Is any length of evidence and study prescribed — or examination to attain the honors of the Institution? For I have not yet succeeded in obtaining your inaugural address which gives an account of the course. I shall write to Mr. [J. G.] Wesselhoeft ¹ for it once more.

I am desirous of having the medicines I use from the best source & I should like to have those in order which correspond to the 2 & 3d number of your excellent translation of [Dr. George Heinrich Gottleib] Jahr, ² and those of the 4th number when it issues from the press.

Vy what means shall I obtain the genuine medicines? in future: Is there no pharmaceutical department of the academy whence they are sent forth? If so, to whom shall I write? Is Mr. [William] Radde ² supplied from it? Mr. Radde of New York lately informed me he expected the liquids from Europe soon. Is that the surest way of having the medicine good? Much depends on gathering the plants at the right time: We should be much more sure from an American source.

There is no indication in Jahr of the remedy for that state of debility of the stomach in which it will not bear meat at all. This condition is a result of living a good while before only on vegetables and liquids. It is a rather common form of Dyspepsia — a deterioration of the gastric fluid. Perhaps you can do me the favor to name the medicine which from your experience you would recommend for I have several cases of this kind that do not appear to render tone by the remedies for gastric affections usually indicated. By tone is meant power.

Is there any new work in French or English that you would specifically direct my attention to?

I am very respectfully your, — John L. Sullivan

I have lately had the pleasure of seeing Dr. [J. O.] Rosenstein in this city. I understood he had been very favorably introduced to you and is about to commence practice in New York.

What is the best way to proceed when you are called late to a case under Allopathic Treatment? I lately had one in which I proceeded with large and frequent doses of the suitable medicines till the symptoms were controlled. Pulse reduced, vomiting stopped &c. I presume that in such cases more vigorous practice is required and that the effects of previous medicines must be deemed a part of the disease.

Excuse the task of the reply I seek.

¹ By 1833, J. G. Wesselhoeft had opened a German/English bookstore in three locations: New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

² Jahr was born and grew up in Duesseldorf, where Carl Julius Aegidi had his clinic. Working as a teacher, Jahr got interested in homeopathy through his local apothecary, but then tried to learn more by working with Carl Julius Aegidi himself, (like Arthur Ernst Lutze, Jahr was not formally a physician, but was self taught).

³ In 1835, William Radde, the head clerk in the Philadelphia store, moved to New York to manage the New York Branch. He began to offer homeopathic remedies and books for sale.

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