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Lincoln and His Team of Homeopaths

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There is a wide body of evidence that Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) maintained a special interest in and appreciation for homeopathic medicine. It is therefore not surprising that many of Lincoln's advisors were users of and advocates for homeopathy.

Before Lincoln was elected president, in 1854 he was retained as a lawyer to prepare a state legislative proposal to charter a homeopathic medical college in Chicago. Chicago was the home of the American Medical Association, which had been founded in 1847 in part to stop the growth of homeopathy, and therefore, Lincoln's job was no simple effort.

Yet many of Chicago's most prominent citizens and politicians participated on the board of trustees of the proposed Hahnemann Medical College, including Chicago's mayor, two congressmen, an Illinois state representative, a Chicago city councilman, the co-founder of Northwestern University, the founder of Chicago Union Railroad, and several medical doctors who were homeopaths. Despite significant opposition, Lincoln was successful in obtaining a charter for the homeopathic college.

Today, the Pearson Museum at Southern Illinois University has an exhibit of a 19th-century doctor's office and drugstore; included in this exhibit is a homeopathic medicine kit from the Diller Drug Store of Springfield, Ill. The exhibit notes that Abraham Lincoln was a frequent customer of the drug store and a regular user of homeopathic medicines.

Lincoln's Cabinet Members

Of special significance, Lincoln surrounded himself with advocates for homeopathy, among them the postmaster general, the secretary of the treasury and his most trusted advisor and Secretary of State, William Seward. Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, may have had his life saved by homeopathy after being treated for cholera in the summer of 1849 when a cholera epidemic was rampant. Montgomery Blair, Lincoln's postmaster general, was the head of the National Homeopathic Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Ultimately, what befell William Seward is a classic story to illustrate conventional medicine's attitude toward and actions against unconventional medical treatments and the physicians who provide them. It is first important to realise that the American Medical Association in the 19th century was so threatened by homeopathic medicine that the AMA created and enforced an ethics code that barred AMA members from consulting with homeopathic doctors or homeopathic patients.

On the famed night that Lincoln was assassinated, Seward was stabbed in a multi-person assassination plot against the Union. The assassin gained entrance to Seward's home and to his personal bedroom by claiming to have a delivery of medicines from his homeopathic doctor, Tullio S. Verdi, M.D. Thanks to the medical care provided by U.S. Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, M.D., Seward survived. However, according to John S. Haller, some members of the AMA wanted to censure Dr. Barnes for associating with Verdi, a homeopath, in providing Seward's medical care.