Apologia Pro Vita Sua
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The Society of Friends
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Interesting Quaker Characters
Richard Dunn, who with his wife Mary Maples Dunn stand as the two core authorities on the life of William Penn, merely smiles when asked to describe what Penn was really all about. "What we need is to have one good biography emerge," said he, "but it isn't easy to guess what it will say". For the present, let's just sketch a few paradoxes which somehow need threading together.
In the first place, the wealth of William Penn can only be described as prodigious. His father had played a central role in restoring the Stuart monarchs, and in the course of it had conquered for the Crown the enormously valuable property of the Island of Jamaica. For these efforts, the father had been rewarded with extensive properties in Ireland and a highly influential position at Court. To all of this was overgenerously added as debt repayment, the American territories which have now become the states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Actual ownership of some of this was shared with others, but all of it was quite effectively controlled by young William. No one else stands even close as the largest private landholder in American history. But to appreciate the immensity of his wealth, it should be understood that he treated this property as a sort of hobby. Over the course of his lifetime, the colonies lost money, and Penn subsidized them rather seriously from his other assets.
At the same time, Penn lived vastly beyond his income in ordinary ways, becoming heavily indebted, eventually going to debtor's prison. It probably was not necessary; his sons renounced Quakerism and made a profit on the colonies after they inherited them. Although he could display remarkable organizational talent, particularly in the organization of New Jersey, his management was mostly slack, his judgment of agents often proved too trusting, and he permitted himself to be exploited by poorly-designed contracts to his eventual financial ruin. Even that might not have been serious; he displayed a towering legal mind in the devising of the doctrine of jury nullification and was the winner in a great many lawsuits. He even demonstrated he was capable of winning dubious lawsuits, soundly defeating Lord Baltimore in a border dispute over Maryland which others have said showed Baltimore had the stronger case. We know he had influence at Court, and such legal victories suggest he might on occasion have taken full advantage of it.
|Gulielma Maria Springett Penn|
From the sound of things, some have concluded Penn was so rich and powerful he grew careless about his own best interests, which essentially needed very little defense. In particular, he gave this impression to his fellow Quakers, who concluded he did not need nor likely would stoop to collecting what he was owed in taxes and property sales. This cavalier attitude encouraged the early Quaker merchants to follow their own advantage without shame, and as it happened with great vigor. The Constitutions he devised for the colonies are frequently cited as the brilliant cornerstones of fairness and stability, ultimately the models for much of our present Constitution. Penn really was sincere in wanting to provide a better life for the working people than they could have at home in England. But in the Seventeenth Century, the modest role he devised for the Proprietor commanded little respect and was not one his aggressive clients would have chosen for themselves in his position. Perhaps the most generous description of their passive aggression would be that he taught power and governance to be the collective possession of the whole Quaker meeting, so the leaders of the meeting simply took him at his word. For their part, there can be little doubt of their commercial talents; trade and industry immediately thrived in the colony. However, sharp, aggressive trade and commerce were not things a gentleman would himself want to associate with.
Unfortunately, the historical records of the early colonies are not good; for the most part, we have to surmise the struggles and frictions between a rich, financially careless, and sincerely earnest theologian in his contention with a group of poorly educated strivers who had been told he regarded each of them to be his equal. As the saying goes, he was rich beyond denying. And therefore, he was probably arrogant beyond his own ability to see it as a flaw.
Equal before the law, perhaps, and equal in the prayers of First-day Meeting. But everything about his upbringing, his social circle in London, and his staggering wealth suggested that even a saint would have trouble believing, deep in his heart, that these were truly his equals. And even if perchance he did believe it, they would not have believed it for a moment, had their positions been reversed. Penn certainly acted as though he believed in religious freedom, serene in the idea that if every person earnestly thought hard about ethical issues, everyone would eventually reach about the same conclusion. The elders of the meeting, however, behaved in ways which suggested they would personally prefer non-Quakers to settle somewhere else, and given half a chance would create Quakerism as an established church. There seemed to be those who felt that Friend William was perhaps a little too trusting. And anyway there were some obvious paradoxes. William Penn kept personal slaves.
|Hannah Callowhill Penn|
With two wives, William Penn had thirteen children. Among them was considerable diversity of opinion, along with the same tendency to rebellion found in any two generations. Early illnesses and chance led to the emergence of those children who renounced Quakerism and showed no shame at all about wanting to have money in order to spend it recklessly. One would have supposed that a man of Penn's intellectual stature would have been able to control his family better, but his own reckless youth had been so extreme that he had few arguments available when, as seems virtually certain, rebellious children defended themselves by reminding him of his own indiscretions. William Penn displayed absolutely no sense of humor; a touch of it would have been useful in mastering a family and friends who were undoubtedly having a little trouble knowing what to make of this apparition in their midst. Some equally pompous Pennsylvania merchants might have had difficulty denying that in their passive aggression, they occasionally resembled the spoiled brats with whom he found he had ample family association.
|Remember William Penn, 1644-1944: A Tercentenary Memorial : Edward Martin: ISBN-13: 978-1258369934||Amazon|
|Dr. Thomas Cadwalader|
The early Quakers disapproved of having their pictures painted, even refused to have their names on their tombstones. Consequently, relatively few portraits of early Quakers can be found, and it might, therefore, seem surprising to see a picture of Dr. Thomas Cadwalader hanging on the wall at the Pennsylvania Hospital. A plaque relates that it was donated by a descendant in 1895. Another descendant recently explained that the branch of the family which continued to be Quaker spells the name, Cadwallader. Dr. Cadwalader of the painting, famous for presiding over Philadelphia's uproar about the Tea Act, was then selected to hear out the tea rioters because of his reputation for fairness and remains famous even today for his unvarying courtesy.
In one of the editions of Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital, I believe the one by Morton, there is a story about him. It seems there was a sailor in a bar on Eighth Street, who announced to the assemblage that he was going to go out the swinging doors of the taproom and shoot the first man he met. So out he went, and the first man he met was Dr. Cadwalader. The kindly old gentleman smiled, took off his hat, and said, "Good Morning, Sir". And so, as the story goes, the sailor proceeded to shoot the second man he met. A more precise rendition of this story comes down in the Cadwalader family that the event in the story really took place in Center Square, where City Hall now stands, but which in colonial times was a favored place for hunting. A man named Brulumann was walking in the park with a gun, which Dr. Cadwalader took as a sign of a hunter. In fact, Brulumann was despondent and had decided to kill himself, but lacking the courage to do so, had decided to kill the next man he met and then be hanged for murder. Dr. Cadwalader's courteous greeting, doffing his hat and all, befuddled Brulumann who went into Center House Tavern and killed someone else; he was indeed hanged for the deed.
I was standing at the foot of the staircase of the Pennsylvania Hospital, chatting to a young woman who from her tailored suit was obviously an administrator. I pointed out the Amity Button, and told her its story, along with the story of Jack Gallagher, whom I knew well, bouncing an empty beer keg all the way down to the Great Court from the top floor in the 1930s, which was then being used as housing for the resident physicians. Since the young woman administrator was obviously beginning to regard me like the Ancient Mariner, I thought one last story about courtesy was in order. So I told her about Dr. Cadwalader and the shooting.
"Well," she said, "The moral of that story obviously is that you should always wear a hat." There then is no point to further conversation, I left.
Edward Hicks (1780-1849), the most important folk artist of American art, was born and lived all his life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. About a hundred of his paintings survive, 62 of which are versions of "The Peaceable Kingdom". Recently, his Peaceable Kingdoms have been selling for more than $4 million apiece, and the other works at more than a million. As is so often the case, he was born in poverty and spent his life in poverty, so the financial benefits have all gone to middle-men.
Hicks had to overcome an additional handicap. Quakers disapproved of painting things up just for show, and they strongly disapproved of the vanity underlying the act of having a portrait painted of yourself. In fact, the early Quakers would not even permit their names to be placed on their tombstones.
Hicks was apprenticed into the wagon business and showed a talent for painting them. From that, entirely self-taught, he migrated into the business of painting business signs in an age of limited literacy. The Blue Anchor Tavern, the King of Prussia Inn, the Crossed Keys Tavern and the signs of various tradesmen were an essential part of conducting business. It is easy to see these tradesmen signs in the easel paintings of Hicks' later career, which reduce themselves to rearrangements of such individual sign paintings to make a coherent canvas.
If you have seen one "Peaceable Kingdom" you haven't seen them all, but you only need to see one to be able to recognize the others at sight. They generally form a group of wild animals and an occasional child in the right foreground, with a grouping of Quakers and Indians in the left background, taken from Benjamin West's famous portrayal of Penn signing the treaty of peace with the Delaware Indians. The scene is taken from Chapter 11 of Isaiah, in which the lion lies down with the lamb.
Hicks was not a successful farmer, and he had to overcome Quaker resistance even to sell religious paintings with a Quaker moral. No doubt the resistance was strengthened by the fact that his cousin Elias Hicks had split the Quaker church into two (Conservatives and Hicksites) in 1827, and Edward was himself a strong itinerant preacher. Although the plain message of the Peaceable Kingdom is reconciliation between the two branches of Quakerism, he probably encountered a fair amount of coolness among the Conservative opposition.
Hicks was neither an educated nor a sophisticated man. It is forgivable that he made such a strong Old Testament statement when he and his cousin represented a dissenting sect that was gravely doubtful about the wisdom of allowing your life to be ruled by biblical verses.
The story of Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) comes in two forms, one from the Philadelphia Quaker community, and the other from his home, in Japan. One day in Philadelphia, a well-known ninety-year-old Quaker gentleman, rumpled black suit, very soft voice -- and all -- happened to remark that his Aunt had married a Samurai. A real one? Topknot, kimono, long curved sword, and all? Yup. Uh-huh.
That would have been Inazo Nitobe, who met and married Moriko, nee Elizabeth Elkinton, while in college in Philadelphia. He became a Quaker, and when the couple returned to Japan, the Emperor then found himself confronted with a warrior nobleman who was a pacifist. You can next perceive the hand of his Quaker wife in the deferential diplomatic suggestion that there were vacancies for Japan at the League of Nations and the Peace Palace in the Hague. Perhaps, well perhaps, there could be service to his Emperor as well as his new religion in such an appointment for her new husband. Good thinking, let it be done. As far as Philadelphia is concerned, Ambassador Nitobe next appeared when Japan was invading Manchuria. The Emperor had sent Nitobe on a tour of America to explain things. At the meetinghouse then on Twelfth Street, Nitobe adopted the line that Japan was only bringing peace and order to a chaotic barbarian situation, actually saving many lives and restoring quiet. After a minute of silence, Rufus Jones rose from his seat on the "facing bench": He was having none of it. And that was that for Nitobe in Philadelphia.
The other side of this story quickly appears if you go to Japan and ask some acquaintances if they happen to have heard the name Inazo Nitobe. That turns out to be equivalent to asking some random American if he has ever heard of Abraham Lincoln. To begin with, Nitobe's picture appears on the 5000 Yen ($50) bills in everybody's pocket. He was the founder of the University of Tokyo, admission to which now is an automatic ticket to Japanese success. He wrote a number of books that are now required reading for any educated Japanese. A number of museums, hospitals, and gardens are named after him; one of them outside Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia.
Nitobe's father, Jujiro Nitobe, had been the best friend of the last Shogun, deposed by the return of the Emperor to effective control after Perry opened up Japan to Western ideas. The Shogun was beheaded, of course, and the tradition was that the victim could ask his best friend to do the job because he would do it swiftly. Jujiro was unable to bring himself to the task, refused, and his family was accordingly reduced to poverty. Subsequently, the Samurai were disbanded by the newly empowered Emperor, given a pension, and told to look for peaceful work. Inazo Nitobe was in law school when the Emperor's emissary came and said that Japan did not need culture, it had plenty of culture. The law students would please go to engineering school, where they could help Japan westernize.
Nitobe later wrote a perfectly charming memoir, called Reminiscences of Childhood in the Early days of Modern Japan , which dramatizes in just a few pages just how wide the cultural gap was. For example, Nitobe's father brought home a spoon one day, and this curious memento of how Westerners eat was placed in a position of high honor. One day, a neighbor ordered a suit of western clothes, and hobbled around it, saying he did not understand how Westerners are able to walk in such clothes. He had the pants on backward.
One of Nitobe's greatest achievements was to struggle with his appointment as Governor of Formosa (Taiwan). Japan acquired this primitive island in 1895, and Nitobe got the uncomfortable role of colonist in Japan's first experience with colonization. He sincerely believed it was possible for Japan to bring the benefits of Westernization to another Asian backwater, but just as the British found in their colonies, there was precious little gratitude for it. Although he was undoubtedly acting dutifully on the Emperor's orders when he later came to Twelfth Street Meeting, he surely knew -- perhaps even better than Rufus Jones -- that there was something to be said on both sides, no matter how conflicted you had to be if you were in a position of responsibility. This most revered man in his whole nation almost surely saw he had been a complete failure in Philadelphia.
The American myth of the cowboy has much more Philadelphia flavor than one would suppose, considering the far-western location of the cows, the New York origins of Teddy Roosevelt, and the implication of southern aristocracy running through the dispossessed gentlemen riding the purple sage. The myth of the noble cowboy is behind much of what elected Ronald Reagan, the Californian.
Nevertheless, the Homer who started this epic Iliad was Owen Wister of Seventh and Spruce, Philadelphia.His book The Virginian might be summarized in a single quotation, "When you say that to me, smile." Behind that, of course, was Wister the lion of the Philadelphia Club rebuking his peers. The real theme was "I searched the drawing rooms of Philadelphia and Boston for the gentleman. And I found him on the frontier."
|James Fenimore Cooper|
Part of this complex theme is the underlying outdoors fraternity linking cowboys and Indians, tracing back to James Fenimore Cooper of Camden, NJ ennobling the noble savage in the Last of the Mohicans. Fair treatment for the natives has long been a strong Quaker theme, tracing back to William Penn's deep wisdom about colonization, and also personified in Corn planter the thoughtful Chief of the Iroquois, or Joseph Brant the scholarly Indian leader who translated the Bible, charmed the English monarchy, and then returned home to massacre the town of Lackawaxen. There's a theme here of shooting the circling Indians off their ponies, take no prisoners, mixed with the tragic white woman who falls in love with the equally tragic Indian brave, all doomed from the start. There's the sheriff with a shady past, going forth to shoot it out with outlaws while his Quaker wife watches out the window, because he is true to the Code of the West. Grace Kelly was surely no Quaker, but the Philadelphia hint is unmistakable.
It may take a century or more, but some American Homer is surely going to write the definitive epic based on this story. Meanwhile, Zane Grey tried his best. His version has a lot of Philadelphia in it, and not only because he went to the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. He graduated from Penn as a dentist, practiced in New York for six years, and hated every minute of it. Writing cowboy stories in his spare time, he gladly quit dentistry after his first publishing success, and moved over to Lackawaxen, PA to write in the woods. Lackawaxen is a great fishing spot, and was once a flourishing resort community at the confluence of the railroad and canal systems, now long since decayed and gone. He lived there for fifteen years, and asked to be buried there. His home is now a museum.
Pearl Grey became Zane Grey by way of P. Zane Grey, DDS. He had been born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of a Quaker mother who belonged to the founding Zane family, and a preacher-farmer father who had insisted on the dentistry idea. All his life, Zane Grey was a vigorous sportsman, most unlikely to warm to an effeminate name like Pearl. Or gentle Quaker ways, either; but like his cowboy heroes he was obedient to his code. Most of his life he managed to go fishing more than two hundred times a year, and produced two thousand words of writing almost every week. He wrote a hundred thousand words a year, and kept it up for thirty years. He published sixty books in his lifetime, and thirty more of his books have appeared since his death. His material was the basis for forty movies, and many short stories. Six of his books are about fishing, but mostly he wrote sophisticated variations on the theme of the wild West, the cowboy true to his code, and the noble savage. He was the first American author to become a millionaire from his writings. It seems sort of a pity that he was overtaken by the pressures of commercial success, and consumed by his extraordinary drive and diligence to the point where very little time was left for the Great American Epic of the West. He lived in California for many years, but it seems unlikely there were enough hours in his day to shake loose from Quaker origins.
The same is true of Ronald Reagan and his Iowa origins, but somehow that does not capsulize what the American cowboy represents. Somehow there is something in common about the former Confederate cavalrymen who were the early cowboys, the Quakers befriending the Indians, and the Iowa boy who was to negotiate the end of the Cold War with the Evil Empire. It is somehow a matter of remaining true to your roots while dealing fairly with strangers. It lies in Reagan's motto as much as the Virginian's barroom warning. Trust, but verify.
|Einstein and Eddington|
Very few claimed to understand what Einstein's Theory of Relativity was all about, but everyone could understand that giving a wartime Nobel Prize to a conscientious objector on the enemy side was political dynamite. It was not entirely a clear case; Einstein had indeed been a C.O. and was indeed the only member of the 94-person Prussian Academy to refuse to endorse the War. However, he had such a long history of taking the unpopular side of every argument that it was not certain whether he opposed the war or was merely sticking his thumb in the Kaiser's eye. At the same time, the most promising English astrophysicist, Arthur Eddington, was petitioning as a Quaker to be granted alternative service rather than be compelled to fight. Since Eddington was just about the only person claiming to understand and endorse Einstein's incomprehensible idea, it did not seem convenient to the British government to seem to endorse a German claim to enormous scientific achievement. It was decided to agree to Eddington's draft exemption on condition he conducts his own proposal for a definitive test of the theory. According to this idea, the light coming from a distant star should bend as it went past the sun. This proposal had the hidden advantage that a test could not take place until the 1919 eclipse of the sun, visible only from Africa or Brazil.
The experiment was hailed as a success, and a Nobel Prize followed shortly afterward, even though there were storm clouds over Brazil, and technical difficulties in Africa resulted in a rather blurred obscurity which would have baffled the public except for the enthusiastic acclaim of the only distinguished English scientist likely to understand the experiment. As telescopes have improved over the intervening century, it is now possible to observe the gravitational pull of much larger celestial bodies than the sun on a light which is coming to the earth from much more distant stars. Therefore, even schoolchildren can today see photographs of pinpoint starlight twisting into arcs of light while passing distant galaxies. Einstein the German has triumphed over Isaac Newton the Englishman, although the heady triumph probably did somewhat go to the heads of both Einstein and Eddington. Eddington the birthright Quaker allowed himself to be knighted, Einstein endorsed the dubious pacifist uprisings in Palestine, Eddington made a career of explaining puzzling scientific theories to the appreciative public. The direction of all this became clearer as some of the new theories Eddington promoted were discredited, and Einstein's pacifism has certainly become clouded by later thermonuclear events which he had a large hand in promoting.
Of the two, Einstein has proved to be the greater scientist, but Eddington would have been a scientific luminary without any association with the German, perhaps even a greater one without inevitable comparison between the two. Einstein spent the last 23 years of his life on the fringes of Philadelphia, at Princeton, but Philadelphia had little consciousness of his presence.
Rufus Jones (1863-1948) dominated the Quaker religion for two generations, causing a transformation which deserves to rank with that of George Fox, William Penn and Elias Hicks. A few elderly Quakers still remember him in person, mostly as an old gentleman who tended to lean back while he spoke, usually hooking his thumbs in the sides of his vest. He was a prodigious writer, having once made a promise to himself that he would read a new book every week, and write a new book, every year. He kept that up for thirty years.
As a matter of fact, that understates his output. His published works were collected by Clarence Tobias at Haverford College, and run to 168 volumes, plus 8 boxes of pamphlets and articles. His family also donated his personal papers to the College, and they require 75 linear feet of shelf space.
His stated occupation would have been Professor at Haverford College, where his personal influence on the undergraduates was as profound as their influence was to be on the rest of the world. He is regarded as one of the founders of the American Friends Service Committee and the single greatest influence in reuniting the two divisions of Quakerism, although some of the formalities were not completed until after his death.
One other index of his remarkable energy was that he crossed the oceans more than two hundred times during his lifetime.
Perhaps the arrival of mass communication has made it possible to have equal impact with less effort. But Rufus Jones stands for the principle in life, that it never hurts to work just a little harder. If high school students are thinking of applying for admission to Haverford, they better understand what is going to be expected of them.
There are a few old Quaker Clothes in the attics of their descendants, and on suitable occasions, an old broad-brimmed hat or two will appear at a Quaker gathering, for amusement. Quakers gave up the old style of "plain dress" when it became generally agreed that such eccentric dress was not plain at all but rather drew attention to itself. On the other hand, there is a distinctly unfashionable quality to almost everything Quakers do wear. When silk and nylon stockings were fashionable for women, Quaker women often wore black stockings. When it became the style for women to sport black stockings, Quaker women usually wore flesh-colored nylons. Among men, thin metal-trimmed spectacles displayed the same counter-fashionable tendency. Nowadays, these little quirks are often public signals among strangers, a way of wig-wagging "I notice you are a Quaker, so am I." And of course, unfashionable clothes are cheaper, and that's always a good thing.
And so it happened in 1947 that the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with information passed along that white tie and tails were the expected form of dress at the ceremony. Henry Cadbury was selected to receive the award on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, and you can be sure Henry Cadbury didn't own a set of tails. Henry was also very certain he wasn't going to go out and buy a set, just for a single wearing.
The AFSC collects used clothing, to distribute to the poor. Henry inquired whether there might be a set of white tie and tails to be found in the used-clothing bin, and luckily there was. It had been collected on behalf of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra when that impoverished but distinguished group of musicians was invited to give a concert in London. One of the monkey suits more, or less, fit Henry.
So, after investing in dry cleaning and pressing, Henry packed it up and went off to Oslo, to meet the King.
|James A. Michener|
James Michener seemed headed for a recognizably Quaker life until show business rearranged his moorings. He was raised as a foundling by Mabel Michener of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, under circumstances that were very plain and poor. Many of his biographers have referred to his boyhood poverty as a defining influence, but they seem to have very little familiarity with Quakers. When the time came, this obviously very bright lad was offered a full scholarship to Swarthmore College, graduated summa cum laude, went on to teach at the George School and Hill Schools after fellowships at the British Museum. And then World War II came along, where he was almost but not exactly a conscientious objector; he enlisted in the Navy with the understanding he would not fight.
While in the Pacific, he had unusual opportunities to see the War from different angles, and wrote little short stories about it. Putting them together, he came back after the War with Tales of the South Pacific. Much of the emphasis was on racial relationships, the Naval Nurse who married a French planter, the upper-class Lieutenant (shades of the Hill School) who had a hopeless affair with a local native girl that was engineered by her ambitious mother, as central characters. Michener himself married a Japanese American, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, whose family had been interned during the War. There are distinctly Quaker themes running through this story.
And then his book won a Pulitzer Prize, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein made it into a Broadway musical hit, then a movie emerged. The simple Quaker life was then struck by the Tsunami of Broadway, Hollywood, show biz and enormous unexpected wealth. Just to imagine this simple Bucks County schoolteacher in the same room with Josh Logan the play doctor is to see the immovable object being tested by the irresistible force. Michener retreated into an impregnable fortress of work. He produced forty books, traveled incessantly, ran for Congress unsuccessfully, and was a member of many national commissions on a remarkably diverse range of topics. Although he lived his life in a simple Doylestown tract house, he gave away more than $100 million to various charities and educational institutions.
In his 91st year, he was on chronic renal dialysis. He finally told the doctors to turn it off.
|Apostle of Sight|
There have been at least twelve documented generations of the Rambo family in Philadelphia. Historical justification can be found for the idea that this was the first family to settle within what are now the city limits. Victor Clough Rambo MD was an unpaid intern at the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1927; you will find his nameplate on the wall.
Victor early made up his mind that he was going to go where he could do the most good. Considerable thought led him to learn how to extract cataracts, and go to India to extract as many as he could. from time to time, he would return to America to visit family, and to give some speeches to raise money for his project.
The builders of our enormously costly hospital castles might give some thought to the fact that Victor did most of his surgery in tents. His system was to send out teams to the next two villages, whenever he was, with the news, "Bring in your blind people, the eye doctor is coming." When he then arrived, he set about operating on cataracts from dawn to dusk, in a country where the supply of cataracts was essentially unlimited. There was no time to operate on the comparatively minor visual disturbances so commonly treated in America today; he had to concentrate on people who were really blind, and in both eyes.
He wrote a book about his experiences, and perhaps there you could find data to calculate the number of people who were restored to a useful existence by his efforts. Surely, it was thousands. He just kept going at it, and when he died he was a very old man.
The Strittmatter Award is the most prestigious honor given by the Philadelphia County Medical Society and is named after a famous and revered physician who was President of the society in the 1920s. There is usually a dinner given before the award ceremony, where all of the prior recipients of the award show up to welcome to this year's new honoree.
This is the reason that Henry Bockus and Jonathan Rhoads were sitting at the same table, some time around 1975. Bockus had written a famous multi-volume textbook of gastroenterology which had an unusually long run because it was published before World War II and had no competition during the War or for several years afterward; to a generation of physicians, his name was almost synonymous with gastroenterology. In addition, he was a gifted speaker, quite capable of keeping an audience on the edge of their chairs, even though after the speech it might be difficult to recall just what he had said. On this particular evening, the silver-haired oracle might have been just a wee bit tipsy.
Jonathan Rhoads had likewise written a textbook, about Surgery, and had similarly been president of dozens of national and international surgical societies. He devised a technique of feeding patients intravenously which has been the standard for many decades, and in his spare time had been a member of the Philadelphia School Board, a dominant trustee of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, and the provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Not the medical school, the whole university, and is said to have been one of the best provosts of the University of Pennsylvania ever had. When he was President of the American Philosophical Society, he engineered its endowment from three million to ten times that amount. For all these accomplishments, he was a man of few words, unusual courtesy -- and a huge appetite in keeping with his rather huge farmboy physical stature. On the evening in question, he was busy shoveling food.
"Hey, Rhoads, wherrseriland?". Jonathan's eyes rose to the questioner, but he kept his head bowed over his plate.
"HeyRhoads, Westland?" The surgeon put down his fork and asked, "What are you talking about?"
"Well," said Bockus, "Every famous surgeon I know, has a house on an island, somewhere. Where's your island?
"Germantown," replied Rhoads, and returned attention to his dinner.
|Lindley B. Reagan, M.D|
The first and oldest hospital in America, the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce Streets, always had a strong Quaker flavor but a unique medical tradition as well. Since it was the only American hospital for decades, later becoming the home hospital of the first medical school in the country, it impressed its ideals and traditions on the whole of American medicine. However, it imposed so many difficult demands on its trainees that a century or more of an evolving profession simply moved away from copying it. It was, in 1960, the last hospital in the country to begin paying its resident physicians anything at all, one of the last privately controlled American hospital to adopt a billing and accounting department, and one of the last if not the last to regard a handful of private beds as merely a convenience for the patients of the staff physicians. In 1970 its method of maintaining inventory was to notice that the supplies on the shelf were running low, and ordering some more. It was founded in Benjamin Franklin's words, for the "sick poor, and if there is room, for those who can pay," and could only survive into the late 20th Century through private donations and the freely contributed services of the doctors, student nurses and administration. No amount of money could induce people to work as hard as they worked. You might say this was the only aspect of Medieval monasteries which Philadelphia Quakers thought worthy of imitating.
Somewhere in this set of ideas was the treasured concept of a rotating internship, preferably two years long, prior to entering specialty training through a residency. In 19th Century Vienna, it was a matter of rule that an intern was just that, physically confined within the walls for the term of service, and a resident was just that, someone who lived on the campus. The Pennsylvania Hospital had no such rule, but since it paid the doctors nothing for five or six years of eighty-hour weeks, their poverty forced them to satisfy the Viennese rules by default. Entertainment was bridge or poker in the intern quarters, conversational chit-chat was a description of bizarre cases or peculiar patients, a weekend "off-call" was a good time to catch up on correspondence. There were student nurses around, of course, but the matron was a pretty no-nonsense chaperon. Every class of interns contained one or two millionaires by inheritance, but peer pressure made them nearly indistinguishable in the daily routines. Aristocrats' main value to the resident physician community was their access to the ruling families in the city, and hence to the governance of the hospital, in case governance should occasionally abuse the vulnerability of the trainees.
I find in retirement that most of my colleagues are now willing to tell stories of the "old days" which they were unwilling to tell at the time. Over several glasses of the finest single-malt in a walnut-paneled club, one such story recently surfaced. It concerned Lin.
Lin was a member of an old Quaker family, surprising everybody during the Second World War by volunteering as a junior physician in the Navy. He was assigned to a marine regiment in the Pacific Theater and went through some of the most murderous fightings on Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Our grapevine reported that the enlisted Marines in his outfit absolutely worshipped him, and I easily believe there was a lot of quiet heroism behind that gossip. He told me he had decided to become an internist while in the Pacific, but somehow only a surgical residency was available when the War was over, so he took it. He was probably the best internist on the staff, and it showed in his conduct of surgery, where it sometimes matters more what you decide to cut than what you cut. He always looked exhausted, but never hesitated to drive himself another hour when the situation demanded it. One day, he had to excuse himself from an operation, an almost unheard-of event, and testing his own urine, found it loaded with sugar. So, the soft-spoken Quaker internist who was primarily doing surgery had to add the burden of insulin injections to his load. If he ever complained about that or any other thing, no one could remember hearing it.
At about the third glass of single malt, the story came out. My old friend, like the rest of us, had to spend a year as a surgical intern during the two-year rotating internship; he hated surgery and didn't mind telling the world. At the moment in question, he was the assistant at some neck surgery, with Lin performing the actual surgery. He was told to take a long pair of scissors and cut off the excess strands of sutures after Lin tied the knots; that was known as trimming the ligatures. They were working deep in the crevices of the patient's neck. Lin held up the loose ends of the knot and ordered, "Cut". My friend inserted the long scissors into the hole and snipped -- accidentally cutting right through the jugular vein.
As would be expected, a fountain of blood came up out of the hole, and Lin stopped it by putting his thumb on the cut ends of the vein. "Well," said Lin, "I guess we'll have to fix that." And did.
With tears in his eyes, my octogenarian friend cried out to the startled clubroom. "God bless you. God bless you, Lin."
Perhaps the point isn't clear to those who didn't go through the process, so let's be more explicit. Both my friend and I worshipped Lin, as a person, a teacher, and a surgeon. He was the perfect agent for his patients, without the tiniest trace of conflict of interest, income-maximizing or whatnot. He was as technically skillful as it is useful to be, but he was the thinking man's surgeon as well as the utterly faithful servant of the best interests of the humblest patient. He was, in the opinion of his closest professional associates, the best surgeon in the world. In need of surgery ourselves, all of us would have flown the Atlantic to have him operate on us. For reasons of his own, he was to spend the forty years of his professional life in a small country town with a small hospital, scarcely a famous surgeon but a beloved one to his community. Over the past sixty years, I have had a number of opportunities to know many surgeons who would be in contention for the title of the best surgeon in the world. Some have written books, some have struggled successfully upward through vicious competition, some of them would be called "Rainmakers" if the research world followed the pattern of lawyers and architects. One or two have won Nobel Prizes for surgical innovations, but that's different from being the best surgeon around. The best surgeon in the world was Lin, faithfully plying his trade in a little town that could not possibly know how lucky they were.
Lynmar Brock is a Quaker, so what he does is surprising. He lives on a farm, but is Chairman of the Board of a food distribution corporation. He's also chairman of several other boards. He's written several books, and among them, a novel Must Thee Fight? relates the tribulation of one of his pacifist ancestors who nevertheless became a soldier at the Battle of Brandywine. The theme of this emotional conflict parallels the author's own struggle over being a conscientious objector who ultimately volunteered for the Navy because he felt he could not stand by while others fought his battles for him. The face of the soldier with a musket on the book jacket is his own.
When American forces recently entered Afghanistan, a great many people were forced to become refugees. Lynmar Brock was on the board of Rotary International, where a decision was made to provide relief for the refugees, and Mr. Brock flew over to lead the effort on the ground. Rotary raised $2 million almost immediately, and the task was to translate the money into something the refugees really needed. Since "shrinkage" is a common fate for refugee shipments, Rotary bought locally. They were able to distribute 83,000 pairs of shoes, 53,000 blankets and similar quantities of a number of other basic needs. Ultimately, the three-year effort raised $115 million and distributed items in the millions. It was important to give the goods to the local tribal chief, who then redistributed to the members of the tribe. To give it directly would undermine the authority of the chief, very likely provoking him to interfere with it. Accordingly, it is essential for relief workers to make friends with the chieftains, and it is essential to avoid the appearance of being a sap. All of the clothing was stamped with a big indelible yellow Rotary Seal; if it turned up in the black market, it would still be obvious what its source had been. At the same time, it was essential for donors not to appear to be soldiers. One of the missions of the group was to show the Afghans that Americans were real people who cared, and not all were soldiers. That they were successful in this way was brought out by one tribal chief coming forward and saying, "Teach us English. It's the language of the world."
Some influential Rotarians are active in American ophthalmological circles, and arranged to have American eye surgeons extract a great many cataracts from Afghans otherwise destined to a life of blindness. Since the Taliban routinely poisoned the wells, it was vital that farmers like Lynmar Brock were able to show how to repair or replace the local water supply. It might have been better to replace opium farming with tomatoes, but a compromise was made to replace opium with marijuana. That's an improvement, of sorts. The danger inherent in this work must not be shrugged off. All vehicles of foreigners were preceded and followed by at least six local soldiers. As the cavalcade moved from one tribal area to another, the soldiers were changed for soldiers of the new tribal area; their loyalty just had to be trusted. And, indeed, the co-chairman of the committee was mysteriously murdered one day.
The Rotarians return home full of praise for the U.N. field workers, mostly European, who are actually engaged in foreign relief work. The headquarters staff back home at the U.N. are described with only a shrug that speaks volumes, but it is useful for us all to keep the distinctions in mind.
Lynmar says it's great to be home. In his busy life there's work to be done on the farm, and in his corporation, and writing another novel. And there is supervision also needed for the Rotary efforts in the Ivory Coast. It's not completely certain, but sometimes he actually gets some sleep.
William Penn, Excellent Lawyer, Terrible Businessman
William Penn was the central force in the establishment of a religion, Quakerism, certain central features of the legal system, three colonies of America, and many of the central concepts of Constitutional Law. He leaves us over three thousand documents, but it remains very hard to form a picture of what he was like.
Dr. Cadwalader's Hat
Sometimes it's hard for others to understand what makes Quakers tick.
Edward Hicks: Peaceable Kingdoms
This uneducated Bucks County farm boy has steadily risen in reputation as a painter of primitive art, just as he and his cousin have become spiritual leaders of non-dogmatic religious thought.
The Quaker Who Would Be King
Two Americans, Josiah Harlan, and George Bush conquered Afghanistan, and for centuries others who tried it got massacred. Harlan, a Chester County Quaker farm boy with more brazenness than Alexander the Great, died in San Francisco while impersonating a physician.
Inazo Nitobe, Quaker Samurai
One of the most revered leaders of modern Japan was a converted Samurai, married to a Philadelphia Quaker. His father was an advisor to the Emperor, a family of famous warriors.
Zane Grey, Dentist
Owen Wister may have invented the theme of the noble cowboy, but Zane Grey made it famous.
Two Pacifists: Einstein and Eddington
The English Quaker Sir Arthur Eddington was granted draft exemption during World War I, on condition that he conduct a test of the Theory of Relativity produced by the German conscientious objector, Albert Einstein. Einstein won.
Rufus Jones, Quaker
Rufus Jones dominated the Quaker religion for two generations, bringing unity out of disunity, and creating some towering institutions in the process
Henry Cadbury Dresses Up for the King
What should a plain-speech Quaker wear to the ceremony, if the King of Sweden is giving him the Nobel Prize?
James A. Michener (1907-1997)
< James A. Michener was a birthright Quaker from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he made his home when he wasn't traveling. He wrote 40 books, most notably "South Pacific", but lived a fairly simple smalltown life, meanwhile giving over $100 million to charity.
Victor Rambo, Indian Eye Surgeon
A twelfth-generation Philadelphian devoted his life to restoring eyesight to thousands of poor people in India.
"Well," said Bockus, "Every famous surgeon I know, has a house on an island, somewhere. Where's your island?".
Can a town of 5000 residents, with a two hundred-bed hospital, have the services of the best surgeon in the world? It all depends on your definitions.
Doing Well, Doing Good.
A board member of Rotary International recently ran an Afghanistan relief program and wrote a novel about the Battle of Brandywine. He's a Quaker, lives on a farm, and is chairman of the boards of several organizations.