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Home-Loney-Background-The Naval Surgeon 1847  1849

The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 27 (1 January):

NAVAL ASSISTANT-SURGEONS.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,- I deem it my duty to contradict assertions made in certain letters that have appeared in your influential journal, advocating the claims of assistant-surgeons R.N. to ward-room rank &c.

The writers of these letters state, that the only obstacle they have to contend with is executive prejudice.

This statement is incorrect, and without foundation. There are, I admit, a few captains and commanders in the service, who are opposed to their being admitted to the ward-room; but the great majority are either neutral or in favour of it; and I have reason to believe that the Lords of the Admiralty are not averse to the measure.

What, then, retards the final settlement of this res vexata? I shall answer, and challenge contradiction. The whole body of naval surgeons, almost without exception, are opposed to their junior, though probably equally well qualified, brethren being placed on the footing of messmates, conceiving that such close intimacy would render them less obedient to their orders &c.

This reply I had from several surgeons with whom I conversed on the subject, from whom I also learned that Sir W. Burnett, the medical director-general, is decidedly opposed to any change being made in the present position of the assistant-surgeons.

My object is not, in any degree, to prejudice the claims of these gentlemen; their justice no impartial mind can deny, and their grievances must, ere long, he redressed; I only wish to remove from my class an unmerited reproach, and to fix it where alone it exists.

In conclusion, let me advise them, in all their, subsequent letters, to avoid all disparaging comparisons with the junior branches of the executive.- Insertion of these remarks will much oblige,

A Captain, R.N.
December, 1847.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 52 (8 January):

ASSISTANT-SURGEONS IN THE NAVY.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,- In the last number of THE LANCET, there is a letter signed "A CAPTAIN, R.N.," in which it is stated that Sir William Burnett is opposed to any change being made in the present position of the assistant-surgeons of the navy. As it is possible that Sir William may not find himself at liberty to reply to this statement, I beg to assure you that it is devoid of truth, and altogether at variance with his opinions on the subject, as may be seen by a reference to his evidence before the Naval and Military Commission. I enclose you my address, and can vouch for the truth of what I have stated.

Your obedient servant,
A Surgeon, R.N.
January, 1848.

* The evidence referred to by our correspondent, with whose name and address we have been made acquainted, justifies the statement made by him in the above communication.- Ed.L.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 79 (15 January):

NAVAL ASSISTANT-SURGEONS.

To the Editor of The Lancet.

Sir - A letter of a curious tenour appears in the United Service Gazette of 14th August, 1847, which I have thought proper to copy and answer, and I humbly request your insertion of both it and the reply in your journal.

"Naval Assistant Surgeons.

To the Editor of the United Service Gazette

Sir,- Your columns are most unfairly occupied by articles relating to assistant-surgeons of the navy, who you are pleased to think entitled, immediately on joining the service, to be placed in the same mess, and furnished with the same comforts of a cabin, as those officers who have already gone through the junior ranks. Why make these young men dissatisfied, by leading them to believe they ought to have what has never been granted to their predecessors, and what, in reality, a ship is incapable of affording.

You, perhaps, do not know how much of a ship is already occupied by cabins, and how desirable it is; and more desirable in ships of the line, to reduce the number of cabins, which prevent many of the guns being at all times fit for action. There is no disgust amongst the assistant-surgeons, but what you are now creating by the writing you have adopted in your paper; and if you will ask Sir W. Burnett, you will find there is no unconquerable dislike to entering the navy. If the Assistant-surgeon is disposed to be studious, he may, in the hours spared from his duty, refer to his books, either in the sick bay, where he must necessarily be a good deal, or in the dispensary, or in the surgeon's or other officer's cabin. I myself learned a good deal in a midshipman's berth, and perhaps more than I did afterwards in a ward-room, and after thirty years' of constant experience afloat, I venture to recommend that you should not urge the Admiralty to make ward-room officers of sucking doctors.

Surely if there were room in a lieutenant's mess, or in a ship, for more cabins, mates have a decidedly greater claim than assistant-surgeons. You might, with far more reason, urge that the commander of line-of-battle ships is entitled to mess with the captain, and even to have half his cabin. His superiority in rank to the other officers in the ward-room, and his position, as being competent to sit on a court-martial, surely give him a better claim to the captain's cabin than an assistant can have to the ward-room. But I do not mean to advocate that; I would say, every one to his station, the cook to the fore-sheets, the assistant-surgeon to the sick bay. Why should he become a besotted and lost man, in being associated with those whose first qualification or recommendation is that they are gentlemen! The surgeon can nowhere better impart the result of his experience to the young assistant, than in the daily attendance on the sick, and upon the cases immediately under their notice.

Believe me, Sir, my arguments against making assistant-surgeons ward-room officers is not prejudice; but if it were done, it would be most prejudicial to the juniors of the other branches of the service, and without, I can positively assert, any real benefit.

I shall not, I fear, influence you in allowing a subject to fall to the ground, that you have once thought proper to occupy your columns with, but I can tell you that your paper would be more poplar if you advocated what is more reasonable, and not lead others to believe that assistant-surgeons are unfairly dealt by in the navy.

I assure you I am one who watches everything going on most closely, and who wishes to see everybody get what he deserves.

A CAPTAIN, R.N.
August 14th, 1847."

This letter, so piteously weak in facts and argument, so offensive, so void of sense, so limited and selfish in all its bearings, such an arrogant and impertinent attempt at dictation, in utter violation of justice and equity, thus far merits an answer from the pen of an assistant-surgeon of the navy - that it may bring forcibly to the notice of the civilian members of the medical profession our degrading position, how disgracefully we are treated in the naval service, and how we are made a servile and menial convenience by commanding-officers of ships, to guard and check naval youngsters from committing themselves. This application of us is a derogatory and degrading employment - an insult to our profession.

The sagacious supposition that we are not dissatisfied is false. The spirit of discontent has not sprung, suâ sponte from the public press, but from the representations of assistant-surgeons themselves. The custom of a heartless system of treatment is no argument in favour of its justification or continuance. That a ship is incapable of affording cabins, no individual in his senses will allow: many and many years since, this was a great objection, and that if we were provided with these accommodations, mates who were on a rank with us might then assert their claims to the ward-room; strange to relate, they never have solicited this addition of comfort, but this excuse has been urged as the bugbear to our advancement - what mates might do!

In the late administration, when Lord Haddington presided as first Lord of the Admiralty, an additional lieutenant was appointed to every ship of war, from line-of-battle ships down to brigs; an additional cabin was immediately provided, without one solitary murmur "that there was no room." In the present administration, with Lord Auckland at the head of the Admiralty, the additional lieutenant has been withdrawn, yet still there can be found no cabins for assistant-surgeons. Since that vaunted piece of duplicity - that there was no room for cabins - we have seen naval instructor admitted ward-room officers; and in the present year, engineers, a class of men exceedingly useful in their calling, many of them sprung from the artizan class. Yet assistant-surgeons of the navy are exposed to the same heartless, degrading, derogatory accommodation and treatment as ever.

We observe carpenters, gunners, and boatswains of the navy have cabins, and for this sage reason, that these warrant-officers have accounts to keep. Two questions may be here succinctly asked and answered. Can half these warrant-officers keep accounts? No. Do not the clerks in nearly all ships of war keep their accounts for them, subject to some private pecuniary consideration? They do.

This captain's (R.N.) career is lamentably interesting when he tells the public he learned more in a midshipman's berth than he did in the thirty subsequent years of constant experience afloat. It is very evident this long-serviced officer at a very puerile period of his life, was a big boy in his own estimation, and that a little knowledge sated him.

He proceeds, with the acumen of a precocious genius, with a novel liberality, to add, that if we are disposed to be studious, we can retire to the sick bay, or to the surgeon's or other

officers' cabins; but he will pardon me when I tell him, that as we learned our profession by reading, observation, and seclusion, so it is necessary we pursue the same course to keep up our store of knowledge. As to retiring to the sick bay, that which is a receptacle for drugs and sick seamen we do not deem our place. Furthermore, the sick bay is only in line-of-battle ships, and where are we in frigates and brigs? Should we avail ourselves of other officers' cabins, we rarely can without being sneered at - as an illustration, "what right has that d-d doctor in here so often without being asked" In fact, surgeons of the navy have told us they are sorry they cannot offer us the use of their cabins, as the executives do; and they will make some very unfeeling remarks, to which no young medical officer of gentlemanly and refined feelings will subject himself, and that without redress. The epithets of naval executives, as b- sawbones, d- assistant-surgeons, and that contemptuous name of "sucking, doctors," - these are some of the varied cognomina that need only to be mentioned, to display, in colours of an odious complexion, the illiberal and base feeling which is exhibited to a highly educated class of officers, inferior to none who walk the quarter-deck. This disgusting 1anguage is one of the least serious of the novelties to be complained of in the naval service.

Another very courteous, and humane remark is, that in being associated with youngsters ,whose first qualification and recommendation is that they are gentlemen, we cannot become besotted and lost men. My friend will recollect that anything a man may boast of in blood is compromised, if his actions are not those which characterize a gentleman. If he will search the articles of war, the Queen's regulations, and the Admiralty instructions, the word "gentleman" is not to be found. In concluding his correspondence, he remarks our removal would be "prejudicial to the junior branches of the service;" let me remind him our duty is to treat disease and not to preside over the morals of youngsters.

That every subject should be well discussed and impartially canvassed, is what will be objected to by no dissenting voice and if "A Captain, R.N," will continue his contribution against making us ward-room officers, (though I fear his resources are exhausted,) he will do our cause a great service and give us the means of refuting any objections against our immediately entering the lieutenants' mess. It is evident he first breathed the breath of life in those barbarous times when reigned ignorance and prejudice. Let me finally advise him, if he ever feels disposed to resort to black and white, to have a better cause, to study the literae humaniores, and to cultivate a relish for that which is humane and wholesome in its consummation, and in perfect unison with the opinions of an enlightened British public.

The man who can judge correctly and speak impartially, and who has a keen taste for one or more of those applied sciences which form a necessary and essential part of the education of a medical man, must know, that if a mind well trained and tutored be debarred from its native stimulus, it too frequently takes that course which must stir up some unhealthy and vicious elements of discord and disgrace. It is to be hoped our position will attract the notice of the profession, and that soon it will be remedied, through the able advocacy of the medical press of Great Britain.- I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

AN ASSISTANT SURGEON,R.N.
November, 1847.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 80 (15 January):

ARMY AND NAVY ASSISTANT SURGEONS.

EXTRACT FROM THE EVIDENCE OF SIR WILLIAM BURNETT BEFORE THE NAVAL AND MILITARY COMMISSION.

QUESTION 2574.- In the man-of-war which carried out last year troops to Canada, where did the assistant-surgeons of the regiment mess? - I suppose in the ward-room.

2575. But the assistant-surgeon of the navy, who is declared by the Order in Council to have the same rank, messed with the midshipmen? -Yes; in the cockpit.

2576. Do you know any reason why the assistant-surgeons of the navy should not be allowed to mess in the ward-room? - I am not aware of any. They receive the same education, at the same universities, and are in every respect the same as the assistant-surgeons of the army.

2587. Supposing he was messed in the ward-room, would there be means of lodging him in the ward-room? - Not in the ward-room; but all the officers who mess in the ward-room do not lodge there.

2588. He must still sleep in the cable-tier, if he were to mess in the wardroom? - It strikes me that other places might be found for them.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 80 (15 January):

ASSISTANT SURGEONS IN THE NAVY.- THE EVIDENCE OF DR. BURROWS AGAIN!

LETTER FROM SIR W. BURNETT, M.D.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,- My attention having been called, by a highly respectable member of the medical profession, to the evidence of Dr. Burrows before the Medical Registration Committee of the Honourable House of Commons in the last session of Parliament, which was apparently calculated to cast a severe reflection on the assistant-surgeons of the navy; and being, from my knowledge of the character of Dr. Burrows, of opinion that such statement could only have been made by him from not being acquainted with the extensive nature of the education those gentlemen are obliged to undergo before they can be received as candidates for the medical department of the navy, I consequently wrote to him on the subject, pointing out the nature of the error into which he had fallen, and the grievous injury such evidence, coming from a physician of his high character, was calculated to inflict. In explanation, I had the pleasure of receiving the accompanying letter, which I beg you will do me the favour to publish, in order that it may remove any unpleasant feelings which may exist in the minds of the junior members of the medical officers of the navy.

I am very unwilling further to trespass on your indulgence,but in justice to these gentlemen I should feel much obliged by your inserting at the same time, from the printed copy herewith sent, the course of education they are required to pursue {a great pressure on our space compels us to refer our readers to the Regulations inserted in the Students' Number, (last vol. of THE LANCET p. 358.)}, which I can assure you is strictly adhered to. - I remain, your obedient servant,

W. BURNETT M.D.
Director General, Medical Department of the Navy.
Jan. 12th 1848.

'Qualifications of the Assistant-Surgeons who have entered the Royal Navy during the last eight years - viz., from the 1st January 1840 to 31st December 1847:-
Those possessing surgical diplomas from London, 183; Dublin, 20; Edinburgh, 103. Certificates from London, 28. Total number admitted, 334.
Those possessing degrees in medicine (as well as surgical diplomas) from Edinburgh, 38; Glasgow, 24; Aberdeen, 5. Three extra licentiates of London College of Physicians.


45, Queen Ann-street, Cavendish-square, Jan. 5th, 1848.

DEAR SIR WILLIAM,- In reply to your last letter I have only to repeat the assurance I gave you in a former communication, that when I incidentally alluded to the appointment of assistant-surgeons in the navy, in the course of my examination before the Registration Committee of the House of Commons, I had no intention of disparaging the medical officers of her Majesty's Navy, nor of intimating that I thought less highly of them than of the medical officers in the other public services, or of their professional brethren engaged in private practice.

The only occasion upon which I adverted to the assistant-surgeons in the navy, was in answer, (442,) wherein I pointed out that there was no just comparison in England between barristers and the majority of young men who entered the medical profession. I further stated that many of the latter are compelled by their more limited means to commence practice, or to seek a public appointment at the earliest age allowed by law; and I then mentioned the appointment of assistant-surgeons in the navy as one of those which might be obtained at an early age, and would therefore afford an immediate independent maintenance.

This allusion was made simply in illustration of an argument, and I entirely disclaim any intention of detracting from the high qualifications which, as you inform me, are possessed by many of these gentlemen, or of intimating that their professional attainments were inferior to those of medical officers in the other public services; and I gladly avail myself of an opportunity of removing any misapprehension or unpleasant feelings upon this subject.- I remain, dear Sir William, yours very faithfully,

GEO. BURROWS, M.D.

To Sir William Burnett, &c. &c.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 80 (15 January):

BRUTAL TREATMENT OF NAVAL ASSISTANT-SURGEONS.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,- As an assistant-surgeon of the navy, allow me to express my gratitude for the untiring energy and perseverance you have ever displayed in advocating our cause, in the mention of which I speak the sentiments of all the junior medical officers of the navy. The naval authorities are now perfectly convinced, against their native prejudices, that they have most shamefully and heartlessly maltreated the assistant-surgeons of the navy. We are, after three years' service, only considered eligible to mess with young naval lieutenants, with whom the oldest naval surgeon ranks "with, but after," and his widow receives £10 per annum less from Government than does the widow of this executive. Look in any direction you please in the naval service - the overbearing and niggardly bigotry of the executives over the medical officers is plainly to be perceived.

The medical press will, I trust, ever be, as it has been, the channel where we may make known our grievances in confidence: this is our only resource; the executives would deny us this hearing if they knew how.

We have solicited from the naval powers that which now we are agitating for - liberal treatment; all constitutional appeals have failed, and other means must now be tried. A recent correspondent to THE LANCET adds, that there is just as much prospect in getting "blood from a stone, as redress from the 'fighting officers' of H.M. navy." I agree with him. Our battle-ground is not with the Admiralty, but in the House of Commons, and with a liberal administration. Our brother officers in the army are kept back as much as they can be, but the naval assistant-surgeon is degraded and ill-used for the sake of "custom." The most powerful language falls short in exposing the heinousness of such gross treatment. It would seem as if those in power were trying how inefficient they could make us. Against our being admitted to the ward-room there is a bitter party feeling, which no liberal-minded individual could dare for one moment to foster. There is a selfish wish to keep us back; but that laudable agitation now on foot will continue to maintain itself, until our grievances, which we have complained of for more than a quarter of a century, obtain the consideration of Government.

If an assistant-surgeon of the navy has medical charge over small bodies of men, as in boats, schooners, and transports, is he not competent to his duty? If a ship cast anchor in any foreign or other port, is an assistant-surgeon's advice ever sought after? If a difficult labour occur, are we ever solicited to render assistance? Do not many of the older executive officers, from flag-officers downwards, frequently prefer the young assistant-surgeon to the old surgeon as their medical adviser? Have we not frequently seen the wives of executives entrust themselves, under the most delicate circumstances, with confidence, to the abilities of an assistant-surgeon? Criticise us wherever we have been needed, have not we done our duty? Yet how inconsiderate is it, that the executives are trying every cunning device to keep us amongst middies and mates, second masters and clerks!

There cannot be a more degrading recital than the diary of an assistant-surgeon on ship-board, particularly in frigates and brigs. What must the unfortunate and talented Mr. Thomas Hart have endured - what bitterness must he have felt - what disgust, mortification, and disappointment, must have been his lot, to drive him to the rash act of suicide! He served principally in frigates - as the "Endymion," "Winchester," and "Conway;" and the following was the life he endured, as at present do many of his brother officers. To treat us as the subsequent relation will show, is brutal and abominable: -

We sleep in hammocks, amongst boys between the ages of eleven and nineteen. At six A.M. we must start from our hammocks, perform a partial morning ablution, and this in the presence of boys and private marines, on a chest containing library, toilet, and wardrobe. At seven A.M. the sick are seen and prescribed for; that over, we return to breakfast, which is about eight o'clock. At nine A.M. the sick report is prepared for the first lieutenant's inspection, which is the penod for quarters; the arms, men, and guns, are inspected, - and we must look on like automatons: this routine generally lasts about half an hour. We then retire below, compound medicines, and perform any minor operations needed, which may occupy one hour. From the lower deck we are driven by the heat; on the main or principal fighting deck we must keep on our legs; and on the upper deck, we must walk incessantly, and, as it is termed, in an officer-like manner. The time being thus killed till twelve o'clock, - the service hour for the ship's company and young gentlemen to dine, - the heat soon stews us from the berth, and food is quickly swallowed. Imagine an assistant-surgeon between thirty and forty years of age being thus treated. The time is spent on the cooler decks in the same way till two P.M., when we must again dispense and give medicine. At four P.M. is the service hour for tea, and after this repast medicine is given again. At five P.M. is the hour for evening quarters, where we must attend, the object of this being to see that the men are sober after their four-o'clock supper. From this time, we must kill the weary hours till eight o'clock, and then give evening medicines. At nine P.M. lights are dowsed amongst the young gentlemen and ship's company. The space for each hammock to swing is eighteen inches. We sleep amongst boys, and the ship's company in front of us. On Thursdays and Saturdays are the days for scrubbing lower decks, berth and dispensary included, so we are driven to the upper deck the whole morning. The gun-room, where the lieutenants &c. are, and the captain's quarters, are washed according to the caprice of these officers. On the main deck a table is erected for the youngsters learning their duty, but should we attempt to avail ourselves of this opportunity to read, we should be thought insolent, impertinent, and subversive of the discipline of the service.

Here is seen our duty, and the manner in which we are obliged to spend our time, amidst the noise of youngsters, the slang of a ship's company, and with the constant and embittered reflections consequent on our disgraceful usage. Ambition decays - profitable reading and reflection are at an end - discontent and disgust seize us; and under all these dispiriting circumstances, many leave the service; many, from the influence of the depressing passions, contract disease, die, or become invalid. This is no exaggeration, it is the unhappy termination of many. Go into any of the British colonies - very frequently do we meet gentlemen who have retired from the naval medical service in disgust. They tell us it is a rotten service; they were treated as dogs; the naval authorities evidently don't desire or deserve qualified medical officers. They further add, There is something barbarously despotic and selfish in the constitutions of the naval executives; and this appears to be their line of action - 'the more we can curtail the rights of other classes of officers, the more we shall get ourselves; the power and patronage are with us - we will dispense it as we think proper.'

Finally, I humbly request the insertion of these remarks in the columns of your extensively circulated and scientific journal.

AN ASSISTANT-SURGEON R.N.
December, 1847.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 138 (29 January):

NAVAL ASSISTANT-SURGEONS.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,- In October, 1846, I was appointed assistant-surgeon to H.M.S. "Penelope," then fitting out at Portsmouth [this was the commission after the one in which Dr Loney was briefly carried in this ship]. Without delay I went to the Admiral-Superintendant's office, to take up my appointment, and then on board, to report myself; but what was my surprise when told that I must not mess in the gun-room with the lieutenants, surgeon, purser, &c., but in the midshipmen's berth, a wretched, dark den, hardly large enough for six persons, yet in it fourteen of us were crammed. I was also refused a cabin, a servant, and every other accommodation that a professional man is entitled to. I was forced to sleep in an open steerage, among the sailors and marines, in a hammock, and not allowed to bring on board any article of furniture, except a chest, three feet in length, which was to serve the treble purpose of wardrobe, toilet, and library. Thus situated, without the smallest corner for study, and compelled to mess and associate with a set of noisy, half-educated schoolboys, I threw up my appointment with disgust, being determined to give up my profession rather than submit to such a degradation; and I have no reason to regret the step, having since obtained an appointment in the Royal Artillery, where I am treated as a gentleman, and admitted to mess with my superior officers, none of whom think themselves dishonoured by associating with a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

My picture of the position of assistant-surgeons, R.N, has not been peculiar to my own case, nor exaggerated by me; it is common to all.- I am, Sir, &c.,

W. P. WARD, Assistant-Surgeon, R.A.
January, 1848.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 138 (29 January):

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir, - The letter of a "Captain, R.N." in "THE LANCET" of the 1st of January, on the claims of naval assistant-surgeons, should not, I think, pass without comment. It may not be open to contradiction; but it may be remarked that the assistant-surgeons claim ward-room, accommodation, and society, and not the rank; for that, I presume, they hold at present.

It is well that such attempt should be made to shift the odium of such unjust treatment from the shoulders of any party, but that it should be laid upon the shoulders of the surgeons, and medical director general of the navy, is such a tactical homethrust, that I confess myself staggered by it.

As a profession we have made some discoveries that benefit mankind, but this is a discovery, thrust upon us, of one source of our sorrows, which may well paralyze us. Discipline in the navy, perhaps, requires that the captain should live in solitary dignity, apart from close intimacy with his subordinates, but there can be no necessity for the further extension of that system amongst gentlemen and commissioned officers.

It may be asserted that the executive do not object to the entrance of the assistant-surgeons to the ward-room, and undoubtedly they would not do so, on the grounds stated by your correspondent; but probably they would object to the absence of the assistant-surgeon from the cock-pit, where a little steady philosophy may be considered beneficial, though not professionally exercised.

It behoves naval surgeons to speak now for themselves on this subject, and if they maintain the sentiments imputed to them, they must indeed be considered as very far at sea - if they be not actuated by a fear of being eclipsed by a class of volunteers to a system of liberal treatment.

That a decided opposition to the desired change should be attributed to the professional head of the department renders it a difficult task to reconcile such views with the expressed wish, in that quarter, to induce young men of talent and education to enter the service. This is a question in which the jolly tars are the most interested: it may make some difference to them, whether their doctor has merely been examined for an assistant-surgeoncy, or is the holder of a diploma, after a full period of professional study, particularly in the event of a war; though it does not seem likely that we are ever to fight again, under any circumstances; in which case tyros may, perhaps, enter the service, and study their profession afterwards, as they may, and so practise it: they'll be cheap articles,{minutes of evidence, No. 442} gratuities from Dr. Burrows, as the poor-law guardians found, when they put up the sick poor to Dutch auction.-

Yours, &c.,
EMERITUS.
January, 1848.


The Lancet, 1848, vol I, page 166 (5 February):

NAVAL ASSISTANT-SURGEONS.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

SIR, - I humbly request the insertion of this letter in answer to a Captain R.N., who "challenges contradiction" to three vile assertions he has considered it his "duty" to make in your extensively circulated journal of January 1, 1848. He openly states, that no such under-current as executive prejudice delays assistant-surgeons' grievances being redressed; that the whole body of naval surgeons are, without exception, opposed to their equally well qualified brethren messing with them; and lastly, that Sir W. Burnett is opposed to any change being made in our present position.

To adduce, at this period, any prolix proof of the bitter and envious feeling entertained towards us by the fighting officers of H.M. navy would be an useless waste of words. The fact of there being a deep-rooted prejudice against us is too generally understood to be contradicted. Let any one endowed with common perception and clear judgment, only peruse a letter in THE LANCET of January 15, 1848, the production of a Captain R.N., to be convinced of its melancholy and general deficiency in sense, common decency, and truth. The junior medical officers of the navy are called by this vulgar, ill-conditioned writer, "sucking doctors." What construction can be put on this expression, but that it is glaringly emblematic of an ignorant and a prejudiced mind - characteristic of the class.

Can there be a more gross and glaring falsehood, that surgeons of the navy are averse to our joining them in the same mess? Certainly not. This Captain R.N., who attempts to be their spokesman, says, that such close intimacy would render the assistant-surgeon less obedient to the surgeon's orders: he may be assured the junior medical officers of the navy are much better conducted than an humble individual of his limited pretensions can bring himself to believe.

If a subordinate officer is disobedient, are there not means of maintaining discipline? Most assuredly, and means the most arbitrary and despotic! In a line-of-battle ship, where the commander messes with the lieutenants, do the latter class of officers question their senior's orders? No.

The medical officers of the navy are a united body. Our surgeons give us the best advice; they wish us to be active in asserting our claims, which are just and proper, to ward-room accommodation. They deem our present and disgraceful treatment a stigma to the naval authorities, at this advanced period of the nineteenth century. These are the liberal and manly sentiments of the surgeons of the navy, as I hear them. As to Sir W. Burnett being opposed to our increase of comfortable privileges - it is an untruth - a decided misrepresentation. Finally allow me to thank you for the zeal and application you have ever displayed in advocating our cause.- I am, Sir, yours,

AN ASSISTANT SURGEON R.N.
January, 1848.


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