Article ID: CBB001550524

“Simple, Easy, and Intelligible”: Republican Political Ideology and the Implementation of Vaccination in the Early Republic (2014)


First introduced in 1798 by the English doctor Edward Jenner, smallpox vaccination generated a sensation in Europe and America in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Vaccine became highly politicized in the American republic as enthusiasts debated how to implement the new preventive; some promoters argued that it was suitable for democratized use by self-reliant householders, while others insisted that the complexity of the procedure should limit its use to trained experts and "learned physicians." Disagreement centered on the place of knowledge in the republic and its accessibility to private citizens. The debate over proper vaccinators entered national politics in 1813 when Congress established the National Vaccine Institute (NVI) in response to the proposal of a Baltimore almshouse physician. Founded on the premise that it would supply any citizen---physician or not---with vaccine, the NVI represented an egalitarian view of science and medicine that held such knowledge both suitable and essential for virtuous republican citizens. This essay finds that from the introduction of vaccination to the United States in 1800-1822 through the destruction of the National Vaccine Institute in 1822, debates about proper vaccinators and medical knowledge played an important role in a broader debate about knowledge, social hierarchy, and the shape of the American republic.

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Authors & Contributors
Brunton, Deborah C.
Bennett, Michael J.
Jones, Greta
Malcolm, Elizabeth
Lilley, James
Kuiken, Kir
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Intellectual History Review
Indian Journal of History of Science
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Cierre edizioni
International Specialized Book Services
University of Rochester Press
W. W. Norton & Co.
Kentucky, University of
State University of New York at Albany
Vaccines; vaccination
Medicine and politics
Public health
Medicine and society
Jenner, Edward
Wilde, Robert Willis
Pasteur, Louis
Wallace, Alfred Russel
Austen, Jane
Wollstonecraft, Mary
Great Britain
19th century
18th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
17th century
Royal Belfast Academical Institution
Catholic University of Ireland (Dublin)

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