VACCINATION OF IMMIGRANTS Vaccination Inquirer Vol 5 p112-114

Letter to William Tebb 

"BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, May 7th, 1883.
    "DEAR SIR,—I found the Vaccination tyranny much more than sentiment on board the Adriatic. Aboard-ship, as everywhere, it has attained terrible proportions, which makes it probable that, in the near future, it will become The Great Terror that shall ‘cause that as many as will not worship the image of the beast shall be killed,’ and that ‘no man may buy or sell save he that has the mark of the beast.’
    "The first intimation I had that Vaccination was a requisite for free travel in America was an ‘Important Notice’ on the stairway to the effect that passengers not provided with certificates of Vaccination were liable to be detained in quarantine on arrival, and that the ship’s medical officer was prepared to give certificates to those unprovided on showing marks of successful Vaccination.
    "In a few days, I heard of this ship’s medical officer magnifying his office down among the women and children. I conversed with one young woman who had submitted to the great ordinance, and, after characterising the whole business as the most idiotic folly of the times, I begged of her to suck the poison out of her arm. But many hours had elapsed, and the endeavour failed. Day by day she had to carry her burden of pain until she landed. Whether she is now rejoicing in enhanced health as a consequence of the small-pox proofing process, or whether she is suffering from the weary illness that is often its ‘accident’ I have no means of knowing.

"The bulk of the passengers were Irish, German, and Welsh ; there were very few English. I held many small indignation meetings, and did all in my power to enlighten them as to the filth, fraud, and folly of Vaccination. I trust I did a little good, and sowed a little seed that may some day and somewhere produce fruit.

"I was anxious to know to what extent the immigration Vaccination law was enforced at New York, and had a chat on the subject with the chief steward. His information was terrifying. Said he, ‘When we get to New York the doctor comes aboard, with half-a-dozen policemen, and you have to be vaccinated.’ ‘But,’ said I, ‘suppose you refuse to be vaccinated, what then?’ ‘Then they’ll sling you into the tender, and clap you in jail till you submit.’ ‘But I won’t be vaccinated. I’ll stay out of New York for ever first.’ He replied, ‘No use; you‘d have to be. Five of our crew, once, refused to be done; but they just put ‘em into quarantine and kept ‘em there until they came to. They might as well have been done first as last; they only delayed the vessel.’
    "I tell you, I felt bad after this recital, and came to the conclusion that America was closed against the unvaccinated anti-vaccinator, and that he was fast falling into the condition of the American negro-slave who was hunted down everywhere by everybody.
    "One morning it was rumoured that the doctor was coming to examine the passengers, and I went with two friends to the surgery to state our objections. I told him that we had been vaccinated, if that fact would let us pass without further trouble, we could satisfy him; but if not, vaccinated we would never be. Like most doctors, he was without capacity to understand our conscientious objections, and the degradation involved in submission to the rite. He curtly told us the law was not his; it was the United States law. He should come forward at two o’clock, and if we shewed him that we had been vaccinated, he would give us a certificate, and, if not, he would vaccinate us if we chose; if not, we must take the risk of passing the doctor at the port. It mattered nothing to him.
    "About two o’clock there was a great commotion for’ard. Such a stripping of clothes, rolling up of sleeves, and searching for ‘marks.’ Some were craning their necks over their shoulders in a half-hopeless search after obliterated or invisible scars; some calling in the help of a neighbour to make them out; and some raising an excited discussion as to whether an indentation was a vaccination mark, or forgotten boil, and going into an ecstasy of satisfaction when they had settled it was exactly what was wanted.
    Others, in despair of vaccination marks, recollected that they had had small-pox, and set up a search for pox-marks. Some, after a protracted quest for marks, vaccine or variolous, put on their coats sadly, with the air of criminals about to be hanged. It was a sight to make men blush with shame for the devilish superstition that has taken possession of the Christian civilization of the nineteenth century.
    "By-and-by came the doctor in his gold-laced cap, with his bottle of ‘lymph,’ pure from the sores of children or heifer’s buttock, and commenced operations. First a rope was stretched from a post, and held by two stewards in a horse-shoe form, and into this enclosure passed, one by one, the victims of an insane medical legislation, and bared their arms to the Medical Ignoramus, who stood on the other side. If he there saw the orthodox scars, he forthwith bestowed a ticket like this:--

S.S. Adriatic
14th April 1883

Which further had this exhortation on the back:-- 


Keep this card to avoid detention at quarantine, and on railroad in the United States.

"If a poor wretch could not show vaccine or pock marks, he got no ticket, and was asked whether he would be vaccinated, or risk being stopped at landing. All preferred the first alternative as the lesser evil. The doctor, dipping his lancet in the bottle of mystery, wiped it on a spot on the arm, and cut and cross-cut the skin, and then, after rapidly stretching and closing the incisions with his thumbs, gave the wretch his ticket and passed him on. Such was the ordinance of Vaccination—a sight not to be forgotten. A crowd of hundreds passing forward to prostrate their conscience or manhood, or lack of them, at the shrine of the most outrageous humbug of these latter days! A mixed crowd of big and little, fat and lean, dirty and clean, reputable and disreputable, sober and drunken, healthy and diseased, all ground down to the dead level of VACCINATED. There was nothing in common among them save their degradation, and, as I thought, the most degraded of the lot was the Vaccinator. How a man with any sense of decency and the congruity of things could, for mere pay, consent to the folly that the individuals of such a heterogenous crowd were all alike liable to small-pox, and were all alike saved by his performance, passes my understanding. It is hard to believe in a man’s sincerity in view of such absurdity; and yet he may be sincere. When a lie is taught, and still more when a lie is practised, it confounds the intellect, and is ultimately taken for the truth of truth.
    "I am fain to believe that not much harm was done to those vaccinated. After the operation, there was a mighty scuttling off into secret corners, with sucking and spitting. Happily I had a store of borax, and dispensed it liberally with energetic advice. Anyhow, I heard little of the Vaccination ‘taking.’ Perhaps the ‘matter’ was not good, but it mattered not.
                        "Yours truly, "F. SCRIMSHAW."