We are a loss to reconcile the credulity of a great bulk of the people with the dissemination of knowledge which is admitted to have latterly taken place. Every ignorant empiric who proclaims the virtue of his nostrums through the country seems to procure abundant customers, alias dupes; for, to the disgrace of modern times, the sale of quack medicines has increased, as appears from the return of stamp duties in 1823, to the House of Commons. In London, we have hundreds of these base men, called quacks; but every village in the country is cursed with one of these wretches, who publishes, with unblushing effrontery, forged testimonials of his healing powers. The harm done by these vile impostors is incalculable; they kill hundreds of their miserable patients through absolute ignorance, and corrupt others by the scandalous debauchery of their lives. To the credulous who have been duped, and the incredulous who think these remarks overstrained, we recommend the perusal of the following case.
Jonathan Cook lived at Calne, near Salisbury, and practised among the country people as a quack doctor. On the 14th of May, 1823, he went to the house of a labouring man named Lawrence, who had a son under his care. After inquiring about his patient, Lawrence's wife showed him a swelling under the chin of her little girl, aged nine years. Cook said he could cure it, but it was necessary that he should provide some herbs, and requested to have the assistance of the little girls, the eldest of whom was only twelve years old. The unsuspecting mother readily gave her consent, and the villain led the poor children to a solitary field, at a mile distance, where he forcibly violated the person of the eldest, having first made a similar attempt, which proved abortive, on the youngest.
The poor children on their return appeared agitated and ill, and being questioned by their mother, communicated what had taken place. What added to the diabolical crime was the circumstance of the wretch having communicated to his victim certain abominable disease, of which she had not been cured when she gave evidence against her violator.
With the greatest effrontery the villain called next day on the distracted mother, and being accused of the fact, flatly denied it; but on the poor woman going out to call her husband, he made off, and was not apprehended for a month after.
Cook was brought to trial at Salisbury on the 15th of July. 1823, when the victim of his abominable passion appeared against him. She seemed an intelligent modest child, and excited a general sympathy throughout the court. The wretch had the impudence to cross-examine her, with a view to show that she consented, but her evidence was direct and conclusive, and the jury found him Guilty, on which the judge immediately passed on him the awful sentence of the law, advising him to apply for mercy in another world, for none could be extended to him here.
He was a man of about twenty-eight years of age, of robust make, and dressed like a creditable farmer. He heard his sentence with composure, and bowed to the court on leaving the bar. He underwent, in a few days, the awful sentence of the law.