February 11, 2016
In 1751 the New World was bustling with immigrants and industry, a bubbling melting pot of Europeans, Africans and Indians where not only cultures were being mingled, so were diseases. As the fastest growing city in the 13 colonies, Philadelphia was a hotbed of ideas, innovations and inventions. While the majority of the population made moderate livings, there was a growing population of poor suffering from physical ailments. Mental illness was increasingly affecting those in all income levels. Something had to be done soon, for the benefit of those suffering as well as the community as a whole.
Dr. Thomas Bond studied in London from 1738 to 1739 and witnessed Europe’s development of the hospital. Two years after returning to Philadelphia, Bond was appointed Port Inspector for Contagious Diseases. A decade later he was faced with the problem of an increasing number of poor and sick with no place or means to treat them. Pulling from his European experience, and Quaker faith, Bond formulated the idea of building a hospital in Philadelphia "for the reception and cure of the sick poor ... free of charge". Bond approached citizens throughout the city and they all had the same question, "What does Benjamin Franklin think of the idea?" Bond hadn’t discussed the matter with his good friend thinking Franklin's interests did not include a hospital. But after the people's consistent inquiry, Bond approached Franklin, who became an immediate supporter of the idea. His backing alone was enough to garner widespread support from other Philadelphians for the hospital.
Even though it was to be a private hospital, the project needed approval from the Pennsylvania Assembly. Franklin quickly took the lead on that initiative, delivering a bill written by those supporting the hospital. The focus of the hospital was "to care for the sick poor of the Province and for the reception and care of lunaticks.” The Assembly was not immediately favorable to the idea so Franklin proposed that only if he could get private citizens to donate 2000 pounds for the project would the Assembly sign the bill and match the collected funds. Believing the task was impossible, they accepted Franklin’s challenge. As always, Franklin delivered and the bill was signed into law on May 11, 1751.
Since a proper hospital would take years to build, renovations began on the home of John Kinsey, a former Speaker of the Assembly and fellow Quaker, who had died in 1750. This home would serve as a temporary facility while preparations for the permanent building were being made. A Quaker widow, Elizabeth Gardner, was appointed matron of the new hospital.
On February 11, 1752, Bond and Franklin opened the doors to patients to the first hospital in the Americas. The people of the City of Brotherly Love had compassion on those in need and took it upon themselves to solve the problem, not the government. Private citizens, such as the Stretch family and Franklin, donated money to not only start the project but to keep it going and Mathias Koplin was the first to donate land for the new hospital.
Even though the purpose of the hospital was to help the poor, the care was not just automatically given to them without requirements. Strict rules were set by the majority Quaker-run Board of Managers, which also included Franklin, so patient expenses did not become a burden to the city. To emphasis this, the hospital seal was that of the Good Samaritan with the inscription, “Take care of him and I will repay thee”. They believed in the responsibility of citizens to take care of their neighbors, not to dump them at the feet of the government.
To be admitted, a patient had to have two tax-paying citizens as sponsors. This was to cover either burial expenses if they died or transportation expenses if they needed to be taken back home. Not only did local philanthropists, leaders and predominant citizens provide the funds for patients, members of the Board of Managers and hospital staff did as well. The people of Philadelphia held true to the Good Samaritan motto.
Quakers understood the difference between those who would work if they could and those who could work but wouldn’t. To avoid malingerers, patients had firm rules once they were admitted to the hospital. These included total compliance with doctors’ and nurses’ orders, assisting nurses with other patients if able, wearing only bed clothes in bed, and absolutely no profanity, gambling or spitting on the floor. These rules not only kept those tempted to take advantage of the hospital's generosity from doing so, it allowed patients to keep their self-respect and honor during this time of need.
The Pennsylvania Hospital began as a private, non-profit, teaching hospital, eventually housing America’s first medical library and surgical amphitheater. It is still in operation today under those same founding principles. The war wounded from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War were treated at the historic hospital while medical units were sent overseas to World War I & II. The Hospital became known for its humane and advanced treatment for the mentally-ill as well as other areas such as maternity, neurological, coronary care, diabetes, oncology, urology and surgery. Merging with the University of Pennsylvania Health System in 1997, the Pennsylvania Hospital continues to give excellent care, expand its medical scope, and excel in its advances in medicine.
America became great because when people saw a need, they just filled it. Politicians and many citizens today believe everything can and should be fixed by the government. The Veterans Administration shows how poorly government runs health care let alone any other social program. By growing government, politicians are taking away our will, our need, and sometimes our right to be the Good Samaritan. Why would politicians do this? They realize if we can depend on our neighbors, we no longer have to depend on them. Unfortunately, we’re turning into a country of priests and Levites who pass by on the other side of the road believing it’s the government’s role to be the Good Samaritan and take care of not only those in need, but us as well. Some are even demanding it.
Constitutionally, all the United States Government is charged in doing is national security, such as securing our borders, and defending the Constitution. It is not the president’s job to set a minimum wage, provide health care, ensure gender equality, fight for women’s rights, create jobs, or take my money to give to someone else. Liberty, this is not freedom. This is slavery under the guise of compassion. Unfortunately, socialism has been so saturated in the education system for so long, many young and first-time voters are attracted to those politicians that promise the most comfortable chains around our wrists. Older voters who have been fighting for liberty are so beaten down they are tired of politics in general and revolting against the status quo.
Notice that Franklin had to take the idea of a private hospital to the governing body for permission, a political agency that actually tried to block its approval. Even in our nation's early years, the government stood in the way of private citizens simply doing what was right. This explains why Franklin fought so hard to make America free. After completing the Constitution, Franklin was asked, “What have you given us?”. He responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” By small steps, progressives and socialists have been trying to steal it away for the past 100 years. The election this year will determine whether America still believes in the Constitution as given to us by Franklin and the Founders, or has completed the transformation of replacing God with government. May God have mercy on us all.
That’s my 2 cents.
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