From William James to James J. Putnam

To James J. Putnam.
CAMBRIDGE, Mar. 2, 1898.

DEAR JIM,—On page 7 of the “Transcript”; tonight you will find a manifestation of me at the State House, protesting against the proposed medical license bill.

If you think I enjoy that sort of thing you are mistaken. I never did anything that required as much moral effort in my life. My vocation is to treat of things in an all-round manner and not make ex-parte pleas to influence (or seek to) a peculiar jury. Aussi, why do the medical brethren force an unoffending citizen like me into such a position? Legislative license is sheer humbug — mere abstract paper thunder under which every ignorance and abuse can still go on. Why this mania for more laws? Why seek to stop the really extremely important experiences which these peculiar creatures are rolling up?

Bah! I m sick of the whole business, and I well know how all my colleagues at the Medical School, who go only by the label, will view me and my efforts. But if Zola and Col. Picquart can face the whole French army, can’t I face their disapproval? — Much more easily than that of my own conscience!

You, I fancy, are not one of the fully disciplined demanders of more legislation. So I write to you, as on the whole my dearest friend hereabouts, to explain just what my state of mind is. Ever yours,

W. J.

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