History:  Medicine in the Victorian Era, Part I
Written by Chris Dalrymple, DC   
Saturday, October 31, 2015 12:00 AM

It was during the opening half of the 1800s that some 81% of the United States had given their state medical societies the authority to examine and license practitioners of medicine.  By 1803 Medical schools licensed their graduates to practice medicine thus creating an alternative to the medical society regulation granted by the state.  Those who entered the medical schools were not required to have a high school education, and some of the medical schools provided no more than a few months of training before licensing their graduates.  Most provided no clinical training.

It was within this era that Anson Jones, M.D. was licensed to practice medicine in 1820, receiving his M.D. degree in 1827.  In 1837 he renounced the practice of medicine to become a merchant in New Orleans.  After living through cholera and yellow fever epidemics and a series of failures that left him despondent and broke.  In 1833 an acquaintance of Jones suggested to him to move to Texas.  This he did and during the first Congress of  the Republic of Texas, convened at Columbia on Oct 3, 1836, Jones became increasingly interested in public questions and critical of congressional policies.

He was elected a representative to the Second Congress where he helped formulate legislation to regulate medical practice based upon the scheme under which he had been licensed. On December 14, 1837, the second Congress of the Republic of Texas created the Board of Medical Censors for the purposes of granting licenses to practice medicine and surgery in the republic. 

The word censor is derived from the latin word censure meaning ”to appraise, value, judge.”  Thus, just as he had earned his license through either the state sponsored medical society or state sponsored medical school, Anson Jones M.D. ensured that within the Republic of Texas the same system would prevail – trained and licensed medical practitioners judging the value and capabilities of those who would become medical practitioners and granting them license to collect fees for their service.  Without such a license no practitioner could recover his fees through the court systems.

The practice of medicine became deregulated, however, in the first half of the 1800s. During this period there were new schools of thought developed about how to practice medicine.  Diversity was the key. Lay healers, bone setters, botanic Thompsonians, homeopaths, eclectics, and others began to offer medical services based upon their “new” unique philosophies.  These new "schools of medicine” rapidly produced practitioners to supply the desires of the masses.  By the mid 1800s the government’s restriction of medical practice to only MDs began to change.  By the mid 1800s most of the states in the United States began to repeal their medical licensing laws.  The State of Texas followed suit and in 1848 the legislature of Texas discontinued the Board of Medical Censors originated by the Congress of the Republic of Texas.  By 1849 only New Jersey and the District of Columbia still had laws that set out anything close to a governmental regulatory scheme for the practice of medicine.

For the next 25 years there was no governmental regulation of the practice of medicine in Texas.