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The Surgeons of the Royal Navy and Sir W. Burnett

Extortion from those who can least afford it in order for the few to Curry Favour with their patron.


(From the United Service Gazette Circa Dec 1841)

A meeting has, we perceive, been held at the Thatched-house Tavern of the Surgeons of the Royal Navy, for the purpose of agreeing to the presentation of some testimonial to the Physician-General, Sir William Burnett.

With a high respect for Sir William, we must express our dislike to these kinds of subscriptions. A few interested individuals, having considerable expectations of future patronage, commonly surround some distinguished officer, and curry favour with him by levying contributions on the humbler members of their profession.

There have been some notable instances of this sort of adulation lately, which have disgusted us more than we care to express, and, we dare say, the united services at large. We have heard of poor officers having had 5 extorted (we can call it by no better name) from them, whose families were in need of the commonest comforts, if not of common necessaries ; and who were compelled to borrow the money from their agents for fear of incurring the frowns of the distinguished idol of a small, and as it turned out, well rewarded clique of his admirers.

We know an instance in which this indispensable call on a poor subaltern to assist in swelling the amount designed to be expended in the purchase of ornamental plate for a rich man's sideboard compelled him to keep his child from school for an entire quarter !

Sir William Burnett is a highly respectable, fortunate, and well paid official. What pretext there can be for calling upon the ill-paid, ill-requited, hard-worked, and long-neglected assistant surgeons of the royal navy to contribute from their slender store their hard-earned cash towards such an object we are unable to understand.

If the physicians, whose names we see placarded, all in good practice, and consequently rich gentlemen, chose to have Sir William's portrait painted by our excellent friend Sir Martin Archer Shea, well and good ; they cannot find a better painter, or a worthier man to execute their commission ; but let them be content with this, and leave their less fortunate brethren alone, for they may rest assured the have something much better to do with their money than to devote it to the multiplication of the effigies of the worthy Surgeon-General.

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