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Physiological Conference, July 1847
Surrey, England

Note: the page numbers given refer to the 1847/48 volume of the Truth Tester held in the library of the Vegetarian Society UK. This is a compound volume of three magazines, the Truth-Tester, the Temperance Advocate and the Healthian Journal. None of the individual issues are dated but they appear to run from August 1846 to July 1848, as issue 6 mentions the 'new year'. The front covers were not included and the title page merely says 'New Series, Vol. 1, 1847', then 'Vol. 2, 1848'. It is not clear whether the three journals were originally published separately or as one combined issue, or whether the page numbers in the bound volume are the same as those in the original magazines, or in any other versions which may still exist. Some issues have extra, un-numbered, pages which may have been added later.

From the Healthian Journal (1847 Vol.1 p.140):


According to the announcement made in the last number of the Truth-Tester, a considerable number of friends to universal purity, who had for some time past, on principle, adopted a vegetable diet, and were desirous of enjoying the advantages resulting from personal communion with others like minded, met at Alcott House (which for the last ten years has not been polluted by a flesh diet), Ham Common, on Thursday, the 8th inst., for the purpose of collecting and diffusing information on the subject of human physiology in general, and of abstinence from the consumption of animal food in particular.

Such a course was deemed proper and necessary for the purpose of strengthening the hands of the faithful, as well as of disseminating a knowledge of the numerous advantages resulting from such practice - advantages not limited to the pocket and the physical health, but reaching the more elevated question of mental and moral harmony. It was felt also, that the subject was not limited to personal considerations only, but that by aggravating the actual famine now raging in, and depopulating some of, the finest countries in Europe, it became a question of great national importance.

Preliminary arrangements having been made, the conference commenced its deliberations in the large and airy school-room of the establishment, at half-past 11 o'clock A.M. The chair was occupied by J. G. Palmer, of Birmingham, and the office of secretary discharged by W. Horsell of Ramsgate.

After the proceedings of the day by a short and appropriate speech, the chairman read a number of letters from distinguished vegetarians, apologising for their unavoidable absence, expressing their sympathy with the objects of the meeting, offering various suggestions for its consideration, as to the best modes of spreading a knowledge of the benefits arising from abstinence from flesh, and pledging themselves to renewed effort in the great work of human progress and elevation.

The morning sitting having been occupied with reading the above letters, and making arrangements for its subsequent proceedings, the conference adjourned till three o'clock.

During the interval the friends (about 50), sat down to a very ample supply of excellent provisions, consisting of fruits and farinaceous substances in great variety, most elegantly prepared, displayed, and served up, and which furnished an admirable practical answer to the often proposed question of, ' What shall we eat, if we cannot have meat?'

In the afternoon there could not have been less than 120 to 130 persons present, including about 30 inmates of the house. The showers that fell during the early part of the morning having cleared off, and the air became bright, warm, and genial, seats were arranged upon the lawn, under the shade of a large tree in the beautiful and productive garden, the conference resumed, and passed the following resolutions:-

  1. That true humanity forbids the voluntary hurting, wounding, slaying of any being susceptible of pain.
  2. That the custom of eating the flesh of animals is erroneous and mischievous; erroneous as a secondary and expensive means of obtaining a limited amount of the identical nutriment originating in, and to be derived at a cheap rate from, products of the vegetable kingdom; and mischievous as limiting the supply of bread to the people; at the same time engendering disease, and by its unnaturally heating and stimulating properties, abridging the lives of its consumers.
  3. That abundant proof may be adduced from history, anatomy, physiology, and chemistry, confirmed by the facts of the experience, that the products of the vegetable kingdom are the natural and best food of man, as being most conducive to the beauty and full development of the physical constitution, to length of life, to intellectual power, and to moral and religious advancement.
  4. That the members composing this meeting, being fully persuaded that the habits of life which themselves have had the happiness of realizing, may be generally adopted, are earnestly desirous of thus meeting together from time to time, with the object of devising the best means of communicating their knowledge and experience to each other, and to the world at large, and awaking practical attention to the subject; assured, that in inducing the adoption of their principle of abstinence from flesh food, they are labouring to prevent drunkenness, war, capital punishment, slavery, sporting, and the many other cruelties originating in this leading error of diet; whilst at the same time, they directly secure the increased comfort, well-being, and happiness of society in general.
  5. That this meeting do now adjourn till the LAST WEEK OF SEPTEMBER NEXT (the day, time, and place, to be announced in the Truth-Tester), for the further interchange of opinion upon the above important subject, and with a view to the FORMATION OF A SOCIETY for promoting the objects set forth, and so extensively affecting the future progress and elevation of their fellow-men's moral and religious advancement.

The above resolutions were illustrated, and impressed upon the minds of a deeply-interested audience by Messrs. C. Lane, of Alcott House, J. Simpson, of Fox Hill, near Blackburn, J. I. Hawkins, of London, G. Dornbach, a German, C. H. Mason, of London, and W. Horsell, of Ramsgate, who detailed the results of their own experience, and stated the principles, arguments, and motives, that impelled them to abstain from animal food, drawing largely from the results of practical chemistry, decidedly demonstrating the superiority of a diet derived from the vegetable kingdom, over that of the flesh of animals, in its influence upon the health, vigor, uniform well-being, and perfect development of the physical, intellectual, and moral natures of man.

Although among the visitors to the festival, there were some who had not arrived to the ultimatum of entire abstinence from a flesh diet, and others who were in various stages of enquiry and conviction, yet the most kindly harmony and cheerfulness pervaded the assembly. The audience was both amused and instructed by the narratives of some of the speakers, of the various prejudices in themselves or friends, and the numerous retarding and obstructing influences that still detained them in the regions of blood and slaughter, with their attendant imps, pain and disease. The persecutions of their imps and their suite or retinue, upon the temper, moral sympathies, intellect, general behaviour, and conduct, were vividly portrayed by others.

The interest of the meeting was greatly enhanced by the very judicious and appropriate remarks of Mr. Simpson, who dwelt at large (in his maiden speech), on the scientific part of the question, proving from the facts of chemistry as recently promulgated by Leibig, Playfair, and other modern chemists, that the two main ingredients of food, popularly called the heat-forming principle, and the flesh-forming principle, may be more readily and economically procured from the vegetable than the animal kingdom.

We were highly gratified to learn that this gentleman's stomach has never been polluted by animal food nor fermented liquors, the religious convictions of an affectionate mother having led her to train him to abstain from both; in the correctness of which views, now in his 35th year, he continues confirmed, and is evidently qualified to illustrate the benefits arising therefrom, as amply proved by his 'Products of the Vegetable Kingdom,' etc.

In conclusion, a general wish was expressed for a repetition of the meeting on some not distant day, with a hope that it might lead to a more permanent and social union, or corresponding brotherhood and sisterhood. For be it known that the approving countenances of many fair sisters enlivened the meeting, not only of those whose virtues were usually confined to the domestic sphere, but others more publicly known as artists and writers.

We ought not to omit grateful and kindly mention of the matron of the establishment, Hannah Bond, to whose taste, skill, and indefatigable industry, the conference was indebted for the abundant, varied, and elegantly-furnished tables of the dinner and supper, a brief description of which, together with the modes of preparing them, at our particular request, she has kindly promised, and which we hope to publish in the next number of the Tester.

During the discussion of the various resolutions submitted to the meeting, we could not help thinking what a renovation of the intellectual and moral condition of the people would take place if the literary and artistic minds of the country could be brought to conceive the importance, and adopt the practices of simplicity in diet. They are, in many respects, the leaders of the people, and always the exponents of public opinion. But alas! How often are they the misleaders of the public, because they have not yet arrived at that independence of character which is attained by those who hold their outward wants in the higher and purer relation which belongs to a vegetable diet. They are the victims of conventional and factitious wants, and make their less talented admirers their victims also. We hope soon to have them with us in the good work.

From the Healthian Journal (1848 Vol II, p.8 - actually from 1847)


The various reports of the Conference, both of a private and public character, which have hitherto reached us, have been of the most favourable kind. We had designed giving some extracts from letter received previously, offering suggestions, as well as subsequently, making remarks; but press of matter will not allow us. We therefore must content ourselves at present, with some short extracts from two of our contemporaries. The People's Journal, in its 'Annals of Progress,' after giving an account of the preliminaries, dinner etc., observes :- 'These various dishes were set out with extreme good taste; and although there were many persons present not convinced of the truth of vegetarian principles, they found no difficulty in giving a practical support to vegetarianism at the dinner-table. The plainness of these viands presented a striking contrast to the Fricadeau de Veau, à la Sauce Tomate, and Les Filets de Soles à la Hollandaise, etc., set out at the Cambridge dinner, upon the installation of Prince Albert.' A list of the names of abstainers from flesh is then given, several of whom had been faithful for 38 years. 'The day proving beautifully fine, the afternoon meeting was held on the lawn, - appropriate place for a Vegetarian Conference! - the green grass outspread as a cool carpet underneath, and the overhanging trees, laden with fruit, sheltering the groups assembled from the rays of the sun. It was a sweet picture: the silvery locks of veteran age, and the rosy cheek of blooming youth, were there!'

The People's Temperance Journal regrets that space prevents it from giving more than the pith of the arguments by which the resolutions were supported; but observes: "Of the full power of a vegetable diet to sustain health and strength equal to animal food we have ourselves no doubt.

Mr. Charles Lane in an impressive speech portrayed the compound nature of man as a physical, intellectual, sympathetic, moral and divine, and affirmed that for his healthful well being and complete development it was essential that the growth and progressive improvement of every aspect of his nature, his powers, capacities, and sympathies, should be simultaneously cultivated; that the increment by which he is sustained and the condition in which he is placed, should be such as are most congenial and appropriate to the harmonious development of his entire being; that whatever is most conducive to the harmonious subsistence And perfectibility of the whole is also best for each particular phase; that to outrage one to sustain another is incompatible with the eternal consistency and immutability of truth, therefore must be erroneous and injurious. Consequently to do violence to the sympathies, moral feelings, and divine sentiment, in order to feed the body, is wrong.

James Simpson, Esq., of Lancashire, in an able speech (his first in public) with evidently deep sincerity moved the second resolution, and illustrated it scientifically by the facts of physiology and chemistry, especially by the modern discoveries of Leibig, Playfair, and others, in their analysis of animal and vegetable substances; which they seem to have pursued without any intentional references to diet, but which Mr. S. has most ingeniously and logically applied to that subject. The religious convictions of an affectionate mother induced her to train him in abstinence from both animal food and fermented liquor, and now, at the mature age of 35, he was confirmed in the truth of the principles and practice, and devoutly thankful that he had been trained therein. He was now enabled to add to the requisitions of the religious sentiment, the corroborative demonstrations of physical science, thereby illustrating and confirming the spiritual arguments of Mr. Lane.

Mr. W. Horsell, of Ramsgate, a well-known lecturer on temperance, moved the third resolution. He warmly advocated abstinence from animal food as well as from fermented liquors, and fully approved of the sentiment, that beef, mutton, pork etc., stood in a similar relationship to a pure diet of fruits and farinacea, as brandy, rum and gin do to pure water as a drink. He thought that any arguments used by teetotallers against fermented drinks were equally applicable to animal food."