Imágenes de página

public or is dealt with by the authorities, but which is probably even a more fertile source of misery, poverty, and degradation than that which comes before the police courts ;' and reports that ' legislation in such cases was strongly advo

cated by all the witnesses before the Committee.' Some of the witnesses thought it remarkable that institutions for the treatment of inveterate drunkards are so rare, and that we are without legal sanction for treating chronic or inveterate drunkenness as a cause of insanity or irresponsibility. Dr. Forbes Winslow says: Such institutions are, to my mind,

• one of the great and crying wants of the age. I know * numbers of ladies moving in very good society who are * never sober, and often brought home by the police drunk. • They are wives of men in a very high social position. I have « been often consulted about these cases ; my hands are tied; I

have no doubt there is the insanity of drunkenness in them, • but it is not the insanity that comes within the strict letter

of the law. Dr. Druitt appealed to the Committee strongly in behalf of a class consisting chiefly of women of the upper classes, or men who were led to secret drinking for the relief of misery, and urged that the habit defied all moral or religious restraints. I have known many instances of women, amiable,

respectable, and pre-eminently religious, who, nevertheless, * were the victims of this habit from physical or moral causes. The witnesses believed that many a good life would be saved if the law gave power to friends, subject to medical certification, to confine drunkards in such institutions, and that the very fear of being sent to them would operate powerfully in

But we are bound to consider the interests of society, and especially of families, as well as those of individual drunkards. It is a very serious fact that drunkenness represents a more constant deduction from our capacity for physical and moral action than fever or insanity in its ordinary forms; but its disastrous effects, especially upon the social and moral welfare of families, are even wider than those of so-called diseases. For, not to speak of the evil inflicted by hereditary disorders transmitted by drunken parents to their offspring, we must reflect upon the widespread suffering and distress of relatives who are quite powerless against outrages which the existing state of the law may punish but cannot prevent. Dr. Bree, of Colchester, said he knew of a case in which a man killed his wife by getting drunk and coming into her sick room and worrying her out of life till she died. Dr. J. C. Browne, of Wakefield, says that refuges for inebriates would be a great relief to relatives and friends. Frequent applica

some cases.


* tions are now made from the relatives and friends of habitual

drunkards, asking what is to be done with them, and stating that their patience is exhausted;'and he mentions the circumstances of a case in which the relatives actually sent a drunkard to a hotel that he might drink himself to death. Thus they got finally rid of him.

The report of Mr. Dalrymple's Committee was mainly founded upon the experience derived from the working of these institutions for inebriates in America, of which there are nine in the United States and one in Canada. Mr. Dalrymple had himself visited all of them but one, and two superintendents of inebriate asylums, Dr. Parrish and Dr. Dodge, gave important evidence to the Committee respecting their constitution and management, The substance of their testimony may be briefly described.

The first institution of this kind was founded at Binghampton, in the State of New York, by an Englishman named Dr. Turner, who raised 8,0001. by voluntary subscriptions for the erection of the necessary buildings; but being unable to complete the work, he transferred it to the State Legislature, on condition that they would make annual appropriations to finish it. The institution was opened for the reception of patients in 1863, and now contains 80 inmates, though, when fully completed, it will accommodate 200. Altogether, the enormous sum of 120,0001, has been expended upon it by the New York Legislature. All the other asylums have been erected by private enterprise or benevolence, though, with two exceptions, they all receive a partial support from the State. There is a favourable report of their financial position, as a weekly charge of twenty dollars to voluntary inmates is said to render them easily self-supporting, and the labour of the committed patients more than defrays the cost of their detention. Since their foundation, 5,959 persons have been admitted to all the asylums, of whom 5,515 persons entered voluntarily, 144 by the intervention of friends,* and 214 were committed by the justices. Of this whole number, 2,018 have

[ocr errors]

* Dr. Parrish refers to an · Act relating to Lunatics and Habitual • Drunkards,' which provides that any relative of an habitual drunkard may present his case to the Resident-Judge of Common Pleas or Quarter Sessions, who appoints a commissioner to investigate the case by the aid of a jury of six men, in the presence of the drunkard. The inquiry is conducted, for the sake of privacy, in the commissioner's own office. The judge gives effect to the verdict of the jury, if the case is proved, by committing the drunkard to an inebriate asylum for a certain specified period.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

been cured, or about 34 per cent. There is some variety of opinion as to the exact value of these cures, but the American witnesses testified that no cure was ever reported without the most careful inquiry into the subsequent history of each case. The managers are all of opinion that the proportion of cures is conditioned by the length of the residence. The average residence of each patient is a hundred days, though some remain a year and more; but the managers consider the hundred days too short a period, and as they have no legal power to detain their patients, the history of the asylums has been marked by a large proportion of relapses. An eminent American doctor, quoted by Dr. Parrish, says that nothing but • the power of detention, and that for a period long enough to • restore the tissues of the body, the development of which has

been arrested or altered by the use of alcohol, will suffice; • that the very craving for stimulus depends on the patients'

depraved or disordered condition, and that, while it lasts, no * promise of abstinence is worth a cent.' The desire to obtain drink becomes most imperious exactly at the time when it will inflict the greatest mischief. At this stage of treatment, advice, entreaty, warning are alike useless; and threats, unless backed by the power of the key, are just as unavailing. This period lasts but a short time, and twenty-four or forty-eight hours often suffice to avert the danger. The evidence of the American doctors throws little light upon the method of treating drunkards in these asylums. So far as we can ascertain, there is no particular medicinal treatment prescribed — nothing • that we can call specific.' • Stimulants form no part of

the dietetic treatment, and are only used medicinally, and * that not in every case.' The Russian vapour-bath is used. Mr. Dalrymple says that all the managers of asylums but one use liquor remedially, but the disease once mastered, it is dropped. It is generally agreed that the advantages of these asylums are much wider than in the restoration of individual drunkards to habits of sobriety, for they exercise a deterrent influence upon other inebriates.

The report of the Committee supplies also some information respecting similar refuges in Great Britain. The principal of these is the Queensberry Lodge Asylum in Edinburgh, established in 1866, for ladies only, who are usually admitted on the urgent solicitation of friends, though there are cases in which the inebriates having been brought before the sheriff get their choice of spending a fixed period in the asylum rather than go to prison. The number of patients admitted since the foundation of the asylum was 149, of whom 37 are reported

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as cured, 17 as still under care, leaving 95 to be accounted for. The asylum is entirely self-supporting. There is also under the same committee of management an asylum for inebriates at Queensberry House, established in 1832, for the benefit of the poorer classes, mostly drunken wives or drunken husbands. It coutains 300 inmates, of whom 250 are habitual drunkards, and is almost self-supporting. There is also a house called. The Christian Home for Inebriates,' at Bakewell, in Derbyshire, conducted by a Dissenting minister, and containing from 40 to 50 inmates. It appears from the evidence of Dr. Browne, of the Wakefield Lunatic Asylum, that it was the practice formerly to send habitual drunkards from England to the lunatic asylums of Scotland, but after the Act of 1857 the sheriffs declined any longer to grant warrants for the admission of inebriates to such institutions. It has also been the custom to receive such persons in private houses; but most of these refuges in Scotland, according to Dr. Browne, have been failures ; ' arising from the want of power on the part of 'the guardians, and the want of occupation on the part of the ' patients.' Dr. Mitchell suggested the erection of one great establishment in some central part of Scotland at the public expense, but would leave the establishment of other asylums to private enterprise.

The Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons is altogether favourable to the establishment of refuges in this country. It recommends the legal control of the habitual inebriate-'a power which is obtained easily at ' a moderate cost, and free from the danger of abuse and undue

infringement of personal liberty ;' while it suggests that in case of three convictions being recorded within a period of twelve months for drunkenness, the magistrates should require the offender to find sureties for sobriety for a fixed period, and in default of the same, the offender should be sentenced to a considerable period of detention in an industrial reformatory for inebriates. We are not very sanguine about the prospect of sureties being often forthcoming in cases of a very hopeless character, though, if the plan were at all practicable, it would certainly exercise a beneficial influence by enlisting on the side of the drunkard the jealous and watchful co-operation of friends. The Committee recommend the establishment of asylums of two classes-one for those able to pay for themselves, which can be easily supplied through private enterprise, and the other for those unable to pay, or only partially, the asylums for this class being established by State or local • authorities, and, at first, at their cost, though there is good


[ocr errors]


reason to believe that they can be made wholly, or partially, self-supporting.' The managers are in all cases to possess full power to detain all inmates for a period determined by certain conditions ; “ though, practically, this power would be * seldom put in force, it will be useless to establish these insti(tutions without it.' Patients will enter the first class of asylums either voluntarily, or through the action of friends, or by the decision of a court of inquiry, similar to that which exists under the lunacy laws, while the risk of an undue interference with private liberty is further guarded against by a periodical inspection of the asylums, conducted by a responsible committee of five persons appointed by the magistrates. The other class of asylums will be available for the treatment of persons convicted as habitual drunkards by the sentence of magistrates, who will determine the period of detention.

The report of the Committee has been followed up without loss of time by the re-introduction of Mr. Dalrymple's Bill for legalising the establishment of these asylums. It confines itself wisely to the one point upon which the members of the Committee were perfectly unanimous, and has the merit of being practical, simple, and cheap, while it carefully avoids an undue interference with personal liberty.

There are persons who resent any attempt to invoke the aid of legislation in carrying out this plan for the reformation of drunkards. The practical sense of mankind, however, has long since drawn a line of demarcation between those interests to which the aphorism of Laissez faire is, and those to which it is not, applicable, for it is evidently giving way to that better philosophy which not only tolerates but requires of legislators that they should concern or charge themselves with the health and morals of the people. We can see no practical difficulty in the way of the State establishing, in a tentative way, such refuges for the treatment of habitual drunkards as the Committee of the House of Commons suggests, especially as it can be done, at a comparatively little cost, by the utilisation of existing institutions. There is nothing to prevent our isolating a portion of every existing prison or every existing workhouse for the purposes of this great social experiment; and if the result should be favourable, after a trial of years, the Government might farther extend the system, by establishing separate reformatories on the industrial system.*

[ocr errors]

* The Americans are at present building at Philadelphia a House of Correction, which, in accordance with the provisions of a measure passed by the State Legislature, is to contain a distinct department or

« AnteriorContinuar »