HC Deb 23 July 1844 vol 76 cc1292-310
Dr. Bowring

said, that he had again to request the attention of the House to an important subject which he had, on other occasions, called upon them to listen to; and it was not in the spirit of complaint of the Government, or of doubts as to the Government doing its duty, but because these discussions strengthened the hands of the Executive, and created that public opinion which alone would enable them to supersede a system which bad nothing but credulity and ignorance for its foundation. The Quarantine Laws must disappear when inquiry and investigation were directed towards them. True it was, that difficulties were in the way of their total and immediate removal. Inattention and prejudice, and what was far mightier, pecuniary interests, and other interests of place and power, were leagued together for the support of a state of things which was an opprobrium to an age of philosophical investigation, and which represented the grossest superstitions of the human race. But as already some concessions had been made, and the frights and the follies of men had been in some degree, controlled by the results of experience, so he hoped, that in the process of time, the harassing vexations—the costly sacrifices—the impediments to commerce and communication—the uncontrolled despotism of the Quarantine regulations would be wholly and for ever overthrown. Lazzarets had been introduced by the Venetians four centuries ago, and were it possible to present in one view the enormous mass of oppression and misery—of losses and annoyances—of damages to person and property which they had created, the amount would startle credulity itself. Our own law was to be found in a Statute of 6 George IV. cap. 78; and was in itself a pretty picture of interference and harshness. The neglect to deliver a paper specifying the name of the port whence the vessel started, and of all ports at which she had touched, was visited by a fine of 500l. Another fine was imposed of 200l. for disobedience to Quarantine officers, and another of 100l. for refusing to hoist a given signal. These regulations apply to all vessels coming from the Mediterranean or Barbary, or having touched there, or taken in goods at any of their ports. They applied exclusively to the Levant, though nobody could contend that the yellow fever of America in the West Indies, was less contagious than the plague, and against it no precautions were taken. Then came a multitudinous list of vexatious questionings, and all masters of ships were obliged to answer twenty-five preliminary, and thirty Quarantine inquiries; but one question was so involved and so entangled with others, that there really were no less than 123 replies to be given to the interrogatories of the Quarantine inquisitor. The topic has at different periods obtained some share of attention, and he could not pass over in silence the merits of one gentleman, Dr. Maclean, who had been a martyr to his zeal in uprooting the contagion fallacies upon which our Quarantine legislation was founded. Too much neglected, and too soon forgotten, he had been one of the most indefatigable and most useful labourers for the emancipation of trade from the manacles placed upon it by superstitious ignorance, and had preferred in the fulfilment of this mission to be associated with neglect and poverty—to any success which might have grown out of the flattery of the baneful interests and prejudices which have been too long omnipotent. The whole theory of the Quarantine system rests on the supposition that the plague may remain for some time latent in the individual, and that it is necessary while there is uncertainty as to its existence in the persons who come from plague countries, to hold them in durance, and to take precautions to avoid communication with those who may possibly be infected. The period of time in which the seeds of plague may lie dormant in the individual is pretty generally allowed even by contagionists, not to exceed fifteen days. The Proto-medico of Malta, in his Report of 1813, says, no case was ever known of a distance greater than fourteen days between commnnication and disease; and the French Commissioner, M. Segur Dupeyron states, that the physicians who have studied plague generally, concur in this, that the power of plague cannot remain more than fifteen days latent in the human frame. But the author of the laws and regulations against plague are deaf to all testimony of a philosophical or disinterested character; and the latest regulations of the Board of Health at Marseilles given in p. 113, of the Parliamentary Papers, declare that no period of time shall allow a clean bill of health to be received from Egypt and Syria; while from the other parts of the Ottoman dominions, a year and a day must have been passed since the last case of plague in order to admit a vessel to free pratique. We sometimes boast of the return we make to the East, for the favours our forefathers received from those regions. Our last good gift was the curse of the Quarantine Laws. If we sent back our wisdom, instead of our folly, our enlightened experience instead of our narrow and childish superstitions, we might take some credit to ourselves. But in this case, if we had recommended a more judicious police, attention to ventilation and to draining,—the removal of offal—the cleansing the streets and houses; instead of the absurd and ludicrous, but most oppressive enactments of the Quarantine system,—instead of misdoers which we have been, we might have become benefactors. The Turks would understand well all the despotic and arbitrary part of the affair; and in looking through the correspondence he perceived (p. 103), that no European's life was safe under the interpretation given by the Ottoman authorities to the Quarantine Laws; and the British Ambassador is called on to interfere in order to prevent what after all appeared to him (Dr. Bowring) a very natural and allowable construction; for in despotism the most barbarous, the Quarantine Laws begin; and through despotism the blindest is effect given to them. Lazzarets in Turkish forsooth! To say nothing of the fact that one of the most desolating plagues which has ravaged Egypt, broke out in 1835, four years after the establishment of Quarantine, the cases are abundant in which healthy individuals and healthy crews have been sent into Lazzarets—the focuses of plagues and pestilence—and in these very prisons have sickened and perished. Many such cases had occurred in Syria, where the Lazzarets were generally constructed in the midst of swamps and miasmata, and in which to escape disease was great good fortune. There is little difficulty in discovering the sources of the plague,—still less in tracing the circumstances which cause its spread in its worst and most dangerous forms. Where no attention is paid to the accumulation of filthy matter,—where there is no drainage to remove nauseous accumulations,—where foul air and stenches remain unventilated, and are allowed to create an active pestiferous influence, — where streets are foul and narrow,—where the houses are inconvenient and overcrowded,—where stagnant waters abound, and the remains of dead animals and putrid vegetables are brought together, there you will find the elements out of which plague has its birth; and in these places in the East, where these various nuisances are concentrated, plague takes up its natural abode, and reigns in its most despotic power. The Pontine and Tuscan marshes exhibit an example of the desolating influences of malaria. They cover a region once among the most populous of ancient Italy. The great Etruscan cities were there. In the process of time, the waters of the sea have broken in and mingled with the fresh rivers from the interior. Lakes and swamps have been formed. Coarse algæ and various vegetable productions have grown in the marshy soil, and the whole atmosphere has been tainted with damp and unwholesome miasmata. The region had become uninhabitable, except at the utmost risk of life. The reigning Grand Duke of Tuscany has, however, successfully attempted to introduce salubrity. The marshes have been either drained or filled up with depositions from the rivers; and gradually, a population is introducing itself into districts which, but a few years ago, were nearly abandoned by man; and in the course of years, there can be little doubt but that the old Etrurian regions will see villages and towns, and cities grow up and land fertilized, and a whole district recovered from the pestilential influence which has so long presided over it. And what is true of localities, is also true of races and individuals. When the plague breaks out, its ravages are always greatest among the poorest and least civilized of the population. The proportion of the Europeans who are attacked, is invariably small, and the cities and the parts of cities which are most distinguished for comfort and cleanliness are seldom attacked at all. In Constantinople, Pera and the Frank districts, enjoy almost an immunity against plague. In Damascus, it is mainly in the close and crowded portions of the city that the plague breaks out; the neighbouring villages, some of which are neatly and judiciously built, are generally retreats of safety. When once conversing with the Governor on the subject of the health of the city, and the establishment of Lazzarets, he agreed that the unhealthiest parts of the place were those where dead dogs and camels and heaps of decayed vegetables were deposited, and acknowledged that it would be desirable to try the experiment of removing them. But in Syria, a plague interest is now growing up, and as people are paid for propagating contagious delusions, no doubt new arguments, inventions, and facts will be found or fancied to support theories, by which money is to be got. At Cairo, in the plague of 1835, when 33,733 persons died, only 515 were Christians. In Alexandria, the ravages of the plague may be distinctly traced to the un-healthiness of the situation—the stagnant waters in the ancient cisterns—the adjacency of Lake Mariottis—the filthy habits of the Fellahs. Even in ordinary circumstances, the yearly mortality of Alexandria was one in ten. Dr. Laidlaw says (in a letter from which Dr. Bowring read the extract):— The mortality within the walls is more than a tenth of the whole population in one year alone; four times the mortality of London, and double that of Calcutta and Bombay. Yet we have here a much finer climate than in any of these places. The causes of disease are local miasmata—dirt and filthy habits—want of clothing and wholesome food and want of drainage and ventilation. The climate has, in my opinion, nothing whatever to do with it. The crews employed on board the British fleet in the Mediterranean do not average a mortality of more than 1 per cent. And in the same letter, he was happy to find on the authority of Dr. Laidlaw, whose valuable services in the diffusion of correct opinions on the subject of the plague was deserving the highest eulogiums, that ancient prejudices were now passing away, for he says— It is curious to observe the effect of steady resistance to the bigotry and superstition connected with this question of contagion and Quarantine. Many of the most sturdy and obstinate of its supporters here are now wavering, and disclaim opinions they maintained violently only four or five years ago. In fact, it is impossible to resist the accumulation of evidence which shows that the ravages of plague are not to be checked by superstitious fears and dreams, but must be controlled by that general attention to the public health which is now applied to stop the progress of other diseases. But plague countries afford admirable illustrations of the general principle that the amount of disease depends on the condition of the people. In the plague in Alexandria in 1835, the grade of opulence and of social position determined the amount of mortality. Among the English, French, Russians, and Germans, the classes possessing the greatest amount of comforts, the mortality was five to 1,000. Among the Italians and Maltese, who occupy the lowest position of European society, the mortality was seven to 1,000. The Turks among the Mussulman races, are by far the best off; and the mortality there are twelve to 1,000. Among the Arab soldiers, fifteen; among the Egyptian peasantry (Fellahs), sixty-one in 1,000; and in the lowest social scale, the negro population, the mortality was eighty-four in 1,000, being nearly seventeen times greater than among the richest classes of Europeans. And in Alexandria itself, there is an improved state of the public health from the removal of all the cemeteries beyond the walls of the city, and from the establishment of a Commission of Public Improvement under the auspices of Mehemet Ali, which is charged with an inspection over all buildings, and with such provisions for the health of the place as may be connected with the destruction of old or the erection of new edifices. Nor ought it to be forgotten that since Algiers has been in the possession of the French, it has ceased to be a plague-producing country, and vessels from them are admitted to pratique without difficulty. We need not go so far for evidence of the effects of proper precautions upon the health of the people. Mr. Chadwick's Sanatory Report is full of the most valuable materials on this subject. In the same town, Leeds for example, there is one district where the annual deaths are one in twenty-eight, while in another they are only one in fifty-seven. There are it appears fourteen counties in England, in which the mortality is one in thirty-nine, and fourteen others in which it is but one in fifty-four. Nor would it be difficult to prove that the plague was a frequent visitor in many of our unhealthy localities—for typhus in its worst forms cannot be distinguished from it—and he (Dr. Bowring), had heard from a physician of the highest eminence well acquainted with plague, that he had had not unfrequently from five to seven patients in London, with every symptom that characterises the oriental plague, such as buboes and carbuncles, and that he was convinced of the perfect identity of the disease, and of its very common existence in this country. It is an error to suppose that the plague was extirpated by the great fire of London. Down to about 1730 its victims are found constantly cited in the Bills of Mortality—scarcely a year without some reported deaths—and he was persuaded a return of mortality from plague might be made up yearly to the present hour. But if plague under certain circumstances be contagious, so are other disorders, against which no Quarantines are directed. Dr. W. Currie says— I am convinced that the yellow fever is only contagious or communicated from those that are sick or affected by it, to those who are in good health in situations where the air is confined and rendered impure by exhalations, from putrifying vegetables or other putrifiable substances. And so Dr. Hosack, "The yellow fever is only communicable through the medium of an impure or vitiated atmosphere." Now both these doctors are contagionists, and have written in favour of the contagion of yellow fever. Dr. Russell, one of the greatest of plague authorities, in his description of the plague of Aleppo in 1762, acknowledges that the mortality was in proportion to the extent of poverty, and that the people of rank suffered least of all. The history of disease is crowded with evidence of the effects of foul atmosphere and absence of ventilation upon the health of man. What plague was ever more murderous in a narrow sphere than the jail fevers of our own country? In 1577, the Judge, Sheriff, and 300 persons died at the Oxford Castle Assizes in forty-eight hours. Many such cases are mentioned by Lord Bacon. Look at the frightful mortality of the Calcutta Black Hole in 1756, when of 170 persons, 154 died in a single night. What sweeping diseases ravaged our Navy, when in 1778, Dr. Johnson described a man-of-war to represent "the extremity of human misery—such crowding, such filth, such stench." And examine through Dr. Wilson's Medical Returns, the wonderful improvement in the health of our Navy, where in 1779, the annual mortality was 1 in 8; in 1811, 1 in 32; in 1830 and 1836, no more than 1 in 72. And if we want to learn how plague is generated we have only to look to the wynds of Glasgow, the cellars of Liverpool, the hovels of St. Giles's and Whitechapel, as lately described by an observant Frenchman Leon Faucher; or read the accounts of some of the quarters of Paris, as portrayed in a public report—"houses in ruins—straw beds in a state of putrefaction—darkness—damp—infectious smells—filth without example."—Or in the wretched corners of Brussels from another official report, "no pumps—no privies—no sewers—rotten ladders for staircases—suffering adults—pale ricketty children—neither light nor air." Could the same inquiries penetrate into the miserable quarters of Constantinople and Cairo—of Damascus and Alexandria—no one would wonder that disease and death, in all their pestilential varieties should be omnipotent there. But it is easier to excite the fears than to enlighten the understandings of men—and so it is that the huge machinery of Quarantine has been constructed. It had its origin in regions and in ages of ignorance. The Italians, to whom we owe its introduction, are, in matters of disease, among the most credulous of nations. The phthisis in Italy is almost universally believed to be contagious—and the clothes of persons dying of consumption are destroyed lest the infection should spread. And in Europe generally, the cholera was deemed contagious, and all the absurdities of Quarantine regulations were even in England directed against it. But whether contagious or not, Quarantines were soon laid aside as useless, if not pernicious, by all the civilised states of Europe. The presence of the disease wrought an almost unanimous opinion as to the folly of Quarantine regulations — they were abandoned by common consent, and he doubted not such would be the result of a visitation of the plague—and that such visitation would at once overthrow the antiquated notions as to the value of such precautions. Still it is greatly to the discredit of our authorities abroad, that after even the Austrian Government had abandoned all cordons against cholera as idle and injurious, our officials in the Ionian Islands stuck to them with all the ignorant pertinacity which distinguished the petty Italian states. But in Corfu too many live on the delusion, and of course men will be for maintaining the abuses by which they profit. To carry out the theories of contagion, all substances are divided into two classes, the susceptible and the non-susceptible articles—those which will, and those which will not communicate plague. The Venetians have added an additional bit of absurdity, and have established a class of semi-susceptible articles, but this nonsense they have monopolized; the susceptible articles consist of all animal substances, such as wool, silk, feathers, and many vegetables, such as cotton, linen, paper, &c., while wood, metals, fruits, &c., are called non-susceptible. The whole division may at once be denounced as nonsensical and visionary. It is grounded upon the merest caprice. There has never been an examination into the matter—never an experiment. Yet upon these distinctions all the costly contrivances—the annoyances—the delays—the exactions of the Lazzaret establishment are alone to be justified. But was there ever a case of communication of plague by such susceptible articles? He (Dr. Bowring) had moved for a Return of all persons who in our Lazzarets had the handling of susceptible goods, and who had taken the plague, or had died of the same. The Return is nil—absolutely not one! Why, a century and a quarter ago, Dr. Brown ridiculed the idea of cotton conveying infection, and defies his celebrated opponent Dr. Mead, to prove a single case. He did not; he could not. Our Malta Commissioner strongly represents (p. 84, of the Correspondence on Plague), the absurdity of grounding distinctions upon supposed susceptibilities of divers matters, without any evidence whatever on the subject. Dr. Davy (who has thrown much useful light on the subject) says, From all the information that we were able to collect, it would appear that no accurate method has been employed in determining the non-susceptibility of any one article in regard to contagion, much less so many and so different. He expresses his belief that the whole system of classification was introduced during panic by ignorant and affrighted people, whose dicta have become sanctified by time. He says, that of the articles declared susceptible, none have been tested by experiment, that they are constantly handled in the Lazzarets—that no instance is on record of any individual so handling them contracting plague—and that all logic and philosophy and experience prove, that the articles now called susceptible are precisely those which do not communicate the plague. Dr. Davy gives eight cases of inconsistencies and absurdities to which he had himself been subject in the East, with which he (Dr. Bowring) would not trouble the House; but he ventured to say that no hon. Gentleman could have passed a day in a Lazzaret without blushing for the obstinacy, the ignorance, and the credulity, which had preserved such a chaotic mass of absurdities for so many centuries. It is curious enough, that the very articles which are denounced as most susceptible, are precisely those whose transit from place to place and person to person, is most easy and constant—wool is held to be peculiarly susceptible, yet flocks of sheep wander across the frontiers of plague countries—woollen garments are sold in enormous quantities in public bazaars, whose possessors and wearers have died of plague, and never fetch one para the less in consequence. Silks go down hereditarily in families from generation to generation. Feathers are by the flight of birds brought from and to every region of the globe. The cotton wool which comes from Egypt is often impregnated with the pus of plague-sufferers who have died upon it; and it is circulated through the whole of our manufacturing districts, without any precaution or any alarm. Paper, coming from Turkey and Egypt in ten thousand forms, where does it not penetrate? Even in Russia, where the ignorance of the people co-operates with the Government in giving the severest interpretation to Quarantine regulations, our Consul at Odessa says, that though it is notorious that infected articles had been stolen from the Lazzarets, yet they had never been known to communicate the plague. Dr. Bulard says— That in the Esbekir Hospital at Cairo, the same beds, linens, drawers, shirts and sheets, which during six months had been employed for from 2000 to 3000 plague patients were used for general purposes, for those suffering from fever, wounds, ophthalmia, dysentery, syphilis, without other precautions than simple washing in water without alkali or soap. Aprons were lying about impregnated and almost wholly covered with the pus of buboes, the sores of carbuncles and pestiferous blood. Dr. Bulard is a contagionist, but he acknowledges no evil results took place from this state of things. And hear Dr. Abbot, a medical man in the service of the Pacha of Egypt: In February, 1835, in consequence of the existence of the plague in Alexandria, our fleet was ordered to sea. It was necessary that provisions, clothing, and stores of all sorts, blankets, tarbouches, shoes, and other woollen and leathern articles, all supposed to be highly susceptible should be embarked. The wives and families of the sailors also brought tarbouches, blankets, cloth dresses, &c., which were all received on board without precaution, in utter neglect of Quarantine—yet no plague was introduced. It would be wearying to multiply examples—but he (Dr. Bowring), had reason to believe that some years ago a large quantity of plague-infected garments were introduced into this country, for the purpose of experiment, and distributed and worn, without the shadow of danger or suspicion of danger. In the application of the Quarantine regulations, there is no absurdity which is not in daily practice. The object of Quarantine is acknowledged to be the protection of the community from the disease which may be latent in goods or passengers coming from a plague country; one would suppose the longer the period since which a vessel had left a plague country, the shorter the time necessary for the public security. Quite the contrary. A steamer shall come from Alexandria, and make her passage in eighteen or twenty days at most, and in a day or two her passengers and their luggage will be on shore. A merchant ship shall have been, two, three, or four months on her voyage, and she will be probably subject to forty days Quarantine. Often does it happen that two vessels departing on the same day, and in one case after a short voyage one shall be reloaded and on her way back, before the other has entered the Quarantine; and be it not forgotten that contagionists are almost unanimous in declaring that plague cannot be latent more than fifteen days. But the land regulations are still more unjustifiable—for communication by land cannot be prevented—every reptile that crawls—every insect or bird that flies—every animal that wanders—evesy fish that swims, passes from one country to another. No doubt the regulations against plague facilitate the operations of the multitudes of smugglers who crowd upon limits of the districts. But Land Quarantines are generally much neglected. It is in ports that Boards of Health are important—influential—highly paid functionaries — and it is therefore against sea-imported plague that all these precautions are directed. And he (Dr. Bowring) had known cases where, when the severest restrictions are placed upon vessels arriving from foreign ports, and from ports in which there was no disease—there was not any, the slightest impediment to communication with places in the interior where the plague was raging. Alexandria has its Quarantines against Turkey—but what protects Cairo against Alexandria—or El Siout against Cairo? Nothing whatever—and yet it is notorious there are many regions in Egypt where the plague is unknown—it has never made its way to the south of Essouan—it has never penetrated into the Fayoum—though so close to the capital. Pilgrims by tens of thousands pass through Egypt in the plague season to the Holy Cities—they have never conveyed the plague to Arabia. What precautions do we take in our vast Indian Empire? None! None whatever. For travel east from Egypt—there are no Lazzarets — no Quarantines — no inquiries whatever. And why? Because there is universal incredulity. There are no Boards of Health paid to keep up delusions—and now happily there is little danger of the introduction of Quarantines. A few years ago he (Dr, Bowring) understood the then Governor General of India, Lord Auckland, sent a Commission to the north-western provinces to report on the plague and on the establishment of Lazzarets as a protection against it. Happily the Commission was composed of men of learning and observation, and they were unanimous in objecting to the establishment of a Quarantine system. It is well for India and the world that the matter was not referred to plague doctors, nor to any person having an interest in the propagation of absurdities. But if in the East, with a climate resembling that of Egypt—with a population near akin to that of Egypt in habits of religion—in social and domestic usages—there exist no Lazzarets—no system of Quarantine—why, when travelling West—at the same or a greater distance from the seats of pestilence—why should merchants and travellers — and sailors and merchandise — coming to civilized countries — removed from all pestiferous influence—why should they be subjected to the costs and vexations —to the dangers and the despotisms—to the losses and the delays, of a legislation begotten by ignorance—and born, reared, and supported by blindness and prejudice? In fact—there is no general law—every country has delivered over its arrangements on this subject to the caprices of authority. Every port—every station has laws of its own. If Naples be a little more stupid than Leghorn, to that the world must submit. If Corfu and Malta outbid Gibraltar in obstinate prejudices, so it must be—and all Her Majesty's subjects must bend to Ionian and Maltese despotism. If Marseilles goes beyond every other port in France in inquisitorial and ridiculous credulity—what avail the intelligence of Paris—or the complaints of mankind? It is high time that an end should be put to these local tyrannies! and he (Dr. Bowring) would venture to say that in the history of human folly and superstition, nothing would appear more incredible than the nonsense which has passed current from generation to generation on the subject of the plague. The light is however breaking through the darkness, and on every side evidence meets us showing the direction of opinion. Gaetano Bey the Physician to the Pacha of Egypt says: The disease is arrested by the hot weather—it always ceases in the month of June, and this is the month in which the garments of those who die of the plague are sold in enormous quantities in the Arabian bazaars—no cases of plague are known he says beyond the limits of Thebes. Clot Bey gives evidence of a rapidly growing conviction that the Quarantine system is a gross delusion. He himself has treated thousands of cases of plague, and he expresses a strong opinion that there is no contagion beyond the circle of miasmatic influence. Egypt has indeed had an opportunity of witnessing the more than inefficiency—the absolute mischievousness of the Quarantine system—it was introduced in 1831—four years afterwards the plague broke out in its most murderous shape, and 200,000 persons are supposed to have perished. Our Consul at Alexandria (Mr. Thurban) observed, that the Quarantine regulations were one of the main causes of the frightful spread of the disease, and it was by their removal that its ravages were checked. In examining personally into the stories which are propagated respecting the communication of the plague, he (Dr. Bowring) had found for the most part that invention and exaggeration had been equally at work. Let any one read the nonsense written to account for the introduction of the plague at Malta in 1813. A smuggler is caught,—he is confined,—he is liberated, because no marks of disease appear, but before his confinement (it is averred), he had been drinking with the husband of a washerwoman, who had washed a pair of pantaloons from a plague country,—these pantaloons were the introducers of the plague. In the case of Borg, one of the earliest sufferers, the case is thus made out; he bought some linen to line shoes from a Jew, and the linen had come from Alexandria—but the Jew had never caught the plague,—and the linen had undergone the usual processes of Quarantine and purification. So another case quoted by Dr. Robinson and Dr. Hancock from Tully, where an old woman had received some money wrapt up in calico, for the purpose of being thrown over a stream of water—she was not seized with the plague herself—but communicated it (never having had it) to her daughter. Who can wonder at the conclusion to which Dr. Ferguson comes; that Quarantines upon merchandise are as vexatious as they are nugatory, and that upon living importation they may be modified without risk. Why should there be any Quarantine where vessels come with their Bills of Health, and there is no disease on board? Why should it apply only to arrivals from the Mediterranean, while against the yellow fever of Mexico, the West Indies and the United States no precautions are taken? The reason is obvious. The Italian States had no intercourse with these countries, or their Boards of Health would soon have entangled them in the net of their legislation. But all sanatory regulations are turned adrift when very great men are concerned. In such cases who dreams of the public health? The Parliamentary Papers show how the Sanatory Laws were lately violated to avoid inconvenience to the Grand Duke Michael, and the French Princes. Our Governor at Malta can set them aside to gratify Redchid Pacha and his children. Our Consul at Damascus (Mr. Wood), does not hesitate to order the putting off or putting on Quarantine to serve the political purposes of the moment (Oriental Correspondence p. 51); nor ought it to be forgotten, that for the purpose of political espionage the Quarantine system was maintained by many countries. He had himself witnessed the opening of despatches addressed to the British Government for the professed purposes of fumigation,—but no doubt really to learn their contents. The Committee of Post Office Inquiry should look into this mode of violating correspondence,—for it had long been,—and was still practised on a large scale. No doubt, to the benefits of pecuniary gain, the Quarantine system added the pleasure of power—power unchecked—arbitrary—irresponsible—often exercised with the most capricious harhness—for the most provoking annoyances are often associated with the grossest injuries. To the merchant, the freight and the cost of goods were increased—they were subject to damages from delay,—to loss of market—and they were encumbered with heavy additional charges,—all falling upon the consumer indeed—but for the personal grievances no compensation could be found—the most childish interferences,—the most ungovernable caprices, — needless detentions,—long imprisonments in Lazzarets,—in vessels,—dangers from disease,—mental anxiety,—denial of necessaries and comforts—solitary seclusion—the violations of domicile,—in a word the subjugation of free men to all the visitations of uncontrolled authority,—are among the grievances complained of, and which ought to be redressed. At all events, great and speedy modifications of the system should be introduced. A Russian Commission sent to investigate the plague, reports from Cairo in June, 1843, that they had collected a large quantity of garments which had been thoroughly impregnated with the matter of the plague, and that they had been exposed during forty-eight hours to a heat of from fifty to sixty of Reaumur, that this heat can be easily and cheaply applied to bales of cotton and wool however compressed,—that it does not deteriorate the staple of the material,—nor affect the colour however delicate,—nor alter the lustre of metallic substances,—that sixty-six persons were compelled to wear these garments for fifteen continuous days, and that no case of plague appeared. The letter which communicates these important facts states that of thirty-five European physicians now settled in Egypt, scarcely any believe in the doctrine of contagion, and none (except those in the pay of the Sanità), are favourable to the Quarantine system. He (Dr. Bowring) had frequently used the opportunity the House had given him of showing how the path was facilitated for important relaxations, by the evidence which was gradually accumulating from all sides. Dr. Abbott says, that while he believes, Egypt is never free from plague in forms more or less violent,—he never knew it to be imported,—that no Cordons have produced any benefit,—that they never arrested the disease,—and that he had been in the habit of handling and treating plague patients without hesitation; and never caught the disease. Dr. Laidlaw avers, that on examining the subject, he was struck with the gross exaggerations as to the contagion of plague, and that nothing but a dereliction of reason could give credence to the absurd and monstrous stories of the Levantine contagionists—he states, that except in certain states of the atmosphere there is no danger, and he gives numerous cases proving that the current theory of contagion is wholly unfounded. Dr. Gregson says, I am not aware of having seen one case contagious—but on investigation, have found many so reported to be false. I feel confident, that contact will not produce the disease. Indeed those who saw most of it, cared the least. We dreaded the Quarantine more. And Dr. Gavin after twenty-nine years experience in the Lazzaret at Malta, declares that neither by handling letters, or garments, or merchandise, or washing linen, from infected places, had any case of plague occurred, the number of persons performing Quarantine being from 800 to 1,000 a year. Clot Bey says, The contagionists are not only so wrong-headed that they will neither see nor hear but they hate and persecute all those who would wish them to see and hear; And Dr. Aubert in his work on the plague, says, In four years (he speaks of his residence in the East), I have been able only to hear of two pretended cases of contagion (his pages are crowded with evidence of the non-contagiousness of plague:) I have hunted in vain for any one fact demonstrating the communication of the plague as the consequence of mediate or immediate contact. He acknowledges epidemic and endemic influence, but denies the theory of contagion altogether. The huge volume which has lately been laid on the Table of the House, contains evidence that considerable modifications in the Quarantine system have been introduced. Assuredly they have led to no evil consequences, and many proofs may be cited from that volume of the benefits growing out of the changes. It is somewhat humiliating to see Austria complaining of, and protesting against, the absurd severities of our Sanatory Code in the Ionian Islands; it is distressing to read the representations of our Admirals as to the damage done to Her Majesty's Service by the annoying interference of the Mediterranean Board of Health. A congress of the Great Powers was decided on in 1838, in order to consider what could be done in this matter. He (Dr. Bowring) knew not why it came to nought, but he trusted the negotiation would be resumed. There was much in the correspondence to show that the Governments of Austria, France, and England, felt that the existing state of things ought not to be maintained, and it was solely for the purpose of aiding the Executive in its attempts at further changes, that he proposed what he trusted the House would unanimously concur in, namely:—

Resolved.—"That this House approves of the various relaxations of the Quarantine Laws and Regulations which have from time to time been introduced; and desires that such further relaxations maybe urged upon the attention of Foreign Governments, and adopted at home, as may be found compatible with a due regard to the public health, and the commercial interests of the community."

Mr. Gladstone

remarked that there was not sufficient difference between the hon. Member and himself to make it desirable that he should occupy the attention of the House at any length; he should confine himself to the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member, and to the actual question as it stood between us and foreign countries. The first part of the Resolution was, as he understood it, to express approbation at the relaxation of the Quarantine laws that had been made by this country; and the second part, that foreign governments should be urged to adopt similar relaxations: and that the Government of this and other countries should be requested to enter upon the consideration, whether further relaxations should not be made. The Resolution of the hon. Member was clearly in conformity with the spirit in which the Government had acted. When the Government came into office they found that the attention of the previous Government had been directed to this subject, and that it had endeavoured to induce foreign governments to relax their laws; but it had failed in its attempt. But this he imputed to the differences in other matters which had then arisen. Her Majesty's present Government had introduced into the Quarantine laws of this country such relaxations as they thought could be expediently and safely made, and they had also drawn the attention of Foreign Powers to the subject, with the view of making similar relaxations. This, he admitted, was a matter in which men's minds might be strongly impressed as to the propriety of making most extensive relaxations, with the view of ultimately getting rid of those laws; but it might not be expedient to give effect at once to these opinions, as it might be productive of evil effects on the minds of foreigners, as they might be alarmed at the extent of the relaxation, and impose such regulations with respect to our ships as would operate as much greater restrictions on trade than existed at present. They had not yet arrived at such conclusions as to be able to pronounce a decided opinion as to whether the plague was contagious or non-contagious. As far as opinion went, he believed that the majority inclined towards the former. As, however, the hon. Member had truly said, that all the relaxations which had hitherto been made in these laws had been found safe and satisfactory in their results, therefore they had every inducement to extend relaxation. As far as regarded the Quarantine laws of this country, very important relaxations had been made by the Government under the powers conceded to them by the 6th George IV. Under the provisions of that Act, an Order in Council had been issued, dated the 6th of September, 1843, embodying these alterations and relaxations. The object of them was very materially to reduce the time for Quarantine as regarded ships and persons. At the present time our system of quarantine was much less stringent than that of the other great maritime powers in the Mediterranean—he meant more especially France and Austria. He admitted that previously to last year Austria had relaxed her Quarantine laws to a greater extent than we had; but at present, both as regarded persons and ships, that description of laws in this country was less stringent than those of Austria. He would shortly refer to some facts which would show this to be the case. Ships with clean Bills of Health, under our Quarantine laws, are now admitted after a pratique of twelve days, and of persons of five days; ships with suspicious bills were admitted after twenty days, and persons after eight; ships with foul bills from twenty-five to thirty days, and persons twenty days. Under the Austrian Quarantine laws, ships with clean bills were admitted after seventeen days, persons ten days; ships with suspicious bills twenty-two, and persons eighteen; ships with four bills thirty-two days, and persons twenty-eight days. He need not remark on the French Quarantine laws, beyond observing that they were more stringent than those of Austria, and consequently of this country. He hoped that they might be able to come to an understanding in a short time, and that these Foreign Powers would be induced to come to some arrangement with this country on the subject. A proposition had been made to France, Austria, and other powers, as to having a meeting in Congress on this subject. From France a satisfactory answer had been received, and that Power had agreed to send a representative to this proposed Congress, the place of meeting of which had not yet been determined. Austria, also, two months ago, had sent a most favourable answer to the proposition. Austria said, however, that it would be better in the first place to have a medical examination, and a Report of its Quarantine officers on the subject, and it therefore asked for a postponement of the Congress for a period of six months. Of course no objection could be made to such a proposal; and although therefore there would be some delay, he entertained sanguine hopes that by the period when Parliament met again he might be enabled to announce further relaxations in the Quarantine laws. He believed that if France and Austria could be induced to adopt such regulations as were desirable that there would be no great difficulty as regarded the other powers in the Mediterranean. He would only add, that it was very desirable to keep within the line of safety; and maintaining, therefore, a due caution, he was anxious to go to farther relaxation.

Mr. Hume

had heard the observations of the right hon. Gentleman with great satisfaction. Nothing could be more beneficial to the commercial relations of this country than a great relaxation, or even the entire removal, of the Quarantine laws. He hoped that the adoption of the Resolution proposed by his hon. Friend would strengthen the hands of the Government in the course which they had been pursuing.

Resolution agreed to.