HC Deb 11 July 1845 vol 82 cc395-417
Lord Ashley

moved the Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee on the Lunatics' Bill.

Mr. T. Duncombe

deprecated the further progress of the Bill at so late a period of the Session. His objection to the principle of the Bill was so great, that he would move its postponement until the next Session.

Sir J. Graham

, addressing the House, said, that the Government had intended to bring in a Bill similar to that before the House; but knowing the great interest which his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) had taken in the subject, and his perfect acquaintance with it, they had gladly handed over the matter to his charge, but they did not for an instant wish to get rid of the responsibility themselves; on the contrary, the Government took upon themselves the whole responsibility of the measure, which they felt would be of great public benefit. He hoped the House would give its sanction to a measure of so much importance, even although it had been unavoidably delayed to a late period of the Session.

Order of the Day read.

Lord Ashley

moved, "that the Speaker do now leave the chair."

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, he had to present a petition complaining that a man, named William White, a poor brother of the Charter-house, had been detained in a private lunatic assylum for nine years, although he had certificates of four surgeons that he was of sound mind, and not a proper person to be so confined.

Lord Ashley

sincerely hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury, now that he stated the object he had in view in opposing the Bill, would allow the House to go through the preliminary forms, so that the measure might be fully and dispassionately considered and discussed in Committee. He also hoped that nothing which might fall from the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member would tempt him to infringe the rules of the House, or induce him to reply in any way that exhibited aught in the nature of irritation or ill-feeling. When he heard the hon. Gentleman say that the Commissioners, in the discharge of their duties, and particularly in their examinations, had conducted themselves with arrogance and intolerance, he must take leave to say that the hon. Member had been most grievously misinformed by those who had made such a statement to him. He would ask him to consult his own heart and his own feelings, and if in his heart and his feelings he found that it would be possible for him, in so solemn an inquiry—an inquiry of so delicate a nature, and affecting, as it did, the happiness of human beings — to behave with arrogance and intolerance, then he (Lord Ashley) would admit that his brother Commissioners and himself were open to the charge. But he would undertake to prove to the House that nothing could be more inaccurate than such a charge. It was quite true that the hon. Gentleman gave him notice that it was his intention to bring under the consideration of the House the case of Captain Digby. He had stated to him in private that if it were necessary for the Commissioners to be put upon their defence, and to show their reasons why they could not authorize the liberation of that party, he feared, from the documents which would be produced, that the case would issue in a painful result. He had hoped that he should not have to weary the House by any further statements; and he felt that he was acting with exceeding boldness when he brought forward this measure. He had hoped that his preliminary observations would have been sufficient; but since it was the will of the House that he should make a further communication on this matter, he would request them to receive the explanation he was now about to offer. It would be necessary, in the first place, that he should describe the constitution of the Commission, and retrace the history of legislation upon this subject. In 1828, Mr. Gordon, then a Member of this House, introduced a Bill which afterwards became the Act under which the operations of the Commission were conducted, and was, in fact, the law under which their operations were conducted up to the present time. If the House would allow him, he would give a short view of the state of the law by which private asylums were regulated previously to 1828, in order that they might see how they had gone on progressively improving in their legislation, and how they might continue to go on progressively improving; for this was a difficult and delicate question, and no step could be taken without deliberation, and every such step must be justified by past experience. Previously to 1828 private asylums were regulated by the Act of Parliament passed in the 14th year of George III. That was a most important Act, but very defective. There was no power contained in it for punishing an offence, not even for revoking or refusing a license. There was a great laxity in the signature of certificates, one only being deemed sufficient, and that one might be and often was signed by a person not duly qualified, or the proprietor of the madhouse (in his medical capacity), to which the alleged lunatic was consigned. Houses licensed under that Act were not required to be visited more than once a year. There was no power under the Act to discharge any patient who might prove to be of sound mind. Licenses could be granted only on one day in the year. Pauper lunatics were sent to the madhouse and admitted without medical certificates, and no return of pauper patients was ever made to the Board. No plans were required of houses previously to the granting of licenses; no returns of the cases of lunatics kept singly in houses for gain; and, moreover, no visits of medical persons to the patients. That, in fact, was the state of the law from 1777 down to 1828, when Mr. Gordon introduced a Bill which remedied these defects. That Act gave power to the Board to revoke or refuse a license. Sundry offences were specified in the Act, not specified in the old Act, which might be punished as misdemeanors. Separate visits by two medical men were required; and these gentlemen were to be members of one of the three authorized medical bodies. These visits must have been paid to the alleged lunatic within a period of not more than seven clear days before his admission into a licensed house. Every licensed house was to be visited at least four times in the year (many of them not having been visited at all under the old law), and in practice now some of them were visited oftener. A power was also given for discharging any patient who might, after due medical investigation of the case, be considered of sound mind. Licenses could be granted on any of the quarterly boards: and certificates were necessary for the admission of pauper lunatics, as well as returns of them regularly made, and lists of them kept, so that each pauper was seen, and, when requisite, examined on each visit of the Commissioners. Plans of all houses were required, and also of such alterations as might, from time to time, be made therein; and returns of patients in single houses under certain well-guarded provisions for insuring secrecy, were to be annually made to the clerk. Then, each house, containing more than a hundred patients, was to have a resident medical officer; and where the number was less than a hundred, was to be visited by a medical person twice a week. Mr. Gordon's Act was passed for three years, and the Commission was appointed for one year, to be renewed annually. That Commission consisted of several unpaid Members, and five physicians, and it was provided that these five physicians should be paid at the rate of one guinea an hour for their attendance, with power to carry into effect the new Act within the metropolitan district. This Act and Commission were renewed in 1832, and two barristers were added on the same terms. About 1834, after having been a member of the Commission, he (Lord Ashley) became the chairman of the Commission, which duty he had discharged up to the present time. Now, this Act was renewed periodically from three years to three years, until the year 1842, when his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord G. Somerset) brought in a Bill for three years, the object of which was greatly to extend the operation of the metropolitan Commissioners. Let the House see how that Act extended the duties devolved upon these Commissioners. It extended their duties over the whole surface of England and Wales, instead of confining them to the metropolitan district and a radius of seven miles round it, and directed that all asylums licensed by the justices should be visited twice a year by two Commissioners (a physician and a barrister), who were to examine the licenses and certificates, and inquire and report as to restraint, classification, occupation, and amusements. They were also to report on the condition of paupers on admission, diet, and so forth. They were bound to make entries as to particular patients in patients' book, and empowered to liberate patients in provincial asylums after two visits. The Act likewise directed a physician and barrister (members of the Commission) to visit county asylums once a year, and make inquiries and reports similar to those which he had already specified. Then, for the purpose of discharging any increase in their duties, the number of physicians had been augmented to seven, and of barristers to four. And it was also provided by the Act that the Commissioners should receive at the rate of five guineas a day during the performance of their duties in the provinces. Such were the provisions of the Act passed in the fifth and sixth of Her present Majesty's reign; and immediately after its enactment the Commissioners entered upon their enlarged duties. Now, let the House observe what were the duties which devolved upon the Commissioners. The result of the passing of that Act was, that in each year the establishments to be visited by them were seventeen county asylums, or asylums brought within the scope of the 9th Geo. IV. (the Act of 1828), being twelve county asylums, and five county and subscription asylums; eleven asylums of a mixed character, maintained partly by subscription, and partly by income from charitable foundations; and two military and naval hospitals. These would be visited once a year. Ninety-nine houses licensed by justices in session, fifty-nine of them receiving private patients only, and the remaining forty paupers and private patients, would be visited twice a year. Then, in the metropolitan district, there were thirty-seven houses licensed by the metropolitan Commissioners, thirty-three of which received private patients only, and the remainder (four large establishments)both pauper and private patients. These would be visited four times in the course of a year. So that in the whole, 166 houses, spread over a large surface, were to be visited by the Commissioners, some of them once, others twice, and some four times a year. The result of these investigations was a voluminous Report from the Commissioners, which was presented to the House towards the close of the last Session of Parliament; and he very much feared that the size of that Report, although it was published in the most inviting form, had deterred many hon. Members from perusing it; because if the House of Commons had read the Report, there would have been very little hesitation manifested with regard to the two Bills which he had had the honour of introducing. Nor did he think that he should now have been called on to weary the House by these preliminary remarks. Well, upon the presentation of that Report, he proposed a motion for an Address to the Crown, praying Her Majesty to take it into Her serious consideration. A discussion arose in the House, and Her Majesty's Government stated that they were so impressed with the necessity of legislation upon the subject, that they promised that a Bill should be introduced in the succeeding Session of Parliament, in consequence of which he (Lord Ashley) withdrew his notice. His right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) had already explained to the House why it was that he was entrusted with the introduction of the two very important Bills before the House. His right hon. Friend was pleased to think that, as he had served so long on the Commission, and performed the responsible and arduous duties of its chairman, he was the proper person to present these measures to the notice of the House. He undertook the task, because he thought it to be his duty so to do when asked by the Minister of the Crown, knowing at the same time how much that Minister was overwhelmed by the pressure of public business, and knowing also the great zeal and diligence which his right hon. Friend brought to bear in discharging the important duties that devolved upon him. The House might be assured that it was not from an overweening opinion of his own competency or ability that he (Lord Ashley) had complied with the right hon. Baronet's request. Quite the reverse. He shrunk from the task—not that he shrunk from the labour, or entertained a fear as to the reception which the Bills would meet with at the hands of the House; but because he did not feel that he had either sufficient influence with the House, or a sufficient command of ability, to undertake a measure which he knew must extend over the length and breadth of the realm, and would introduce a new system on principles which he was quite convinced, if carried out judiciously, would place this country at the very pinnacle among the countries which undertook to legislate for this unfortunate class of their fellow subjects. The result was, the two Bills which he had introduced; the one to provide for pauper lunatics, and the other to render permanent the Commission, and provide rules for private asylums, and for general visitation. He would now explain why it was that these particular provisions existed in the Bills, and particularly the one which he should bring under the consideration of the House this morning. The duties of the Commissioners being so extended in point of surface, and so multiplied in number and variety, it became absolutely necessary to consider the present constitution of the Commission. It was quite clear that with the Commission, as at present constituted, they could not go on much longer in the discharge of duties which were multiplying every day. In the first place, then, it was absolutely necessary to have very many more Board meetings, in consequence of the rapid increase in the business they had to go through. When the Boards were held, they found a greater accumulation of business than they could discharge with that attention which was its due. In the next place, it was equally necessary that there should be more visitations. They found that nothing was so effective for the prevention of abuses as successive and unexpected visitings. But with the Commission constituted as it was, it would be impossible that they could to any great extent increase the number of their meetings. It was requisite, therefore, in order to obtain a due attendance, that they should secure the full, entire, and undivided services of professional men, abstracted altogether from any professional pursuits or practice. The accumulation of their duties had very much altered the capacity of the medical men and barristers to discharge them. So long as the duties were confined to the metropolitan districts, that was, London and seven miles round it, it would have been much easier for the Commission, as now constituted, to meet and discharge their duties, although they too were in a great degree increased; but the moment the county duties were superadded, and it became necessary that the barristers and medical men should be absent from their private practice in London for whole days together in the provinces, it was perfectly clear, that then the proper discharge of the duties could only be secured by having persons altogether devoted to this work, and no other. It was necessary, also, to consider the progressively increasing expenses of the Commission. Observe how those expenses were growing, as shown by the Parliamentary Papers; from which it appeared, that in the year ending in August, 1844, they were within a fraction of 10,000l. In that same year, the payments to the Commissioners alone, who were paid according to the time employed, had increased, as compared with the year 1842–3, by 918l. Then, see how-many meetings of the Board took place. In 1842 they held fifteen, in 1840 they held twenty-four, and in 1844 they held thirty-one meetings. Now, the sittings of those Boards averaged at the very least four hours each, and were attended by eleven paid members, consisting of seven physicians and four barristers. At this rate, they cost in 1842, 660l., in 1843, 956l., and in 1844, 1,364l., thus showing an increase in two years of 704l. for expenses of the Boards alone. On this scale it might be estimated, that in two years' time, viz., in 1847, even if no additional duties were imposed, the expenses would have arisen to 12,640l. a year; but, supposing additional duties were required, as proposed by the Bill now before the House, in the same period of two years, or in 1847, the expenses would have risen to 14,850l. per annum. Let the House now observe the duties which the Bill, if carried, would impose upon the Commissioners. See the enormous extent of country to be travelled over, and the additional number of days that must be employed in the performance of that duty. In the first place, all workhouses in England and Wales would require visitation, for there were lunatics in the workhouses of every county, with two exceptions only. With a view, therefore, to efficiency and economy, the arrangement of a permanent Commission was devised, with six paid Commissioners at salaries of 1,500l. a year each. The total amount of salaries to the Commissioners would be 9,000l. Now, he would beg the House to observe, that for this they were to have the exclusive and undivided services of those parties. It had been observed that such a provision was not made in the Bill; he could only say, that such was the intention, and he had since introduced the very strongest words which could be used, in order to show that their exclusive and undivided attention was to be given to the duties of their office, and that they were not to receive emolument from any other source, with the exception of private property. Under these circumstances it was necessary to hold out an inducement sufficient to invite into the service men of the highest talent and integrity. The Poor Law Commissioners received 2,000l. a year, and it was proposed that 1,500l. per annum should be given to the Commissioners under this Bill. Their duties would be of a very harassing nature. They must frequently be absent from home, devoting a considerable part of their time to travelling over the length and breadth of the country. They must necessarily be persons of high character, and would be taken altogether from their practice and profession, devoting themselves exclusively to the services of this Commission, which would be of an extremely difficult and delicate nature. As to the cost of the Commission, there would be a secretary at a salary of 800l. per annum, and two clerks at a salary of 100l. each; then he estimated the travelling expenses at about 2,150l., and sundries at 430l. making together a total expenditure of 12,583l. That was the estimated expense of the Commission. As to the provision for superannuation, taking it at the utmost, and supposing the superannuation list to be full, the expense would only be increased 14,583l. But, however, putting that out of the question, the expense of the Commission for many years would be 12,583l. He would call upon the House to mark how very low an estimate they had taken of the expense, when they considered the additional duties which the permanent Commission proposed by the Bill would create. They had calculated upon only six additional board days—they ought to have at least two a week. [Mr. T. Duncombe: It ought to be every day.] Very well, then that would occupy their time altogether, and they should be rewarded according to their services. The hon. Gentleman could not have said anything that so completely proved the necessity of a constant permanent Commission. But there was a new duty imposed on the Commission by this Bill. The Commissioners were to have the serious, delicate, but indispensable duty of visiting those wretched creatures who were shut up in single houses. It was a duty, the extent of which they could not as yet form a notion of. In half an hour's walk from the door of that House, he would undertake to say that he would find a hundred persons shut up in single houses. The Bill, provided, however, that notice should be given to the Commissioners in such cases, and a certificate signed. [Mr. T. Duncombe: That clause I approve of more than any other in the Bill.] He was very happy to hear it. To execute such a duty as the Commissioners would have to perform in visiting these houses, they must surely devote their serious and undivided services, and they must be proper and efficient men. The duty of visitation was one of the most burdensome that could be conceived. He had on a late occasion visited a house containing a number of private and pauper lunatics, and having reached it soon after eleven o'clock, the Commissioners had not finished the performance of their duty at seven—when he was obliged to come away and leave his Colleagues behind. It was not a common service to be performed, but one of great excitement, difficulty, and responsibility. It was necessary that visitations should be made repeatedly and unexpectedly. As the Chairman of such Commission, he should say, go and visit such and such a place ten or twelve times in the course of a year; and this with a permanent Commission would not increase the expense, but by the present system the Commissioners were paid upon each visitation a guinea an hour during the whole time they were engaged; the Bill before the House, however, would give a stationary income. At present the Commissioners made four hundred and four distinct visits in one year, they travelled 15,000 miles in the same period, they also attended 34 boards, they made 404 separate reports, and they also made 600 entries in the different books, some of which which were of great length. Upon the very lowest estimate, under the present Bill, they must make 560 visits, travel 16,500 miles, hold 40 boards, make 500 reports, and about 900 entries. But this would not be enough, and unless the Commission was able to devote itself to these duties, and multiply both the boards and visitations, no effectual good could be done. If the House thought those duties were to be performed—the visitation of all the workhouses, containing 8,000 pauper lunatics—all the patients in single houses—and, as the hon. Member for Finsbury said, a board should be held everyday—if the House thought all this duty was to be performed, his (Lord Ashley's) belief was that, in a very short time, the expense of the present Commission would reach 25,000l. a year. A clause was inserted in the Bill which would give a most stringent hold over the proper discharge of the duties of the Commissioners. At the end of every six months they would have to make a return to the Lord Chancellor of the number of visits which they had made, the patients whom they had seen, and the miles which they had travelled. Now, he would just point out to the House some of the provisions of the new Bill, to show how vast an improvement it would be on the existing law. It began by establishing a permanent Commission, and thereby secured the entire services of competent persons, and fixed the limits of expense now regularly increasing. It placed hospitals (or subscription asylums) under proper regulations, by requiring them to have the same orders and certificates as were necessary in licensed houses, and by subjecting them to the same visitation as county aslyums. It prevented persons of weak mind from being received in asylums in the character of boarders, in which case they had not the benefit of any visitation, and were sometimes induced to deeds affecting their property. It provided an additional security against the improper detention of pauper patients, by requiring that the person signing the order for their confinement should see and personally examine them beforehand; and that the medical officer who certified as to their insanity should see them within seven days previous to their confinement. Neither of these safeguards existed at present. It compelled every person receiving a patient to state his condition (mental as well as bodily) when first admitted, and the cause of his death when he died. It directed every injury and act of violence happening to a patient to be recorded, and required a "case book" to be kept; thereby affording additional security against mismanagement, and showing how far the patients had the benefit of medical treatment. It provided against the liberation of dangerous patients. It authorized the visitors to enforce a proper supply of food (in licensed houses) to pauper patients, who were at present fed at the discretion of the proprietor. It enabled the visitors to order the admission of a patient's friends to visit him. At present they were admitted or excluded at the caprice of the person who signed the order for the patient's confinement. It enabled the visitors to sanction the temporary removal of a patient (in ill health) to the seaside or elsewhere. It enforced an immediate private return of all single patients (received for profit) and authorized the members of a small private committee to visit them if necessary. These returns were almost universally evaded at present, the law rendering it unnecessary to make any return unless the patient had been confined for twelve months. It enabled the Chancellor to protect the property of lunatics against, whom a Commission had not issued, by a summary and inexpensive process; and finally, it subjected all workhouses, in which any lunatic was kept, to regular visitation. Now, he would just show the House of what this last duty consisted. By the last returns to August, 1844, just presented by the Poor Law Commissioners, there were 17,355 pauper lunatics and idiots chargeable in the country. Of these, there were in county asylums 4,224, leaving 13,131 unprovided for in any public asylum. Of these last, there were in licensed houses 2,942, leaving in no asylum and under no supervision or care whatever, nearly 10,000. That was the existing state of things; and surely it proved the necessity of immediate interference. The treatment which the pauper lunatics often received was shocking to contemplate. He knew the case of a wretched woman who had been rather violent, and with regard to whom the matron, taking upon herself to incarcerate the poor creature when and in what manner she pleased, bound her with ropes, and leaving her in that state, in a short time the rope had eaten to the very bone; in consequence of which her arm was soon after amputated. In all such places there would be a tendency to restrain and incarcerate frequently. It was easy to put such poor creatures in a strait waistcoat and get rid of them. That case occurred five years ago; but three days ago he received a letter from a visiting magistrate, who said, he was happy to find that the Bill had been introduced, as many of these wretched creatures were farmed out by the workhouses, and kept by their relations. He said, that he had been a visiting magistrate forty years, and a circumstance came under my observation of a female, who, during her pregnancy, became insane; and the person under whose care the parish officers had placed her had fastened the ligatures so tight round her ancles (the blood being in a sluggish state) that they mortified; and, upon my second visit, I found that her feet had dropped off. She died afterwards, her reason having been restored; she made no complaint, but "these things would never have happened had she been sent to a proper asylum." He added— On my visit to another asylum, I found twenty-five lunatics crowded together in a small yard, with only a boy, under twenty years of age, to take care of them. They were all bound in waistcoats or handcuffs. He (Lord Ashley) had seen no less than eighty lunatics in one yard, under the charge of a single person, in one of the private asylums in London for the reception of pauper lunatics. He hoped, however, that the Bill which was now about to pass for the erection of county lunatic asylums, would gradually be the means of diminishing these enormities. It was pleasing to contrast with such places the Han-well and Surrey asylums. In the former he had seen forty-eight patients together, engaged in horticulture, and using sharp and dangerous instruments; and in the Surrey asylum he had seen lunatics brought to use sharp weapons, such as axes, hatchets, &c. He wanted to approximate to that state of things as much as he could before these asylums were built, and therefore he wished all lunatics to be brought under immediate visitation. But if they imposed all these necessary duties, they must have a permanent Commission, and employ men who were well qualified, and willing to give their undivided attention to this difficult work. It was very well to talk of postponement; but many counties at this moment were waiting for the passing of this measure, and had suspended their operations. He would instance Derby, Warwick, Worcester, Nottingham, and Stafford. In Sussex, the magistrates were preparing to fit up an old gaol as a lunatic asylum, and would no doubt do so if this Bill were delayed until next Session. St. Peter's, at Bristol, Haverfordwest, and several other wretched asylums, still received patients. Besides, in many places there was very little visitation, and in some actually none. If these places were visited and subjected to efficient regulations, a great many parties would, no doubt, be cured when placed under proper care, who might otherwise become incurable lunatics. By delay, and want of curative process, out of 700 curable lunatics in a year, barely one-tenth would be recovered; and he would ask the House to estimate the misery and expense of 630 lunatics being added yearly to the list of incurables. It was well known that when persons had laboured under the disorder for twelve months, it rarely happened that more than one-sixth could be cured. The postponing of the measure until another Session would involve at least a delay of six months, during which time, he would ask the hon. Member for Finsbury to recollect the number of lunatics who would be left altogether without superintending care. He would also ask the House to consider the difficulties by which the Commissioners were surrounded. They were compelled, in the Bill before the House, to take a middle course; they were bound to consider the patient, but they were also bound to regard the public. The hon. Member for Finsbury, with great propriety, took up the cause of the patient, and called upon them to take care that he was not confined a moment longer than was absolutely necessary. Other persons, however, held opinions contrary to those of the hon. Gentleman, and called on him to make the law far less stringent; and, as he had before said, it was necessary to take a middle course. He begged to thank the House for the great kindness with which they had listened to him. He could only say, that he took the deepest interest in the fate of this unhappy class of persons. He had been engaged for sixteen years in this matter, and thought the House would do him the justice to say that he was not actuated by any personal motive; all he asked was, that some little consideration might be given to the opinions of those who, without fee or reward, and whose only motive was to ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate lunatic—he only asked that some little consideration might be given to the opinion of such persons. It was very well for those Gentlemen to talk of delay who knew nothing, by experience, of the horrors that were hourly perpetrated; it was very well for persons to talk of delay who had never seen the miseries which were constantly brought under his notice, and who did not know how painful it was to administer an imperfect law. The Commissioners knew the law to be imperfect—they saw the remedy—and they knew that a large proportion of the evils could be removed if only some little consideration were given to their opinions. They now applied to the House, from their own experience, for a remedy which was within the reach of the Legislature. If he was defeated in his effort to obtain the sanction of law for the Bill before the House, without any further delay, it would be to him a source of inexpressible regret; and he implored the House, by all the statements which had been laid before them, by all that they must know of their own knowledge, to lose no time in carrying into execution those means within their reach, of removing the great evils of the present system, which were not only the source of intolerable suffering to the unhappy beings in whose defence he was pleading, but which were a standing disgrace to this enlightened kingdom and this Christian land.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, the Bill would not give that guarantee and security to the public which the noble Lord imagined. He did not underrate the great importance of the measure; but at this advanced period of the Session, and when there was no absolute necessity for it that he could understand, he thought that the Bill should be postponed until the next Session of Parliament, in order that an investigation might take place, not only as to the conduct of the Commissioners, but also with reference to the operation of the existing laws, under which great abuses did exist, and would continue to exist, in spite of the provisions of the Bill. The noble Lord could not tell him how any persons who had been unjustly confined could obtain relief by the Bill before the House; the same medical certificates were to be given, and interested parties would still have the power of imprisoning their victims under the plea of lunacy. He would call the attention of the House to the petition of Mr. Lewis Phillips, who asked for time, and prayed the House not to legislate blindfolded. He (Mr. Duncombe) thought it was better that nineteen insane persons should go free, than that one rational being should be shut up under the plea of insanity. He had made inquiries, and believed every word in the petition of Mr. Phillips to be correct. The petitioner wished to be called to the bar— For the purpose of explaining the malpractices and workings of divers individuals desirous of placing Her Majesty's subjects in I such places of confinement, without the proper; and necessary steps which a British subject ought to be entitled to, and receive protection from a law to guard against any innovation, or tend in any measure to deprive the subject of the freedom he should properly enjoy. He proceeded to say— That he was a partner in a large firm as a glass and lamp manufacturer, in Regent-street, St. James's, in the month of March, 1838, with his brothers, who were carrying on a prosperous business. That on the 16th day of March, 1838, your petitioner was on his usual rounds to the nobility, customers of the firm. That one of the said customers required your petitioner to call at Her Majesty's Palace that morning at eleven o'clock. That your petitioner did call, and the pretext thus arose for incarcerating your petitioner in a lunatic asylum. That without further entering into details, your petitioner was, in consequence of representations by his partners of his insanity to the magistrate, Mr. White, of Queen-square Police Court, given over to their care and custody. That your petitioner conferred with several friends and the police, who advised your petitioner to bring actions against all parties; on his again going to the Palace on the Saturday, the 17th of March, 1838, for the purpose of finding out the names of the parties who aided and abetted in his capture, he was seized at Pimlico by Leadbeater, without any cause, and neither did he intrude, or had any intention of intruding upon any part of the Palace; then conveyed to Bow-street station-house, locked up all night, and at six o'clock Sunday evening your petitioner was informed that he was liberated, and taken to receive some refreshment, by Leadbeater and an attorney; that without any further investigation, on the said Sunday evening your petitioner was removed in a hackney coach, closely guarded, to Dr. Warburton's lunatic asylum, Bethnal-green. That your petitioner was kept in close confinement until Sunday, the 9th of September, 1838, a period of six months, for, as his partners ridiculously stated, attempting to see the Queen. That during your petitioner's incarceration all sorts of practices were used in order to entrap your petitioner to make some confession to justify their conduct in accusing your petitioner of insanity. That some strange female was introduced to your petitioner, in the lunatic asylum, dressed (on the Coronation-day, June 28, 1838, of Her Majesty) in paltry imitation of our Sovereign, to induce your petitioner to believe that it was Her most Gracious Majesty. Any one might say all this was a delusion, but he was prepared to prove it. The petitioner proceeded to say— That the officers, both medical and otherwise, assisted in this nefarious scheme. That your petitioner has suffered the torture of mind and body through other acts and filthy observations and questions too disgusting to be mentioned, from the officers, medical and otherwise. That your petitioner has prayed to, and humbly requested those officers to desist from their torments. That your petitioner has been chained down and been brutally assaulted by the keepers of the lunatic asylum for having ventured to expostulate upon such ridiculous and wicked conduct. That on Tuesday, the 4th of September, 1838, one of the partners waited upon your petitioner, and with the resident doctor of the establishment, concocted an agreement for your petitioner to sign, requiring him to leave this country for Antwerp, and to be allowed 3l. per week, to be paid to him as necessity might require, through a man who was to follow your petitioner in the double capacity of keeper and servant, until your petitioner's partner should think proper to withdraw him. That your petitioner, on Sunday, the 9th of September, 1838, was again visited by his two partners, accompanied by the resident medical officer, and again urged to sign a dissolution of partnership, which your petitioner, after six months' horrid incarceration and torture, was induced to sign the following agreements for the dissolution of the co-partnership:—

"'September 8, 1838."

"'In consideration of Mr. Lewis Phillips retiring from business on the 11th of September, Messrs. Ralph and Samuel Phillips undertake to satisfy Mr. Lewis Phillips for his share of the property left in the business, by paying him a weekly sum for his maintenance.



"'Witness, James Phillips (resident doctor).'

"'We hereby agree that the partnership which has existed between us be dissolved, and publicly announced in the Gazette of Tuesday next, the 11th of September, to the following effect, that Mr. Lewis Phillips is retiring, and that the business is to be hereafter carried on in the joint names of Ralph and Samuel Phillips.




"'September 8, 1838.

"'That your petitioner was immediately, the same hour that he signed the deed, conveyed in a cab with the keeper to Saint Katherine's Docks, and there placed on board the Antwerpen, bound for Antwerp, at which place your petitioner remained about a fortnight. That in consequence of the keeper not being able to read a letter addressed to him, your petitioner was enabled to peruse it, and discovered that another scheme was again concocted to bring your petitioner back to his late place of torture. And your petitioner, in consequence, made his escape, and returned to his mother in England, who with your petitioner's partners assisted to recapture your petitioner in the following manner:—His mother invited him to her house, at 28, Oxford-terrace, Edgware-road, to arrange amicably with his partners, but in lieu of which other parties came, and attempted to seize your petitioner. That your petitioner having endured so much misery, was fully prepared for any design which might show itself; and seeing the manœuvres, immediately forced his way out of the house, crying 'Murder,' the keepers hallooing out 'Stop thief.' That your petitioner did since commence proceedings against all parties; but, on obtaining the advice of Mr. Chitty, special pleader, on the statement of facts, your petitioner found himself without remedy, as care had been taken to keep your petitioner in confinement and without money until the time, as expressed in the Act of Parliament of the 48th and 49th Section of the 41st chapter of 9th George IV., viz., 'which prescribes and directs that such actions must be brought within six calendar months next after the fact committed.' That your petitioner has been obliged to suffer great privations, and has since that time been deprived of all benefit in his business, and that his partners, previous to your petitioner's giving notice of trial, became bankrupts. That your petitioner has been obliged to gain his living in attorneys' offices, and is at present employed in the capacity of clerk to a solicitor. That your petitioner is able to detail further facts relative to other individuals confined in lunatic asylums, and fully to give such information most important to this honourable House in framing a Bill to meet fully the circumstances of any case, not only as to pauper lunatics, but as to the treatment of parties supposed to be insane or otherwise.

"And your petitioner will, as in duty bound, ever pray.


Mr. Phillips brought an action against Dr. Warburton, but was advised by Mr. Chitty that, on account of some delay, he could not succeed, and he then indicted all the parties for a conspiracy, when his solicitor was paid 170l. to compromise the matter rather than it should come before the public. All this had taken place under the existing Commission. Mr. Proctor, one of the Commissioners, saw him in the asylum, but said that he could do nothing for him, as he must be visited three times before he could be released. He did not mean to attach any blame to Mr. Proctor, but such was the state of the law. It appeared, also, that a poor woman who was confined in Dr. Warburton's asylum, complained to Mr. Proctor, upon the occasion of one of his visits, that she had been ill treated; but as soon as he had turned his back, one of the female attendants told her husband that the poor woman had been making complaints to the Commissioner, when he took her to an upper part of the house, and beat her most cruelly, Mr. Phillips being able to hear her screams. On his return the man said he thought he had cured her of complaining to the Commissioner. Such cases, however, were of constant occurrence. No inquiry had been instituted since 1836, and it was time that the House of Commons should cause inquiry into the subject to be again made, with a view to better legislation. Why, then, were they pressing on this Bill at so late a period of the Session? Some portions of it he had before said were good, particularly that clause which enabled a Commissioner to visit a single patient: but he was not prepared to give such unconstitutional power to individuals as the Bill proposed; neither would he consent to make a Commission permanent, until he was satisfied that it had done its duty during the last twelve or fourteen years that it had been established. There was also a petition from William Bailey, who had been confined for five years, and who he believed to have been perfectly sane. He would not trouble the House by reading his petition; but there was the petition of Captain Digby, who said— That he was forcibly and violently taken out of his house, situate at No. 12, Beaumont-street, Marylebone, at night, on Sunday, May 5th, 1844, and conveyed to Moorcroft-house, Hillingdon, near Uxbridge, a private lunatic asylum, kept by the Messrs. Stillwell. That the Committee of the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy visited this asylum on the 27th of May following, to whom your petitioner represented and explained the falsity of the imputation of insanity which had been made against him, and which could be confirmed by two clergymen of eminence, and all his friends with whom he lived in daily intercourse. That the Commissioners on three special visits examined your petitioner, at an interval of a fortnight between each visit; but your petitioner was not released until eight weeks subsequent to those visits, and during the interim was debarred all manner of intercourse and correspondence with his friends, and his request to see his solicitor, Mr. Pemberton, was refused him, and he was kept in confinement during the space of sixteen weeks and two days. Your petitioner, therefore, humbly prays that, previous to any further legislation on the subject of lunacy, a Committee may be appointed to investigate the operation of the present laws, and the conduct of the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy, with the view of ensuring that no Englishman be deprived of his liberty without full and sufficient cause. Dr. Conolly, of Hanwell, who had seen Captain Digby, was of opinion that he was not insane; and perhaps the best proof of his sanity was the fact that he had been induced to sign a cheque just before he left the asylum, which immediately on his release he stopped the payment of. Those cases frequently occurring at police offices would show the nefarious attempts that were often made to imprison some people upon the ground of insanity. The following occurred in September, last year, at the Worship-street office:— Police sergeant, James Finn, 37, attended before Mr. Broughton, by direction of Superintendent Johnson, to show cause why he had immured his wife, Ellen Finn, in a lunatic asylum, she being at the time in a stale of perfect sanity. The case was first brought under the notice of the magistrate about a week ago, when the sister of the alleged lunatic appeared before him, and stated that her sister was married to the sergeant in Ireland about eighteen years ago, and that they had contrived, by their mutual industry, to accumulate a sum amounting to nearly 200l., which had been deposited in the husband's name in the savings' bank. That they had lived very happily together until about twelve months ago, when repeated ruptures took place between them, and the sergeant taking advantage of some trivial acts of violence on her part, which his ill usage had provoked, had, by fraudulent means, induced two medical practitioners to certify that his wife was insane, and had thereby procured her incarceration in Dr. Warburton's Lunatic Asylum, at Bethnal-green, where she was then confined. The applicant added, that she felt so completely satisfied as to the entire sanity of her sister, that she had caused her to be carefully examined by a medical man of high eminence, whose voucher she had obtained to that effect. The applicant then handed the magistrate a certificate signed by Dr. Riding, of Eustonsquare, stating that he had seen Mrs. Finn, and, after a careful examination of her case, he was unable to detect any signs of insanity, and considered her therefore not a fit subject for confinement. Upon hearing the above statement, and perusing the certificate, Mr. Broughton directed Henley, the chief usher, to proceed to make inquiries at the madhouse, and, if the woman's statement was well founded, to request the attendance of the medical officer of that establishment, in order that the case might be thoroughly investigated. Mr. Phillips, the medical officer of the asylum, subsequently attended before Mr. Broughton, and stated that Mrs. Finn had been received into the house on the authority of a certificate, signed by two surgeons, that she was of unsound mind; but Mr. Phillips felt bound to express, as his own decided opinion, that she was perfectly sane, and was not a fit object for admission into the asylum. Having the attestation, however, of two medical men to the contrary effect, they were compelled to detain her, but were ready to deliver her up to her friends on being legally authorized to adopt that course. Mr. Broughton made some strong remarks upon the monstrous state of the law, which enabled a person, at his own wanton caprice, to consign another to such a dreadful species of confinement, and gave orders for the attendance of all the parties before him. Saturday the wife, whose address and demeanour were perfectly quiet and collected, was examined at some length by the magistrate, and stated that in consequence of a disagreement that took place between them, her husband, about four months ago, placed her in the same asylum; but after remaining there a week he consented to her liberation, and agreed to allow her 10s. a week, on condition that she went over to her friends in Ireland. She accordingly proceeded to that country, but returned after a short stay, and besought the defendant to receive her into his house, and it was in consequence of those importunities that she was again incarcerated in the madhouse. In answer to the complaint the defendant said that his wife had been guilty of the most outrageous acts of violence, having more than once attempted to stab him, and her whole conduct justified his conviction that her intellects were impaired. She was examined by two respectable medical men, one of whom had attended her for nine months; and, as they both testified to that fact, he considered himself justified in the course which he had pursued. Mr. Broughton, the magistrate, expressed it as his opinion that the woman was in as sane and rational a state as any one in court, and he considered that the defendant had been guilty of extreme cruelty and injustice towards her. Fortunately, however, through her sister's interposition, she was now restored to her friends, and he wished to know what arrangement the defendant was willing to make for her future maintenance. The defendant said that he had been paying 15s. a week to maintain her in the asylum, and he was willing to allow her half that sum if she would promise not to come near or molest him again, as he had been in danger of losing his situation through her turbulent conduct. Holland, the summoning officer, said that at the expiration of her first confinement in the asylum, Superintendent Johnson, with great kindness, received her into his house, in the hope of being able to effect a reconciliation with her husband; and her conduct during the week she remained there was uniformly good and perfectly rational. After some further discussion, it was finally agreed that the defendant should allow her 8s. per week, besides providing her with some clothes and other necessaries, and the parties then left the court. Now, as to the subject of expenses, that had certainly been increasing since 1828 in a most extraordinary manner. The following was an account of moneys received and paid by the clerk of the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy:—

Received for Licenses. Paid Fees to Medical Commissioners. Total Expense.
August, 1828, £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
To Aug. 1829 1,040 7 6 1,154 0 0 2,246 17 1
To Aug. 1830 974 12 6 1,244 0 0 2,036 8 3
To Aug. 1831 1,012 5 0 1,050 0 0 2,536 10 0
August, 1841,
To Aug. 1842 901 0 0 1,993 0 0 3,315 5 0
August, 1843,
To Aug. 1844 978 15 0 3,059 0 0 11,920 13 0
Extra fees and travelling expenses 5,850 16 0
At a meeting which took place in the city yesterday, the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire (Lord Ashley) said that he had been a Commissioner for twelve years; he admitted the horrors of private asylums, and said he would rather be a pauper in the Hanwell Asylum than be placed in a private asylum where his friends would have to pay for him. Why did not the question naturally arise, if the noble Lord had been a Commissioner for so many years, and had been cognizant of the evils which existed in private asylums—why was there no attempt to remedy them before? He (Mr. Duncombe) knew that he had no chance of success; but he should have the satisfaction of knowing that he had done his duty in exposing the defects of the existing law, and calling for a searching and rigid inquiry. The hon. Member concluded by moving "That all further proceedings should be postponed until next Session; and that, previous to any further legislation on the subject, an inquiry should be instituted into the state of the existing law."

Mr. V. Smith

was willing to rest his opinion that the Bill should not be postponed upon the arguments of the hon. Member for Finsbury, which all went to prove the necessity of most active and careful supervision, and the sooner that was effected the better. The Bill did not propose to continue the Commission under which the evils complained of had existed, but to elect a new Commission altogether, with new powers, new duties, and new salaries; and he thought, of all the proposals in the Bill, that of a permanent Commission ought most readily to receive the approbation of the House. An admixture of medical men and barristers on the Commission was the best course that could have been adopted. The hon. Gentleman then passed a high eulogium on the exertions and talents displayed by Lord Ashley as Chairman of the Lunacy Commissioners, and expressed a hope that he would continue to exercise the duties of that office when the new Commission was formed.

Lord Duncan

was disposed to support the Amendment; but as it was then four o'clock, he moved the adjournment of the debate.

Sir J. Graham

hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury, and the noble Lord the Member for Bath, would be satisfied with the discussion which had already taken place, and would consent to take the sense of the House upon it, with the understanding that the House should go into Committee on Monday.

After a short conversation, Lord Duncan withdrew his Motion,

The House divided on the Question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—Ayes 66; Noes 1: Majority 65.

List of the AYES.
Ainsworth, P. Egerton, W. T.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Etwall, R.
Forster, M.
Baillie, Col. Fuller, A. E.
Baird, W. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Baring, rt. hn. W. B. Greene, T.
Barrington, Visct. Grimston, Visct.
Bentinck, Lord G. Hamilton, W. J.
Bodkin, W. H. Harris, hon. Capt
Bowles, Adm. Hatton, Capt. V.
Broadley, H. Henley, J. W.
Brotherton, J. Hollond, R.
Bruce, Lord E. Jermyn, Earl
Bruges, W. H. L. Johnstone, Sir J.
Buller, E. Kemble, H.
Carew, W. H. P. Knightley, Sir C.
Christie, W. D. Lowther, Sir J. H.
Clive, Visct. Mackenzie, W. F.
Clive, hon. R. H. Martin, C. W.
Damer, hon. Col. Mitcalfe, H.
Denison, E. B. Morris, D.
Dickinson, F. H. Mundy, E. M.
Duncombe, hon. A. Nicholl, rt. hn. J.
Packe, C. W. Thornhill, G.
Palmerston, Visct. Turner, E.
Praed, W. T. Villiers, Visct.
Protheroe, E. Vivian, J. H.
Rolleston, Col. Waddington, H. S.
Sandon, Visct. Warburton, H.
Seymour, Lord Wawn, J. T.
Sheridan, R. B. Wynn, rt. hn. C. W. W.
Smith, rt. hn. R. V. Yorke, H. R.
Somerset, Lord G. TELLERS.
Spooner, R. Ashley, Lord
Sutton, hon. H. M. Cardwell, E.
List of the NOES.
Duncan, Visct. Duncombe, T.
Crawford, S.

Committee postponed to Tuesday.

House adjourned to five o'clock.

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