HC Deb 30 June 1847 vol 93 c1078

MR. T. DUNCOMBE moved the Second Reading of the Lunatics' Bill.


could not agree to the principle of this Bill however it might be modified. It placed lunatics under the superintendence of the bishops and clergy; and he did not think that they had any peculiar qualifications for the duty.


considered this objection extraordinary, especially coming from a Government which was about to appoint four new bishops, who could hardly be better employed than in looking into the abuses of lunatic asylums. A power was given by the Bill to the bishops only when the magistrates neglected their duty. His principal object was to give liberty to individuals unjustly confined on charges of insanity, and the Commissioners had reported that such cases were not unfrequent. He was afraid, under the circumstances, that it was hopeless now to persevere; but he should keep his eye upon the subject, and reserve himself for a more favourable moment in another Session.


applauded the discretion of his hon. Colleague in withdrawing such an extraordinary measure. He wondered where his hon. Friend got it, or who had advised that lunatics should be placed under the care of the bishops and clergy. Such a course would be as disagreeable to the bishops as it would be unfortunate for the patients. It seemed to him that in cases of religious lunacy, and they were most frequent, there could not be a more dangerous or unwelcome visitor than a clergyman. He admitted that some change of the law was still wanted; and one regulation he strongly recommended was, that laymen should not have the power to interfere with lunatic asylums—the entire inspection and management of them ought to be in the hand of medical practitioners. He agreed with those who thought that, on principle, private lunatic asylums were objectionable, He should like to see them completely abolished, and a more open system adopted for the cure, comfort, and security of patients. Whatever might be done hereafter, he hoped that the present Bill would never be reintroduced, since it was not, in any respect, calculated to accomplish the end in view.