§ Earl Stanhope
begged to direct the attention of the House to a petition which he held in his hand from a person named William Roberts, upon a subject of great importance connected with the working of the Anatomy Act. A commission had been formed under the late Administration, at the head of which was Dr. Somerville, to investigate the operations of the act. Now, the petitioner attended before the commissioners and tendered his evidence, which was of great consequence, but they refused to hear him. He complained of that, and also, that the report had not been yet made public. He would now, however, read some of the allegations of the petitioner, that their Lordships might perceive the nature of his complaint. The petitioner stated:—That by the clause 13 of the Anatomy Act, it is provided, that after a body has undergone dissection, it shall be decently interred in consecrated ground, or in some other public burial-ground in the use of persons of the same persuasion to which the dissected remains belong, and that the circumstance of the interment shall be communicated to the inspector of the district within six weeks after the day in which such body was received by the professor of anatomy.1053That your petitioner has seen the interment of about 354 dissected bodies between October, 1839, and July, 1841, to have been buried in an unconsecrated ground in Globe-fields, and that the undertaker's man has represented a church of England clergyman by reading the Established Church funeral service on the shells interred.Your petitioner further states, that about 100 of the above shells were bought for 7s. 6d. each, and the remaining 254 at 6s. each, which included the owners' charges for the ground, and the other fees, and that certificates of burial, as required by the act, have been presented to Dr. Somerville as legal documents.Your petitioner is prepared to prove, that the burial clause of the act is no protection to secure interment.Your petitioner has seen many hundred weight of human flesh thrown into heaps, and in that way allowed to rot.That your petitioner has from his own observation seen that the anticipation of being dissected is a source of deep anxiety and grief to the large number of workhouse paupers.Your petitioner submits to your right hon. House, that it is in vain to remonstrate against dissection.Your petitioner is prepared to prove, that bodies have been clandestinely received at schools of anatomy under the sanction of a master of a workhouse, in one of the largest parishes of London; the consequence is, that the inmates of workhouses are in a state, in that respect, of complete helplessness.Finally, your petitioner submits to this right hon. House, that in violating the Anatomy Act, the cause of religion has been insulted, the best and strongest feelings of the poor have been outraged, and the ecclesiastical law has been contravened.The noble Earl moved, that the petition be laid upon the Table.
The Marquess of Normanby
said, that as some of the circumstances complained of were alleged to have taken place when he had the honour of being at the Home-office, he felt bound to say a few words in reply to the accusation brought forward by the noble Earl; but at the same time, he regretted that the noble Earl had not given notice of his intention before he read the charges contained in the petition. He thought, also, that the noble Earl was bound to have given notice of his intention to her Majesty's Government; and he must say, he thought the noble Earl had acted indiscreetly in bringing such a subject forward, and had done that which was detrimental to science by it, in not affording means of explanation to the charges. He felt satisfied, that the working of the Anatomy Bill was beneficial, 1054 and he was also satisfied that the present Government felt so, and would use their efforts to carry it out fairly. As regarded the report of the commissioners, not having yet been produced, he had himself made a remonstrance against the non-production, which would be found in the Home-office. He regretted, that the report had not yet been made; the more so, because he felt assured that when it was produced, it would be most satisfactory.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that, had the noble Earl given him notice of his intention to present his petition, he certainly should have communicated with his right hon. Friend at the head of the Home-office on the subject; but, as the noble Earl had not thought fit to give notice, he was not prepared to enter into the subject, nor to state why the report of the commissioners had not been made.
§ Earl Stanhope
said, that the facts complained of by the petitioner were anterior to the present Government coming into power.
regretted, that the noble Earl had mentioned the name of one gentleman so conspicuously, in bringing the petition under the notice of the House.
No; but I wish my noble Friend had carried his silence one step further, and not brought the name of a gentleman forward who has no means of defending himself here.
§ Petition laid on the Table. Their Lordships adjourned.