[ocr errors]

sideration, ought to win as well as claim our most serious attention; but when we reflect that the air the labouring classes breathe —the atmosphere which hy nuisances they contaminate-is the fluid in which rich and poor are equally immersed—that it is a commonwealth in which all are born, live, and die equal—it is undeniable that a sanitary inquiry into the condition, for instance, of the ten thousand alleys, lanes, courts, &c., which London is said to contain, becomes a subject in which every member of the community is self-interested. Where nearly two millions of people are existing together in one town, it is frightful to consider what must be the result in disease, if every member should, even to a small amount, be neglectful of cleanly habits. It is frightful also to contemplate what injury we may receive not only from the living, but from the 50,000 corpses which are annually interred in our metropolis: indeed, no man who will visit our London churchyards can gaze for a moment at the black, cohesive soil, saturated with putrid animal matter, which is daily to be seen turned up for the faithless reception of new tenants, without feeling that the purification of our great cities, and a watchful search throughout the land we live in for every removable cause of disease, are services which science should be proud to perform, which a parental government should strenuously encourage, and which parliament should deem its bounden duty to enforce.

If foul air and pure air were of different colours, we should very soon learn to repel the one and invite the other, in which case every

house would be ventilated, and air-pipes, like gas-pipes and water-pipes, would flow around us in all directions. Although, however, we do not often see miasma, yet in travelling over the surface of the globe, how evident are its baneful effects, and how singularly identical are they with those patches of disease which are to be met with, more or less, in every district in this country ! Let any one, after traversing the great oceans, contrast their healthful climate with the low, swampy parts of India, with the putrid woods of the Shangallah in Abyssinia, or with any part of the western coast of Africa. In all these regions miasma is either constantly or periodically generated by the corruption of vegetable matter; and the following description of the effects of this virus on the white population of Sierra Leone is more or less equally applicable to all :

• Those who are not absolutely ill are always ailing; in fact, all the white people seem to belong to a population of invalids. The sallowness of their complexion, the listlessness of their looks, the attenuation of their limbs, the instability of gait, and the feebleness of the whole frame, that are so observable in this climate, are but too evident signs, even where organic disease has not yet set in, that the disordered state


of the functions which goes under the name of impaired health exists, and in none is it more painfully evident than in the general appearance of the European women and children of this colony.' *

In corroboration of this statement, we may mention as a single example, that, out of 150 men of the 2nd West India regiment who in 1824 were sent to Cape Coast Castle, all, excepting one, were either dead or sent home invalided in three months. At the expiration of this time, Sir John Phillimore, arriving off the coast in command of the Thetis, sent on shore two midshipmen and fourteen men, to mount a gun on a height. The party slept there only a night, yet, in one fortnight, every individual excepting a black man was dead !

In the opposite continent of America, even in healthy parts, wherever the land has been wilfully flooded for the purpose of canal navigation, the trees all die, and as the passenger-barge winds its way by moonlight through these pale, barkless corpses, a green coating of vegetable matter, about as thick as a blanket, and very appropriately called by the inhabitants 'fever and ague, is seen writhing in folds before the prow.

Even in the most salubrious of the new settlements, where the air is dry, exhilarating, and the sky as blue as in Italy, the moment the virgin earth is turned up for the first time, the decoinposition of vegetable matter brought to the surface invariably produces sickness; and thus a whole family of little English children, with their teeth chattering from ague, have too often been found mourning in the wilderness, on an oasis, 'ihe garden and the grave of their father who made it.

In like manner, in this country, it has been shown by abundant evidence that on whatever patches of land, especially in towns, vegetable or animal matter is allowed to putrify, there disease, more or less virulent, is engendered: indeed it has been repeatedly observed that the family of a particular house has continued for years to be constantly afflicted with the very languor and fever described by every African traveller, which at last has been ascertained to have been caused by the introduction into the immediate neighbourhood of a couple of square feet of Sierra Leone, or, in plainer terms, by a grated untrapped gulley-drain, from which there has been constantly arising a putrid gas; and yet, instead of a few square feet, how many acres of Sierra Leone are, to our shame, existing at this moment in our metropolis in the shape of churchyards! There is one burial-ground, now or very lately in use in London, which contains, under one acre of surface, 60,000 corpses! There is in London a place where a crowd of young

* Vide Appendix to Report from the Select Committee on West Coast of Africa, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 5th August, 1842, p. 244.


children learn their lessons for six hours daily over a floor under which 12,000 dead bodies are festering ! *

Mr. Chadwick produces a tabular account of the mortality of England and Wales within the year 1838, caused by diseases which, he says, medical officers consider to be most powerfully influenced by the physical circumstances under which the population is placed; namely, the external and internal condition of their dwellings, drainage, and ventilation. It appears that the number of deaths in this category amounted to 56,461: which Mr. Chadwick observes to be as if Westmoreland or Huntingdonshire were every year to be entirely depopulated. He adds :

that the annual slaughter in England and Wales from preventable causes of typhus, which attacks persons in the vigour of life, appears to be double the amount of what was suffered by the allied armies in the battle of Waterloo ;. ...that diseases which now prevail on land did, within the experience of persons still living, formerly prevail to a certain extent at sea, and have since been prevented by sanitary regulations; and that when they did so prevail in ships of war, the deaths from them were more than double in amount of the deaths in battle.'

But whatever may be the precise number per annum of our labouring population that actually die from diseases which are preventable, it is evident that it bears but a small proportion to the number of those who—although they have, as it is commonly termed, escaped from the attack-have been subjected for a melancholy period to loss of labour from debility.

Mr. Chadwick, having endeavoured to define in general terms the aggregate extent and operation of the evils complained of, proceeds to consider them separately in detail. We cannot say that he shows much skill in the grouping and arranging of his facts and views : but in a work so meritorious, it would be hard to dwell upon minor defects; and our readers will not quarrel with us for taking the chapters as they stand.

I. General condition of the residences of the labouring classes where disease is found to be the most prevalent.

Here are detailed the varied forms in which disease, attendant on removable circumstances, has been found to pervade the population of rural villages and small towns, as well as of those commercial cities and densely-crowded manufacturing suburbs, in which pestilence has been supposed to have its chief and almost exclusive residence.

For instance—to begin with one of the prettiest towns in one of the most charming parts of England-Mr. Gilbert reports that, his attention having been excited by the high diet recommended to

* See Evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Improvement of Towns, &c.-printed in 1842.


the guardians at Tiverton, in consequence of prevalent fever, he requested the medical officer of the union to accompany him through a certain district there. Even before reaching this locality, he was assailed by a smell clearly proclaiming the presence of malaria : he found the ground marshy, the sewers all open, some of the houses surrounded by wide uncovered drains full of animal and vegetable refuse. The inhabitants were distinguishable from those of the other parts of the town by their sickly, miserable appearance: all he talked to either were or had been ill, and the whole community presented a melancholy picture. The local authorities had often endeavoured to compel the inhabitants to remove the nuisances and to cover the drains, but finding that, under the present state of the law, their powers were not sufficient, the evil had continued : medical officers were employed instead of the engineer; and, accordingly, 'comforts' and high diet' had been prescribed, instead of masonry and drainage.

Impressed with the fact, that, as there are specks in the sun, so in a large country like England there must unavoidably exist dirty places, which Mr. Chadwick or any searching inquisitor has the power, at his pleasure, to point out, we read with considerable caution a series of reports such as we have just quoted. We own, however, we were not a little startled at learning that royalıy itself, but lately prevented from visiting Holyrood, or Brighton, on account of fever proceeding from miasma - has loathsome nuisances dangerous to the public health in its immediate neighbourhood even at Windsor !

Mr. Parker, after stating that there is no town in the counties of Buckingham, Oxford, and Berks in which the condition of the courts and back streets might not be materially improved by drainage, observes,

Windsor, from the contiguity of the palace, the wealth of the inhabitants, and the situation, might have been expected to be superior in this respect to any other provincial town. Of all the towns visited by me, Windsor is the worst beyond all comparison. From the gasworks at the end of George-street a double line of open, deep, black, and stagnant ditches extends to Clewer-lane. From these ditches an intolerable stench is perpetually rising, and produces fever of a severe character. Mr. Bailey, the relieving officer, considers the neighbourhood of Garden-court in almost the same condition. "There is a drain,” he says, “running from the barracks into the Thames across the Long Walk. That drain is almost as offensive as the black ditches extending to Clewer-lane. The openings to the sewers in Windsor are exceedingly offensive in hot weather. The town is not well supplied with water, and the drainage is very defective.” ?

As snipes and wild fowl when they visit this country at once fly to our marshes and fens, so is it natural to suppose that the


cholera would, of its own accord, wherever it travelled, select for itself lodgings most congenial to its nature. The following glimpse of one of the places in which the disease first made its appearance deserves therefore attention. Mr. Atkinson, describing Gateshead, says of a person whom he found ill of the cholera

' His lodgings were in a room of a miserable house situated in the very filthiest part of Pipewellgate, divided into six apartments, and occupied by different families, to the number of twenty-six persons in all. The room contained three wretched beds, with two persons sleeping in each: it measured about twelve feet in length and seven in breadth, and its greatest height would not admit of a person's standing erect: it received light from a small window, the sash of which was fixed. Two of the number lay ill of the cholera, and the rest appeared afraid of the admission of pure air, having carefully closed up the broken panes with plugs of old linen.'

Mr. Chadwick, however, states that the most wretched of the stationary population of which he had been able to obtain any account, or that he had ever beheld, was that in the wynds of Edinburgh and Glasgow. •It might admit of dispute,' he ob. serves, • but on the whole, it appeared to us that both the structural arrangements and the condition of the population in Glasgow were the worst of any we had seen in any part of Great Britain.' Dr. Arnott, who perambulated the wynds of Glasgow, accompanied by Dr. Alison and Dr. Cowen, corroborates the above statement by details too offensive to be transcribed : suffice it to say that from one locality 754, of about 5000 cases of fever which occurred in the previous year, were carried to the hospitals. As a striking contrast to this result, Mr. Chadwick states that, when the kelp manufacture lately ceased on the western coast of Scotland, a vast population of the lowest class of people were thrown into extreme want—they suffered from cold, hunger, and despair--nevertheless, from their scattered habitations being surrounded by pure air, cases of fever did not arise among them.

We will conclude this branch of the investigation by a description of Inverness, copied from no less an authority than the report of its worthy chief magistrate. - Inverness,' says the Provost, “is a nice town, situated in a most beautiful country. ... The people are, generally speaking, a nice people, but their sufferance of nastiness is past endurance.'

II. Public arrangements external to the residences by which the sanitary condition of the labouring population is affected.

This chapter Mr. Chadwick principally devotes to practical details as to drainage. But we must content ourselves with a few more specimens of his observed facts.


« ElőzőTovább »