Page images
PDF
EPUB

than they coulde as twopence-halipee. If this di

and innutritious, and Dr. Lankester pointed out its deficiencies, as also that the food was administered to the prisoners only twice a day. The great argument employed in favour of the exceedingly low dietaries of the Irish prisons is, that if it were better the people would commit crimes in order to be taken into prison to get a better diet than they could get out. Now the Irish prison dietaries cost many of them as little as twopence-halfpenny a day for each prisoner and seldom reach the cost of fourpence. If this diet, as is stated, is not lower than the diet the people of Ireland get out of jail, it reveals a feature in Ireland that is much worse than a deficient prison dietary, and that is a really starving people. If such dietaries as those of the Irish prisons are fixed at the present low nutritive value lest people should be tempted to commit crime to partake of them, the Irish destitution must be worse than any thing England has ever yet contemplated. The apologists for the low diet at the Belfast meeting stated that the majority of prisoners were only confined for short periods, and that low diet for a short time did no harm. We would call the attention of philanthropists to this dangerous doctrine. If men have been living upon so low a diet that a little better diet in a prison may tempt them to commit crime in order to get it, what must be the effect of a low diet on such systems but that of lowering them still further, and rendering them unfit for the performance of the work by which they get their daily bread ? An inducement to the commission of petty theft is that feebleness of body which makes work impossible, and the object of punishment for such crimes should be the rendering a man more able to work than he had been. Besides, these miserably low diets depress the powers of the nervous system, and make men much more liable to become the prey of despair, and to a tendency to commit crime. To withhold from men the means of vicious indulgence in eating and drinking in prison is undoubtedly the duty of a Government, but to give men a diet that is insufficient to support the health of the body is to inflict a punishment that defeats its own objects, and frequently leads to the remote consequences of disease and death, which the spirit of our criminal law condemns as unjust.

Quite independent of the low dietaries of the Irish prisons is the question of the times at which the food is served, the way it is cooked, and its quality. From the last report of the Inspector of Prisons, there is reason to believe that at least occasionally the food is not so good as it ought to be, and that it is not cooked so well, nor served so hot as it ought to be; whilst universally the practice is to give but two meals a day. Now it ought to be known everywhere that food served hot goes further than food served cold; and that the same quantity of food given three or four times a day goes further than when giyen twice a day. It is often death to old persons, in prisons and workhouses, to go from four or five p.m. one day, to eight or nine a.m. the next day, without food.

We have received accounts of sanitary proceedings from various parts of the country. A copy of the Scotsman' has been forwarded to us, containing a letter, printed in prominent type, concerning the sanitary improvements about to be made in that city. It is the old story-large sums of money have been voted for the amelioration of the condition of the lowest classes, by improving the closes and alleys; and that money is now said to be expended in work, no doubt in itself useful, but of a far less pressing nature. In Worcester a great battle is being fought on the question of appointing a medical officer of health. Although Worcester has been recently drained, and has got a good water supply from the Severn, its annual mortality is large. During the last three years it has been as high as twenty-seven in the thousand, and this has alarmed some of the more thoughtful and prudent of the inhabitants. In the end of the year 1866 the Sanitary Committee of Worcester appointed a sub-committee to report on the condition of the town. They report that many parts of the town, in addition to obvious abominations-such as general want of cleanliness—present nuisances, “such as overflowing privies and cesspools; imperfect drains, or an entire absence of them; houses dilapidated and rooms injurious to health for want of proper whitewashing and ventilation; which may be taken as a sample of what is always, to a greater or less extent, prevalent in the midst of the population.” The same report says that, “Many dwellings are greatly overcrowded;" that "typhoid fever is endemic in Worcester, and it is clearly traceable to foul drains and privies, and the use of polluted wellwater.” Amongst the evils in this fine cathedral city-although amply supplied with water from the Severn-is the use of wells for the supply of water. There are certain people in Worcester, as in London and other places, who believe that the water from wells, surrounded by drains and cesspools, and supplied by water from the leakage of these places, is better than any other water: the consequence is, they pay for their temerity with their lives. All this comes out in the report of the Sanitary Sub-Committee referred to, and they very properly recommend the appointment of a medical officer of health, whose duty it shall be to watch the health of the town, and immediately carry into effect the various sanitary laws which have for their object the saying of the lives and healths of the community. But somehow or other, the Town Council do not see their way to put down disease and death by spending money. They seem to think that doctors, and undertakers, and grave-diggers have a right to live, as well as other people. To diminish the death-rate of Worcester from twenty-seven to seventeen in the thousand (a thing easy to be done), would be to

save the lives of 400 people in the year, and 8,000 illnesses into the bargain. To be sure, that would be an enormous gain to Worcester, equal, at least, to a sum, of 10,0001. per annum, when properly calculated; but then it would not appear in the rate-books. Town councils and vestries are everywhere alike, utterly regardless of the health and lives of their fellow-creatures, but particularly anxious to keep down the rates.

We are glad to report that the New Drainage at Hastings and St. Leonards has just been completed. The works have been executed by Mr. Bazalgette. The sewage is now taken out to such a distance into the sea as to render it impossible that it should ever return to the shore, and the sea will be now uncontaminated with the sewage of the town. It is to be hoped that the local authorities will take care that every house in the town is supplied with drains and a water-closet, so that all those diseases which are dependent on the retention of sewage-matters near houses may be for ever abolished.

A report comes to us from Sandown, in the Isle of Wight, of a very extraordinary character. Sandown is one of those wateringplaces on our coast which are very likely to become unhealthy through the grasping economy of the tradespeople, who prey upon their visitors who come for health. Fortunately, however, for Sandown, a portion of its land became possessed by a leading barrister on the Northern Circuit, distinguished for his attainments in natural science and his practical knowledge of sanitary measures. Principally through his agency, Sandown has been thoroughly drained and supplied with an abundance of pure water. The consequence has been, that ordinary epidemics are unknown in Sandown, and the bills of the mortality in the last five years show a death-rate of only eleven in the thousand. We would call general attention to this remarkable case, as it clearly shows what may be done by ordinary sanitary activity. This is, probably, the lowest death-rate on record. Every local body in the kingdom would do well to study Sandown. It is not a rich place. It is not a place of palaces alone. It has poor and rich, and closely resembles other towns in the character of its population, but it has this peculiarity, its drainage and water supply are perfect.

As an instance of how an otherwise healthy village in the country may be made to rival the largest towns in its filth, disease, and death, we may mention the village of Child's Hill, in the parish of Hendon, in Middlesex. The village has no system of drainage; to many of the houses there are privies with open cesspools, which overflow into the neighbouring ditches, which ultimately empty themselves into the Brent. The population is about 1,000. During the summer of 1860, dropping cases of typhoid fever occurred in this village, and in 1867 this disease became an epidemic, so that during the months of July and August last, the mortality of the district was equal to seventy in the 1,000 per annum. We are glad to hear that the village has now constituted itself a sewage district under the Sanitary Act of 1866, and that a vestry for the district has been appointed, and that a perfect system of drainage will be completed before the next summer. Would that parishes would be wise in time, and act before so much life and health has been destroyed. There must be many thousand villages in England suffering in the same way as Child's Hill. It cannot be too widely known that typhoid fever is the child of deficient drainage, and that it cannot arise or be propagated where this agent does not exist.

Quarterly List of Publications received for Review.

1. Miscellanies : being a Collection of Memoirs and Essays on

Scientific and Literary Subjects, published at various times.
By Charles Daubeny, M.D., F.R.S. 2 vols. 8vo.

James Parker & Co. 2. Siluria. A History of the Oldest Rocks in the British Isles and

other Countries; with Sketches of the Origin and Distribution of Native Gold, the General Succession of Geological Formations, and Changes of the Earth’s Surface. By Sir Roderick I. Murchison, Bart., K.C.B., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S. Fourth Edition. 600 pp. 8vo. 42 Plates and 206 Woodcuts.

John Murray. 3. The States of the River Plate. By Wilfred Latham. Second Edition. With a Map.

Longmans & Co. 4. Practice with Science. A Series of Agricultural Papers. Vol. I. 400 pp. 8vo.

Longmans & Co. 5. Handbook of the History of Philosophy. By Dr. Albert Schwegler.

Translated and annotated by James Hutchinson Stirling, LL.D.

420 pp. Post 8vo. Edinburgh : Edmonstone & Douglas. 6. The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species

Examined by a Graduate of the University of Cambridge. 400 pp. 8vo.

Nisbet & Co. 7. Germinal Matter and the Contact Theory: an Essay on the

Morbid Poisons, their Nature, Sources, Effects, Migrations, and the Means of limiting their Noxious Agency. By James. Morris, M.D. (London), Fellow of University College. Second

Edition. 120 pp. Crown 8vo. John Churchill & Sons. 8. Results of Astronomical Observations made at the Melbourne

Observatory, under the Direction of Robert L. J. Ellery,
Government Astronomer to the Colony of Victoria, Australia.

Melbourne: Blundell & Ford. 9. Report of the Secretary of War, with Accompanying Papers.

Washington, U.S.A. 10. Schriften der königlichen physikalisch-ekonomischen Gesell

schaft zu Königsberg (for 7 years). 4to. With numerous Illustrations on Stone, Copper, and Wood.

Königsberg : Graefe & Unzer.

« PreviousContinue »