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1. Observations on the Oriental Plague, and on Quarantines as
a means of arresting its progress ; addressed to the British Association of Science assembled at Newcastle in August
1838. By John BowRING. 2. The Quarantine Laws, their abuses and inconsistencies. A
Letter addressed to the Right Hon. Sir John Cam Hobhouse, Bart., M.P. By ARTHUR T. HOLROYD, Esq. 1839.
THERE is perhaps no more characteristic feature of the present times, none more intimately connected with the quick succession of social changes, which have already been, and seem likely hereafter to be introduced into the civilized world, than the late wonderfully increased facilities of communication: the recent substitution of steam power for the slower and more expensive modes of conveyance formerly in use, more particularly promises to effect a complete revolution in our relations with foreign countries. In the natural order of things, the effects of this change must be considerable upon the ideas, customs, laws and constitutions of nations thus brought into mutual connexion, nor does it appear probable that England herself will be less powerfully affected than other nations by this international intimacy. For in consequence of our successes in foreign wars, our wealth, our manufacturing and commercial superiority, which have tended to foster national pride,-in consequence also of our isolated situation, which has in some measure prevented us from drawing as frequent and accurate comparisons as we otherwise might have done between ourselves and other countries,and, lastly, in consequence of our somewhat unreflecting and unphilosophical turn of mind, we have become one of the most prejudiced of nations, one of those most blindly attached to our own country and institutions, and most intolerant of any foreign customs or ideas which are even in the slightest degree at variance with our own.
The ultimate results of a closer approximation to the state of society in other countries, it is to be hoped, will be fa
vourable, though it is in vain to endeavour to prophesy with any confidence the more distant consequences. The immediate advantages however are clear and apparent,--the increase for instance of the national wealth, advancement in political knowledge, the softening and removal of international asperities, of national, religious and personal prejudices.
Being convinced, therefore, that these and other palpable advantages must result from it, we are naturally inclined to support any measure which, in our estimation, may tend to promote an unrestrained intercourse with foreign nations, and to view with proportionate jealousy any obstacles or impediments which are thrown in its way, however imposing may be the pretext, or however pressing may be the occasion. Under the latter description must be included that absurd and mischievous invention of modern times, the quarantine system.
England is chiefly affected by these regulations in her intercourse with India, Greece and Turkey. With respect to these countries, with which we are closely connected, the so-called sanatory regulations, looked upon both with reference to their present state and the probability of their further extension, bid fair to neutralize the advantages which we should otherwise have reaped from the contemplated improvements in the mode and line of travelling.
When however we venture to enter the lists in opposition to the plans and proceedings of plague-alarmists, we confess that we do not contemplate an easy and uncontested triumph; there are a host of prejudices to be surmounted. In the first place there is something imposing, from its novelty and originality, as compared with the confined ideas of antiquity, in the very notion of marching armies, employing navies, building fortifications,—not to resist a foreign foe, but to make war upon the pestilence; of imprisoning, not subjects of a hostile potentate, but those who are supposed to have enlisted under the banners of the plague. We have too arrayed against us the defenders of things as they are, because they are, or because to themselves at least they are, profitable. Besides, we entreat our readers to reflect how much is implied in the very name of a board of health; how
perfectly overpowering is the list; think of the learned doctors, English, French, German, Greek, Turkish and Egyptian; not to mention the vocabulary of French appellations, which no one surely would have taken the trouble to invent for any trifling or unimportant end. How horrible too, how dreadful, to think of letting the plague loose amongst mankind! We are, however, prepared for the worst. We shall proceed calmly and dispassionately to consider–1st, whether the quarantine regulations do really contribute to the attainment of their professed ends; and, 2ndly, on the supposition of their having some conceivable tendency to answer those ends, whether the benefits that are or may be produced by them do or do not preponderate over the evils inflicted.
For the statistics of the subject, and for professional opinions connected with it, we shall refer to the two publications which we have placed at the head of this article. The first pamphlet, which consists of observations addressed to the British Association, was published in 1838; the other, of which Mr. Holroyd is the author, is of the following year.
The part of the quarantine system to which we object, in the prosecution of which its supporters conceive themselves bound to interrupt the communications with infected places, is the forcible detention and imprisonment in lazzarets of all who venture to intrude within the limits of the cordon sanitaire. The first inquiry which we propose to make is one of a nature which is always duly appreciated by the English reader,—whether the lazzaret system, that has been on trial for a considerable number of years, has actually promoted the objects for which it was designed, whether it has prevented, or even tended to prevent, the ravages of the plague? To whom then must we apply, as persons able and willing to give a competent opinion ? Not, we answer, to the mass of the population, among those who suffer from the pestilence, because their opinion, for the most part, either goes with the stream, or is the mere echo of the event; they have neither opportunity nor inclination to trace effects to their causes : nor, again, can we put implicit faith in the loud and vehement protestations of the officials engaged in such establishments, and personally interested in their continuance.
The publications which we have introduced to the notice of our readers seem to us to afford the opinions of that description of men whose opinion ought to be of most weight; of men neither interested, ignorant, nor inexperienced; of physicians of the first eminence, who have themselves witnessed the plague, who have treated it and made it their study, who have had themselves the most favourable opportunities of judging of the actual operation of the lazzaret system. First, then, as to facts :
“During the plague,” observes Dr. Bowring," of 1835 the harem of the Pacha of Egypt consisted of about 300 persons : notwithstanding the severest cordon, the plague entered, and seven persons died within the cordon. The cordon itself consisted of 500 persons: these were in constant contact with the town, where the plague was violently raging, and of these 500 only three died; so that the proportion of those who died within the cordon to those who died without, was as four to one."
At Alexandria the quarantine was established in 1831: what were its effects ?
“It did not prevent the dreadful outbreak of the plague in 1834-5, which destroyed in Egypt probably 200,000 persons."
Again, in 1833,
“ The average mortality, with good medical treatment, is 60 per cent, sometimes not more than 30 : in the lazzaret of Alexandria, fifteen out of twenty died, or 90 per cent.
“Odessa has frequently been quoted as having one of the best organized quarantine establishments in the world; yet not long ago the plague broke out in the lazzaret, entered the town, destroyed a number of the inhabit. ants, and ceased at a certain season, as it usually does. Quarantines have been introduced, during the last seven years, by Mehemet Ali into his dominions of Syria and Egypt: has the plague, in consequence of these arrangements, visited Alexandria less ? By no means. Have the quarantines protected Damietta, Rosetta, Jaffa, on the coasts-Damascus, or Jerusalem, or Cairo, in the interior: Nobody can pretend they have.”
The space of the present article will not permit us to multiply examples; suffice it to say, that a series of well-authenticated facts go to prove, that the effects produced by the lazzarets hitherto established, if not absolutely unfavourable to that health they affect to secure, have been of a nature so doubtful and problematic, as would scarcely form an element of calculation in the decision of a sensible man in any practical matter.
Let us next examine the opinions of the physicians themselves. Thomas Gregson, M.D. says :
“I consider them (quarantines) inefficient, and from their oppressive and partial operation they have, instead of diminishing, propagated the disease. One hundred persons have been sacrificed by being torn from their homes and thrust into crowded, overcharged and tainted lazzarets."
The question put to Dr. Pruner by Mr. Holroyd is as follows:“Do you consider quarantines a sufficient safeguard against the disease ?" Answer, “Not at all. It can only be a safeguard in countries where the plague is not endemical.”
The opinion of Mr. Abbott, a medical man in the Pacha's fleet, is as follows:
« I have never known any benefit to accrue from the numerous cordons that have at different times been established in this country.”
Again, Clot Bey, a physician, who perhaps has had the most extensive experience in plague cases of any man living, is said to hold opinions unfavourable to the quarantine system. So also Gaetano Bey, physician to the Pacha.
Robert Thurburn, H.B.M. Consul, Alexandria :“ The only good that, in my opinion, has resulted from the establishment of the board of health at Alexandria, is its having directed the atten. tion of the government to improving and ventilating the habitations of the poorer classes, making drains, etc.”
Capt. Bonavia, superintendent of the lazzaret at Malta :“ The principal good (resulting from quarantine) is the being received in free pratique in all the continent."
Such, then, are the opinions of men best qualified to decide upon this question, and who cannot be supposed to have any interested bias; as such, therefore, we trust they will have their proper weight with the public.
For our own part we confess, that the test of experience and the judgement of such men are almost sufficient of themselves to overthrow the present system. The issue of the question, however, has by many been made to depend upon the fact of the contagious or non-contagious nature of the malady. If, however, the present sanatory regulations are proved to be actually inefficient, they will remain so, whatever in this respect may be the nature of the plague. The