Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

flies, are out of date,—that the Philistine Beelzebub, and more especially the Zeùs úróuvios of their ancestors, no longer exert their influence. If however it be true, as some aver, that these absent deities were in the habit of swallowing flies, we cannot seriously blame them for deserting their posts; a single mouthful of plague-flies must have given them a surfeit, and sown their divine intestines with such a profusion of plague-boils, as to require the utmost skill of Hippocrates to eradicate.

No chance then being left of supernatural aid, the only human means we can conscientiously recommend are flytraps. When however they have recourse to such severe expedients, let them not forget that the plague is rather a misfortune than a crime. Confinement in the fly-lazzaretto should not be continued one moment longer than the necessity of the case strictly requires. The latent stage in a fly will not probably last half as long as in a man. Probably two days' quarantine, with no case of plague reported, would be amply sufficient to put them in pratique.

Dr. Bowring proceeds “ I cannot avoid mentioning here, that M. Estienne, a late writer on plague, attributes its introduction into Leghorn to a mummy, which after twenty centuries of interment was unrolled at that place."

M. Estienne certainly deserves great credit for this discovery: we really do not think that any one was likely to have made it except himself. The truth however once divulged, every one wonders at his own stupidity in not finding it out before. Where indeed should the plague rage, if not in a catacomb? There imperfect ventilation breeds malaria : want of food produces a weak habit of body, predisposing to contagion; not to mention the extreme age of the mummies, the want of medical attendance, clean linen, and, more than all, of a quarantine establishment.

Such amusing absurdities, however, are not confined to the Levantine population. The old maxim, that wisdom is not of all hours, is corroborated by the proceedings of those sage and learned corporations—the Boards of Health. For instance, Mr. Holroyd gives us an account of the visit of two Beys, Hekekyan Effendi and Muktar Bey, to Alexandria, whilst the plague was raging:

“ The two Beys communicated with Alexandria, where the plague was raging previous to their sailing for Beyrout, and it appears they were not placed in quarantine upon their arrival in the latter port. They most completely communicated with Beyrout, and yet were not placed in quarantine on their return to Alexandria. And lastly, they most completely communicated with Deir El Kammar and other parts of Mount Lebanon, the inhabitants of which had daily intercourse with Beyrout after the existence of the plague was discovered, and previously to the establishment of the cordon. Fear therefore might have been reasonably entertained of the two Beys having received the infection of the plague, and of their giving it to others."

Again he writes

“ The quarantine of seven days at the Pines was not equally enforced, and only a little interest with the authorities was sufficient to avoid detention. A teskeré, or order from the government, procured through the medium of a consulate, was considered equivalent to seven days' purification ; and I was informed that the mules and muleteers which brought a noble lord and suite to Beyrout during the time of the plague were allowed, after having communicated most completely with the town, to pass the cordon sanitaire ; the British consul having obtained a teskere for them to proceed without the penalty of undergoing quarantine."

Hence we presume the Board of Health would leave us to infer that, though ordinary men are subject to contagion, beys, noble lords and government officials are unsusceptible personages. There is an antiquated record in the annals of English history of the sea having slighted the authority of a king. However contumacious the sea may have proved itself in ancient times, it seems the pestilence has advanced in civilization ; it is too well-bred to think of annoying a Turkish bey or an English nobleman.

Another remarkable feature in the proceedings is, that when the plague is actually raging within a town, the quarantine is not relaxed; when the fortress is actually in the hands of the enemy, the sentinels man the outworks with the same scrupulous military exactness; they even, for some profound inscrutable reason, detain travellers from less infected towns, or even from those that are actually free from infection.

Mr. Holroyd writes

“After some little delay I was allowed to proceed to the town (Beyrout), and ascertained that the plague had existed there a month; that during that period thirty persons had been attacked, and of these ten had died. It was reported that no plague had existed in the town for six days preceding the 10th of June. At this time the plague was existing at Alexandria, and merchandize and passengers from thence were put into the lazzaret at Beyrout.

I may mention, that at the time these sanatory regulations were in force at Beyrout, there was a quarantine upon vessels leaving this port and arriving at Alexandria, where the plague was committing still greater ravages. The period was twenty-one days for passengers arriving by steamers and men-of-war, and twenty-five for those who had come by vessels carrying merchandise.”

Hence we are led to conclude, that it was below the dignity of these incorporated sages to notice the insignificant fact, that every individual walking the streets of Alexandria (even though cased in unsusceptible proof, and being in the habit of digging his anticontagionist cane into the dangerous bosoms of all who approached him) was yet a fitter subject for the lazaretto than the newly arrived strangers! The proceedings seem to us the same as if a lunacy commissioner, in order to prevent a maniac from doing himself mischief, were to send his next neighbour to the asylum. When however we allude to commissioners of lunacy, let us not be misinterpreted. Let it not be supposed for a moment that there is any covert allusion to boards of health,--any insinuation that they have mentally transgressed the cordon sanitaire. The plan which we propose, is to issue a commission, not of lunacy, but merely of inquiry.

We cannot again withhold our censure from one portion of Dr. Bowring's pamphlet, where he endeavours to make us believe that certain interest-begotten prejudices—the love of power, patronage, or profit-have influenced the medical practitioners connected with boards of health to uphold the useless system of lazzarets. Such imputations are, to say the least of them, uncharitable in the extreme, particularly since better and purer motives can be so easily suggested. Cannot Dr. Bowring, we ask, picture to his mind a physician of humane temperament, who may feel distressed at the idea of profiting by the bodily pains and sufferings of his fellowcreatures ? What then can be more natural for such an one than to seek, not indeed to desert the patient (for that would be cruel), but to derive some portion at least of his income from a source less painful to his feelings—from the impatient?

A truce however to these digressions, and let us return to

the more important points of the question. We have already brought forward facts and opinions sufficient to prove both the past inefficacy of the quarantine system, and the high improbability that any system of imprisonment, however wisely administered, should be productive of real benefit; inasmuch as the arguments of the defenders of the system appear to be based on a false foundation, viz. on the belief that the disease is highly contagious. We are bold enough to imagine, that if the only evil attending the present system were the cost of building and repairing lazzarets, we have said enough to warrant the abolition of them. In order, however, to form anything approaching to a fair opinion of the whole system, it is necessary to glance for a moment at the other side of the picture,-at the many and great evils of which quarantine regulations are the cause, at the impediments they throw in the way of commerce, the intolerable vexations which they bring upon a number of individuals, and the infringements upon personal liberty which they impose.

Yet how often in the world is there occasion to observe, that when the fear of one particular evil has once seized upon the imagination, all other considerations, all reasonable computations of happiness, all attempts to compare one evil with another, and so to arrive at a really sensible conclusion, are altogether set aside! Not unfrequently even the bewildered alarmist, to avoid one evil, plunges into a greater, or to avoid the smaller goes out of the way to incur a greater chance of the very evil he is anxious to escape. .

Dr. Bowring affords the following summary of the evils produced by the quarantine system :

“When honoured by a mission from Her Majesty's government to inquire into the present state of our commercial relations in the East, my attention was naturally and necessarily called to those regulations which impede the free transit of merchandise, which levy enormous contributions upon commerce, which subject travellers to visitations and arrests the most capricious and the most despotic, and which have created in almost every state, tribunals holding unchecked and irresponsible authority over persons and property ; exercising that authority in arbitrary waywardness, and allowing the sufferer no appeal against injury, no redress for wrong.”

This is Dr. Bowring's description of the evils attending the VOL. XIII.-No. XXVI.

2 h

quarantine system. If however we descend a little more into particulars, our readers will be able to form their own opinion of their nature and extent.

First, then, with respect to the health of the unfortunate victims of the quarantine system.

Many of the lazzarets are in singularly unhealthy situations. At Beyrout I found not only that many persons who had arrived in good health had perished in the lazzarets of the plague, but that many had died of dysenteries and other disorders, from which they were perfectly free when they entered. No plan could be devised more likely to create perilous or contagious elements, than bringing suffering and diseased people together; creating about them a deleterious atmosphere, and delivering them over to the annoyance of an Oriental quarantine. In the lazzaret at Syra, for ex. ample, where the exactions are monstrous, and where lately there was not even a water-proof roof to shelter an invalid, I have seen a person come out of his imprisonment having had his garments devoured by rats, and his person disfigured by multitudinous vermin."

The secrecy of private correspondence is shamefully violated.

“ Under the plea of a regard for the public health, all letters are opened, all travellers are arrested and imprisoned, all commodities are subjected to regulations the most unintelligible, costly and vexatious. It is not averred that a letter has ever introduced the plague ; but obstruction, delay, violation of the secrecy of correspondence, and often destruction of the correspondence itself, are the consequences of the quarantine system.”

Then there is the unmitigated, uncontrolled tyranny exercised by the men in authority.

“ If there be a spot in the world placed beyond the control of public opinion, it is a lazzaret. Believed, as it is, to be an invention for public security, the tyranny, the extortions, the injuries which are inflicted within it escape all animadversion. Discussion as to its organization, its laws, its judicature, seems wholly excluded."

Then there is the time wasted. According to Mr. Holroyd's account, even when there are no cases of plague on board, three weeks is about the usual time of quarantine,-in Corfu twenty-five days. If then an instance is supposed, which must often happen, of a vessel having to observe two or three quarantines in its voyage, how greatly must the expense be increased! what chance can a merchant have of calculating the time of arrival or return? As for travellers, such an

« PredošláPokračovať »