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to climates and degrees; while, in the present instance, the malignity of its type is sufficiently indicated by the fact that of twelve cases two terminated in death. If, then, the infliction of quarantine be ever justifiable as a preservative against the invasion of epidemic diseases, this appears to have been precisely the occasion on which it ought to have been enforced. But a system which is founded in error and administered by caprice, presents, at every point which is not concealed from public scrutiny, some inherent absurdity, inconsistency, or contradiction.
Properly speaking, contagion implies actual contact, being quite independent of atmospheric agency; while the influence of infection, as far, at least, as regards the diffusion of exhalations from the sick, -in contradistinction to the wide-spread morbific action of a malarious atmosphere,- is confined within extremely narrow limits. Dr. Carmichael Smith says : -The 'sphere of deleterious power is in general so extremely limited that there have been and still are some physicians who believe they are only propagated by contact. On the faith of his own experience, Dr. Haygarth, in 1796, first ventured to open fever wards in a common hospital, numerous facts having 'proved that a person liable to receive the small pox was not infected by a patient in the distemper when placed at a very little distance.'
In truth, the evidence proving the narrowness of the sphere of even the most virulent contagion, shows the groundlessness of the alarm respecting this dreaded agent, and points to the certain means of destroying it.
* At the first rise or outbreak of an epidemic pestilence,' say the Jamaica Board of Health, the proportional mortality is always greatest; and, on the contrary, at the decline, whether a few months or weeks only comprise the whole career, the disease loses much of its fatal character, putting entirely out of view the interference of medical art in either case. The circumstances attending the spread, period of violence, and decline of epidemic disease, cannot be accounted for by the laws of contagion. Experience has fully proved that sanitary measures will mitigate the violence and prevent the origin of epidemic diseases. It matters little whether the disease is contagious or not. The contagion of any disease -- small pox itselfcan do but little harm at any time in any country, unless there be a strong predisposition of body, concurring with a pestilential season. The signs or indications of this pestilential season (for they do exist), and the way to remove this predisposition or remote cause of disease, is of far more consequence than the prevention against a foreign contagion. The history of epidemics all over the world, the observations of the most enlightened inquirers, seem all to prove that the whole VOL. XCVIII. NO. CXCIX,
apparatus of an epidemic pestilence, from beginning to end, is the production of the country where it rages.'
There is reason to believe that miasms connected with the decomposition of animal and vegetable matter, -as, for instance, the miasms which produce remittent and intermittent fever,—are, under certain meteorological conditions, capable of prolonged suspension in the air. But philosophical inquirers and careful observers deny that exhalations from the living body possess the same property, or that they can be conveyed unchanged through the atmosphere. They consider it to be established by indubitable evidence that the moment these exhalations reach the external atmosphere, they are merged in it, their injurious properties are thereby destroyed, and though, when pent up in a close unventilated room, they may acquire such concentration and virulence as to produce a partial or domestic malaria, locally infectious within the limits of the apartment in which it is generated, yet, when they once pass into the ocean of air, they disappear, as drops of rain are lost in the ocean of water. The property thus possessed by air to neutralise and destroy these exhalations, reveals to us a wise provision of nature for the welfare of mankind. The admission of the · Arethusa' to pratique, and the immediate removal of the sick who were suffering under a malignant contagious disease from the sick bay' of that frigate to a well-ventilated hospital, were, therefore, measures not less consonant to the dictates of reason than to those of humanity.
The very different proceedings recently adopted by the quarantine authorities at another port in the Channel on the arrival of successive West India steam-packets, on board of which yellow fever had occurred during the voyage, and the great importance of the subject in a sanitary as well as in a commercial point of view, provoke an inquiry into the wisdom of those proceedings, into the attributes of that disease, and into the merits of quarantine as a preventive against its introduction into this or any other country. Of these proceedings we collect the following particulars from the public journals. Yellow fever having broken out in the mail steamer · La Plata, on her voyage from St. Thomas, she was, on arriving at Southampton, placed in quarantine. The mails were put into a boat, and towed to the quarantine brig, near Ryde. The mail bags, loose letters, ship’s papers, and newspapers were thrown from the boat into the brig, and by means of tongs, each letter, newspaper, and bag was held and smoked over a lighted stove, in which the charmed drugs were burning. These rites, which lasted an hour, being concluded, the mails were landed; but
hæ nugæ seria ducunt
In mala ;' and the Governments of Southern Europe, upon which, for sixteen years, we have been urging the abandonment of quarantine, as a relic of barbarism, may fairly retort upon us our own revival of its most absurd mummeries.
On the following day, Lord St. Germans, in the House of Lords, and Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons, put questions to the Government as to the care of the sick and the release of the healthy. Lord Lonsdale, being, as President of the Council, responsible for the administration of quarantine, though professing his adherence to the doctrine upon which it is founded, stated unreservedly and without any qualification, that · he bad given orders that the parties should be relieved “from quarantine;' adding that he had sent down the physi'cian to the Board to give the proper directions.' On the next morning the Superintendent-General of Quarantine, accompanied by the quarantine officer of the port, proceeded on board * La Plata,' and, certain formalities having been gone through, the following certificate was issued by them:
* Custom House, Southampton. * This is to certify that we have this day been on board the Royal Mail steam ship “La Plata,” and have most carefully examined the crew and convalescents of the said vessel, and find that the latter are progressing most favourably; and having ascertained that there have not been any fresh cases of yellow fever for the last seven days, we are of opinion that the interior of the “ La Plata” is in a most healthy state, and have consequently released her from quarantine.
• William Pem, Superintendent-General of Quarantine.
JOHN WIBLIN, F.R.C.S.,
Quarantine Officer, Port of Southampton.' This certificate, which was as little creditable to our fair dealing as the performances with the tongs had been to our acience, was issued, and the inspection of the steamer was made on the 20th of November, the day after Lord Lonsdale had assured the House of Lords that he had given orders that the parties should be unconditionally released from quarantine, and had sent down Sir W. Pym to give the proper directions. Mr. Napier, one of the engineers of the steamer, now took a lodging in the town, where he slept every night, working by day in the engine-room, the very lowest part of the ship*; he was taken
• And, as I was informed, attributed his illness to his having worked there.' (Dr. Sutherlands Report, p. 3.)
ill on the 28th of November, and died of unequivocal yellow fever on the 5th of December, fifteen days after the ship had been released by the quarantine officers for the reasons assigned by them in the foregoing certificate. Four days after the death of Mr. Napier the mail steamer · Medway' arrived at Southampton, having also had several cases of yellow fever and some deaths during the voyage; her passengers, luggage, mails, &c. were landed immediately without any of the ceremonials observed in the former case, nor was yellow fever communicated to any one by Mr. Napier, or by any other person who landed from either ship.
Ten days afterwards the Orinoco' mail steamer arrived at Southampton under similar circumstances. On the following day she was visited by the Superintendent-General of Quarantine, the local officer of quarantine, and the marine superintendent of the Company, who all went on board, and remained considerably more than an hour conversing with the captain, officers, and passengers. At this time not a man ras confined to his bed, yet the ship was placed in quarantine, her visitors returning to the town. While in quarantine a gentleman who incautiously visited and kissed his sister, a passenger in the steamer, was in consequence forbidden to leave the ship by the medical officer of quarantine, who himself was accustomed to go on board and return home every day, generally taking his luncheon with the officers of the ship.
On the 8th of January the steamer • Magdelena' arrived at Southampton, having been very unhealthy during the voyage, ten persons having died of yellow fever. The last case of yellow fever occurred on the 26th, and the last death on the 28th of December; pratique was instantly granted. The Times report thus quaintly concludes: We regret to learn that • another death took place this evening since the vessel has been
granted pratique, the chief steward having just breathed his • last; his malady has been a bilious or yellow fever.' The mail steamer . Parana'arrived at Southampton on the 18th of January, and was kept in quarantine till the 22nd. The newspapers relate the sufferings of the anxious relatives of those who were imprisoned in this ship by quarantine, and the Captain says, • Dr. Barton, surgeon of the ship and myself, informed the • Health Officers that we had but one person ill out of 150
souls, and that he was ill from the effects of yellow fever, but • without any, and convalescent, although not able to leave his • bed at that time; but could he have been landed then, and * received proper comforts, nursing, &c. (which are impossible * to have on board the best of ships) the chances were in favour
of his recovery. As it is, from the cold and damp caused by the heavy rains of last night, combined with the disappoint'ment of not seeing his family, he has relapsed into a state * from which there is little hope of his recovery. The newspaper of the following day announces the death of the man, adding, that his wife was allowed to go on board to attend him in his last moments. Such is quarantine as practised in England in the latter half of the nineteenth century !
At the very same time that these performances were enacting at Southampton, our own colonies were opportunely exhibiting to the world successful examples of the true policy to be adopted by an enlightened Government in such an emergency. The homeward-bound mail packets were not the only steamers which departed from St. Thomas during the epidemic of 1852. We have authentic accounts of several steamers, all of which coaled at the same wharf there*, in all of which the epidemic broke out shortly after leaving it, all of which received free pratique on arriving at their several destinations with persons suffering under the severest form of the disease, and none of which communicated the epidemic to a single individual at either of the numerous ports within the yellow fever zone, at which their several crews and passengers, sick as well as healthy, were landed.
The yellow fever broke out in H. M. ship Dauntless'twentyone hours after leaving St. Thomas ; at Barbados she received pratique on the 17th of November, the fever still raging on board with intense malignity. During upwards of six weeks 157 yellow fever patients (of whom 65 died) were admitted from the ship into the general hospital, where they were intermingled with other patients affected with various complaints, none of whom or of the hospital attendants caught the disease,
* Mr. Bacon Phillips, surgeon of La Plata,' in his interesting account of the fever in that ship, says that he never left this whart (and he has done so some twenty times) without finding some lew sporadic cases of fever a few days after going to sea. In the whole of the West Indies it would be impossible to find a situation where the localising conditions of miasma are so apparent as at this spot. An engineer of ten years' experience in the West Indies told Mr. Phillips that he always dreads taking in coal that has been wetted by rain, for he invariably noticed that it was followed by sickness among the men in the engine department. Mr. Schuyler, the very intelligent surgeon of the Orinoco,' also observed that after coaling some form of fever was sure to show itself among the crew a few hours after leaving the wharf at either of the company's depôts. In the • Orinoco' the malady was almost exclusively confined to the firemen, coal trimmers, and servants. This subject deserves further careful investigation.