Imagens das páginas

necessaries of life. The condition of the labourers of the west, the lowness of their wages and the consequent scantiness of their food and clothing, have been the subject of public animadversion. The mortality of the south-western district, which includes Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Wilts, is only 1 in 52—not 2 per cent; while that of the north - western, including Cheshire and Lancashire, is 1 in 37. With the exception of the Cornish miners the condition of labourers throughout the western counties is nearly the same, yet in Wiltshire, the county of lowest wages, the deaths are

1 in 49, in Lancashire i in 36. The average age at death in Wiltshire was thirty-five, in Lancashire twenty-two. The Wiltshire labourer's average age was thirty-five, that of the Liverpool operative fifteen. At Manchester, in 1836, the average consumption per head of the population was 105 lb. of butcher's meat —about 2 lb. a-week (exclusive of bacon, pork, fish, and poultry); the average age at death was twenty years. He then brings forward evidence of the preventibleness of most of the premature deaths.

Having proved the extent of the evil, Lord

Morpeth proceeded to show how it was proposed to meet it,—by what machinery of central board, inspectors, &c; and, lastly, he entered into the money-saving that would be effected were thorough sanitary measures carried out. He cites Dr Playfair's estimates, which give the money loss, through unnecessary sickness and death, at £ 11,000,000 for England and Wales, and at £20,000,000 for the United Kingdom. This loss arises from many causes: the expenses of direct attendance on the sick; the loss of what they would have earned; the loss caused by the premature death of productive contributors to the national wealth ; and the expenses of premature funerals.

But the measure which was framed to relieve this sum of misery, though well and carefully prepared, was again to be thrown out!

It was weary work. The years were passing away, and nothing was being done. My grandfather used to come home saddened by each new defeat.

He was sad at the delay, but he was not disheartened; he knew that the thing would be done in time, and that the progress must be slow. He could wait calmly in that belief and enjoy fully the beauty of the sunset light during the summer evenings passed in our beautiful field, overlooking the green slopes and large trees of Caen Wood, Highgate. There our friends used to come to us, amongst others Professor Owen, Robert Browning, William and Mary Howitt, and Hans Christian Andersen ; and we spent evenings that I can never forget, staying out constantly till the moon rose or the stars came out. How he loved nature and all happy things!

His faith did not err. The work of urging had not been in vain; the movement could not be stopped; the time was ripe.

The bill had been thrown out in 1847, but in 1848 the first sanitary law, the Public Health Act, passed!




IMMEDIATELY after the passing of the Public Health Act, Lord Morpeth wrote to my grandfather that the changes made in the bill during its passage through Parliament had prevented the creation of any post which could be offered to him. Lord Morpeth said, however, that if Dr Southwood Smith would give the department the advantage both of his presence and counsel by accepting a seat on the Board, he hoped to provide for him a permanent post, by means of a supplementary Act, “The Diseases Prevention Act,” which the Government expected to pass shortly. In answer to this my grandfather wrote as follows:

38 FINSBURY SQUARE, Sept. 12, 1848.

MY DEAR LORD MORPETH,—I thank you very sincerely for your kind communication.. Thanks to your Lordship's indefatigable exertions, a position is now gained from which it is possible to attack, with some hope of success, the sources of excessive sickness and of

premature mortality. You have at last laid the foundation of Practical Sanitary Improvemert; but the structure is still to be raised, and if, as your Lordship intimates, both you and the Government are desirous that I should assist you in this labour, no one will apply himself with a deeper feeling of responsibility, or with greater earnestness, to what her Majesty justly calls “this beneficent work."

Your Lordship will remember how earnest I was in December last, on the publication of the Bishop of London's Pastoral Letter, that we should at once avail ourselves of the power of the Contagious Diseases Act; as well to make immediate preparation against the threatened visitation of cholera, as to check the progress of our own native epidemics, then and

« AnteriorContinuar »