Page images
PDF
EPUB
[table]

These figures are from official sources, quoted by Dr. Lunier, who

adds: "This alarming increase of insanity arises from the abuse of

alcohol and from general paralysis, which I am tempted to call the

disease of this century, especially in towns." He further shows that

absinthe produces insanity, but that in those departments where

nothing but wine is drunk, the cases are few. Parchappe confirms

the above, and says, " Insanity is more prevalent in town than country,

because of drink." On the whole we find the amount of madness

caused by intemperate habits varies little in countries, being 10 per

cent, in Denmark, 12 in the United States, 14 in Great Britain, and

15 per cent, in France, without including the idiotcy arising from

drunken parents. The latter has been ascertained by Dr. Howe to

average in England 48 per cent, of the total number of idiots (who

are at present over 49,000 in the United Kingdom). If we sum up

the effects of " drink" in this country, as regards insanity, the account

will stand thus :—

Ratio from drink.
Female Lunatics . 7 p.c.
Male do. . . 21 „
Idiots 48 „

Insane from drink.... 32,350 £804,000

It may therefore be said that nearly one-third of the insanity in the kingdom is the result of intemperance.

Business affairs, coupled with mental anxiety, are supposed to be an increasing source of brain disturbance; for it is said that telegrams have enormously enhanced the speed and friction of the wheel of life, although the city people in London appear to work by no means so hard as their countrymen in the Colonies. And if business and telegrams are so hurtful, how is it that the increase of insanity is greatest among the working-classes? how is it that Lancashire has less madness than the ratio in Ireland?

Loss of friends is twice as injurious to women as men, the ratios being respectively 10 and 4 per cent. Accidents, on the other hand, claim 8 per cent, of male and only 2 per cent, of female; but the burthen of life's ills is balanced by the number of women who lose their reason from causes connected with child-bearing.

Over-study is said by Dr. Jarvis to produce 11 per cent, of the insanity in the United States; and some of the best known " alienist" writers in England and Germany find much fault with the present system of cramming. In one year we have seen nine students of a university in England commit suicide; and the Lancet observes that 40 per cent, of medical students are "plucked" in standing for a degree. Even in ordinary boarding-schools the number of boys that now wear glasses tells of extra brain pressure, and leads us to anticipate that the next generation of Englishmen will pay the penalty of this " forcing" system, so contrary to the old precept of Sana mens in corpore sano.

Municipal neglect is also very much to blame, for we know that good air and water are two of the primary requirements of life, and these are denied to large numbers of our people. Of the water supplied last year to London, it was found that G8 million gallons daily were polluted with sewage, 58 millions were sometimes pure, and only 8 millions unexceptionally pure. And yet we wonder that the working-classes will not drink more water, and less beer! Moreover, the crowded dwellings of our work-people are so squalid as to cause a craving for stimulants, which ends in madness, for, as Duncan says, " civilized poverty is the hotbed of insanity." Even the Lunacy Commissioners have discovered that " insanity often arises from a depraved bodily condition caused by insufficient food and crowded dwellings." The value of fresh air is shown by the case of a village in Switzerland, mentioned by Mr. Brudenell Carter, where the municipality removed a high wall, and the ratio of idiot births declined one-half.

The remedial or preventive measures may be summed up very briefly. 1st, To abolish the duty on coffee, which is the greatest foe to intemperance. 2nd, To open museums and galleries on Sunday afternoons. 3rd, To forbid marriages between cousins, under penalty of paying double the ordinary poor-rates. 4th, To imitate Mr. Peabody as far as possible in erecting suitable workmen's tenements. 5th, To recommend less "high-pressure" in our schools. If we do not adopt some such measures we shall have every 'year an increasing expenditure for lunatics, and a steady rise in the ratio of suicides to population.

III.—Increase Ok Suicide.

Whether we regard suicide as a crime or a disease, the progress it has made in the last twenty-five years is sufficiently disturbing, although in a manner explained by the simultaneous rise of insanity all over Europe. Taking the seven principal countries in the aggregate we find that population has increased 19, suicide 63 per cent., the returns on the latter head being as follows:—

Ratio to Million Inhab.

[table]
[table]

It is remarkable that increased military service in Germany and France has been accompanied by higher rates of suicide, which only serves still further to illustrate a theory of Professor Morselli (1879), in which it is laid dowu that a soldier's life is doubly exposed to self-murder. Intemperance is also a powerful cause, to which Brown attributes 12 per cent, of suicides in England, while Casper gives the ratio as high as 25 per cent, in Germany. The French classification is generally admitted to be pretty true of all countries: 34 per cent, from insanity, 15 per cent, drink, 23 per cent, grief, and 28 per cent, various causes. Among the latter, Dr. Crichton Browne counts " the loss of those religious feelings which contribute to the strength and endurance of the mind," and this also helps to explain the rise in France and Germany.

The wear-and-tear of town life has such an ill effect on the brain and nervous system that suicide is twice as common as in the country. Paris holds a terrible pre-eminence (five times the rate of London), showing how closely this spectre follows on the kibes of pleasure and extravagance. The rates in the great cities for the past ten years averaged per million inhabitants, yearly, as follows :—

[table]

It is gratifying to observe that London is almost the least given to suicide, and that the rate is now 13 per cent, less than in the ten years ending with 1860, although, as shown previously, the rate for England has risen in the interval. The same is true of Berlin with respect to Prussia. Can it be that climatic changes often turn the balance, as in the case of the seasons? Notwithstanding the greater suffering of the poor in winter, and the gloominess of that time of year, it is the season when suicide is lowest, the ratios being as follows:—

Spring 296

Summer 313

, Autumn 196

Winter 195

1,000

As regards the sexes, it appears that three-fourths of the cases are males, which shows that if the female intellect be less powerful than man's, it is at the same time better balanced, or at least more capable of standing against reverses of fortune, and facing the battle of life. The ratio differs with each country as follows :—

Male. Female.

United States 72 ... 28

England ...... 74 ... 26

France 78 ... 22

Italy 80 ... 20

Germany 82 ... 18

The higher percentages for women are in the two countries where they take an active part in the business of life, which is of course only a natural consequence, but it may serve as a caution to prevent them from taking part in politics, or matters best suited for men. Their influence in checking or preventing suicide is seen to happiest advantage in the fact that married people are less exposed than unmarried, since the latter constitute 56 per cent., the married only 44 per cent, of the total. Domestic ties, religious training in youth, and a sense of the duties that each of us owes to society, are the best safeguards against the growing evil. There is nothing in true philosophy or civilization contrary to those precepts of Christianity which tell us, that he who commits suicide is like a soldier who deserts his post, and that every dereliction on the part of an individual must redound to the injury of the commonwealth.

M. G. MULHALL.

a

THE NEW EGYPTIAN CONSTITUTION.

THERE are two tests by which a Constitution must be judged. One is, does it oppose a permanent barrier to the introduction of arbitrary and bad government? The other test is, does it develop the political independence of the people in such a way that the path is made clear for the ultimate attainment of the best possible government of which the country admits? One of these tests may be satisfied without the other, and that constitution is best, which, in the highest degree, most assuredly satisfies both.

For instance, it is the best defence of the Constitution of the United States that the broad representative basis on which it rests, and the elastic institutions it comprises, afford the highest hopes that some day the best governmental system for the country, according to its peculiar social, economical, and geographical conditions, will be worked out. But the long persistence of slavery, the notorious administrative corruption, and the abuses following at once from over-centralization and over-decentralization, are sufficient proof that the constitution has not satisfied the test of permanently resisting bad principles and practices of government.

Similarly in England, up to quite modern times, the Constitution satisfied the test of vindicating the principle of political freedom and of preparing the way for a system of government fully adequate to the requirements and aspirations of the people, but certainly did not satisfy the test of rendering arbitrary or corrupt government impossible. It was only when the recognition of Ministerial responsibility, publicity of administration, and the definition of the prerogatives of the Crown proceeded with accelerated rapidity— as they have been doing for the last half century—that unassailable barriers were, for the first time, raised against bad government.

« EelmineJätka »