« EelmineJätka »
when provided, are obstructed either wilfully or of neglect. . Sitting for many hours without exercise in warm rooms, the girls naturally become extremely sensitive to currents of air, and in consequence such obstructions of ventilators are not uncommon. In a low, confined room, containing upwards of thirty persons, where ventilating tubes were placed over the gas-burners to carry off the products of combustion, I found three tubes out of four purposely blocked up.' In another case, . There were two moveable windows and a fireplace, but the latter was blocked up, and there was no special ventilation of any kind. This house, in which comfort and health were alike ignored, displayed most painfully the evils to which the servants of poor employers are subject.
And all this, as might be expected, tells :
The following is the result of questioning the young women when away from business, and from the influence of their employers,' and of .inquiry into the real state of health of girls who called themselves “quite well,” and might be regarded as fair representatives of their class :'
"The result was that in only one out of twenty girls examined could the state of health be pronounced good; the rest exhibiting in various degrees evidences of depressed physical power, nervous exhaustion, and numerous functional disorders thereupon dependent.'*
Mr. Simon further draws attention to the fact that it is 'practically impossible' for work people to insist upon that which, in theory, is their first sanitary right-the right that whatever work their employer assembles them to do, shall, so far as depends upon him, be, at his cost, divested of all needlessly unwholesome circumstances ;' and he contends that the present law does not meet the case in a manner sufficiently specific to give a practical remedy.
On the whole, therefore, the facts tend to show that the sanitary authorities ought to have express power to inspect the workshops and workrooms of the metropolis, and that a summary method ought to be provided for enforcing, within reasonable limits, the improvements which they may suggest. Nor do we believe that such measures would meet with hostility from respectable employers. The gentlemen commissioned by the Privy Council do not appear to have encountered any serious opposition to their inquiries; and when the Vestry of St. James's parish determined to have the shops and workshops within their district inspected under the direction of their inedical officer, Dr. Lankester, we judge from the report of that gentleman that no insuperable
* * Report, 1863,' pp. 27, 28.
objections objections were made to his visits.* Not only would such a course directly remedy evils immediately affecting health, but it would throw the light of a wholesome publicity into many dark corners, and indirectly improve the condition of male and female operatives in a thousand ways. We need only make a passing allusion to the effect produced by Government inspection of mines and factories, to confirm this observation.
In conclusion, we must touch on a general and important question which underlies the whole subject. We have endeavoured to present an outline of the progress of sanitary legislation up to the present moment, and to indicate certain directions in which a further advance is to be desired. But the question arises, Is the administration of the existing law thoroughgoing and efficient? Because if not, to encumber the Statute-book with fresh provisions would be only to invite fresh failures. We answer that much has, in fact, been effected, but, we regret to say, less than might have been desired.† One cause of this, no doubt, is, that the execution of laws of this character must depend, to a certain extent, on expediency. Crowding is by far the most dangerous of all the enemies of health, yet it is scarcely reasonable to eject a large family from an overcrowded tenement unless they have the means of obtaining some other shelter of a less objectionable kind; and this, in some parts of London, is next to impossible. And so of other points. •Lex neminem cogit ad impossibilia,' as the lawyers say. Hence the value of those auxiliary movements of a voluntary kind which relate to the creation of better dwellings for the poor. Hence, also, the importance of the question whether cheap trains cannot be provided, which, by taking working men to and fro daily, may enable them to lodge with their families in the suburbs, where better accommodation can be had. · But, beside all this, there is reason to fear that in some parishes the laws relating to health are not executed even with that vigour which the case allows. Too much regard for the interest of small landlords, too little appreciation of the public welfare, too great reluctance to employ the parish funds for sanitary purposes —these are the causes why, in many districts, the Medical Officer of Health is hampered by the vestry under which he acts. The question thus raised is one which must not be hastily dismissed. The case stands thus-Parliament has year after
* In Dr. Lankester’s ‘Report to the Vestry of St. James's, Westminster, for 1862.'
† Mr. Godwin's telling little work, •Another Blow for Life,' reveals a sad state of things in too many places. It deserves to be studied.
year gone on accumulating upon the vestries of the metropolis most extensive powers in regard to the public health. Yet, comparatively speaking, few of the class best qualified by habit and education to take large and enlightened views, are to be found among the members of those bodies. In some parishes, indeed, the vestries possess many men of sense, intelligence, and high character. In all, perhaps, a more efficient administration exists than might have been expected. But, with every disposition to give them credit for the good that has been done, it is impossible not to feel that in many places where sanitary reform is most wanted, there is no earnest desire for its accomplishment. To save the rates, and to stave off evil, rather than to remove its cause, even at the risk of some expense, is the great temptation, and, not seldom, the leading principle of action. What is the remedy for this state of things? We confess ourselves unprepared to suggest one that shall be complete and decisive, but we believe we do good service in directing the attention of public men to the subject, even if we do nothing more. We have, however, a few suggestions to offer. In the first place, we think that men of position and education might and ought, oftener than they do, to come forward to take their share in parish business.
It sounds very clever to make the parochial vestryman 'point a moral or adorn a tale,' as the type of prejudice and narrowness of mind. But after all, in many cases, perhaps, he is acting according to the light that is in him, and to the best of his power. Those who ridicule him would possibly be better employed in coming to his assistance, and sharing in his work. Certainly the administration of a district which has more inhabitants, and possesses more wealth, than some German principalities, cannot be so infinitely beneath the notice of those who desire to do good to their neighbours, as is sometimes represented. At all events, it is clear to our minds that either the Legislature must desist from heaping powers and duties of the most important kind on the vestries of London, or society must provide men of enlarged minds and extensive forethought to execute those powers. The health of the greatest city of the world is no bagatelle to be intrusted to those whom chance may select, or petty local parties may place in office.
But those who are unwilling or unable to serve personally on vestries, may contribute their assistance in another way. Most of the poorer parishes have within their bounds one or more large commercial or manufacturing establishments. The heads of these firms might well spare some time for the duty of looking into the
lesist it is clear hours, as ihotice of the princi.
state of the dwellings around them, where their own men probably, live. In such inquiries they might usefully advise with the medical officer of the district; and, should the result be to show that nuisances exist, and that the parish is not doing its duty, they might complain to the vestry; and, if that were unheeded, go a step further, and memorialise the Privy Council. This would direct attention to the subject, and might lead to a Government inquiry, and thus a sluggish vestry might be quickened into activity.* At all events, men of position and influence would become interested in the question on public grounds, and this would of itself go far to abolish the reign of sloth and jobbery, which flourish only in the dark. Once more, in order to give the Medical Officers of Health in the metropolis that independent standing which is needful in order to enable them to make their voices heard with effect, we would urge that they should not be liable either to be dismissed, or to have their salary reduced, without the consent of the Privy Council. This would be in accordance with the present position of the medical officers of unions, who can only be dismissed by the authority of the Poor-law Board, and who are certainly in no sense more important or more responsible functionaries. At present we hear strange tales of vestries threatening to cut down the salary, or turn out the Medical Officer of Health, if he be what they consider too busy. If such things are true, there is an urgent call for improvement. But if such improvement is not to embrace one point only, but to be general and adequate, it can, as far as we see, be effected in but one of two ways, either by developing and extending the jurisdiction of the Health Department of the Privy Council (at the risk of a centralisation hardly in unison with English tastes), or by men of enlightened views and business habits putting their shoulder to the wheel, each in his own locality, in the administration of the sanitary laws of the metropolis. And why should not this be done? The Greeks would have called it a Liturgy, the Romans would have dignified it as an Ædileship. To Christian men it appeals on yet higher ground as a work of true benevolence. Disease and death are, indeed, in the hands of Providence, nor have we any sympathy with those who call upon us to work, as if we could exercise sovereign power to regulate their visitations. General laws are but the expression of the will of the Lawgiver, but this fact adds a dignity to the task of those who seek to be fellow
alth, it's down present ome
* In gross cases they might initiate proceedings before a magistrate ; for by 23 and 24 Vict., c. 77, § 13, any inhabitant of any parish' may now make a complaint in respect of a nuisance injurious to health,
workers with the Creator, by availing themselves of His merciful provisions for the benefit of His creatures.
NOTE.—Since the foregoing pages were written, the Report of Mr. Simon to the Privy Council, for 1864, has appeared. It discusses more than one of the questions upon which we have touched, and, in some instances, with a fulness of detail which would have been out of place in this Journal. But we think we may claim the Report and its valuable appendices as entirely confirmatory of the general views which we have expressed, more especially as to the improvements of the law which we have suggested
Art. X.- The Six Year Old Parliament. London, 1865. DEFORE these pages reach our readers' hands they will be in
D the midst of the turmoil of the elections. It is said that the animosity and the excitement are more general and more intense than they have been at any previous time within the last twenty years. Cynics might perhaps be tempted to refer this phenomenon to the law of moral dynamics, laid down after Kepler by some great authority, according to which the intensity of hatred is inversely as the square of the difference of opinion. And if regard were simply paid to the addresses of the candidates, which have recently appeared in such profusion, few people would take exception to the cynical view. To judge by these documents, we are much nearer to the era of universal concord than any one had imagined. Difference of opinion is a thing of the past, an antiquated folly, a mediæval solecism. The people of England in these happier days are all of one mind; they are all for a “well-considered measure of reform," and are all “ opposed to any revolutionary change.” Every one is in favour of a policy of non-intervention, and most people are attached members of the Established Church. There is no difference of opinion either as to the expediency of retrenchment, or as to the necessity of extending it only “so far as not to interfere with the efficiency of the public service." If it were not for the malt-tax there would hardly be a single discord to disturb this all-pervading harmony.
Addresses, however, are a species of literature which, it is to be hoped both for the credit of the English language and of English statesmanship, will be buried in an oblivion as speedy and as complete as possible. The phrases in them are selected, like an American President, not for their positive, but for their negative merits. Their merit is not, like that of diplomatic conversation,